O Lord Thou shalt open my lips and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Clear the Soil, That You May be Intimate There With the Lord

Sexagesima Sunday - II Class
Missa Exsurge


Epistle: II Cor. 11:19-33; 12:1-9 [St. Paul tells of his shipwrecks and perils inthe sea, all the torments he endured for the Name of Christ. Let us "therefore glory in our infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in us."]
Brethren, You gladly suffer the foolish: whereas yourselves are wise. For you suffer if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take from you, if a man be lifted up, if a man strike you on the face. I speak according to dishonor, as if we had been weak in the past. Wherein if any man dare (I speak foolishly), I dare also. They are Hebrews, so am I. They are Israelites, so am I. They are the seed of Abraham, so am I. They are the ministers of Christ (I speak as one less wise), I am more: in many more labors, in prisons more frequently, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times did I receive forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I was in the depth of the sea: in journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils from my own nation, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils from false brethren: in labor and painfulness, in much watching, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness; besides those things which are without, my daily instance, the solicitude for all the Churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is scandalized, and I am not on fire? If I must needs glroy, I will glory of the things that concern my infirmity. The God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for ever, knoweth that I lie not. At Damascus the governor of the nation under Aretas the king, guarded the city of the Damascenes, to apprehend me: and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and so escaped his hands. If I must glory (it is not expedient indeed) but I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, whether in the body I know not, or out of the body, I know not, God knoweth, such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man, whether in the body or out of the body, I know not, God knoweth: that he was caught up unto paradise, and heard secret words which it is not granted to man to utter. For such a one I will glory: but for myself I will glory nothing but in my infirmities. For though I should have a mind to glory, I shall not be foolish: for I will say the truth: but I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth in me, or anything he heareth from me. And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me, there was given me a sting of my flesh, and angel of Satan, to buffet me. For which thing, thrice I besought the Lord that it might depart from me. And He said to me: my grace is sufficient for thee: for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Gospel: Lk. 8:4-15 [Jesus, in the boat, on the shores of the lake of Galilee, preaches the parable of the sower.]
At that time, when a very great multitude was gathered together and hastened out of the cities unto Jesus, He spoke by a similitude: The sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the wayside, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And other some fell upon a rock: and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And other some fell among thorns, and the thorns growing up with it choked it. And other some fell upon good ground: and being sprung up yielded fruit a hundredfold. Saying these things, He cried out: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And His disciples asked Him what this parable might be. To whom He said: To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to the rest in parables: that seeing they may not see, and hearing may not understand. Now the parable is this. The seed is the word of God. And they by the wayside are they that hear: then the devil cometh and taketh the word out of their heart, lest believing they should be saved. Now they upon the rock are they who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no roots: for they believe for a while, and in time of temptation they fall away. And that which fell away among thorns are they who have heard and, going their way, are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and yield no fruit. But on the good ground are they who in a good and perfect heart, hearing the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience.

Today we hear of the various obstacles that can kill someone's faith. The thorns that choke it, the stones that prevent it from growing. We encounter these obstacles ourselves in our own lives and in the lives of our neighbors. We might be in sin and hear the word of God. It's attractive, but the sins of the world are more attractive. These are like the seed in the road. Such people are certainly the majority, which begs the question, "Why scatter so much seed on the road?"-but far be it from me to question the Almighty. Others among us hear the word and it begins to grow. However, due to the lack of support and encouragement, their faith dies. Many Catholics experience this right after Confirmation. These are those among stones. Others live the faith, but after a while, fall into sin. These include those who apostatize to another religion away from Catholicism. These include those who fall away gradually. They miss Mass once a month. Then a few times. Then they only go once a month. Then not at all.

Those on good soil are those who persevere. They do not have it easy however. They are surrounded by rocks, thorns, and road. They have a little pocket of soil. These are those who have their own private place, which is more interior and spiritual than it is exterior and physical. In this place they are able to grow, all the while surrounded by the sins of the world. This little "pocket of Heaven" does not create itself. We need to clear out stones and thorns. We need to create our own "personal space" where we can spend time with Our Nymphios (Bridegrom), a place where we can forget the problems of the world, get away from our troubles and spend a little while alone in prayer relaxing in Our Divine Lover's tranquil serenity. We need these moments in order to unwind and relax, or else the stresses of life will easily overwhelm us. We need to be able to get away from all the things in life that stress us, that tempt us to waste time on things that we don't really need and only give us empty pleasure, things that lead our attention away from God and the tranquil serenity He offers us if we spend time alone with Him, One on one, tuning out everything else that's going on. The rocks and thorns will overwhelm us if we don't get rid of them and pull them up from our lives, that we can have that personal space where we can get away from it all and just be with Our Lord.

We must get rid of all the stones and thorns that get in the way of intimacy with Our Lord. We will quickly find that it is not easy. It is very difficult. We have grown very strong attachments to these things. We need to pray and ask God to help us break our attachments to things that prevent us from spend more time alone with Him. We also see these same problems in our neighbors. Everyone around us had to struggle against the same sinful world with the same stones and same thorns. So we help our neighbor. If our neighbor won't listen to us, then we pray for him. Even if he won't let us help him in any way, we can always help him by praying for him. We can do many things to help him. The most powerful thing is pray. Even if we can't do anything else, we can pray.

Monday, February 21, 2011

13th Century Fallen-Away Catholics in Cohabitation, Also: True Love.

Commemoration of St. Margaret of Cortona, penitent

I love all saints who are penitents. St. Margaret of Cortona is an especially good one. I wrote about her recently. She died on the feast of the Chair of Peter in the year 1297, and is listed in the martyrology on that day only, but I'll do her today because her day is obviously impeded. The day after is St. Peter Damian and he's to important to cover up. I could say much about her. When I spoke of her last, I spoke about true love vs. false love. I wanted to speak of her pride, but I decided to save it for today. We all know young people with a sense of pride. It's one of the most defining characteristics of that age group. St. Margret was no exception. She was born at Laviano in Tuscany in 1247. She was a strong-willed teenager. She wanted to "get away from her parents" and live life her own way. She didn't want to have to obey some authority figure because she was already grown up and could do what she wanted and didn't want her parents or God bossing her around. She was a big girl. She could live life however she wanted and be with whatever person she wanted. Stop me if you've heard this one before. Go to confession if this sounds like you.

So our little Margaret is "all grown up". She isn't some little girl, she's a grown woman. The problem is, she isn't a grown woman, she's a teenager that is proud and stubborn and wants her own way. If parents say the contrary, then they're wrong. What teenager doesn't fit this mold? Margaret, now college-age, decides to co-habit with her boyfriend. She lives with him for 9 years (until she's 27) and bears him a son. She wanted to marry him, but he was never really willing. So her chief sins were pride, lust, and sloth, for she was a fallen-away Catholic this whole time. She was freed from her life of concubinage by his murder. The killer was never found. He was found in a ditch several days later. That served as a wake-up call to revert back to the faith. She lived a life of severe penance. She was many times tempted to go back to her sinful life. She stayed strong and joined the third order of St. Francis at Cortona. She received private revelations from Christ, who became her mystical lover. After three years of penance, the revelations got more intense and Christ became more intimate with her, as she had worked off all of her temporal punishment from her life of sin. She is depicted with a crucifix to symbolize these revelations and mystical marriage to Christ. Aside form her conversion, she is famous for being a mystic and founding a group of sisters who worked in a hospital. She is incorrupt and buried in Cortona.

There are many, nay, most, teens today that act just like her and continue to do so long after their 20th birthday. When it comes to love, the mentality is about "getting something out of it". It's all about either the sexual pleasure or the romantic pleasure. The couple descends into what I call the "economy of pleasure". The boy gives the girl romantic pleasure in order to get sexual pleasure. The girl gives the guy sexual pleasure to get romantic pleasure. As long as this "you scratch my back, I scratch yours" agreement keeps flowing back and forth, the two are happy together, even though they are just using each other to get to happiness and calling it "love". At this point boys will do all sorts of crazy, ridiculous, and embarrassing things to impress a girl to which they're attracted, just to be able to have sex with her. He will expose himself to ridicule and degrade himself just to get the girl to have sex with him. The girl, inversely, will do all sorts of things to give him sexual pleasure, be it a sexual act or just simply the way she dresses, in order to please him enough to get him to give her romantic pleasure. She will turn her body from the greatest masterpiece of the Divine Artist, God's ultimate creation, and degrade herself just to get the boy to have give her romantic pleasure. For both the boy and the girl, this is an obsession. It is an obsession with a certain type of pleasure, whether it be romantic or sexual, and being willing to degrade your own self and destroy the dignity God gave you just to get to that pleasure. This is sin. The boy and the girl both destroy themselves just to get this passing pleasure.  The pleasure passes and like a cup with no bottom they need more, and the girl will degrade her body by having letting him have sex with it and the boy will degrade himself by doing foolish things to get sex.

They are addicted and will do anything to leech the pleasure they seek from the one they "love". This is not love. I'll tell you what love is. Love, like these addictions, is a force greater than yourself, it consumes you. However, it does not bring anxiety and does not trouble you or cause you to madly crave the pleasure you seek. Love gives you tranquility and serenity, it gives you true peace. You love the person. It hit you like a ton of bricks and now you don't want anything out of them. Rather, you want to give yourself to them and be with them. In other words, you want companionship. This companionship is a deep and close friendship within the context of a romantic relationship, motivated by your love for that person. You do not want lust; it would be nice, but isn't a priority. Rather you want the companionship of the person you love. The underlying mentality is not one of an action towards you, the reception of sexual or romantic pleasure. Rather the underlying mentality is one of an action away from you. You want to give yourself to the other person. When I say that you want companionship, it is not a mentality of "I want the person to come here towards me and be with me." That is the mentality behind lust. The mentality behind lust is "I want to go over there to that person, give my very self to them and be with them." Love gives; it does not desire to receive. Love is completely self-less and self-giving. For this reason pride is completely incompatible and kills love quite easily.

This is why so many people cannot find lasting love today. This is why we have so many broken homes, single mothers, divorce, and cohabitation. They get consumed by the "economy of pleasure" and never experience actual love. They often care about the person and have good intentions, but unless the mentality is one of giving yourself completely to the other while not wanting any pleasure in return, it is not love. It is so easy to care about the person and have good intentions while still wanting to get them to fulfill your dreams of romance or carnal union. That is not love. It is manipulating someone you care about because you care about your romantic or sexual dreams more than you care about that person. The foundation of their relationship is weak and that is why so very few relationships last for a long time. The foundation is not that companionship, that romantic friendship. They might both want that romantic friendship, but have great difficulty in getting it to work because they want to get either sexual or romantic pleasure out of it. That desire for pleasure gets in the way and chokes the romantic friendship, preventing it from developing and this is what causes the break-up or divorce. If they really loved each other with that true, honest, self-giving love, then it would be easy to establish that romantic friendship. There would be no desire for happiness or pleasure in the way because love is self-giving and seeks nothing for self. They look to get some sort of happiness out of it instead of looking to give themselves to another person. They are acting in the wrong direction: towards themselves instead of away from themselves. Today is the day to pray for their conversion. We began the season of Septuagesima yesterday. For the next two months, we have nothing but penance leading up to Easter. Everyday is the day to pray for their conversion. Santa Margarita, ora pro nobis.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Class Act: Fighting a Girl

From FoxNews via WDTPRS:
A young man in Iowa, Joel Northrup, a home-schooled sophomore, forfeited a match rather than wrestle a girl opponent. He said wrestling a girl would conflict with his religious beliefs.

Good for him.

If women and girls want to have a separate wrestling organization, fine. Well, not fine. Wrestling? I think that’s a bad idea either way… but at least have it be separated.

Inter-sex wrestling should only be private and after the marriage is witnessed by the Church.
I say this for two reasons. First, the male wrestler is a class act. He refused to fight a girl. He said it was for religious reasons. There are several religious reasons here. I don't know which one was going through his head, but there are none the less several religious reasons here. First, God created man male and female, each of equal dignity, but very different dignity. The woman, by her role in the procreation of children, is given the dignity of participating in the Creator's act to a much greater degree than the man. The man is placed in charge of the woman to lead her and care for her and their children. Fighting a girl is clearly opposed to this. Second, wrestling with a girl is an occasion of the sin of lust, so it should be avoided. Which leads me to the second reason for posting this: Fr. Z's line about inter-sex wrestling is drop-dead hilarious.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Broken Heart of Jesus

From St. Theresa of Avila's "Way of Perfection"
From any sin, however small, committed with full knowledge, may God deliver us, especially since we are sinning against so great a Sovereign and realizing that He is watching us! That seems to me to be a sin committed of malice aforethought; it is as though one were to say: "Lord, although this displeases Thee, I shall do it. I know that Thou seest it and I know that Thou wouldst not have me do it; but, though I understand this, I would rather follow my own whim and desire than Thy will." If we commit a sin in this way, however slight, it seems to me that our offence is not small but very, very great.

Those of you that are married or engaged: imagine that the one you love were to say this statement to you. That is how the Lord feels when we say this to Him whenever we sin. We are His Bride. We break the Sacred Heart by our sins. He loved us, so much so, that He was even willing to die for us. When "it hits you like a ton of bricks" that you love someone and "you just know", you are willing to die for that person. There is no hesitation, you are completely and perfectly willing to die for that person. Christ loved us unto death. We repaid that love with rejection and sin.

Imagine that you having fallen in deeply love with someone, an honest love, you are not looking to get something out of being with them, you honestly love them, want to be with them, want to be companions through life with them, and want to be with them in heaven. Now imagine that they respond to this love you offer them, an offering of your very self, by rejecting you, running off with another, committing all sorts of grave sins, living their lives with another, all of it without you. That is what is happening to Christ. He loves us, His Bride the Church in this manner, wanting to be with us and to be companions through life with Him; offering His very self on the cross, which we receive in the Eucharist. We respond to this honest love and complete giving of self by rejecting Him, running off with other things which we allow to be the gods of our lives, committing all sorts of grave sins, living our lives with other gods, all of it without Christ. How can anyone consider this thought and not respond with true sorrow for their sins and those of the whole world?

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Priest Teaches Us About Marriage

Commemoration of St. Valentine, martyr & confessor

Today is only a commemoration in the calendar we use now, but it used to be an actual feast up until the 1962 edition. There are actually two St. Valentines today. One is St. Valentine the bishop. He is not well known. The other St. Valentine is the famous one. Both are in the martyrology for today. Only St. Valentine the priest is on the calendar. The famous St. Valentine was a priest & martyr (hence the involvement of the color red) of Rome who officiated at weddings when marriage was forbidden by the romans. At that time, the romans thought that celibate soldiers were better than married soldiers, so they banned marriage for the sake of the army. Nowadays, this feast is been hijacked to glorify lust. It has gone from defending marriage to promoting lust. People have allowed focus to drop from marriage to romance and any sort of "hook-up" you can get because society pressures people into making this about romance in general when St. Valentine was just about the dignity of marriage.

The same way that St. Valentine fought against the romans defending the dignity of marriage, we must fight the modern world in defending the dignity of marriage. It is not just defending marriage against sodomy. Marriage is a giving of self, not a quest for pleasure. Marriage is a giving, not a receiving. This is the root of the difference between the way the world sees marriage and what marriage actually is. Getting to the root of a difference, the underlying mentality, is key. It gives you a vast amount of information. Marriage is the giving of your very self to create life. The world falsely claims that marriage is the joining of two people for the happiness of the two. Marriage is a giving for the good of others. The world says it is a receiving for your own happiness. At that point, you could theoretically marry anyone that can make you happy. You could marry the other sex, the same sex, an animal, whatever gives you pleasure. However, not all of those things can create life. Marriage exists to create life. Marriage is a giving for the good of others. At that point, at least two things become mandatory. First the other person must be of the opposite sex. Second, you must look out for their good. Their "good", in the long run, means heaven. That means doing everything in your power to get them to heaven. If you truly love your spouse, you will do everything possible to get them to heaven. Anyone who promotes sodomy prevents the attainment of Heaven, on top of the fact that sodomy can not procreate, which is the very reason why it is intrinsically evil-always evil, no matter the circumstances.

This day has been perverted to praise lust instead of the dignity of marriage, which is the only thing it actually concerns. This day has been hijacked by pleasure seekers as much as Vatican II was hijacked by modernists. This day praises the "economy of pleasure". The "economy of pleasure" is the balance between male and female in relationships where they look not for the good of the other (i.e. heaven) but rather for their own personal happiness with the other person. The male gives the female romantic pleasure in exchange for sexual pleasure. Every romantic thing he does is to get sex. The female does the inverse with the same measure of manipulativeness. Every sexual act she performs with him is to get more romantic pleasure. Every little amount of sexual pleasure she gives him, even if it is just wearing revealing clothing that arouses lust, is done to get more romantic pleasure. On this greatly perverted day, commercialism pushes women to demand romance and men forced to be romantic or relationship struggles. Society pushes men use this day as excuse for lustful sex.

The world says that romance, sex, and marriage is all about pleasure and "finding happiness with someone". That is just a polite way of saying that romance, sex, and marriage is all about using other people to get pleasure of one sort or another. The pleasure (sexual or otherwise) is more important than the other person. The eternal good of the other, is not as important as having pleasurable moments. Moments that *you* find happy and pleasurable are prioritized over the soul and eternal well-being of the other person. Marriage is the giving of your very self to create life. We must defend this, with our lives if necessary. St. Valentine defended the dignity of marriage, even with his very life, and we must do likewise.A Priest Teaches Us About Marriage

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Leaven of Purity

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany - II Class
Missa Adorate Deum

Epistle: I Thess. 1:2-10
[The word of God produces in the hearts of Christians the wonders of faith, hope and charity.]
Brethren, We give thanks to God always for you all, making a rembrance of you in our prayers without ceasing, being mindful of the work of your faith and labor and charity, and of the enduring of the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ before God and our Father: knowing, brethren beloved of God, your election: for our Gospel hath not been unto you in word only, but in power also, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much fulness, as you know what manner of men we have been among you for your sakes. And you became followers of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in much tribulation, with joy of the Holy Ghost: so that you were made a pattern to all that believe in Macedonia and in Achaia. For from you was spread abroad the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and in Achaia, but also in every place your faith, which is towards God, is gone forth, so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves relate of us what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven (Whom He raised from the dead), Jesus, who hath delivered us from the wrath to come.

Gospel: Mt. 13:31-35 [The parables of the mustard seed and the leaven.]
At that time Jesus spoke to the multitudes this parable: The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field: which is the least indeed of all seeds but when it is grown up, it is greater than all herbs and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and dwell in the branches thereof. Another parable He spoke to them: The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened. All these things Jesus spoke in parables to the multitudes: and without parables He did not speak to them: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world.

Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Valentine. Well, sort of. It is only a commemoration in the calendar we use now, but it used to be an actual feast up until the 1962 edition. Of course I have to say something about it. St. Valentine was a priest & martyr (hence the involvement of the color red) who officiated at weddings when such things were forbidden by the ancient romans. Now, this feast is been hijacked to glorify lust. This day was about the dignity of marriage, but it was perverted from being about marriage to about romance in general. That then is used to pressure people into doing romantic things to get sex. People are pressured into getting a date for one day just to be able to participate. People are made to feel inadequate if they can't get a date or if they have a date, but don't have sex. St. Valentine's day used to be about the dignity of marriage & how St. Valentine defended it in the face of the romans who outlawed all marriage believing that celibate soldiers were better fighters. Now it has been perverted to be about not marriage, but rather romance. It is no longer about defending healthy holy marriage, but rather it is now about being able to be romantic. As a result, everyone is pressured into doing romantic things to arrive at lustful pleasure or else they are "failures".

This becomes what is called the "economy of pleasure". The male gives the female romantic pleasure in exchange for sexual pleasure. The female gives the male sexual pleasure in exchange for romantic pleasure. This economy is not about giving to the other but rather it is about getting what you want. It all pivots on the question "How much are you willing to do to get what you want?" Giving to the other person and taking care of the other person have nothing to do with the economy of pleasure. It is not about giving to the other, but rather taking from the other. This economy is promoted and exploited in order to stimulate the financial economy. Ask anyone with a Y chromosome, this St. Valentine's day is about the money. It's only for the companies that make all the tacky garbage that's used to convince women to be lustful.

All this is very exploitive and addicting and it can be very difficult a habit to break. Lust is quite possibly the hardest vice to give up. What one must realize in regards to lust (and especially when trying to give it up) is that the human body is God's ultimate creation. Among physical creation, the human body was the last and greatest thing made. The body is the greatest masterpiece of the Divine Artist. The human body is not something to be used for pleasure. It does not exist for lust. It does not exist to give us carnal pleasure. The body is God's artwork, and the greatest of God's physical creations. Of all the beautiful things in creation it is the most beautiful. For this, the body has a certain dignity and to use it for lustful pleasure is a desecration. Lust degrades the body from God's greatest masterpiece to a piece of meat to be exploited and manipulated for lustful pleasure.

The body has also another dignity. It is allowed to participate in creation. The begetting of children is a privilege given by God to the body. The Creator allows us to participate in His act of creation. That is what sex is, not some act of pleasure. To use the sexual act for lustful pleasure instead of procreation is a grave desecration of a holy act used to participate in creation. It degrades the sexual act from it's marital procreative dignity, which brings with it a certain union with God in the Sacrament of Marriage, to a human act which by it's sinful nature separates us from God. That great dignity is gone. The act's nature has changed from being a vital part of one of the Seven Sacraments to a mortal sin. Instead of being a fulfillment of one's dignity, it is a serious addiction that controls you and consumes you whole.

This addiction is the single hardest to break. The saints comment frequently on sins of impurity. They tell us that sexual sins are the sins that send the most people to hell. They tell us that when the devil tempts with other sins, he is fishing with a hook; but when he tempts with lust, he is fishing with a net. When one has become addicted to lust and caught in it's snare, it is extremely difficult to break free from. When you are in this trap, you has to remember the dignity of the body, both it's dignity as God's masterpiece as well as it's dignity as participating in creation. It is not for pleasure. It's is God's greatest creation. Of all the beautiful things in creation it is the most beautiful. To break free of lust, you must do two things. First, you must have the intention of respecting the body's God-given dignity as masterpiece and as instrument of creation and pray. You must constantly remind ourself of the body's dignity and remind yourself of of your intention to respect that dignity.

Second, You must constantly pray for strength in breaking free this most consuming of addictions. The saints recommend three Ave Marias in the morning when rising and three at night when going to bed asking for purity. They say that this is quite successful. It doesn't seem like much and you start out very weak, but remember the leaven in today's Gospel. The leaven is a small quantity added to three large quantities of flour. Even though the leaven is so small in relation to the flour, it still leavens the entire batch. It also leavens slowly. It takes a while to develop strength against lust or any other addiction. It is hard at first as you have no momentum. Once you develop a little bit of momentum, it is much easier. It takes a while to get the leaven to raise the dough, but once the dough begins to rise, there is no stopping the leaven. Likewise, the beginning of this process of breaking free of lust is like unto the mustard seed, which is the size of a coarse grain of sand. It is small, but when fully grown is one of the largest bushes. Purity starts small, oppressed by the temptations of the flesh, but when allowed to grow and once the person has finally broken free, purity is one of the greatest of virtues and it imparts one of the greatest dignities on the person.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Learning from Confession

I've spent some time meditating on and studying confession and it's inner workings. I was working on the relationship between confession and the penance. A question one could ask is, "If absolution removes all punishment and consequences of sin, then why does the penance exist?" If one fails to say his penance, it is a sin. However, it is a new sin. The previous sins are still forgiven. Absolution is not conditional on the performance of the penance. So then, why the penance? A classic example is that of a board of wood. Sin is like putting a nail in it. Confession is like removing said nail. The penance is like filling that hole. It felt like common sense to read the Catechism. Obviously I'm talking about the Roman Catechism (Catechism of the Council of Trent), not the new Catechism. Some other thoughts then occurred to me. Confession heals the wounds inflicted by sin. That leaves a scar. The scar is removed by penance. Why the scar? Why not heal completely such that no scar is left? Why does Confession not heal the scar? It certainly could. However, God doesn't want it to. The Roman Catechism quotes the Council of Trent. To paraphrase, God demands a penance so that we might learn from our sins. If sins were to be remitted easily (which they could be), then we would not appreciate just how grievous they are. They would seem like minor trifles To gain an appreciation for the seriousness of sin, we are bound to a penance. The penance then must be painful or laborious, but such labor needs not be intense. The work might be no more laborious than reciting three Ave Marias. The penance also has the added purpose of beginning to restore the lost relationship with God. Like the opening deposit in a bank account, it is the first step in an improved relationship with God.

Similarly when we forgive, our forgiveness of our debtors is not conditional on restitution or satisfaction of any kind. When we forgive, that act is an act of no longer holding a grudge, forgetting the injury, and not desiring any sort of punishment or revenge. However it is still just in many cases to demand satisfaction. Suppose someone steals something of your property. You forgive them, but also demand restitution. The forgiveness is not conditional on the restitution. They are already forgiven. If they fail to make restitution, you will not hold a grudge or seek revenge. However, justice still demands restitution. It is a matter of making the thief honest, making him realize the seriousness of his crime, and starting him on an honest life. The restitution is the good work of giving something to another without expecting payment which makes it the first step towards an honest life. So the act of restitution (the penance) is not done so much as a penalty (although in a certain sense it is a penalty), but rather for the person's own good.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Most Intimate Moment with Our Bridegroom

From St. Theresa of Avila's "Way of Perfection" (Here she speaks of the moment immediately after receiving Holy Communion; the most intimate moment with Our Nymphios [Bridegroom], who is called Ecce Homo in the West):
Delight to remain with Him; do not lose such an excellent time for talking with Him as the hour after Communion. Remember that this is a very profitable hour for the soul; if you spend it in the company of the good Jesus, you are doing Him a great service. Be very careful, then, daughters, not to lose it. If you are compelled by obedience to do something else, try to leave your soul with the Lord. For He is your Master, and, though it be in a way you may not understand, He will not fail to teach you. But if you take your thoughts elsewhere, and pay no more attention to Him than if you had not received Him, and care nothing for His being within you, how can He make Himself known to you? You must complain, not of Him, but of yourself. This, then, is a good time for our Master to teach us and for us to listen to Him. I do not tell you to say no prayers at all, for if I did you would take hold of my words and say I was talking about contemplation, which you need practise only if the Lord brings you to it. No: you should say the Paternoster, realize that you are verily and indeed in the company of Him Who taught it you and kiss His feet in gratitude to Him for having desired to teach you and beg Him to show you how to pray and never to leave you.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Love & Patience

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost - II Class
Missa Adorate Deum

Epistle: Col. 3:12-17
[Forgive one another. Do everything for Christ.]
Brethren, Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience: bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another: even as the Lord hath forgiven you, so do you also. But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection: and let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body: and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly, in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God. All whatsoever you do in word or work, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gospel: Matth. 13:24-30 [Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat.]
At that time Jesus spoke this parable to the multitudes: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a man that sowed good seed in his field. But while men were asleep, his enemy came and oversowed cockle among the wheat, and went his way. And when the blade was sprung up and had brought forth fruit, then appeared also the cockle. And the servants of the goodman of the house coming, said to him: Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? Whence then hath it cockle? And he said to them: An enemy hath done this. And the servants said to him: Wilt thou that we go and gather it up? and he said: No, lest perhaps, gathering up the cockle, you root up the wheat also together with it. Suffer both to grow until the harvest, and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers: Gather up first the cockle and bind it into bundles to burn, but the wheat gather ye into my barn.

In today's Secret, we say that we offer this sacrifice of propitiation, that the Lord may absolve our sins and direct our inconstant hearts. One way in which many of us are inconstant is in forgiving others. St. Paul today exhorts us to have patience: bearing with one another and forgiving one another. Many times it is not easy to have patience. Sometimes the person is quick to repent and ask forgiveness. Other times, the person nags us incessantly each day. Their bothersome points are each small, but are so numerous that they add up to a very annoying person that nags us to death. Such faults are much more difficult to forgive. As another example, a man falls in love with a girl, only to have her be unfaithful and lie in bed with another man. This goes on for some time, while the two are forced to spend time apart for some completely unrelated reason. This man goes on knowing that another man is with the girl he loves. Her body has been given to another. Another man is living his life, while he has nothing.

In both cases, we are in the right; we were the one wronged; another person sinned against us. This takes an even greater measure of patience. We can complain and get angry, but that anger only makes us sinners. We were in the right, but by reducing ourselves to anger we become wrong and guilty of jealousy and rivalry and anger. The sin of another causes us to sin. The girl lay with another, so now you are guilty of wanting to take a shotgun and shoot off the faces of her lovers, the lips that kissed what he had no right to kiss, the eyes that saw what he had no right to see. Just because they are wrong, doesn't make you right. Their sin does not justify your sin. Likewise, your sin does not justify theirs. They are guilty of impurity, you are guilty of anger. You both become wrong. This is why patience is so important.

Another thing to consider, is that Christ, Who was crucified for the whole lot of you, wants to forgive you all. The only thing that prevents Him from doing so, is that each of us must be contrite, regret your sins, in order to be forgiven. God is not only loving, but also just. Therefore, because of His justice, He does not forgive anyone unless that person lets Him. This whole time that she's reducing her body to an object of pleasure (for her body is God's artwork, the masterpiece of physical creation and not an object of carnal pleasure) and your fantasizing about dismembering her lover, all of you suffering, Christ is suffering on the cross, waiting to forgive you all. So do not be a sinner, being angry or impure, but rather be patient like Christ on the cross, wanting to forgive and praying for the conversion of the sinner.

Further, if she goes to confession (which we all pray that she will), she is forgiven by Christ. If at that point, you still are impatient and unwilling to forgive, you are even more guilty than you were before, since God Himself forgave her. So for you to be stubborn and still not forgive, makes you even more wrong than before in your unwillingness than before-while Christ was willing the whole time. If you really loved this girl, you would pray for her conversion. Pilatus dixit, "Quid est veritas?"; ego dico, "Quid est caritas?" (Pilate said, "What is truth?"; I say, "What is love?") Love is wanting the happiness of another in eternity, as opposed to being nice, which is wanting their happiness in this life. So if you truly love her, you'll pray for her. If anyone offends you in any way, you'll pray for the person's conversion. That's love.

We get another lesson in forgiveness at every Mass in the Pater Noster. In it we say, "Demitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris". (Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who tresspass against us".) This is my favorite line in the Pater for a number of reasons. Today, I'll give you one. It is not two pieces as many make it out to be, but rather one single statement. In it, we demand that God take the measure we use to forgive others and use it to forgive us. Ergo, the more we forgive others, the more God will forgive us and the less we forgive others, the less that God will forgive us. This is why patience is so important.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

She defended her body with her life.

Feast of St. Agatha - III Class

Today's Office tells us much about St. Agatha as so much of it is proper, since she is a major saint in Rome, with her name in the Canon. She was a sicilian noble arrested in Catania under the emperor Decius and the governor Quintianus. Naturally, since virgins could not be executed under Roman law, Quintianus tried desperately to get her to loose her virginity so he could kill her. After seeing this was vain, he had her tortured. She was beaten and placed on the rack where she had hot iron plates put on her skin and then had a breast cut off. Later that night, in prison, St. Peter appeared to her and cured her. At the responsories at Matins we hear: "While the blessed Agatha was being grievously tortured in the breasts, she said to the judge * Thou foul, cruel, and bloody tyrant, art thou not ashamed to do this to me, having thyself sucked at a mother's breast? V. I have breasts within, which have been the Lord's from my childhood, and them thou canst not mangle." And then: "Who art thou, who comest to heal my wounds? I am an Apostle of Christ have no fear of me, my daughter He hath sent me to thee * Whom thy soul and thy pure heart love. V. For I am His Apostle, and I bid thee know that thou art healed in the Name of Him."

Once again before the governor, she refused to deny Christ, so he had her rolled over broken pottery and burning coals. An earthquake then hit the city and the governor, fearing a riot, had Agatha secretly returned to prison. She died there on February 5. All this because she refused to loose her virginity. She ended up dying in order to preserve her virginity. What do we have today? Young girls who want to loose their virginity in order to win the favor of boys. They want to advertise their bodies to be more appealing through lewd clothing and cosmetics. They treat sex as something casual, for fun, that you do with someone you trust. Sex has been degraded to a glorified kiss. It is no longer treated for what it is: an expression of married love that uses pleasure to procreate. For as long as sex is treated as a glorified kiss, there will never be chastity among the youth. They must see it as it is. It is not a glorified kiss or the "next level". It is an expression of married love that uses pleasure to procreate. The human body is not something to be used for pleasure, it is the masterpiece of the Divine Artist. The human body is a work of art created by God, the masterpiece of physical creation. It is not something to be used for pleasure. To use your body to get a boyfriend is to get him to love your body instead of you. How many chaste teen boys are alone because they are not after sin but companionship; that they are "boring" instead of "fun"; that "If he isn't pressuring me for sex then he isn't attracted to me."? How many chaste teen girls are alone because they refuse to let their bodies be degraded to objects of pleasure? Not many I'm afraid, for chastity is something to be reviled in this world. Instead, sex is seen as normal for all couples, as a right, as a glorified kiss. Sancta Agatha, ora pro nobis.