Friday 31 January 2014

Where were you in 1954?

The West has had sixty years to repent of arrogance, secularism, selfishness, socialism, the lack of Faith in Divine Providence. We have had a long time to choose the Kingdom of God. We have not done this. We have compromised and compromise daily.

Can Catholics stop and think that we have had many prophets to tell us that the way of the world is death and destruction?

So many have become complacent and busy about many things.

The time of mercy will end. We are called to Christ. Are we listening?

Tuesday 28 January 2014

The Pre-Eminence of St. Thomas Aquinas as a Philosopher

This is from the TAC, of Thomas Aquinas College website. Look here for more quotations from other popes.

1. Pope John XXII, speaking about St. Thomas, said before his canonization that “his life was saintly and his doctrine could only be miraculous … because he enlightened the church more than all the other doctors. By the use of his works a man could profit more in one year than if he studies the doctrine of others for his whole life.”

4. Leo XIII stated that “this is the greatest glory of Thomas, altogether his own and shared with no other Catholic Doctor, that the Fathers of Trent, in order to proceed in an orderly fashion during the conclave, desired to have opened upon the altar together with the Scriptures and the decrees of the Supreme Pontiffs, the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas whence they could draw counsel, reasons and answers.”
Again from Leo XIII: “This point is vital, that Bishops expend every effort to see that young men destined to be the hope of the Church should be imbued with the holy and heavenly doctrine of the Angelic Doctor. In those places where young men have devoted themselves to the patronage and doctrine of St. Thomas, true wisdom will flourish, drawn as it is from solid principles and explained by reason in an orderly fashion … Theology proceeding correctly and well according to the plan and method of Aquinas is in accordance with our command. Every day We become more clearly aware how powerfully Sacred Doctrine taught by its master and patron, Thomas, affords the greatest possible utility for both clergy and laity.

5. St. Pius X said that the chief of Leo’s achievements is his restoration of the doctrine of St. Thomas. For he “restored the Angelic Doctor … as the leader and master of theology, whose divine genius fashioned weapons marvelously suited to protect the truth and destroy the many errors of the times. Indeed those principles of wisdom, useful for all time, which the holy Doctors passed on to us, have been organized by no one more aptly than by Thomas, and no one has explained them more clearly.” Indeed, Pius said, those who depart from the teaching of St. Thomas “seem to effect ultimately their withdrawal from the Church … As we have said, one may not desert Aquinas, especially in philosophy and theology, without great harm; following him is the safest way to the knowledge of divine things.… If the doctrine of any other author or saint has ever been approved at any time by us or our predecessors with singular commendation joined with an invitation and order to propagate and to defend it, it may be easily understood that it was commended only insofar as it agreed with the principles of Aquinas or was in no way opposed to them.” Theology professors “should also take particular care that their students develop a deep affection for the Summa … In this way and no other will theology be restored to its pristine dignity, and the proper order and value will be restored to all sacred studies, and the province of the intellect and reason flower again in a second spring.”

7. Pius XI said that “indeed, We so approve of the tributes paid to his almost divine brilliance that we believe Thomas should be called not only Angelic but Common or Universal Doctor of the Church. As innumerable documents of every kind attest, the Church has adopted his doctrine for her own.… It is no wonder that the Church has made this light her own and has adorned herself with it, and has illustrated her immortal doctrine with it … It is no wonder that all the popes have vied with one another in exalting him, proposing him, inculcating him, as a model, master, doctor, patron and protector of all schools … Just as it was said of old to the Egyptians in time of famine: ‘Go to Joseph, so that they should receive a supply of corn to nourish their bodies, so to those who are now in quest of truth We now say: ‘Go to Thomas’ that they may ask from him the food of solid doctrine of which he has an abundance to nourish their souls unto eternal life.”

8. Bl. John Paul II said: “[T]he Church has been justified in consistently proposing Saint Thomas as a master of thought and a model of the right way to do theology….
“[T]he Magisterium has repeatedly acclaimed the merits of Saint Thomas’ thought and made him the guide and model for theological studies.… The Magisterium’s intention has always been to show how Saint Thomas is an authentic model for all who seek the truth. In his thinking, the demands of reason and the power of faith found the most elevated synthesis ever attained by human thought, for he could defend the radical newness introduced by Revelation without ever demeaning the venture proper to reason.”
9. Pope Benedict XVI said, “In his encyclical Fides et Ratio, my venerated predecessor, Pope John Paul II recalled that ‘the Church has been justified in consistently proposing St. Thomas a master of thought and a model of the right way to do theology’ (No. 43).
“It is not surprising that, after St. Augustine, among the writers mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, St. Thomas is quoted more than any other — some 61 times! He was also called the Doctor Angelicus, perhaps because of his virtues, in particular the loftiness of his thought and purity of life.
“In short, Thomas Aquinas showed there is a natural harmony between Christian faith and reason. And this was the great work of Thomas, who in that moment of encounter between two cultures — that moment in which it seemed that faith should surrender before reason — showed that they go together, that what seemed to be reason incompatible with faith was not reason, and what seemed to be faith was not faith, in so far as it was opposed to true rationality; thus he created a new synthesis, which shaped the culture of the following centuries.”

Sunday 26 January 2014

The Devil - Venerable Fulton Sheen

A rare re-post on our married clergy wives

Because I thought this topic was important enough to be on two blogs, I hope you all do not mind a re-post

The Vocation of The Priest's Wife and The Three Marys

Because for many months, I was close to some Ordinariate priests and met and talked with some of the wives when I was in England, even briefly, I observed a key to the mystery of the married Ordinariate priest which I would like to share. I have also met other women in the role of  "priest wives".

The Catholic people on the whole are not accustomed to the vicar's wife. Indeed, when we lived in Petersfield years ago, it took the parish several months to accept a married ex-Anglican, now Catholic priest for a pastor. The objections were all based on ignorance and prejudice and in the end, the priest and his wife were not only happily accepted, but greatly loved.

The problem with the normal person in the pew is that these Catholics do not understand that if the husband, who is a Catholic priest has a vocation, his wife has a vocation as well. I understand this vocation of the priest's wife, which is more than being the wife of a man who happens to be a priest, and a mother to his children.

The vocation of the priest's wife consists of the greatest sacrifice a woman can give to the Church, her husband to take on another Bride, the Bride of Christ, which is the Church

The priest's wife is not the first woman in the priest's life She is the third woman in the priest's life, and yet, a great support to his ministry, a point to which I shall return.

The First Woman in the heart of the married priest is the Bride of Christ, the one, true, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. He is her protector, her guide, her spouse as he is alter Christus.

The Second Woman in the heart of the married priest is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, the Mother of us all. The priest takes her guidance and love and honors her above all women.

The Third Woman is his wife. And, this wife is the servant of the servant. If she is a stay-at-home mom, she organizes the life of the priest so that he can maximize his day of service to the Church. She is not first, ever, and must be scheduled, and disciplined.

If the Third Woman has a job out of necessity, in order to help support the priest and family, as so many now must after losing their pensions, houses, and other goods by converting to the Catholic Church, even having to go back to work to make ends meet, this job is the gift she gives to not only the family, but to the Church, easing the financial burden of a diocese or the Ordinariate.

If the Third Woman is called to be active in the daily workings of the Church, especially if the children are grown and gone, her relationship with the parish will demand her time and gifts, and she will support the work of her husband as he sees fit. I know one priest's wife who does so many things that she is just as busy as he is.

A priest's wife has been called by God to give her husband to the Church, and to the world. She knows that she is called to serve, and to sacrifice the normal comforts of married life.

She will not be rich, or have the normal aspirations of a married woman in the world of the laity, because even though she is lay, she has a vocation to be in the world, and not of the world in a direct manner.

Her world is one like the women who served Christ and His apostles, so that they could live out the vocation of the apostolic call.

I greatly honor the wives of the priests of the Ordinariate and other priest's wives who have come in via different manners into the Catholic Church. May we honor them as we would honor those women at the foot of the Cross.

Like the married women, a mother of a priest sacrifices the time and attention of a son, grandchildren and all the protection and love a son would give to a mother is he were not married to the Bride of Christ. Mothers of priests should understand priest's wives from the perspective of giving up a natural relationship for a supernatural one, as these sons and these husbands do not belong to us, but to God.

 "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary [the wife] of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." We call these women, Mary Salome, Mary wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, the Three Marys, or the Three Maries. Mary Salome, wife of  Zebedee and mother of the "Sons of Thunder," James and John, aided Christ and His apostles and stood watching the horror of the Passion and Death of Our Lord. Like Mary the Mother of God, she is one of my models

These women ministered to Christ, set aside their own status, their own resources, their own lives for the sake of the Gospel.

So, too, do our sisters who are the wives of our Catholic priests.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Pope Francis and the Throwaway Culture

Bl. Pope John Paul II warned the West of the 'Culture of Death'
Pope Benedict XVI often lamented, as did Blessed Pope John Paul II the Culture of Death, a culture endemic in the West that rejected in principle the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life.

Movement away from 'the Gospel of Life'?

Both Popes placed this culture in contrast to the Gospel of Life heralded by the Catholic Church. Benedict XVI was keen to continue this theme in the Church's mission of evangelisation. For both Popes this formed a distinct base for Catholic social teaching, recognising that without adherence to fundamental principles concerning the defence of human life, marriage and the family, Western society sowed the seeds of its own destruction. Likewise, Benedict XVI had a desire to place together, as his predecessor, the politically charged issues of abortion, human embryology, IVF, divorce, artificial contraception, assisted suicide and euthanasia, homosexual unions and the modern phenomenom of homosexual 'marriage', as well as other features of modern relationships. The Church's confrontation of this culture that fails to show respect for man, made 'in the image and likeness of God', has always brought it sharp and angry criticism from mass media, politicians and also civil society.

Pope Francis seems to have abandoned this confrontational analysis of society's ills, but is it really true that it has been totally 'dropped'? Perhaps this is not entirely the case for, instead, Pope Francis has opted to present some of the destructive evils that confront Western society (and the World as a whole) in a new light, describing the disposable nature of human life and human dignity in terms of a 'throwaway culture'. With the rhetorical teaching shift from attacking the 'culture of death' to the 'throwaway culture', it can certainly be argued that some hot political and social issues have yet to be included in the new Pontiff's analysis of what threatens modern man. It remains mysterious why this should be the case.

Are certain unpopular areas of concern being abandoned?

To date Pope Francis has not, for example, mentioned human embryology and IVF, despite the Catholic Church's traditional defence of human life 'from conception to natural death'. On a few occasions, including in his Apostolic Exhortation, the Successor of St Peter has, however, lamented abortion as an aspect of a 'throwaway culture'.

Within this context, he has also mentioned homelessness, poverty, the loneliness and isolation of the elderly, youth unemployment, the waste of food and the destruction of the environment and positioned the 'throwaway culture' as an unfortunate feature of modern capitalism. In actual fact, it would appear that endemic consumerism is the perhaps the real target of Francis's concern since it is consumerism that fosters our sorrowful tendency to put a price on human life and dignity.

Pope Benedict XVI and Blessed Pope John Paul II presented with regularity the Church's vision of the family. Both were defenders of marriage and the family, upholding these institutions as bulwarks against 'progressive' strands of thought that taught a new moral relativism, as well as new (and not so new) ideologies, that saw both marriage and the family as archaic traditions that either required updating or tearing down. At the very least, until the pontificate of Francis, the Church has stood more or less alone against the re-definition of marriage and in support of the family unit as the fundamental cell - the rock upon which is built a truly flourishing society.

With the decision to drop the Church's opposition to the 'culture of death', while retaining in his denouniciation of the 'throwaway culture', one or two issues included in the previous papal theme, it would appear not so much that Francis is an 'emperor without clothing', but that His Holiness cuts a figure of a man who has made a conscious decision not to wear the same clothing as that of his predecessors. This would appear, so far to be true, both literally and metaphorically in terms of his teaching.

Will Pope Francis include other divisive aspects of the 'culture of death' in the 'throwaway culture'?

It remains to be seen whether Francis will decide to include other aspects of the culture of death that deserve to be placed within the new context of a throwaway culture. In striving to create a culture of 'solidarity' with the weakest and most vulnerable, as well as a 'culture of encounter' which stands in opposition to the 'throwaway culture' there seems to be no objective reason why the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide, for example, should not be included, since what kind of society 'throws out' the sanctity of human life so much that it wishes to deprive the terminally ill and elderly, sick, weak and infirm of life itself, for economic or political advantage?

One can easily see a parallel between the culture of death and a 'throwaway society' in which human life and the traditional concept of the family is discarded and dismissed as being without value. How sad it was, then, to see only Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has recently been dismissed from the Congregation for Bishops, as the only prelate supporting Manif pour Tous, the French-originated movement in defence of true and natural marriage between one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others. Is the defence of marriage in its sacramental and civil realities something that the new pontificate is prepared to 'drop' in exchange for a Church that is seen as less divisive and critical of the modern cultural landscape? Or is this an aspect of the 'throwaway society' that Pope Francis will come to critique during his pontificate?

Last man standing: Cardinal Burke at Rome's 'Manif pour Tous'
Crisis Magazine's Arland K. Nichols recently criticised the very same 'throwaway culture' with regard to 'reproductive medicine'. Again, only in a society in which consumerism is so rampant and respect for human life is so disregarded, could that same society tolerate the destruction of so many human embryos in IVF, each one a human life. Human embryology, as this report from China shows, puts a definitive price on human life and always degrades and destroys human life in the process.

Divorce, also, is now so frequent that modern society is creating a new generation of children for whom stable and loving homes and families will be alien concepts never, or rarely experienced by the majority. Studies have shown the destruction caused by separation and particularly divorce to children of parents who do so, with the vast majority of prisoners and young offenders coming from homes that are tragically 'broken'.

Studies have also shown the psychological damage done to children of homes in which mothers and fathers break the bonds of marriage. In each case, the family unit, as well as the bond of love between husband and wife have been 'throw away'. The lives of co-habiting couples have been shown to be particularly vulnerable to marriage break-up later on. Homosexual and lesbian 'unions' threaten the very understanding of marriage that underpins Western civilization, a trend that could see the family itself being redefined, with the time-tested, natural family being seen as merely an 'option' among other 'options'. These unions also 'throw-away' the natural rights of children to mothers and fathers, rather than a restrictive replacement for paternal and maternal care, as well as their rights to natural human development in the context of a loving home in which natural, healthy, human relationships are lived out daily. Forms of artificial contraception are known to kill nascent human life in its earliest stage, with human embryos being thrown or even 'flushed' away.

The Church in Temptation

It would be a great shame and a poisonous temptation for the Catholic Church in the modern era to fail to speak out in defence of human life, human dignity, natural marriage and the family in exchange for a new relationship with the World that permitted greater respect for the Church so long as She remains silent on certain issues, or fails to uphold the Truth of Her Infallible Teachings on issues that touch upon the life of every man, every woman and every child, born and unborn, in the 21st century. A new Pope has created a new dynamic and a new understanding in a 'Brave New World'. Will Francis be brave enough, however, to hold fast to the determined and heroic efforts made by his predecessors to uphold the dignity of human life as well as those institutions and concepts that safeguard each and every generation from the one to the next?

There is no doubt that those social evils mentioned by Francis deserve to be placed in his new theme of the 'throwaway' culture, but the Church stands traditionally in defence of all human life, as well as the family which nurtures and protects it. We should pray, and earnestly so, that His Holiness Pope Francis includes all at risk from the consumerism that threatens to reshape mankind along economic principles only and that sees both man, woman and child as items, products which can become so easily regarded as disposable. It would surely be a scandal, in the face of such trends, for the Church and especially the Pope, to remain silent.

Friday 17 January 2014

On largo and fugues in winter

When I was a child, winters in the Midwest were long and hard. This is not merely the memory of a person entering into "older" age, but a statistic one can trace. In this part of the world, winters come and go in patterns. The Natives told the White Men that seven times seven times seven, a really bad winter would cause tremendous hardship. That meant seven months of winter, every forty-nine years.

This winter in the Midwest is one of the worst in years. It most likely is not one of the seven times seven times seven winters, but today I am witnessing the fifth storm of the season, with winds so bad the local police were advising people not to be on the roads, as the gusts can push cars out of control, especially as there is still two inches of ice on many streets, covered by the blowing snow. It will be 5 Fahrenheit tonight, and the high tomorrow will be 19 Fahrenheit.

One wonders, growing up in a cold climate, what life was like for one's ancestors. One of my great-grandmothers was on the Oregon Trail. A grandmother was left here as she got small pox and her parents thought she would die on the way. But, she survived. Her family went out to Oregon while she was raised by an aunt in Iowa. People made horribly dangerous journeys, for what? For new lives, to have land, a home, prosperity. The brothers of that smallpox-ed girl became cattle ranchers. The brothers of the great-grandma did well, better than in the dairy farms of Luxembourg, all having a good life. But, not without pain and hard work. Families crossing a few hundred miles to the south were swept away in the rushing, fast floods of the Platte or One Hundred and Two Rivers, which suddenly became fierce, fast currents.

Great-Grandmother Mary would tell us stories of the log cabin and the Indians, as she called them, who would come to the back door, and disappear again, taking a few chickens or tools with them. She remembered the days of preparation for winter, of using every possible bit of the pig, or deer, or bear.

Grandmother Anna had a butcher block in her kitchen and when my dad, with his dad and brothers would bring home the deer, she and her daughters cut it up right there.

I use to watch my mom and dad clean rabbit, squirrel, pheasant, wild goose, quail, and various fish caught in the many rich rivers of Iowa, fish like trout, sunfish, and bass.

These days passed when life became more sophisticated and men who went hunting went to lodges and did not necessarily bring back the goods.

Hunting became not only a necessity but a sport. The need for food diminished and my dad put away his hunting guns, knives, and deer bow and arrows. (No cross-bows, by the way but huge bows taller than myself at nine).

Winter was a time for baking what had been "set-up" in the summer. The pantries, a great idea, which were large walk-in cupboards off the kitchens, were full of preserves, such as strawberry jams, peach jams, apple sauce, pickles, pickled beets, sauerkraut and tomatoes all in Mason jars. To make a pie in January, one only had to go to the pantry and choose a fruit which had been laid up in August or September.

Grandmas made sausages and head cheese to store over the winter. They dried fruit. They canned and taught us girls to can, but we learned by watching, in silence. The women worked with the women, and the men with the men. There was something soothing and real in these communal bakes or times of canning. We did not gossip, but worked, even in silence, like nuns in the monastery kitchen.

We made pies, strudels, coffee cakes, buttermilk pancakes (not from boxes) and put the strawberry jam made months back, on the waffles.

Most things were made by hand, and I inherited most of my Grandma Miller's kitchen utensils, including her scone cutter, when she died in the mid-1970s. No one else wanted these things. My cousins were not "back-to-the-earth" like I was, instead getting business and accounting degrees, which my grandma got in 1909 as well. I loved to cook and loved to do everything "from scratch".

I used her kitchen items until my son left home in 2010, when I downsized, knowing I would never make huge pots of chili, two pans of corn bread, chicken soup using the whole chicken, two coffee cakes, or five dozen scones, or ninety cookies at a go. Or, can tomatoes or make pickles, or fill the freezer with cut up apples cooked in cinnamon and sugar to be used later.

Like the guns, bows and arrows, the tools of the men's trade,  the women's tools were passed on to someone who would use things someone who would actually cook and bake, and magically make wonderful warm smells come out of the kitchen, and waft through the entire house.

Winter was the time to eat the work of summer. We lived in seasonal patterns. Oranges were only eaten at Christmas for a treat, and when the two bushels of apples in the dark cupboard in the basement were all used up, we had to wait until apples were harvested again.

We ate in patterns, and we worked in patterns. Our lives resembled a symphony, with times of andante, or largo, or fugues. Winter was the time of  lento, which had followed the presto and allegro of the late summer. The soto of winter would pass into the dolce of spring, and the circular schedule of growing, harvesting, canning and baking would continue.

All this ended in the 1970s, when we all became prisoners of the sameness of shopping, and as the older generation with all their skills died and joined the earth which had provided them with both the pleasures and pains of the prairie.

We shall never see this pattern of life again. The music had changed into a rubato of sameness. We have lost the rhythm of nature. We have lost the skills of making and doing from the raw materials God has given us.

Such are my thoughts on this day of the fifth storm of the season.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Cabin Fever

As most of the world knows through the media, both America and Britain have experienced difficult even dangerous weather in the past week.

Some people have died of the cold or experienced damaged homes in the flooding.

In the States, there is another side effect of the polar vortex this week and that is "cabin fever". This term came into being right before WWI, when the lives of people in the West were changing rapidly because of phones, cars, machines and a new busyness. Life was becoming more complicated when this phrase appeared, as if a new social illness had been created by the new industrial culture.

Now, as a disclaimer, I never get cabin fever, which is a claustrophobia brought on by having to stay inside for days and days, because of dangerous weather conditions. I am a person who, as an extreme introvert and writer, love the time and distance from crowds, which being stuck in a house brings.

However, I have been around people today who just "had" to get out. The need may be for human contact other than those with whom one lives, or being in touch with nature.

A robin, a male and female cardinal, and some juncos were enjoying the warmer temperatures today; 18 below to 38 above is a huge jump in Fahrenheit. Where these birds had been earlier in the week during the Arctic storms, I do not know.

For days, the streets were almost empty of cars, as people were told to stay home. One's skin would freeze in ten minutes earlier this week.

Many people had to go shopping today after depleting goods during the two to five days of dangerous weather. Many people did not have access to phones or the Net, as the weather interfered with their electricity. Some became frustrated.

Today, many people went out to buy food, or simply relate to the larger community as they had cabin fever. I had to go shopping for some people, and the shops were full.

But, I think there is another reason for cabin fever, and that is the addiction to both mobility and activity.

One of the great blessing to me is just to have a place to stay--stability. One of the greatest blessings for me is silence and the ability to be alone with God, my Life and Love.

Instead of cabin fever, I desire cabin peace. I need the time to be rejuvenated, renewed, made more whole in order to go out into the world.

I am very grateful that the dangerous weather has broken, but I am sad that so many people feel the need for unnecessary activity instead of time for reflection, meditation, prayer, reading.

I would love a cabin of my own with lots of time for cabin peace. Let us try and cultivate what St. Catherine calls the little cell in our minds, where we can find God in the midst of noise and movement.

Maybe we can create a little cabin space, in our hearts, in our minds, where we can meet God.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

At The Turning of The Year

I do not make resolutions for the new year. I suppose I am old enough to know that being resolute about changes in one's life must be a daily project, a process of responding to the grace of the moment.

What one is inclined to do, however, is look towards another 365 days with either trepidation or hope, apathy or excitement, perplexity or clarity.

It is the nature of humans to be optimistic about the future. Few people actually "fear" or "dread" unknown future events. As we know we are not like God, Who sees all events, things, people as in the "now", the ever-present of His Immortality and Omniscience, we see things linearly, looking towards the past for clues, hints, patterns of the future.

Too often, some think "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." But, for the Christian, especially for the Catholic, this pessimism seems unnatural, forced, even in the yearly celebrations which surround us at this time.

When one is very young, one feels completely immortal, potent, without fear. A young person takes risks, is creative, willing to change.

For many who are older, fear and the experience of failure creep into the psyche causing a reluctance to accept μετἀνοια, that daily turning around, daily repentance, and acceptance of the new, which is being offered to the soul.

When I was studying Scripture for my degree so long ago, I felt the power of the meaning of metanoia when I first studied this word- “change of Mind, a change in the trend and action of the whole inner nature, intellectual, affectional and moral." Partly because I had superb teachers, I knew the real meaning of the word as the turning, the change of the entire person and all the faculties.

The changing of the intellectual means learning to think like a Catholic. The purification of the intellect and the imagination comes from accepting metanoia.

The changing of the affectional means the changing of the heart, the leaving of all attachments which keep one from God. One learns to love God first, making this love a priority in one's life. This is the purification of the heart.

The turning from immorality in both thought and deed, and even more, the denying of self, is the process of metanoia regarding the moral, the purification of the will.

These turnings make our lives ever new, ever fresh, like the dawning of 2014.

Can we not turn and turn and turn again towards the Light of the new this day and every day, becoming, like a mini-spiritual Merlin, younger and younger in the Life of Christ?

Happy New Year!
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