Feast of St. John of the Cross – December 14th and Karol Wojtyla

Wojtyla’s Encounter with St. John of the Cross:

“In 1941, one year a before he entered the underground seminary of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, twenty-one years old, and a student of Polish literature, had a profound encounter with St. John of the Cross. The Gestapo played an instrumental and, in retrospect, historic role in bringing about this encounter. Hitler stripped Polish parishes of most of their priests in order to break the backbone of Polish religious and intellectual resistance. Consequently, Wojtyla came under the spiritual guidance of a layman, Jan Tyranowski, who introduced him to St. John of the Cross.”

   The Impact of St. John of the Cross on “Dei Verbum”  [Document on Divine Revelation] of the Second Vatican Council, evident in the commentary of John Paul II:

The Pope contrasts (complementarity, not contradiction) the “definition” of faith from Vatican I from the “description” of faith in Dei Verbum of Vatican II:

“Personally I would not discount the old catechism definition which I learned at primary school: faith is `to admit as truth what God has revealed and what the Church gives us to believe.’ However, I will not send you back to the catechism, for this definition, as it stands, can incur the criticism that it does not attach sufficient importance to the person, the subject that experiences faith, even though the very phrase `admit as truth’ clearly implies the existence of the subject…. These admirable compact and precise words do not yet speak of faith but of Revelation. Revelation is `God communicating himself.’ It thus possesses the character of a gift or a grace: a person-to-person gift in the communion of persons….

            All this concerns Revelation. What about faith?

            We read further on in the same text: `To God who reveals himself we must bring the obedience of faith by which man entrusts himself entirely, freely, to God, bringing to  him who reveals  the complete submission of his intelligence and heart and giving with al his will full assent to the Revelation which he has made.’ Thus faith is man’s reply to the Revelation by which God `communicates himself.’ The constitution Dei Verbum expresses perfectly the essentially personal character of faith.

“In the words `man entrusts himself to God by the obedience of faith,’ one must see, if only indirectly, the thought that faith, as response to the revelation by which God `gives himself to man,’ implies through its internal dynamism a reciprocal gift on the part of man, who in a way `also gives himself to God.’ This gift of oneself is the profoundest and most personal structure of faith. [To understand this, one must remember that the Person of Jesus Christ is what we mean by “Revelation.” And if this is confusing, let me add the authority of Joseph Ratzinger to that. He writes: “revelation is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject  is always also a part of the concept of ‘revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive ‘revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation, Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scrip[tue but is not simiply identical with it. This in turn mens that evelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again mens that thre can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”), because an essential element of Scripture is the Church as understganidng subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given” (J. Ratzinger, (“Miletones, Memoirs, 1927-1977, Ignatius, [1999] 108-109]). Let’s say it clearly: revelation takes place in the believer in the action of belief that is the going out of self that is the very action of the Word of God who is revelation in Person.  

            “In the act of faith, man does not respond to God with the gift of a bit of himself, but with the gift of his whole person. Of course, in this reciprocal relationship the disproportion remains.

             “So misapprehension is frequent. Those who say, `faith is a gift,’ implying that they have not received it, are at the same time both right and wrong. Right, because there really is a gift on the part of God. Wrong, because this gift is not one of those which require only a banal acknowledgement of receipt; it only takes effect when there is reciprocity.”

 At this point, John Paul II clarifies any apprehension of Pelagianism that we respond by our own powers alone:  Man needs to be loved by God to achieve the identity of being an “I” in order to be able to master self, take possession of self, and then to make the free gift of self that is faith. This loving affirmation by God is called “grace.” Grace is not a “thing” but the relation of the divine Person to us, affirming us and therefore empowering us. Thus this self-gift must be preceded by a divine affirmation that is “an inner action of the Holy Spirit and that it depends entirely and essentially on this action.”

The large picture here is the move from an objectified epistemology of faith to a subjective epistemology of personal experience and therefore a consciousness of the Person of Jesus Christ as revelation of the Father. It is the move from understanding faith as a series of concepts or sets of propositions to a life style of self-giving in response to the gift of the Son Who is the Gift of the Father. John Paul II notes this difference:

“I have already drawn your attention to the difference between the catechism formula, `accepting as true all that God reveals,’ and surrender to God. In the first definition faith is primarily intellectual, in so far as it is the welcoming and assimilation of revealed fact. On the other hand, when the constitution “Dei Verbum tells us that man entrusts himself to God `by obedience of faith,’ we are confronted with the whole ontological and existential dimension and, so to speak, the drama of existence proper to man.

“In faith, man discovers the relativity of his being in comparison with an absolute I and the contingent character of his own existence. To believe is to entrust this human I, in all its transcendence and all its transcendent greatness, but also with its limits, its fragility and its mortal condition, to Someone who announces himself as the beginning and the end, transcending all that is created and contingent, but who also reveals himself at the same time as a Person who invites us to companionship, participation and communion. An absolute person – or better, a personal Absolute.

“The surrender to God through faith (through the obedience of faith) penetrates to the very depths of human existence, to the very heart of personal existence. This is how we should understand this `commitment’ which you mentioned in your question and which presents itself as the solution to the very problem of existence or to the personal drama of human existence. It is much more than a purely intellectual theism and goes deeper and further than the act of `accepting as true what God has revealed.’

“When God reveals himself and faith accepts him, it is man who sees himself revealed to himself and confirmed in his being as man and person John Paul II sees bound together the being of the human person, the action of going out of self, the consciousness of Christ. And so faith is not “knowledge” as we habitually understand it. It is not primarily conceptual and creed-like, but the conscious context of all that we know. Pay attention: “The essence of faith resides not only in knowledge, but also in the vocation, in the call. For what in the last analysis is this obedience of faith by which man displays ‘a total submission of his intelligence and w ill to the God who reveals himslef’? It is not simply hearing the Word and listening to it (in the sense of obeying it): it also means responding to a call, to a sort of historical and eschatological ‘Follow me!’ uttered both on earth and in heaven.”

   Let me dare to say this with a radical clarity: Faith is the consciousness one has of self when the “Yes” is the daring commitment to death for love of the other. That is, one has entered into the experience of being Christ Himself, and the consciousness of that – let’s call it “transformation” – is faith.

John Paul II continues: “To my mind, one must be very conscious of this relation between knowlege and vocation inherent in the very essence of faith if one is to decipher correctly the extemely rich message of Vatican II. After reflecting on the whole of its content, I have come to the conclusion that, according to Vatican II, to believe is to enter the mission of the church by agreeing to participate in the triple ministry of Christ as prophet, priest and king. You can see by this how daith, as a commitment, reveals to our eyes ever new prospects, even with respect to its content. HOwever,I am convinced that at the root of htis aspect of faith lies the act of surrender to God, in which gift and commitment meet in an extremely close and profound way.”

 (from “Be Not Afraid,” Andre Frossard, St. Martin’s Press (1984) pp. 66-67.

 * * * * * * * * 

 To Appropriate St. John of the Cross’s Understanding of Faith Demands a Confrontation, Purification and Assimilation of Enlightenment Philosophy.[5]

This involvement of the entire self in the act of faith, when reflected on by reason using the method of phenomenology, is rendered under the concept of “experience.” But this involves a radical confrontation with the philosophical dualism that has come down to us from the Enlightenment. “Experience” in the Enlightenment has been identified exclusively with the sensible world and radically “disengaged” from the “I.” The “I” is pure consciousness. There is no such thing as an “experience” of consciousness.

 

As we have seen, the formulation of faith in Vatican  Council I, “can incur the criticism that it does not attach sufficient importance to the person, the subject that experiences faith, even though the phrase `admit as truth’ clearly implies the existence of the subject.”[6] Wojtyla’s use of phenomenology has enabled him to discover that “experience” always involves the subjectivity of the “I,” an action of the “I,” and contact with the “reality” of being. After writing his doctoral thesis on “Faith According to St. John of the Cross,” Wojtyla sought out this philosophic method to explain what he had found in St. John of the Cross’s rendering of faith as “a dark night” (without concepts) and found that it was precisely the experience of the whole self – obeying – that was the likeness to the divine Person (Jesus Christ, the enfleshed Logos) who revealed the Father. This enabled him – and the other fathers of the Council – to “purify” the Cartesian turn to the subject “existentializing” it by disclosing that it is precisely in experience, especially the experience of self-transcendence – that faith can be rendered “reasonable.” Faith then becomes rendered anthropologically and therefore metaphysically, and made accessible to the whole domain of moral action. The act of faith as self-gift becomes the explanatory core of sexuality and the entire social doctrine of the Church. Faith becomes “reasonable” and accessible to ordinary, quotidian life. This constitutes the revolution of Vatican II and the resolution of the hitherto insoluble dualism of Enlightenment modernism. In brief, it reads: “man, the only earthly creature that God has willed for itself [meaning: “creature with the power of self-determination, i.e. freedom of self-mastery], can fully discover his true self [the “I”] only in a sincere giving of himself [the self-transcendence of faith] (Gaudium et Spes #24). And this because Christ said, “when praying to the Father `that they may all be one… even as we are one’ (Jn. 17, 21-22), has opened up new horizons closed to human reason by implying that there is a certain parallel between the union existing among the divine persons and the union of the sons of God in truth and love”(Ibid.).

What Had Wojtyla Done?

Wojtyla translated the phenomenological work of Max Scheler: Der Formalismus in der Ethik und die Materiale Wertethik (1916) and wrote his own habilitation thesis : “Valutazioni Sulla Possibilita di Costruire L’Ethica Cristiana Sulle Basi del Sistema di Max Scheler.” He finds Scheler’s work on the intentionality of emotions incapable of describing the Christian “experience” of the radical absolute call to self gift to the point of martyrdom. Even though Scheler opposed Kant’s philosophy of consciousness, he never transcended it by reaching the experience of the “I” as being, but remained on the level of the faculties of the “I” and emotion. Hence, he said, “The person, in Scheler’s view, is in no sense a being, but is merely a unity of experiences…. The person is not a being, but solely and exclusively a consciousness. This is a consciousness of being a person, but this is ot the objective being of the person… values are merely contents of consciousness… They do no perfect the person’s being… Every value, including moral value, is merely an intentional object of feeling. The person’s intentional feelings of moral value, however, cannot be equated with the real perfection of the person’s being through moral value. Thus Scheler’s system allows us to witness the perfectionistic tendencies that pervade consciousness, but it does not allow us to construct a truly perfectionist ethics. This is, as in Kant, a consequence of an idealistic understanding of consciousness. Consciousness is understood realistically when it is connected with the person’s being as its subject, when it is an act of this being.”[7]

       Hence, Wojtyla constructed his own brand of phenomenology, that of inspecting the acting person and the experience of the “I” as being, mirrored in consciousness. He asserts: “My lived experience discloses not only my actions but also my inner happenings in their profoundest dependence on my own self. It also discloses my whole personal structure of self-determination, in which I discover my self as that through which I possess myself and govern myself – or, at any rate, should possess myself and govern myself. The dynamic structure of self-determination reveals to me that I am given to myself and assigned to myself. This is precisely how I appear to myself in my acts and in my inner decisions of conscience: as permanently assigned to myself, as having continually to affirm and monitor myself, and thus, in a sense, as having continually to `achieve’ this dynamic structure of my self, a structure that is given to me as self-possession and self-governance. At the same time, this is a completely internal and totally immanent structure. It is a real endowment of the personal subject; in a sense, it is this subjectIn my lived experience of self-possession and self-governance, I experience that I am a person and that I am a subject.[8]

My comment:

Whenever and wherever there is experience, there is contact between the self, the “I,” and empirical being. The “I” as experienced in self-determination is empirical, even more so than being that is sensiblyexperienced. And as Wojtyla has just said, the empirical is not just experiential as sensory but also as human, moral and religious. Hence, faith, as the act of the “I” determining itself to transcend itself as gift, is also an experience of empirical reality. In fact, it is the prototype of empirical experience since it is unmediated by any concept or symbol. Nothing can be more immediate than the self experiencing itself as determining itself to go out of itself (faith). It is the self directly experiencing itself in the most radical offering of self even to death. This is the antithesis of the “I” cast in the ideology of Cartesian consciousness, which in its turn is the antithesis of being, reality and experience. (For Descartes, consciousness is the radical “disengagement” from all experience as perched outside the cosmos of experience and being)[9]. Consciousness has its place, and a critical one, in this experience since Wojtyla sees it as mirroring the very act of self-determination and therefore making it possible for reason to perceive the passage from the potency to self-determine to the achieved act of self-determination. But consciousness is an instrument of the experience, not the subject that is the “I.”

Text of St. John of the Cross for the feast:

A Spiritual Canticle of St John of the Cross
Recognising the mystery hidden within Christ Jesus
Though holy doctors have uncovered many mysteries and wonders, and devout souls have understood them in this earthly condition of ours, yet the greater part still remains to be unfolded by them, and even to be understood by them.
  We must then dig deeply in Christ. He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures: however deep we dig we will never find their end or their limit. Indeed, in every pocket new seams of fresh riches are discovered on all sides.
  For this reason the apostle Paul said of Christ: In him are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. The soul cannot enter into these treasures, nor attain them, unless it first crosses into and enters the thicket of suffering, enduring interior and exterior labours, and unless it first receives from God very many blessings in the intellect and in the senses, and has undergone long spiritual training.
  All these are lesser things, disposing the soul for the lofty sanctuary of the knowledge of the mysteries of Christ: this is the highest wisdom attainable in this life.
  Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.
  Saint Paul therefore urges the Ephesians not to grow weary in the midst of tribulations, but to be steadfast and rooted and grounded in love, so that they may know with all the saints the breadth, the length, the height and the depth – to know what is beyond knowledge, the love of Christ, so as to be filled with all the fullness of God.
  The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it.
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 I was asked recently…,

“Do you absolve people who are objectively in mortal sin?” Yes. All the time. Provided there is resolution to escape the objectively sinful state, if possible. If it is not possible without committing further serious sin, then to work with the person to become subjectively “good” within that objectively sinful state. They can become more and more gift and better and better persons without, let’s say, being able to escape the entrapment of the objectively sinful state.

This sentence demands explanation but I must make a distinction by asking: Can a person be in an objectively sinful state while developing into a morally good person? Pope Francis puts it thus: “Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin  – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such  – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.” And then the footnote 351: “In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy’. I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.’ the person can be in an objectively sinful state of affairs, even of his own doing, but not able to escape[1].

This seems to contradict Christian morality in its very objectivity: objective state of mortal sin, objective unchaste second union and therefore in an objective state of mortal sin and therefore unworthy of receiving Communion.[2]

ut the question that begs asking is: is the human person reducible to an object? Do I know the human person when I have delivered him into categories and concepts, when I have examined him thoroughly as carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, or “an individual substance of a rational nature;” or a composite of immaterial soul and body? Isn’t there something left out? I remember in anatomy lab after dissecting the thorax of the cadaver, having removed the mediastinal complex, the heart and the lungs and spread open the rib cage, I put my scalpel through the intercostal muscles of the posterior rib cage and found myself dismayed visually and gasping, as my scalpel hit wood. “But where’s the guy”? The “guy” (a well built Chinese fisherman as I learned) was none of the above, but yet, all of the above. And my emotional asking the questions derived from my being an “I” examining the parts of another “I” and finding nothing but “it.”

And so, have we reached the root of the “good” and the “bad” when we name the objective situations and apply the universal principles? We have reached “good” and “bad,” but not the root which is in the “I”. No. The “I” is of another dimension referred to as “transcendent.” Walker Percy writes “that of all the objects in the entire Cosmos which the sign-user can apprehend through the conjoining of word uttered and thing beheld, there is one which forever escapes his comprehension – and that is the sign-user himself. Semiotically, the self is literally unspeakable to itself. One cannot speak or hear a word which signifies oneself, as one can speak or hear a word signifying anything else, e.g., apple, Canada, 7-Up. The self of the sign-user can never be grasped, because, once the self locates itself at the dead center of its world, there is no signified to which a signifier can be joined to make a sign. The self has no sign of itself. No signifies applies… You are Ralph to me and I am Walker to you, but you are not Ralph to you and I am not Walker to me… You are not a sign in your world”[3]

So, how do we name the “I” if there is no name or concept revealing an object (because there is no object, but a subject). Wojtyla wrote that one knows one “I” as “good” or “bad.” That is the identity of the “I” and the moral value are one and the same in consciousness. And let me hasten to add immediately that that Enlightenment philosophy from 1650 to the present day has totally separated moral value from being and the real. Since the turn to the “Cogito ergo sum,” all moral value comes from a clear and distinct idea that can be universal and not derivable from the contingent changing world of sensible experience, i.e. not from reality as “being.” It was formulated as: “Ought” cannot be derived from “is” –which in turn was the grounding of Kant’s thinking to try to save the existence of moral value by locating it in “a priori” categories of human knowing. So morality comes from pre=established categories and not from real experience. Thus it is idealized, subjective and subjectivist – and therefore relative to whatever you think.

And so Catholicism opted for the objective world of “nature” as the objective grounding of value – of which I wrote in a previous post. But the huge problem, was that Catholic moral thought feared dealing with the subject because it was identified with “consciousness” as not objective or real. So we were constantly dealing with man as objective parts and never as “I.”  And it is only as “I” that we are ontologically dealing with the real and integral person.

Wojtyla’s major philosophic achievement is to experience the “I” as the prime locus of esse in the created world. And that “I” is experienced in the free [therefore moral] act of self-determination and achieves its perfection in the sincere gift of self whereby the self becomes “another Christ.” The supreme moral category is “the Good” as only God is “good.” And that goodness of God is the Act (esse) of the Father engendering the Son, the Son obeying and glorifying the Father, and the Spirit as the Personification of the Two. The Persons are not “substances” or individuals who engender or obey or personify. Each is the Acting Person and so relational that one cannot be without the other. And we are made in the image of that and must mimic that giftedness as created acting persons. And the knowledge of this is experiential not abstractive and abstracted as concepts of an ideology of morality.This is what Francis is about. Goodness is identical with self gift (action), which is not an accident of a substance, but the whole self given. This is sanctity in us as it is divinity in God. It is also what Francis is calling for in 304-306 of AL where a person-subject becomes “good” by self-gift even within an objectively sinful situation

 

I define moral value… as that through which the human being as a human being becomes and is good or evil.[4] Only persons are morally good or bad. It is an ontological dimension of the “I” as gift or non-gift.

 

* * * * *

 

The moral object is not an abstraction of ontological states of affairs but the relationality or unrelationality of ontological persons.

 

Enlightenment philosophy challenged Christian thought with: “öught” cannot  be derived  from “is” and won. Since we were mired in the Stoic metaphysics of substance as “nature” we found no way out and accepted that to speak of subject, “I” was subjectivism and relativism which would be = to give up truth. But a phenomenology was deployed by Wojtyla to using experience as criterion and the “I” experiencing itself in the moment of free moral action (“The Acting Person”). This yielded the “i” as ontologically objective and capable of being moral object in act. This is pure Wojtyla and Ratzinger. Now, it is possible to speak of “I” as ontological and not reducible to mere consciousness (and therefore idealism and relativism)

I believe this to be the hidden import behind AL #103-105 and how one can be in objective sin and – in one’s conscience go to Communion as a “good” person.

[1] Like leaving the second wife and children from that union without being guilty of injustice to the children.

[2] CCC #1415: “Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance. “

[3] Walker Percy, “Lost in the Cosmos” The noonday Press

[4] K. Wojtyla, PThe Problem of the Theory of Morality” in Person and Community, Lang [1993] 143.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Words of Our Lady to Bl. Juan Diego:

“I am your mother”

The following words of Our Lady of Guadalupe have been extracted from the Nican Mopohua, a 16th century historical account of the apparitions and miraculous event written in Nahuatl by Antonio Valeriano. These words of the Blessed Virgin Mary were spoken to Juan Diego over the course of several days. The historical context has been omitted so the reader may concentrate on Holy Mother’s consoling message of solicitude.

First apparition; December 9

Juanito, dearest Juan Diego.

Juanito, my dearest son, where are you going?

Know and understand well, you my most humble son, that I am the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth. I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows. And to accomplish what my clemency pretends, go to the palace of the bishop of Mexico, and you will say to him that I manifest my great desire, that here on this plain a temple be built to me; you will accurately relate all you have seen and admired, and what you have heard. Be assured that I will be most grateful and will reward you, because I will make you happy and worthy of recompense for the effort and fatigue in what you will obtain of what I have entrusted. Behold, you have heard my mandate, my humble son; go and put forth all your effort.”

Second apparition; December 9

Hark, my little son, you must understand that I have many servants and messengers, to whom I must entrust the delivery of my message, and carry my wish, but it is of precise detail that you yourself solicit and assist and that through your mediation my wish be complied. I earnestly implore, my son the least, and with sternness I command that you again go tomorrow and see the bishop. You go in my name, and make known my wish in its entirety that he has to start the erection of a temple which I ask of him. And again tell him that I, in person, the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of God, sent you.”

Fourth apparition; December 12

Hear me and understand well, my little son, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything. Do not be afflicted by the illness of your uncle, who will not die now of it. Be assured that he is now cured.

Climb, my dear son, to the top of the hill; there where you saw me and I gave you orders, you will find different flowers. Cut them, gather them, assemble them, then come and bring them before my presence.

My dear little son, this diversity of roses is the proof and the sign which you will take to the bishop. You will tell him in my name that he will see in them my wish and that he will have to comply to it. You are my ambassador, most worthy of all confidence. Rigorously I command you that only before the presence of the bishop will you unfold your mantle and disclose what you are carrying. You will relate all and well; you will tell that I ordered you to climb to the hilltop, to go and cut flowers; and all that you saw and admired, so you can induce the prelate to give his support, with the aim that a temple be built and erected as I have asked.”

  • * * * * * * * * * * *

Ecclesia in America: John Paul II – 1999

 We encounter Jesus through Mary

  1. At the birth of Jesus, the Magi came from the East to Bethlehem and “saw the child with Mary his Mother” (Mt2:11). At the beginning of his public life, at the marriage of Cana, when the Son of God works the first of his signs, awakening faith in the disciples (cf. Jn 2:11), it is Mary who intervenes and directs the servants towards her Son in these words: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). In this regard I once wrote that “the Mother of Christ presents herself as the spokeswoman of her Son’s will, pointing out those things which must be done so that the salvific power of the Messiah may be manifested”.(17) For this reason Mary is the sure path to our meeting with Christ. Devotion to the Mother of the Lord, when it is genuine, is always an impetus to a life guided by the spirit and values of the Gospel.

How can we fail to emphasize the role which belongs to the Virgin Mary in relation to the pilgrim Church in America journeying towards its encounter with the Lord? Indeed, the Most Blessed Virgin “is linked in a special way to the birth of the Church in the history … of the peoples of America; through Mary they came to encounter the Lord”.(18)

Throughout the continent, from the time of the first evangelization, the presence of the Mother of God has been strongly felt, thanks to the efforts of the missionaries. In their preaching, “the Gospel was proclaimed by presenting the Virgin Mary as its highest realization. From the beginning — invoked as Our Lady of Guadalupe — Mary, by her motherly and merciful figure, was a great sign of the closeness of the Father and of Jesus Christ, with whom she invites us to enter into communion”.(19)

The appearance of Mary to the native Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531 had a decisive effect on evangelization.(20) Its influence greatly overflows the boundaries of Mexico, spreading to the whole Continent. America, which historically has been, and still is, a melting-pot of peoples, has recognized in the mestiza face of the Virgin of Tepeyac, “in Blessed Mary of Guadalupe, an impressive example of a perfectly inculturated evangelization”.(21) Consequently, not only in Central and South America, but in North America as well, the Virgin of Guadalupe is venerated as Queen of all America.(22)

With the passage of time, pastors and faithful alike have grown increasingly conscious of the role of the Virgin Mary in the evangelization of America. In the prayer composed for the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, Holy Mary of Guadalupe is invoked as “Patroness of all America and Star of the first and new evangelization”. In view of this, I welcome with joy the proposal of the Synod Fathers that the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother and Evangelizer of America, be celebrated throughout the continent on December 12.(23) It is my heartfelt hope that she, whose intercession was responsible for strengthening the faith of the first disciples (cf. Jn 2:11), will by her maternal intercession guide the Church in America, obtaining the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as she once did for the early Church (cf. Acts 1:14), so that the new evangelization may yield a splendid flowering of Christian life.

 

 

Lay faithful and the renewal of the Church

  1. “The teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the unity of the Church as the People of God gathered into the unity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit stresses that Baptism confers upon all who receive it a dignity which includes the imitation and following of Christ, communion with one another and the missionary mandate”. (156) The lay faithful should thus be conscious of their baptismal dignity. For their part, Pastors should have a profound respect “for the witness and evangelizing work of lay people who, incorporated into the People of God through a spirituality of communion, lead their brothers and sisters to encounter the living Jesus Christ. The renewal of the Church in America will not be possible without the active presence of the laity. Therefore, they are largely responsible for the future of the Church”. (157)

There are two areas in which lay people live their vocation. The first, and the one best suited to their lay state, is the secular world, which they are called to shape according to God’s will. (158) “Their specific activity brings the Gospel to the structures of the world; ‘working in holiness wherever they are, they consecrate the world itself to God’”. (159) Thanks to the lay faithful, “the presence and mission of the Church in the world is realized in a special way in the variety of charisms and ministries which belong to the laity. Secularity is the true and distinctive mark of the lay person and of lay spirituality, which means that the laity strive to evangelize the various sectors of family, social, professional, cultural and political life. On a continent marked by competition and aggressiveness, unbridled consumerism and corruption, lay people are called to embody deeply evangelical values such as mercy, forgiveness, honesty, transparency of heart and patience in difficult situations. What is expected from the laity is a great creative effort in activities and works demonstrating a life in harmony with the Gospel”. (160)

America needs lay Christians able to assume roles of leadership in society. It is urgent to train men and women who, in keeping with their vocation, can influence public life, and direct it to the common good. In political life, understood in its truest and noblest sense as the administration of the common good, they can find the path of their own sanctification. For this, they must be formed in the truths and values of the Church’s social teaching, and in the basic notions of a theology of the laity. A deeper knowledge of Christian ethical principles and moral values will enable them to be exponents of these in their own particular setting, proclaiming them even where appeals are made to the so-called “neutrality of the State”. (161)

The Person of Christ is Revelation:The import of this post is that Christian faith and morality as proposed in “Amoris Laetita” 304-305 is not reducible to moral conclusions and principles, but to a conscience imbued with a lived faith. If you live outside of yourself you will have a gut reaction that comes from the tendency of the Christ developing within you. You will know: “That’s it!” or “That’s not it!” with regard to a course of action.

The Ascent of Mount Carmel, by St John of the Cross [Juan de Yepes]

 

In Christ, God has spoken to us [Bk. 2, ch 22]

         “The principal reason why the Old Law permitted us to ask questions of God, and why prophets and priests had to seek visions and revelations of God, was because at that time faith had no firm foundation and the law of the Gospel was not yet established; and thus it was necessary that men should enquire of God and that he should speak, whether by words or by visions and revelations or whether by figures and images or by many other ways of expressing His meaning. For all that he answered and revealed belonged to the mysteries of our faith and things touching it or leading to it.

  “But now that the faith is founded in Christ, now that in this era of grace the law of the Gospel has been made manifest, there is no reason to enquire of God in that manner nor for him to speak to us or answer us as he did then. For, in giving us, as he did, his Son, who is his one and only Word, he spoke to us once and for all, in this single Word, and he has no occasion to speak further.

  “And this is the meaning of that passage with which the Letter to the Hebrews begins, trying to persuade the Hebrews that they should abandon those first ways of dealing and communicating with God which are in the law of Moses, and should set their eyes on Christ alone: At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, in the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son. That is, God has said so much about so many things through his Word that nothing more is needed, since that which he revealed partially in the past through the prophets, he has now revealed completely by giving us the All, which is his Son.

  “Therefore if someone were now to ask questions of God or seek any vision or revelation, he would not only be acting foolishly but would be committing an offence against God – for he should set his eyes altogether upon Christ and seek nothing beyond Christ.

  “God might answer him after this manner, saying: This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him. I have spoken all things to you in my Word. Set your eyes on him alone, for in him I have spoken and revealed to thee all things, and in him you shall find more than you ask for, even more than you want.

  “I descended upon him with my Spirit on Mount Tabor and said This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him. You have no reason to ask for new teaching or new answers from me because if I spoke to you in the past then it was to promise Christ. If people asked questions of me in the past then their questions were really a desire of Christ and a hope for his coming. For in him they were to find all good things, as has now been revealed in the teaching of the Evangelists and the Apostles.”

 

Profound Address by President Trump at National Tree Lighting

Video of Trump tree lighting address

 

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 1, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — President Trump gave the following address at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on Thursday, November 30, 2017. LifeSiteNews is pleased to bring you his address in full.

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Today’s the day that I’ve been looking very much forward to all year long. It’s one that we have heard and we speak about and we dream about and now as the President of the United States, it’s my tremendous honor to finally wish America and the world a very Merry Christmas.

I want to thank everyone who has come together here right in front of the White House, that beautiful, beautiful White House, and everyone watching from home to see the lighting of this incredible national Christmas tree.

For nearly a century, through good times and bad, every president has taken part in this wonderful tradition, first started by President Coolidge. But I was informed tonight that the weather we have is the best it’s been in 25 years. In fact, I said, ‘Is it always like this?’ And the secretary said, ‘Hasn’t been like this for a long time.’ So, we are very lucky.

Finally, in 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation making Christmas a Federal holiday. And I sort of feel we are doing that again. That’s what’s happening.

From the earliest days of our nations, Americans have known Christmas as a time for prayer and worship, for gratitude and good will, for peace and renewal.

Melania and I are full of joy at the start of this very blessed season. We’re thrilled to think of the people across the nation and all across the continent whose spirits are lifted by the miracle of Christmas.

For Christians, this is a Holy season – the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Christmas story begins 2000 years ago with a mother, a father, their baby son, and the most extraordinary gift of all, the gift of God’s love for all of humanity.

Whatever our beliefs, we know that the birth of Jesus Christ and the story of this incredible life forever changed the course of human history. There’s hardly an aspect of our lives today that his life has not touched: art, music, culture, law, and our respect for the sacred dignity of every person everywhere in the world.

Each and every year at Christmas time we recognize that the real spirit of Christmas is not what we have, it’s about who we are – each one of us is a child of God.

That is the true source of joy this time of the year.

That is what makes every Christmas ‘merry.’

And that is what we remember at today’s beautiful ceremony, that we are called to serve one another, to love one another, and to pursue peace in our hearts and all throughout the world.

And so tonight, I thank the millions of Americans who light our lives and brighten our wonderful communities. I thank those who are serving the needy during the season and throughout the year. I thank our military men and women who are stationed around the world keeping us safe.

I thank our law enforcement officers who protect our streets and secureour homeland. I thank America’s teachers, pastors, and all those religious, and those people that have taught us so much, for their leadership in our communities and our society.

And, especially tonight, I thank America’s families. At Christmas, we are reminded more than ever that the family is the bedrock of American life.

And so, this Christmas we ask for God’s blessings for our family, for our nation. And we pray that our country will be a place where every child knows a home filled with love, a community rich with hope, and a nation blest with faith.

On behalf of Melania, myself, Barron, all of my children, all of my grandchildren — they’re here with us tonight — I want to thank you.

God bless you and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

Merry Christmas everybody. Merry Christmas. Happy new year. Thank you.

Karol Wojtyla’s Key To Being Loved: To Be Needed By Another. The Person Who Needs Me is The Person I Most Need

See JP II in “Witness to Hope” p. 102 – Letter to Teresa Heydel: “After many experiences and a lot of thinking, I am convinced that the (objective)  starting point of love is the realization that I am needed by another. The person who objectively needs me most is also for me, objectively, the person I most need. This is a fragment of life’s deep logic, and also a fragment of  trusting in the Creator and in Providence.” That is, what most reveals your value is to be needed by another. And Wojtyla applies this to God: what most gives him glory is to go to Him needy/needy/needy. Go! Be needy! What glory you give Him.

E-Mail Written to a Friend Re: My Disappointment With the Review of a Book Critical of Francis

 For me, the deeper truth of Francis comes from my alignment with John Paul II and Ratzinger. I have literally cut my teeth on them after my initial formation in Toronto chewing on Maritain’s and Gilson’s highlighting of the esse of St. Thomas. That’s “meaning” for me. “Esse” is the act of all acts and perfection of all perfection because it is unlimited act tending to infinity and I always had the gut feeling that it was reason’s account of person. Maritain and Gilson never got to this because they viewed phenomenology as subjectivist and relativist. In this, they lacked courage and openness, or  fearful with a kind of intellectual clericalism.

   For me, the huge swing I took was in 1989 reading Ratzinger’s “introduction to Christianity” which left me breathless with: the Father is not the Father and then engenders the Son. Rather, the Father is the action of engenderng the  Son, and as such is not “substance” as thing-in-itself but Relation. The conclusion was: To be = to be relation, and the knowing of this is not reductive conceptual, but experience-consciousness., and unless I get out of myself to become relational in prayer and apostolate, I don’t really know –  or I don’t know reality.  Without dragging you further through this, my perception is that Francis is living out the above – the above being what really took place in Vat II, which in its turn, buried the substantialist (Stoic) metaphysic that has been the stuff Catholic higher education has fed on for at least 1,000 years. The scholastic has been useful, but it is, at root naturalistic and progressively useless for accounting for the reality of Jesus Christ – who is reality Himself (and as triune God, constitutively relational. The Greeks – without the revelation of the Transcendent God – could never get this, or if they did (maybe Plato got some of it), they got it from the Jews in 6. B.C. in Babylon: the Exile) . So, for me, Francis is not an ill advised heretic but a courageous champeon who has taken on 1000 years of inadequate thinking (not like St. Thomas, but thomism [neothomism]) and blowing it apart. He is basically taking on the Church of the Second Millennium and moving it into the third as glimpsed by John Paul II

    So, my chagrin with Royals’ review of the Colonna critique is that it is a critique at street level and looking awfully like political and ideological reductive. But as Francis says: Who am I to say?

   I don’t mean this as nasty, but I am surrounded by the critique of Francis by very good people who are trapped in the same Stoic mindset that coheres with the technological and unredeemed mind. My response is: go to Wojtyla and read his phenomenology of the I as metaphysical reality; go to Ratzinger’s “introduction to Christianity;” and to his “Highlights of Vatican II”) to see what happened between 1962 and 1965. Francis and “Amoris Laetitia” #304-305 may become intelligible for converting the Church to a Christian anthropology.

 

The feast of the Immaculate Conception – 2017

The reality of it is not found in Scripture. The Church’s awareness of it as the believing subject grew with faith as lived experience from the time of Christ until proclaimed by the Magisterium in 1854. The statement: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”[1]

               Today we celebrate the total openness of Our Lady to God for us. She is nothing for herself and totally relational. As relational, she is all “Yes.” Cardinal Ratzinger: “We may say that original sin is not an assertion about a natural deficiency in or concerning man, but a statement about a relationships …. Preservation from original sin therefore, signifies no exceptional proficiency, no exceptional achievement; on the contrary, it signifies that Mary reserves no area of being, life, and will for herself as a private possession: instead, precisely in the total dispossession of self, in giving herself to God, she comes to the true possession of self.[2]” Grace, which is the divine Love that not only creates us but affirms us, gives her identity as person and enables her to dispossess herself entirely to engender the total humanity of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, and in engendering the humanity which is completely assumed by the Person of the Word, she is most intimately related to Him as Mother. Since she had no sin, which is the contradiction to “gift” as “take,” she was able to obey the annunciation of the angel immediately and completely. Her whole existence was/is “Yes” to God, as is His to her. She heard the Word of God, and did it. If we do the same, we will also become mothers of God and most truly engender Jesus Christ in us, such that we become “other Christs.” This is the blueprint of the true future which is beginning to emerge. All the changes that are taking place now are at the service of this.

[1] Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, DS 2803,

[2] Consider Gaudium et Spes #24: “man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself only by the sincere gift of self.”

“And On This Rock, I Will Build My Church” (Mt. 16, 16). Now, study John Paul II and Benedict XVI again in order to find Francis.

After all the smoke from criticizing Pope Francis’ Chapter 8 of “Amoris Laetitia” clears, where do we go from here? This was a  question someone asked me yesterday. And I would answer with Bp Robert Barron’s remarks on today’s gospel:

Friends, today’s Gospel asks how we apply the Lord’s teaching. “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse.” This is the heart of it: if you are rooted in God, then you can withstand anything, precisely because you are linked to that power which is creating the cosmos. You will be blessed at the deepest place, and nothing can finally touch you.

But the one who does not take Jesus’ words to heart “will be like the fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” When the inevitable trials come, the life built on pleasure, money, power, or fame will give way.

So the question is a simple one: where do you stand? How goes it with your heart? On what, precisely, is the whole of your life built?

Is the Pope not the Vice-Christ? “You are Peter and on this Rock, I will build my Church” (Mt.  16, 16.
Is the Pope not the Vice-Christ? Now study John Paul II and Benedict XVI again in order to find Francis.

Ratzinger Advent Meditation as Insight Into “Amoris Laetitia”

            The insight has to do with the non-conceptual, non-empirical clarity involved in knowing Jesus Christ. And how else could it be when the Person of Jesus Christ is the Creator of the world and not susceptible to created categories as transcending creation? God without creation is not less; God with creation is not more. And so, the morality of marriage is not reducible to moral categories but to the assessment in conscience whether what one is doing is “for” others or merely “for” self.

* * * * * * * * *  

On the occasion of preaching on the season of Advent, Joseph Ratzinger: made a presentation of John the Baptist in Herod’s jail, who [John], according to St. Matthew, had his doubts and sent messengers to Christ saying: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?”  (Mt, 11. 3). Ratzinger insists: “Are you really he the Redeemer of the world? Are you really here now as the Redeemer? Was that really all that God had to say to us?”

     Ratzinger: “”In answer, Jesus reminds John’s messengers that the prophet Isaiah had foretold precisely this kind of peaceful, merciful Messiah who ‘will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street’ (Is. 42, 2), but will go about preaching and doing good. Jesus adds the significant words: ‘Blessed is he who takes no offense at me.’ This means that it is in fact possible for men to take offense at  him. Even when he comes he does not bring such absolute clarity to the human situation as to eliminate all questions and solve all riddles; people can take offense at him, but ‘Blessed is he who takes no offense.’ Blessed is he who ceases to ask for signs and absolute certainty.[my emphasis]. Blessed is he who is able, even in this darkness, to go his way in faith and love.

“This was probably the final task set the Baptist as he lay in prison: to become blessed by this unquestioning acceptance of God’s obscure will; to reach the point of asking no further for external, visible, unequivocal clarity [concepts of “Yes,” “No,” clarity] but, instead, of discovering God precisely in the darkness of this world and of his own life, and thus becoming profoundly blessed. In point of fact, we cannot see God as we see an apple tree or a neon sign, that is, in a purely external way that re quires no interior commitment. We can see him only by becoming like him, by reaching the level of reality on which God exists; in other words, by being liberated from what is anti-divine; the quest for pleasure, enjoyment, possessions, gain, or, in a word, from ourselves. In the final analysis it is usually the self that stands between us and God. We can see God only if we turn around, stop looking for him as we might look for street signs and dollar bills, and begin looking away from the visible to the invisible

John, then, even in his prison cell had to respond once again and anew to his own call for metanoia or a change of mentality, in order that he might recognized his God in the night in which all things earthly exist. ‘Blessed is he who takes no offense at me.’

“The Christian of our day, too, can be shown no other way to friendship with God than the way of ceasing to look for external clarity [blogger: that means conceptual clarity] and beginning to turn from the visible to the invisible and thus truly finding the Lord who is the real foundation and support of our existence. Only when we act in this manner does another and doubtless the greatest saying of the Baptist reveal is full significance: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (Jn. 3, 30). We will know God to the extent that we are set free from ourselves. This brings us back to the main theme of Advent. We will know God to the extent that we give him room to be present in us. A person can spend his life seeking God in vain if he does not enable God to continue in his life the presence begun” [J. Ratzinger “Dogma and Preaching” Ignatius (2005) 324-325].

 

Something must be said here. We can see Christ “only by becoming like him, by reaching the level of reality on which God exists [i.e. Trinitarian Relations]; in other words, by being liberated from what is anti-divine [i.e. what is not relational and turned in on self]; the quest for pleasure, enjoyment, possessions, gain, or, in a word, from ourselves. In the final analysis it is usually the self that stands between us and God. We can see God only if we turn around, stop looking for him as we might look for street signs and dollar bills, and begin looking away from the visible to the invisible.”. The point is that Truth is the Person of Christ, the Word of the Father, and the Life. Revelation – read Truth –  only occurs when we go out of ourselves and become like the Son. We begin to become relational as going out toward the Other and the others. When we do that, we begin to experience ourselves “like” Christ. And since we are the only persons we can experience (as determining their own freedom), when I experience myself as gift, I begin to know myself as “other Christ” and therefore, to know Christ. I am experiencing this as image anthropologically. It is primarily non-conceptual but experiential and consciousness accompanying the experience. This is why Ratzinger says that the Baptist has yet to go through another conversion, “to stop looking for him as we might look for street signs and dollar bills.” In this conversion, we know Christ by becoming “another Christ” – only God knows God. And this is what Christ meant when He said: “no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him: (Mt. 11, 27), This is the task of Advent.