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Monday 21 July 2014

Middle Class Spirituality

Years ago, I mean about five years ago, I had a discussion with a Latino friend of mine, a clergyman, about how Americans only want middle-class spirituality.

He and I were discussing why the Neo-Catechumenates were so successful with the Latino population, few which attend the Latin Mass in the Middle West.

We came up with several reasons why religion in the main in the Midwest is bonded to middle-class values.

Here are the points as I remember them, a list resembling some of the Modernist heresies condemned so long ago.

1) Religion is fine as long as it does not interfere with daily life.

2) Religion is fine as long as it underpins the American Dream.

3) Catholicism must be main stream to be successful.

4) Family comes before community at church, which means not socializing with those at Mass.

5) Paganism is part of life-especially middle-class lifestyles, which have money to dabble in the occult and pagan. So what?

6) To be zealous is to be dangerous and a trouble-maker-one must, above all things, conform to the majority.

7) To be really middle-class one must be a conformist and a consumerist first and foremost.

8) Aspirations for wealth on earth are more important that voluntary poverty, just as marriage is more important than choosing celibacy (the Protestant influence on the Catholic middle-class is heavy).

9) The poor "you will always have with you" means not that it is your duty, but no ones.

10) Middle-class Catholics are Democrats first and Catholics second.

11) To be orthodox is to be too Roman and not enough an "American Catholic".

12) Christ was of the middle-class (ROFL-there was no middle class in Bible times).

And, so on. The spirituality of the middle classes is this-"Yes, I want to be holy, but without suffering, without pain."

Hey, folks, that is not "costly discipleship" but "cheap discipleship" to refer to Bonhoeffer. I read the Cost of Discipleship at the age of 22 and this book changed my life. Middle class spirituality refuses the yoke of Christ.

One quotation will do for today.

"costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: 'My yoke is easy and my burden is light.' "

If Catholicism doesn't hurt, it is not the mode of holiness in your life.

Well, this clarified the hypocrisy


Predestination Part Two

A learned friend of mine and I had a long conversation years ago on the fact that Pelagianism and Semipelagianism were two of the three most common heresies in Great Britain.

Both heresies deny the need for grace. Semipelagianism defines the idea that the special souls of the elect get special graces.

Semipelagianism also denies Original Sin and the effects of Original Sin. All people are given the graces necessary for salvation, which is the teaching of the Church. But, this grace is gratuitous in that God gives us grace. The problem comes into the minds of Catholics who do not understand that God knows in His Perfect Will and in His Permissive Will who will respond to His grace and who will not.

Garrigou-Lagrange notes three areas which are basic to all the teachers in the Catholic Church, gleaned from the various councils which helped to define predestination.

(1) "Predestination to the first grace is not because God foresaw our naturally good works, nor is the beginning of salutary acts due to natural causes; (2) predestination to glory is not because God foresaw we would continue in the performance of supernatural meritorious acts apart from the special gift of final perseverance; (3) complete predestination in so far as it comprises the whole series of graces from the first up to glorification, is gratuitous or previous to foreseen merits."

Now, SS. Thomas Aquinas and Augustine interpret these points as such. The first point may be understood as "To the man who does what he can with the help of actual grace, God does not refuse habitual grace."

On the second point, they understand that the grace of final perseverance is "intrinsically efficacious" and here is a quote from the Council of Orange--"God's help is always to be sought even for the regenerated and holy, that they may come to a happy end, or that they may continue in the performance of good works."

The Council of Trent notes, on the grace of final perseverance, that it is a "gift which cannot be obtained from any other than from Him who is able to establish him who standeth that he standeth perseveringly, and to restore he who falleth." It is the grace of complete gratuity.

The Council of Trent warns us all: "No one, moreover, so long as he is in this mortal life, ought so far to presume as regards the secret mystery  of divine predestination as to determine for certain that he is assuredly among the number of the predestined; as if it were true that he who is justified either cannot sin any more, or if he do sin, that he ought to promise himself an assured repentance. For except by special revelation it cannot be known whom God hate chosen unto Himself."

We work out our salvation in fear and trembling.

To be continued...

Working on Garrigou-Lagrange's Predestination

Predestination is a teaching of the Catholic Church, and clarified over the centuries  because of heresies.

At various councils, and in various decrees, the Church speaking against Prostentantism and Jansenism clearly defined what Christ meant by many statements in the Bible, and references in the Old Testament pointing to the salvation given to us by grace.

Many Catholics may be shocked, or at least, surprised, by Christ's statements in John 17:12, John 10:27-30,  Matt. 22:14, Matt. 24:22, and John 15:15. St. Paul also refers to predestination in I Cor. 4:7, Phi. 2:13, Eph 1:3-7 and Romans, both in chapter 8 and chapter 11.

SS. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Robert Bellarmine, (one of the great minds behind Trent) also have added to the teaching.

If a reader does not have time to read all the above Scripture passages, the main one which may help define this series is Romans 8:28-30.

Chapters 9-12 of Ephesians, as Garrigou-Lagrange points out, defines two ideas, at least, which are helpful to this post. First, that God's gifts of salvation and grace are completely gratutitous and not earned by any human being.

Second, there is a teaching on "predilection" which may be seen in both the history of nations and of individuals.

One may ask these questions, humbly and sincerely: Why was I born a Catholic? How is it that God gave me graces of conversion? Why is it that I am following God, His Commandments and His Church and not others? How is it that I live in a place where there is freedom for Christians and not in a country where Christians either are missing entirely, or have been forced out, or killed?

The recent events in Mosul must cause all to reflect on the daily freedoms we have to worship God.

God is God and His decisions are free. Lagrange points out three areas which he will discuss:

1) "God has chosen certain persons to constitute the elect. 2) He has caused this election to be efficacious so that they will infallibly get to heaven...3) God's choice of the elect was entirely gratuitous and previous to any considerations of foreseen merits...."

In Romans, St. Paul writes this: "As H chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy" and "For whom He foreknew, (in His benevolence), He also predestined to be made conformable to the image of His Son."

St. Augustine writes this, as Garrigou-Lagrange notes: "Predestination is the foreknowledge and preparedness on God's part to bestow the favors by which all those are saved who are to be saved."

And, "God already knew, when He predestined, what He must do to bring His elect infallibly to eternal life."

Now, we are asked to work out our salvation in "fear and trembling", never taking it for granted. I think of one of my brothers who is a Baptist, sort-of, although no longer church-going, and who thinks that his salvation and forgiveness is a one time event. I cannot convince him of the necessity of confession and Sunday Mass, but I pray for him. The Protestant confused idea of predestination has caused a laxity among those who reject the sacramental life of the Church.

This mini-series will cover some of the main ideas in Garrigou-Lagrange's book. I hope you want to follow this intriguing topic.

Why am I not surprised?

I commented.

Time for you all to read or re-read this

Repost on A Franciscan Doctor of The Church

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Part Sixteen on the Doctors of the Church and Perfection-Lawrence of Brindisi

A man's holiness and walk in perfection may be sensed and even defined by works. Lawrence of Brindisi shows a  high stage of holiness in his ability to bring together the love of God with preaching, a call he answered in several countries in Europe. Here, he is calling on priests, specifically, to preach the Word of God so that people may come to perfection. He notes that the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity are fed, are encouraged in the Scriptures.

Two points for those seeking perfection from this snippet, are that the reading of Scripture is absolutely necessary in the pursuit of perfection. This is one reason why priests and religious, such as the Benedictines, make time daily for the Lectio Divina. I am convinced that without the daily reading and pondering of Scripture, holiness is impossible.

Secondly, for the person seeking perfection, all sin must be overcome. The daily reading and pondering of Scripture aids, like water in the desert, this victory over sin. There is a grace in reading the Scriptures daily.

The highlights are my own. I am aware that there is a twelve volume set of his writings in print, but not on line.

Therefore, a snippet from the work, Preaching is an apostolic duty

There is a spiritual life that we share with the angels of heaven and with the divine spirits, for like them we have been formed in the image and likeness of God. The bread that is necessary for living this life is the grace of the Holy Spirit and the love of God. But grace and love are nothing without faith, since without faith it is impossible to please God. And faith is not conceived unless the word of God is preached. Faith comes through hearing, and what is heard is the word of Christ. The preaching of the word of God, then, is necessary for the spiritual life, just as the planting of seed is necessary for bodily life.

     Christ says: The sower went out to sow his seed. The sower goes out as a herald of justice. On some occasions we read that the herald was God, for example, when with a living voice from heaven he gave the law of justice to a whole people in the desert.

     On other occasions, the herald was an angel of the Lord, as when he accused the people of transgressing the divine law at Bochim, in the place of weeping. At this all the sons of Israel, when they heard the angel's address, became sorrowful in their hearts, lifted up their voices, and wept bitterly. Then again, Moses preached the law of the Lord to the whole people on the plains of Moab, as we read in Deuteronomy. Finally, Christ came as God and man to preach the word of the Lord, and for the same purpose he sent the apostles, just as he had sent the prophets before them.

     Preaching therefore, is a duty that is apostolic, angelic, Christian, divine. The word of God is replete with manifold blessings, since it is, so to speak, a treasure of all goods. It is the source of faith, hope, charity, all virtues, all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, all the beatitudes of the Gospel, all good works, all the rewards of life, all the glory of paradise: Welcome the word that has taken root in you, with its power to save you.

     For the word of God is a light to the mind and a fire to the will. It enables man to know God and to love him. And for the interior man who lives by the Spirit of God, through grace, it is bread and water, but a bread sweeter than honey and the honeycomb, a water better than wine and milk. For the soul it is a spiritual treasure of merits yielding an abundance of gold and precious stones. Against the hardness of a heart that persists in wrongdoing, it acts as a hammer. Against the world, the flesh and the devil it serves as a sword that destroys all sin. 

Repeat on A Doctor of the Church

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Part Fifteen: The Third Franciscan Doctor of the Church, Lawrence of Brindisi

The Capuchin had a brain the size of a planet. Not only did he excel in the usual studies of his time, (1559-1619), but he knew most of the European languages as well as the Semitic languages, making him not only a Biblical scholar, but beloved of the Jews, many of whom he converted.

I remember him as the chaplain of the Imperial Army which fought in the great Battle of Stulweissenburg,  As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes: To pit 18,000 men against 80,000 Turks was a daring undertaking and the generals, hesitating to attempt it, appealed to Lorenzo for advice. Holding himself responsible for victory, he communicated to the entire army in a glowing speech the ardour and confidence with which he was himself animated. As his feebleness prevented him from marching, he mounted on horseback and, crucifix in hand, took the lead of the army, which he drew irresistibly after him. Three other Capuchins were also in the ranks of the army. Although the most exposed to danger, Lorenzo was not wounded, which was universally regarded as due to a miraculous protection. The city was finally taken, and the Turks lost 30,000 men. As however they still exceeded in numbers the Christian army, they formed their lines anew, and a few days later another battle was fought. It always the chaplain who was at the head of the army. "Forward!" he cried, showing them the crucifix, "Victory is ours." The Turks were again defeated, and the honour of this double victory was attributed by the general and the entire army to Lorenzo.

But, it is because of his great inner life of contemplation that I include him in this series on perfection and the Doctors of the Church. Again, to be declared a Doctor of the Church, besides great holiness, the saint must have produced writings which the Church can recommend. Again, I quote the Catholic Encyclopedia on line:

The known writings of St. Lorenzo of Brindisi comprise eight volumes of sermons, two didactic treatises on oratory, a commentary on Genesis, another on Ezechiel, and three volumes of religious polemics. Most of his sermons are written in Italian, the other works being in Latin. The three volumes of controversies have notes in Greek and Hebrew.

I am also amazed at the energies of such great saints in producing so many works while preaching, teaching, doing missionary work, organizing and running an order and in Lawrence's case, fighting battles.

In the next post, I shall highlight some of his writings.