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Saturday, 15 November 2014

Without Contemplatives, There Can Be No Holy Action

Jacques Maritain was called to a world-wide mission of reconstructing Thomism in the modern world. His wife, Raissa, was called to pray for him while he did this, and to pray for priests in the renewal of the works of St. Thomas Aquinas.

They made a celibate commitment, which I have written about and will post again at the end of this posting.

What these two, husband and wife, came to understand was that without some people in the Catholic Church giving their lives to almost constant contemplative prayer, there can be no worthwhile activity in the Church.

One of the main reasons the Church is weak is that we simply do not have the backup of hours of prayer, contemplative prayer, which use to exist in the Church.

The demise of the great contemplative orders, either because of heresy, shrinkage, or disappearance entirely, and the lack of understanding among the laity that many lay persons are also called to contemplation, cause the lack of strength for the Church. The Maritains knew this and wrote about this. Action without contemplation almost always is based on egotism and pride, thus undermining the real ministries of the Church. 

Too many lay people blame the clergy for weaknesses without praying constantly for the priests, bishops, and cardinals.

But, intercessory prayer now and then is simply not good enough.

What the contemplative does is what Marines do before the Army hits the beach. The shock troops go in and clear the way for the others. The contemplatives in the Church are the special forces, fighting against the greatest enemies, the unseen demons which hate and plague the Church.

Those in the world do mop up or they take advantage of the territory cleared by the contemplatives.

This was taught to me in grade school, when the good nuns explained the difference between the contemplative orders and the active orders. Plainly, the active orders of teachers, nurses, and missionaries could do nothing without the Carmelites, Benedictines, Augustinians, Cistercians, Trappists, Carthusians and so on.

Without those warriors on the front lines, not much can get done.

We see the Church in one of the weakest states She has ever been. And, one of the main reasons for this decline is the decline of the contemplative orders. Recall the Vatican's eloquent work on this subject, found here and on this blog in various postings.

Well, the laity, like Raissa Maritain, must pick up the dropped baton and carry on.

If men and women are not responding to the call of contemplation, which is prayer only realized after the levels of prayer and purification as taught by Garrigou-Lagrange and explained on this blog, the Church will remain weak and, in fact, grow weaker.

Twice I have tried to gather together lay women for a lay order of contemplation. Twice this has failed for lack of a benefactor to buy us a house.

A fixable obstacle, imo,  is to have a place to pray. How many people have multiple dwellings, two or three places to live. But, some contemplatives, who would find strength being together, rather than being separate, cannot do so.

So, those of us who do pray and are moving into more and more contemplation, do so on our own, which is extremely difficult. One does not make money praying. One cannot have stability without a place. And, not having the Eucharist in house creates logistical difficulties.

Raissa Maritain was blessed not only with a place but with the Eucharist in her home. This has been a dream of mine, to be able to adore Christ at any time in the day in a private chapel.

God has not yet answered this desire of my heart. So, I get on the bus and go miles to Adoration chapels. I am blessed by having these within bus distance in Malta. It was not possible for me to get to Adoration either in Iowa or in New York. The main reason I am here is to pray more and adore more.

Jacques became highly successful in his mission to re-introduce Aquinas to the world. Raissa was the power behind his activity, in her unceasing prayers for his work.

More than ever, the Church needs contemplatives. I am called to this life, and the blog is the result of prayer, study, reflection.

Pray that I can find that place. I am only here temporarily, as usual. I shall make the most of my time here to go before God for the needs of the Church, especially the clergy.

Even though there is a small renewal of new and old contemplative orders, these are a drop in the ocean, a drop of what is needed.

I pray the laity pick up the baton and run on in the contest, as called by Christ to do so.

Monday, 16 January 2012

An Unusual, Controversial Catholic Subject-Celibacy in Marriage

Now, I am not married, but I live a celibate life-style. However, I have an increasing number of friends, traditional Catholics, who have opted for celibacy in their marriages. This is not a new ideal in the Church, and although Christ wants most married couples to be fruitful and multiply, that is, to have the wonderful children God desires them to have, there have been and are couples, who for the sake of the kingdom, have chosen a different way. Of course, the norm, having children as God gives, creates saints, such as Blessed Louis and  Blessed Zelie Martin, Blessed Karl and Empress Zita, SS. Joachim and Anna, SS. Isidore and Maria (who vowed abstinence later in their marriage), and so on. This is not an exhaustive list.

However, the emphasis on celibacy should be rare, but seen as a call within a call. I also think there has to be good reason for not having children. The grand example are two of my favorite Catholics, Jacques and Raissa Maritain, who on the Isle of Wight, as Benedictine Oblates, took a vow of celibacy "for the sake of the Kingdom". Raissa writes in her diary, which I practically have memorized, that it was difficult for her, but she could see that Jacques was called to be in the world and she was his prayer backup, companion in holiness, and confidant, as well as best-friend. They shared philosophy, theology, and the dedication to bringing the Gospel into the workplace in the extreme. God called them to this.

I first met celibate married couples about twenty-five years ago. The first couple I met were in their forties and had a close relationship with the Church and the priest who was the pastor. They were very active in the Church, but did not have normal marital relations. They had chosen that way and had married later in life. The man had been in the Jesuit seminary for years, but left, as he did not think he had a priestly vocation. He found a wife who would support him in his spiritual walk. The second couple I met were in their early sixties. They had decided that past child-bearing age, they would make a celibate commitment. Since then, I have met another couple who have decided the same thing. Their "extra" time is spent in good works, praying and fasting. Obviously, these couples have spiritual directors. This call within a call is, also, obviously, by mutual consent.

Those with a worldly mindset and even some good Catholics may find this call repelling or unnatural. I would say that this call is rare, but not unnatural. I think that those who decide to live in the world, or are called so by God to remain among the laity, can exhibit a variety of calls "for the sake of the Kingdom". And, to be in a relationship which is celibate may be a sign of contradiction to the world as well as giving two people the necessary, daily support a brother and sister in Christ may give to each other. Intimacy has many faces, and the physical side of intimacy is only one aspect of relationship. I have written this to support my friends who have chosen this way and to encourage those who feel the need for companionship without sex to be comforted in that they are not alone. We are all called to be saints, and there are many ways, in Christ, through Mary, to be saints.

In addition, God did not intend people to live all alone. The fact that there are so many single, lonely individuals needs to be addressed by the Church. Those who for whatever reason cannot be a priest or nun or sister, have some options, but loneliness should not be the norm. Church communities have failed, especially in America, to support their singles. Many Catholics are singles for many reasons. There exists a judgmental attitude, which excludes those singles from the larger interaction in the Church. And, for those who desire celibacy in the world, that is an option, but it does not have to equal loneliness. I am very fortunate, as I do not experience the gnawing type of loneliness some do. I may miss my dear friends when apart from them, but that is different than the vague experience of loneliness many feel. We all need to reach out to those who feel this need, pray for them, and include them in our busy lives. To do otherwise is not to be Christian.