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Saints of Lent: The Lion of Munster

Lent is a grand time to confront evil, both that evil which stains our souls, and the evil external to us.  Throughout the history of the Church there have been saints who risked all to bravely confront the popular evils of their time.  This Lent on each Sunday we will be looking at some of those saints.  We began with Saint Athanasius.  Go here to read about him.  Next we looked at Saint John Fisher.  Go here to read about him. Last week we looked at the life of Saint Oliver Plunket.  Go here to read about him.  This week we turn to the Lion of Munster.

The Nazis hated and feared Clemens August Graf von Galen in life and no doubt they still hate and fear him, at least those now enjoying the amenities of some of the less fashionable pits of Hell.  This Lent, I am strongly encouraged by the story of Blessed von Galen.  I guess one could come up with a worse situation than being a Roman Catholic bishop in Nazi Germany in 1941, and confronting a merciless anti-Christian dictatorship that was diametrically opposed to the Truth of Christ, but that would certainly do for enough of a challenge for one lifetime for anyone.  (Hitler privately denounced Christianity as a Jewish superstition and looked forward after the War to “settling accounts”, as he put it, with Christianity in general and Roman Catholicism in particular.)

Priests who spoke out against the Third Reich were being rounded up and shipped off to concentration camps.  What was a bishop to do in the face of such massive evil?  Well, for the Bishop of Munster, Clemens von Galen, there could be only one answer.

A German Count, von Galen was from one of the oldest aristocratic families in Westphalia.  Always a German patriot, the political views of von Galen would have made my own conservatism seem a pale shade of pink in comparison.  Prior to becoming a bishop, he was sometimes criticized for a haughty attitude and being unbending.  He was chosen Bishop of Munster in 1933 only after other candidates, no doubt recognizing what a dangerous position it would be with the Nazis now in power, had turned it down.  I am certain  it did not hurt that he was an old friend of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII.

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Saints of Lent: Cardinal John Fisher

 

Where are now the kings and princes that once reigned over all the world, whose glory and triumph were lifted up above the earth? Where are now the innumerable company and power of Xerxes and Caesar? Where are the great victories of Alexander and Pompey? Where are now the great riches of Croesus and Crassus? But what shall we say of those who once were kings and governors of this realm?  Where are they now whom we have known and seen in our days in such great wealth and glory that it was thought by many they would never have died, never have been forgotten? They had all their pleasures at the full, both of delicious and good fare, of hawking, hunting, also of excellent horses and stallions, greyhounds and hounds for their entertainment, their palaces well and richly furnished, strongholds and towns without number. They had a great plenty of gold and silver, many servants, fine apparel for themselves and their lodgings. They had the power of the law to proscribe, to punish, to exalt and set forward their friends and loved ones, to put down and make low their enemies, and also to punish by temporal death rebels and traitors. Every man held with them, all were at their command. Every man was obedient to them, feared them, also honored and praised them, everywhere now? Are they not gone and wasted like smoke? Of them it is written in another place, mox ut honorificati fuerint et exaltati, dificientes quemadmodum fumus deficient (when they were in their utmost prosperity and fame, they soon failed and came to nothing, even as smoke does) (Ps. 36:2). St. James compares the vanity of this life to a vapor, and he says it shall perish and wither away as a flower in the hay season. (James 4:15).

Saint John Fisher

 

Lent is a grand time to confront evil, both that evil which stains our souls, and the evil external to us.  Throughout the history of the Church there have been saints who risked all to bravely confront the popular evils of their time.  This Lent on each Sunday we will be looking at some of those saints.  We began with Saint Athanasius.  Go here to read about him.  This week we will look at Saint John Fisher.

When he ascended to the throne of England Henry VIII was popularly known as the Golden Hope of England.  His father Henry VII had never been loved by the people of England:  a miser and a distinctly unheroic figure no matter what Shakespeare would write in Richard III.  He had brought the end of the War of the Roses and peace to England, but that was about as much credit as his subjects would give the grasping, unlovable Henry Tudor.  His son by contrast looked like an Adonis when young, strong and athletic.  He had a sharp mind and had been well-educated, intended, ironically, for a career in the Church before the death of his elder brother Arthur.  He was reputed, correctly, to be pious.  He had considerable charisma in his youth and knew how to make himself loved with a well timed laugh or smile, and loved he was, by the nobles, commons, his wife Katherine, and the Church.  Few reigns started more auspiciously than that of Henry, eighth of that name.

By the end of his reign he was widely despised by most his subjects.  Called a crowned monster behind his back, his reign had brought religious turmoil to England and domestic strife.  The best known symbols of his reign were the headman’s axe, the stake and the boiling pot in which he had some of the luckless individuals who roused his fury boiled to death.

It of course is small wonder for a Catholic to have little love for Henry VIII and his reign, but the distaste for Henry extends well beyond members of the Church.  Winston Churchill, the great English statesman and historian, in his magisterial History of the English Speaking Peoples, has this to say about the executions of Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher:

“The resistance of More and Fisher to the royal supremacy in Church government was a heroic stand.  They realised the defects of the existing Catholic system, but they hated and feared the aggressive nationalism which was destroying the unity of Christendom.  They saw that the break with Rome carried with it the risk of a despotism freed from every fetter.  More stood forth as the defender of all that was finest in the medieval outlook.  He represents to history its universality, its belief in spiritual values, and its instinctive sense of otherworldliness.  Henry VIII with cruel axe decapitated not only a wise and gifted counselor, but a system which, though it had failed to live up to its ideals in practice, had for long furnished mankind with its brightest dreams.”

Churchill himself was not noted for being a churchgoer.  When asked if he was a pillar of the Church of England, he quipped that perhaps he could be considered to be a flying butress of the Church, supporting it from outside.  Perhaps this helped give him a certain objectivity regarding Henry VIII.  Here is part of his summing up of Henry’s reign:

“Henry’s rule saw many advances in the growth and the character of the English state, but it is a hideous blot upon his record that the reign should be widely remembered for its executions.  Two Queens, two of the King’s chief Ministers, a saintly bishop, numerous abbots, monks and many ordinary folk who dared to resist the royal will were put to death.  Almost every member of the nobility in whom royal blood ran perished on the scaffold at Henry’s command.  Roman Catholic and Calvinist alike were burnt for heresy and religious treason.  These persecutions, inflicted in solemn manner by officers of the law, perhaps in the presence of the Council or even the King himself, form a brutal seqeul to the bright promise of the Renaissance.  The sufferings of devout men and women among the faggots, the use of torture, and the savage penalties imposed for even paltry crimes, stand in repellant contrast to the enlightened principles of humanism.” 

 

Born in 1469, John Fisher was noted for his great learning, the austerity of his life and his piety.  He was made Bishop of Rochester, the poorest diocese in England, at the personal insistence of Henry VIII in 1504.  Usually this was a stepping stone to ecclesiastical preferment, but Fisher stayed there for 31 years, doubtless because he had the courage to oppose the King whenever he was wrong, and so he did when Henry attempted to divorce Queen Katherine and when he broke with Rome.  Fisher made a strange champion to stand against a King.  He was noted as a scholar throughout Europe, a man of exceeding mildness and friendliness and someone clearly made for peace and contemplation and not for turmoil and strife in public life.  However for truth and the Faith Fisher was willing to stand virtually alone with a handful of others, including Saint Thomas More, against his terrifying Sovereign.

 

John Cardinal Fisher was made a Cardinal by Pope Paul III in May of 1535, King Henry stopped the cardinal’s hat from being brought into England, bellowing that he would send Fisher’s head to the Pope.  Tried by a kangaroo court and convicted, the only testimony brought against him was by Richard Rich, a specialist in lying men to the headman’s block.  Fisher was condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn. Continue Reading

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Saints of Lent: Athanasius Contra Mundum

We are proud that our own country has more than once stood against the world. Athanasius did the same.

He stood for the Tninitarian doctrine, ‘whole and undefiled,’ when it looked as if all the civilized world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius— into one of those ‘sensible’ synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today and which, then as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. It is his glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away.”

CS Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent is a grand time to confront evil, both that evil which stains our souls, and the evil external to us.  Throughout the history of the Church there have been saints who risked all to bravely confront the popular evils of their time.  This Lent on each Sunday we will be looking at some of those saints.  We begin with Saint Athanasius.

Saint Athanasius, a Doctor of the Church, and the foremost defender of the divinity of Christ, is one of the key figures in the history of the Faith.  His era, the Fourth Century, was a time period of turbulent change, not unlike our own in that respect.  With the conversion of the Emperor Constantine to Christ, the Church was suddenly transformed from a proscribed cult into the religion of the Empire.  Instead of being executed for their faith in Christ, bishops found themselves important players in what was rapidly becoming a Christian Empire.  To many Christians, it seemed as if they had reached a golden period in human history when the Church could rapidly reach its goal of bringing all men to Christ.  History, however, never ceases to twist and turn as it charts the affairs of Man.

One of the more dangerous twists of History in the Fourth Century for the Church, was the meteoric rise of the Arian heresy.  A priest of Alexandria, Egypt, Arius propounded the doctrine that the Son, since he was begotten of the Father, was a creation of God, and not God.  He was the greatest of God’s creations, and next to God, but he was not God.  Of course, Arius thus destroyed the doctrine of the Trinity, and reduced Jesus from being God to being a creature serving God.  This doctrine, if it had prevailed, would have transformed Christianity into a Unitarian faith and inevitably downplayed the centrality of Christ.  The doctrine of Arius began to spread, until it was necessary for it to be addressed at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, the first of the ecumenical councils.  Called specifically to address Arianism, the Council was unequivocal in its condemnation of Arianism as indicated by the Nicene Creed written at the Council:

We Believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only begotten, that is, from the substance of the Father; God from God, Light from Light, very God from very God, begotten, not made, Consubstantial with the Father, by whom all things were made, both things in heaven and things in earth; who for us men and for our salvation came down and was incarnate, was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven, and is coming to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit, and those who say “There was when he was not” and “Before his generation he was not” and “He came to be from nothing” or those who pretend that the Son of God is “Of other hypostasis or substance; or “created” or alterable” or “mutable”; the Catholic and apostolic Church anathematizes.

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Larry and Ash Wednesday

ash_wednesday

(I will be reposting this each Ash Wednesday.)

My late son Larry always seemed to enjoy Ash Wednesday.  Four years ago in 2013 I went up with him to receive ashes.  He heard the traditional admonition:  “Remember man thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.” and had the ashes placed on his forehead.  He then did the normal circle turn that he did after receiving Communion, and we went back to our pew.

Little did we know that this would be Larry’s last Ash Wednesday.  He died in the wee hours of Pentecost in 2013 of a seizure.  (On that dreadful date I said to my wife that one of the greatest gifts God has given us in this life is our inability to see the future.)  Now Larry’s physical body is well on its way back to dust, awaiting the Resurrection when it will be reunited with his soul.

Larry is now in the land which knows not Ash Wednesday, but only Eternal Easter, and we are left to experience this Ash Wednesday without him.  I have always found Ash Wednesday to be a bleak day and it will be much bleaker yet without my son.  However, Ash Wednesday, like death, is not the end, but merely a beginning.  As Ash Wednesday is the portal to Easter, death is the portal to eternal life.  Continue Reading

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Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Devil, Temptation and Sin

 

 

I answer that, The temptation which comes from the enemy takes the form of a suggestion, as Gregory says (Hom. xvi in Evang.). Now a suggestion cannot be made to everybody in the same way; it must arise from those things towards which each one has an inclination. Consequently the devil does not straight away tempt the spiritual man to grave sins, but he begins with lighter sins, so as gradually to lead him to those of greater magnitude. Wherefore Gregory (Moral. xxxi), expounding Job 39:25, “He smelleth the battle afar off, the encouraging of the captains and the shouting of the army,” says: “The captains are fittingly described as encouraging, and the army as shouting. Because vices begin by insinuating themselves into the mind under some specious pretext: then they come on the mind in such numbers as to drag it into all sorts of folly, deafening it with their bestial clamor.”

Thus, too, did the devil set about the temptation of the first man. For at first he enticed his mind to consent to the eating of the forbidden fruit, saying (Genesis 3:1): “Why hath God commanded you that you should not eat of every tree of paradise?” Secondly [he tempted him] to vainglory by saying: “Your eyes shall be opened.” Thirdly, he led the temptation to the extreme height of pride, saying: “You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” This same order did he observe in tempting Christ. For at first he tempted Him to that which men desire, however spiritual they may be–namely, the support of the corporeal nature by food. Secondly, he advanced to that matter in which spiritual men are sometimes found wanting, inasmuch as they do certain things for show, which pertains to vainglory. Thirdly, he led the temptation on to that in which no spiritual men, but only carnal men, have a part–namely, to desire worldly riches and fame, to the extent of holding God in contempt. And so in the first two temptations he said: “If Thou be the Son of God”; but not in the third, which is inapplicable to spiritual men, who are sons of God by adoption, whereas it does apply to the two preceding temptations.

And Christ resisted these temptations by quoting the authority of the Law, not by enforcing His power, “so as to give more honor to His human nature and a greater punishment to His adversary, since the foe of the human race was vanquished, not as by God, but as by man”; as Pope Leo says (Serm. 1, De Quadrag. 3).

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Fulton Sheen on the Signs of Our Time

 

 

Lent is a good time for confronting evil, both inside of ourselves and the evil of the World.  In 1947 then Monsignor Fulton Sheen gave a very important radio address.  He could discern that humanity was at a turning point and he issued an alarm and a warning.  His words are more relevant today than they were seven decades ago.  Below is the text of his speech:

‘Signs of Our Times’

sermon delivered on January 26, 1947

God Love You!

I want those to be my first words of greeting to you as they will be the concluding words of each broadcast. They embody three ideas: God is love; God loves you; and since love is reciprocal may you love God in return.

 

 

This is the 17th year I have had the privilege of addressing you on the Catholic Hour and it is probably safe to say that at no time in those years-not even during the war when we saw victory ahead-have the souls of men been more in the dark about the future, less insecure about the present. We are living in the twilight of a civilization, and for that reason, we have entitled this series Light Your Lamps. Under this title we will discuss in eleven broadcasts a subject which we were unable to discuss the last few years, and it will be that which is contained in the Papal Encyclical Divini Redemptoris:  the all important subject of Communism.

 

 

It is very difficult to do justice to any phase of this encyclical in the sixteen minutes allotted to me, so this year I shall write a much fuller treatment of each broadcast which will be put into pamphlet form and which the National Council of Catholic Men will send to you free each week if you make your request known to them.

 

 

Why is it that so few realize the seriousness of our present crisis? Partly because men do not want to believe their own times are wicked, partly because it involves too much selfaccusation and principally because they have no standards outside of themselves by which to measure their times.  If there is no fixed concept of justice how shall men know it is violated? Only those who live by faith really know what is happening in the world. The great masses without faith are unconscious of the destructive processes going on.The tragedy is not that the hairs of our civilization are gray; it is rather our failure to see that they are. The very day Sodom was destroyed, Scripture describes the sun as bright; Balthasar’s realm came to an end in darkness; people saw Noah preparing for the flood one hundred and twenty years before it came, but men would not believe. In the midst of seeming prosperity, world-unity, the decree to the angels goes forth but the masses go on their sordid routines. As our Lord said: “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, even till that day in which Noah entered into the ark, and they knew not till the flood came, and took them all away; so also shall the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24:38, 39) Well may Our Saviour say to us what He said to the Saducees and Pharisees in His time:  “When it is evening, you say: It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. And in the morning: Today there will be a storm, for the sky is red and lowering. You know then how to discern the face of the sky: and can you not know the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16:2, 3) Continue Reading

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The Lion of Munster

The Lion of Munster

Neither praise nor threats will distance me from God.

Blessed Clemens von Galen

(I ran this series originally back in 2011.  I am rerunning it now, because the contemporary Church is greatly harmed by the unwillingness of so many clerics to confront evil forthrightly.  In this year of Mercy we must not forget the need to cry out for Justice, and that is precisely what the Lion of Munster did.)

The Nazis hated and feared Clemens August Graf von Galen in life and no doubt they still hate and fear him, at least those now enjoying the amenities of some of the less fashionable pits of Hell.  Going into Lent, I am strongly encouraged by the story of Blessed von Galen.  I guess one could come up with a worse situation than being a Roman Catholic bishop in Nazi Germany in 1941, and confronting a merciless anti-Christian dictatorship that was diametrically opposed to the Truth of Christ, but that would certainly do for enough of a challenge for one lifetime for anyone.  (Hitler privately denounced Christianity as a Jewish superstition and looked forward after the War to “settling accounts”, as he put it, with Christianity in general and Roman Catholicism in particular.)

Priests who spoke out against the Third Reich were being rounded up and shipped off to concentration camps.  What was a bishop to do in the face of such massive evil?  Well, for the Bishop of Munster, Clemens von Galen, there could be only one answer.

A German Count, von Galen was from one of the oldest aristocratic families in Westphalia.  Always a German patriot, the political views of von Galen would have made my own conservatism seem a pale shade of pink in comparison.  Prior to becoming a bishop, he was sometimes criticized for a haughty attitude and being unbending.  He was chosen Bishop of Munster in 1933 only after other candidates, no doubt recognizing what a dangerous position it would be with the Nazis now in power, had turned it down.  I am certain  it did not hurt that he was an old friend of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII.

Von Galen immediately demonstrated that he had not agreed to become Bishop of Munster in order to avoid danger.  He successfully led a fight against the Nazi attempt to take over Catholic schools, citing article 21 of the Concordat between the Vatican and Nazi Germany.  He then began a campaign, often using humor and ridicule, against the Aryan racial doctrines proposed by Alfred Rosenberg, chief Nazi race theorist, and a man even some high level Nazis thought was little better than a crank.  Von Galen argued that Christianity totally rejected racial differences as determining how groups should be treated, and that all men and women were children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ.  The Bishop spoke out against Nazi attacks on the “Jewish Old Testament” stating that Holy Writ was Holy Writ and that the Bible could not be altered to suit current prejudices.

In early 1937 he was summoned by Pope Pius XI to confer with him on an encyclical in German, highly unusual for an encyclical not to be written in Latin as the primary language, that the Pope was in the process of drafting.  The encyclical was the blistering Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Heart) that the Pope ordered be read out in every parish in Germany on Palm Sunday 1937.  A head long assault on almost every aspect of National Socialism, it may be read here.

The language in the encyclical was blunt, direct and no doubt benefited from von Galen’s input and his experience from the battles he was waging with the Nazis. Continue Reading

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But We Have Forgotten God

As we approach Lent in this Year of Mercy it is striking to me how most who call themselves Christians have lost any sense of sin.  Christ seems to be perceived as a divine Pal, with a dog like eagerness to embrace us just the way we are.  Such a deity would seem to resemble Barney the Dinosaur more than the God of the Bible.  Forgotten is the need for sorrow for sins, repentance for sins and amendment of life.  Our ancestors tended to think much differently.  Consider Proclamation 97 of Abraham Lincoln calling for a national day of prayer and humiliation to pray for forgiveness of national sins.  Here is the text of the proclamation:

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

 

Continue Reading

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The Temptations of Christ-Conclusion

 

1] Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. [2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. [3] And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. [4] Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. [5] Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,

[6] And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. [8] Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, [9] And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. [10] Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.

Matthew 4: 1-10

Go here to read part one of our Lenten examination of the temptation of Christ by Satan, here to read part two, here to read part three and here to read part four.  Satan had now issued his final temptation to Christ, all Earthly, power and waited for a reply.

As Mohammed demonstrated five centuries later, a religion that establishes secular rule over a kingdom at the inception of the religion can spread very fast and very far.  Reestablish the Davidic kingdom under Christ and Christianity might have spread just as rapidly, especially if Christ called upon the ten legions of angels he referred to at the beginning of His Passion.  Instead of just teaching, the Way taught by Christ would become the laws of the Earthly kingdom He would establish.  His mercy and justice would become statutes, and not just teachings passed slowly by word of mouth and in writings.  His mission could be accomplished without the pain and ignominy of the death on the Cross, a death Jesus would pray that he might not experience.  A throne or the Cross, in terms of His human nature this may have been the most compelling temptation.  Christ would be depicted throughout Christian history as Christ the King.  Why not be a King while He lived? What good He could accomplish here on Earth, ushering mankind into a utopia under His all wise rule.

It is instructive to recall that throughout his forthcoming three year ministry, everyone except Christ expected him to do this.  Certainly the Apostles did, constantly asking Him when the Kingdom would begin and arguing among themselves for positions of power in this new polity.  The Sadducees did, viewing His entrance into Palm Sunday as setting the stage for His revolt, and their fears that His attempt, or the attempt of His followers, to crown him as King, would lead to war with Rome.  As for the Romans, Christ died on a Roman Cross under a sign accusing him of being, or pretending to be, the King of the Jews.  Everyone seemed to expect that Christ would attempt to be a King here on Earth.  Why not fulfill these expectations? Continue Reading

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The Temptations of Christ-Part Four

1] Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. [2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. [3] And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. [4] Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. [5] Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,

[6] And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. [8] Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, [9] And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. [10] Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.

Matthew 4: 1-10

Go here to read part one of our Lenten examination of the temptation of Christ by Satan, here to read part two and here to read part three. With his first two temptations having been rejected, Satan was perhaps in a momentary quandary about what to try next.  One can almost visualize a Satanic smile as he determined the next temptation.

Most Jews assumed that the Messiah, the Son of David, would come to establish the liberty of Israel and to reign as King.  Josephus, writing about events occurring some three and a half decades after Christ’s crucifixion stated that this belief lead to the great Jewish revolt against Rome:  But their chief inducement to go to war was a equivocal oracle also found in their sacred writings, announcing that at that time a man from their country would become the ruler of the world. 

One of Christ’s Apostles may have been a member of the Zealots, one of whose slogans was Dominion Belongs to God Alone.  The Gospels say almost nothing about Simon the Zealot, so it is unclear as to whether he was a member of the Zealot party, or simply zealous.  That of course has not stopped speculation about him and the relationship, if any, of Christ with the Zealots.

Under occupation by a pagan power, Judea was always teetering on the edge of revolt, as Christ, and Satan, well knew, and the image of the Messiah coming in power and glory to restore the kingdom of Israel by force was irresistible. Continue Reading

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The Temptations of Christ: Part Three

 

1] Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. [2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. [3] And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. [4] Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. [5] Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,

[6] And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. [8] Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, [9] And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. [10] Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.

Matthew 4: 1-10

Go here to read part one of our Lenten examination of the temptation of Christ by Satan, and here to read part two.  After the failure of the temptation of bread, Satan decides to tempt Jesus with the Messianic expectations that had grown up among the Jews about the Messiah, the expectations that Jesus had heard personally since boyhood.  Satan takes Jesus up to the pinnacle of the Temple, the locus of the worship of God in this Vale of Tears.  All Jews who believed in the Messiah assumed that he would announce himself in Jerusalem.  Some thought it would be a spectacular appearance with the Messiah coming from the sky with angels to raise the Jews up.  During the Jewish Revolt of 66-73 as the Romans besieged Jerusalem, the Zealots would scan the skies looking for the Messiah to come and save Jerusalem.

These expectations are key to understanding the nature of the second temptation.  Satan was not tempting Christ by asking Him to perform an Act, throwing himself off the top of the Temple in order to require a manifestation of divine power, he has tempting Christ to begin His ministry with a stupendous miracle that would cause all of Jerusalem to flock to Him.  No years of preaching in the backwaters of Galilee, Samaria and Judea.  One massive miracle, flying over Jerusalem, with angels and the whole of Israel would follow Him as the Messiah.

Throughout his three years ministry Christ was constantly confronted with the demand that He perform miracles, and no matter how many He performed, the demand always persisted.  How many came out to see Him, not for His preaching but in hopes to see Him perform one of the miracles they had heard of?  From what Christ said, I would assume many:

1AND there came to him the Pharisees and Sadduccees tempting: and they asked him to shew them a sign from heaven. 2But he answered and said to them: When it is evening, you say, It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. 3And in the morning: To day there will be a storm, for the sky is red and lowering. You know then how to discern the face of the sky: and can you not know the signs of the times? 4A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. And he left them, and went away.

Matthew 16:  1-4

[46] He came again therefore into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain ruler, whose son was sick at Capharnaum. [47] He having heard that Jesus was come from Judea into Galilee, went to him, and prayed him to come down, and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. [48] Jesus therefore said to him: Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not. [49] The ruler saith to him: Lord, come down before that my son die. [50] Jesus saith to him: Go thy way; thy son liveth. The man believed the word which Jesus said to him, and went his way.

John 4:  46-50

He understood that a stupendous miracle such as Satan proposed would make many converts for him, and establish Jerusalem as a base for him.  No years of toiling in the hinterlands, instead He would begin His ministry with a stupendous triumph in the big time, Jerusalem, THE CITY, as if there were no others, for most Jews. Certainly this prospect was tempting? Continue Reading

1

The Temptations of Christ: Part Two

 

[1] Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. [2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. [3] And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. [4] Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. [5] Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,

[6] And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. [8] Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, [9] And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. [10] Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.

Matthew 4: 1-10

Go here to read part one of our Lenten examination of the temptation of Christ by Satan.

The first temptation of Christ by Satan was devilish, of course, clever.  Pretending not to be sure that Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity, Satan challenges Christ to turn stones into bread.

On the surface this challenge is simple enough:  Christ hungers and Satan asks for a simple miracle so that he may be sure that Christ is God, and by this easy feat of divine power Christ can appease his human hunger.  However, as Satan knew, the temptation went far deeper than a mere appeal to human hunger.

How to tempt God?  The very concept is blasphemous, of course, but Satan is blasphemy incarnate.  I suspect that Satan’s answer to this puzzle was by appealing to God’s love.  As Christ would note, God marks the sparrow’s fall.  He loves each man, as if there were no other.  How He must pity us in our travails here below, our struggles against poverty and all the other ills that our fallen state and our fallen world present to us.  How many an atheist, bringing up one of these ills, has thrown back in the face of believers the taunt, “How could a just God allow this!”

Thus the Father of Lies appealed to Christ to use his divine power, not just to appease His hunger, but as a sign of how He could use His power to end hunger and all the other ills that Man is heir to.  Satan tempted God by appealing to His mercy, to place sinful Man back in the Garden and satisfy all Man’s material wants, ending human physical suffering with the slightest exertion of the divine will.  Temptations to evil are the most difficult to resist when the sin proposed is being utilized for a good end.  Satan, no doubt, who fell from pride, felt a surge of it when he suggested the clever bread temptation to Christ. Continue Reading

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The Temptations of Christ: Part One

[1] Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. [2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. [3] And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. [4] Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. [5] Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,

[6] And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. [8] Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, [9] And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. [10] Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.

Matthew 4: 1-10

 

Lent is a time for confronting evil, both within and without us.  During Lent we recall Christ’s temptation by Satan, the culmination of his forty days and nights in the desert.  This passage has always struck me as mysterious.  Why would God allow Satan to tempt Him to sin?  Why would Satan attempt to do so?

The answer to the  first question is that God became one of us.  Like us in our humanity He was subject to the lure of sin.  The Incarnation is filled with mysteries but few are deeper than this.  God allowed Himself to feel the same attraction to sin, the revolt against the Divine Will, that we, in our Fallen humanity, feel.  He exposed Himself to every weakness that we experience and allowed Satan the opportunity to see if he could tempt God, too, to Fall.  And that was the attraction for Satan.  Eternally in revolt from the love of God, his only hope for victory in this doomed rebellion was to convince God to reject His own love.  God deciding to make himself Man must have struck Satan as madness, and perhaps CS Lewis is correct, even inspired Satan’s revolt:

 When the creation of man was first mooted and when, even at that stage, the Enemy freely confessed that he foresaw a certain episode about a cross, Our Father very naturally sought an interview and asked for an explanation. The Enemy gave no reply except to produce the cock-and-bull story about disinterested love which He has been circulating ever since. This Our Father naturally could not accept. He implored the Enemy to lay His cards on the table, and gave Him every opportunity. He admitted that he felt a real anxiety to know the secret; the Enemy replied “I wish with all my heart that you did”. It was, I imagine, at this stage in the interview that Our Father’s disgust at such an unprovoked lack of confidence caused him to remove himself an infinite distance from the Presence with a suddenness which has given rise to the ridiculous enemy story that he was forcibly thrown out of Heaven. Continue Reading

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Gator’s Back on the Menu

 

 

 

Father Z advises us of this taste treat for our Lenten repasts:

 

:

I have posted on this in the past, but repetita iuvant as we say in Latin.

ORIGINAL:

Someone sent me a copy of a letter written by the Archbishop of New Orleans to a member of his flock about eating alligator during Lent.  The answer is “yes”.  You may eat alligator during Lent.

This is old news to readers of this blog, of course.  Last year I posted this, which ought to have settled the whole thing:

QUAERITUR: Abstinentia de carne lacertina aut crocodrillina

Ex lectoris e-pistulis extractum:

Reverendo patro Ioanni Zuhlsdorfo discipulus C. salutem et commemorationem in precibus suis. Gratias meas, sivis, ob opum tuam tibi agere volo. [Acceptae.] Mihi, catholico iuveni et discipulo in collegio liberalum artis et liberalum (aut impudicarum) mentum, scripturae tuae magnam auxilium fuerunt. Mox Ludovicianam meabo. Quaeritur: Sineturne corpus alligatoris feria VI in Quadregesima sine violando abstinentiam Quadragesimae edere?

Ossificatus manualista impoenitens respondeo de paginis Compendii Theologiae Moralis (Sabetti-Barrett) n. 331, :

Nomine carnis veniunt omnia animalia in terra viventia ac respirantia, ut communiter admittunt theologi ex regula tradita a S. Thoma vel, ut S. Alphonsus innuit, n. 1011, animalia quae sanguinem habent calidum; vel illud quod consuetudo regionis ut carnem habet; vel, si nec consuetudo praesto sit, dubium solvi potest considerando mentem Ecclesiae in sanciendo delectu ciborum, ut comprimendae ac minuendae carnis concupiscentiae per salutarem abstinetiam consuleret; examinetur, an huiusmodi animal simile sit aut dissimile iis quorum esus interdictus est et an illius carnes humano corpori validius nutriendo et roborando idoneae dignoscantur; et si ita appareat, ista caro inter vetitas est ponenda. Benedict XIV., De syn. dioec., lib.11, c. 5, n. 12. Haec quatuor multum deservient omni dubitationi solvendae.

Ergo, crocodrilli et lacertae inter reptilia sunt et amphibia.

Edi ergo possunt feriis sextis et tempore Quadragesimae

Omnibus tamen diebus ab eis edimur!

So, there you have it.

You can eat alligator and crocodile on Fridays of Lent.

Continue Reading

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Saint Augustine on the Resurrection

Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  , here  ,here  , here, here , here  , here and here to read the first eight posts in the series, we come to the conclusion with the eternal glory of Easter.

In this Vale of Tears we lead lives afflicted by sin and always in the shadow of death.  Christ came to free us from the chains of sin and to prove to us that death is not an end, but merely our beginning in infinity.  My mother died thirty years ago on Easter Sunday 1984.  Because of Easter I know that I will see her again, along with my son who died last year on Pentecost.  Without either hope or love we are but poor creatures indeed.  Easter gives us hope and tells us that we are children of a loving God.  Saint Augustine reminds us of these great truths: Continue Reading

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Saint Augustine: The Body and The Blood

BouveretLastSupper

Christ bore Himself in His hands, when He offered His body saying: “this is my body.”

Saint Augustine

 Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  , here  ,here  , here, here , here  and here to read the first seven posts in the series, we come to Holy Thursday and the First Mass.  As Catholics, we join in the great mystery of God sacrificing Himself for us at every Mass we witness, just as if we were sitting at the Last Supper watching Christ transforming the bread into His Body and the wine into His Blood.  Saint Augustine explained to new Catholics why bread and wine are placed on Catholic altars: Continue Reading

1

Saint Augustine: Palm Sunday

Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  , here  ,here  , here, here and here to read the first six posts in the series, we come to the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  Looked at in purely human terms Palm Sunday was the height of the career of Christ, His moment in the sun when he was acclaimed by crowds as he entered Jerusalem, causing enough commotion that Caiaphas decided that He must die to prevent his followers from alarming Rome sufficiently to start a war.  Cold political calculation began its work on Palm Sunday and led to the swift death of Christ on a cross by Good Friday.  How many, many movements throughout history have died still-born as a result of the leader swiftly being put to death!  Saint Augustine reminds of us why this did not happen to the Christian “movement”: Continue Reading

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Saint Augustine: No Matter How Great Our Crimes

“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Isaiah:  1:18

 

Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  , here  ,here  , here and here to read the first five posts in the series, we come to the whole purpose of Lent.   One of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of the eternal enemy of Man is despair.  How many people abstain from confession and reconciliation with God on the mistaken belief that their sins are too great and they are beyond redemption.  It would seem in our day that these people would be small in number since so many would appear to have lost any sense of sin.  Perhaps, but perhaps also a denial of the fact of sin is merely a surface attempt to avoid the gnawing guilt and emptiness that sin usually causes in most souls, whether the sin is recognized as such or not.   For all lost and wandering souls the forgiveness of God is close at hand for His mercy is as infinite as His justice is sure.  What so many of us have earned at the hands of His justice, He spares us by His mercy.  Despair is a sin, and in Lent we should turn our backs on it, as we do all sin.  Here is what Augustine wrote in regard to forgiveness of sins, no matter how great they are: Continue Reading

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Saint Augustine: Late Have I Loved Thee

st-augustine-of-hippo7_opt

 

Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  , here  ,here  and here to read the first four posts in the series, we come to the whole purpose of Lent.  We repent our sins and turn away from them, but these are not ends in themselves.  We do them to help reawaken in our souls our love of God.  God loves each of us with a love the intensity and magnitude of which we, in this life, cannot hope to fathom.  It has been said that God loves each man as if he were the only one.  He loves us enough to die for us, the creator of life suffering an ignominious human death to bring us to Him.  Blinded by sin and the follies of this Vale of Tears we are often unable to see that the sweet loves we encounter in this life are but pale reflections of His love.  Saint Augustine, after a wasted youth, did finally understand that love, and wrote about his discovery in imperishable words: Continue Reading

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Saint Augustine on Sin, Fear and Love

Saint_Augustine_Portrait

 

Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  , here  and here to read the first three posts in the series, we come to Augustine’s discussion of why we should avoid sin.  Augustine thought that refraining from sin due to fear of Hell did not involve the rejection of sin but rather fear of burning.  The true reason for avoiding sin is love of God and therefore rejection of sin as a result of that love.  Our Act of Contrition mentions both motivations but is clear what should be the most important:

O my God,
I am heartily sorry for
having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins,
because I dread the loss of heaven,
and the pains of hell;
but most of all because
they offend Thee, my God,
Who are all good and
deserving of all my love.

As the saying goes, fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and no doubt the fear of Hell for many a sinner is the beginning of repentance, but that is only the beginning, and not the end, of our struggle against sin.  Christ taught us to call God Father and that He is a loving Father.  Anything that turns us from the God who loves us with such an eternal love, we reject, not out of fear but out of love: Continue Reading

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Saint Augustine and the Pear Tree

Saint Augustine and the Pear Tree

Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  and here to read the first and the second in the series, we come to Saint Augustine’s description of what he viewed as one of his worst sins, the theft of pears from a pear tree.  More than a few people have been mystified as to why this incident caused Saint Augustine such pain.  Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr, for example, wrote  “Rum thing to see a man making a mountain out of robbing a pear tree in his teens”.  Such critics of course completely miss the point.  The incident of the pear tree is the classic example of pure sin.  Augustine and the other rowdies did not steal the pears to feed themselves, they threw the pears to hogs.  They did this evil not to satisfy some hunger or desire, but for the sake of the sin itself, and that is what makes the act so monstrous in retrospect in the eyes of Saint Augustine.  The worst sort of sin we can do is a sin that has no purpose other than to engage in sin, in disobedience to God.  Most sins men do are a bad road to reach a worldly good.  A thief who robs a bank to gain money.  A couple who fornicate with each other to show their love for one another.  A glutton who gorges himself because he loves fine food.   The pear tree sin lacks any good as a goal that led to the commission of the sin, and leaves only the desire to do an evil act.  Saint Augustine was right to weep over this, as should we all whenever we do evil solely for the sake of doing evil.  Saint Augustine on the pear tree: Continue Reading

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Saint Augustine: Sins of the Flesh

 

 

Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here to read the first in the series, we come to Saint Augustine’s comments on sins of the flesh.  It is interesting that Saint Augustine begins the passage noting that some argue that the sins of the flesh are not sins, precisely the same argument that is made in our time.  Saint Paul  mentioned, and refuted, this argument in his epistles, so it is as old as Christianity.  The sins of the flesh are not the most dire of sins, rather the reverse, that pride of place going to the sin of pride, a sin I have ever struggled with, and that caused Lucifer to fall from Heaven to Hell.  However, sins of the flesh are sins, being a perversion of the love that is at the heart of Christianity.  Lust is ever an inadequate substitute for love, and attempting to make it a substitute is at the core of many of our social problems today, treating people as things, means to our own gratification, rather than children of a loving God that we love with fidelity and self-sacrifice, to mirror in our lives some minute fragment of the love that God lavishes on us.  Here is Saint Augustine on sins of the flesh: Continue Reading

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Larry and Ash Wednesday

ash_wednesday

 

My late son Larry always seemed to enjoy Ash Wednesday.  Last year I went up with him to receive ashes.  He heard the traditional admonition:  “Remember man thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.” and had the ashes placed on his forehead.  He then did the normal circle turn that he did after receiving Communion, and we went back to our pew.

Little did we know that this would be Larry’s last Ash Wednesday.  He died in the wee hours of Pentecost last year of a seizure.  (On that dreadful date I said to my wife that one of the greatest gifts God has given us in this life is our inability to see the future.)  Now Larry’s physical body is well on its way back to dust, awaiting the Resurrection when it will be reunited with his soul.

Larry is now in the land which knows not Ash Wednesday, but only Eternal Easter, and we are left to experience an Ash Wednesday without him.  I have always found Ash Wednesday to be a bleak day and it will be much bleaker yet without my son.  However, Ash Wednesday, like death, is not the end, but merely a beginning.  As Ash Wednesday is the portal to Easter, death is the portal to eternal life.  Continue Reading

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Saint Augustine: Repent Today!

 

Since Vatican II Catholics have largely deserted the confessional.  Our Communion lines are full and our confessionals are empty.  Unless there has been some radical change in human nature over the past half century, something I see no evidence for, there is something very, very wrong in all this.

Saint Augustine, who once prayed before his conversion, Lord make me chaste, but not now, knew the temptation to put off until some theoretical tomorrow repentance.  We know that God will accept our repentance, but true repentance means putting away sins we are deeply attached to, or ones we in despair think we cannot summon up the willpower to avoid in future.  Saint Augustine, in Sermon 32 responds to this manana  mentality by reminding us that while God has promised us forgiveness He has not promised us endless tomorrows to seek His forgiveness. As we enter Lent, let us recall these words of the Bishop of Hippo: Continue Reading

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Lent in a Sinless Age

I have never much enjoyed Lent, of course the purpose of Lent is not enjoyment.  Repentance, mortification, fasting casts for me a gray pallor over this time of year.  Like many things in life I do not like, foul tasting medicine, judges who insist on strict adherence to the law, honest traffic cops, I benefit from Lent.  It reminds me of my sins and the necessity to amend my life.  This is especially good for me because we live in a sinless age.

Prior to say 1965, people enjoyed sinning just as much as we do, but most did not delude themselves about what they were doing.  Promiscuous sex was just as fun then as now, but few were able to convince themselves that what they were doing was not, deep down, wrong.  A trip to an abortionist might “solve” a small “problem”, but the destruction of human life that went on in an abortion was acknowledged by almost all.  Standards of morality, as even a cursory study of human history reveals, have often been ignored by men, but the standards remained.

Now we live in a new and glorious day!  If something is physically pleasant then there can be no sin about it.  Good and evil have been banished from our lexicons, to be replaced, at most, with “appropriate” or “inappropriate” behavior.  If over a million innocents have to die for one of our pleasures each year it is a “small” price to pay, and in any case we aren’t the ones paying the price.  Some of our friends find gratification in sexual behaviors that were near universally condemned a few decades ago?  Not a problem!   We will rewrite the laws to make their behaviors “appropriate” and give a hard time to those retrogrades who do not adjust their concepts of “appropriate” and “inappropriate” to match ours.  We will celebrate those with great wealth and seek to emulate their lives, no matter how squalid, unless they hold political opinions that are “inappropriate”.  We will create wealth out of thin air to care for the poor through that magical device known as “government”, the same poor that we would never personally lift a finger to aid.  Lies will cease to be lies if we wish to believe them, and the term lie will soon be banished in any case.  Too “judgmental”, the closest thing we have remaining to sin.

Continue Reading

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Cardinal Newman on Lent

 

Is it not, I say, quite a common case for men and for women to neglect religion in their best days? They have been baptized, they have been taught their duty, they have been taught to pray, they know their Creed, their conscience has been enlightened, they have opportunity to come to Church. This is their birthright, the privileges of their birth of water and of the Spirit; but they sell it, as Esau did. They are tempted by Satan with some bribe of this world, and they give up their birthright in exchange for what is sure to perish, and to make them perish with it. Esau was tempted by the mess of pottage which he saw in Jacob’s hands. Satan arrested the eyes of his lust, and he gazed on the pottage, as Eve gazed on the fruit of the tree of knowledge  of good and evil. Adam and Eve sold their birthright for the fruit of a tree—that was their bargain. Esau sold his for a mess of lentils—that was his. And men now-a-days often sell theirs, not indeed for any thing so simple as fruit or herbs, but for some evil gain or other, which at the time they think worth purchasing at any price; perhaps for the enjoyment of some particular sin, or more commonly for the indulgence of general carelessness and spiritual sloth, because they do not like a strict life, and have no heart for God’s service. And thus they are profane persons, for they despise the great gift of God. Continue Reading

2

Not Just One Reason

Growing up, my family had a lot of odd conversations, especially on the rare occasions we watched TV. One of these led to my mom pointing out that a lot of the “strange” things that the Bible told the Jews to do were not just for religious reasons (I think it came out of a TV character using ‘religious’ as a synonym for ‘serves no practical purpose’)—they made very good practical sense, too. Simplest example, pork is horrifically dangerous if you don’t have a fridge and don’t know about invisible dangers. Continue Reading

18

Fish Friday

I don’t know about anyone else— at least this time of year, come Lent I know it’ll be a group obsession — but I’m constantly on the look-out for something to make that doesn’t involve carne.

Beyond the staples of fried cheese sandwiches (Thank you, George Foreman), the treat of deep-fried calamari, and various canned soups, my childhood only offers one option:

Clam chowder.

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7

Looking Back at Lent: Why Do Penance?

Thinking back over Lent, one of the things that hits me, as it has before, is that I am much better at not doing things for Lent than doing things. Even moderately big changes in my daily routine such as “fasting” by having only one meal a day on Wednesdays and Fridays, or abstaining from alcohol entirely, are fairly doable. However, my resolutions to start each day be reading Morning Prayer, or reading the Pope’s second volume of Jesus of Nazareth, or blogging my way through all of Augustine’s Confessions — not so much.

That’s the point at which I find myself wondering: Is putting so much focus into not doing something a mistake? There is, after all, nothing wrong with eating, or with having my nightly beer or glass of wine. Why should God have any interest in my not doing these perfectly acceptable things? It’s not as if God gets satisfaction out of thinking, “Ah, it’s Lent. I do so look forward to all those little human creatures going in for a little bit of voluntary discomfort. I thrive on discomfort.”

So why give up a few pleasures for Lent — especially while at the same time failing in doing some positive things which would arguably be better things to do?

Well, obviously, the reason for penance is not that God wants us to be miserable. Continue Reading

6

Ash Wednesday: God Wills It!

Lent is a time for confronting evil, especially the evil within us.  Today is Ash Wednesday.  The origins of the use of ashes on Ash Wednesday is lost in the mists of Church history.  The first pope to mention Ash Wednesday, although the custom was very old by his time, was Pope Urban II.  At the Council of Clermont in 1095, the same Council at which the Pope issued his world altering call for the First Crusade, the Council handed down this decree (among others):  10-11. No layman shall eat meat after the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday until Easter. No cleric shall eat meat from Quinquagesima Sunday until Easter.

That the first pope to mention Ash Wednesday was the same pope who launched the First Crusade is very appropriate.  Although even many Catholics may not realize this today, from first to last the Crusades were a penitential rite for the remission of sins.  One of the foremost modern historian of the Crusades, Thomas Madden, notes this:

During the past two decades, computer-assisted charter studies have demolished that contrivance. Scholars have discovered that crusading knights were generally wealthy men with plenty of their own land in Europe. Nevertheless, they willingly gave up everything to undertake the holy mission. Crusading was not cheap. Even wealthy lords could easily impoverish themselves and their families by joining a Crusade. They did so not because they expected material wealth (which many of them had already) but because they hoped to store up treasure where rust and moth could not corrupt. They were keenly aware of their sinfulness and eager to undertake the hardships of the Crusade as a penitential act of charity and love. Europe is littered with thousands of medieval charters attesting to these sentiments, charters in which these men still speak to us today if we will listen. Of course, they were not opposed to capturing booty if it could be had. But the truth is that the Crusades were notoriously bad for plunder. A few people got rich, but the vast majority returned with nothing.

Pope Urban II was clear on this point in calling for the first Crusades when he reminded the chivalry of Europe of their manifold sins and called them to repentance through the Crusade: Continue Reading

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Father Zuhlsdorf Rants About Sand in Holy Water Fonts

The abuse of removing Holy Water from fonts during the season of Lent is a manifestation of the Spirit of Vatican II.  Well meaning priests misinterpreted or altogether made up their own discipline by removing Holy Water.  Father John Zuhlsdorf has followed this up during the course of Lent 2010 with his most recent posting clarifying why Holy Water should never be removed during the season of Lent except for Good Friday and Holy Saturday:

To all the priests out there still… unbelievably still putting sand in holy water fonts during Lent…

KNOCK IT OFF!

And if you go into a church where you see this sort of idiocy… for the love of God, DON’T bless yourself with SAND.

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Lent 2010; The Tide Continues To Turn Toward Catholic Orthodoxy

As we work our way through Lent 2009, we need to rejoice in the turning tide. Though there has been much negative news about the Catholic Church this past decade, much of the negative news had its roots in actions taken during the 1960s and 1970s. Yet, the seeds of the good news planted during the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI is just now seeing its shoots and blossoms become visible to the naked eye.

What are the shoots and blossoms?  They can be seen in increasing vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the strong orthodox nature of these new, young priests. A new crop of Catholic bishops is also boldly showing their orthodoxy, which often befuddles and mystifies the mainstream media and the secular culture in which we live. In addition to this, many in the laity have for years now been writing and blogging about the desperate need for Catholic orthodoxy in a world full of hurt and self absorption. Many ask how can the Church possibly grow when the Church’s active laity, especially the young along with those who serve her in ordained and professed ministries, are so different from the culture in which they live? It is that culture in which they live that causes them to see the wisdom in Christ’s words and the Church He started through the first pope, the Apostle Saint Peter.

There were fewer shoots and blossoms in the 1970s when the seriousness of the Catholicism was questioned after the Church seemed to be trying to be relative, whether it was related or not, thousands of priests and nuns left their vocations. However, starting in 1978 with the election of Pope John Paul II, the tide began to turn. All of the Polish pontiff’s hard work began to be seen in the shoots and blossoms of events like World Youth Day 1993, which was held in Denver. Later in his pontificate thanks to events like World Youth Day, vocations to the priesthood and religious life began to increase.

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Judgment at Nuremberg

Very loosely based on the Justice Trials of Nazi judges and Reich Ministry of Justice officialsJudgment at Nuremberg (1961) is a masterful exploration of justice and the personal responsibility of good men trapped in a totalitarian state.  Burt Lancaster, an actor of the first calibre, gives the performance of his career as Ernst Janning.  The early portion of the movie makes clear that Ernst Janning is in many ways a good man.  Before the Nazis came to power Janning was a world respected German jurist.  After the Nazis came to power evidence is brought forward by his defense counsel that Janning attempted to help people persecuted by the Nazis, and that he even personally insulted Hitler on one occasion.  Janning obviously despises the Nazis and the other judges who are on trial with him.  At his trial he refuses to say a word in his defense.  He only testifies after being appalled by the tactics of his defense counsel.  His magnificent and unsparing testimony convicts him and all the other Germans who were good men and women, who knew better, and who failed to speak out or to act against the Nazis.  Janning’s testimony tells us that sins of omission can be as damning as sins of commission.  When he reveals that he sentenced a man to death he knew to be innocent because of pressure from the Nazi government, we can only agree with his bleak assessment that he reduced his life to excrement.  Yet we have to respect Janning.  It is a rare man who can so publicly take responsibility for his own evil acts. Continue Reading

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Joe Bidens Forehead Makes An Appearance

[Update below]

It’s Ash Wednesday and comic relief has arrived with our illustrious Vice-President Joe Biden!

Biretta tip to Thomas Peters of the American Papist.

Update I: Curiously funny video clip of U.K. Sky News host and self-identified Catholic Kay Burley mistakenly thinks the ashes on Biden’s is a bruise.

0:29 minute mark of the video clip – Kay Burley makes above remark.

…you can skip the intermittent video of VP Biden bloviating about the successful stimulus package until the…

3:06 minute mark of the video clip – Kay Burley’s mea culpa.

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Works of Penance, Frequent Confession, Mortification, Almsgiving

Works of Penance, Frequent Confession, Mortification, Almsgiving is by Father Francis Fernandez Carvajal from his series on meditations In Conversation with GodDaily Meditations Volume Two: Lent and Eastertide, 1.2:

True conversion is shown by the way we behave.  We show that we really want to improve by the way we do our work or our study.  We show it by the way we behave towards our family; by offering up to God, in the course of the day, little mortifications which make life for those around us more pleasant, and which make our work more effective.  We can also show it by making a careful preparation for and going frequently to Confession.

Today God asks us also for a rather special mortification, which we offer up cheerfully: it is fasting and abstinence, which strengthens our spirit as it mortifies our flesh and our sensuality.  It raises our soul to God.  It gets rid of concupiscence by giving us the strength to overcome and to mortify our passions, and it disposes our heart that it may seek for nothing except to please God in everything.9

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Ash Wednesday Address by Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict XVI’s Ash Wednesday Address in English:

Here is the complete text of the Pope’s message:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the Church’s Lenten journey towards Easter.

Lent reminds us, as Saint Paul exhorts, “not to accept the grace of God in vain” (cf. 2 Cor 6:1), but to recognize that today the Lord calls us to penance and spiritual renewal. This call to conversion is expressed in the two formulae used in the rite of the imposition of ashes. The first formula – “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” – echoes Jesus’s words at the beginning of his public ministry (cf. Mk 1:15). It reminds us that conversion is meant to be a deep and lasting abandonment of our sinful ways in order to enter into a living relationship with Christ, who alone offers true freedom, happiness and fulfilment.

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Cardinal Newman on Fasting

“And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered.” Matt. iv. 2.

{1} THE season of humiliation, which precedes Easter, lasts for forty days, in memory of our Lord’s long fast in the wilderness. Accordingly on this day, the first Sunday in Lent, we read the Gospel which gives an account of it; and in the Collect we pray Him, who for our sakes fasted forty days and forty nights, to bless our abstinence to the good of our souls and bodies.

We fast by way of penitence, and in order to subdue the flesh. Our Saviour had no need of fasting for either purpose. His fasting was unlike ours, as in its intensity, so in its object. And yet when we begin to fast, His pattern is set before us; and we continue the time of fasting till, in number of days, we have equalled His.

There is a reason for this;—in truth, we must do nothing except with Him in our eye. As He it is, through whom alone we have the power to do any good {2} thing, so unless we do it for Him it is not good. From Him our obedience comes, towards Him it must look. He says, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” [John xv. 5.] No work is good without grace and without love.

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Hell and Back Again

For those American Catholic readers who aren’t familiar with my previous online life, I’m on my third year of blogging through Dante’s Divine Comedy on my personal blog as a Lenten exercise. On the category page here you can find entries for the entirely of the Inferno and nearly all of Purgatorio, which I should be wrapping up by Easter.

Time and motivation permitting, I may start Paradiso during Easter season — or perhaps I’ll have to save that for next year. If you’re interested, feel free to stop by and read along in this timeless spiritual and literary classic during what remains of Lent.

dante

Sermon 39

pope-leo-the-great

Pope Saint Leo the Great on Lent:

I.  The Benefits of Abstinence Shown by the Example of the Hebrews.

II.  Use Lent to Vanquish the Enemy, and Be Thus Preparing for Eastertide.

III.  Fights are Necessary to Prove Our Faith.

IV.  The Christian’s Armour is Both for Defence and for Attack.

V.  Abstinence Not Only from Food But from Other Evil Desires, Especially from Wrath, is Required in Lent.

VI.  The Right Use of Lent Will Lead to a Happy Participation in Easter.

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