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Thursday 30 April 2015

How to prepare for being a martyr

Self-knowledge occurs in three places most commonly: in one's family, first of all, where one finds one's self living with those whom one did not choose to live, those with whom one may find have nothing in common with each other, besides blood and lineage.

The second place would be at work, wherein one must either lead others in justice and mercy, or be obedient and humble to those above one.

The third place is in community. Those religious who choose community understand the day to day rubbing off of sins, both obvious and those hidden, causing one to face one's self, and not run away from one's reflection as seen in the faces of those around one.

Religious life is more perfect, in that it is set up to obtain holiness and sanctity quickly, through the ancient tried and true rules of the various orders. Fr. Rodriguez refers to the rule of St. Ignatius of Loyola, of course, being a Jesuit counselor and spiritual director. He notes that one who does not seek self-knowledge is like an ugly woman refusing to look in a mirror. Rodriguez, like me, loves St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and uses his works extensively in the three volume book I have been following for weeks, The Practice of Christian Perfection. Those of us who fear self-knowledge do so because we honestly do not believe in the love and mercy of God, Who waits for us to be honest, so that He can show us the depths of His love. The first step, as we have seen, in the multi-step way to humility of St. Bonaventure, the one chosen by Rodriguez, is that of self-knowledge. Part of this first step is proper self-hatred.

In our society of narcissism and feeling good about ourselves, self-hatred is misunderstood as a loathing of existence, a denial that one is a child of God and heir of heaven, if one is baptized, and a creature of God owing God laud and honor, if one is not baptized. This lack of self-knowledge of who one is before God, either a lowly creature or an adopted son and daughter, lead to a false self-hatred, which the atheists see simply in terms of nihilism and fate.

What the saints mean by self-hatred cannot be confused with this false sense of disgust of being human, but with the sense of disgust against sin, whether Original, mortal, or venial.

A real test of whether one hates one's self in a good way is how one reacts to two things—the first is allowing someone to make a statement with which you disagree and let it go. One does not have to be right, or correct, or in the position of challenging everything. The second way one recognizes self-love rearing its ugly head is how one reacts to suggestions done in kindness, not in malice. But, this last response, how one reacts to malice, reveals truly if one is humble or not.

Recently, I was accused of something which was not true. I listened to the person and corrected their apprehension. When it was clear that the real conversation was about something else, a hurt deep down inside that person who was reacting to me as if I were another person, in other words, projecting something onto me which was not there, I backed down and agreed with this person and asked forgiveness. Although his perception was incorrect, what I should have thought of at first, and did not, was that I deserve all corrections, good or bad, true or false, and more, for my sins, both past and present. Also, the person was hurt from years of sins against him. I could have been less concerned about my own being in the right, and more concerned about his suffering. The fact that the person was hurt and could not see the real problem did not matter. God would take care of that in His Own time. I only had to be humble. I muffed this opportunity for a perfect response and pray for the grace to learn again this lesson of humility. Those who hate their own selves would have responded immediately in humility and grace. Thus, God showed me how far I was from true self-loathing.

We come into this world in Original Sin, which is enough to cause us to be humble, needing baptism and God's grace, His mercy won on the Cross and passed to us through the sacraments of the Church.
We sin, mortally, which kills the soul and earns one hell, and venially, which weakens the soul and stops the life of virtue from coming to fruition. There are very few people who have gone through the purification necessary for freedom from venial sin, and from concupiscence, which is possible, as I have noted in other recent posts. How far I am from this goal, but daily I beg God for these graces.

When one finally recognizes one's predominant fault, then the real cleansing begins. Father Rodriguez shares a charming but poignant story of Brother Giles, the follower of St. Francis. On hearing of the fall of the great Father Elias, who was excommunicated because of his support of the Emperor Frederick II, even though Father Elias was superior of the Franciscans. Brother Giles threw himself on the ground, face down for a long time. Finally, he was asked why he was literally clinging to the earth. He replied that as Father Elias had fallen from a great height, he, Giles, wanted to stay as close as possible to the lowly earth.

I shall keep this story in mind. God saved me over and over from receiving praise and high positions. I complained to Him years ago about me not being able to use my talents at a university, with a doctorate, and so on. He reminded me that He protected me from losing my soul, by allowing me to not climb the academic ladder, and that I should be grateful to be unseen, unknown, hidden.

In this state, I find I am most peaceful and have the joy of knowing that God protected me from a great fall of pride. I cling to the lowly dirt of the Midwest, again, about as hidden and lowly a place as I have ever lived. But, here, in the little chapel of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs, in Ephesus, I have an assurance of God's Mercy in my life.

Like Brother Giles, I cling to the grass, the earth, not desiring at all to be praised or even noticed.

One prays more effectively in hiddenness and contentment.

Again, Rodriguez shares another famous mythical story of Hercules overcoming Anteus, the giant. Rodriguez quotes Gerson in noting that whenever Anteus was smacked to the ground by Hercules, the giant gained strength, as he was a son of the earth. Hercules finally figured this out and held Anteus up high, squeezing him to death. Gerson states that this is what the devil does to us, holds us up high through the praise and esteem of men, so that he can overcome us with pride.

St Anselm, notes Rodriguez, that this second step of humility, is to suffer contempt with patience, meekness, humility. The Jesuit refers to Laurence Justinian, who wrote that humility is like a river, which is full in the winter, when things are difficult and rough, but low in the summer, as humility “decreases in prosperity and increases in adversity.”

I have been criticized on this blog by commentators in the past for being poor and asking for help, and yet, my confessor told me to be humble and ask for help. Whether people respond is their business, but mine is to be humble and ask for what I need. People do not like those who ask, as it means they have to respond, yay or nay. But, those who have been allowed by God to be the lowly of the earth must live in the hope of God's Providence, through the charity of others. So lived many of the saints throughout the ages, not hating their poverty, but loving it, as it caused them to not only suffer from want, but to be despised by men, and women. This is actually the fourth step of humility, to desire to be despised by other people, but I get ahead of myself at this juncture and go back.

Anselm states that we do not have to go out of our way to seek humble situations, but that God will bring these to us, if He pleases.

So, what does this have to do with times of tribulation, a thought I interject before going on to the third step of humility?

Simple. Can you not become angry when people abuse you to your face? Can you remain in peace when you are spurned because of your beliefs as a Catholic? Can you face the criticisms and even being ostracized by those in your own family with equanimity and peace?

Can you handle negativity when standing up to the truth of the real definition of marriage, known through both natural law and revealed law? Can you stand peacefully in the midst of Sodom and Gomorrah and live your faith completely, without dissembling?

Can you be in love with the Church so much, as the Bride of Christ, to uphold Her teachings despite public disdain?

Can you sacrifice the approval of the majority in order to follow Christ fully?

And can you do this in peace, without any anger or complaint?

Then, you have acquired humility.

Can you remain peaceful when someone above you demands something in an imperious tone, or when someone misunderstands your good intentions?

To this level of holiness God is calling all of us.

The third step may be the most difficult. Rodriguez, using the levels of St. Boniface, regards not responding to the praise and esteem of others as this most interesting step. Detachment helps greatly with this step.

The other day I met a woman about my age who had succeeded in all the ways I did not in my life. She had her doctorate in British Literature, taught at a prestigious university for years, traveled back and forth to England, (and still does) at leisure to visit wonderful places I know and love. She has a great pension, a lovely house, a happy marriage, and can live in other countries part of the year. And, when I spoke to her of my interruptions in my career, I did not feel less fortunate. I am completely without envy or desire, as God has shown me the way of humility, of being unknown, of not having, not acquiring, not being loved daily by a good spouse, and so on. I felt a joy welling up that I belonged to God and that nothing on this earth mattered except what brings me closer to Him.

She has her way to God and I have mine. Divine Providence decides all things. I shall not be praised or esteemed in the academic community, ever. But, all that is passing. Now, as pointed out by Rodriguez in Psalm 87, I do not want to be praised as that causes me confusion. In fact, I may be punished by God, as St. Augustine notes, in this volume, because praise takes away from merit, the merit of humility. Indeed, I do not ever want to be praised, but only seen by God as doing my duty.

In the fourth step of humility, Father Rodriguez quotes at length my favorite, St. Bernard of Clairvaux. One may look at all the tags on this blog relating to this talented, saintly man. A charismatic leader with gifts including the counsel given to popes, St. Bernard knew what it meant to attain humility. God allowed him to be ill, which seems to be a common denominator of many great saints and Doctors of the Church. One thinks of Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Avila, who experienced illnesses. Today, especially in America, the ill are looked down upon by the healthy. The cult of youth and health discriminates against the old and those with illnesses. One “should not be ill” in the States.

But, St. Bernard knew that the fourth step, which is to desire that men despise one, indicated that one had truly obtained humility. Rodriguez quotes St. Bernard on the two types of humility.

The first may be described as the one common to men and women who follow the steps indicated so far. People who see their sins and know who they are before God and man have this type of humility. But, as St. Bernard noted, Christ could not have this type of humility, as He was One with the Trinity. He knew He was God, and, therefore, He could not see Himself as lowly, as a sinner. But, the second type of humility Christ could endure and choose, which He did for our sake.

This second type is humility of the will and the heart. Philippians 2:7 tells us that Christ chose to be humbled, even to death on the Cross. This is chosen humility of the will and heart, and we can choose this as well.

I have a dear friend who cannot accept Christ as God because he cannot accept that God would become a human being. For him, Christ is the stumbling block to joining the Catholic Church. How could God, Who is All Perfect, All Good, All Beauty, All Truth, and Spirit, take on human flesh and all that means?

Yet, this is what Christ did choose out of love for us. Pray for my dear friend to accept that Christ became Man and still remained God.

Rodriguez writes about several examples of Christ's humility but one is letting the Jews chose to free Barabbas over Himself, letting a common criminal be freed and seen as less evil than Himself. How is it that Christ could choose such lowly pain and suffering, such hatred from His Own People? Because of the great love He has for us, Christ chose humility of the heart and will.

Can we do less? Can we endure the pain of the tribulation to come out of a great love for Christ? I pray for this grace. Father Rodriguez quotes St. Ignatius that this is exactly what martyrs need—in the Examen xllv. Rule xi, the founder writes this:

“ they who have renounced the world, and truly follow Jesus Christ, ought fervently to desire whatever is opposite to the spirit of the world, and ought to take delight to wear the livery of their divine Master, out of the love they bear him; so that to become in a manner like unto him, they ought to wish themselves to be overwhelmed with injuries, affronts, false testimonies, and all sorts of ignominy,so that God were not thereby, and if the inflicting of them be no sin in their neighbour.”

I pray for these graces, as this is what is needed to be a martyr.

As in the Days of the Early Church-Five Sins to Avoid

A reader asked me how or if we are to be detached from world events, and politics. Yes, and no.

First the "yes answer".  We need to know what is going on. We are to use our reason and not respond emotionally to world events, domestic issues which break into our daily lives. But, as I have done on this blog, one must use really good sources for news, and this is NOT TELEVISION.

To not follow news is hiding from both the truth and responsibility. I suggest that discernment is necessary.  To not follow news that affects the lives of your children and grandchildren, to me, is not using the gifts of reason and prudence given to us by God. Even the apostles, and Christ Himself kept up with news. How do you think the stories of the martyrs, such as the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste mentioned earlier were known to Catholics? News travels fast, even in the earliest days, with letters, sermons, and so on.

The problem today is that the priests do not talk about current events from the pulpit and they should, absolutely. A holy priest in England, before ssm was passed into law, (and remember, the queen signed the bill into law), talked about this serious event for two weeks daily, as I was at his daily Masses. He told the congregation to sign the petition and to pray against this law. All priests should have done this. I admire him and praise him here, Father Dominic Rolls.

Examples from Scripture of news being important may be found in all the books. Look at the messengers sent from the wars, the prophets, the seers, like Daniel, and so on. People were very aware of events which were evil changing their lives forever.

That is the "yes answer". The "no answer" is that we are not to fall into four sins: one, the sin of curiosity; two,  the sin of incredulity; three, the sin of cynicism; four, the sin of despair; five, the sin of presumption.

A big list to avoid in hard, horrible times............

As I have written about some of these sin, I include some past posts, but to see these all together will impress upon all the need for prayer.

First , the sin of curiosity, a huge sin in our American culture...Father Chad Ripperger has been one of the most influential priests in my life via his amazing set of talks and some personal input. He is the reason I am in the third order which he started. His intellect and spiritual insights are gifts from God.

One of the things he has pointed out is something I have written on this blog-the sin of curiosity.

This sin causes people to run after approved and unapproved apparitions. We do not need to concern ourselves with visions, but we do need to study our faith.

Recently, Father noted that curiosity is a vice, even when it is connected to wanting to know the latest about certain apparitions, even approved ones.

The virtue which is the opposite of this vice is studiosity, the virtue connected to temperance, which is a search for the truth which is disciplined and ordered. 

We are responsible for knowing the Faith, and we are also responsible for dulling our own intellects.

Raissa, as I noted, cried out in her diary for people to know their religion, the Catholic religion.

Without knowledge of the Faith, one easily falls into many other vices, and we are responsible for that type of falling away.

Studiosity is a virtue. If one is an adult and never studies the Faith in the Catechism or the encyclicals, or other excellent books, one is committing two sins at least. One is sloth and the other is neglect of conscience.

Ask yourselves honestly in your examination of conscience whether you are studying. If one merely chooses one author, such as St. Alphonsus, or the Pope Emeritus, or St. Augustine, or St. Therese of Lisieux, one is doing one's duty.

But the virtue demands that we study not only spirituality and prayer, but doctrine and dogma.

Studiosity is connected to the great virtue of temperance, the virtue which strengthens our reason. Temperance prepares us to combat temptation. Studiosity allows us to know the Faith so that we can avoid temptations and prepare for holiness.

Are you studying anything solid with regard to the Faith?

For those caught up with seers and visions, even approved ones, I challenge you to set those books aside and begin to study your Faith.

We are required to do this, and the fact that there is a virtue which helps us do so should be comforting.

Thomas Aquinas makes this distinction between curiosity, which actually is connected to lust and greed, and studying.  Curiosity connects us with the senses, not the intellect. Whereas studying increases our knowledge in order to help us know God and ourselves.

To be constantly distracted by trivia may be an indication that one has fallen into the vice of curiosity.

The second sin to avoid is incredulity.

Three friends of mine, a man and two women, have discussed the prevalence of false visionaries, and, more to the point of this posting, the fact that so many Catholics have fallen for the lies of these seers.

My friends had expressed that they did not even have to study the sites, or read the books. Two just looked at the outside of MDM's book and had a revulsion immediately. One said to me he has a gut reaction to falsehood. I usually read something and compare it to Church Teaching, and it only takes reading a few sentences to realize how heretical this site and other groupings are.

My thoughts this morning center on two aspects of discernment.

As I have studied theology and philosophy and had the good, old Baltimore Catechism while I was growing up, I have a foundation in Catholic Teaching. Therefore, I can spot more easily errors which those who do not have good grounding in catechesis miss.

But, two points, and these are crucial.

One, why is it that most who get involved do not have either the niggling doubt or the strong "This is wrong" reaction of my friends, two who have no college degrees at all?

Where is the gut level revulsion to deceit? Why is it missing?

Two, after being shown the doctrinal errors, why do some people insist on ignoring doctrine, the CDF, or even strong condemnations from bishops all over the world? Why is the hierarchy ignored and why are doctrinal truths set aside? Why is the virtue of obedience set aside?

For those who have been shown point by point, bullet by bullet, the errors, much responsibility and culpability now falls on their conscience. They are no longer "innocent" once errors have been clarified. In other words, those many Catholics who continue in error may go to hell, seriously, for supporting and believing in heresy.

Heresy is a major sin. So is disobedience. So are curiosity and pride.

Again, the sins of those who follow these cults are based on Gnosticism, which includes the unhealthy desire for "inside", "elite", "special" knowledge.

Where is trust in God, in Divine Providence?

Why is that initial reaction, "Eeeiiuu, this is not good" absent?

There is a name for this Big Sin regarding false seers. It is called incredulity. Here is the CCC on this sin.

2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. 

"Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; 

apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; 

schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him." [Code of Canon Law c.751]

And, more helpful definitions

Pope Boniface VIII, Bull Unam Sanctum (1302), 
But this authority, although it is given to man and is exercised by man, is not human, but rather divine, and has been given by the divine Word to Peter himself and to his successors in him, whom the Lord acknowledged an established rock, when he said to Peter himself:Whatsoever you shall bind etc. [Matt. 16:19]. Therefore, whosoever resists this power so ordained by God, resists the order of God [cf. Rom. 13:2] ...  Furthermore, we declare, say, define, and proclaim to every human creature that they by necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff.
And, from Pius IX from the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Vatican Council I, 1870

We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation; that she is the only ark of safety, and whosoever is not in her perishes in the deluge; we must also, on the other hand, recognize with certainty that those who are invincible in ignorance of the true religion are not guilty for this in the eyes of the Lord. And who would presume to mark out the limits of this ignorance according to the character and diversity of peoples, countries, minds and the rest?

...all the faithful of Christ must believe "that the Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold primacy over the whole world, and that the Pontiff of Rome himself is the successor of the blessed Peter, the chief of the apostles, and is the true vicar of Christ and head of the whole Church and faith, and teacher of all Christians; and that to him was handed down in blessed Peter, by our Lord Jesus Christ, full power to feed, rule, and guide the universal Church, just as is also contained in the records of the ecumenical Councils and in the sacred canons.

... the faithful of whatever rite and dignity, both as separate individuals and all together, are bound by a duty of hierarchical submission and true obedience, not only in things pertaining to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church spread over the whole world, so that the Church of Christ, protected not only by the Roman Pontiff, but by the unity of communion as well as of the profession of the same faith is one flock under the one highest shepherd. This is the doctrine of Catholic truth from which no one can deviate and keep his faith and salvation...

By the way, I have several postings from the past on the levels of infallibility in the Church. Just follow the tags.

An irony exists concerning the sin of incredulity. We all saw first-hand this sin of not believing in the Teaching Magisterium of the Church among some cardinals at the Synod.
However, many laity, precisely, have fallen into the same sin in the way they are criticizing or judging the Synod events.
To follow a false seer, because of the incredulity of some of the hierarchy, is to fall into the exact same deceitful mind-set.
Those demons of the air in charge of the sins connected to incredulity, heresy and apostasy, seem to be working overtime.
One sin can lead to another without prudence.

Obedience is the greatest virtue one needs to stay away from the sin of incredulity.

Obedience follows humility.

Thankfully, I learned this and passed this on to my son, who expressed the other day that the primary virtue needed now is obedience, not the seeking of false security. I asked him how he had learned this, (although he had expressed it at age twelve, by telling me then, when I corrected him and said he had to be obedient to me, "Mum, I know I have to be obedient. Obedience underlines all the virtues.") On Monday, he noted that he had learned this by being the son of a strict single mum. Parents, take heed of the great importance of asking your children to obey you.

Virtue formation starts earlier and if we miss out of that, we must catch up.

That is our duty as adult Catholics, to learn the Faith and live it. 

We all have discernment with the gift of knowledge given to us in Confirmation. Some choose freely to go against this gift.
All one needs to do is to study the teachings of the Church and learn how to think like a Catholic and not like a protestant.

If one is confused, pray.

Doctrine informs the spiritual life. Without a grounding in doctrine, one will fall prey to false seers.
Ignore most private revelations. People are losing their Catholic Faith through these seers, which is the entire reason they are speaking-satan's ploy.

Some of the following heresies in this lost list of attacks on Catholic Teaching, are held by the supposed holy seers. I taught an "Isms" class way back in 2002 and the students learned to spot these heresies, all of them, in today's culture.

And, again from the CCC:

678 Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching.582 Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light.583 Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God's grace as nothing be condemned.584 Our attitude to our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love.585 On the Last Day Jesus will say: "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."586
1851 It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate's cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas' betrayal - so bitter to Jesus, Peter's denial and the disciples' flight. However, at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world,126 the sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly.

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

The third great sin to avoid is cynicism.

Increasingly, I have come across many people who make comments like, "Everyone lies". Or, "All politicians are liars." Or, "You cannot trust anyone."

In one day, I heard two people say this. One is a practicing Catholic and the other is a lapsed Catholic.

Cynicism is a sin. It is a lack of faith in the human soul to be good. Cynicism is based on unrealistic expectations of others, or society in general. Some cynics are depressed people, who are looking for a utopia on earth.

One of the cynics with whom I was talking is disillusioned with all people. He is the fallen away Catholic. He hates his job, complains about his bosses, and distrusts all politicians from all parties. He mistrusts finanacial gurus and generally thinks all men and women are deceitful.

This type of mindset borders on psychological illness and betrays a need to want perfection in the world. Some cynics are atheists, and want man to be perfect as they have rejected a perfect God.

I tend to think that cynicism is cloaked pride. Also, it could be projection. If a person is a compulsive liar, this person will not trust others.

The only cure for cynicism is faith in God and the sacrament of Confession. Confession keeps us humble.

The other person I met who is steeped in cynicism is old and jaded. Hope is gone in this person regarding human beings having the capacity to change and grow. Again, this type of cynicism could be pride, or hurt. Old betrayals need to be forgiven and forgotten.

Cynicism is like a cancer which eats away the soul, the mind, the heart.

Only the sacraments and the community of the Church, linked to the grace of God and Truth can save someone from sinking into cynicism.

Matthew 18 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition 

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a child, whom he put among them, 3 and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

One of the most common sins which is not being defined as sin by too many who should know better is the sin of cynicism.

Cynicism is more than just distrust or doubt. It is a firm conviction that most people are evil and that one is doomed to suffering.

Now, some seculars think that this approach is the same as that of a Christian. We think many situations reveal evil and we also see the redemptive aspect of suffering.

But, the Christian knows that suffering has been overcome because of Christ on the Cross.

And, the Christian knows that people choose evil but do not have to do so. No one is "doomed" to evil. All humans have been given sufficient grace for salvation.
We all have free will and we all can choose good.

A cynic lacks a sense of humanity, what humans are called to be naturally and supernaturally.

A cynic may be someone who is disillusioned or jaded. A cynic has lost faith in God to move humans to become human. The cynic only sees the negative and not the entire picture, that men and women are created in God's image and likeness and that we have lost the likeness, which is grace.

Cynics believe that to see men and women as capable of goodness and virtue amounts to naivete. Hope can be natural, but it can also be supernatural, when it is based on the virtue of faith in God and His grace.

The cynic does not believe that we are called to become like little children...that we are called to trust in God.

The cynic does not believe that a person can become a saint, or become perfect.

Perhaps, the cynic does not really believe in Redemption, in Christ's sacrifice to free us from sin and death.

Sadly, the true cynic cannot see God working in the lives of individuals or society. Indeed, this is sad.

Some commentators have sent notes which reveal the sin of cynicism. I do not publish these, as sin has no part in rational discussions and sometimes cynicism reveals an underlying state of depression, which should not be publicized.

I pray that young people do not fall into cynicism. I pray that they see this as a sin against the First Commandment, a serious slight against God and Divine Providence.

The fourth sin afflicting those in times of trial would be that of despair. 

Let me use Thomas Aquinas on despair. 

Sometimes, it is the voice of reason which snaps someone out of despair. St. Peter had the grace of repentance.

Aquinas is clear that despair is a serious sin. Below is another snippet from the Summa.

There is a pattern, a paradigm of action and thought which leads to despair.

Mortal sin, rationalization of those sins, and finally a turning away of the theological virtues given in baptism. I suggest to those who are evangelizing or talking with people in despair, that the fact that this sin is directly against God and His goodness would be a good topic of conversation. Those who have despaired need to find the real God, not the God of their imaginations. And, they need to know that God has forgiven them.

To reject over and over the forgiveness of God, won by Jesus on the Cross, is the sin of despair.
Here is the great Dominican on this sin.

Whether despair is the greatest of sins?

  Objection 1: It would seem that despair is not the greatest of sins. For there can be despair without unbelief, as stated above (Article [2]). But unbelief is the greatest of sins because it overthrows the foundation of the spiritual edifice. Therefore despair is not the greatest of sins.
  Objection 2: Further, a greater evil is opposed to a greater good, as the Philosopher states (Ethic. viii, 10). But charity is greater than hope, according to 1 Cor. 13:13. Therefore hatred of God is a greater sin than despair.
  Objection 3: Further, in the sin of despair there is nothing but inordinate aversion from God: whereas in other sins there is not only inordinate aversion from God, but also an inordinate conversion. Therefore the sin of despair is not more but less grave than other sins.
  On the contrary, An incurable sin seems to be most grievous, according to Jer. 30:12: "Thy bruise is incurable, thy wound is very grievous." Now the sin of despair is incurable, according to Jer. 15:18: "My wound is desperate so as to refuse to be healed." [*Vulg.: 'Why is my wound,' etc.] Therefore despair is a most grievous sin.
  I answer that, Those sins which are contrary to the theological virtues are in themselves more grievous than others: because, since the theological virtues have God for their object, the sins which are opposed to them imply aversion from God directly and principally. Now every mortal sin takes its principal malice and gravity from the fact of its turning away from God, for if it were possible to turn to a mutable good, even inordinately, without turning away from God, it would not be a mortal sin. Consequently a sin which, first and of its very nature, includes aversion from God, is most grievous among mortal sins.
   Now unbelief, despair and hatred of God are opposed to the theological virtues: and among them, if we compare hatred of God and unbelief to despair, we shall find that, in themselves, that is, in respect of their proper species, they are more grievous. For unbelief is due to a man not believing God's own truth; while the hatred of God arises from man's will being opposed to God's goodness itself; whereas despair consists in a man ceasing to hope for a share of God's goodness. Hence it is clear that unbelief and hatred of God are against God as He is in Himself, while despair is against Him, according as His good is partaken of by us. Wherefore strictly speaking it is more grievous sin to disbelieve God's truth, or to hate God, than not to hope to receive glory from Him.
   If, however, despair be compared to the other two sins from our point of view, then despair is more dangerous, since hope withdraws us from evils and induces us to seek for good things, so that when hope is given up, men rush headlong into sin, and are drawn away from good works. Wherefore a gloss on Prov. 24:10, "If thou lose hope being weary in the day of distress, thy strength shall be diminished," says: "Nothing is more hateful than despair, for the man that has it loses his constancy both in the every day toils of this life, and, what is worse, in the battle of faith." And Isidore says (De Sum. Bono ii, 14): "To commit a crime is to kill the soul, but to despair is to fall into hell."

One of the great weaknesses of modern catechesis in the past thirty years has been the emphasis on emotional religious experience or faith based on experience of some emotional event. This has led to many people chasing after new age religions and false private revelations.

Despair is, therefore, seen as a result of depression or melancholia, rather than a deadly sin. It is part of the appetites in so far as it starts in feeling, but as Catholics, we are called to overcome our feelings with grace and  hope.

In other words, one's judgement is tainted by passion or habit of sin and, therefore, one cannot make a good judgment regarding God and His Mercy

Here is Aquinas on this point.

 I answer that, Unbelief pertains to the intellect, but despair, to the appetite: and the intellect is about universals, while the appetite is moved in connection with particulars, since the appetitive movement is from the soul towards things, which, in themselves, are particular. Now it may happen that a man, while having a right opinion in the universal, is not rightly disposed as to his appetitive movement, his estimate being corrupted in a particular matter, because, in order to pass from the universal opinion to the appetite for a particular thing, it is necessary to have a particular estimate (De Anima iii, 2), just as it is impossible to infer a particular conclusion from an universal proposition, except through the holding of a particular proposition. Hence it is that a man, while having right faith, in the universal, fails in an appetitive movement, in regard to some particular, his particular estimate being corrupted by a habit or a passion, just as the fornicator, by choosing fornication as a good for himself at this particular moment, has a corrupt estimate in a particular matter, although he retains the true universal estimate according to faith, viz. that fornication is a mortal sin. In the same way, a man while retaining in the universal, the true estimate of faith, viz. that there is in the Church the power of forgiving sins, may suffer a movement of despair, to wit, that for him, being in such a state, there is no hope of pardon, his estimate being corrupted in a particular matter. In this way there can be despair, just as there can be other mortal sins, without belief.

  Reply to Objection 1: The effect is done away, not only when the first cause is removed, but also when the secondary cause is removed. Hence the movement of hope can be done away, not only by the removal of the universal estimate of faith, which is, so to say, the first cause of the certainty of hope, but also by the removal of the particular estimate, which is the secondary cause, as it were.
  Reply to Objection 2: If anyone were to judge, in universal, that God's mercy is not infinite, he would be an unbeliever. But he who despairs judges not thus, but that, for him in that state, on account of some particular disposition, there is no hope of the Divine mercy.
   The same answer applies to the Third Objection, since the Novatians denied, in universal, that there is remission of sins in the Church.

The fifth sin to avoid is that of presumption. 

To me, this is much more common than the sin of despair. Most people think, if there is a heaven, they will go there. Not so. None of us can be sure of our salvation, not because of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, but because of our free will.

One of the interesting conversations I have had of late has been with a young person who is concerned with her peers who are not at all pursuing a spiritual life.

Of course, the reasons for the deadening of the sensitivity of the spiritual life are myriad. But, I asked her to think about pre-Christian Rome. We know from history and from the Act of the Apostles, as well as the Epistles, that the apostles went to the Gentiles after the Gospel was refused by the Jewish people.

Those Gentiles were pagans of various sorts. There were the Cynics, the Skeptics, the Epicureans, the Stoics and so on. Some of these believed in gods and some did not. Some believed in an afterlife, and some did not. Some believed in the virtues, and some merely in the pursuit of pleasure.

How is it that so many Gentiles became Christians when today we see a huge growth in neo-paganism, especially Epicureanism, and few converting?

In 2013, some statistics state that in this world, there are 300 million pagans.

These would not include heathens, the term for those who believe in false religions. Remember, there are only two revealed religions, Judaism and Christianity. All the others are man-made.

But, before Christianity, men and women are humans had a sense of good and evil. The natural law philosophy, which underlies much of our Catholic teaching, is that by the fact that each person has a soul, there is embedded in human a moral sense.

I have discussed with many people of late the question of invincible ignorance. I maintain that in this day and age in the West, at least, there is no such thing in modern society as complete moral ignorance  Here is the Catechism on natural moral law. 


1954 Man participates in the wisdom and goodness of the Creator who gives him mastery over his acts and the ability to govern himself with a view to the true and the good. The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie:
The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin . . . But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be submitted.5
1955 The "divine and natural" law6 shows man the way to follow so as to practice the good and attain his end. The natural law states the first and essential precepts which govern the moral life. It hinges upon the desire for God and submission to him, who is the source and judge of all that is good, as well as upon the sense that the other is one's equal. Its principal precepts are expressed in the Decalogue. This law is called "natural," not in reference to the nature of irrational beings, but because reason which decrees it properly belongs to human nature:
Where then are these rules written, if not in the book of that light we call the truth? In it is written every just law; from it the law passes into the heart of the man who does justice, not that it migrates into it, but that it places its imprint on it, like a seal on a ring that passes onto wax, without leaving the ring.7 The natural law is nothing other than the light of understanding placed in us by God; through it we know what we must do and what we must avoid. God has given this light or law at the creation.8
1956 The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties:
For there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with nature, is diffused among all men, and is immutable and eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn away from offense . . . . To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions is forbidden; no one can abrogate it entirely.9
1957 Application of the natural law varies greatly; it can demand reflection that takes account of various conditions of life according to places, times, and circumstances. Nevertheless, in the diversity of cultures, the natural law remains as a rule that binds men among themselves and imposes on them, beyond the inevitable differences, common principles.
1958 The natural law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history;10 it subsists under the flux of ideas and customs and supports their progress. The rules that express it remain substantially valid. Even when it is rejected in its very principles, it cannot be destroyed or removed from the heart of man. It always rises again in the life of individuals and societies:
Theft is surely punished by your law, O Lord, and by the law that is written in the human heart, the law that iniquity itself does not efface.11
1959 The natural law, the Creator's very good work, provides the solid foundation on which man can build the structure of moral rules to guide his choices. It also provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community. Finally, it provides the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected, whether by a reflection that draws conclusions from its principles, or by additions of a positive and juridical nature.
1960 The precepts of natural law are not perceived by everyone clearly and immediately. In the present situation sinful man needs grace and revelation so moral and religious truths may be known "by everyone with facility, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error."12 The natural law provides revealed law and grace with a foundation prepared by God and in accordance with the work of the Spirit.

Now, notice that the wise authors concede that grace and revelation are needed today in the growing darkness of the world.

But, God gives grace to all people. There is no one in this world to whom God has not given grace. His free gift to all for the enlightenment of the intellect, the soul, and the heart is available to all.

So, is the current level of evil owing to the lack of missionaries to help bring people to the fullness of truth? Is the current trend of denying the afterlife and emphazing pleasure deadening will power?

We cannot deny will power. We cannot deny that God loves all and wants all to be saved. We cannot deny that at least in the West, invincible ignorance would be rare.

Which leads me to the question of how people can fall into subhuman behavior and call it normal?

One of the reasons is presumption. In Dante's Inferno, the heretics, which pagans fall under, denying the truth of the Catholic Church, of Christ, are in Circle 6 in Canto 10. Here is one-Epicurus, with a summary from here.

Epicurus was a Greek philosopher (341-270 B.C.E) who espoused the doctrine that pleasure--defined in terms of serenity, the absence of pain and passion--is the highest human good. By identifying the heretics as followers of Epicurus (Inf. 10.13-14), Dante condemns the Epicurean view that the soul--like the body--is mortal.

The glorious teaching of the Catholic Church shows us that we all have the gift of reason. The CCC is, again, a good place to start. As humans, we have free will and reason, two of the ways in which we have been created in the image and likeness of God.


31 Created in God's image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him. These are also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of "converging and convincing arguments", which allow us to attain certainty about the truth. These "ways" of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world, and the human person.
32 The world: starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the world's order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universe.
As St. Paul says of the Gentiles: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.7
And St. Augustine issues this challenge: Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky. . . question all these realities. All respond: "See, we are beautiful." Their beauty is a profession [confessio]. These beauties are subject to change. Who made them if not the Beautiful One [Pulcher] who is not subject to change?8

One of the huge problems is the lack of reflection among the young. When do they stop their stampede towards pleasure in order to think about life, God, the it were......
33 The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God's existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul, the "seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material",9 can have its origin only in God.
34 The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality "that everyone calls God".10
35 Man's faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith. The proofs of God's existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason.

Section 33 is important for this discussion. All humans have reason and therefore a sense of goodness and a conscience. Reason separates us from the other animals which only have instincts. 

One of the gravest false teachings of the day is the denial of reason. Reasonable people can come to know God and be open to more knowledge which God has given us in revelation. Christ spoke and prayed using His Reason, the great gift to all humans.

Reason and revelation form our faith. Here is the CCC again.


36 "Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason."11 Without this capacity, man would not be able to welcome God's revelation. Man has this capacity because he is created "in the image of God".12
37 In the historical conditions in which he finds himself, however, man experiences many difficulties in coming to know God by the light of reason alone:
Though human reason is, strictly speaking, truly capable by its own natural power and light of attaining to a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God, who watches over and controls the world by his providence, and of the natural law written in our hearts by the Creator; yet there are many obstacles which prevent reason from the effective and fruitful use of this inborn faculty. For the truths that concern the relations between God and man wholly transcend the visible order of things, and, if they are translated into human action and influence it, they call for self-surrender and abnegation. The human mind, in its turn, is hampered in the attaining of such truths, not only by the impact of the senses and the imagination, but also by disordered appetites which are the consequences of original sin. So it happens that men in such matters easily persuade themselves that what they would not like to be true is false or at least doubtful.13
38 This is why man stands in need of being enlightened by God's revelation, not only about those things that exceed his understanding, but also "about those religious and moral truths which of themselves are not beyond the grasp of human reason, so that even in the present condition of the human race, they can be known by all men with ease, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error". 14


39 In defending the ability of human reason to know God, the Church is expressing her confidence in the possibility of speaking about him to all men and with all men, and therefore of dialogue with other religions, with philosophy and science, as well as with unbelievers and atheists.
40 Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about him is equally so. We can name God only by taking creatures as our starting point, and in accordance with our limited human ways of knowing and thinking.

41 All creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man, created in the image and likeness of God. The manifold perfections of creatures - their truth, their goodness, their beauty all reflect the infinite perfection of God. Consequently we can name God by taking his creatures" perfections as our starting point, "for from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator".15
42 God transcends all creatures. We must therefore continually purify our language of everything in it that is limited, image-bound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God--"the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable"--with our human representations.16 Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God.
43 Admittedly, in speaking about God like this, our language is using human modes of expression; nevertheless it really does attain to God himself, though unable to express him in his infinite simplicity. Likewise, we must recall that "between Creator and creature no similitude can be expressed without implying an even greater dissimilitude";17 and that "concerning God, we cannot grasp what he is, but only what he is not, and how other beings stand in relation to him."18

I am convinced that young people choose and as the text highlighted above states, persuade themselves against reason to accept evil.

That children do not use reason at the age of adolescence is the fault of the parents and teachers, in this age of relativism. But, still, God gives grace to all and invites all to come to Him.

Do we need revelation? Yes,and we need missionaries. But, reason can lead one to be open to the Gospel message.

To deny reason and free will is heresy. Remember, Christ descended into hell, as stated in our creed, and released those who waited for His Redemption. Adam and Eve are the first who come to mind and we honor them as saints. 

Those in Judaism who accepted God's Law and revelation were also among those freed from hell. We call these men and women saints-Judith, Esther, Ruth, Joshua, Jacob, Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David, the prophets, the Maccabees, etc. 

They believed in the promise without the fullness of revelation. These were the righteous, being made so by faith. They believed in the revelation given to them. And, through the use of reason. 

Revelation and Reason--both God's gifts to us....

I want to stress that this sin of presumption involves not only pride, but the denial of free will, reason, and revelation. Presumption also denies natural law.

I have been recommending the reading of Suarez, an overlooked writer on both moral and spiritual theology. Of course, I have remarked on this blog and elsewhere, that Pelagianism and Neo-Pelagianism are two of the most common heresies found today

Here is one of his quotations from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Suarez ("De spe", disp. 2a, sect. 3, n. 2) enumerates five ways in which one may be guilty of presumption, as follows: hoping to obtain by one's natural powers, unaided, what is definitely supernatural, viz. eternal bliss or the recovery of God's friendship after grievous sin (this would involve a Pelagian frame of mind);
a person might look to have his sins forgiven without adequate penance (this, likewise, if it were based on a seriously entertained conviction, would seem to carry with it the taint of heresy);
a man might expect some special assistance from Almighty God for the perpetration of crime (this would be blasphemous as well as presumptuous);

one might aspire to certain extraordinary supernatural excellencies, but without any conformity to the determinations of God's providence. Thus one might aspire to equal in blessedness the Mother of God;
finally, there is the transgression of those who, whilst they continue to lead a life of sin, are as confident of a happy issue as if they had not lost their baptismal innocence.

Now, the denial of both Original Sin and Hell add to the problem of presumption. If one believes in universal salvation, one would be presumptuous. If one thinks one can get to heaven without grace, the sacraments, conformity to the teachings of the Catholic Church and so on, one is presumptuous.

Again, the softening of the conscience by repeated sin and by the closing of the mind, heart and soul to God causes presumption.

I suggest that this sin is one of the most common among our youth today, who have been raised without any consequences and no moral framworks with which to judge situations. However, as humans, they all have reason, free will, can find out about revelation, and they have natural law written on their hearts.

To excuse sin and to tolerate sin are two sins of parents and teachers.

But, societies, such as pagan Rome, have converted to Christ and His Church.

The challenge is twofold on our part-missionizing in a culture of false ecumenism and relativism. And, praying constantly.....

I want to focus on a chapter from Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange The Three Ages of the Interior Life. In Chapter 22, the great Dominican writes of "The Predominant Fault".The holy priest lists most of the obvious sins, but I want to highlight one, but in a different manner.

We know that Pride is most likely the worst of all sins and the primal sin. Garrigou-Lagrange writes extensively on pride, but also explains the defects that come from pride. These are presumption, ambition, and vainglory.

"Presumption is the desire and in ordinate hope of doing what is above one's power. The presumptuous man believes himself capable of studying and solving the most difficult questions; he settle the most abstruse problems with rash haste". 

One of the characteristics of the presumptuous man is not to have a spiritual director. Another sign is the skipping of the long steps of perfection in one's mind and thinking that one is a holy mystic or on a higher level, instead of
"building his interior life on humility, renunciation, fidelity to the duty of the present moment even in little thing..."

The author equates these tendencies with egoism, a very common sin. "He is full of self; a great void must be created in him in order that his soul may some day be filled with God and able to give Him to others."

Garrigou-Lagrange paints a picture of humans in 2012. Presumption leads to ambition. The desire to dominate and want power over others follows. Ambition opens to door, he explains, to intrigue and plotting.

Another result of pride is vainglory. The priest notes that boasting, hypocrisy, disobedience, stubbornness, contention, and defensiveness reveal this aspect of pride.

He goes on to write that "pride is the great enemy of perfection because it is the source of numerous sins and deprives us of many graces and merits." 

Pride leads to hell.

But, the great Dominican does not leave us here, but gives us remedies.

First, one must meditate on the fact that "of ourselves we are not, that we have been created out of nothing by the gratuitous love of God, who continues freely to preserve us in existence; otherwise we would return to nothingness." 

If we do have grace, he continues, it is only because Christ redeemed us through His Passion and Cross.