Saturday, 28 December 2013

Holy Innocents and the Herods of today

“A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children…” (Matthew 2:18). 

Today's Feast of the Holy Innocents, illustrated here by Giotto, lies in stark contrast to Christmas Day.  The joy of celebrating the birth of our saviour is punctuated by several reminders of the consequences of following Christ. 

Saints Stephen and Thomas a Becket on the second and fifth days of Christmas remind us that to follow Him means giving witness, even, if called to do so by shedding of blood.  The Holy Innocents are revered as martyrs even though, unlike Saints Stephen and Thomas they were not old enough to know or assent to Christ. 

It seems a mystery how children murdered by King Herod before the age of reason can be martyrs but I trust in the Church's tradition and wisdom. It is a reminder that those whom suffer for Christ or His Church do give witness to Him in a powerful way. 

There is an irony that King Herod's actions in destroying these young lives in his thirst for power is mirrored so much today by those who out of a desire for popularly or power refuse to speak out for the unborn child. 

It occurs to me that the Herods of today are the politicians - and those who vote for them - who refuse to defend life - and those laypeople, religious, priests and nuns who chose not to take a stand for life. 

What can an individual do to save innocent life today? We can pray, we can investigate the policies of charities and politicians before supporting them and we can give generously to organisations such as the Good Counsel Network who do so much to support pregnant women in difficulty. 

May the Holy Innocents pray for all innocent children, born or unborn, who are facing danger or death and may the hearts and minds of today's Herods be converted to Christ. 

Friday, 27 December 2013

Happy Christmas

As the Christmas Season lasts until January 6th, we can wish each other Happy Christmas for many more days.

                 Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Santiago Madonna


Monday, 23 December 2013

A Creeping Holocaust


The Holocaust did not happen all at once. The kulturkampf under Bismarck years before created a compliant, mindless educational and political culture, in which people no longer learned how to think, but only how to do. They lost their consciences to utilitarianism and false gods, including the gods of mammon, progress and pride.

Hatred grew slowly from the flames of propaganda and incremental laws.

Information on the malnutrition of over 65s in Great Britain, and my own recent experience, plus that of many older people in both America and Great Britain, the growing love-affair with euthanasia and other cultural symptoms of utilitarianism, convince me of a new huge coming, if not in reality, present, displacement of a certain group of people-the elderly.

The elderly are the new DPS of Europe and America.

Already in the States, the elderly are fast becoming the group which is ignored by those in power as well as those in the sub-culture of comfort and individualism. The same is true in Great Britain.

I see displaced elderly here as a result of the loss of jobs, the cutting back of pensions, the hatred of weakness and illness from a section of society which does not value history or see heroic beauty in weakness and suffering.

What older people can give a culture is being lost daily by the marginalization of the old and finally, by death.

Several young people I have spoken with in the past week have told me they wished they had talked with Uncle Tomas, or Aunt Rebecca before they died as history died with them. These young people have lost long years of family history never to be found again.

Too many people absolutely do not care about the corporate memory of the old. Too many people do not care about the reason why God allows the old to grow into weakness and even, sometimes, childishness.

These happenings are for our own benefit.

The result of this hatred of the old is that the old now hate themselves. They will choose death over life, not because death calls them to great glory, but because they cannot withstand the hatred of the young.

Idolatry of the young has forced the old either to pretend they are young, instead of facing the spiritual growth of moving towards death, or to retreat into silence.

I fear the massive, wholesale death of the old-many who saved us from various tyrannies in the past-
death through marginalization and purposeful oversight.

Sadly, the old love and honor due to the elderly in the East has been destroyed, almost, by communism, which does not honor anyone who cannot feed the state. In the West, consumerism and narcissism are killing the old.

I know of one old person who was so marginalized that when he died over Christmas years ago, no one knew for two weeks. No one cared.

England has always admired individualism, but the communal aspect of the culture has rotted away in the bad soil of selfishness.

America is in the same predicament of almost willing the death of millions. This type of mind-set led to the Holocaust-hated of a target group.


There should be no lonely old people. There should be no hungry old people. There should be no homeless old people.

A civilization which murders its young in the womb and isolates its old so that they die alone is no longer a civilization, but a nation of barbarians.

There are no strangers. We make people into strangers. And, for this, we must face Our God, Who is Father of the old, the middle-aged, the young, the babies.

To this, we have come....

I challenge you to adopt one old person in your neighborhood who is alone. I challenge you to make him or her part of your life.

That person will be you in the future...if you are fortunate to be allowed to grow old in grace.





Sunday, 22 December 2013

Spoiler, if you have not seen The Hobbit II, do not read this post!

At the end of the movie, The Hobbit II, The Desolation of Smaug, two images strike me as important for Catholics today. If you want a review of the movie from my viewpoint, you can look at my blog.

This is a discussion of imagery and the contemporary message of this movie. The director interpreted Tolkien's book freely, as one would expect, making a children's tale of charm and intrigue into a hyper-action film.



I actually have no problem with that, and one of the themes which struck me was the timeliness and emphasis of some of the events and images.

Only two will be highlighted here. I want to extrapolate on the meaning of these two images.

The first is that of Gandalf in a hanging cage-like prison in Dol Guldur after he encounters Sauron, an event which is not in the book. But, the point I want to note is the imprisonment of Gandalf, because he was not prepared for the enemy, which was there-the great evil servant of Melkor. 

This flaw in Gandalf in the movie makes one wonder why the wizard, one of the Guardians of Middle-Earth, just did not get what was happening all along.

The uncovering of the witch-men tombs is a hint, and Gandalf should have figured out who was behind the calling up of the Nazgul.

None of this belongs in the movie, but my point is this. The unprepared Gandalf ends up imprisoned. He should have been more alert. Was this a sin of pride on Gandalf's part to face unknown evil on his own, without knowing who he was encountering?

Are we like this sometimes? Going where angels fear to tread either out of ignorance or pride is spiritual blindness. One would expect more from a Guardian.

But, we fall into spiritual traps too often, and should be prepared by the virtues, discernment, sanctifying grace from the sacraments.


The second image is that of Bard in jail at the end of the movie as well. Two key players in this interpretation of Tolkien are in cages, in prisons.

Bard is in jail because of the envy and jealousy of one government lackey from Esgaroth, and the incompetence and sloth of the Master of the town.

Bard is in jail because of the sins of others, which is why millions of good people have ended up in prison-hatred from those who hate good.

The two protagonists in prisons makes for suspense, but is a dramatic theme on the part of the director to remind all of us, that our choices for good may not be appreciated by the evil, the worldly.

Perhaps we need a mentality which will allow us to do two things: one, prepare for prisons of all sorts in our lifetime, if and when we stand up for the Truth.

And, two, to persevere in Faith despite dire circumstances.

One more thought--it would be nice if there were more modern men like Bard, or the elves, or the dwarves, for that matter-real protectors.

Just a few thoughts from The Hobbit II. 


Thursday, 19 December 2013

In Memory of Jane

I usually do not post the same thing on my blog as on this one, but I think the administrator will make an exception today. 

Twenty-five years ago, I lost a friend in Lockerbie.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a person in their early 30s, who claimed he never heard of this terrorist attack. Another woman I was talking to, in her late twenties, had never heard of Lockerbie.

But, I lost a friend, a beautiful, young, woman musician with a big smile, a peaceful heart, and load of talent in that terrorist attack. 270 died because of that action of terrorism.

At that time, on December 21, 1988, I was in America for parties celebrating my baby son and showing him off to relatives. My husband at the time and I were watching international news on the television when the pictures of the devastated village and the wreckage were being broadcast. We had just flown out of England for this visit a week before, making the entire event even more poignant. We mentioned to each other that we hoped no one we knew was on the plane.

It was not until last January, 1989, that a priest friend of mine told me of my friend's death. When I came back and the academic year started again, I tried to phone my friend many times. But, as she was a young person, I just assumed she was out and about.

At a surprise birthday party for my husband at the time, a small party of about 40 people, I mentioned to the priest that I could not get a hold of Jane. Then he said, "I thought you knew. Did you not know she went down in Lockerbie?"

That was the end of the birthday celebrations for me. Most of the guests had known and a month later, it was "old news". I talked awhile with the good priest, (who just happens to be a psychologist as well), as we discussed Jane, her life, her death.

One young voice stilled. She had been on her way to America for Christmas. I had known she was going, and we had agreed to meet up in the New Year. I thought she had left earlier than December 21st.

Jane had been "almost engaged" with a nice young man. I felt for him.

What is hard for me is that with the 25th anniversary coming up, there are so many people who do not know about Lockerbie.

But, then, they did not know Jane. May she rest in peace. She missed her 28th birthday.

Melber, Jane Susan, musician and teacher, 27 years, born 01.01.61, Middlesex, England, American, seat number 27H

http://www.victimsofpanamflight103.org/victims

There is a scholarship fund which was set up by her parents at Gettysburg College, from where Jane graduated before going to the Royal College of Music in London.

Jane S. Melber (1983) Memorial Scholarship Fund
Established by Theodore W. and Lucile M. Melber in memory of their daughter, to be awarded to worthy and promising students for the study of music in Great Britain.


http://www.gettysburg.edu/academics/endowment-funds/all-student-aid.dot

http://www.gettysburg.edu/about/photo_gallery/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_Am_Flight_103

What is even odd for me is that I have taken that trip from Malta to Frankfurt this past November. That was the way the bomber was able to kill so many people in a more relaxed time of flying. Frankfurt is so big today, I wonder at the ability to stop further attempts.

May we always be ready for death.

The only man ever convicted for the bombing was a Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was found to have placed a suitcase containing the bomb on a flight from Malta to Frankfurt, from where it was transferred to a flight to London’s Heathrow, before detonating on Flight 103 a little more than half an hour after the Pan Am plane took off for New York.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinian-group-carried-out-lockerbie-bombing/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Thursday, 12 December 2013

A Spotless Rose-- Our Lady of Guadalupe




Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas and of Mexico.

In the 1640s, a peasant named Juan Diego was walking between his village and Mexico City and he saw a vision of a girl approximately sixteen years old surrounded by light on Tepeyac Hill. Speaking to him in Nahuatl, the local language, she asked Juan Diego that a church be built on Tepeyac Hill in her honor.  Juan Diego recognized the vision and the Virgin Mary.  The Bishop instructed Juan Diego to return to Tepeyac and ask the lady for a miraculous sign to prove her identity.  The visage instructed Juan Diego to gather flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill.  The usually barren Tepeyac Hill was blooming in Castilian roses, which were not native to Mexico.  Juan Diego gathered the roses which the Virgin arranged in his tilma cloak.  When the peasant opened the cloak before the Bishop, the flowers fell to the floor and an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe was miraculously imprinted on the fabric.

Pope John Paul II canonized St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in 2002.  And in 1999, Pope John Paul II elevated Our Lady of Guadalupe to a Solemnity in all of the Americas.

The iconography of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was understood as being the Woman of the Apocalypse from Revelations 12:2 "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars”.  Yet there are hermeneutical images that appealed to indigenous Americans too.  The Lady’s blue-green mantle was a hue reserved for the divine couple Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl.  A cross shaped image below the sash is the nahui-ollin and indicates the cosmos.  The rays of light look like maguey spines, the source of the sacred beverage pulque (and tequila).  Moreover, Many understand the black girdle along the Lady’s belt to indicate pregnancy, so Our Lady of Guadalupe is also unofficially considered the Patroness of the Unborn to the Pro-Life movement.

The rose amidst winter’s cold is an image of Advent which is not isolated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  A Spotless Rose is a 15th Century German carol.





A spotless Rose is blowing,Sprung from a tender root,Of ancient seers' foreshowing,Of Jesse promised fruit;Its fairest bud unfolds to lightAnd in the dark midnight,Amid the winter cold,A spotless Rose unfolds.

The Rose which I am singing,Whereof Isaiah said,Is from its sweet root springing,In Mary, purest Maid;For, through our God's great love and might,And in the dark midnight,Amid the winter cold,The blesse`d Babe she bare.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Patron Saint of the Spiritual, Not Religious.



http://ncronline.org/blogs/grace-margins/panel-fordham-focuses-spiritual-and-religious

The above article attempts to describe the growing number of "nones", that is, those not affiliated with any religion and the traditionally "religious".  Now, that the number of nones is growing, but the number of Catholics is also growing, albeit at a slower pace, but steady and true.

The new information this week that  vocations are "up" in the States with real numbers showing the increase in seminarians is also good news. So, what does an introspective reader see in these odd statistics?

In reality, the West is witnessing a clearer demarcation between those who are orthodox believers and those who are "nones". This is not the same as having a culture wherein the Protestant denominations remain strong. In most areas of the States, the traditional Protestant congregations are dying out. The growth in the nones, and the growth in non-denominational, non-affiliated, "Church of Bob" members, reflect the same movement : an the emphasis on individual religious interpretation combined with the formation of faulty consciences.

Why these trends are happening, of course, is why denominations come and go-that is, the wearing away of doctrines, and the weakening of traditional Christian moral teaching. Why these trends are important for Catholics to understand is not only in the revising of how we all evangelize, a topic about which I wrote on this blog months ago, but, perhaps more importantly, how we view ourselves as Catholics in vastly changing religious milieus.

These changes demand that we begin to see ourselves differently, or perhaps to be more correct, more historically accurate in these times.

To state what may be obvious to some is to say loudly and clearly that Catholics must re-discover their counter-cultural roots. We are no longer mainstream either morally or politically, being marginalized daily.

We are being marginalized not only by the seculars, but by other "spiritual" groups.

Today, I spoke with a bright, young priest who expressed, that the intuition among priests in his diocese concerning same-sex marriage legislation in the States, is that this issue will become law through a Supreme Court decision, in the same way that Roe v. Wade became the law of the land. What will ensue is the final splitting of the Protestant denominations and the nones with any semblance of Christian tradition. The divisions will be clearer, sadly, as people who are not aligned with the one, true, holy and apostolic Church, will spin off into compromise.

This type of division occurred after Roe v. Wade, but has remained hidden to a great extent. However, with the ssm ruling, when it comes, will be clearer divisions caused by the faulty formation of conscience.

Now, many Catholics on this side of the pond and in Great Britain still maintain that abortion is not THE issue. It does not to be seen as "the" issue, but one of several issues which has formed the lax consciences of spiritual, not religious people, leading to more tolerance of sin and age-old taboos, such as polygamy and ssm. In other words, the legalizing of abortion has led directly to the legalizing of other serious sins.

This is why I do see abortion as "the" issue. It opened the floodgates to the acceptance of mortal sin. The legalization of such a serious affront to God and nature has deadened many consciences.

That the nones claim to be "spiritual" but not religious indicates a confusion as to the integration of morality, spirituality, and religion, which is true worship of God.

Religion is not merely a set of laws and liturgical rules, but the proper worship of God in a community.

Those who claim to be spiritual do not want any conformity with any denomination. This is sola fide, sola Scriptura, sola gratia, sola Christus and sola gloria taken to the extreme, reminding one of Roger Williams, who claimed that the only person holy enough with whom he could pray was his wife, thus severing his ties with the Congregationalist, the Baptists, and him becoming the arch-separatist of America.

The nones are the descendants of Roger Williams, who claim absolute independence and priority of conscience, no matter how ill formed that conscience may be.

I call him the Patron Saint of the Spiritual, Not Religious.

His experimentation with non-organized religion failed, and led directly to Unitarianism.

The cry of the spiritual, whether nones or non-denominationals, is the cry of liberty of conscience without considering the formation of conscience according to the Scriptures and Tradition.

We, as adult Catholics, must deal with this type of confusion as to the real value of religion and the formation of conscience. Catholics must regard any discussions dealing with  freedom of conscience and the heresy of indifferentism, (the heresy which claims all religions are the same and of equal value), within the context of morality as suspect and dangerous. The real problem lies within some Catholic circles, which claim, even after excellent teaching to the contrary by both Blessed John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict, that a good conscience can be one in disagreement with Church teaching.

Never.

Here is how we re-define ourselves against this serious flaw in spiritual thinking.

One, remaining faithful to the Tradition and Scripture of the Catholic Church through study and prayer.

Two, repenting of the spirit of dissent which has spread out from the nature of Protestantism into the Church.

Three, developing the virtue of obedience and meekness of heart.

Four, appropriating the Faith as an adult with a well-formed conscience.

I hope to continue these thoughts in another posting in the future. When the great break between all the historical denominations occurs in the West, the only groups remaining will be the nones, the seculars, (some of whom are neo-pagans), and the Catholics. If we have not re-defined ourselves by that time, we shall disappear from some places.




Monday, 9 December 2013

Immaculate Conception Metanoia




Although both the Eastern and Western Churches have ascribed to the sinless conception of Mary the Mother of God, it dogmatically proclaimed as the Immaculate Conception until the 1854 ex cathedra papal bull  Ineffabilus Deus by Pope Pius IX.

Due to unclear contemporary catechesis, a minimization of Mariology and its place on the liturgical calendar near the start of Advent, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception can be mistaken as the sinless conception of Jesus rather than His mother Mary.  As a child of Vatican II, I struggle with mystagogical necessity of the Immaculate Conception--how can our sinless savior be born from a Mother with sin? Nevertheless, I accept it as a mystery of faith which I may not wholly appreciate but that I believe.

Perhaps a better way to understand the Immaculate Conception is through an Eastern approach.  On December 9th, Orthodox Christian Churches celebrate the Conception of the Most Holy Theotokis by St. Anne.  Celebrating St. Anne should have significance to the City of Detroit, which the Vatican named as its patroness in 2011.

 One of the common synonyms for Mary the Mother of God is as Theotokis or god-bearer.  To me, that semantical construction  god-bearer calls to mind the Ark of the Covenant from the Book of Exodus, where God dwelled among His people. This is rich with symbolic significance and points to our Savior.

Typically we think of the Immaculate Conception as Mary, the Mother of God, being born without sin (the unblemished Tabernacle for the Incarnation).  That being said, it seems more useful to consider Mary as being full of the Holy Spirit.  So rather than focusing on herself, she could magnify the Lord through her son Jesus Christ.

So to celebrate the Conception of the Theotokis by St. Anne and its consequence, we can reflect upon portions of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy as scored by Arvo Part.





Rejoice, O virgin Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, forthou hast borne the Saviour of our souls.


Summer in December


It is well enough known, I believe, that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was disputed between the Dominicans and the Fransicans, St Thomas and St Bonaventure, with the "pro" Franciscans on the winning side. I saw this set in a different frame, however, in some readings for the feast whose original source I cannot place: the piece pointed out that the difference between the two sides was underpinned by a diverse theology of the Incarnation and Redemption.

For the Dominican Aquinas, the Incarnation was a response to, and remedy for, the Fall; for the Franciscans and Duns Scotus the Incarnation was part of the plan of Creation, and thus the Incarnation of the Word preceded the Fall in divine providence. The different notions of the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the feast of her conception on 8th December predates the theological dispute) flow from this parting of the ways.

For St Thomas, the Fall involves all of Creation, including the Blessed Virgin, and the redemption of Jesus then purifies and saves our Lady more or less at the moment of her conception; for the Franciscan theologians on the other hand, Mary, as the one whom God willed to be the carrier of the human nature of the Incarnate Christ, was purified and redeemed by his Incarnation before the Fall took place. Maybe the fact that we celebrate the feast of Mary's Immaculate Conception is to tip the scales slightly towards the idea that Creation is but the first step towards the Incarnation, and the final step at the end of all things, the Consummation of the Incarnation, is the divinisation of redeemed Creation in the Incarnate God.

I reproduce the following from a homily by the then Abbot Hugh of Pluscarden, now Bishop of Aberdeen, on 8th December 2010. To read the rest follow this link

Today the Church is filled with joy at Mary’s Immaculate Conception. It’s not just Mary who says, Gaudens gaudebo in Domino. It’s all of us.
We know what we’re celebrating: not, as many think, the conception of Jesus by Mary, but the conception of Mary herself. And not that conception from her parents’ side, as if there was anything out of the usual about it (which there wasn’t), but from hers. We’re celebrating simply her. We’re celebrating the gift given her from the moment she came to be. This gift can be spoken of in two ways, and the liturgy does both. Put negatively, it was the gift of redemption, by preservation, from original sin, often metaphorically described as a stain or spot, like something on a mirror or a face. Mary is free of this blemish. But original sin, says Tradition, is itself a negative. God’s intention for us has only ever been grace, relationship, but because of the mysterious first sin we are conceived without this, dis-graced, if you like. We’re like poor modern students, starting life in debt. There’s a lack in us, something missing, a deprivation, a nakedness says Genesis: a lack of grace. Mary lacked this lack. And if you negate a negative what you get is a positive. And so positively, this gift is the gift of sanctifying grace, of a share in the life of God. It’s the gift of the Holy Spirit living in the heart. The mirror is stainless to reflect the light, the face is all radiance, the nakedness is clothed. It’s the gift of holiness, of ultimate beauty. Mary, said the poet Coventry Patmore, is ‘the extreme of God’s creative energy’. She is the human being fullest of the Holy Spirit.
And this is something to be filled with joy about.
Not everyone has an unhappy childhood. Thomas Traherne, the 17th c. poet, certainly did not. In fact, it was much more than happy. It was transfigured. It was an experience of Eden. He himself, of course, had received redemption from original sin and the gift of sanctifying grace in baptism as an infant, and he described his childhood once like this:
  ‘...within 
  I felt no stain nor spot of sin.

  No darkness then did overshade,
  But all within was pure and bright;
  No guilt did crush nor fear invade,
  But all my soul was full of light.

  A joyful sense and purity
  Is all I can remember,
  The very night to me was bright
  ’Twas Summer in December.’ (Innocence). 
 ‘’Twas Summer in December.’ Topical! That is why the Church is rejoicing today. Summer in December, spring in winter. Gaudens gaudebo in Domino.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Exploring Faith Through Art During the First Week of Advent

Detail of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel (1512)


Today is the start of the new liturgical year for the Roman Catholic Church. It also marks the first Sunday of Advent for the Latin Church (other Eastern Churches started a fortnight beforehand). In our secular society, we can be tricked into thinking that the Advent calendar is only a countdown for Christmas shopping.  But scripture during Advent reminds us of the dual nature of the season:  to prepare for the cyclical celebration of Our Lord's birth as well as Parousia (the Second Coming). 

The Lectionary during Cycle A features Isaiah's prophetic vision (IS 2:1-5) when God reigns Supreme and swords are hammered into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, a professor of liturgy at Loyola University in New Orleans, uses a detail of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel to illustrate the scripture.  



The Gospel (MT 24:37-44) alludes to the Second Coming where Jesus exhorts the faithful to be prepared as Noah was for the Flood.  This is sobering "Good News" but it should help lead us with our walk with the Lord, especially in this period of preparation.  

The Isaiah panel on the Sistine Chapel prompts a ponderous thought. Zsupan-Jerome wondered if position of Noah's Ark about Isaiah prompted the prophet to think  of Mount Ararat, where Noah's Ark landed, as he handed the vision of God's Holy Mountain? This would lend the aspiration that man should seek God's holy mountain to, borrowing a phrase from the Responsorial Psalm (PS 122), "dwell in the House of the Lord."

The Noahide Covenant established that the Lord would not destroy humanity through a flood. The Messiah's admonition to be prepared has some soothing subtexts rather than relying upon our own inadequate righteousness. The name Jesus can be translated to "Yahweh Saves".  Moreover, the Lord so loved the world, He sent His only son to be born of this world in all things but sin and be an intregal part of our salvific history. 

As we come into this season of  devout and joyful expectation, it would behoove us to consider the nuances, hermaneutics and deeper meanings of Advent, as expressed through art, scripture and the easily overlooked holiday trappings.  

h/t:  Loyola Press 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Your Loaves and Fishes



In the Summer of 2012, I read an old, but still valid book by Rudof Allers, in which the Psychology of Character is examined. As Europe slides into a more chaos, I realize that those with character will rise above these hard times and will need to help those who have not, either by nurture or nature, had good character formation.

Much of Allers is dated, but some of his ideas are timeless. A few points in a few posts are worth making.

The first point, which is most timely today, is that each person must have real and not false ideals of themselves and the world around them. The narcissist cannot exist in the real world, for example, and tries to create his world and let people like him into this bubble world. If he is in power, and has even great power, this world can become an empire. Have not we see this in history?

Allers specifically refers to those who limit his or her own ideals and live less than the expectations which God or life would demand of the person. So, for example, I meet young men, ages 20-35, daily who refuse either to answer a religious or priestly vocation, or choose marriage. The single life is not a vocation, rarely, unless one is taking care of aged parents, for example, or some accident of nature. That some do not choose life, Allers notes, referring to the parable of the talents, is merely a tragedy. I like this quotation from him, "In reality life is an adventure, and must be so lived and endured. "Be ready, that is everything." This reminds me of Hamlet's famous line, "The readiness is all", a phrase I had on the blog in January for a month or so.

Our potentialities are not surface values, states Allers, and he merges, psychologically, to the pursuit of perfection, about which I have been writing here from the classic authors, the interior values and gifts given to us by God as needing fulfillment.

The pursuit of perfection, states Allers, is not for our personal growth, like the 1980s New Age pursuits of a spiritual life without any responsibilities. Allers states our potentialities are not only unlimited, but can be full of grace, grace which makes us cooperate with all those gifts given to us and the Church in order to live as we were created to be. Grace is a key here, and we Catholics live in grace.

How cool is this, I think, to realize that the psychologist and theology overlap, and why not?

Allers knows his scholastic philosophy as well. "The transformation of potentiality into act, to employ the terminology of scholasticism, is the essence and meaning of human life." He also states, that since the Fall of Adam (sorry, but not really, to some of my readers who do not believe in Adam, which is the teaching of the Catholic Church-one set of parents-but I digress) that an individual life is "nothing more than the successive realization all values inherent as potentialities." Hard work, like the banking ads behind my computer here, means securities and success. But, we are thinking in terms of character building and eternal life.

And, for this posting, here is the crunch--when we have realized those ideals, we die, unless we die too soon. God intends us to go into heaven directly, to be saints.

Allers notes, "When a man has ceaselessly realized all that there was of value-potentialities in the depths of his being, his life must come to a standstill: he must die. That is, I think, why so many saints die young. If we consider the life of a St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a St. John Berchmans, a St. Theresa of the Child Jesus...do we not get the strong impression that for these people there was nothing left over for them to do on earth, that they had realized everything that it had been in any way possible for them to realize?"

Suffering, Allers notes, was part of the fulfillment of their potentialities, pain and sickness being that which they had to accomplish. Here is a quotation, "In German common parlance, one says of such people that they were  fruh vollendet, "completed early".

Have we, even the middle-aged, completed what we were created to be and to do? Do we care? Are we healthy, mentally, and inspired enough to say "yes" to what realization God has called us to be and do? Are we merely able to go into retirement, a false concept in my mind, and let the world slid by without involvement, without using the talents, the loaves, the fishes? Can we ever say that we have done or are enough?

thanks to Wiki
Make a decision, be committed, try to be all you can be-not for a narcissistic goal, but because God has given you one, two, five, or ten talents, and He is calling you to use these now....This is not about "you", but about God, my Father and your Father, who loves us and has given us life. Choose life, choose God, even now, and most especially, now.

Monday, 2 December 2013

The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma Facebook Page


To all who came along to The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma's meeting at Our Lady of the Rosary, thank you and well done. Thank you to Fr Tim Finigan of Our Lady of the Rosary for hosting the Guild and to Defende Nos in Praelio and family for cooking lunch.

It was my first time in chairing any meeting so I was a little nervous. Still, this is no excuse for forgetting to thank the individual who went under the name of A Reluctant Sinner for his wonderful work in setting up and managing the Guild for so long. Mea culpa. Thank you to Richard Collins for doing so and speaking on our behalf.

St Bernadette: An enduring Miracle of Lourdes
We were also treated to a great presentation by Dr Adrian Treloar, who I would also like to thank for his excellent presentation on the miracles of Lourdes.

The next Guild meeting will, I hope, take place during the Summer of 2014 and it would be marvellous if we could time the meeting for around the time of the Feast of Blessed Titus on 27 July 2014. I see that 26 July 2014 will be a Saturday and the meeting location, it was agreed, would be Brighton, so watch this space as we plan to meet next year.

It was a joy to have bloggers, as well as commenters, at the Guild meeting as well also as those who use Facebook and Twitter to promote the Catholic Faith. We form a small, if creative, minority who endeavour to spread the Faith of Christ using the new media in our contribution to the New Evangelisation called for by a string of wonderful and holy Pontiffs.

Communication between Guild members is, I would say, sadly irregular, though we may already be friends with each other on Facebook. Our own commitments in terms of writing, blogging and the various commitments that exist within our individual lives make the ability of Guild members to communicate with each other regularly quite difficult - hence why we meet a few times a year.

I have set up a Facebook group for the Guild and though this was not discussed at the meeting, I hope that it would serve as a helpful tool in exchanging ideas and thoughts on the progress of the Guild, as well as a form of communication between Guild members. Though the Guild in no way forms any kind of 'secret society', the Guild deserves a measure of confidentiality and sensitivity in communication, as any meeting would have behind closed doors.

For this reason, I have set the Guild's Facebook Group to 'closed'. This may change in the future depending upon the agreement and thought of Guild members. I have invited a few people, but invite those who were present at the latest meeting, those who are already in the Guild and those who seek membership in the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma to contact me either by Facebook or by email at englandsgardens@googlemail.com so that I can invite them to share in the exchange of ideas that are generated by The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma.

It goes without saying that there is but one policy for the Facebook page of Guild members and that is 'charity in all things'. If there should be any personal disputes between members of the Guild which find their place on Twitter etc, then they are asked to leave these at the door of the Facebook page when they enter. Without wishing to sound like a headmaster, if I see any fighting in the Guild on the Facebook page, people will be 'disinvited' from the Group.

Once again, as I said in the meeting, the Guild's website and blog forms a good introduction to the work of Catholic bloggers using the internet to evangelise a World so in need of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church. I would encourage Guild members, bloggers, as well as those who comment on various blogs to submit articles they believe would be suitable for the website, whether they be old or new, since the Guild's website is a useful 'introduction' to the world of Catholic blogging. Anyone who would like to submit an article for publication on the blog, email me, the Chairman at englandsgardens@googlemail.com.

Well done again to everyone who attended and assisted in the meeting. I hope that in time, we shall attract more Catholics to The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma. Finally, since some of the Guild have received news of her situation, I ask for prayers for Supertradmum, a consistently excellent and prolific writer for the Guild. You remain in our prayers.

I encourage and indeed urge all Catholic writers faithful to the Magisterium to join the Guild, whether they be 'small' or 'great' in terms of profile. As Catholic writers and bloggers, commenters, Twitterers and communicators of the Gospel, we live in times of latent persecution and there is no doubt that the age in which we live will, hatred for the Faith of Christ will become more and more apparent, as secularisation of culture excludes more and more, the God concept from its public discourse.



Blessed Titus Brandsma, pray for us.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Caravaggio And The First Sunday in Advent


The great masterpiece of Caravaggio in the Co-Cathedral of St. John in Valletta, Malta and today, the First Sunday of Advent remind me of two things.

Firstly, I can imagine that St. Paul, who was in Malta, as in Acts 28, was echoing the words of St. John the Baptist, the great patron of the Knights of Malta, really known at the Knights Hospitaller of St. John.

In this Epistle, we are called to wake up. The passage is full of energy and immediacy as to what we should be doing, and how we should be thinking.

This immediacy of St. Paul was the immediacy of St. John.

EPISTLE Rom 13. 11-14
A reading from the Epistle of the blessed apostle Paul to the Romans. Brethren, knowing the time, that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is past, and the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.


This passage from Romans resounds with a rumble in the background-Prepare the Way of the Lord, the cry and plea of St. John. 

Secondly, this immediacy demands an answer of the toughest kind. For St. John, the answer was death. To follow the Light and turn away from the darkness demands not only courage, but love. 

St. John loved Christ more than any other Person. St. John knew Who Christ Is.

St. John's response to the Son of God was total commitment.

I know two people who hate this painting. I was with a friend who could not bear to look at it. I cannot understand why. I have stood in front of this masterpiece for as long as the guards would let me, and meditated on both the beauty of the painting and the sacrifice of this saint.

The first time I saw it years ago, it took my breath away.

Another person I know cannot look at it. I wonder at these two people not being able to look at the final sacrifice of the man who Christ said plainly, "the greatest man ever born of woman."

I love St. John the Baptist and I love this painting. I love Malta, which is quickly falling away from true Catholicism. I hope God lets me go back there someday.

Caravaggio was, as most of you know, a "character". He was also a Knight of Malta and spent time on the island. Although this man obviously had anger-management problems, I have a soft-spot in my heart for him. 

His death is shrouded in mystery and his body was never found. But, his paintings live on to tell us to take courage and love God above all else, preparing ourselves and the world for the Coming of Christ.

This is the Advent message.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...