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Monday, 7 May 2012

Part 8--Love vs. Ideologies; the Church vs. Socialism

The Pope in Britain
Cor ad cor loquitur. Newman.

Fulton J. Sheen, (and I have repeated this story before), once told bishops that they did not have the power he did in public because he prayed one hour every morning on his knees before Christ in the Eucharist and they did not. This is so true as to seem simple....Bishop Sheen prayed before the vulnerable God, the incomprehensible God. I have highlighted St. Augustine's phrase below which fits into Sheen's need for daily adoration.

Pope Benedict's encyclical, which I have been reading very carefully here on this blog, continues with an interesting reference to Job.

38. Certainly Job could complain before God about the presence of incomprehensible and apparently unjustified suffering in the world. In his pain he cried out: “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! ... I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? ... Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me” (23:3, 5-6, 15-16). Often we cannot understand why God refrains from intervening. Yet he does not prevent us from crying out, like Jesus on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). We should continue asking this question in prayerful dialogue before his face: “Lord, holy and true, how long will it be?” (Rev 6:10). It is Saint Augustine who gives us faith's answer to our sufferings: “Si comprehendis, non est Deus”—”if you understand him, he is not God.” [35] Our protest is not meant to challenge God, or to suggest that error, weakness or indifference can be found in him. For the believer, it is impossible to imagine that God is powerless or that “perhaps he is asleep” (cf. 1 Kg 18:27). Instead, our crying out is, as it was for Jesus on the Cross, the deepest and most radical way of affirming our faith in his sovereign power. Even in their bewilderment and failure to understand the world around them, Christians continue to believe in the “goodness and loving kindness of God” (Tit 3:4). Immersed like everyone else in the dramatic complexity of historical events, they remain unshakably certain that God is our Father and loves us, even when his silence remains incomprehensible.

The Pope draws our attention to the necessity for complete Faith, Hope and Love in God.

39. Faith, hope and charity go together. Hope is practised through the virtue of patience, which continues to do good even in the face of apparent failure, and through the virtue of humility, which accepts God's mystery and trusts him even at times of darkness. Faith tells us that God has given his Son for our sakes and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! It thus transforms our impatience and our doubts into the sure hope that God holds the world in his hands and that, as the dramatic imagery of the end of the Book of Revelation points out, in spite of all darkness he ultimately triumphs in glory. Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light—and in the end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practise it because we are created in the image of God. To experience love and in this way to cause the light of God to enter into the world—this is the invitation I would like to extend with the present Encyclical.

I have highlighted this last section, as it is my personal experience, to have known the love of God and to have tried to allow God to enlarge my heart to go out to those He calls me to be with...not everyone, as I am limited. But, the few he places in my path are to be loved with God's Own Love.

We are not alone. The Pope concludes his masterpiece with references to the saints and the greatest saint, Mary, the Theotokos. Here is that conclusion.

40. Finally, let us consider the saints, who exercised charity in an exemplary way. Our thoughts turn especially to Martin of Tours († 397), the soldier who became a monk and a bishop: he is almost like an icon, illustrating the irreplaceable value of the individual testimony to charity. At the gates of Amiens, Martin gave half of his cloak to a poor man: Jesus himself, that night, appeared to him in a dream wearing that cloak, confirming the permanent validity of the Gospel saying: “I was naked and you clothed me ... as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt25:36, 40).[36] Yet in the history of the Church, how many other testimonies to charity could be quoted! In particular, the entire monastic movement, from its origins with Saint Anthony the Abbot († 356), expresses an immense service of charity towards neighbour. In his encounter “face to face” with the God who is Love, the monk senses the impelling need to transform his whole life into service of neighbour, in addition to service of God. This explains the great emphasis on hospitality, refuge and care of the infirm in the vicinity of the monasteries. It also explains the immense initiatives of human welfare and Christian formation, aimed above all at the very poor, who became the object of care firstly for the monastic and mendicant orders, and later for the various male and female religious institutes all through the history of the Church. The figures of saints such as Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, John of God, Camillus of Lellis, Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Giuseppe B. Cottolengo, John Bosco, Luigi Orione, Teresa of Calcutta to name but a few—stand out as lasting models of social charity for all people of good will. The saints are the true bearers of light within history, for they are men and women of faith, hope and love.
41. Outstanding among the saints is Mary, Mother of the Lord and mirror of all holiness. In theGospel of Luke we find her engaged in a service of charity to her cousin Elizabeth, with whom she remained for “about three months” (1:56) so as to assist her in the final phase of her pregnancy. “Magnificat anima mea Dominum”, she says on the occasion of that visit, “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Lk 1:46). In these words she expresses her whole programme of life: not setting herself at the centre, but leaving space for God, who is encountered both in prayer and in service of neighbour—only then does goodness enter the world. Mary's greatness consists in the fact that she wants to magnify God, not herself. She is lowly: her only desire is to be the handmaid of the Lord (cf. Lk 1:38, 48). She knows that she will only contribute to the salvation of the world if, rather than carrying out her own projects, she places herself completely at the disposal of God's initiatives. Mary is a woman of hope: only because she believes in God's promises and awaits the salvation of Israel, can the angel visit her and call her to the decisive service of these promises. Mary is a woman of faith: “Blessed are you who believed”, Elizabeth says to her (cf. Lk 1:45). TheMagnificat—a portrait, so to speak, of her soul—is entirely woven from threads of Holy Scripture, threads drawn from the Word of God. Here we see how completely at home Mary is with the Word of God, with ease she moves in and out of it. She speaks and thinks with the Word of God; the Word of God becomes her word, and her word issues from the Word of God. Here we see how her thoughts are attuned to the thoughts of God, how her will is one with the will of God. Since Mary is completely imbued with the Word of God, she is able to become the Mother of the Word Incarnate. Finally, Mary is a woman who loves. How could it be otherwise? As a believer who in faith thinks with God's thoughts and wills with God's will, she cannot fail to be a woman who loves. We sense this in her quiet gestures, as recounted by the infancy narratives in the Gospel. We see it in the delicacy with which she recognizes the need of the spouses at Cana and makes it known to Jesus. We see it in the humility with which she recedes into the background during Jesus' public life, knowing that the Son must establish a new family and that the Mother's hour will come only with the Cross, which will be Jesus' true hour (cf. Jn 2:4; 13:1). When the disciples flee, Mary will remain beneath the Cross (cf. Jn 19:25-27); later, at the hour of Pentecost, it will be they who gather around her as they wait for the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14).
42. The lives of the saints are not limited to their earthly biographies but also include their being and working in God after death. In the saints one thing becomes clear: those who draw near to God do not withdraw from men, but rather become truly close to them. In no one do we see this more clearly than in Mary. The words addressed by the crucified Lord to his disciple—to John and through him to all disciples of Jesus: “Behold, your mother!” (Jn 19:27)—are fulfilled anew in every generation. Mary has truly become the Mother of all believers. Men and women of every time and place have recourse to her motherly kindness and her virginal purity and grace, in all their needs and aspirations, their joys and sorrows, their moments of loneliness and their common endeavours. They constantly experience the gift of her goodness and the unfailing love which she pours out from the depths of her heart. The testimonials of gratitude, offered to her from every continent and culture, are a recognition of that pure love which is not self- seeking but simply benevolent. At the same time, the devotion of the faithful shows an infallible intuition of how such love is possible: it becomes so as a result of the most intimate union with God, through which the soul is totally pervaded by him—a condition which enables those who have drunk from the fountain of God's love to become in their turn a fountain from which “flow rivers of living water” (Jn 7:38). Mary, Virgin and Mother, shows us what love is and whence it draws its origin and its constantly renewed power. To her we entrust the Church and her mission in the service of love:
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son – the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely
to God's call
and thus became a wellspring
of the goodness which flows forth from him.
Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love him,
so that we too can become
capable of true love
and be fountains of living water
in the midst of a thirsting world.
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 25 December, the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, in the year 2005, the first of my Pontificate.

The boldface type is my own. What more can we say or pray but Jesus, take my heart and make it like unto Thine.

Here is the power to overcome all ideologies which separate the spirit from the body, religion from the marketplace, God from politics. We are body and soul, starting in eros, moving to agape, and then to caritas. Let it happen and the world would change....

Thank you, Holy Father, for these words for our times. And I quote another Pope, "Be not afraid." Do not be afraid to love.

for Anita and M.

Ministries in the Church are not just vocations, are not careers, but movements of love. No one should be out there doing activities for their own aggrandizement. Part 7 on Deus Caritas Est

The encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, moves one's thoughts from eros, to agape, to caritas. Now before I continue, I would like to emphasize that all of this movement is one of the heart. The conversion of a heart to Christ changes a life, to a life of love and service. Now, the parish life of caritas breaks down when a person, or a people do not convert. If a person or a people refuse to accept grace, the grace of repentance, then there can be no renewal of a parish. No amount of programs can renew a parish, unless these programs hit the heart with the Truth and Love of Christ. Unless the heart and mind are moved, either by eros, or through eros to agape, caritas will not happen. St. Bernard of Clairvaux created a movement of love outside himself, because he was in love with Christ. So too were St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila. St. Maximilian Kolbe and many, many other witnesses to the Faith.

Many people are closed to repentance, especially if they are contracepting or in marriages which need to be sanitized, excommunicated because of abortion, or in other stages of death. Without a personal prayer life, a personal openness to love, there is no renewal of a community.

Back to the encyclical: here is a radical reminder of the real Gospel message. 

Interior openness to the Catholic dimension of the Church cannot fail to dispose charity workers to work in harmony with other organizations in serving various forms of need, but in a way that respects what is distinctive about the service which Christ requested of his disciples. Saint Paul, in his hymn to charity (cf. 1 Cor 13), teaches us that it is always more than activity alone: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (v. 3). This hymn must be the Magna Carta of all ecclesial service; it sums up all the reflections on love which I have offered throughout this Encyclical Letter. Practical activity will always be insufficient, unless it visibly expresses a love for man, a love nourished by an encounter with Christ. My deep personal sharing in the needs and sufferings of others becomes a sharing of my very self with them: if my gift is not to prove a source of humiliation, I must give to others not only something that is my own, but my very self; I must be personally present in my gift.

Looking carefully at this section, one sees the call to get involved which each other on the personal level. I have highlighted the section which is important to our understanding of real love.

So, doing good deeds is not enough, as St. Paul says. Activity can be totally selfish, totally egotistical, totally unlovable. Without virtues, love is sterile.

Now, eros, which is the basic love of marriage, and the love of the mystics towards Christ, is the first step of the ladder of perfection. But, one moves, in maturity, to agape, the selfless serving in a family, to a partner, and to a community. This movement has to happen, or one is not making the journey to perfection.

Caritas, the activity of love, follows naturally, so that we no longer merely feel and rest in love, but act, in real, concrete ways. Without this concrete exhibition of love, we shall not gain heaven.

Harsh words, but Christ had harder words. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. Revelations 3:16

The great spiritual writers tell us that we actually cannot work in charity without the burning heart of love. Without love, there is no activity which, in the old words of the Church, gains merit.

Back to the encyclical: 35. This proper way of serving others also leads to humility. The one who serves does not consider himself superior to the one served, however miserable his situation at the moment may be. Christ took the lowest place in the world—the Cross—and by this radical humility he redeemed us and constantly comes to our aid. Those who are in a position to help others will realize that in doing so they themselves receive help; being able to help others is no merit or achievement of their own. This duty is a grace. The more we do for others, the more we understand and can appropriate the words of Christ: “We are useless servants” (Lk 17:10). We recognize that we are not acting on the basis of any superiority or greater personal efficiency, but because the Lord has graciously enabled us to do so. There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely then we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord's hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: “The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14).

Ministries in the Church are not just vocations, are not careers, but movements of love. No one should be out there doing activities for their own aggrandizement. 

One does not work in pro-life because of politics, but uses politics if necessary, and that is necessary. But, all is done through love.

36. When we consider the immensity of others' needs, we can, on the one hand, be driven towards an ideology that would aim at doing what God's governance of the world apparently cannot: fully resolving every problem. Or we can be tempted to give in to inertia, since it would seem that in any event nothing can be accomplished. At such times, a living relationship with Christ is decisive if we are to keep on the right path, without falling into an arrogant contempt for man, something not only unconstructive but actually destructive, or surrendering to a resignation which would prevent us from being guided by love in the service of others. Prayer, as a means of drawing ever new strength from Christ, is concretely and urgently needed. People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone. Piety does not undermine the struggle against the poverty of our neighbours, however extreme. In the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we have a clear illustration of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract from effective and loving service to our neighbour but is in fact the inexhaustible source of that service. In her letter for Lent 1996, Blessed Teresa wrote to her lay co-workers: “We need this deep connection with God in our daily life. How can we obtain it? By prayer”.

All the boldface type is my emphasis. Now, look at this section above. No prayer, no love, no action in Christ. Prayer gives us the Heart of God and takes away our cold, small, shriveled hearts

37. It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work. Clearly, the Christian who prays does not claim to be able to change God's plans or correct what he has foreseen. Rather, he seeks an encounter with the Father of Jesus Christ, asking God to be present with the consolation of the Spirit to him and his work. A personal relationship with God and an abandonment to his will can prevent man from being demeaned and save him from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism. An authentically religious attitude prevents man from presuming to judge God, accusing him of allowing poverty and failing to have compassion for his creatures. When people claim to build a case against God in defence of man, on whom can they depend when human activity proves powerless?

I repeat: Prayer gives us the Heart of God and takes away our cold, small, shriveled hearts. And the Pope warns us of communism and socialism in the highlighted section above. Are Catholics paying attention to this warning? Fanaticism and terrorism--socialism and communism, even Islam, which is a highly materialistic creed.

May I add my favorite saint, St. Bernard of Clairvaux's words on this journey to caritas: thanks to this link

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux Four Degress of Love…
since we are carnal and are born of the lust of the flesh, it must be that our desire and our love shall have its beginning in the flesh. But rightly guided by the grace of God through these degrees, it will have its consummation in the spirit: for that was not first which is spiritual but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual (I Cor. 15.46).
 1.      At first, man loves himself for his own sake. That is the flesh, which can appreciate nothing beyond itself.
2.      Next, he perceives that he cannot exist by himself, and so begins by faith to seek after God, and to love Him as something necessary to his own welfare. When he has learned to worship God and to seek Him aright, meditating on God, reading God’s Word, praying and obeying His commandments, he comes gradually to know what God is, and finds Him altogether lovely.
3.      So, having tasted and seen how gracious the Lord is (Ps. 34.8), he advances to the third degree, when he loves God, not merely as his benefactor but as God.
4.      The fourth degree and perfect condition wherein man loves himself solely for God’s sake. Let any who have attained so far bear record; I confess it seems beyond my powers…For then in wondrous wise he will forget himself and as if delivered from self, he will grow wholly God’s. Joined unto the Lord, he will then be one spirit with Him (I Cor. 6.17).”
Can one begin to see why socialists and communists hate real marriage, the unit of family, the domestic Church which leads to the greater loves between God and humans? Can one begin to understand why homage to the State destroys love and therefore, the work of the Church on earth?

To be continued.....