Thomas More, Humanist, Secularist and Saint. June 22, 2017

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Today, June 22, is the feast of Ss. Tomas More and John Fisher. Thomas More is an intercessor of Opus Dei by decree of St. Josemaria Escriva. Choosing More to intercede for the Work was due to his state as layman, prestigious for his professional excellence and proclamation/defense of the Word of God in the secular world and model to be emulated by all. Escriva wrote (1959): “A man who knows that the world, and not just the church, is the place where he finds Christ, loves that world. He endeavors to become properly trained, intellectually and professionally. He makes up his own mind with complete freedom about the problems of the environment in which he moves, and takes his own decisions in consequence. As the decisions of a Christ, they derive from personal reflection, which endeavors in all humility to grasp the will of God in both the unimportant and the important events of his life.” The large point to be made is that the truth of Christ is to be found at large in the secular world because man himself has been made in the image and likeness of the God-man. That truth of Christ is present in society today (like democracy, freedom, dignity of the human person, dignity of women, right to work, etc.) And besides, as Robert Barron remarks (commenting on Robert Sokolowski), “the integrating icon of Christian doctrine exploded at the time of the Reformation and the Enlightenment, and its charred and distorted fragments have landed here and there, littering the contemporary cultural environment. Accordingly, we are not doing to find, at least very often, the whole Catholic thing on beautiful display, but we are indeed  going to find bits and pieces of it practically everywhere, provided we have the eyes to see.”[1]

Barron continues, “If the evangelist exercises his analogical imagination, he can see images of Jesus in Superman, spider-Man, and Andy Dufresne; he can sense the play between divine love and divine mercy in the strong arms of Rooster Cogburn; he can hear an echo of Augustine’s anthropology in the protagonist of Eat, Pray, Love; he can discern a powerful teaching on the danger of concupiscent desire in The Great Gatsby; he can sense a longing for the supernatural in The Exorcist, and the Twilight series; he can pick up overtones of Jeremiah and Isaiah in Bob Cylan; he can hear the voice that spoke to Job out of the whirlwind in the Coen Brothers’ A serious Man; and he can appreciate onte of the most textured presentations of Christian soteriology in Clind Eastwood’s Gran Torino. Are any of theswe adequate presentations of the Word? Hardly. But are they all semina verbi, seeds of the Word?

Absolutely.

And thus can they, like the altar to the Unknown God in ancient Athens, provide a foundation for evangelization, a way in, a point of departure?

Emphatically yes.

Blogger Comment: Jesus Christ is at the center of created universe (Col. 1, 15). The Council of Chalcedon has declared Him to be One Divine Person with Two Natures: the divine uncreated, the human created. Both natures are dynamized by the one divine Person. There is only one act of existence in Jesus Christ (the Esse Personale – S. Th. III, 17). The humanity of Jesus Christ is created, but it is His. Since all things have been created through Him, by Him and for Him, His humanity –  and therefore, the created cosmos – cannot be understood apart from His divine Person since He acts through it. Read pope Francis #233, 234 of “Laudato ‘Si” (below) in that light.

For depth consider John Henry Newman’s: Catholic Fullness.

“Now, the phenomenon, admitted on all hands, is this:—that great portion of what is generally received as Christian truth, is in its rudiments or in its separate parts to be found in heathen philosophies and religions. For instance, the doctrine of a Trinity is found both in the East and in the West; so is the ceremony of washing; so is the rite of sacrifice. The doctrine of the Divine Word is Platonic; the doctrine of the Incarnation is Indian; of a divine kingdom is Judaic; of Angels and demons is Magian; the connexion of sin with the body is Gnostic; celibacy is known to Bonze and Talapoin; a sacerdotal order is Egyptian; the idea of a new birth is Chinese and Eleusinian; belief in sacramental virtue is Pythagorean; and honours to the dead are a polytheism. Such is the general nature of the fact before us; Mr. Milman argues from it,—”These things are in heathenism, therefore they are not Christian:” we, on the contrary, prefer to say, “these things are in Christianity, therefore they are not heathen.” That is, we prefer to say, and we think that Scripture bears us out in saying, that from the beginning the Moral Governor of the world has scattered the seeds of truth far and wide over its extent; that these have variously taken root, and grown up as in the wilderness, wild plants indeed but living; and hence that, as the inferior animals have {232} tokens of an immaterial principle in them, yet have not souls, so the philosophies and religions of men have their life in certain true ideas, though they are not directly divine. What man is amid the brute creation, such is the Church among the schools of the world; and as Adam gave names to the animals about him, so has the Church from the first looked round upon the earth, noting and visiting the doctrines she found there. She began in Chaldea, and then sojourned among the Canaanites, and went down into Egypt, and thence passed into Arabia, till she rested in her own land. Next she encountered the merchants of Tyre, and the wisdom of the East country, and the luxury of Sheba. Then she was carried away to Babylon, and wandered to the schools of Greece. And wherever she went, in trouble or in triumph, still she was a living spirit, the mind and voice of the Most High; “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions;” claiming to herself what they said rightly, correcting their errors, supplying their defects, completing their beginnings, expanding their surmises, and thus gradually by means of them enlarging the range and refining the sense of her own teaching. So far then from her creed being of doubtful credit because it resembles foreign theologies, we even hold that one special way in which Providence has imparted divine knowledge to us has been by enabling her to draw and collect it together out of the world, and, in this sense, as in others, to suck the milk of the Gentiles and to suck the breast of kings.

“How far in fact this process has gone, is a question of history; and we believe it has before now been grossly exaggerated and misrepresented by those who, like Mr. Milman, have thought that its existence told against {233} Catholic doctrine; but so little antecedent difficulty have we in the matter, that we could readily grant, unless it were a question of fact not of theory, that Balaam was an Eastern sage, or a Sibyl was inspired, or Solomon learnt of the sons of Mahol, or Moses was a scholar of the Egyptian hierophants. We are not distressed to be told that the doctrine of the angelic host came from Babylon, while we know that they did sing at the Nativity; nor that the vision of a Mediator is in Philo, if in very deed He died for us on Calvary. Nor are we afraid to allow, that, even after His coming, the Church has been a treasure-house, giving forth things old and new, casting the gold of fresh tributaries into her refiner’s fire, or stamping upon her own, as time required it, a deeper impress of her Master’s image.

“The distinction between these two theories is broad and obvious. The advocates of the one imply that Revelation was a single, entire, solitary act, or nearly so, introducing a certain message; whereas we, who maintain the other, consider that Divine teaching has been in fact, what the analogy of nature would lead us to expect, “at sundry times and in divers manners,” various, complex, progressive, and supplemental of itself. We consider the Christian doctrine, when analyzed, to appear, like the human frame, “fearfully and wonderfully made;” but they think it someone tenet or certain principles given out at one time in their fullness, without gradual enlargement before Christ’s coming or elucidation afterwards. They cast off all that they also find in Pharisee or heathen; we conceive that the Church, like Aaron’s rod, devours the serpents of the magicians. They are ever hunting for a fabulous primitive simplicity; we repose in Catholic fullness. They seek what never has been found; we accept and use {234} what even they acknowledge to be a substance. They are driven to maintain, on their part, that the Church’s doctrine was never pure; we say that it never can be corrupt. We consider that a divine promise keeps the Church Catholic from doctrinal corruption; but on what promise, or on what encouragement, they are seeking for their visionary purity does not appear.”[4]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ephesians 1, 4: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in his sight in love. He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons, according to the purpose of his will…”

Laudato ‘Si:’ (Pope Francis) “The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things. Saint Bonaventure teaches us that “contemplation deepens the more we feel the working of God’s grace within our hearts, and the better we learn to encounter God in creatures outside ourselves.

(234)  “Saint John of the Cross taught that all the goodness present in the realities and experiences of this world ‘is present in God eminently and infinitely, or more properly, in each of these sublime realities is God’ This is not because the finite things of this world are really divine, but because the mystic experiences the intimate connection between God and all beings, and thus feels that ‘all things are God.’ Standing awestruck before a mountain, he or she cannot separate this experience from God, and perceives that the interior awe being lived has to be entrusted to the Lord: ‘Mountains have heights and they are plentiful, vast, beautiful, graceful, bright, and fragrant. These mountains are what my Beloved is to me. Lonely valleys are quiet, pleasant, cool, shady, and flowing with fresh water; in the variety of their groves and in the sweet song of the birds, they afford abundant recreation and delight to the senses, and in their solitude and silence, they refresh us and give rest. These valleys are what my Beloved is to me.’[2]

[1] Barron, “Seeds of the Word,” Word on Fire (2015) x.

[2] Pope Francis, “Laudato ‘Si” #233, 234.

Memory: Human and Divine

 

Fr. Paul Scalia

SUNDAY, JUNE 18, 2017

What he did at supper seated,
Christ ordained to be repeated,
His memorial ne’er to cease.
(From Lauda Zion, Sequence for Corpus Christi)

Have you outsourced your memory? No, probably not. And neither have those who claim to have done so. At best, they have enlisted digital devices to aid their recall – but not their memory. The distinction is essential. Man does not merely recall; he remembers. The reduction of memory to recall trivializes one of our greatest powers – and threatens our appreciation of the Eucharist.

Recall simply brings up data: a phone number, an address, a date. As such, it is approximated fairly well by computers. But memory goes much deeper. To remember means more than to spit out data. It is not a purely intellectual act but involves the entire person, soul and body. In days of yore – before cell phones and speed dial – to remember a phone number meant more than to recall the digits. It meant to see and feel the pattern of the numbers on the dial pad or even to hear the varying clicks on the rotary dial.

Which is to say that memory is embodied. When I think of summers at the beach, I do not merely recall the fact of it. I remember the smell and feel of the salt air, the tug of a fish on the line, the sound of the surf at night. No device can compensate for this, because it is profoundly human.

To remember is, in a certain way, to make something from the past present to us, here and now. We do this by thought and conversation, by monuments and ceremonies. We recite poems and sing songs about past deeds. We set aside perfectly good land and erect monuments where battles were fought.

We want to keep the past present because we know that the events ought to influence us still today. The virtues of those who served, the heroism of those who died, the glory of just deeds, the travesty of injustice – these should be made present in order to form us.

But our efforts fail. The world has plenty of monuments, decrees, songs, and ballads meant to remind us, but which have themselves been forgotten. The Roman poet Horace boasted that he had created a monument “more lasting than bronze.” But. . .who reads Horace anymore? Mere creatures that we are, we cannot make the past fully present. The songs are forgotten, the monuments crumble, and the ideals are lost.

The Last Supper by Juan de Juanes, c. 1562 [Museo del Prado]

And yet our Lord commands us, Do this in memory of me. These words indicate a deeper kind of memory than we have. They speak of a divine memory, so to speak, a participation in the memory of the One for Whom all is alive. (see Lk 20:38) The Church calls the Mass the “memorial” of Christ’s Passover. Now, the colloquial understanding of “memorial” does not convey the Church’s meaning. The Catechism explains it as follows:

In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men. In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of believers so that they may conform their lives to them. (CCC 1363, emphases added)

This is no ordinary, human memorial. This is God’s remembering and thus fulfills our desire to make the past present.

In the Mass, our Lord’s sacrifice becomes present and real under the sacramental form of bread and wine. The Catechism repeats the words of the Council of Trent:

The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different. . . .In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. (CCC 1367)

Our symbols of remembrance remain merely that – symbols. Our monuments remind us, but they do not make present. Only the Lord fulfills the longing of human memory by making history’s greatest event present to us now under the form of bread and wine. In what Saint Thomas calls the “memorial ne’er to cease,” everything of His Sacrifice is made present: His offering to the Father, the stretching of His Body on the Cross, the shedding of His Blood, His prayer for mercy, and even the giving of His mother.

“Were you there when the crucified my Lord?” the American spiritual asks. No, we were not – nor did we need to be. The Mass makes His crucifixion present to us, precisely so that we can become participants in His offering and conform our lives to that event.

This consideration of the Eucharistic memorial teaches us something about how Mother Church remembers. She does not reminisce about the good old days or merely recall her Lord. She is always – throughout history and throughout the world – making Him present through the ministry of her priests.

All teaching about Jesus Christ reaches its fulfillment in this memorial, in which He is not just recalled but made present. And without this memorial all teaching would remain only a recollection about past events.

To appreciate the memorial sacrifice, then, requires an appreciation of human memory. If we reduce our memory to that technological recall, easily delegated to a device, then we lose the template for understanding the memorial that perfects all human memory.

The exercise of authentic human memory, on the other hands, prepares us for the sacrificial memorial. It cultivates in us a desire to make the past present and indeed to make ourselves present to the sacrificial Victim present to us.

 

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during the Storm of WYD 2011

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during Storm of WYD 2011

 

Not only was the storm a difficult moment, but the monstrance that was below became stuck and failed to rise with the Blessed Sacrament.  The Pope was advised to cancel the adoration and Benediction, but he decided to go ahead. At the exposition of the Host, the two million young people knelt on the wet grass and remained in a most impressive absolute silence – kneeling and soaked – until the Pope continued to the Blessing with the Lord. The impact on all was explosive.

Unmasking Gender Ideology: read blogger comment

Gahl

Fr. Bob Gahl

The Church needs a unified strategy to counter gender ideology, expert says

By Elise Harris

Rome, Italy, May 19, 2017 / 06:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Apostolic nuncios attended a crash course last year on gender from an expert in the field, who stressed the need for the Church to develop a unified strategy, based on the faith’s basic principles, in fighting gender ideology.

First, “we Christians, and certainly our bishops and nuncios, need to be convinced about our principles, the principles of our faith,” Fr. Robert Gahl told CNA May 16. “We also need to have a thought-through understanding of those principles, also regarding the human body.”

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Blogger comment: I include this post because it is important to understand that all the talk about gender as “neutral” today is an imposed ideology. Invariably, a product is pitched on TV for you and your “partner.” This has an impact on all younger people growing and being educated within the “culture.” This is not the existential culture at large, but the ideology imposed by those powerful enough [$] to control the sound and the lights, and the sound and the lights are  impinging on all those clutching an iphone or android; and this 90% of the people I observe on the street.

   Something deeper has to be said here. Knowledge of reality comes through experience, and experience is first and foremost of the self acting. [This is the reason I have named this blog, “Acting Person.” The self or “I” is not reducible to consciousness or conscience because it arises in me only when I act and always when I act. Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure and the others in the high middle ages saw that free actions were not the result of willful, intelligent “things,” but subjects or persons. [Actiones sunt suppositorum]. The Christology of Chalcedon and Constantinople III is helpful here. The Subject of every human act of Christ is the divine Person. There is no human person. So, that every human act of Jesus Christ was an act of God, the Son of the father. And since the Son as Son is total relation to the Father and nothing in Himself as we would find in a human person, His every human act is a divine act, because it is the act of a divine Person. So also, since we persons created in the image and likeness of the Son and therefore constitutively relational, so the body which is the person himself/herself is constitutively male or female in gender. There is no human person as gender-neutral awaiting, as it were, a sexual orientation. Gender can be disrupted by a counter culture, but not created or replaced since it is embedded in the ontological architecture of person as relational

    Hence, we are not dealing with  gender “principles” as conceptual derivatives, but the ontological tendency or really existing persons . And I would not try to counter “gender ideology” with mere principles since we would then be caving in to the epistemology of ideology and fighting it out  on their turf (which is to already surrender the Truth of gender and sexuality, and therefore personhood. If you remove gender and replace it with sex (as empirical activity), you remove the relation which is personhood and therefore you have removed God]. Hence, “Gender ideology” is a disguised atheism which is countered at its root by prayer and going to the peripheries in service and self-forgetfulness.

* * * * * * * * *

[Article continues:] He stressed the importance of remembering that “humanity has been saved fully, that we are redeemed also in our sexuality.”

This implies a daily struggle and fight with original sin, he said, explaining that “the redemption of our own embodiment and therefore of our own sexuality and complementarity” is a task each person must carry out daily.

Secondly, he said, “the Church needs to act together, so that it be in concert, because we’re more powerful when we act together.”

Acting together doesn’t mean that everyone has to do the same thing, but rather that by seeking guidance from the Church on how to handle modern issues such as gender, individuals will be able “to act in a way that will be more effective in the public square.”

Fr. Gahl emphasized that the present time “is a crucial moment for the bishops to help to intervene and to help coordinate so the market can produce sound alternatives that also agree with our conscience and our religious belief.”

Both individuals and institutions “need to have instruction and guidance” from bishops, he said, noting that “many people are waiting for that and at times, unfortunately, it’s missing, because the bishops aren’t sure what to do because things are changing too rapidly.”

Fr. Gahl, a priest of Opus Dei, is an associate professor of ethics at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross who has authored numerous publications on sexual ethics and moral action, among other topics.

He was chosen to lead a course for some 140 apostolic nuncios held during a Sept. 15-17, 2016, jubilee weekend dedicated to them, during which they met with the Pope and had several rounds of catechesis.

One of the courses the nuncios attended was that on gender offered by Fr. Gahl, who spoke about the rising threat gender ideology poses throughout the world, its political and ecclesial implications, and the strategy the Church must develop to effectively oppose what is often a very savvy communications strategy from the other side.

“This is really fascinating … the challenge the nuncios have,” Fr. Gahl said, explaining that he tried to give them space in the course to reflect critically on their work, in which they both coordinate among bishops and serve as diplomats.

“Gender ideology is threatening the freedom of religious expression, religious belief, and the freedom of the Church as an institution in many places, and in the places where it’s not being threatened, it probably will be threatened very shortly,” the priest explained.

Therefore, the nuncios have the challenge “of observing, addressing and helping to guide and instruct the bishops in each country so the Church can have a concerted strategy” in defending the Church as an institution and all believing Christians against this “wave of manipulation of human dignity.”

However, Fr. Gahl said he disagrees with those who claim the push for gender ideology comes from “some malicious political strategy or that it’s motivated by some evil intent, or people who claim that there is some kind of material gain from it.”

Instead, he voiced his belief that most of the pushing is being done by people with “a good intention” who are truly convinced it is for the betterment of humanity. “I see it as being rooted in a view of the human being …  that comes out of post-modern philosophy,” he said.

This notion, the priest said, is what Benedict XVI described as “a nihilistic understanding of freedom, such that we are each our own creator.” In this view, God is replaced and we can each create ourselves in the image of whatever we would like to be, rather than receiving our nature from another as a given.

“What’s really horrible about this is it means we have no intrinsic dignity. No one has intrinsic dignity, no one should be respected for who they are, but they should be respected for who they think they are,” Fr. Gahl said.

The priest said it was providential that he gave his talk during the Jubilee of Mercy, because he was able to contextualize it within Pope Francis’ emphases on tenderness and compassion.

“My entire conference was infused by this effort to say we should be understanding toward people, we should be compassionate to them … especially people who are suffering from some form of gender dysphoria,” he said.

Rather than being condescending, the priest said we ought to try to understand and appreciate the view of the other, showing compassion in order to “help them in some way to achieve a full flourishing and health according to who they are.”

Fr. Gahl said his course provided a unique space for the nuncios to ask questions and exchange ideas.

Because of their position, nuncios typically come to the Vatican on an individual basis and “basically never have the opportunity to all get together and discuss important issues,” he said.

While his course was in many ways an exceptional opportunity for nuncios because of the jubilee, Fr. Gahl said he believes it would be useful to have nuncios come together more often to discuss timely problems the Church is facing today.

Even if they come in smaller groups divided by region or language, “perhaps there’s some way … in which that could be done in the future,” he suggested.

During discussion after the course had ended, nuncios brought up various concerns, Fr. Gahl said, noting that at least one comment was made on the need to convey “an awareness and a savvy” on the issue to seminarians.

It must be now taken into consideration that “men going into seminary today are already influenced by this [gender ideology] in the culture, so they need to receive a formation that is going to help them be mature in their own masculinity in order to help them become spiritual fathers.”

Fr. Gahl said he was impressed by the resonance among the nuncios in recognizing the importance of the gender issue, and noted that he often emphasized the need to utilize new media better, given its influence.

Pope Francis “is very concerned about what he calls ‘ideological colonization,’” the priest said. “He’s especially concerned about the educational process of how there are schools that are indoctrinating children with propaganda that is ideological that is contrary to even a scientific or Christian understanding of the human person.”

In Francis’ view, “this as an intrusion or a violation of the rights of the parents, who are the principle educators,” Fr. Gahl said, noting that this is evidenced in many of the Pope’s writings.

“He sees gender promoted as an ideology,” the priest said, clarifying that when he refers to ideology, “not everything gender is ideology. But it is an ideology when it puts people in categories that conflict with their biology and boxes people in and forces people at times to become something that they’re not.”

“It imposes upon other people styles of life that are contrary with reality. Contrary with the understanding that marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said, adding that “the Pope is very concerned about this,” and is emphasizing the need for complementarity.

 

Bonaventure: Experience as the Way to Realism

A Fountain Fullness of Love
Sunday, June 18, 2017:  Richard Rohr

 

For as a human being, Christ has something in common with all creatures. With the stone he shares existence; with plants he shares life; with animals he shares sensation; and with the angels he shares intelligence. Therefore, all things are said to be transformed in Christ since­–in his human nature–he embraces something of every creature in himself when he is transfigured. —Bonaventure [1]

There is no other teacher who takes the vision of Francis and Clare to the level of a theology and philosophy, a fully symmetrical worldview, as well as Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, Italy (c. 1221-1274). As Paul did for Jesus, so Bonaventure did for Francis. Bonaventure’s vision is positive, mystic, cosmic, intimately relational, and often concerned with cleaning the lens of our perception and our intention. With this awareness, we can see that God is with us in everything we experience in life and can be found in and through everything, even and often most especially our limits and our suffering (because in those states we long so desperately for meaning and purpose).

Bonaventure was profoundly Trinitarian in that his framework for reality was love itself—always and forever flowing, overflowing, and filling all things. He called the Trinitarian God a “fountain fullness” of love. Reality is always in process and fully participatory; it is love itself in action, and not a mere Platonic world, an abstract idea, or a static, impersonal principle. God as Trinitarian Flow is the blueprint and pattern for all relationships and thus all of creation, which we now know from atoms to circulatory systems, ecosystems, and galaxies is exactly the case.

Bonaventure taught that there are three books from which we learn wisdom: The Book of Creation, The Book of Jesus and Scripture, and The Book of Experience. He also taught that there are three pairs of eyes. The first pair sees all things as a fingerprint or footprint of God (vestigia Dei), which evokes foundational respect and teachability. The second pair of eyes is the hard work of honest self-knowledge—awareness of how you are processing your reality moment by moment. This is necessary to keep your own lens clean and open, and it is the work of your entire lifetime. The third pair is the eyes of contemplation, which allow you to see things in their essence and in their core meaning. Only then can you receive the transmitted image of God on your soul. “Deep calls unto deep” as the Psalmist says (42:8), and all outer images can then mirror and evoke your own inner divine image.

Bonaventure says we must begin “at the bottom, presenting to ourselves the whole material world as a mirror through which we may pass over to God, the Supreme [Artisan].” [2] He teaches that to really see things, we must “consider this world [i.e. all material things] in its origin, process and end.” [3] Everything comes from God, exemplifies God, and then returns to God.  Bonaventure says that sums up all his teaching.

 

Gateway to Silence:
I am that [blogger: “Other Christ”] which I am seeking.