Blessed are the Faithful !

Our Lord went up to the Mount and preached the Sermon which is considered the fundamental norm of Christian life.  It was on the 7 beatitudes.  Each beatitude can be summed up in one:  Blessed are those who are faithful to Me and My doctrine!

We live in a world where these words do not ring true in the ears of so many of our contemporaries.

Alas, they do not even ring true in the ears of many of our fellow Catholics.

And it is, dare say, not unexceptional to find that they do not even ring true in the ears of those who should be studying the words and teachings of the Lord.

Yet, it is a wonderful truth, and one worthy of every belief, that you are only blessed and will only be blessed if you be and remain faithful to Jesus Christ.

Let us thank God, therefore, for His Grace, which have made so many faithful.

Faithful to their Baptismal promises, in that they have not set their heart or devoted their career to the pursuit of the world, the flesh or the devil.

Faithful to their devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament, in that they never omit to attend Sunday or, more so, daily Mass, where Alone they can enjoy the physical and spiritual embrace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Faithful to the grace they received in being Confirmed, in that they have followed His light and not contravened a properly Catholic conscience, seeking always to be more faithful to the Lord of Grace, day after day.

Faithful to the grace they received in their priestly Ordination, in that they have never compromised and have remained true to the Magisterium of the Church, the rubrics of the mass, the morals taught by Our Lord, to their duty to preach in season and out etc..

Faithful to the grace of a religious vocation, in which they have put God before and above all else, even to the cost of everything else.

Faithful to a true Catholic Hope, which seeks first the Kingdom of God, not the friendship of this world, keeping thus, their eyes on the Prize, Life on High with Christ Jesus.

Such fidelity is the opposite of pragmatism.

And in the name of pragmatism so many lose their immortal souls.  Because they say that it is easier

To be unfaithful to their Baptismal promises, easier to follow after the world, the flesh and/or the devil.

To be unfaithful to the pact they made with Christ at their first communion, and to forget that He descends from Heaven just to meet with them and be their daily sustenance.

To be unfaithful to the grace of their Confirmation, and live like their pagan contemporaries do, refusing nothing even if it offends God.

To be unfaithful to their vocation, whether to the priesthood or religious life, because they wanted to get ahead, get a promotion, be friends with everyone, and not take Religion too seriously.

To be unfaithful to Hope itself, and to despair, so as to sustain the excuse to wallow in their love of this world.

And you know, they are right!

It is always easier to be unfaithful.

And fidelity always costs… it in fact leads to the Cross!

But let us remember that the God who created us, who redeemed us, and who calls us to eternal life is  not merely the God of Love, the God who is Love.

He is the God of faithful love.

In fact that is His proper name.  The reason why the Apostle St. John does not call God “Faithful love” is because in Greek the adjective would give the phrase another sense, something like “opinionated love”.  Yet in Hebrew, what St. John is saying is , “God is faithful love”

That does not mean He is always there to excuse…as so many false prophets of our day say…rather He is there always to accuse us of our sins, to recall us to fidelity, and to strengthen us when we turn to that path.

For this He has given us not only a conscience, a guardian Angel, but the opportunity to know and accept the One and Only True Faith; and the good example of so many Saints throughout history.

If we could sum up the spirit of the faithful catholic we could say it in one pean, one profound, joyful and heart shaking song:

O God, o Faithful Love, how I have loved Thee!

The decades I have traveled, the continents I have passed, the towns, nations, friends, family, career, inheritance, opportunities I have forsaken for Thee!  all these are nothing,

All that I have forsaken is but dust in comparison to Thee; nothing have I in fact lost, but in forsaking all, I have gained Thee, who even without Thy many gifts and blessings are infinitely worthy of my love.

Thou are my great Reward:  O God of faithful love! 

Thou art sufficient enough for me!

Be mine forever!

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Priestly Solidarity and the Altar

Immagine 052Signs and Symbols are not reality, they signify or indicate it.  And a good sign or symbol indicates in a manner understood by all, that which it was intended to indicate.

There are many such signs and symbols in the Ancient Roman Rite which are not so easily understood today.  Part of this has to do with the great cultural changes which have taken place since the time of the Protestant Reformation and the French Revolution.  In the second, just mentioned, phase of cultural change, the slogan of the day was, “Equality, Liberty, Fraternity”.  In the name of a slogan, often what happens is the opposite of the slogan.  In the French Revolution, the slogan was practiced as if it meant, “Superiority for the Revolutionaries, Liberty to do as we please to our enemies, and Fraternity in homicide and the destruction of the State and Church.”

Egalitarianism is one of the doctrines which are consequent to the slogan of the French Revolution, “Equality!”.  So deep is this only-apparent value in French Society today, that you must beware when taking a train, because the first class car is not the first car in the train, it can be positioned anywhere among the many coaches.  When I happened to be in France a few years ago, I asked a Frenchman the reason for this bizarre practice, and he said, “We are a nation that abides by equality for all.  If the first class car was always first, it would mean that all others were second class citizens!”  To which I wryly remarked, “Well if equality is so important to the French, tell me, why is it that the First Class car is still called “First Class”?”

Egalitarianism seeks as a philosophy to affirm the equality of all, by means of symbols, which are not so apt; they are not so apt, because as a philosophy, Egalitarianism is not really about equality, it is about disorder.  Right order requires, as I mentioned in my previous post on the Short Treatise to Order and Disorder, a relation among superior and inferior, before and after, father to son, etc..  When you affirm that all should be equal in dignity or rights, then you are affirming that there should be no order.  That is why the slogan of the French Revolution was the slogan of a chaotic political movement which pushed the slaughter of thousands of noblemen and clergy and anyone else who decried its own barbarity.

In the recent history of the Catholic Church we have seen the pervading influence of modern culture, the culture in which we live, find its way into proposals regarding how the Church should be or is conducting its Mission in the world.  Some of these proposals have taken root in the manner in which the liturgy is conducted.  And one of these regards where the priest stands when offering the August Sacrifice of the Mass.

Now, to be a priest, is to be a mediator, and to be a mediator is to stand between the two things among which one mediates. As Aristotle remarked, a means participates in both extremes.  And commenting on this observation of the great Philosopher, St. Bonaventure drew out its conclusion regarding Christ’s own Priesthood:  to be our Mediator, the Son of God became man, so that having assumed a singular human nature, the Man Christ, the Eternal Word could occupy, as it were, a middle position between the Eternal Father and sinful humanity.

The Incarnation, therefore is signified by an intermediary position.  And thus, the priesthood’s proper role as mediator can rightly be signified by an intermediary position.  The Redemption, too, is signified by an intermediary position, because it is precisely when God become Man is put to death as a criminal, that the Son of God as Mediator takes the absolute position between the All Holy God and sinful humanity.  The position from which the great prayer of Christ upon the Cross obtained the Redemption of the world!

This is what, I believe, is signified in the ancient practice, found in all the liturgies of East and West, known in popular terms, today, as the position Ad Orientem.

When a priest offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass he must stand at the Altar.  If he stands at the Altar facing the people, the Altar is between him and the people.  If he stands Ad Orientem, the people are at his back, and he is between Altar and people.

Priestly Solidarity, that is the solidarity a priest should have with his people, as mediator for them with God, is signified well when he stands at the Altar and faces Ad Orientem, that is, toward the Tabernacle, the Aspe of the Church, the liturgical direction of God. Doing so, makes him take an intermediary, and hence sacerdotal position, the position of a mediator, who prays for AND with his flock, to God, supplicating Mercy, seeking pardon and grace.

Ad Orientem, therefore, can be seen as the optimum position for the priest offering sacrifice, for the mediator, for the sacerdos who wishes to stand together with Christ, in the most significant physical position possible, with the One who offered Himself on behalf of mankind to the Father, and who now offers Himself again for the flock gathered in prayer with His priest on earth.

In such wise, the Altar no longer divides priest and people; the priest no longer looks down upon his flock, but rather, with them, looks up to God. — Seen thus, it is easy to understand why the alteration of the position where the priest stands to offer the Sacrifice, affected the architecture of churches and the desire of architects to depart from the classical forms of Catholic church design (But I’ll leave that topic for another post).

Cardinal Giuseppe Siri of Genoa: Words of Advice for Today

200px-Giuseppe_Siri,_1958_(2)“The pastoral care is not an art of making compromises or of ceding ground: it is the art of caring for souls in the truth.  When this is given them, everyone arrives at understanding what is said:  even, and above all, those who have deformed or criticized it.  The language of a good shepherd is the opposite of that which some theologians of the moment say it is.  I do not believe in their schismatic proposals.  Those who use their ecclesiastical functions to subvert the Church count for something, in reality, only before the eyes of the world because the  Church, which they are intent upon destroying in the name of « Church of the Future Humanity », still exists.  Then, there are so many signs, above all in Europe, that indicate that the demolishers of the Church, have had their day.”

(Quoted from the Italian text of the Cardinal’s book of reflections, entitled, “Renovatio”, vol. VI, published in 1970.:  English translation is by “From Rome” Blog.)

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For further study:

A short Biography of Cardinal Siri at Wikipedia, in Italian

A Critique of the Siri Hypothesis by Wikipedia (in Italian), gives important testimonies from those who knew the Cardinal, that he admitted being offered the candidacy in 1958, but refused it before any votes were taken in favor of it; and later repented to have failed his historic moment of duty for the Church.

A Website on Cardinal Siri by Devotees at Genoa, Italy

A Short Treatise on Order and Disorder: Introduction

If we could sum up under one heading the manifold evils of the present age, we might do it well by remarking that ours is an age in which disorder reigns and in which far too many are forgetful of the proper order which should prevail, in themselves, in their personal relationships, in the relations with state and Church, within the Church, and most importantly with God, His Holy Angels, and the Saints.

It seems that everyone, regardless of which camp they claim to belong to, is acting disorderly and is refusing implicitly or explicitly the Catholic notion of order and the corresponding moral duty to preserve order, observe order, and act according to order in all things, both in our own minds and hearts, and in our external acts.

Being the sons of Adam, if we are not baptized, or reborn as the sons of God, if baptized, though still suffering predominantly from the effects of Adam’s sonship if we have not seriously sought to sanctify ourselves, we are apt to see better the faults of others, than our own.

In recent years there has been a calamitous outcry against the disorder which is spreading in the modern world, whether in the State or in the Church.  From the imposition of marxist or socialist economics in the United States, to the advancing of the homosexual revolution by the forced imposition of their perverse creed, from the scandals in the Church regarding the abuse of children by priests and religious, and the worse dishonestly of Bishops, Cardinals, and even Popes, in not doing anything about it, or in denying the problem, or even in denying their own responsibility when documents show that they knew of the problem in time enough to have limited it more than they did:  the whole world is aghast at the perversion of order, the falling away from order, and the disorder which abounds on every side.

The advent of blogging has increased the disorder, because the mere liberty of expression and the facility of expression which reigns on blogs, seduces many a weak soul into believing that just because he can say something, he ought to; or just because an issue merits discussion, any discussion of it is meritorious.

The height of recent hypocrisy in this matter, in the Church, has been the intemperate criticism of church leaders for their own intemperate speech; as if the fact that my superior has sinned gives me the right to commit the same sin.  Such obtuseness makes many a blogger so adverse to the self-recognition of his own hypocritical behavior, that not even the most gentle of comments is permitted and any attempt at fraternal correction rebuffed.

Blathering on a blog is no more useful and no less sinful, than blathering at the local diner or pub. But alas, the facility of some towards literacy is just a strong occasion of sin for them, as the facility of some for loquacity.

For this reason, following in the footsteps of my Seraphic Father, St. Francis, who commanded all of his sons to preach in season and out, about vice and virtue, punishment and glory, I take this occasion of the Solemn Celebration of his own glorification in Heaven 787 years ago, so begin a small Series of Articles on the notion of Order and Disorder.

I do this to gently remind Catholics the world over of the importance of retaining and returning to a right notion of Order and to putting this notion into practice in everything they do.  It is my hope that by means of this series of reflection, at least you who read this blog, might benefit in your own pilgrimage to Heaven.

A Short Treatise on Order and Disorder:  An Introduction

St. Francis of Assisi is known the world over for his spirit of faithfulness to the Gospel, his humility and love and devotion to Christ, his care and concern for all God’s creatures, especially poor sinners and unbelievers, to whom he wished to recall to the Gospel or make them know the wonderful good news thereof.

St. Francis is normally presented as a model of holiness or fidelity, but if we look more deeply into his life, he is a marvelous example of order and fidelity to the order which God has established in creation and in the Church.

But to understand better why the observance of order leads to holiness of life and glorification in Heaven, it is good to begin with an introduction to the theology of Order.

1. Order is a Divine Perfection.

According to St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1217-1274 A. D.), who with St. Thomas is one of the two primary Doctors of the Church, there are three species of order.  You can find these listed in his Commentary on the First Book of Sentences of Master Peter Lombard, d. 20, a. 1, q. 1, p. 372, which God willing, I will be publishing next spring in book format, in the United States of America (but also distributed worldwide by mail).

St. Bonaventure, being a great Scholastic theologian, explains the essential basis of order, thus.  There are three species or kinds of order:

A.  Order according to position:  where one is the superior, another the inferior; but this is in two manners:  either according to place, or according to dignity.  This species of order does not exist in God.

 B. Order according to antecedence:  where one is the prior, another the posterior; but this is in two manners:  either because the first precedes the second according to duration or time, or because it is prior according to its ‘being understood’ or according to the understanding of its nature.  This species does not exist in God.

 C. Order according to origin, or according to an emanation, and this is of  one producing to one produced.  This species exists in God, because there is the order of a Beginning to a Begun, or of One producing to One produced (i. e. the Father to the Son).  This divine species of order is the first species of order, because it implicates in itself the other two species:  thus, in created things every producer is superior in dignity or prior in time or in being understood.

2. Order in its relations with the transcendentals of being:  the one, the true, the good and the beautiful.

The transcendentals of being are appropriatable to the Persons of the Trinity because they express full and pure perfections.  Thus, to the Father, one can appropriate “the Good”, to the Son, “the True”, to the Holy Spirit, “the Beautiful”, and to God, “the One”.

Thus, one finds, among the names for the transcendentals, an order between the Good and the True, between ‘the Good and the True’ and the Beautiful.

Perfection according to knowledge is the perfect understanding of the Good; such perfect understanding in God is the Son, Who emanates from the Father as the Eternal Word, the Perfect Likeness and, hence, Knowledge of the Father, Who is “the Good”.

Perfection according to the will is the perfect willing of the Good according to the True; such a perfection of will in God is the Holy Spirit, Who emanates from the Father and Son, from the Father through the Son, as the perfect Love or Nexus of them Both.

3.  The Eternal Word as the Exemplar of Order.

Since He is the middle Person in the Trinity, He is, hence, the exemplification of the essential relation of order in the Trinity, since all the intra-trinitarian relations refer to Him; thus, the order between the Divine Persons is completed in the Logos, the Perfect Expression or Image of the Father, and the occasional Principle of the Love Emanating as the Holy Spirit, both from the Father unto the Son, and from the Son unto the Father; because, the precondition for understanding every act of love is that there be two other Persons; and He is the Second Person.

Conclusion

The order which is found in creation, or in our own being, body and soul, or in human society, or in the Church, in Heaven, in Purgatory and on Earth, is a reflection of that Order which is found first in God, and which is exemplified in its highest manner the Eternal Word.  By observing the right order in all human affairs, we do the will of Jesus Christ for us.  Indeed, if we examine the Gospels and the words of Our Lord and Master, we find that on every page He is teaching us about how to observe the right Divine Order for all things, and how, by returning to the right order, we can be saved and have eternal life.

Order then is a perfection; coming from God, and founding creation; but also a perfection which if we embrace and observe, can transform us in holiness of life and transport us to the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is, therefore, very useful and valuable for each of us to observe order, whether in thought, will, word, or action.

May Christ Jesus, our Eternal Master, by His Omnipotent Spirit, grant us the grace to humbly confess our sins and return to the right order of life!

(In the next installment, I will discuss the perfection of order in created things and the two kinds of society, natural and moral).

I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail…

In the Gospel of St. Luke 22:31-32, it is written:  And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.

Xp-PeterOur Lord and Master’s words are transgressed in many ways: often bloggers forget the ones about fraternal correction; there is a way Our Lord wants us to follow, and it is often a mortal sin to act differently because it harms or destroys the chances of our fallen brother’s conversion and repentance. Egging a man on, who is prone to let his mouth run, by correcting and insulting him in public, is not going to achieve his conversion. It is more likely to only make matters worse, to the great displeasure of Our Lord and God, who prefers the salvation of all, especially the more outstanding sinners.

Even the great saints who had to correct their highest earthly superior, did it with discretion, followed our Lord’s rules (first in private, then in private with another, then with the Church). St. Bernard and a council of Burgundian Bishops went to far as to threaten the Pope of their day with excommunication if he did not change his pastoral policy on the injustice of lay investiture … imagine, and that was not even primarily a question of heresy, just the Church’s liberty…

I think that many a blogger’s manner of contentiously pushing the issues from the get go of the present Papacy, helped the blossoming of the present crisis. [Proof:   The use by main stream news outlets of quotes found on Bloggers pages attacking Pope Francis. — For charity sake, I won’t name the blogs here.] It is easy to say things that ought not be said in public, when one uses a moniker, but that won’t excuse us before the Throne of Judgement.

A lot of Catholics at Rome are saying, in private and on the phone the same things, but the Italians have a great sensibility to the kind of proper discretion to be used in cases like this…

Comunque, as we say in Italian, let us pray doubly for the Pope, amend our own failings, and even do some fasting, joining ourselves with Christ in His own prayer, “I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail….”!