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Tuesday 15 April 2014

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More Thoughts on Despair

The Pope Emeritus writes that an entire society can and has become the organ of despair. Blessed John Paul II called this the "culture of death".

Benedict notes that when a society sees religion as personal and chooses to live in a despair which degraded human dignity, people refuse to rise up to the challenge of greatness to which each person is called.

The agnostic society flees from God and contradicts human nature, writes Benedict. This is my point in the perfection series when I have written that without purification and humility, no real great deeds can be accomplished. Work, as the Pope Emeritus states, is a substitute for the interior life, and even work in the Church, as I have noted over and over, is useless unless grown in the soil of holiness, of purity of heart.

Benedict accuses those in the Church of laziness and cowardice because such people have not contradicted this culture of death, this seeking of darkness in despair and agnosticism.

The Church cannot be a light on the hill in the world without the realization that the darkness is encroaching on freedoms.

Humility is key. Read this amazing line from, perhaps, the holiest pope we have had in the past century:

"Because one no longer dares to do the great things that are proper to one id forces all the more to live out of the past. But the feeling remains and continually grows that one is doing too little."

Wow! What a humble man is our Pope Emeritus....

Purgation is the key to all of this.........even to turning against despair, realizing that one's sins deserve suffering and death.

to be continued...

Thoughts on Despair

During the week of Holy Week, some people feel sorry for Judas. I suppose we can feel sadness on the loss of a soul, but we should not mourn over those who have chosen to go against the truth which is in their hearts and minds and which they can choose.

I quote the Pope Emeritus on this point. “Those who despair do not pray because they have lost hope: those who are sure of themselves and their own power do not pray because they rely on themselves."

He also writes that, “All out anxieties are ultimately fear of losing love and of the total isolation that follows from this.”  All despair is a rejection of love.  The Pope Emeritus notes that “This fulfilled totality of being to which faith provides the key is love without reserve—a love that is an immense affirmation of my existence, and that discloses the fullness of all being to me in its breadth and depth.”

This person who is open to love has no boundaries or ends, states the Pope Emeritus. The purgation of the soul, may I add, removes these boundaries. He writes that “despair is thus the conviction that one has forfeited all love forever, the horror of complete isolation.”

Those who know my testimony know how close I was to suicide in 1971. God saved me from the final act of despair, the rejection of self.

Hope brings love and love ‘becomes visible in the mirror of hope”. What gave me hope was the truth of the Catholic teaching on repentance and sacramental confession, and facing the evil of sin in my life.

Despair is a common cause of death in our society. One wonders how culpable many who despair are, when these have not been loved, or have been abused.

But, the truth is that God’s Love is greater than any horrible thing which can happen to us, even great than our own bad choices.

That Judas lived, ate, traveled with Christ for three years and then rejected Christ’s perfect love indicates a turning of the heart and mind against God. The Pope Emeritus quotes St. Thomas Aquinas that accidie is the main cause for despair. This may be defined as a grief caused by the world, an overwhelming of inertia. I have written on this before in the perfection series. And what I experience as a youth was that inertia caused by sin.

When one loses hope, one closes one’s self to love. I have loved people who have turned their back against love and chosen either fear or a Pharisaical set of rules which they think will get them to heaven. If they just abide by these outward exercises, they will be saved, which shrinks the heart.

Pope Emeritus writes about this as well and I have seen this evil in some TLM groups, where rules replace love to the point that there are no real relationships.

I have prayed for years to die in the vocation to which God has called me. I believe this will happen. I also believe I shall return to Europe and live out my life there. Why do I believe and continue to pray? Hope. But, my hope springs out of love, love for the Christ, the Bridegroom, Who has taught me how to love Him and others in good times and in bad.

Such is the virtue of constancy which transcends the daily grind and the lack of answers to the impatience mind.

The Pope Emeritus writes that those who have a greatness of soul, those who have gratitude for the love which God gives, have magnanimitas. This is a gift, but it is also a result of the purgation and Dark Night of the senses and the soul.

One’s soul is purged of pettiness, of sloth, of despair, and as one turns one’s mind and will towards God, He comes in love.

Judas did not do this. He persisted in a egotism, returning again and again to his own flawed wisdom, his own pride, perhaps his predominant fault not touched by the grace of God which he experienced daily.

This past week, a fourteen year old girl committed suicide. She was beautiful. We do not know the reasons, but perhaps she did not know the love of God in her life, or could not respond to the love when it was offered. She may have been bullied to a point of deep, deep sadness with no one to take her to the only source of life, Christ. Too many young people grow up in isolation, unlove, even hatred. They cannot experience love in the core of their being. I know well another person like this for whom I pray daily. We do not know the tragedy of their lives. This young girl and even others were not a betrayers of Christ, but somewhere, there may have been a betrayal they experienced. Pray for her and others who turn into the culture of death for a respite of their suffering, because they do not know Christ’s love.

 Those who have less culpability may be prayed for, but Christ called Judas the son of perdition. He chose damnation. His hatred and rage led him to the “dominion of death”.

Some die as victims, some as perpetrators. But, do not make excuses for those who turn against love after having experienced it or after having been given the opportunity to experience it.

I beg all those caught in inertia, in accidie, in apathy, to turn to love, even now, no matter how old.

Do not choose to be alone in the darkness of despair. Choose life. Pieper’s phrase “lethargic sorrow”, quoted by the Pope Emeritus, leads to the Catholic giving up on those around them and on the world.

I shall not give up, with God’s grace. The perfection series of 600 plus posts was written with the love of God in mind. Do not turn your back on love.

There is a magnificent carving in the British Museum from the Middle Ages showing Judas hanging almost in complete juxaposition with Christ on the Cross.

This is our daily choice-to choose for Christ and His Love, to believe in His words.

This is our Faith.

To be continued....

The Pope Emeritus on False Optimism Continued...

Before moving on to the chapter on hope and love, I want to comment on a reference by the Pope Emeritus in his book.

He notes that when his Ratzinger Report was published, in 1985, that he was accused of being negative and pessimistic. Benedict writes that pessimism is considered a heresy by many in the world. This is a heresy connected to the false hope I recorded in another post on this idea from the Pope Emeritus. See the posts of the past few days on this subject.

The world responded in horror at this brave man wrote about the rupture of tradition, the relativism and permissiveness taking over society and so on. Most Catholics thought that the then Cardinal Ratziner was unduly critical and negative. Some, like this author, saw him as part of the problem. However, the greatest reaction was one of either dismissal or outright hatred for this holy cleric.

Here is an old review from the NYT in part:

Cardinal Ratzinger represents a third view, that of a man who is greatly disappointed. ''What the Popes and the Council Fathers were expecting was a new Catholic unity, and instead one has encountered a dissension which . . . seems to have passed over from self-criticism to self-destruction,'' he says. ''There had been the expectation of a new enthusiasm, and instead too often it has ended in boredom and discouragement. There had been the expectation of a step forward, and instead one found oneself facing a progressive process of decadence. . . . The period following the Council scarcely seemed to live up to the hopes of John XXIII, who looked for a 'new Pentecost.' ''
Cardinal Ratzinger attributes the damage pro-duced in the years since the council to the unleashing of ''latent polemical and centrifugal forces'' inside the church, and to the church's confrontation with the cultural revolution in the West represented by the triumph of middle-class individualism, rationalism and hedonism. Vatican II is not to blame. It was not a break with the past but an attempt to renew the language in which the Church presents its ancient message and to authorize sets of internal reforms to adapt its activity to modern conditions. Those who insist there was a break between a ''pre- and a post-conciliar Church'' ignore the far greater continuity between the council and earlier tradition. The blame for the disappointment of hopes for renewal belongs to those who have gone far beyond both the letter and the spirit of Vatican II, he thinks. The answer to the present crisis is a ''return to the authentic texts of the original Vatican II,'' a ''restoration,'' not in the sense of a return to the past but of a ''search for a new balance after all the exaggerations of an indiscriminate opening to the world, after the overly positive interpretations of an agnostic and atheistic world.''
After eliciting this general assessment, the interviewer takes Cardinal Ratzinger through a series of discussions in which he identifies the many problems the church faces today - a reductionist view of the church as a human construction rather than a divine institution; the loss of the sacred identity of the priest; the surrender by bishops of their individual authority to the bureaucratic structure of national episcopal conferences; individualism in theology and selectivity in catechesis; a loss of faith in God and Christ; a loss of the sense of original sin; permissiveness in morality, particularly the separation of sexuality from procreation; the denial of the proper role of women; the decline in Marian faith and piety; a trivialization of the liturgy; a dangerous neglect of the role and power of the Devil; too much accommodation in ecumenism and a liaison with Marxism in liberation theology. All in all, a most unhappy scene is painted, very rarely illuminated by some faint signs of vitality and hope. It is, he says, a ''confused period where truly every type of heretical aberration seems to be pressing upon the doors of the authentic faith.'' As disparate as these topics are, a common viewpoint and method are visible in the Cardinal's discussion of them. By far the greatest part of the treatment is devoted to dangers, abuses and fears. There is usually some brief warning against going too far in reacting to them and at times an equally brief indication that he believes there are also some positive aspects of the phenomenon under discussion. No names of those distrusted or criticized are ever given, nor is there any verifiable indication of how widespread a particular trend may be; frustratingly general words like ''some,'' ''certain'' and ''many'' abound. It is a very one-sided description, perhaps inevitable given the fact that, as a member of the Cardinal's Vatican congregation puts it, his daily work involves him with ''the pathology of faith.''

And, from another article on the Report:

On the vexed question of catechesis, Ratzinger made a profound contribution during two famous conferences on this theme at Lyons and Paris in January 1983. Here he spoke about the crisis in catechesis and its origins.
The problem, Ratzinger said, was that "the certainty of faith had been substituted by faith in historical hypothesis. The guarantee provided by such hypotheses has become, in a great number of catechetical texts, absolutely more important than the certainty of faith itself and this, too, has been scaled down to something vague and without precise contours. But life is not an hypothesis, and neither is death! Faith has become enclosed in the glass case of an intellectual world which has built itself up and, in the same way, can fall to pieces."
The Cardinal also criticised the ballooning growth of pedagogical methods for transmitting the faith, the unbalanced rapport between dogmatic exegesis and historical exegesis, and the erroneous, individualistic conceptions of faith that had The impact of the Prefect's contribution at these conferences was enormous. It represented the first authoritative critical reflection undertaken in the Church on post-conciliar catechesis and began a rethinking of its problems. This came to a head at the Extraordinary Synod of 1985 which approved the production of a universal Catechism. The work is to be completed by 1990. The task is in the hands of a Commission headed by Cardinal Ratzinger.
Now to the problems in moral theology. In February 1984 Ratzinger participated in two important conferences in Dallas, Texas, on the themes "Bishops, theologians, and morals" and "Dissent and proportionalism in moral theology".
In the first of these he touched on the correct understanding of conscience: "Conscience is understood by many to be sort of deification of subjectivity, a rock on which even the magisterium can founder. It claimed that in the light of conscience no other reason applies. Finally, conscience appears as the supreme level of subjectivity; but conscience is an organ, not an oracle; it requires growth, exercise and development."
And on the subject of morality, the Cardinal had this to say: "Morality is not an abstract code of behaviour; it presupposes a community of life within which morality itself is clarified and can be observed. Historically, morality does not belong to the realm of subjectivity but rather it is guaranteed by the community and has reference to the community.
In the second conference he referred to the relations between bishops and moral theologians: "The bishops witness to the moral values of the Catholic Church and the theologian finds in them his point of departure; but the function of the moral theologian is not simply to serve the teaching authority of bishops. He also must be in dialogue with the ethical questions of the time. "
And then, on the key issue of dissent, the Prefect pointed out that "it is important to distinguish between personal dissent and the dissent of a teacher or a specialist theologian. Particularly grave damage can be done, not because someone teaches his own personal dissent, but that he teaches it in the name of the Church."
Perhaps the most evident signs of corruption have been in the area of sacramental life. The practising Catholic laity come into contact with this regularly. They see the outward effects of it in the decadence of everyday liturgical practice and the reduction, piece-by-piece, of the indispensable sacrificial role of the ordained priest. In an interview on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Ratzinger dealt head-on with the suggestion that the laity could offer the sacrifice of the Mass without a priest:
"The ultimate meaning of the Christian life is communion with Christ and the Trinity. The normal means of entering into this relationship with the paschal mystery of the Lord is through the Sacrament of Penance and the Eucharist. But if a Christian, or a group of Christians, were prevented for a long period of time from having access to this sacramental presence of the Lord, this does not mean they are excluded from participation in the [Easter] mystery. [The Japanese, Korean and even some of the English martyrs are paradigm cases. On the other hand, a Eucharist which has been severed from the apostolic succession would give way to a form of destructive self sufficiency.
Not long after this, on 15 September 1986, the Congregation knocked on the head Professor Schillebeex's proposal that an "extra- ordinary ministry" of the Eucharist was a "dogmatic possibility."
In recent times, Ratzinger has also played a decisive role in the field of Ecclesiology (or the theory of the Church). First, the Cardinal has rejected the notion that the Church is just a sociological phenomenon - like a social movement, a professional organisation or a political party. In a conference held at Foggia on the eve of the Extraordinary Synod of 1985, Ratzinger spelled out the Church's position this way:
"Christ gives himself only in his body and never as a mere ideal. The Church is not an idea, it is a body; and the scandal of this becoming flesh, which was a stumbling block for so many of the contemporaries of Jesus, remains today in the Church. The ecclesiology of communion is at the very heart of the doctrine of the Church of Vatican II. No-one is able to make himself "Church" on his own. No group can simply gather together, read the New Testament and say - 'We are now the Church because the Lord is there wherever two or three are gathered together in His name'. An essential element of the Church is that of receiving, since the faith derives from listening and is not the product of anyone's personal decisions. This receiving structure we call sacrament."

Most leaders in the Church, however, had fallen into the false optimism of deceit-ignoring the real problems in the Church.

That the Pope Emeritus refers to this report in the context of the prophet Jeremiah proves an essential point: truth is rarely wanted in a secularized Church.

As one who wears the scars of battles within the Church, and as one who has repeatedly said that any ideas or false prophecies on a Triumphant Church on earth in the future, I identify with what the Pope Emeritus has written and did write.

I have been called an Eeyore in the Church. However, I feel that, although in the foyer of the mansion of the greats, I am in good company.

To be continued....

Dante Persecuted?

 The Sodomites

If Dante were alive in Italy today and published The Divine Comedy, he would be fined or jailed for hate speech? Think about this-the eroding of our heritage and our religion continues apace...This medieval artist would also be persecution.

MS. Holkham misc. 48,"
The Unbaptized

On those fallen away

 I have been meditating on what it is like to choose to be outside the Catholic Church.
This “vision”, purely from my imagination, connotes a dual danger of apostasy.

When we are baptized, we enter into the Mystical Body of Christ. We become children of God and heirs of heaven, which we are not, if we are not baptized.

As children of God, we are to be formed into the likeness of God by grace, which is given in the sacraments of the Church.

To turn away from all these graces is to choose a greater suffering than God ever intended.

I see in my mind’s eye a windswept plain with hundreds of people crawling on the hands and knees, into a darkness. All is gray and dusty, as if these people were lost in a coal tip, a dust tip, as in the famous book, Our Mutual Friend.

When one chooses a life outside the arms of Mother Church, one is exposed to evil in a new way. We all meet evil daily, but with strength, courage, and even confidence in God to carry us through the evil we meet.

This scenario changes when one chooses to leave the graces of the sacramental life.

That wind sweeping across this dusty barren waste howls with the voices of the devils and the liars of this world.

Why would anyone choose such a life of gray futility, setting aside the Eucharist, Confession, the Last Rites?

Another characteristic of these hundreds of people creeping across the dust and ashes, is that they are complaining, blaming others, events, circumstances, God, for their degradation. Such is the lot of those who leave discernment behind. One cannot even take responsibility for one’s life, one’s sin.

Humility would bring light, like great beacons, on this dull plain. These beacons of light would pierce the mind and heart, allowing those crawling nowhere to see their sins and their culpability.

But, no, these sad people choose daily to curse the goodness which surrounds them and stay in the gloom of despondency and even, final despair.

I remember that St. Peter and Judas committed the same sin of betrayal, albeit, one more seriously, but betrayal none the less.

The only difference between the two men was that one became humble through his sin and could leave the grey plains of guilt and blame, while the other could not believe in God’s goodness, God’s love, and, therefore, killed himself, as his soul was already dead.

I pray for those on the plain that they may have a graced moment of light, see the beacons and stand up, leaving the others behind, and walk towards true freedom into the love of God, Who always forgives our sins and creates us anew daily.

During this Holy Week, pray for those Catholics who have left the Church for the grey plains.

Turning a Corner

Lenin with Children at Christmas

What has been lost in education may never be able to be reproduced without great work on the part of parents. I was reading an article about Iowa schools being judge inferior by the federal government.

The criteria are now the No Child Left Behind bill, which was and is a disaster, as the new Core Curriculum Bill.

I am a strong state’s rights person who believes that education, of course, first of all belongs in the hands and hearts of the parents, and secondarily, with local government.

Merely twelve years ago, Iowa education was the best in the nation. A friendly rivalry with Wisconsin existed for years as which state would be judged first in test scores.

What has happened is that the teachers have become demoralized, having to become babysitters and care-givers, instead of teachers, as well as being forced to meet standards with which they may not agree, standards which are lower than their own expectations.

Teaching to a test is neither fun nor rewarding. Teaching really is mutual discovery of the truth. Teaching to tests has ruined Iowa education.

Sadly, with the new core curriculum, there is no turning back,

Catholic parents either must find a Catholic school which is not accepting the CC, or home school.

As Catholics, we no longer have a choice if we are to obtain eternal life.

More from The Pope Emeritus

Staying in the chapter on Hope, one finds a brilliant, Christological interpretation of the Beatitudes. This section alone shows the deep spirituality of the Pope Emeritus, even in 1989.

He weaves together several passages revealing that Christ is the Wise Man of the parable concerning the building of the Church, not on sand, but on Himself.

Taking this further, the Pope Emeritus states the obvious, only after he points this out, that the Beatitudes are about Christ.

The paradox of the Beatitudes, the way the sentences balance on what one has and what one does not have, reveals the kenosis of Christ, the emptying out of the Son of God of His Glory and greatness on earth, in order to come to us through the Incarnation.

How wonderful that the qualities of Jesus are revealed to us, He Who Is Perfect, as the Heavenly Father Is Perfect.

Taking only one for the purposes of enlightenment, although the Pope Emeritus looks at several of the Beatitudes, we see a description of Christ, “ Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Christ is already pure in heart, of course, but, Benedict points out, if we join with Christ in love, we, too, shall share in His attributes, as much as we are able.

The Pope Emeritus notes that the Beatitudes are not a New Testament Decalogue, but a revelation of Christ, our model, and more, an invitation to us to become one with Christ, and, thus, bear fruit.

I cannot possibly cover all the superb material in this little book. But, let me refer to one more thing in this chapter before moving on to the next one.

Bonaventure’s commentary on the Christian with the virtue of hope being like a bird is extensively quoted in this chapter. I especially like the metaphor of the Christian having to soar, to look up into the skies, towards God and the greater reality of God’s plan for us, in prayer. One is like the bird flying high up in the skies, when one leaves the shadows of land for the rarified air of hope.

This metaphor reminds us that hope is a virtue to be used in prayer. Too many people give up too early, too fast, when prayers are not answered. And, too many people, after a brief period of time think something is not God’s Will, when the opposite is true. God wants to answer our prayers, but He also tests how sincere we are in these petitions.

To be continued….