Recent Posts

Friday 8 February 2013

Part Six on Catherine of Siena--lay and young

I close this section on Catherine of Siena with two notes.

First of all, she was a lay person, not a nun or a sister. So those who think the way of perfection is not for us only have to look at her own life.

God gives His graces to the laity as well as to the religious and priests.

Second, she died at a very young age. Youth can be holy. We sometimes give too much of a pass to unruly youth, forgetting that formation for holiness can and should start early.

The earlier a child learns the ways of God, the more he or she will grow in holiness on earth.

We need holy children. Only the holy will persevere in the days to come. Only the holy...........

And, I am adding something to this post: a quotation from the great saint.

"A soul that love God perfectly ends by forgetting herself and all other creatures. In God, she finds all that can delight the heart; all beauty, all sweetness, al quietness, and all peace. And to the bond of love between her and God drawing closer, she comes,  as it were, to be wholly transformed in Him. And, at length it comes to pass that she can love, delight in, think of, and remember no other thing Him only."

Doctors of the Church Series-Part Five on the dangers of spiritual self-will

This is the fifth part of the series on the Doctors of the Church. I have covered two out of the thirty-five.

I shall cover all of them from the point of view of my perfection series.

I shall include those honoured by both the East and the West. Seventeen who were declared as such before the great schism are to be included, of course. I have done Ephraim and John of Avila.

As there are only four women, my next set will cover them: SS. Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux and Hildegard of Bingen.

I am concentrating on their holiness and some of the writings. The reason a person is declared a Doctor of the Church is sort of like an honorary PhD. in holiness and excellence in writing. They have also shown that they are completely orthodox and true in doctrine.

One cannot, cannot be holy or find perfection outside of orthodoxy.

If a person insists on having areas where he or she is in disagreement with the Church in any way which is doctrinal, one is not on the way to holiness, but stuck in sin.

St. Catherine of Siena provides a perfect of example of obedience and clarity of mind. God gave her discernment, a gift which is part of prudence. Her dates are 1347-1380.

Her writings reflect deep prayer and a deep relationship with the Trinity.

Several days ago, I quoted her in depth on priests and holiness. Her she is again, from her Treatise on Prayer: 

"For, if the soul truly have light, she will wish to arrive at perfection. In this second perfect light are to be found two kinds of perfection; for they may be called perfect who have abandoned the general way of living of the world.

"One perfection is that of those who give themselves up wholly to the castigation of the body, doing great and severe penance. These, in order that their sensuality may not rebel against their reason, have placed their desire rather in the mortification of the body than in the destruction of their self-will, as I have explained to you in another place. These feed their souls at the table of penance, and are good and perfect, if their penance be illuminated by discretion, and founded on Me, if, that is to say, they act with true knowledge of themselves and of Me, with great humility, and wholly conformed to the judgment of My Will, and not to that of the will of man.

"But, if they were not thus clothed with My Will, in true humility, they would often offend against their own perfection, esteeming themselves the judges of those who do not walk in the same path. Do you know why this would happen to them? Because they have placed all their labor and desire in the mortification of the body, rather than in the destruction of their own will.

"Such as these wish always to choose their own times, and places, and consolations, after their own fashion, and also the persecutions of the world and of the Devil, as I have narrated to you in speaking of the second state of perfection.

"They say, cheating themselves with the delusion of their own self-will, which I have already called their spiritual self-will, 'I wish to have that consolation, and not these battles, or these temptations of the Devil, not, indeed, for my own pleasure, but in order to please God the more, and in order to retain Him the more in my soul through grace; because it seems to me that I should possess Him more, and serve Him better in that way than in this.' And this is the way the soul often fails into trouble, and becomes tedious and insupportable to herself; thus injuring her own perfection; yet she does not perceive it, nor that, within her, lurks the stench of pride, and there she lies.

" Now, if the soul were not in this condition, but were truly humble and not presumptuous, she would be illuminated to see that I, the Primary and Sweet Truth, grant condition, and time, and place, and consolations, and tribulations as they may be needed for your salvation, and to complete the perfection to which I have elected the soul.

"And she would see that I give everything through love, and that therefore, with love and reverence, should she receive everything, which is what the souls in the second state do, and, by doing so, arrive at the third state. Of whom I will now speak to you, explaining to you the nature of these two states which stand in the most perfect light." 

What Catherine is warning against is the great temptation to pride which happens in the Illuminative State. Here is the place where people become heretics or schismatics  insisting on their own insights or directions and separating themselves from Rome.

I believe that such men as Calvin and Knox became very holy before falling into certain ideas which carried them away from the Church and away from holiness. 

How many times have you witnessed a person who is charismatic, a leader in the Church and very pious suddenly fall away over one thing?

I have seen marriages break up when a pillar of the Church commits adultery or supports a child in a homosexual relationship, or who changes his mind about women priests and holds an opposite opinion.

The road to perfection STOPS and the soul slides back into darkness.

It happens too easily.

The experience of love and light make these men and women confident in God, but the temptation to be overly confident in themselves leads to sin.

They fall into self-deception and Catherine saw this happening in the Church. The Illuminative State brings love and power. But, humility must accompany this state or the temptations of pride creep into the soul.

After the active and passive purification, comes more enlightenment, as there are stages in the Illuminative State.

God prepares the soul for His Love. We must have our hearts and minds ready with no hindrances for that Love.

On the honor and dignity of married love-from Humanae Vitae

I hope you all realize that the contraception mentality led to the passing of the redefinition of marriage. Once child-bearing is separated from marriage, the covenant changes to a mere search for pleasure.

From Humanae Vitae

Love and the moral order in marriage.....prophetic words from Pope Paul VI

Faithfulness to God's Design
13. Men rightly observe that a conjugal act imposed on one's partner without regard to his or her condition or personal and reasonable wishes in the matter, is no true act of love, and therefore offends the moral order in its particular application to the intimate relationship of husband and wife. If they further reflect, they must also recognize that an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life. Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will. But to experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator. Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source. "Human life is sacred—all men must recognize that fact," Our predecessor Pope John XXIII recalled. "From its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God." (13)

Christ and the Multitude

Why I do my blog...........God calls us all to work with Him in the field. Some of us are teachers. May God bless all our works in Him.
Mark 6: 30 - 34

30The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.
31And he said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
32And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves.
33Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them.
34As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Just wonderin'

The Americans and Europeans, as well as the Asians and Australians, by my blog-counter, love the perfection series.

But, the English do not. I wonder why? Maybe some Brits can help me with this one. Maybe too much Dawkins and C. Hitchens?

I think it has to do with the fact that the English have a hard time not going with the flow these days.

I think the post-Vatican II idea of "dialogue with the world" has created too much compromise in the Catholic laity here.

I have traditional friends who cannot make intimate friendships any more with so-called Catholics in their parishes, who are disobedient regarding contraception, same-sex marriage, and a host of other things. They find priests who allow them to continue their non-Catholic lifestyles. They are never challenged.

Perfection starts with orthodoxy.

The Holy Trinity Order of St. John Matha

  Today is the feast day of St. John of Matha, born in 1154 and died in 1213. Sadly, his order is no longer doing the original charism for the order, which would be helping Catholics in the Muslim countries, like the troubles in  Mali, Nigeria, etc. Originally, this order was established to rescue Catholic saints from the Muslims. St. John of Matha. San Tommaso in Formis, which has a Cosmati mosaic showing the freeing of slaves., shows the main reason for the order.  Modern, revisionist history states that non-Christians held these slaves, which means, really the Muslims were holding them as slaves for ransom. 

St, John, pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Mali, Nigeria....

A great cartoon Fr. Z highlighted

Part four and more on St. John of Avila

St. John of Avila writes to a lady on what holiness is. Obviously, he was aware of those stages of perfection, and so inspired St. Teresa of Avila, to whom he wrote as well. He is summarizing all three stages here, purification, illumination, and unity in love, as perfect charity comes in unity.

Here is the short letter.

St, John of Avila, part three of the series on the Doctors of the Church

For priests, there is a wonderful letter in this book, Letters of Blessed John of Avila, found here, on preparation for Mass. Here is only one page on that selection: I like the phrase, "Retire into the secrecy of your own heart"...there is so much here. BTW, a fellow blogger of mine, Reluctant Sinner, has a good post on St. John of Avila at this site.

For the laity today, I copy a section on his comments on persecution.

To be continued...............

Doctors of the Church series, part two

This is the second in a long series I am going to do here on the Doctors of the Church. Highlighting their spirituality will cover both categories of the seeking of perfection and the lives of the saints. Enjoy.

Last year, the Pope made St. John of Avila a doctor of the Church. Many people do not know him. His feast day, which I celebrated in Ireland, is on December 14th.

Here is a snippet from the Mass where the Pope made this declaration along with St. Hildegard of Bingen.

At this point, let us pause for a moment to appreciate the two saints who today have been added to the elect number of Doctors of the Church. Saint John of Avila lived in the sixteenth century. A profound expert on the sacred Scriptures, he was gifted with an ardent missionary spirit. He knew how to penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity. A man of God, he united constant prayer to apostolic action. He dedicated himself to preaching and to the more frequent practice of the sacraments, concentrating his commitment on improving the formation of candidates for the priesthood, of religious and of lay people, with a view to a fruitful reform of the Church.

Saint Hildegard of Bingen, an important female figure of the twelfth century, offered her precious contribution to the growth of the Church of her time, employing the gifts received from God and showing herself to be a woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority. The Lord granted her a prophetic spirit and fervent capacity to discern the signs of the times. Hildegard nurtured an evident love of creation, and was learned in medicine, poetry and music. Above all, she maintained a great and faithful love for Christ and his Church.

St. John was going to be a missionary, but was asked to stay and help restore Catholicism in Andalusia. He is important to me as he wrote on Christian perfection, which is a theme of this blog.

His sermons and writings influenced SS. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Francis Borgia and others.

More later...

I would like to have a copy of "Audi Fili", a perfect book for Lent,  English translation, 1620) and "Spiritual Letters" English translation, 1631, London and Stanbrook Abbey, 1904, if someone has those laying about.....and not using them. I think of all the books in the libraries of monasteries being ignored, simply because those coming in are so few, or that they need the basics of the Catechism, the milk and not the meat, yet.

Here is a selection from an online book found here. To be continued..................

Singles Update

I have not written a post on singles for a while and none of them responded to my call for info on the patron saint of singles.  Tsk-tsk.

Well, I still challenge you all to consider marriage, (Guys, you have to ASK), or the religious state, or the priesthood.

Go for it.

I shall pray for you. And remember, there are many posts on being single on this blog. Many, many.

On being a bride......from St. Ephrem and the beginning of a new series

In response to those who want more lives of the saints, I am going to concentrate in Lent on the Doctors of the Church. There are so many, I am sure it will keep both readers and me busy in looking at the lives of these wonderful people. However, I shall not concentrate on biographies, but key ideas from each one. 

I start with the great Syrian, Ephrem of Syria.

St. Ephraem, or Ephraim, (306 – 373), was the first to call Mary, the Bride of Christ. The second selection here is part of his hymn to Mary.

But, this saint also referred to the soul, each person's soul, as a Bride of Christ.

I cannot stress this idea enough here, as I have on this blog.

If we realize that the soul is Christ's Bride, we would respond quite differently to grace. Meditate on this saying of the great saint.

The soul is Your bride,

The body Your bridal chamber,
Your guests are the senses and the thoughts,
And if a single body is a wedding feast for You,
How great is Your banquet for the whole Church!
- St. Ephrem

Please take time to read all those posts on love here on this blog. Perhaps these will help you in Lent to come closer to Christ and understand how much you are loved and cherished by Christ Himself, Who is God and Who woos you. Here is a section from St. Ephrem on Mary as the Bride of Christ.

To Your Mother, Lord, no man knew what name to give. Should he call her Virgin, her Child stood ...; and married no man knew her to be! If then none comprehended Your Mother, who shall suffice for You?
For she was, alone, Your Mother; along with all, Your Sister. She was Your mother, she was Your Sister. She along with chaste women was Your betrothed. With everything You adorned Her, You ornament of Your Mother.
For she was Your Bride by nature ere You had come; she conceived You not by nature after You had come, O Holy One, and was a Virgin when she had brought You forth in holiness, Mary gained in You, O Lord, the honours of all married women. She conceived ... within her without marriage. There was milk in her breasts, not after the way of nature. You made the thirsty land suddenly a fountain of milk.
If she carried You, Your mighty look made her burden light; if she gave You to eat, it was because You were hungry; if she gave You to drink [it was], because You were thirsty; willingly if she embraced You, You, the coal of mercies, kept her bosom safe.
A wonder is Your Mother. The Lord entered her, and became a servant: the Word entered her, and became silent within her; thunder entered her, and His voice was still: the Shepherd of all entered her; He became a Lamb in her, and came forth bleating.
The Belly of Your Mother changed the order of things, O You that orders all! The rich went in, He came out poor: the High One went in, He came out lowly. Brightness went into her and clothed Himself, and came forth a despised form.

Below is a short Lenten Prayer by St. Ephrem.