Wednesday 29 May 2013

The Rational Catholic....needed

by Vivian Forbes (1927) for Parliament’s History of the “Building of Britain”
© Palace of Westminster

Well, try seeing with someone else's glasses...I lost mine four days ago and cannot find them. As I cannot afford replacement glasses today, I am using a friend's which are far from my prescription, but I can read and type.

Which brings me to the point of debate with atheists and even fallen-away Catholics. As a former teacher of argumentation and debate, I taught my students to look at both sides and argue point by point.

This is the classical way of debating. One must understand the opponents' points of views before engaging in debate.

Most modern people do not know how to argue from reason. They have knee-jerk reactions, and very low levels of rational discourse. Logic has not been required in secondary education for two generations in the States.

Many of the huge cultural problems which will be and are facing Catholics today are owing to the lack of the ability to argue one's point from reason. We have been let down both by Catholic politicians and Catholic clergy on the moral issues of the day in this fair land of common law.

Argumentation was part of the training of and used by some of the great martyrs of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. I think especially of SS. Thomas More, Edmund Campion and Oliver Plunkett. You can read the transcripts. One may call their methods "apologetics", such as Campion's Brag.

The knew how to put forth the Catholic position and engaged those of opposing beliefs.

Doncha' think we need to teach our children and grandchildren how to engage the enemy with the question and answer method of Thomas Aquinas, for one example?

I always start by asking questions, such as "Well, what do you think of this?"

Learn how to debate before you will not be able to do so, before freedom of speech disappears in Great Britain and in America.

Saturday 25 May 2013

For Today's Feasts

Here are some appropriate prayers for today, a day of great saints. First, one for St. Gregory VII's Mass.

                                                    Lord, give your Church the spirit of courage
                                                                 and love for justice which
                                                              distinguished Pope Gregory. 
                                                      Make us courageous in condemning evil 
                                                       and free us to pursue justice with love. 
                                             We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
                                                who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
                                                               one God, for ever and ever.

Another one to St. Bede is here.

You have enlightened Your Church
with the learning of Saint Bede.
In Your love
may Your people learn from his wisdom
and benefit from his prayers.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

And one for St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi's feast.

you love those who give themselves completely to your service,
and you filled St. Mary Magdalen de'Pazzi
with heavenly gifts and the fire of your love.
As we honour her today
may we follow her example of purity and charity.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Friday 17 May 2013

A Selection of the Apostolic Letter of Leo XIII to the English People...a reminder

To the Catholics of England

In such a cause we, first of all, call to our assistance as our allies the Catholics of England, whose faith and piety we know by experience. There can be no doubt that, weighing earnestly the value and effects of holy prayer, the virtue of which we have truly declared, they will strive by every means to suc­cour their fellow-countrymen and brethren by invoking in their behalf the Divine clemency. To pray for one’s self is a need, to pray for others is a counsel of brotherly love; and it is plain that it is not prayer dictated by necessity so much as that inspired by fraternal charity which will find most favour in the sight of God. The first Christians undoubtedly adopted this practice. Especially in all that pertains to the Rift of faith the early ages set us a striking example. Thus it was the custom to pray to God with ardour that relations, friends, rulers, and fellow-citizens might be blessed by a mind obedient to the Christian faith (S. Aug. de dona per­sev. xxiii. 63).
And in regard to this there is another matter which gives us anxiety. We have heard that in England there are some who, being Catholics in name, do not show themselves so in practice; and that in your great towns there are vast numbers of people who know not the elements of the Christian faith, who never pray to God, and live in ignorance of His justice and of His mercy. We must pray to God, and pray yet more earnestly in this sad condition of things, since He alone can effect a remedy. May He show the measures proper to be taken; may He sustain the courage and strength of those who labour at this arduous task: may He deign to send labourers into His harvest.
Whilst we so earnestly press upon our children the duty of prayer, we desire at the same time to warn them that they should not suffer themselves to be wanting in anything that pertains to the grace and the fruit of prayer, and that they should have ever before th.eir minds the precept of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians: “Be without offence to the Jews and the Gentiles, and to the Church of God” (I Cor. x. 32). For besides those interior dispositions of soul neces­sary for rightly offering prayer to God, it is also needful that they should be accompanied by actions and words befitting the Christian profession – first of all, and chiefly, the exemplary observance of uprightness and justice, of pitifulness for the poor, of penance, of peace and concord in your own houses, of respect for the law – these are what will give force and efficacy to your prayers. Mercy favours the petition of those who in all justice study and carry out the precepts of Christ, according to His promise: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will and it shall be done unto you” (St. John xi. 7). And therefore do we exhort you that, uniting your prayer with ours, your great desire may be that God will grant you to welcome your fellow citizens and brethren in the bond of perfect charity. Moreover, it is profitable to implore the help of the Saints of God, the efficacy of whose prayers, especially in such a cause as this, is shown in that pregnant remark of St. Augustine as to St. Stephen: “If holy Stephen had not prayed, the Church to-day would have had no Paul.”

Invocation of England’s Saints for Mary’s Dowry

We therefore humbly call on St. Gregory, whom the English have ever rejoiced to greet as the Apostle of their race, on Augustine his disciple and his messenger, and on those other Saints of God, through whose wonderful virtues and no less wonderful deeds England has merited the title of “Island of the Saints;” on St. Peter and St. George, those special patrons, and above all on Mary, the Holy Mother of God, whom Christ Himself from the Cross left to be the mother of man­kind, to whom your kingdom was dedicated by your forefathers under that glorious title ., "The Dowry of Mary.” All these with full confidence we call upon these our pleaders before the Throne of God that, renewing the glory of ancient days, He May “fill you with all joy and peace in believing: that you may abound in hope and in the power of the Holy Ghost” (Rom. xv. 13). Care should be taken that the prayers for unity already establish amongst you Catholics on certain fixed days should be made more popular and recited with greater devotion. Especially that the pious practice of the Holy Rosary, which we ourselves have so strong­ly recommended, should flourish, for it contains as it were a summary of the Gospel teaching, and has always been a most salutary institution for the people at large. Moreover, we are pleased of our own will and authority to add still another to the sacred Indulgences which have been granted from time to time by our prede­cessors. We grant, that is, to all those who piously recite the prayer appended to this Letter, to whatever nation they may belong, an Indulgence of 300 days; moreover, a Plenary Indulgence once a month on the observance of the usual conditions to those who have recited it daily.
Finally, may the Divine prayer of Christ Himself for unity fill up the full measure of our desires, a prayer which on this day, through the Mystery of His most Holy Resurrection, we repeat with the utmost confi­dence: “Holy Father, keep them in Thy name whom Thou hast given Me; that they might bone as We also are one. . . . Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth ..”. And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in Me, that all may be one, as Thou, Father. in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us. . . . I in them and Thou in Me; that they might be made per­fect in one; and the world may know that Thou hast sent Me and hast loved them as Thou hast also loved Me” (St. John xvii.)
Finally, we desire all manner of blessings from God for the whole of the British people, and with all our heart we pray that those who seek the kingdom of Christ and salvation in the unity of faith may enter on the full realization of their desires.

Given at St. Peter’s in Rome on the 14th of April, 1895, in the 18th year of our Pontificate.

Thursday 9 May 2013

Understanding the Ascension Through Art

Ascension Thursday is the close of the forty day celebration of Easter.  Some dioceses have moved marking this Solemnity of this feast to Sunday.   To better celebrate the wonder and mystery of this event of salvific history, we can turn to art.

The Seventeenth Century poet John Donne tended to take an intellectual approach to spirituality in La Coruna. (1618).  The section dedicated to the Ascension offers conceits which prepares the person for acting in faith:

Salute the last, and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this Sun, and Son,
Ye whose true tears, or tribulation
Have purely wash’d, or burnt your drossy clay.
Behold, the Highest, parting hence away,
Lightens the dark clouds, which He treads upon;
Nor doth he by ascending show alone,
But first He, and He first enters the way.
O strong Ram, which hast batter’d heaven for me!
Mild lamb, which with Thy Blood hast mark’d the path!
Bright Torch, which shinest, that I the way may see!
O, with Thy own Blood quench Thy own just wrath;
And if Thy Holy Spirit my Muse did raise,
Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.
While Donne was raised as a Catholic, he converted to Anglicanism in his adulthood.  The verses reflect this sentiment as it uses quitessential Catholic symbols,such as light and dark, as well as the sacrifice of the innocent lamb.  But the final verse emphasizes the personal rather than communal aspect of faith.

Another distinctive feature of Donne's literary style are his metaphysical conceits. which uses imagery in an extended metaphor to combine vastly different ideas into a single notion.  Hence, the ascension is likened to both a strong Ram to break down the door of faith to heaven and as a mild lamb in a blood sacrifice to show the path.

Three hundred and fifty years later, Salvador Dali painted "The Ascension of Christ" (1958) as Jesus is rising toward an energized and electrified heaven.

Dali's surreal style of juxtaposing images one would not ordinarily associate in order to create a deeper meaning requires going beyond a rational exposition of faith.  But Dali's depiction is not devoid of reality, as the prominent feet would have been the last thing that the Apostles who witness the Ascension would have seen.

Dali attributes the inspiration for "The Ascension of Christ" to a cosmic dream that he had in 1950 full of vivid color where he saw the nucleus of an atom.  Dali was an ardent atheist but he later re-embraced his Catholic faith (perhaps after an exorcism) but Dali often fused his conceptions of Christianity  with science. Dali realized that the nucleus was the true representation of the unifying spirit of Christ.  This nuclear mysticism is meant to connect everyone.

Dali's "Ascension of Christ" does have some incongruities.  Dali was inspired by the atom but it looks like a sunflower or perhaps a stylized depictions of the sun.  Dali was often intrigued with continuous circular patterns like a sunflower floret as it followed the law of logarithmic spiral, which Dali explained to  Mike Wallace in 1958 was associated with the force of spirit in chastity.

While the dove ready to descend from the clouds seems like an allusion to the Pentecost liturgically celebrated in 10 days.  But why is Gala (Dali's wife and artistic muse) peering out from the clouds?  In other Dalian religiously inspired paintings, Gala represented the Virgin Mary. Historically, the dormition of the Theotokis happened long after Christ's ascension into heaven.  However,  Mary is often considered the Queen Mother of Heaven and as the resurrection transcended time and space, it could show the Mother of God weeping at her son's departure from the Earth from her prospective place in heaven.

Other  aspects to appreciate in Dali's depiction of Christ's glorified body ascending to heaven is his hands and feet.  Aside from the positioning of the foot, notice how the soles of his foot were soiled, as reminders that our Messiah walked among us.  Also the Jesus' fingers are curled, which lends some visual drama to the painting but combined with with electrified heavens hints at power.

Whether we are spoken to by Donne's metaphysical conceits or dazzled by Dali's depictions of nuclear mysticism, the Ascension of Christ into heaven is a foretaste of what the faithful may expect in our eventual heavenly home.

h/t:  Salvador Dali Society

Thursday 2 May 2013

If you do nothing else this month.....

....ask your Parish Priest for a May Procession to Our Blessed Lady....before Holy Mass or afternoon Benediction.

It is a great way in which to express love and devotion to the Mother of Christ and a marvellous opportunity to proclaim the Faith, by example, as the procession wends its way around the streets surrounding the church.

Here is last year's May Procession from Sacramento....

Bring Flowers of the Rarest 

O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today!
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.
O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.

Bring flowers of the rarest
bring blossoms the fairest,
from garden and woodland and hillside and dale;
our full hearts are swelling,
our glad voices telling
the praise of the loveliest flower of the vale!

Their lady they name thee,
Their mistress proclaim thee,
Ah, grant that thy children on earth be as true
as long as the bowers
are radiant with flowers,
as long as the azure shall keep its bright hue

Sing gaily in chorus;
the bright angels o'er us
re-echo the strains we begin upon earth;
their harps are repeating
the notes of our greeting,
for Mary herself is the cause of our mirth

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

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