Bread of Life

BREAD OF LIFE
 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (john 6: 50)
The miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a reenactment of the Last Supper, as Christ had commanded. Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “re-presents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass—instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church—with the whole community of Catholics around the world…and in heaven.

THE REAL PRESENCE

Why does the Catholic Church believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist?
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” - John 6:48-56
Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!

This miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

Monday, January 9, 2017

THE STEPPING STONES

Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo – (A prophet of our time)

Life's Actions, Living our Faith

On November 19, 1970, Fr. Ruotolo died at the age of 88. Padre Pio said of him, that the “whole of paradise is in your soul”. His life, his words all reflected very high devotion to God and serving Him to the nth degree of his ability.

In his profound humility, he was able to hear the words of God. One of the treasures that He learned from the words that Jesus spoke to him was this teaching about total abandonment to God. Each day of this novena, we hear of what surrender to God’s will requires. In this novena (nine days), Jesus is talking to Fr. Dolindo and also to you and me.

The nine days of the novena will be presented over the next three days on TheSteppingStones. Start the novena, and each day, of the nine days, reflect on that particular day’s words. Think and meditate on what that day’s reflection means to you.

Pray the conclusion prayer throughout that day. Realize and understand what the words of the conclusion prayer signify for your life.

Day 1:

Why do you confuse yourselves by worrying? Leave the care of your affairs to me and everything will be peaceful. I say to you in truth that every act of true, blind complete surrender to me produces the effect that you desire and resolves all difficult situations.

Oh Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything! (10 times)

***************************
Day 2:

Surrender to me does not mean to fret, to be upset, or to lose hope, nor does it mean offering to me a worried prayer asking me to follow you and change your worry into prayer. It is against this surrender, deeply against it, to worry, to be nervous and to desire to think about the consequences of anything.

It is like the confusion that children feel when they ask their mother to see to their needs, and then try to take care of those needs for themselves so that their childlike efforts get in their mother’s way.

Surrender means to placidly close the eyes of your soul, to turn away from thoughts of tribulation and to put yourself in my care, so that only I act. Saying “You take care of it.”

Oh Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything! (10 times)

***************************

Day 3:

How many things I do when the soul, in so much spiritual and material need turns to me, looks at me and says to me; “You take care of it,” then close its eyes and rests. In pain you pray for me to act, but that I act in the way you want. You do not turn to me, instead, you want me to adapt to your ideas.

You are not sick people who ask the doctor to cure you, but rather sick people who tell the doctor how to. So do not act this way, but pray as I taught you in the Our Father: “Hallowed be thy Name”, that is, be glorified in my need. “Thy kingdom come”, that is, let all that is in us and in the world be in accord with your kingdom.

“Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”, that is, in our need, decide as you see fit for our temporal and eternal life. If you say to me truly: “Thy will be done”. Which is the same as saying: “You take care of it”. I will intervene with all my omnipotence, and I will resolve the most difficult situations.

Oh Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything! (10 times)

***************************

Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo – Novena days 4, 5, 6

Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo – Novena days 7, 8, 9

Stop Tripping Over Yourself

Saturday, December 31, 2016

IN GOD'S OWN TIME

Kathy Bernard - Publisher

Isaiah 40:31, "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

We live in a world where the word "wait" generates great exasperation, annoyance and frustration. With the fast paced world of skills, knowledge, scientific breakthroughs, as well as the abundance of 'things' we enjoy today, we expect that whatever it is that we need, we must have and should have it right now.

But if we really think about it, life is a life of waiting; waiting in line at the market, at the airport, in the doctor's office, waiting for the mail to be delivered, waiting for someone to love, for a check to come, or waiting for a job....a thousand different ways of waiting. Like impatient children, we expect the wait period should be minimal. And so, when we pray, we fervently hope that our answers will come quickly and without delay.

Webster's Dictionary defines waiting as "staying or remaining in a state of repose until something expected happens, or to be in readiness." The bible is full of passages telling us we must wait on the Lord. So when we pray, we are in a state of expectation. But some of us place a time limit for the answers to our prayers when we face a problem that we cannot solve ourselves.

And when our answers don't come swiftly, we sometimes become discouraged and even rethink our faith. Our mind tells us, "If I believe in Him and trust, shouldn't I depend on Him to carry me through my sadness, my pain, my needs, or whatever it is I am facing?" Thrown into the mix of our needs is our adversity, Satan, who stealthily whispers to us that we wait in vain. How do we silence these uncertainties?

The first thing to keep foremost in our minds is that our human timing is not in sync with God's divine timing. This does not mean God is not listening or that He does not care. He has a plan and an answer for each person and He will fulfill it according to His own timetable, if it is His will and is best for us. We cannot know what plans He has for us. We do not have His wisdom.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 tells us, "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Vasily Drosdov Philaret (1780 - 1867) a Russian prelate, author, and preacher, has this to say on this subject, " I do not know what to ask You. You alone know my real needs, and You love me more than I even know how to love. Enable me to discern my true needs which are hidden from me. I ask for neither cross nor consolation; I wait in patience for You. My heart is open to You.

For Your great mercy's sake, come to me and help me. Put your mark on me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. Silently I adore Your holy will and Your inscrutable ways. I offer myself in sacrifice to You and put all my trust in You. I desire only to do Your will.

Teach me how to pray and pray in me, Yourself." (Vasily Drosdov Philaret became archbishop of Tver and a member of the holy synod in 1819 and metropolitan of Moscow in 1826. He long urged the abolition of serfdom and is generally considered the author of the Edict of Emancipation promulgated by Alexander 11 in 1861. Philaret also wrote a standard catechism of the Russian Orthodox Church.)

Waiting means patience and a recognition of God's power and with this comes confidence and hope. We anticipate God's answer to us, even though we do not know how or what that good will be. We think something positive is about to happen. Like a child waiting for a parent to unwrap a gift for them, we wait earnestly for the Lord to come through with an answer for our concerns. But, sometimes He says "No" to us, and we think He has not heard our plea for help. Later down the road we see and thank God for saying "No" for it is then we understand with clarity that the thing we begged for was wrong and even detrimental to us.
Paul J. Bucknell in his article "Waiting on God Not Man", has this to say about being patient and letting God handle our trials: "Waiting for the Lord is not easy. Our heart is often crying out in agony. We feel oppressed and constrained. We yearn for freedom and provision. Waiting upon the Lord for needed supplies is one common area in which He trains us.

We have to be needy so that we are forced to look to the Lord for help. Our other resources are stripped away. Someone yesterday said to me, 'But I don't like what the Lord is bringing me through.' How true this is. We squirm, squiggle and squeak."

Continuing further, he tells, .... "We need to wait on God for a spouse, for a job, for healing, for wisdom, for ministry, etc. We might say that it is Satan tempting us, and in some cases he is, but at the same time it is God who is testing (proving) us. He is bringing us a step closer to Himself."

Here is a story that illustrates this point: "The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He began to pray loudly for rescue. Day after day, he searched for food under the boiling sun. He kept crying out "I am waiting patiently, Lord, for an answer from You. I am faithful and I know You love me. It has been a long, long time. How long must I wait?"

Every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. But he kept praying. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. All day and before going to sleep in his little hut, he murmured feverishly for God to rescue him, but it seemed God was not going to help.

"I guess I am on my own", he thought. His hope began to fade with each passing day. His faith grew weak and he felt the One he counted on had let him down. Then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky.

The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stunned with grief and anger. "God, how could you do this to me! Why?" he cried, falling to the ground in intense grief, the few things he had gathered for a sparse meal scattering away from him. He fell onto the rocky ground and fell asleep with tears rolling down his tattered shirt.

Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship approaching the island. At first he thought he was surely dreaming. "This can't be true", he told himself as his heart gave a great leap of hope. But this was real, someone was coming! Someone was coming to rescue him at last! "Over here", he shouted, waving his hands in happiness. "How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man of his rescuers. "We saw your smoke signal," they replied.

Waiting takes discipline. Waiting means hope, a period of anticipation that God in His divine mercy will come through for us in ways we cannot see, so remain fast and keep praying for His mercy and guidance. Don't let your faith weaken as time goes by.

Be patient and keep your courage as there may be no swift answers. This is what God requires of us. As earthly beings, we don't have all the answers and God does not promise this life will be perfect. There will be snags that come which will try to destroy the soul, problems that make us stagger in indecision.

Christians who are weak in faith may lose hope as we see our lack of money to pay our bills, perhaps our children are in trouble, family members in ill health, and all the uncertainties that life throws our way. What we know is that our Lord asks us to wait on Him in trust, and if it is right for us, He will fulfill our needs. Rely on Him to give you courage, strength, and fortitude to overcome whatever it is that troubles your soul.

C.S.Lewis wrote, “To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way.”

Does this mean we pray God will fulfill our needs while we sit on our hands in despair? Absolutely not. We ask the Lord for His wisdom, we ask God to make known, through the Holy Spirit, the paths we must take to overturn our pitfalls. Psalms 25:5 says, "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day."

With His guidance and enlightenment we must keep moving forward for "The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him." - Lamentations 3:25. During this time we learn to be strong, letting God come through with a lesson that will strengthen us.

Praying to God about our burdens does not guarantee we will see the outcome we asked for, but our waiting will pull us closer to Him. Whatever He does bless us with will be greater than we asked for.

If God says no, we must defer to His infinite judgment, realizing that He knows what is best for us. He asks that we trust in His mercy and His love through our needs and our fears, being confident that He will make a way for us through His immeasurable wisdom in His own time.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. - Psalms 27:14

Thursday, December 22, 2016

THE PRINCIPAL DEFECT OF THE WILL

SELF-LOVE

The strength of the will to move itself and to incline the other faculties to act comes from its docility to God, from its conformity to the divine will, because then, by grace, the divine strength passes into it. This is the great principle dominating this whole question.

All the meaning and the bearing of this principle are seen when we recall that, in the state of original justice, as long as the will was subject to God through love and obedience, it had the strength to command the passions completely and to reject every disorder of the sensible faculties; the passions were then totally subjected to the will vivified by charity. (2)

Since original sin, we are born without sanctifying grace and charity, with our wills turned away from God, the supernatural last end, and weak for the accomplishment of our duties even in the natural order.(3)

Without falling into the exaggeration of the first Protestants and the Jansenists, we must say that we are born with a will inclined to egoism, to inordinate self-love. This is called the wound of malice; (4) it often manifests itself by a gross egoism, against which one should guard, an egoism that mingles in all man's acts.

It follows that the will, which has become weak by reason of its lack of docility to God, no longer has absolute power over the sensible faculties, but only a sort of moral power or persuasion to lead them to subject themselves.(5)

Doubtless after baptism, which regenerated us by giving us sanctifying grace and charity, this wound, like the others, is in the process of healing; but it also reopens by reason of our personal sins.

The principal defect of the will is the lack of rectitude, called self-love or inordinate love of self, which forgets the love due to God and that which we should have for our neighbor. Self-love or egoism is manifestly the source of all sins.(6)

From it are born "the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life." (7) The sensible appetites, which are no longer firmly led, incline man to thoughtlessness, feverish eagerness, fruitless agitation, selfish search for all that pleases, flight from all that is painful, nonchalance, discouragement, in which he sees that his will has lost its strength, and to all sorts of bad examples. (8)

It is clear that self-will, which is defined as that which is not conformed to the will of God, is the source of every sin. Self-will is extremely dangerous because it can corrupt everything; even what is best in one may become evil when self-will enters in, for it takes itself as its end, instead of subordinating itself to God.

If the Lord perceives this will in a fast or a sacrifice, He rejects them because He sees therein a divine work accomplished through pride in order to gain approbation. Now, self-will is born of self-love or egoism; it is strong self-love that has become imperious.

On the subject of self-love or egoism, we may fall into two opposing errors: utilitarianism and quietism. Theoretical or practical utilitarianism does not see an evil in egoism, but a power that should be moderated.

This doctrine, which reduces virtue to a business transaction, suppresses all morality; it reduces praiseworthy good to the useful and the delectable. This good, the object of virtue and duty, ought to be loved for itself and more than ourselves, independently of the advantages or the pleasure that may result therefrom: "Do what you ought, come what may."

Practical utilitarianism leads to pride, which inclines a person to make himself the center of all who live about him; it is the manifest or hidden pride of the desire to dominate.

On the other hand, quietism (9) condemned all interested love, even that of our eternal reward, as if there were a disorder in Christian hope, from the fact that it is less perfect than charity.(10) Under the pretext of absolute disinterestedness, many quietists fell into spiritual sloth, which is indifferent to sanctification and salvation.(11)

The thought of salvation and eternal beatitude is evidently very useful that we may strive to put to death inordinate love of self, which is the principal defect of our will. It is of this love that St. Augustine wrote: "Two loves have built two cities: the love of self even to the despising of God, the city of the earth; the love of God even to the despising of self, the city of God. One glorifies itself in self, and the other in the Lord.

> One seeks its glory from men, the other places its dearest glory in God, the witness of its conscience. The one in the pride of its glory walks with head high; the other says to its God: 'Thou art my glory, and it is Thou who dost lift up my head.'

The former in its victories lets itself be conquered by its passion to dominate; the latter shows us its citizens united in charity, mutual servants, tutelary governors, obedient subjects. The former loves its own strength in its princes; the latter says to God: 'Lord, Thou art my only strength, I shall love Thee.' " (12) One would never weary of quoting St. Augustine.

A great purification and Christian training of the will are necessary to obliterate all inordinate self-love; this result is produced in us by the progress of charity, which "unites man to God so that he lives not for himself, but for God." (13)

Egoism is like a cancer of the will, which ravages it more and more, whereas sanctifying grace should be in it like a strong root which buries itself ever deeper in the soil in order to draw therefrom nourishing secretions and transform them into fruitful sap.

We should think of the value of habitual grace, called the "grace of the virtues and the gifts," because of various proximate principles of meritorious acts springing from it. We would do well to consider that our will should possess a high degree of the virtues of justice, penance, religion, hope, and charity in order that its powers may be vastly increased.

The author of The Imitation thus describes inordinate self-love when he has Christ say: "My son, thou must give all for all, and be nothing of thy own. Know that the love of thyself is more hurtful to thee than anything of the world. . . . If thy love be pure, simple, and well ordered, thou shalt not be in captivity to anything. Covet not that which thou mayest not have.

Seek not to have that which may embarrass thee and deprive thee of thy inward liberty. It is wonderful that thou wilt not, from the very bottom of thy heart, commit thyself wholly to Me, with all things that thou canst desire or have. Why dost thou pine away with vain grief?

Why art thou so worn with superfluous cares? Be resigned to My good pleasure, and thou shalt suffer no loss. If thou seekest this or that, or wouldst be here or there for thy own interests' sake, and the more to indulge thy own will, thou wilt never be at rest or free from solicitude; for in everything there will be found some defect, and in every place there will be someone that will cross thee." (14)

The same book of The Imitation describes well the various movements of wounded nature, which remains weakened even after baptism:


Nature is crafty and draweth away many, ensnareth them and deceiveth them, and always proposeth self as her end. . . (15) Nature is neither willing to be mortified, restrained, overcome, nor subject, neither of its own accord to be brought under obedience. . . . Nature laboreth for its own interest and considereth what gain it may derive from another. . . .
It willingly receiveth honor and respect, . . . is afraid of shame and contempt; seeketh to have things that are curious and beautiful; . . . hath regard to temporal things, rejoiceth at earthly gains, is troubled at losses, and is irritated at every slight injurious word. . . Nature is covetous, and liketh rather to take than to give, and loveth to have things exclusive and private .
Nature glorieth in noble place and descent, smileth on them that are in power, flattereth the rich. . . . It easily complaineth of want and of trouble; it coveteth to know secrets and to hear news; desireth to appear abroad, longeth to be taken notice of, and to do those things which may procure praise and admiration. . . .
Grace teacheth, therefore, to restrain the senses, to avoid vain complacency and ostentation, humbly to hide those things which are worthy of praise and admiration; and from everything, and in every knowledge, to seek the fruit of utility, and the praise and honor of God. . .
This grace is a supernatural light and a certain special gift of God, the proper mark of the elect, and a pledge of eternal salvation, which elevateth a man from earthly things to love such as are heavenly, and from carnal maketh him spiritual.
Wherefore, as nature is the more kept down and subdued, with so much the greater abundance is grace infused; and every day by new visitations the interior man is reformed according to the image of God.(16)

St. Catherine of Siena, speaking of the effects of self-love, says: "The soul cannot live without love, but always desires to love something. . . . So, if the sensual affection desires to love sensual things, the eye of the intellect sets before itself for its sole object transitory things, with self-love, displeasure of virtue, and love of vice, whence it draws pride and impatience, and the memory is filled with nothing but what the affection presents to it.

This love so dazzles the eye of the intellect that it can discern and see nothing but such glittering objects." (17)

We read in the same Dialogue: "Thus is injustice committed through miserable self-love, which has poisoned the whole world, and the mystical body of holy Church, and through which the garden of My spouse has run to seed and given birth to putrid flowers." (18)

It is self-love that renders man unjust toward God, to whom he no longer renders the glory that is due Him, and toward souls to which he no longer gives the true goods without which they cannot live.

Finally, self-love, which overthrows in our will the order willed by God, leads to trouble, discouragement, discord, and all dissensions; it brings about the total loss of peace, the tranquility of order, which is truly found only in those who love God more than themselves and above all.

All the passages in Tauler's works where he speaks of the necessity of purifying the depths of our will should be consulted.(19

======================================================
2. Ibid., q.95, a. 2.

3. Cf. Ia IIae, q.109, a.3 f. The will, which is directly turned away from the supernatural last end, is indirectly turned away from the natural last end, for every sin against the supernatural law is indirectly opposed to the natural law, which obliges us to obey God, whatever He may command.

4. Ibid., q. 85, a. 3: "In so far as the will is deprived of its order to the good, there is the wound of malice."

5. Ibid., q. 17, a.7: "Reason governs the irascible and concupiscible not by a despotic supremacy, which is that of a master over his slave; but by a politic and royal supremacy, whereby the free are governed, who are not wholly subject to command."

6. Ibid., q.77, a.4: "Inordinate love of self is the cause of every sin."

7. Ibid., a.5.

8. These are like diseases of the will, but not diseases properly so called, as certain materialist doctors believe when they talk about abulia. The will is a faculty of the spiritual or immaterial order; it is not the seat of diseases like those which effect our organism, for example, the nervous centers.

But certain diseases of these centers render the exercise of the will much more difficult, just as others suppress the condition required by the imagination for the exercise of reason and bring in their wake mental confusion or "fixed ideas" and madness.

9. Cf. Denzinger, no. 1226: "The soul ought not to think of a reward, of paradise, or of hell, or of death, or of eternity, etc. . . ." Cf. ibid., nos. 1232, 1337 ff.

10. This teaching constituted a poor understanding of the act of Christian hope; by it we do not subordinate God to ourselves, but we desire God for ourselves by subordinating ourselves to Him, for He is the ultimate End of the act of hope. As Cajetan clearly points out (In IIam IIae, q. 17, a.5, no. 6): "I desire God for myself (finaliter), for God's sake, and not for my own sake; whereas when it is a question of things inferior to me, such as a fruit, I desire them for my own and for myself, I subordinate them to myself as to an end.

On the contrary, by the act of hope I already subordinate myself to God (the last End of this act). This subordination becomes more perfect through charity, which makes me efficaciously love God formally for Himself and more than myself, by making me will His glory and the extension of His kingdom."

11. St. Thomas (IIa IIae, q.19, a.6) clearly distinguishes between self-love which is blamable and that which is not. "Self-love," he says, "may stand in a threefold relationship to charity. In one way, it is contrary to charity, when a man places his end in the love of his own good (preferred to God).

In another way, it is included in charity, when a man loves himself for the sake of God and in God (in order to glorify God here on earth and in eternity). In a third way, it is indeed distinct from charity, but is not contrary thereto, as when a man loves himself from the point of view of his own good, yet not so as to place his end in this his own good": for example, if we love ourselves naturally without thereby turning away from God or disobeying His law.

It must be remembered that, according to St. Thomas (la, q.60, a.5), every creature is naturally inclined to love more than himself the Author of his nature (i.e., God), who keeps it in existence, just as in our organism the hand spontaneously exposes itself for the sake of the whole. But this natural inclination to love God more than self is attenuated in man by original sin and by his personal sins.

12. De civitate Dei, Bk. XIV, chap. 28. Pages like those we have quoted make one think that in St. Augustine infused contemplation often directed from on high the reasoning necessary for the written or spoken exposition of divine truth.

13. St. Thomas, IIa IIae, q. 17, a.6 ad 3um. Cf. ibid., q.83, a.9: "Now our end is God toward whom our affections tend in two ways: first, by our willing the glory of God, secondly, by our willing to enjoy His glory. The first belongs to the love whereby we love God in Himself; the second belongs to the love whereby we love ourselves in God. Wherefore the first petition is expressed thus: Hallowed be Thy name; and the second thus: Thy kingdom come, by which we ask to come to the glory of His kingdom." And by an act of hope we can desire eternal life as our supreme good; and by an act of charity, desire it in order to glorify God eternally. Cf. Cajetan, In IIam IIae, q.23,a.1,no.2.

14. The Imitation, Bk. III, chap. 27.

15. St. Thomas speaks in like manner (Ia IIae, q.109, a. 2): "In the state of corrupt nature, man falls short of what he could do by his nature, so that he is unable to accomplish this good fully by his own natural powers. . . . But a man can do some particular good, such as building a house, planting a vineyard, and the like." Ibid., a. 3: "In the state of corrupt nature man falls short of this in the appetite of his rational will, which, unless it is cured by God's grace, follows its private good, on account of the corruption of nature."

Cf. IIIa, q.69, a.3: Even after baptism there remain concupiscence and the other wounds that are in the process of healing, thereby furnishing an occasion of struggle and of merit.

16. The Imitation, Bk. III, chap. 54.

17 The Dialogue, chap. 51. St. Thomas (Ia IIae, q.58, a. 5) had likewise noted, following Aristotle, that every man judges of the end that is fitting for him according to the subjective dispositions of his will and sensible appetites: "Such as a man is, such does the end seem to him." The proud man indeed finds what satisfies his pride, the humble man what preserves him in humility.

18. The Dialogue, chap. 122.

19. See especially the Theological Introduction by Father Hugueny, O.P., in the French translation, I, 71-82.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

DID GOD GIVE AMERICA A GREAT REPRIEVE?

By John Horvat II

To those Americans concerned about the moral state of the nation, the immediate reaction to the November 8 elections was one of enormous relief.

It was as if a colossal amount of pressure was suddenly released. There was the thrill of something entirely unexpected. People were overjoyed beyond words.

Adding to the intense drama, there was the sensation that a great danger was taken from our path. We had averted a dead-end situation for which there were no human solutions. We were somehow saved from a terrible calamity that had seemed so imminent.

Two main elements contributed to this perception of inevitable disaster. The first was that so much was at stake—the Supreme Court, anti-abortion laws, socialist big government programs, massive regulations and even the specter of persecution for the Faith.

The candidate that represented all these things enjoyed all the prestige of the media and the favor of the pollsters. The foreboding of a sinister outcome could not have been greater.

The second element was the lack of a moral solution proportional to the level of the crisis. Moral conservatives were faced with a candidate that was universally acknowledged as flawed and many considered as merely the lesser of two evils.

This was an election of desperation not enthusiasm because the alternative was just too awful to fathom. Significant sectors of the electorate, however, did not feel they could unite around a candidate that did not share many of their values.

And then it happened. A startled electorate watched the results come in and saw the numbers slowly shift in their favor with a sweep of the White House, both houses of Congress, and a record number of state houses.

Analysts are still scrambling to explain the unexpected results of the elections. They point to abstract categories like the blue-collar vote, the white vote or the Catholic vote.

For them, all elections are number games and media shows. They believe the outcome depends on who plays the game best and spends the most.

There was, however, another factor outside the game that should not be underestimated. In the face of an impending disaster, many Americans did something that they do not often do in political situations like these. They prayed.

Prayer is not something that can be measured by polls or political observers. And since it cannot be quantified, those without faith treat them as something quaint and childish hardly worthy of consideration.

But in an election where all the rules of the game were broken, there is no reason to rule out the influence of prayer. The fact is many Americans did pray in the weeks and days leading up to that fateful November day when the course of the nation was decided.

Not only did they pray, but it appears they prayed hard. All across America, there were prayer vigils, rosaries, novenas and benediction services that were mentioned on social media or announced in church bulletins. Some fasted for the nation.

Thousands gathered and prayed in the public square. Others simply poured out their souls to God in almost biblical manner asking for His aid in their moments of affliction.

And as is common with such prayers, there was an implicit promise that if we were delivered from this trial, we would turn back to God.

Of course, to suggest that this prayer might have had something to do with the final results of an election is anathema. None dare whisper it for it is so politically incorrect.

But in this election that broke all the rules, why not break one more rule and shout it about? The fact is countless Americans who woke up on the morning of November 9 after the election sensed their prayers had been answered beyond all expectations.

They sensed un-explainable Christian joy and hope in seeing a calamity had been averted. They were convinced in the depths of their souls that God had heard their prayers. They were energized by the results, and are determined to turn back to God.

This is not to say that God endorsed the winning candidate (he lost the popular vote) only that He heard the cries of those who were afflicted and found a way to deliver them from a catastrophic future. The victory may have been due much more to those who called it forth with their prayers than the efforts of its flawed victor.

God also did not grant total victory. However, many feel He has given America a great reprieve, a second chance, to get it right with Him.

If we have been given this reprieve, then we should use it to turn back to God. We should keep our part of the bargain and turn back to Him and His law. There is no time to be complacent or delve into purely economic solutions that sidestep the moral crisis in America.

The fervent prayers must continue. Above all, we must also make sure our elected officials follow through on their promises of a platform that puts God first and thus will truly make America great.

Indeed, we have a little time, a short reprieve. We would do well to use this time wisely. This election has shown what can be done. If we uphold God’s law, we can count on Him to break all the rules.

Friday, November 25, 2016

CONFIDENCE IN THE CHURCH

Our position of strength

By Dr. Jeff Mirus

When I outlined the suffering we experience when confronted with any form of infidelity in a pope (or a bishop or a pastor), I concluded that we should not expect the life of a Catholic to be free of such hardships, any more than we should expect our best pastors to be free of suffering induced by our own failures in fidelity to Christ, the Gospel and the Church.

We have no warrant, I pointed out, for regarding our sufferings as intolerable or unfair, when in fact we are called to make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His body, the Church. I concluded by noting that Our Lord frequently answered the complaints and questions of his disciples by saying simply, “Follow me.” Such was the essential argument of Confidence in the Church: What do we do when we want to cry?. But I also promised a second installment devoted to “the more positive aspects of our situation”.

So let me begin at once with what must easily be the most overlooked benefit of the problem I have just described. I will start with a simple yet paradoxical affirmation: It is not good for us when everything in the Church invariably goes along in the way we think it should.

The benefit of self-doubt

As human persons we are remarkably adept at confusing God’s will with our own ideas, and confusing authentic Catholic renewal with whatever we think best. I do not intend for a moment to back away from my assertion that Pope Francis has, at a minimum, caused considerable uncertainty about major issues in the Church which lie at the heart of Catholic renewal.

But at the same time I believe we must all learn to take our own convictions about such matters with a grain of salt. In other words, when we find ourselves at variance with the Pope, we do well to examine the issues very carefully, striving to identify in ourselves areas of imperfect understanding, or areas in which more than one viewpoint is possible without any error in faith.

A great evil stalks those of us who tend to be reflexively certain that we are right. For example, after I wrote the first installment of this two-part series, I received an email from a reader who could not imagine how I could be oblivious to the wonderful renewal that Pope Francis is spearheading.

He even went so far as to suggest that if only I would ask Our Lord about my excessively negative perception of things, I would find that He is a God of joy Who could not possibly share my habitual gloom.

Maybe so, but anyone who says, “Just pray over it and you’ll see I’m right” is already guilty of an extraordinarily myopic and self-serving error: I mean the conviction that another’s disagreement proves the absence of a sound spiritual life! And I am willing to bet that each one of us has fallen into that trap on more than one occasion.

Still, even ill-phrased criticism is a reminder that it is just remotely possible, in the grand scheme of things, that any of us could, on some rare and obviously unimportant matter, be very slightly mistaken. This is why criticism should not be met with hurt feelings or anger, but with serious reflection before the Lord. One of our most urgent prayers should be taken from Psalm 19:

But who can discern his errors? Clear thou me from hidden faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. [Ps 19:12-14]
We should always examine ourselves and the issues we confront not only carefully but prayerfully. We must not fail to pursue what we believe to be the right course, but even our strongest convictions should be held with an awareness that we sometimes make mistakes. Even with our best efforts, we must always pray that we will not lead anyone astray.

There is very little on the face of the earth that should make us as wary of our own fallibility as differences with our pastors, our bishops, and particularly the pope. Nothing is so calculated, if we reflect and pray, to stimulate our own spiritual growth.

I am not being absurd when I affirm that I do not want everything in the Church to go my way until I enjoy the Church triumphant in Heaven. It is an odious self-centeredness that induces Catholics to break into sects and surround themselves only with the like-minded.

No, even as we act on our convictions and strive to serve Christ and the Church in the best possible way, we must remain aware that differences within the Church—taken in the right way—have enormous potential to both spiritually strengthen and humble us.

Such sufferings invariably invite us to give ourselves more and more to Our Lord and Savior. In God’s Providence, surely, we are permitted to become aware of a lack of perfection in the Church around us for two reasons. The first reason is easily seen in the opportunities we have to strengthen the Church. But the second reason may be harder to perceive: The dangers of our own complacency.

The irrelevance of popes, bishops and pastors

Now let me turn to a problem which I have headed with a very provocative subtitle. I do not really mean to say that popes, bishops and pastors are irrelevant to the fundamental constitution of the Church, or the Church’s health, or the good of souls.

Nothing could be less true than that. But a moment’s reflection will reveal that the quality of those in ecclesiastical authority only very rarely interferes with our own ability to give effective witness or to engage in the apostolate

Since I am a “talking head” (or more accurately, a set of ten talking fingers), I must frequently confront what appear to me to be the failings of Church leaders. But for most of us most of the time, whether Pope Francis is a good or a bad pope (to take but one example) makes very little difference to our ability to engage in those hallmarks of apostolic self-giving which we call the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

A bad pope makes more problems for bishops than anyone else, just as a bad bishop makes more problems for priests than he does for lay persons. Trust me when I say that we laity are seldom aware of the scope of priestly suffering. I hope it does not sound callous to confess that I have come to depend on this suffering as a source of grace. Our priests are so easily caught between the episcopal devil and the deep blue sea of the laity!

After all, it is not as if the laity are on the payroll, and even in the more dangerous position of the priesthood, it is extraordinarily rare for a worthy priest to be barred from ministry altogether.

We may not always be able to perform a good work in the way we had envisioned it, but we nearly always have ample scope for doing what we believe God is calling us to do, especially among our family, neighbors, friends and co-workers, or even in broader independent apostolates.

What we must avoid is the grave danger of becoming preoccupied with the shortcomings of our ecclesiastical superiors, including the Pope himself. It is easy enough to allow our annoyance or disagreement to paralyze us, as if our sole role in life is to set others straight, and we have nothing more to offer.

Most of us are called to set others straight only in a relatively small circle. All of us have ample scope for helping others both spiritually and materially—far more scope, generally, than we are selfless enough to use. And yet we may suffer a kind of paralysis.

Bogged down in debating whether Pope Francis or Bishop X is right or wrong, we will most likely leave the lane to the basket open for Satan’s slam dunk.

For we are not called to paralysis. At some point, we must return our attention to whatever it is that we discern God calling us to in prayer. The chances are, if we set aside our preoccupation with reaching to the very top and rectifying the problems we see there, we will find that we have far more scope for serving Christ than we dared—in our habitual annoyance—to recognize.

Yes, it is possible to find ourselves in circumstances so dire that it is clear God has marked out for us an exclusive calling to suffering and prayer. But that is hardly a typical outcome of our disagreements with bishops and popes.

We must not allow discontents to give Satan a double victory—over the one we are complaining about, and over ourselves. We must keep our perspective so that we can focus on the good God has given us to do.

This is the perfect time to reread the twelfth chapter of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” Or again, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” We are all members of the one body, and so we all have our own roles to play.

Spiritual warfare

There is ample scope in Christ for all of our labors, even when there are difficulties beyond our power to remedy. To cite St. Paul again, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).

The most frustrated apostle I ever saw in the flesh was Pope Paul VI. He was engulfed by trends in the Church and the world which he simply could not control. I was present at a general audience on his ninth anniversary, when he confessed that all he had been able to do for the Church was suffer. This is no mean calling.

At that time I was still very young, newly married, about to embark on an academic career, and in possession of a dashing self-image that looked suspiciously like a knight in shining armor.

It took me some time to shed that conceit entirely, but hearing that statement from the Pope himself at least set me on the right path. When we are discontented with the way things are going in the Church, our first response must always be prayer. Prayer may be followed by discernment. As discernment develops, we may find we should do something about the problem.

Our position of strength

We may even find that we are called to do something directly ourselves, but I’d like to suggest at least that all of us are called to complain less about the direction of the Church and sacrifice more. I have little to boast of on this score, but the unpleasant subject of fasting has impressed itself upon me recently more often than I could wish.

Perhaps fasting should be a requirement for those who wish to shoot off their mouths (or fingers), and yet I am not fond of hunger pains. Still, perhaps I really should recommend that all of us who are concerned, particularly about Pope Francis, should find ways to offer up regular sacrifices.

The purpose would be to put teeth into our prayers, to show Our Lord that we really do want him to care assiduously for the Pope and to guide him, both in the paths he follows and in the words he says. This is worth serious thought. At a minimum, it puts things in perspective. If we find the shortcomings of our ecclesiastical father—the pope, our papa—great enough to complain about, or if we find his instances of imprudence significant enough to try to correct, then perhaps we ought to do more than simply blame him for making us suffer.

God knows that I am no advocate of a universal silence; I counsel only, for the good of souls, due reflection before we speak. But perhaps we can discipline our tongues in another way as well. We certainly ought to pray for right judgment in both the pope and ourselves.

That’s a fine lingual exercise, even when the prayer is mental. But perhaps we really can do something more. Perhaps we ought to try that other discipline of the tongue. Perhaps we ought to fast.

And if we find we complain frequently but are unwilling to fast, we should ask ourselves why. Prayer and fasting constitute, after all, the Christian’s greatest position of strength.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org.See full bio.