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Wednesday 28 November 2012

On the solitary life and Suarez--perfection series continued

Thanks, Wiki

Suarez continues his examination of the types of solitaries, and I felt a small bit of gratification in that he points out that the domestic solitary, that is the isolated lay person has no merit in being solitary, unlike the religious. Let me explain, as this fits into my long posts on the fact that there is not a vocation to the single life as a usual state.

Vows bring grace. No vows, no extra grace. Vows bring a status in the hierarchy of the Church and indicate that one is committed to becoming perfect.

Here is the rub for the lay person. The ordinary way for our perfection is through domestic relationships-that is, dying to self and rising to Christ by the denial of self in marriage as a spouse and as a parent. This is why I went to the Benedictines. In a religious order, one had vowed one's self in becoming perfect. In marriage, one vows one's self to becoming perfected in the marriage state.

No vows, no extra grace and no vocation, except, rarely, as in the caring for aged parents. The protection that SHOULD be in the monastery or convent in order to pursue holiness is a huge advantage, as is the state itself.  The "continuous inflow of obedience, the support of other brethren by means of their example and correction, other works of charity, may occasions of exercising all the virtues, especially those of humility  and charity, great custody and vigilance in the pursuit of perfection and the avoidance of defects..." help the nun or monk in ways we must experience to understand to a point.

However, I am convinced by the great saints and writers that the laity may aspire to these as well.

Patterns of sin so common in the world are broken in the monastery or convent.

But, in an excellent marriage, those same patterns may be broken. But, living alone does not help us reach perfection.

It is, as a young person with a room-mate told me recently, hard to live in peace and harmony with others. Yes, and that is the whole point.

If one can give one's entire soul, heart and mind to God being alone, that is a beginning. But one must interact with others in order to die to self-love and self-will. May God lead us all to the place where we can live out the vocation to perfection.

How sad; another disobedient priest-pray for him

I have been daily attending Mass at Whitefriar's in Dublin. No more. Today, an Irish priest used the word "cup" instead of chalice. After Mass, I approached him and asked him if the Carmelite usage was different and why he used cup. He said that he strongly disagreed with the new translation and that it was his own decision to use the old. I told him I was a Latinist and noticed the change and that chalice was a more exact rendering of the Latin. He agreed. But.... He told me that many people in America disagree with the new translation. Hmmm... I know the Mass I heard is illegal, that it is illicit. Comments, please, and pray for this priest's soul. He is in disobedience not only to his order, but to the Pope. Sad days, and I shall have to walk to another Church in the area and light my candles at other shrines.
Thanks, Wiki

Contemplation as a means and an end

Looking at Suarez and learning from my all too-brief time in the monastery, I am learning that contemplation is both a means and and end.

I wrote a few days ago about Ordinary and Extraordinary Contemplation. God calls us to both, but the first is much more attainable, as we cooperate in that, whereas the other is pure gift.

The means to union with God is through Ordinary Contemplation. Suarez uses a quotation and there is no reference (very old, 19th book)..."love of the truth delights in holy leisure". When I google it , I get the same reference which I am staring at in old leather and foxed pages. I am going to assume it is from St. Bernard, as he is the one being referred to most in this section of Suarez.

Let us look at this phrase. First of all, the love of truth is a very Benedictine ideal, and therefore, a Cistercian one as well. Sadly, this love of truth has been lost in some modern Benedictine monasteries, but the ideal to find the truth, through Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, the great philosophers, is all part of the Benedictine heritage. I am sorry so many have become blind to the great saints and authors of the past or, worse, anti-intellectual, for the pursuit of truth is an intellectual act. My three cats could not seek for Truth, as they were not made in the Image and Likeness of God. The seeking of Truth is, of course, the seeking for the knowledge of God.

The rest of the phrase, "delights in holy leisure"indicates something totally LOST in the 21st Century; that is, leisure, which is absolutely necessary for prayer, reflection, meditation and contemplation. Even the monastery where I stayed lack leisure because there are simply not enough nuns to do all the work and they actually have paid gardeners and gift-shop people paid by a government scheme. This is not good in my mind, but a sad necessity if the nuns are to keep up the gardens and the shop.

Lay brothers did those things and externs in the old days.

Busyness kills the soul. I am going to repeat that, busyness kills the soul. If you are too busy to pray and read Scripture daily as a lay person, you are too busy.

Contemplation is a means to union with God and Extraordinary Contemplation is the union we desire, and therefore the end.

To be continued...

Perfection Series Continued...Purgation in the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles

I shall try and trace the three stages of perfection in the Epistles of St. Paul. Before I do this, remind all, that is one disagrees with one of the main teachings of the Catholic Church, one cannot start this process except by repentance. The heart which sees God in purity cannot be outside the Truth, and that Truth is only found in the fullness in the Church.

Conversion comes first, then the journey of perfection. We have the sacraments to help us. No one outside of sanctifying grace can attain this union with God.

The first stage of purgation must not be avoided. This is a great time of suffering and go on for years and years. Suffering comes to us as God decides, not as we decide. Having had cancer, which is not in my family, is only part of my time of purgation. These sufferings are real and must be faced directly.

I know this from experience, as for years I tried to avoid suffering. Being a "fix-it" type of American, I thought suffering was to be "fixed". Well, after stretching out the time of purgation, I finally yielded to the Hand of God. That is what we all must do.

St. Paul's period of purgation most likely occurred after his dramatic conversion and in that mysterious time after his sight was restored by Ananias. This time, according to scholars, could have been as long as six to ten years. Taking the lowest guess of six years, this would be a time of purgation for the saint who had persecuted the Christians, and, therefore, Christ, must have been in a desert situation to drop so completely out of the narrative of Luke. As I noted on the post on monks, he could have been with "religious", reflecting, praying, studying the Scriptures which applied to Christ, and repenting of sin-both serious and venial. The purgation stage prepares us for the life of the virtues and for the reception of the illuminations of truths, the mysteries of Christ's life and the virtues-in other words, prepares us for infused knowledge. St. Paul, as I have pointed out in Colossians  and in other sections which I shall highlight, did experience that illumination. But no one gets to stage two without stage one.

The problem of the flesh St. Paul describes cryptically  asking God to remove this cross only three times (how many times do we pray for removal of suffering) was not answered positively by God. St. Paul had to endure that pain. This is part of his purgation and more. It does not matter what it was. St. Francis had problems with his eyes, and St. Bernadette had tuberculosis of the bone. What matters is the manner of acceptance. I do not think his shipwrecks or scourgings were part of his purgation. He seems to have already been one with Christ in order to be in joy and with the Crucified One at those times. But, I am getting ahead of myself here.

"And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure" (2 Corinthians 12:7).

"Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me" (2 Corinthians 12:8). 

An unbroken succession of those seeking perfection from the time of Christ....

Suarez has this idea that the apostles were religious before they were made clerics. What this means is that the apostles were living, or indeed maybe made vows like a religious of poverty, chastity and obedience when living with Christ and going out and evangelizing. That they were made priests at the Last Supper is a teaching of the Church.  Suarez notes that the apostles were, therefore, clerical in their religious state, as the goal of their lives was preaching, teaching, and eventually offering up the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Such a religious state would involve the pursuit of perfection. We have a hard time seeing this unless we look very closely at the Gospels. One is always aware of St. Peter's denial of Christ and his subsequent sorrow, and forgiveness by Christ. This should not get in the way of the establishment of the hierarchical Church, with St. Peter are the First Pope.  Suarez notes that this call to the religious life could, therefore, be as unbroken as the priesthood, the apostolic succession. That would be wonderful if we could prove this, as we can apostolic succession.

Suarez notes that there were monks before Anthony and that from Anthony to Basil, from Basil to Augustine and from Augustine to Benedict, there is an unbroken line of religious. Not all would be clerics or priests, but many would be.

Suarez writes that Pope Urban speaks of the primitive religious state at being obvious  224 years from the birth of Christ. This looks to me like a good case for the unbroken line of religious down to the present day.

Why is this important? The priesthood is obviously important, but the fact that monks set themselves aside for the pursuit of perfection is important as well.

Think on this, 2012 plus years of continuous religious seeking the perfection of their souls, minds and hearts with the aid of the Trinity. Awesome!