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Thursday 1 August 2013

On factions, rumours, quarrels, divisions and schisms

I did not want to post so much today, but this is necessary. The Church is imploding from within. There are so many enemies at the gate, that we must become aware of our sins in causing problems within the Church.
Some problems cannot be avoided and must be directly addressed, such as heresy or schism.
In Corinthians, Paul writes of factions, most likely connected to rumours, quarrels, and other types of slander. Some translations use the term divisions, some factions.
I have noticed this happening more and more. The lack of charity among those who care about the Faith is almost as horrendous as the absence of charity among those who hate it.
Let me define these groupings, ending with schisms, to encourage an examination of conscience.
All these definitions are from the Oxford Dictionary on line.

One, factions. This is usually a political term, and refers to groupings, such as those we see in Egypt-Morsi and non-Morsi followers. those who want a Muslim theocracy, those who want a secular state and so on.  
In the Church, factions could be ideologues, like those who have departed from the teachings of the true Church and want to change the Church's teachings on marriage, for example. If these people start acting politically, they become a faction. 

  • a small organized dissenting group within a larger one, especially in politics:
    the left-wing faction of the party
  •  [mass noun] dissension within an organization:
    a council increasingly split by faction

Two, rumours. Rumours may  be true or false, and involve talking about other people. As you know, I am from the Midwest, where MYOB is the rule for all-Mind Your Own Business. To me, rumour does not have to be false to be undermining a parish or community. Rumours involve gossip, which is a sin

a currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth:they were investigating rumours of a massacre

[mass noun]rumour has it that he will take a year off

Three, quarrels. Now, there are some people who are confused about quarrels and arguments. That is because in the common language these mean the same thing. But, a quarrel involves anger, and subjectivity, as well as a lack of charity. A rational argument, as we see in Aquinas, or in debates, is an art being lost. This demands objectivity and the belief in objective truth.

Too many arguments, in the classical meaning, become quarrels, as people do not know how to argue points. I taught debate and logic, and when students finally learned to think objectively and avoid the fallacies. they understood the difference between formal argument and quarrels. For example, many Egyptians in the past three weeks have held up signs in Cairo stating they had no quarrel with the American people, but only Obama's policies. Arguments turn into quarrels when facts and objectivity are set aside.

  • an angry argument or disagreement:he made the mistake of picking a quarrel with John
  •  [usually with negative] a reason for disagreement with a person, group, or principle:we have no quarrel with the people of the country, only with the dictator

Four-divisions, which are much more serious, and here I take the second definition for my purposes here. Divisions are created when people take sides. Now, sometimes what we believe in and who we are as Catholics create divisions. Christ Himselft said He came to divide, and that is part of the truth of being in the world but not of the world. 
Divisions, however, can happen within the Church, and we can see that daily. The reason for divisions could be varied. 

difference or disagreement between two or more groups, typically producing tension:a growing sense of division between north and south

But, we may cause division just by being good, orthodox Catholics.

Luke 12:49-56

49 I am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will I, but that it be kindled?
50 And I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized: and how am I straitened until it be accomplished?
51 Think ye, that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, no; but separation.
52 For there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided: three against two, and two against three.
53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against his father, the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother, the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
54 And he said also to the multitudes: When you see a cloud rising from the west, presently you say: A shower is coming: and so it happeneth:
55 And when ye see the south wind blow, you say: There will be heat: and it cometh to pass.
56 You hypocrites, you know how to discern the face of the heaven and of the earth: but how is it that you do not discern this time?
If we are truly salt to the Earth, we shall cause divisions if we are orthodox. It just happens. It happens in families  in parishes, in schools, in dioceses. Sadly, for those who love the Church, such divisions, usually lead to schism and even excommunication.
The last category today, as I could go on to heresies, is schism. Schism means that some people have decided to leave the Church either formally or informally. An individual who chooses disobedience may be in schism by being part of a schismatic group.  Some of the Protestants started off in schism but quickly fell into heresy.  One's immortal soul is in danger if one follows either a schismatic leader or a heretic.


  • a split or division between strongly opposed sections or parties, caused by differences in opinion or belief: the widening schism between Church leaders and politicians[mass noun]:the persistence of this group could produce schism within society; the formal separation of a Church into two Churches or the secession of a group owing to doctrinal and other differences. 
St. Paul speaks to divisions in 1 Corinthians. Remember, the devil wants disruption. He is not only the Father of Lies, but the Father of Chaos and Confusion. Where there are factions, rumours, quarrels, divisions and schisms, you can be sure he and his minions are active. 

10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that you be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgment.
11 For it hath been signified unto me, my brethren, of you, by them that are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith: I indeed am of Paul; and I am of Apollo; and I am of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul then crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
14 I give God thanks, that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Caius;
15 Lest any should say that you were baptized in my name.
16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanus; besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made void.
18 For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness; but to them that are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God.

False Dichotomy between the Gospel of Christ and Church Doctrine

The above article is making a false dichotomy between doctrine and the Gospels. This is a heresy long condemned in the Church.

The real Catholic understands that there is no difference between Scripture and Tradition, between the Gospels and Doctrine. Yet, this week, both some in the secular and some in the Catholic media have made this distinction.

It is a Protestant distinction. The Catholic teaching of the Gospels IS doctrine and the main duty of the bishops is to teach doctrine. The word doctrina first appears in the Vulgate.

1 Timothy 11-16 addresses this.

11 Such is the charge, such is the doctrine thou art to deliver. 12 Do not let anyone think the less of thee for thy youthfulness; make thyself a model of speech and behaviour for the faithful, all love, all faith, all purity. 13 Reading, preaching, instruction, let these be thy constant care while I am absent. 14 A special grace has been entrusted to thee; prophecy awarded it, and the imposition of the presbyters’ hands went with it; do not let it suffer from neglect.[6]15 Let this be thy study, these thy employments, so that all may see how well thou doest. 16 Two things claim thy attention, thyself and the teaching of the faith; spend thy care on them; so wilt thou and those who listen to thee achieve salvation.[7]

I am deeply concerned at the efforts of even some Catholic bloggers and clergymen to accomodate this modernist idea that doctrine is separate from the Teachings of Christ.

The Council of Trent produced the Roman Catechism, which was translated into English for the purpose of teaching the correct interpretations of the Bible. The Catholic Church holds the Deposit of Faith and the fullness of Truth. 

The bishops and the Pope are the custodians of Truth and thankfully, we have never had an infallible statement contradict the teachings of Christ. This is our heritage.

Do not let anyone steal it from you, neither the media, which hates the Church, or liberal priests and bishops.

Learn your faith so that you have the means to see what is true and good , through the eyes of the Church.

I suggest reading this entire encyclical by St. Pius X Acerbo Nimis, On the Teaching of Christian Doctrine

I print just the beginning of it, for you to see how timely it is for us today.

At this very troublesome and difficult time, the hidden designs of God have conducted Our poor strength to the office of Supreme pastor, to rule the entire flock of Christ. The enemy has, indeed, long been prowling about the fold and attacking it with such subtle cunning that now, more than ever before, the prediction of the Apostle to the elders of the Church of Ephesus seems to be verified: "I know that . . . fierce wolves will get in among you, and will not spare the flock."[1] Those who still are zealous for the glory of God are seeking the causes and reasons for this decline in religion. Coming to a different explanation, each points out, according to his own view, a different plan for the protection and restoration of the kingdom of God on earth. But it seems to Vs, Venerable Brethren, that while we should not overlook other considerations, We are forced to agree with those who hold that the chief cause of the present indifference and, as it were, infirmity of soul, and the serious evils that result from it, is to be found above all in ignorance of things divine. This is fully in accord with what God Himself declared through the Prophet Osee: "And there is no knowledge of God in the land. Cursing and lying and killing and theft and adultery have overflowed: and blood hath touched blood. Thereafter shall the land mourn, and everyone that dwelleth in it shall languish."[2]
2. It is a common complaint, unfortunately too well founded, that there are large numbers of Christians in our own time who are entirely ignorant of those truths necessary for salvation. And when we mention Christians, We refer not only to the masses or to those in the lower walks of life - for these find some excuse for their ignorance in the fact that the demands of their harsh employers hardly leave them time to take care of themselves or of their dear ones - but We refer to those especially who do not lack culture or talents and, indeed, are possessed of abundant knowledge regarding things of the world but live rashly and imprudently with regard to religion. It is hard to find words to describe how profound is the darkness in which they are engulfed and, what is most deplorable of all, how tranquilly they repose there. They rarely give thought to God, the Supreme Author and Ruler of all things, or to the teachings of the faith of Christ. They know nothing of the Incarnation of the Word of God, nothing of the perfect restoration of the human race which He accomplished. Grace, the greatest of the helps for attaining eternal things, the Holy Sacrifice and the Sacraments by which we obtain grace, are entirely unknown to them. They have no conception of the malice and baseness of sin; hence they show no anxiety to avoid sin or to renounce it. And so they arrive at life's end in such a condition that, lest all hope of salvation be lost, the priest is obliged to give in the last few moments of life a summary teaching of religion, a time which should be devoted to stimulating the soul to greater love for God. And even this as too often happens only when the dying man is not so sinfully ignorant as to look upon the ministration of the priest as useless, and then calmly faces the fearful passage to eternity without making his peace with God. And so Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: "We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect."[3]
3. There is then, Venerable Brethren, no reason for wonder that the corruption of morals and depravity of life is already so great, and ever increasingly greater, not only among uncivilized peoples but even in those very nations that are called Christian. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Ephesians, repeatedly admonished them in these words: "But immorality and every uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as become saints; or obscenity or foolish talk."[4] He also places the foundation of holiness and sound morals upon a knowledge of divine things - which holds in check evil desires: "See to it therefore, brethren, that you walk with care: not as unwise but as wise. . . Therefore, do not become foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."[5] And rightly so. For the will of man retains but little of that divinely implanted love of virtue and righteousness by which it was, as it were, attracted strongly toward the real and not merely apparent good. Disordered by the stain of the first sin, and almost forgetful of God, its Author, it improperly turns every affection to a love of vanity and deceit. This erring will, blinded by its own evil desires, has need therefore of a guide to lead it back to the paths of justice whence it has so unfortunately strayed. The intellect itself is this guide, which need not be sought elsewhere, but is provided by nature itself. It is a guide, though, that, if it lack its companion light, the knowledge of divine things, will be only an instance of the blind leading the blind so that both will fall into the pit. The holy king David, praising God for the light of truth with which He had illumined the intellect, exclaimed: "The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us."[6] Then he described the effect of this light by adding: "Thou hast given gladness in my heart," gladness, that is, which enlarges our heart so that it runs in the way of God's Commandments.
4. All this becomes evident on a little reflection. Christian teaching reveals God and His infinite perfection with far greater clarity than is possible by the human faculties alone. Nor is that all. This same Christian teaching also commands us to honor God by faith, which is of the mind, by hope, which is of the will, by love, which is of the heart; and thus the whole man is subjected to the supreme Maker and Ruler of all things. The truly remarkable dignity of man as the son of the heavenly Father, in Whose image he is formed, and with Whom he is destined to live in eternal happiness, is also revealed only by the doctrine of Jesus Christ. From this very dignity, and from man's knowledge of it, Christ showed that men should love one another as brothers, and should live here as become children of light, "not of revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy."[7] He also bids us to place all our anxiety and care in the hands of God, for He will provide for us; He tells us to help the poor, to do good to those who hate us, and to prefer the eternal welfare of the soul to the temporal goods of this life. Without wishing to touch on every detail, nevertheless is it not true that the proud man is urged and commanded by the teaching of Christ to strive for humility, the source of true glory? "Whoever, therefore, humbles himself. . . he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."[8] From that same teaching we learn prudence of the spirit, and thereby we avoid prudence of the flesh; we learn justice, by which we give to every man his due; fortitude, which prepares us to endure all things and with steadfast heart suffer all things for the sake of God and eternal happiness; and, last of all, temperance through which we cherish even poverty borne out of love for God, nay, we even glory in the cross itself, unmindful of its shame. In fine, Christian teaching not only bestows on the intellect the light by which it attains truth, but from it our will draws that ardor by which we are raised up to God and joined with Him in the practice of virtue

BBC on Gay Couple Suing--Told You So, British Catholics

from the Beeb

Wealthy gay dad, Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, says he and his civil partner Tony will go to court to force churches to host gay weddings.
He told the Essex Chronicle that he will take legal action because “I am still not getting what I want”.
A Government Bill legalising gay marriage passed Parliament recently but it included measures to protect churches from being forced to perform same-sex weddings.

more here

The article noted something painfully obvious--

In January this year a leading lawyer cautioned that the plans left the Church of England open to legal challenge.

The Prime Minister was sent a copy of the legal opinion by Lord Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury.
In June 2012 Crispin Blunt MP, who was then a Justice Minister, admitted that the Government’s plans could lead to legal issues.
He said the Government is “seeking to protect, indeed, proscribe religious organisations from offering gay marriage”, but he continued: “That may be problematic legally”.

Every priest and every bishop in Great Britain who did not speak about this from the pulpit and encourage their congregations to fight against the bill are all responsible for the persecution to come. 

UPDATE A Catholic priest is England was phoned by a gay couple recently and they asked him if he would do a homosexual "marriage". Of course, the priest said no. I shall not give the diocese.

Bloggers, We Are Ananias

Those who know their Scripture know of a man in Acts who was called by God to do a difficult task. Ananias seems to be an ordinary man. His virtues included listening to God, taking the vision and message to heart, and despite fear, acting on his call to heal Paul.  Here is the passage:

Ananias Restores the Sight of Paul, Jean Restout II, 1719.

Acts 9

And Saul, as yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,
And asked of him letters to Damascus, to the synagogues: that if he found any men and wemen of this way, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
And as he went on his journey, it came to pass that he drew nigh to Damascus; and suddenly a light from heaven shined round about him.
And falling on the ground, he heard a voice saying to him: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
Who said: Who art thou, Lord? And he: I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the goad.
And he trembling and astonished, said: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?
And the Lord said to him: Arise, and go into the city, and there it shall be told thee what thou must do. Now the men who went in company with him, stood amazed, hearing indeed a voice, but seeing no man.
And Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. But they leading him by the hands, brought him to Damascus.
And he was there three days, without sight, and he did neither eat nor drink.
10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias. And the Lord said to him in a vision: Ananias. And he said: Behold I am here, Lord.
11 And the Lord said to him: Arise, and go into the street that is called Stait, and seek in the house of Judas, one named Saul of Tarsus. For behold he prayeth.
12 (And he saw a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hands upon him, that he might receive his sight.)
13 But Ananias answered: Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints in Jerusalem.
14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that invoke thy name.
15 And the Lord said to him: Go thy way; for this man is to me a vessel of election, to carry my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.
16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.
17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house. And laying his hands upon him, he said: Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus hath sent me, he that appeared to thee in the way as thou camest; that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he received his sight; and rising up, he was baptized.
19 And when he had taken meat, he was strengthened. And he was with the disciples that were at Damascus, for some days.
20 And immediately he preached Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
21 And all that heard him, were astonished, and said: Is not this he who persecuted in Jerusalem those that called upon this name: and came hither for that intent, that he might carry them bound to the chief priests?
22 But Saul increased much more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt at Damascus, affirming that this is the Christ.
Ananias is never mentioned again. His call was to overcome fear and trust in God. Saul had already killed followers of Christ,  put some in prison, and had been at the stoning of St. Stephen. Saul's actions terrified the Christian community. Yet, Ananias had to respond to God's call to go and heal this man chosen to be the Apostle of the Gentiles.
Ananias was a servant, a man who obeyed God even though he was afraid. He was not one of the apostles. He was an ordinary Christian doing his duty. And we have a duty, to only teach orthodoxy, to be obedient to the Church, in all things.
So, too, we write and teach, and try to correct error. Like Ananias, sometimes we feel fear, as we know we are going into enemy territory.
Yet, if Ananias had ignored God and followed his emotions, God's plan for the Gentiles would have been crushed, by fear and disobedience.
No fear.."Is it not written,"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (thanks to the reader who reminded of this quote I have used all week)

A must share thanks to Alastair Roberts for the link

Bl. John Paul II and Perfection Three

This vocation to perfect love is not restricted to a small group of individuals. The invitation, "go, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor", and the promise "you will have treasure in heaven", are meant for everyone, because they bring out the full meaning of the commandment of love for neighbour, just as the invitation which follows, "Come, follow me", is the new, specific form of the commandment of love of God. Both the commandments and Jesus' invitation to the rich young man stand at the service of a single and indivisible charity, which spontaneously tends towards that perfection whose measure is God alone: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus makes even clearer the meaning of this perfection: "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6:36).
"Come, follow me" (Mt 19:21)
19. The way and at the same time the content of this perfection consist in the following of Jesus, sequela Christi, once one has given up one's own wealth and very self. This is precisely the conclusion of Jesus' conversation with the young man: "Come, follow me" (Mt 19:21). It is an invitation the marvellous grandeur of which will be fully perceived by the disciples after Christ's Resurrection, when the Holy Spirit leads them to all truth (cf. Jn 16:13).
It is Jesus himself who takes the initiative and calls people to follow him. His call is addressed first to those to whom he entrusts a particular mission, beginning with the Twelve; but it is also clear that every believer is called to be a follower of Christ (cf. Acts 6:1). Following Christ is thus the essential and primordial foundation of Christian morality: just as the people of Israel followed God who led them through the desert towards the Promised Land (cf. Ex 13:21), so every disciple must follow Jesus, towards whom he is drawn by the Father himself (cf. Jn 6:44).


As he calls the young man to follow him along the way of perfection, Jesus asks him to be perfect in the command of love, in "his" commandment: to become part of the unfolding of his complete giving, to imitate and rekindle the very love of the "Good" Teacher, the one who loved "to the end". This is what Jesus asks of everyone who wishes to follow him: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mt 16:24).
21. Following Christ is not an outward imitation, since it touches man at the very depths of his being. Being a follower of Christ means becoming conformed to him who became a servant even to giving himself on the Cross (cf. Phil 2:5-8). Christ dwells by faith in the heart of the believer (cf. Eph3:17), and thus the disciple is conformed to the Lord. This is the effect of grace, of the active presence of the Holy Spirit in us.

from Veritatis Splendor

Bl. John Paul II and Perfection Two

18. Those who live "by the flesh" experience God's law as a burden, and indeed as a denial or at least a restriction of their own freedom. On the other hand, those who are impelled by love and "walk by the Spirit" (Gal 5:16), and who desire to serve others, find in God's Law the fundamental and necessary way in which to practise love as something freely chosen and freely lived out. Indeed, they feel an interior urge — a genuine "necessity" and no longer a form of coercion — not to stop at the minimum demands of the Law, but to live them in their "fullness". This is a still uncertain and fragile journey as long as we are on earth, but it is one made possible by grace, which enables us to possess the full freedom of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:21) and thus to live our moral life in a way worthy of our sublime vocation as "sons in the Son".

More later-from Veritatis splendor

On Women Teachers, Judges, and Super-Heroines

Cranach's Judith

Sadly, a rather young American man became angry with me and told me that he would not let a woman tell him anything. He disagrees with the Jewish commentators of the Old Testament. They list several woman as teaching the Law, and the Hebrew Scriptures.

St. Solomoni, who I wrote about earlier today, and other women in the Old Testament, were honored for teaching the Torah. Susanna's mother is mentioned doing this according to Jewish texts, and Deborah did not only teach the Torah, but led her people in the Book of Judges. Deborah, by the way, is Tobit's grandmother, again according to Jewish texts. I wish I had the books I could use at Tyburn, and my notes with me. The scholars of Judaism have some great books. One is Moses' Women by Shera Aranoff Tuchman.  The Jews value their women as we love the stories of Judith, Esther, Ruth and others.

Caravaggio's Judith

There has been a long tradition in both Judaism and in Catholicism that the mother and grandmother pass down knowledge to their sons. In ancient times, the boys would finally leave their mothers about the age of five and start to work under their fathers, and go to school to learn and to study the Torah.

Some mystics claim that Anne and Joachim sent Mary to the temple school, but of course, that is not Church teaching  Thousands of statues exist across the world which show St. Anne teaching Mary the Hebrew Scriptures. I am sure she did.

I agree that at a certain age, a boy should be taught by men, for the sake of learning to be a man. Jesus most likely worked with St. Joseph from the age of five. After the child was nursed completely, and after his time with his mother ended, the mother would walk the child to the father's place of work and hand the boy over to the father. 

But, women were accepted as leaders, as we see with Deborah in the Book of Judges, and even Judith, whose orders were followed by the commanders of the Israelite army in the book named after her. Jael actually killed Sisera in Judges, but Deborah gave the commands. 

Jael, Deborah and Barak, Salomon de Bray

Well, one cannot please everyone and I hope this young man learns to appreciate women more before he finds a wife, if he does. In marriage, the husband and wife lead each other to God. 

I skipped Esther, as I shall return to her another time. But, let us praise brave women, who did many things with the gifts of God: Deborah, Judith, Jael, Solomoni and others....

Blessed John Paul II on Perfection

Obedience and orthodoxy first, then perfection....

17. We do not know how clearly the young man in the Gospel understood the profound and challenging import of Jesus' first reply: "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments". But it is certain that the young man's commitment to respect all the moral demands of the commandments represents the absolutely essential ground in which the desire for perfection can take root and mature, the desire, that is, for the meaning of the commandments to be completely fulfilled in following Christ. Jesus' conversation with the young man helps us to grasp the conditions for the moral growth of man, who has been called to perfection: the young man, having observed all the commandments, shows that he is incapable of taking the next step by himself alone. To do so requires mature human freedom ("If you wish to be perfect") and God's gift of grace ("Come, follow me").

Perfection demands that maturity in self-giving to which human freedom is called. Jesus points out to the young man that the commandments are the first and indispensable condition for having eternal life; on the other hand, for the young man to give up all he possesses and to follow the Lord is presented as an invitation: "If you wish...". These words of Jesus reveal the particular dynamic of freedom's growth towards maturity, and at the same time they bear witness to the fundamental relationship between freedom and divine law. Human freedom and God's law are not in opposition; on the contrary, they appeal one to the other. The follower of Christ knows that his vocation is to freedom. "You were called to freedom, brethren" (Gal 5:13), proclaims the Apostle Paul with joy and pride. But he immediately adds: "only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another" (ibid.). The firmness with which the Apostle opposes those who believe that they are justified by the Law has nothing to do with man's "liberation" from precepts. On the contrary, the latter are at the service of the practice of love: "For he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the Law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself' " (Rom 13:8-9). Saint Augustine, after speaking of the observance of the commandments as being a kind of incipient, imperfect freedom, goes on to say: "Why, someone will ask, is it not yet perfect? Because 'I see in my members another law at war with the law of my reason'... In part freedom, in part slavery: not yet complete freedom, not yet pure, not yet whole, because we are not yet in eternity. In part we retain our weakness and in part we have attained freedom. All our sins were destroyed in Baptism, but does it follow that no weakness remained after iniquity was destroyed? Had none remained, we would live without sin in this life. But who would dare to say this except someone who is proud, someone unworthy of the mercy of our deliverer?... Therefore, since some weakness has remained in us, I dare to say that to the extent to which we serve God we are free, while to the extent that we follow the law of sin, we are still slaves".27

More later-from Veritatis Splendor

The Mother of the Seven Brothers

The Feast of the Maccabean Martyrs. August 1st
In the Orthodox Church of Syria, as in our Catholic Church, the mother of the seven martyred sons and her offspring are honoured as saints. Their relics are in St. Andrew's in Cologne.  I have come across variations of the spelling of her name, but the most common among the Syrian Churches, including the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church is St. Solomonia or Solomoni. Her body is apparently incorrupt, which would deny the story that she was burned to death, but here is a photo of her coffin.

Patriarchal Church of Saint George in Constantinople

The names of the young men reveal several odd national names. These are Abim, Antonius, Gurias, Eleazar, Eusebonus, Alimus and Marcellus. according to Syrian tradition. See Maccabees, Chapter 7

They were brutally, sadistically martyred in 166 BC. What I find fascinating is that several Doctors of the Church have sermons on these martyrs, but that they are virtually ignored today. St Cyprian of Carthage, St Ambrose of Milan, St Gregory Nazianzus and St John Chrysostom all spoke of them. All these facts are from the link under the coffin photo. However, when I was in Tyburn, I found another bit of writing about these martyrs with an older version of the name of the mother. When I find those notes, I shall share that name.

But, here, from the same site, is the complete sermon from St Cyprian, which I reproduce, as it is timely.

Saint Cyprian of Carthage: On Martyrdom and the Maccabees
That it was predicted before that the world would hate us, and that it would stir up persecutions against us, and that no new thing is happening to the Christians—for from the beginning of the world the good have suffered, and the righteous have been oppressed and slain by the unrighteous.
St. Cyprian of Carthage.The Lord in the Gospel forewarns and foretells, saying: If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also (Jn. 15:18–20). And again: The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you (Jn. 16:2–4). And again: Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy (Jn. 16:20). And again: These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (Jn. 16:33).
And when His disciples questioned Him concerning the sign of His coming, and the consummation of the world, He answered, saying: And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Mt. 24:4–31). Thus, these things that are now happening to Christians are not new or sudden; since the good and righteous, and those who are devoted to God in the law of innocence and the fear of true religion, advance always through afflictions, wrongs, the severe and manifold penalties of troubles, and in the hardship of a narrow path.

Thus, at the very beginning of the world, righteous Abel was the first to be slain by his brother. Jacob was driven into exile, Joseph was sold, and king Saul persecuted the merciful David. King Ahab endeavored to oppress Elias, who firmly and bravely asserted the majesty of God. Zacharias the priest was slain between the temple and the altar, that he himself might become a sacrifice there, where he was accustomed to offer sacrifices to God. So many martyrdoms of the righteous have, in fact, often been celebrated; so many examples of faith and virtue have been set forth to future generations. The three youths, Ananias, Azarias, and Misäel, equal in age, agreeing in love, steadfast in faith, constant in virtue, stronger than the flames and penalties that urged them, proclaim that they only obey God, that they know Him alone, that they worship Him alone, saying: “O king Nebuchodonosor, there is no need for us to answer thee in this matter. For the God whom we serve is able to deliver us out of the furnace of burning fire; and He will deliver us from thy hands, O king. And if not, be it known unto thee, that we do not serve thy gods, and we do not adore the golden image which thou hast set up.”(Dan. 3:16–18). And Daniel, devoted to God, and filled with the Holy Spirit, exclaims and says: “I worship nothing but the Lord my God, who founded heaven and the earth.” Tobias also, although under a royal and tyrannical slavery, yet free in feeling and spirit, maintains his confession to God, and sublimely announces both the divine power and majesty, saying: “In the land of my captivity I confess to Him, and I show forth His power in a sinful nation.” Tob. 13:6.

What, indeed, do we find in the Maccabees of seven brethren, equals alike in their lot of birth and virtues, filling up the number seven in the sacrament of a perfected completion? Seven brethren were thus associated in martyrdom. As the first seven days in the divine arrangement containing seven thousand years,[1]as the seven spirits and seven angels which stand and go in and out before the face of God, the seven-branched lamp in the tabernacle of witness, the seven golden candlesticks in the Apocalypse, and the seven columns in Solomon upon which Wisdom built her house—so here also the number seven of the brethren, embracing, in the quantity of their number, the seven churches, as likewise in the first book of Kings we read that the barren hath borne seven. And in Isaiah, seven women lay hold on one man, whose name they ask to be called upon them. And the Apostle Paul, who refers to this lawful and certain number, writes to the seven churches. And in the Apocalypse, the Lord directs His divine and heavenly precepts to the seven churches and their angels, which number is now found in this case, in the seven brethren, that a lawful consummation may be completed. With the seven children is manifestly associated also the mother, their origin and root, who subsequently begat seven churches, she herself having been first, and alone founded upon a rock. Nor is it of no account that in their sufferings the mother alone is with her children. For martyrs who witness themselves as the sons of God in suffering are now no more counted as of any father but God, as in the Gospel the Lord teaches, saying, And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven (Mt. 23:9).
But what utterances of confessions did they herald forth! How illustrious, how great proofs of faith did they afford! The king Antiochus, their enemy—yea, in Antiochus Antichrist was set forth—sought to pollute the mouths of martyrs, glorious and unconquered in the spirit of confession, with the contagion of swine’s flesh. When he had severely beaten them with whips and yet could prevail nothing, he commanded iron plates to be heated, and when the plates had been made to glow, he commanded him who had spoken first, and who had most provoked the king by the constancy of his virtue and faith, to be brought up and roasted, his tongue that had confessed God having first been pulled out and cut off—this happened the more gloriously to the martyr. For the tongue which had confessed the name of God ought itself first to go to God. Then, sharper pains were devised for the second—before he tortured the other limbs, he tore off his scalp with the hair, doubtless with a purpose in his hatred. For since Christ is the head of the man, and God is the head of Christ, he who tore the head of the martyr was persecuting God and Christ in that head. But he, trusting in his martyrdom, and promising to himself the reward of resurrection from the retribution of God, exclaimed and said, “Thou indeed impotently destroyest us out of this present life; but the King of the world will raise us up, who die for His laws, unto the eternal resurrection of life.” (2 Macc. 7:9 [Heb. 11:35.]) When the third was challenged, he quickly put forth his tongue; for he had learned from his brother to despise the punishment of cutting off the tongue. Moreover, he firmly held forth his hands to be cut off, greatly happy about such a mode of punishment, since it was his lot to imitate the form of his Lord’s passion, by stretching forth his hands. And also the fourth, with like virtue, despised the tortures and answered, to restrain the king, with a heavenly voice exclaiming, said, “It is better that those who are given to death by men should wait for hope from God, to be raised up by Him again to eternal life. For to thee there shall be no resurrection to life”(2 Macc. 7:14). The fifth, besides treading underfoot the torments of the king, and his severe and various tortures, animated by the strength of faith to prescience and knowledge of future events by the Spirit of divinity, foretold the wrath of God to the king, and the vengeance that should swiftly follow. “Having power,” said he, “among men, though thou art corruptible, thou doest what thou wilt. But think not that our race is forsaken of God. Abide, and see His great power, how He will torment thee and thy seed.” (2 Macc. 7:16). What alleviation that was to the martyr! How substantial a comfort it was in his sufferings not to consider his own torments, but to predict the penalties of his tormentor!

But in the sixth, not his bravery only, but also his humility, is to be set forth. The martyr claimed nothing to himself, nor even made an account of the honor of his own confession with proud words, but rather ascribed it to his sins that he was suffering persecution from the king, while he attributed to God that afterwards he should be avenged. He taught that martyrs are modest, that they were confident of vengeance, and boasted nothing in their suffering. “Do not,” said he, “needlessly err; for we on our own account suffer these things, as sinning against our God. But think not thou that thou shalt be unpunished, who darest to fight against God.” (2 Macc. 7:18). Also the admirable mother, who, neither broken down by the weakness of her sex, nor moved by her manifold bereavement, looked upon her dying children with cheerfulness, and did not reckon those things to be punishments of her darlings, but glories, giving as great a witness to God by the virtue of her eyes, as her children had given by the tortures and suffering of their limbs; when, after the punishment and slaying of six, there remained one of the brethren, to whom the king promised riches, and power, and many things, that his cruelty and ferocity might be soothed by the satisfaction of even one being subdued. He asked the mother to entreat that her son might be cast down with herself. She entreated, but as befitting a mother of martyrs—as befitting one who was mindful of the law and of God—as befitting one who loved her sons not delicately, but bravely. For she entreated that he would confess God. She entreated that this one would not be separated from his brothers in the alliance of praise and glory—then only would she consider herself the mother of seven sons, if she should bring forth seven sons not to the world, but to God.

Coptic Fragment of Maccabees

Therefore arming him, and strengthening him, and so bearing her son by a more blessed birth, she said, “O son, pity me that bare thee ten[2] months in the womb, and gave thee milk for three years, and nourished thee and brought thee up to this age; I pray thee, O son, look upon heaven and the earth; and having considered all the things which are in them, understand that out of nothing God made these things and the human race. Therefore, O son, do not fear that executioner; but being made worthy of thy brethren, receive death, that in the same mercy I may receive thee with thy brethren.” (2 Macc. 7:27). The mother’s praise was great in her exhortation to virtue, but greater in the fear of God and in the truth of faith, that she promised nothing to herself or her son from the honor of the six martyrs, nor believed that the prayer of the brothers would avail for the salvation of one who should deny, but rather persuaded him to become a sharer in their suffering, that in the day of judgment he might be found with his brethren. After this the mother also dies with her children. There was nothing more befitting than that she who had borne and made martyrs should be joined in the fellowship of glory with them, and that she herself should follow those whom she had sent before to God.

And lest any should embrace the wicked part of deceivers when the opportunity either of a certificate or of any such matter is offered to him whereby he may deceive, let us not be silent also about Eleazar, who, when the ministers of the king offered him an opportunity to pretend to receive the flesh which was allowable for him to eat, in order to mislead the king [into thinking] that he ate those things which were forced upon him from the sacrifices and unlawful meats, would not consent to this deception, saying that it was fitting neither for his age nor nobility to feign it, for others would be scandalized and led into error. They might think that Eleazar, being ninety years old, had left and betrayed the law of God, and had gone over to the manner of aliens. It was not of so much consequence to gain the short moments of life, and so incur eternal punishment from an offended God. And having been long tortured, and finally reduced to extremity, dying in the midst of stripes and tortures, he groaned and said, “O Lord, that hast holy knowledge, it is manifest that although I might be delivered from death, I suffer the severest pains of body, being beaten with scourges; but with my mind, on account of Thy fear, I willingly suffer these things.”(2 Macc. vi. 30). Surely his faith was sincere, and his virtue sound and abundantly pure, not to have regarded king Antiochus, but God to be Judge, and to have known that it could not avail him for salvation if he should mock and deceive man when God, who is the judge of our conscience and who only is to be feared, cannot at all be mocked nor deceived.
If, therefore, we also live as dedicated and devoted to God—if we make our way over the ancient and sacred footsteps of the righteous, let us go through the same proofs of sufferings, the same testimonies of passions, considering the glory of our time the greater on this account, that while ancient examples may be numbered, yet that subsequently, when the abundance of virtue and faith was in excess, the Christian martyrs cannot be numbered, as the Apocalypse testifies and says: After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them (Rev. 7:9–15). But if the assembly of the Christian martyrs is shown and proved to be so great, let no one think it a hard or a difficult thing to become a martyr, when he sees that the crowd of martyrs cannot be numbered.

I have other posts on the Maccabees.