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Create in Me a Clean Heart Fr. John Bartunek Teresa Tomeo Douglas Bushman Donald DeMarco
“This is a splendid, penetrating study of the central figure of Christian faith; a learned and spiritual illumination not only of who Jesus was, but who he is for us today.” — Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia “This book often takes ones breath away, while infusing in the reader the God-breathed Word, which is the Gospel.” — Tim Gray, Ph.D., President, Augustine Institute “Pope Benedict XVI has authored a marvelous book.” — Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap., Executive Director for the Secretariat for Doctrine, USCCB “Combines solid scholarship with deep spirituality.” — Publishers Weekly SPECIAL PRICE FOR LENT!
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Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
HAT HAPPENED In the final week of Jesus of Nazareth’s earthly life? In Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, Pope Benedict takes up that and other crucial questions. How did the man whom many hailed as the Messiah come to be rejected by the leaders of his own people? Was he a political revolutionary? Who was responsible for his death, the Romans or the Jewish authorities, or both? How did Jesus view his suffering and death? How should we? Did he establish a Church to carry on his work? What did he teach about the End of the World? And most importantly, did Jesus really rise from the dead? This is a book for Christians—Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox—as well as other believers and nonbelievers. Benedict brings to his study the vast learning of a brilliant scholar, the passionate searching of a great mind, and the deep compassion of a pastor’s heart. In the end, he dares readers to grapple with the meaning of Jesus’ life, teaching, death, and resurrection.
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Speak of the Devil by Mike Sullivan
n The Screwtape Letters, the junior demon writes to his Uncle Screwtape and asks if he should keep “his patient” (the young man he is assigned to tempt) ignorant of the devil’s existence. Uncle Screwtape replies, “Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. . . . We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and skeptics.” This passage from C. S. Lewis serves as a poignant reminder of what is at the root of modern man’s skepticism and materialism: If the devil doesn’t exist, then sin doesn’t exist. If sin doesn’t exist, I can do as I please, and I would like to live like an animal. What a marvel: that our modern culture denies that evil exists while simultaneously glamorizing and glorifying it. Think of the recent vampire and zombie fad evidenced in popular television, movies, books, and even teen fashion. Bl. Pope John Paul II said “the evil that surrounds us today, the disorders that plague our society, man’s inconsistency and brokenness, are not only the results of original sin, but also the result of Satan’s pervasive and dark action.” Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) recognized that Satan “is a powerful reality . . . evident if we look realistically at history, with its abyss of ever-new atrocities which cannot be explained by reference to man alone.” Pope Paul VI warned that we are struggling not “only against one devil, but against a frightening multiplicity of them.” These Popes, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, are among the holiest men of the past century. Living in the light of truth, and being so close to the light, they could truly understand the pernicious power of darkness. If they could see this so clearly,
and warned us so vehemently, ought we not listen? The Catechism has a frightening observation in the commentary on the final phrase in the Lord’s Prayer: “But deliver us from evil.” It teaches, “In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God” (no. 2851). The reality of the devil’s existence is undeniably clear to many of the saints. Take, for example, Padre Pio’s account of how “that wicked thing beat me continuously from about ten o’clock, when I went to bed, until five o’clock in the morning.” Or, another example, from the diary of St. Gemma Galgani: “It happened today as usual. I had gone to bed, in fact I was asleep, but the devil did not wish this. He presented himself in a disgusting manner; he tempted me but I was strong. I commended myself to Jesus asking that He take my life rather than have me offend Him. What horrible temptations those were! All displease me, but those against Holy Purity make me most wretched. Afterward he left me in peace and the Angel Guardian came and assured me that I had not done anything wrong. I complained somewhat, because I wished his help at such times, and he said that whether I saw him or not, he would be always above my head.” St. John Vianney documented many instances of fierce battles with the devil. On most evenings, his sleep was interrupted by violent knocks on his door or the thrashing of his curtains or bed. Sometimes he would be thrown around the room or tormented by the shouts of demons or even the shaking of the entire house. Some of the witnesses of these events ran in terror, while others, reassured by the Curé’s presence, stood by his side without fear. Thankfully, most of us have not had such extreme encounters with the devil, but we
all engage in spiritual combat every day. Temptations to venial or mortal sin offer us the opportunity for victory or defeat. Every defeat diminishes the light and thereby increases the darkness. But every victory, no matter how small, strengthens us and brings us closer to Christ our Light. It is important to acknowledge the presence of evil in the world. Not to cultivate a disordered fascination with demonic forces or to give more attention than necessary to the Evil One, but to know what we are up against, to keep us from becoming just as ambivalent as the culture seems to be. As frightening as the reality of evil is at times, we are not to lose heart, because Christ is the ultimate victor over sin and death. Satan has already lost. But, as he “prowls about the world seeking the ruin of souls” in a last-ditch effort, we must heed the words of Scripture: “Put on the whole armor of God, that [we] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). By turning to Jesus Christ, our triumphant Lord we gain the grace to endure our daily battle. And what better way can we Catholics fortify ourselves than with regular reception of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist and with frequent confession? This Lent, let us all make a commitment to strengthen ourselves by turning to the font of grace found in the Church’s sacraments. lw
Mike Sullivan Sullivan is the president of Catholics United for the Faith and publisher of Lay Witness magazine and Emmaus Road Publishing. He resides in Toronto, Ohio, with his wife, Gwen, and their nine children. March/April 2012
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
ardening has the twofold potential of being both a bother and a blessing. On the one hand, there are weeds to pull, watering to attend to, and blight-bearing bugs to fend off. On the other, the beauty and bounty of well-cultivated land makes the hard work worth the effort. Tending a garden is a lot like tending our spiritual life. God’s directive to Adam in the Garden of Eden to till and keep the land can be applied to St. Paul’s assertion: “You are God’s field” (1 Cor. 3:9). As we set about planting our field, we take what God gives us—rain, sun, all His graces—and put to use whatever befalls us. But often we struggle with rusted and broken tools (a weak will, an intellect darkened by sin) or sow and reap according to our own whims instead of following God’s design. Sometimes we’re too lazy or too incompetent (or so we think) to do the work that needs to be done. Laxity leads to neglect, and before we know it those creeping vices that should have been, well, nipped in the bud have taken root in our garden. Conversely, if we have patience and dedication, even the feeble plants most vulnerable to frost and heat will flourish. In this issue of Lay Witness, you’ll find plenty of tips on how to cultivate a spiritual green thumb. Fr. John Bartunek draws from the Parable of the Sower to delineate the distinction between psychological and spiritual obstacles. CUF President Mike Sullivan sorts through the Catholic and Protestant notions of concupiscence by asking the question, “Are we dunghills or fertile soil?” Further covering the matter of original sin, Douglas Bushman shows how our rejection of God points ironically to the fullness of His love. As we go through the pruning process in our hearts, Dr. Edward Sri’s article on how self-centeredness finds an ally in relativism is an important commentary that can help us weed out harmful tendencies in our relationships with God and others. Additionally, articles by Donald DeMarco, Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, Kevin Bezner, and Teresa Tomeo challenge us to dig deeper. Get on your knees, get your hands dirty, and labor faithfully alongside Christ who sows His grace into the soil of your life. The blessing comes not from admiring our own work, but in humbly recognizing that “neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7). lw
FROM OUR FOUNDER Good Friday was the saddest day in history; but after a little time the worst turned to best, and Christ snatched victory for us from the grave. H. Lyman Stebbins April 12, 1972
Melissa Knaggs Editor
web exclusives@ Features...
Access these and other web exclusives at www.cuf.org/laywitness. 2
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Bishop Thomas G. Doran provides an excellent foundation for understanding vocational discernment in “Dare to Dream: Essential Steps to Discerning God’s Will.” Chris Sparks writes a rousing exhortation to grow in faith in “Know Thyself: The Adventure of Living in Truth.”
MARCH - APRIL 2012 / VOLUME 33 / NUMBER 2
Publisher Mike Sullivan
Editor Melissa Knaggs
Layout & Design Theresa Westling How to Reach Us E-mail: email@example.com Lay Witness magazine Postal Mail: 827 North Fourth Street Steubenville, OH 43952 Tel: (740) 283-2484 Fax: (740) 283-4011 How to Get Lay Witness Lay Witness (ISSN 1541-602X) is the bimonthly publication of Catholics United for the Faith (CUF), an international lay apostolate founded in 1968 by H. Lyman Stebbins “to support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church.” Annual CUF membership is $40 ($60 outside the U.S.), which includes a one-year subscription to Lay Witness magazine. To learn more about CUF membership, visit www. cuf.org/membership or call (740) 283-2484. To order back issues or to inquire about bulk rates, please e-mail or call.
4 Psychological or Spiritual Roots? Getting to the Heart of Our Inner Struggles Fr. John Bartunek, L.C., S.T.D.
0 Remain in My Love 1 On the Pastoral Care of Couples Who are Cohabiting Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan 11 Media, the Church, and the Truth about Womanhood an interview with Teresa Tomeo Melissa Knaggs 14 On Being Virtuous in a Not-So-Virtuous World Donald DeMarco 18 Sin and Faith The Rejection of God’s Love and the Conviction that God is Love Douglas G. Bushman, S.T.L. 23 Jesus, Our New Temple J.P. Nunez 24 Are We Dunghills or Fertile Soil? Why Understanding Concupiscence is Important Mike Sullivan 28 Combating Spiritual Desolation with the Saints Kevin Bezner
Please e-mail or call us with your new address, telephone number, and any other changes to your contact information.
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Catholics United for the Faith Officers: President, Mike Sullivan; Vice President of Operations, Shannon Minch-Hughes
8 The Art of Living Edward P. Sri
22 Master Catechist
Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., with Michael Mohr
31 A New Evangelization Emily Stimpson
Board of Directors: Chairman, Michael Mohr; Vice Chairman, Thomas Pernice; Spiritual Advisor, Rev. Ray Ryland; Gail Buckley, James Likoudis, Frank Lum, David Rodriguez, John H. Stebbins, Anne M. Wilson.
32 Looking at a Masterpiece
Episcopal Advisory Council: Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, Most Rev. Fabian W. Bruskewitz, Most Rev. Daniel M. Buechlein, Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson, Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, Most Rev. R. Daniel Conlon, Most Rev. Thomas G. Doran, Most Rev. Robert W. Finn, Most Rev. Roger J. Foys, Most Rev. Peter J. Jugis, Most Rev. James P. Keleher, Most Rev. Joseph F. Martino, Most Rev. John J. Myers, Most Rev. Joseph F. Naumann, Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, Most Rev. Michael J. Sheridan, Most Rev. Edward Slattery, Most Rev. John W. Yanta.
Advisory Council: Terry Barber, Rev. Robert I. Bradley, S.J., Jeff Cavins, Dr. John F. Crosby, Dr. William Donohue, Marcus Grodi, Dr. Scott Hahn, Sally Havercamp, Daniel K. Hennessy, Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, George Sim Johnston, Karl Keating, Dr. Peter Kreeft, Rev. Robert J. Levis, Patrick Madrid, Msgr. Charles M. Mangan, Curtis A. Martin, Dr. William E. May, Rev. Brian T. Mullady, O.P., Rev. James T. O’Connor, Rev. Frank A. Pavone, Steve Ray, Patrick Reilly, Dr. Charles E. Rice, Rev. George W. Rutler, Russell Shaw, E. William Sockey, III, Rev. Peter Stravinskas, Leon J. Suprenant, Jr., Charles M. Wilson, Stephen Wood, Jeff Ziegler.
Faith at Work Finding Purpose Beyond the Paycheck by Kevin Lowry
2 From the Editor’s Desk 16 Ask CUF 26 Reviews
Safely Through the Storm: 120 Reflections on Hope by Debra Herbeck
Devotion to the Sacred Heart by Fr. John Hardon, S.J.
27 The Pope Speaks On the Cover / Saint Francis in Meditation, 1635-9 / Zurbaran, Francisco de (1598-1664) / © National Gallery, London / Art Resource, NY
Psychological or Spiritual Roots? Getting to the Heart of Our Inner Struggles by Fr. John Bartunek, L.C., S.T.D.
Lay Witness / www.cuf.org
sychology and spirituality live side-by-side, as even their etymologies make clear. Psyche is a Greek word that originally meant “breath,” and spiritus is a Latin word that originally meant the same thing. Over time, both words came to signify life itself, since breathing is so essential to the maintenance of life, and most especially human life. The human spirit possesses two capabilities that other living members of the visible universe do not. To understand the distinction between psychology and spirituality as they are practiced today, and so to grasp the differentiation between psychological and spiritual struggles, these two unique capabilities require some identification.
The Uniqueness of the Human Spirit First, a human person is self-aware. The human mind can reflect on reality, on experience, and even on its own reflection on reality and experience. Human consciousness is therefore not limited to immediate sensory experience, but can step back and analyze, synthesize, and relate. The clearest evidence for this abstract intelligence, and its uniqueness in the animal world, is language, especially in written form. Scientists have discovered that they can teach dolphins and chimps many things, but they have never discovered a dolphin library somewhere beneath the sea, or volumes of chimpanzee poetry stowed away in a jungle bookcase. Second, a human person is self-determining. Unlike squirrels, which have instincts and are not free to disobey them, we can actually decide what to do and when to do it. When we are hungry, we can choose not to eat. When we feel attracted to a member of the opposite sex, we can choose not to embrace them. When we are tired, we can choose to keep working. Furthermore, we can put our self-awareness at the service of our self-determination. We can consider different long-term goals, purposely choose one over others, and then go about studying the many different possible paths for achieving that goal and draw up a personal itinerary of short and medium-term objectives. Psychology and spirituality both deal with these unique human capacities—these “spiritual faculties,” as the philosophers would put it—of self-awareness and self-determination. But each deals with them in a slightly different way. This is not to say that there is no overlap between the two fields. Nevertheless, at times a psychologist or psychiatrist can offer more helpful treatment than a spiritual director, and at other times a spiritual director can offer necessary guidance that a psychologist cannot.
Common Characteristics Both fields share two key assumptions. First, they affirm the possibility of attaining a certain level of happiness in this earthly life. Human beings can live more or less fulfilling lives, and psychologists and spiritual directors both strive to help people find the more fulfilling option. From a Christian perspective, the degree of fulfillment is directly proportionate to the degree of a person’s communion with God in Christ. And that communion depends upon using and developing the spiritual faculties properly. The proper exercise of one’s capacity for self-awareness involves discovering and assimilating truth—the truth about God, about the human family, about oneself, about the world. The proper exercise of one’s capacity for self-determination involves choosing what is morally good—that which actually helps
“At times a psychologist or psychiatrist can offer more helpful treatment than a spiritual director, and at other times a spiritual director can offer necessary guidance that a psychologist cannot.” the human person live out our vocation to image God here in the visible world. By seeking and adhering to truth and goodness, we can attain spiritual maturity (the healthy development of our spiritual faculties), a necessary precondition for lasting happiness. Some schools of secular psychology and some non-Christian spiritualities take one step too many in this arena, claiming that perfect happiness can be attained and sustained in this fallen world. No Christian psychologist or spiritual director would ever make that claim, because they understand that the human heart will only find its definitive satisfaction in an everlasting communion with God—something which can begin here on earth, but can only be fulfilled in heaven: “Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (Catechism, no. 1024). The Christian psychologist and spiritual director will seek to help people increase their communion with God on earth, since that is the path to a meaningful and fulfilling life, but they will never forget that “the life of man upon earth is a warfare, and his days are like the days of a hireling” (Job 7:1 Douay-Rheims) and that “here we have no lasting city” (Heb. 13:14). The second assumption shared by psychology and spirituality has to do not with the goal (helping people lead more fulfilling lives), but with the means to achieve that goal. Both fields agree that the human condition is fraught with obstacles to happiness and that those obstacles can be identified and dealt with in a constructive way. The psychologist and the spiritual director, therefore, both seek to identify what is holding a person back from being all that they can be and to help that person move forward. March/April 2012
Different Competencies The easiest way to understand the differentiation between psychology and spirituality is to understand the types of obstacles that each field is qualified to deal with. Obstacles to spiritual maturity are those things—conditions, circumstances, influences, tendencies— that impede us from knowing and assimilating the truth or from choosing the moral good. Spirituality deals primarily with ordinary obstacles—those faced by every person just because they are a fallen human being living in a fallen world. Psychology, on the other hand, deals primarily with extraordinary obstacles to spiritual maturity, obstacles that have arisen because of traumatic experiences or psycho-somatic handicaps. Our Lord explains the ordinary obstacles to human fulfillment in His allegory of the Sower (e.g. Matthew 13). In this allegory, the soil represents the human soul, the spiritual faculties of the human person. The seed represents God’s “Word” or His presence and grace. When the Word penetrates and takes root in the soil, a plant grows, flowers, and bears fruit—a symbol of the fulfilled and fulfilling life that comes from living in communion with God. Our Lord points out five factors that can impede the seed’s growth; these are the ordinary—common and universal—obstacles to spiritual maturity.
Ordinary Obstacles The first obstacle is symbolized by the hard soil of the path. Some seed falls on the path and doesn’t penetrate at all. It can’t penetrate. Instead, it stays on the surface of the trampled, hardened, and unyielding dirt. This is the superficial person, the one who never allows himself to reflect, to pray, to listen to the voice of truth and goodness speaking in his heart. This person is “distracted from distraction by distraction,” as T.S. Eliot put it. Our Lord explains that this seed is gobbled up by the birds of the air. And this is the second obstacle—the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). The devil and his minions constantly try to impede the soul from having authentic contact with what is true and good, just as the birds eat up the seed. Some of the seed in the allegory falls on shallow, rocky soil, and springs up quickly, but the plant then withers under the scorching glare of the sun, because its roots aren’t deep enough. Here we face two more ordinary obstacles. The rocky soil is the self-centered soul, and the scorching sun is the trials and sufferings of life. Selfcenteredness can hamper our capacity for self-sacrifice in the face of challenges and difficulties, but the capacity for self-sacrifice is a staple in the diet that fosters spiritual maturity. Finally, some seed falls into good soil, but when the plant begins to grow, weeds grow up beside it and choke it, so that it never bears fruit. Here we have the fifth ordinary obstacle: worldliness. We live in a fallen world, and the standards and values held up by society are often false. They are dead-end roads that drain our energy and attention only to lead us to emptiness and frustration. Money, goodlooks, fashions, pleasure, popularity, fame, and career-success are held out by popular culture as idols that can bring happiness. But if we feed those desires and bow down before those idols (this is called sin), we will stunt our spiritual growth. The presence of these ordinary obstacles in our lives is due, ultimately, to original sin, which is why these ordinary obstacles are universal—we all have to deal with them. 6
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Their continued influence is due to our wounded human nature (with its innate characteristics of ignorance and concupiscence) and the personal sins that continue to damage individuals and societies. The spiritual life is an itinerary of conscious, value-driving actions that, together with God’s grace, help us navigate those obstacles, in all their many manifestations, and achieve spiritual maturity. Prayer, the sacraments, self-denial, devotion to the saints and to the Blessed Virgin Mary, spiritual reading and the study of Catholic teaching . . . these and other spiritual practices help enlighten our minds with the light of God’s truth and train our wills to choose what is truly good. Spiritual directors help us identify which obstacles are most at work in our lives, and guide us to make effective use of these means for spiritual growth. They coach us towards spiritual excellence.
Extraordinary Obstacles Sometimes, however, a coach is not enough. This is true even in the physical realm. In the case of a serious injury, for example, a doctor may need to intervene with reconstructive surgery, and a physical therapist may need to be called in to help a person recover their normal range of motion. Similarly, traumas or psycho-somatic conditions can create structural dysfunctions (pathologies) in a person’s capacity of self-awareness or self-determination—these are extraordinary (uncommon and not universal) obstacles to spiritual maturity. God will sometimes cure these structural dysfunctions directly, through the action of His grace. Other times, however, psychological counseling and therapy can be used to identify and gradually correct the defect. Some cases can also be helped by medicinal attention. Other cases are permanent and, without the special intervention of God’s grace, incurable. These extraordinary obstacles are sometimes obvious. Someone struggling with a strong, persistent same-sex attraction, for example, is facing a structural dysfunction. The normal process of sexual integration was disrupted during that person’s formative years. In some cases, this structural dysfunction can be addressed by using reparative therapy to reconstruct the divergent experience and repair the breakdown in the individual’s gender-identity development.1 Other extraordinary obstacles are more hidden. The area of trust is a good example. Childhood trauma can often create blocks in a person’s capacity to trust others even when they become adults. This can make normal relationships arduous or even impossible, causing pain and tension in a marriage or chronic loneliness and depression. But trust also touches the core of the spiritual life, since the heart of original sin was a breakdown of trust in God
(cf. Catechism, no. 397). As a result, in some circumstances trust will be difficult for all of us. Add into this scenario the activity of the devil, who often stirs up turbulence in the soul in precisely those areas where we are already wounded and weak, and the situation can get quite complicated.
Indications for Discernment How can someone know if their difficulties in trusting God the Father are normal difficulties that will gradually be overcome through normal means for spiritual growth and the good coaching of a spiritual director? How can they know if their depression is merely an ongoing temptation, or a treatable condition, or the sign of diabolical infestation? Or, on the other hand, how can someone know if their inability to trust is linked to a structural dysfunction that needs to be addressed through psychological counseling or therapy? There is a large gray area here, and sometimes resolution takes a lot of time, searching, and good advice. As a rule of thumb, though, we can say that someone who is honestly striving to avoid sin and making good use of the Church’s normal means for spiritual growth should see steady spiritual progress, even if that progress is slow. When, over a long period of time, progress is simply non-existent, it could indicate the presence of a hidden block. That would be the time to talk to your spiritual director or someone you trust about finding a good Catholic counselor who may be able to help identify and deal with a structural dysfunction. Psychological health is a necessary precondition for full spiritual maturity. In the end, a good Catholic psychologist and a good Catholic spiritual director will have a lot in common. Most importantly, they will both know how to steer any child of God towards the truth and goodness of Christ, who “came that they may have life, and have abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). lw Joseph Nicolosi, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach (Northvale, N.J.: J. Aronson Publishers, 1991).
This Lent, why not delve into one of the many modern classics that touch on the overlap of spiritual and psychological struggles? Here are a few authors and books that seek to help one grow in spiritual maturity:
Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living and other books by Fr. Timothy Gallagher
Transformation in Christ by Dietrich von Hildebrand
Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer; Prayer Primer; and Fire Within and other books by Fr. Thomas Dubay
The Fulfillment of All Desire
by Ralph Martin
Fr. John Bartunek, L.C., S.T.D, is a bestselling author who currently serves as an Adjunct Professor at the Institute for Psychological Sciences in Arlington, VA and the Legionaries of Christ Center for Higher Studies in Thornwood, NY. He has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on CNN, FOX, and the BBC. His most widely known book is called: The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer. His blog contains Q&A on the spiritual life at www.rcspiritualdirection.com.
Arise From Darkness: What to Do When Life Doesn’t Make Sense and Stumbling Blocks or Stepping Stones: Spiritual Questions to Psychological Answers by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR
The Temperment God Gave You by Art and Laraine Bennett
THE ART OF LIVING
How Relativism Justifies Our Selfishness by Edward P. Sri
he atheistic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche may have been right on the mark in his observations about the best way to undermine Christianity. Too often, Nietzsche argued, opponents of Christianity have focused on questioning the truthfulness of Christian claims. But these individuals would be more successful if they showed its moral vision—the Christian way of life—to be something negative, evil, and harmful to human persons. “As long as one does not perceive Christian morality as a capital crime against life,” Nietzsche said, “its defenders will always have an easy game. The question of the truth of Christianity . . . is something entirely secondary as long as the question of the value of Christian morality is not addressed.” The approach Nietzsche advocated plays a significant part in today’s crisis of faith. Many people have rejected Christianity not because they have examined its teachings and found them to be wanting. Rather, for many, the Christian path seems to be a strange, repressive, and boring way to live— much less exciting than the mainstream lifestyles offered today. In the eyes of many today, Cardinal Ratzinger points out, Christianity “seems to place too many restraints on humankind that stifle its joie de vivre, that limit its precious freedom, and that do not lead it to open pastures—in the language of the Psalms—but rather into want, into deprivation.” Now is the time to turn the tables on this kind of critique and show how it is actually the secular, relativistic way of life that leads to unhappiness. Ratzinger notes how the early Church faced similar criticisms but was successful in transforming pagan Rome by persuasively demonstrating the emptiness of the pagan lifestyle and the happiness found in following Christ, and he argues that we need to do the same again. “Today it is a matter of the greatest urgency to show 8
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a Christian model of life that offers a livable alternative to the increasingly vacuous entertainments of leisure-time society.”1 Following Ratzinger’s approach, we will begin to draw out the stark contrasts between the Christian and relativistic worldviews and the different ways of life that flow from each. In this reflection, we will focus on how each outlook views the self. We will see that the Christian view of the self is oriented toward building the kind of relationships and community that bring us happiness, whereas the view of the self that is prominent in our relativistic world today has led to much pain, heartache, and isolation precisely where human beings are meant to find fulfillment: in our relationships.
The Self: An Island or Relationship? In the Christian worldview, every human person is made for relationship—friendship with God and the people God has placed in our lives. It is in these relationships that we find fulfillment in life. As Bl. John Paul II often noted, we find ourselves only by living for others, by making ourselves a sincere gift to others. The self, therefore, is not meant to close in on itself, selfishly pursuing its own interests and desires. Rather, the self is meant to be looking outward toward other people. As Ratzinger explains, “Man lives in relationships, and the ultimate goodness of his life depends on the rightness of his essential relationships—I mean father, mother, brother, sister, and so forth—the basic relationships that are inscribed in his being.”2 Our relativistic world, however, teaches just the opposite. The self is viewed in an individualistic way, as an island, apart from its relationships with God, parents, siblings, spouses, children, friends, and community. The self is simply a blank slate and each individual should choose to do whatever he wants with his life. We find ourselves not by
giving ourselves to others and seeking their well-being, but by constantly pursuing our own interests. This modern notion of the self is very inward-looking and has made our relationships suffer. The people in our lives tend to be valued only in a utilitarian way—only in so far as they are instrumental in helping me experience some benefit, advantage, enjoyment or pleasure. The well-being of my relationships is completely secondary to my own self-realization.
Feeling Alone In this view, relationships of sustained commitment that involve unconditional, sacrificial love do not make much sense. Instead, our relationships become more self-serving and thus more unstable and tentative. We commit ourselves to our friends, family, and communities only to the extent that and for as long as we get something from them. A popular book from the 1970s expresses this modern view of the self well: You can’t take everything with you when you leave on the mid-life journey. You are moving away. Away from institutional claims and other people’s agenda. . . . You are moving out of roles and into the self. If I could give everyone a gift for the send-off on this journey, it would be a tent. A tent for tentativeness. The gift of portable roots . . . For each of us there is the opportunity to emerge reborn, authentically unique, with an enlarged capacity to love ourselves and embrace others. … The delights of self-discovery are always available. Though loved ones move in and out of our lives, the capacity to love remains.3 This outlook has had a devastating impact on the way we relate to each other. When we view the people in our lives primarily as instruments to our own good
feelings, fun times, or self-discovery, many today live without the security of long-term close relationships. Friendships constantly change. Dating relationships are fraught with uncertainty and insecurity. We live in greater isolation as no one truly knows who we are anymore. It is no wonder more and more people experience the pains of loneliness. The percentage of Americans who said they had no close personal friends (individuals with whom they could confide personal matters) increased dramatically from 10% in 1985 to almost 25% in 2004. Think about that: about one out of every four people in our country does not have a close personal friend, someone with whom they could share their lives. Fr. Luigi Giussani, in his book The Religious Sense, describes how this instability has left people with a feeling of relational seasickness. Uncertainty in relationships is one of the most terrible afflictions of our generation. It is difficult to become certain about relationships, even within the family. We live as if we were seasick, with such insecurity in the fabric of our relations that we no longer build what is human. We might construct skyscrapers, atomic bombs, the most subtle systems of philosophy, but we no longer build the human because it consists of relationships. Nowhere is this instability felt more than in marriage and family life. Marriage is no longer about a communion of love in which husband and wife seek what is best for each other, help each other grow in holiness, and rally around serving any children that may come from their union. It is more about an opportunity for one’s own self-expression. As long you enjoy being with your spouse, experience helpful companionship, and feel better about yourself, remaining in the relationship makes sense. But if the marriage gets difficult and “you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling” you can back out of the marriage and pursue something else that will be more interesting for you, regardless of how this might affect your spouse or children. Similarly, parenting is all about laying down one’s life to serve the good of one’s children. However, when the modern world
focuses not on relationships but on the self, many parents lose their sense of having a profound mission and become discouraged. Sleepless nights, dirty diapers, the constant demands of little children, and driving the older ones to their six-and-a-half weekly activities do not add up to a lot of fun and comfort for the self. If a parent focuses on himself—on what he gets out of parenting—he will be wiped out. This is why many people view children as something to be avoided at all costs, as something limiting their freedom. Others are tempted to run away from their responsibilities by spending hours and hours with their hobbies, careers, sports, the Internet, or social events instead of giving the best of themselves to their children. Children, therefore, often grow up without the security of both parents loving and serving them and are instilled with a haunting sense that many other things are more important to mom and dad than they are.
Remember, in relativism, there is no right or wrong. No one choice is better than another. All that matters is that one pursues his own desires. Whether someone remains committed to his friends or lets them down to pursue other opportunities doesn’t matter. Whether a mother gives herself to her children or focuses on other interests does not matter. Whether a man remains faithful in his marriage or abandons his wife does not matter. A relativistic outlook can help justify our self-centeredness and our failure in relationships. But as Ratzinger has noted, something is tragically lost when the self is viewed in this isolated way. Our relationships suffer, and man himself suffers. “Man [today] is conceived in purely individualistic terms; he is only himself. The relation that is an essential part of him and that is what really first enables him to become himself is taken away from him.”4 lw
Relativism Justifies Our Selfishness In the end, in our relativistic world, the focus is on the self. When we are constantly taught to do whatever makes you happy, to pursue your dreams, and live life to the fullest we turn inward and fail to consider how our choices might affect the people God has placed in our lives.
Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal, Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam (New York, Basic Books, 2007) p. 125. 2 Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium (San Francisco, Ignatius, 1997) p. 22. 3 Sheehy, Gail, Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life (New York: Bantam Books, 1976) pp. 364, 513. 4 Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth, p.167.
Edward P. Sri Edward Sri is provost and a professor of theology and Scripture at the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado (www.augustineinstitute.org). He is the author of or contributor to several Emmaus Road books, including Queen Mother, which is based on his doctoral dissertation. He resides with his wife, Elizabeth, and their six children in Littleton, Colorado. Sri’s books may be ordered at www.emmausroad.org or by calling (800) 398-5470. March/April 2012
Remain in My Love On the Pastoral Care of Couples Who are Cohabiting by Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan
People in the above three situations cannot receive the sacraments, with the exception of those who agree to live chastely (“as brother and sister”) until their situation is regularized. Of course, those in danger of death are presumed to be repentant. . . . 10
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“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love . . . . these things i have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”—John 15:10-11
Many of these sins are committed out of ignorance. I ask that our pastors preach on the gravity of sin and its evil consequences, the Sixth and Ninth Commandments, and the sacramental nature and meaning of Christian marriage. Our catechetical programs in our parishes—children, youth, and adult—must clearly and repeatedly teach these truths. A Church wedding does not require some lavish spectacle and entertainment costing vast sums of money. (Indeed, how often we have seen the most costly weddings end in divorce in but a few months or years!) While beauty and joy should surround a Christian wedding, we must remind everyone that it is a sacrament, not a show. Those who are married outside the Church because of a previous union are urged to seek an annulment through our Marriage Tribunal. If it can be found that the first marriage lacked some essential quality for a valid marriage, the Tribunal can grant an annulment. Your pastor can help someone start a marriage case for this purpose. It is important for such couples to continue to pray and get to Mass even though they may not receive Communion, until their marriage can be blessed in the Church. Our popular American culture is often in conflict with the teachings of Jesus and His Church. I urge especially young people to not cohabitate . . . but to marry in the Church and prepare well I congratulate and thank those thousands of Catholic married couples who role model the Sacrament of Marriage according to the teachings of Jesus and His Church. lw The above is taken from a pastoral letter issued by Archbishop Sheehan of the Archdiocese of Sante Fe, NM in April 2011.
e are painfully aware that there are many Catholics today who are living in cohabitation. The Church must make it clear to the faithful that these unions are not in accord with the Gospel and help Catholics who find themselves in these situations to do whatever they must do to make their lives pleasing to God. First of all, we ourselves must be firmly rooted in the Gospel teaching that, when it comes to sexual union, there are only two lifestyles acceptable to Jesus Christ for His disciples: a single life of chastity, or the union of man and woman in the Sacrament of Matrimony. There is no third way possible for a Christian. The Bible and the Church teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman and opposes same sex unions. We have three groups of people who are living contrary to the Gospel teaching on marriage: those who cohabit, those who have a merely civil union with no previous marriage, and those who have a civil union who were married before. These people are objectively living in a state of mortal sin and may not receive Holy Communion. They are in great spiritual danger. At best—and this is, sadly, often the case—they are ignorant of God’s plan for man and woman. At the worst, they are contemptuous of God’s commandments and His sacraments. Of these three groups, the first two have no real excuse. They should marry in the Church or separate. Often their plea is that they “cannot afford a Church wedding” (i.e. the external trappings) or “What difference does a piece of paper make?” As if the sacramental covenant is nothing more than a piece of paper! Such statements show religious ignorance, or a lack of faith and awareness of the evil of sin. The third group, those who were married before and married again outside the Church, can seek a marriage annulment and have their marriage blessed in the Church. Please remember that divorce is still no reason to refrain from Holy Communion as long as [those involved] have not entered into another marriage or sinful relationship. Many Catholics are confused on this point. Christ Our Lord loves all these people and wishes to save them— not by ignoring their sin, or calling evil good, but by repentance and helping them to change their lives in accordance with His teaching. We, as His Church, must do the same. In accord with this, I would remind you of the following:
Media, the Church, and the Truth about
Womanhood an interview with Teresa Tomeo by Melissa Knaggs
n her latest book, Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture, author and radio talk show host Teresa Tomeo proves that you can’t believe everything you see on TV. The caricature of femininity presented in television and film seems like something from a fairy tale. Only in this fairy tale, what’s bad is good (contraception, abortion, and “free sex”) and what’s good is bad (modesty and virtue). Is there concrete evidence of the harmful effects from this portrayal of women in the media, or is this just a case of conservative paranoia? In this interview, Teresa lays bare the facts and reminds us of the hope offered through Christ and the teachings of His Church.
Extreme Makeover is intentionally research heavy. What was your goal in providing so much up-to-date information on different issues in the media and other societal trends? Christians, especially in the Catholic Church, are often criticized for being out of touch and archaic in terms of their beliefs. My intention was to show just how relevant and significant the Church’s teachings are for today’s culture. It is important to show how things tend to implode on us
when we go against the natural law. Science, sociology, studies on media influence, etc., all point back to God and the natural order. We see this with the fallout from contraception, sex outside of marriage, abortion, and embryonic stem cell research. These things never have and never will be good for us, and the research reveals this if we are only willing to connect the dots.
From your own career experience in media, what do you find motivates media providers most? The media are strongly motivated by money and their own ideological agenda. The bottom line is in terms of ratings and advertising dollars. They want to increase viewership, readership, and listenership without spending a lot of cash in the process. That’s what prompted the reality TV craze. Those shows are for the most part cheap and easy to produce. It is a lot more difficult to develop interesting story lines and produce quality programs and films. There has to be a decent script, good actors, and quality production. Not the case, for example, with reality TV. In terms of the news media, it doesn’t take a Pulitzer Prize winner to cover a car crash or a house fire. These stories allow for drama and emotion without the time, effort, and expense of investigative reporting. March/April 2012
In terms of the media agenda, surveys dating back 30 years show that the media are definitely left of center in terms of the issues that most Christians find important. Since the media accept abortion, contraception, sexual promiscuity, etc., as normal, they believe that this is the way everyone should live. Most of the news people share the same views, so they suffer from “group think.” And they do whatever they can to pass that on to the general public.
What are some of the most prevalent effects the media has on women?
Dolls, and Victoria’s Secret as culprits. And they determined that all media are to blame for the sexualization of girls and younger women. Women have also been betrayed because the truth about the impacts of abortion and contraception on our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being are denied or ignored by the secular media and those who hide behind the “feminist” title. And the media have been complicit by promoting this agenda. There is a news media blackout on many of these issues and it is “The feminist movement of today, very tough to get the press to talk about or contraception other than in a which developed from the women’s abortion glowing light.
Women have been sold a bill of goods lib movement in the 60s and 70s, has Do women with very little media on contraception, abortion, and sex outside of marriage. The feminist movement intake also experience negative betrayed women by convincing them of today, which developed from the wombacklash? en’s lib movement in the 60s and 70s, has Yes, most definitely. As Bl. John Paul that we should be able to behave like II once said, “Sin is never singular.” If the betrayed women by convincing them that we should be able to behave like men bemedia are complicit in promoting harmful men behaving badly.” having badly. Forty years ago, women told behaviors and lifestyles that are eventually the world they wanted to be taken seriously as people with equal accepted in society, then we are all affected even if we don’t consume worth and value, and not just looked at as sex objects. Fast forward the same amount or type of programming. The media have helped to the twenty-first century, and women are objectified more than ever to make abortion and contraception sacred. And yet look at the before. The objectification and sexualization are occurring at younger toll these two practices have taken on society, the economy, health and younger ages with shows such as “Toddlers & Tiaras” and products insurance, etc. There have been 53 million babies aborted since Roe such as the Bratz Dolls. This was brought out in a detailed report a few vs. Wade became the law of the land in 1973. If we connect the dots years ago from the American Psychological Association. When girls we can see that there could be at least, even on a conservative scale, or young women are made to feel like objects, this leads to increased say, half of those people contributing to the economy and the Social rates of depression and eating disorders, along with other problems. Security system. And then if we look at the connections between This particular report from the APA actually named Madonna, Bratz abortion and increased breast cancer risk in women, increased cases
Media Reality Check Challenge
an Excerpt from Extreme Media Makeover by Teresa Tomeo
n the cover of my first book, Noise: How Our MediaSaturated Culture Dominates Lives and Dismantles Families, I have a thought-provoking quote from Pope Benedict XVI: “We are no longer able to hear God. There are too many different frequencies filling our ears.” Think about that. The first thing we should be doing when we awaken is get down on our knees or bow our heads in a prayer of thanksgiving for another day. Instead, most of us hop out of bed and turn on the TV, the radio, or both. Many also hop on the Internet to check email and turn on their cell phones to start calling or texting a friend or a coworker about this, that, or the other thing. Given the fact that children are using media on average 53 hours a week, it’s not a stretch to say that your son or daughter is probably online or in front of the television set before leaving for school. So now you have all the noise from the media plus the inherent noise of one of the busiest parts of the day coming at you full speed ahead—noise, noise, and more noise. 12
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We rush to work and to school with the radio blaring and the cell phone ringing; and before we know it, the day is well under way and we haven’t even taken time to hear what God has to say to us. Then we get angry with God or frustrated when life doesn’t go our way. We have to silence the noise in our lives if we want to hear from God and live a more peaceful and less stressful life. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said that God cannot be found in noise and restlessness: “God is the friend of silence. . . . See how nature, the trees, the flowers, the grass grow in deep silence. . . . We need this silence in order to touch souls.” This is where our “media reality check” enters the picture. Silencing some of the noise in your life will help you in your prayer life and allow you, as well as your family, to have some beneficial quiet time. Wouldn’t it be nice to just walk into the house and not have to shout over the television? When was the last time you ate dinner with your family without some interference from modern media technology?
of depression, drug addiction, school abuse, domestic violence etc., in post-abortive men and women, we can see how even though we may not be watching the same media, the message is still getting out there and others are buying into it, which impacts all of us.
What are some practical ways parents, educators, and clergy can encourage women to be “transformed by Christ, not by the culture”? Steps have to be taken in the home, in our parishes, in our schools—and we have to be willing to get involved. Much of the responsibility lies with the parents. Moms and Dads have got to set and stick to media guidelines. The American Academy of Pediatrics says tweens and teens should be limited to 2-3 hours of TV per day. The AAP also says computers and TVs should be in the central area of the home so activity can be monitored. And yet the research shows that on average children are consuming 53 hours of media per week with little if any parental guidance. Educators should include media literacy courses in their curricula. These types of courses can help young people discern the many messages that bombard our world today. Priests need to talk about media awareness from the pulpit encouraging more family time and less media time. Our parishes should also be passing on some of the great writings from the Church such as the annual World Communications Day statements from the Holy Father that help us deal with the onslaught of media in our lives. Priests also need to remind Catholics that God is not some big killjoy looking to squash our happiness. God is a big Yes, and not a No. His plan is the best plan; so we need to talk about the joy of the Lord and how His plan leads to peace and fulfillment, and how the plan of the world
This media reality check, if you’re honest with yourself, will help you and your loved ones assess just how much time you spend watching TV or “friending” people on Facebook. It will help you detox in terms of learning to limit the amount of time spent with media. The media is a great tool for evangelization, communication, and faith education; unfortunately, most Catholics are not spending their media time listening to Catholic radio or visiting Catholic websites. That’s why most of us can benefit from applying a media reality check: ✔ Build a “media-free zone” into your daily routine at home or at work. Silence the noise and allow yourself quiet time (start with 15-30 minutes) with God. ✔ Take control of the media outlets in your home by taking TVs and computers out of the bedrooms (including yours) and putting them in a central area that allows regular monitoring. ✔ Set and keep media guidelines in terms of time limits. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours a day of TV for children in grade school and high school, and no TV for children younger than two years of age. ✔ Keep family meals completely media free. Turn off the TV and the cell phones. Let voicemail handle your calls.
is a dead end in more ways than one. There are so many great testimonies of reverts and converts that can be shared from the pulpit, in the bulletins, on parish web sites. We should provide as many resources as possible for Catholics so they can learn and embrace their faith.
Where can we look for hope in the struggle to fight the toxic messages of mainstream media? Our hope is always in the Lord and the beautiful teachings of the Catholic Church, which are proven true, right, and good over and over again. We should never lose heart or be discouraged and we should do as St. Peter tells us: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Pet. 3:15). There is a lot of good going on despite all the bad news out there. The pro-life movement is young, vibrant, and growing every year. Catholic radio and Catholic media in general have exploded in the past ten years, and people are speaking out. The recent cancellation of “The Playboy Club” on NBC, which was cancelled after only three episodes, is a great example. Our hope should also be in knowing that we are not alone. Family values still matter; and I don’t find too many people, regardless of their religious or political persuasion, who disagree with me regarding the way our culture is going. lw
✔ Don’t make the TV or the computer the main focal point of your home. ✔ Think WWJW, or what would Jesus watch? Spending time soaking up movies or TV programs loaded with sexual or violent content is offensive to God and offensive to your spirit. What we take from the media on a regular basis can impact our thoughts and behavior. Garbage in, garbage out, is the best way to put it. That means that our media habits, if they’re more negative than positive, could lead to our not taking our faith or our time with God as seriously. Conducting a media reality check at least once or twice a year can really boost that spiritual makeover and make it last for a long time to come. Advent and Lent are great liturgical seasons to do this. If you have children, why not make the media reality check a family event? This will help instill solid habits in your children, habits that just might prevent them from needing a major spiritual makeover later in life.
The above is an excerpt from Chapter 7 – Extreme Media Makeover Make a Concerted Effort to Silence the Noise in Your Life © 2011 Ignatius Press, San Francisco— All rights reserved.
On Being Virtuous in a Not-So-Virtuous World by Donald DeMarco
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it requires virtue that serves as a mode of transmission. We express love to each other not directly, but through virtue. Virtue is our moral medium of exchange. Without it, we are spiritually bankrupt. Only God can transmit His love directly. Nonetheless, He chose Mary, the Mother of God, to serve as the Mediatrix of all grace. Nathaniel Hawthorne, though not a Catholic, revealed a fine understanding of Mary’s role in this regard when he made the following statement: “I have always envied the Catholics their faith in that sweet, sacred, Virgin Mother who stands between them and the Deity, intercepting somewhat His awful splendor, but permitting His love to stream on the worshipper more intelligently to human comprehension through the medium of a woman’s tenderness.” Mary’s tenderness is her virtuous way of directing God’s love into our hearts. Each of us comes into the world with a certain capital of love. It is ours to spend. And the remarkable thing about spending love (unlike spending money) is that the more we spend, the more our supply is increased. With love as our currency, we can go on a lifelong spending spree and never go broke. But we cannot spend a dollop of our
irtue is understated, underappreciated, under-valuated, and misunderstood. This is a sad litany for something as important as virtue. And how important, then, is virtue? It is as important to the moral life as money is to the economy. They both operate as a vital medium of exchange. The economy keeps money in circulation; morality keeps love in circulation. The importance of money to the economy, however, is not questioned. Virtue, as its opponents have said, is its own punishment. “Hell is other people,” Jean-Paul Sartre famously stated. His cynical image, however, is apt, but only for a gathering of unvirtuous people who, as is their wont, prey upon each other. A community of virtuous people, on the other hand, who love each other, is at least a foretaste of paradise. Sartre found life absurd because he did not find love at all. Where there is no virtue, love remains unexpressed. Hell is not only the place where there is no love, but also the place where there is no virtue. Gas is vital for the operation of a car. But gas does not get into the fuel tank directly; it requires a hose that serves as a conduit. Likewise, love does not flow directly from one person into another;
“All humans, religious or otherwise, have an inherent capacity to love. This means that all human beings are capable of expressing their love through any number of virtues.” love unless we channel it through some virtue. A simple act of kindness, for example, can brighten a person’s day. Kindness is love’s low voltage way of expressing itself to complete strangers without fear of embarrassment or threat of obligation. Kindness is a natural way of affirming the inherent goodness of others and of stirring up their own supply of love. Kindness begets kindness. It can even prepare the way to friendship where additional virtues such as fidelity, patience, and courage come into play. Kindness, which demands so little of us, can open the door to a flood of subsequent virtues. In Psalm 118 we read: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his kindness endures forever.” Here, God is telling us not only that His virtue is constant and everlasting, but also that His virtue is more powerful than our sin. In addition, He is telling us that if we want to be more Godlike, we, too, must be virtuous. But as we become more Godlike, we do not become less human-like. In fact, because we are created by a God who loves us, the more Godlike we become, the more human we become, which is to say, the more we become ourselves, the person God intended us to be. As Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik states in his book, The Hidden Powers of Kindness, “Kind words have converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.” “He who is kind is free, even if he is a slave,” wrote St. Augustine; “he who is evil is a slave, even if he is king.” The power of this seemingly modest virtue is inestimable. And it is good to know that such a power is always readily available to us. We often complain about how much unkindness there is in the world. But this amount of unkindness, however much it may be, exists only because of the lack of kindness practiced by individuals who live in it. The supply of kindness is available; all that is needed is its expression. Expressing love through kindness allows us to stop complaining and begin building a culture of joy. Then we will understand and properly appreciate why virtue is our most important medium of exchange, giving practicality to love and bringing conviviality to life. It is clear, then, that according to the Christian tradition, virtue is rooted in love. “Love is the form of all virtues,” states St. Thomas
Aquinas. For St. Augustine, “Virtue is the order of love” (Virtus est ordo amoris). Nonetheless, virtue is not an exclusively religious notion. Several years ago the American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit against a sex education program for teaching chastity. The ACLU argued that chastity is a religious value and, because of the separation of Church and state, promoting it is “unconstitutional.” The Court, however, ruled that chastity is a “community value,” though it is “convergent” with religious values. In so stating, the Court made it clear that virtues (such as chastity) can be shared by Christians and non-Christians. The fact that they may be “convergent” with a religious dimension does not make them exclusively religious. Even Friedrich Nietzsche, an atheist and hardly a friend of Christianity, recognized and endorsed the value of chastity. All humans, religious or otherwise, have an inherent capacity to love. This means that all human beings are capable of expressing their love through any number of virtues. And no one wants to argue that non-religious people are incapable of love. Christianity is not a substitute for humanism, but builds on it and perfects it. Therefore, Christians and non-Christians can work together virtuously, as long as their expressions of virtue are based on love. In this regard, we can take heart in St. Thomas More’s celebrated comment that, “The times are never so bad that a good man can’t live in them.” There is a light that true virtue sheds that can be recognized and respected by all human beings, regardless of their religious affiliations. Even random acts of kindness can help to bring about a better world. In the words of the Immortal Bard: How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world (Merchant of Venice, Act. V, Sc.1, 90-91). lw Donald DeMarco is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario. He also teaches at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut and continues to work as a corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. He is the author of Architects of the Culture of Death as well as 20 other books.
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For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.” Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Based upon this definition, only the most devout Catholic is in danger of committing a mortal sin. Therefore, isn’t it more beneficial for people to belong to another faith or no faith at all?
esus was clear in His mandate:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age (Mt. 28:19–20).
There is an apparent contradiction between the mission to evangelize and the desire to shield the non-believer from mortal sin. The inquirer presents the traditional formulation for mortal sin with its three conditions. The second condition, “full knowledge,” seems straightforward but the questioner assumes an overly restrictive definition. All sinners have been eliminated who do not make a 16
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conscious and active admission that a chosen act is gravely wrong, offensive to God, and eternally damning. In fact, people in any religious class, including atheists and pagans, can commit a mortal sin if they know right from wrong and good from evil. Sin, at its most basic level, teaches St. Augustine, “is anything done, said, or desired against the eternal law.” As natural law participates in the eternal law (see Catechism, no. 1952), offenses against the natural law, such as violating a well-formed conscience, are violations of the eternal law. There are thus two ways of looking at sin. The theological way focuses on the relationship with God and the covenant freely made. A person with knowledge of God can violate that covenant. The moral way focuses on the order created by God. A
person with knowledge of the moral order can violate God’s eternal law without knowing God, the Creator of that order. In both cases, the person consciously chooses a morally evil act, against the law of God. In light of the revelation of God’s plan of salvation, it’s easier to see how the “theological sin” violates the eternal law than how a moral or philosophical sin can violate the eternal law. Apparently enough theologians had this difficulty that Alexander VIII, in 1690, saw a need to condemn the following proposition as “rash, an offense to pious ears, and erroneous”: Philosophic or moral sin is a human act not in conformity with rational nature and right reason; but theological and mortal sin is a free transgression of the divine law. A
philosophic sin, however grave, in a man who either is ignorant of God or does not think about God during the act, is a grave sin, but is not an offense against God, neither a mortal sin dissolving the friendship of God, nor one worthy of eternal punishment. Man is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27). This means that man possesses reason and will. It also means that man finds his perfection in God and God alone. The human person participates in the light and power of the divine Spirit. By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good. He finds his perfection “in seeking and loving what is true and good” [Gaudium et Spes, 15] (CCC, no. 1704). Endowed with a rational capacity, man sees good and evil even without a formal education. There is a law “written on [men’s] hearts” that does not need to be taught or learned. By his reason, man recognizes the voice of God which urges him “to do what is good and avoid what is evil” [GS,16]. Everyone is obliged to follow this law, which makes itself heard in conscience and is fulfilled in the love of God and of neighbor (CCC, no. 1706). Furthermore, “there are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object” (CCC, no. 1756). Through proper use of his reason, man can know the inherent character of many acts. Murder is not evil because it is listed among the Ten Commandments. It is evil because of its very nature, which can be known through reason. Man has also been endowed with a free will. God has created man to love Him. Love necessarily presupposes freedom; love cannot be forced. With this freedom to choose God comes the very real possibility of choosing against God. Freedom makes man a moral subject. When he acts deliberately, man is, so to speak, the father of his acts. Human
acts, that is, acts that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience, can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil (CCC, no. 1749). Reason, then, allows man to know right from wrong while freedom allows him to act on this knowledge. If a person can know that an act is seriously wrong and can deliberately choose to perform it, the requirements for mortal sin are fulfilled regardless of religious upbringing or lack thereof. The virtuous pagan can commit a mortal sin. Full knowledge does not mean that the person explicitly recognizes an act as mortal sin, but that he is or should be aware that the act is seriously wrong. Choosing to be ignorant about the moral character of an act in no way diminishes the person’s responsibility for the act.
Popery It is through the sorrows and sufferings and miseries of this life, patiently borne with, as it is right that they should be, that we shall enter into possession of those true and imperishable goods which “God hath prepared for them that love Him.” This most important teaching of our Faith is overlooked by many, and by not a few it has been completely forgotten. —Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, 1 November 1914
This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man ‘takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin’ (GS, 16). In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits (CCC, no. 1791). Man not only has a conscience to guide him, but a responsibility to properly inform that conscience. While “ignorance of Christ and His Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity” can lead to erroneous judgments of conscience, they do not necessarily constitute invincible ignorance (CCC, no. 1792). Invincible ignorance means that the person is not responsible for their lack of knowledge. It is only this type of ignorance that makes the person not responsible for his morally evil act. However, even in this case, the act “remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder” (CCC, no. 1793). The meaning of man being made in the image of God does not end, however, with reason and will. Man is, by his very nature, made for relationship with God. The missionary mandate is to bring man into full relationship with God. Therefore, to neglect Christ’s mandate is to neglect our fellow man. lw
CUF members may submit questions to Ask CUF by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and including “Ask CUF” in the subject heading. Please note that Catholic Responses’ policy is to answer questions from members only. Visit www.cuf.org for more information about how to become a CUF member.
UF March/April 2012
by Douglas G. Bushman, S.T.L. 18
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The Rejection of God’s Love and the Conviction that God is Love
hat is actual sin?” the Baltimore Catechism asks. “Actual sin,” we are told, “is any willful thought, desire, word, action, or omission forbidden by the law of God.” This focus on law seems quite different from that offered in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The catechism promulgated by Bl. Pope John Paul II emphasizes love: “Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it” (no. 1850). That these two ways of understanding sin are not opposed is seen clearly in the very next sentence of the Catechism: “Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God. . . . ” Both catechisms, moreover, assert that sin is an offense against God. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church unites all of these elements: “Sin is ‘a word, an act, or a desire contrary to the eternal Law’ (St. Augustine). It is an offense against God in disobedience to His love” (no. 392). An integral understanding of sin requires seeing how disobedience, divine commandments, and God’s love are related. To grasp this it is necessary to distinguish between the act of disobedience that characterizes all sin and the interior motive that gives rise to it. In his 1986 encyclical The Lord and Giver of Life, Bl. John Paul II analyzed sin by distinguishing between the act of disobedience and an interior “consent to the motivation which was contained in the first temptation to sin” (no. 37). He goes on to probe into the nature of the interior dimension of Adam and Eve’s sin. To follow him in this reflection is to come to an understanding that all sin is rooted in doubt about God’s love, so that as an act of disobedience sin is a rejection of His love. An intriguing aspect of the biblical account of the Garden of Eden is the contrast between the behavior of Adam and Eve prior to and after their fateful dialogue with the serpent. In terms of obedience, before encountering the serpent Adam and Eve lived in perfect obedience to God’s commandment, while afterward they disobeyed. What was the nature of the content of that dialogue, that it should affect their behavior so radically? What information did the serpent convey that led them to think that they needed to eat the forbidden fruit? The point of the devil’s temptation was to lead Adam and Eve to doubt God’s love. He knew that as long as they believed that God had given them the commandment out of love, they would go on obeying. After all, the Garden was full of evidence of God’s love. The very existence of Adam and Eve, and the beauty and harmony of Eden spoke the language of love as the Creator’s motive. If He made life a gift to them, what other explanation could there be? It wouldn’t make any sense for Him to then give a commandment out of some other motive. That would be a contradiction, and there is no room for contradiction in God. This is where the first couple’s innocent unawareness of being naked takes on significance. Could a God who makes the gift of life out of love look upon them in a way that would make them think there is something wrong with them, something to be ashamed of? Of course not. Their complete being at ease is the effect of knowing themselves as loved by God. As we know, this all changes as a result of their sin. Adam
“The greatest lie ever told contradicts the greatest of all truths: God is love.” and Eve become uncomfortable in God’s presence. They feel the need to cover themselves up. They do not want to be exposed before Him. They feel vulnerable, and so they cover themselves and attempt to hide. This can only mean that they have changed their view of who God is. They no longer think that He is love. People do not hide from love. They do not fear love, they run to it. Everyone desires to be loved. Thus, the felt need to shield themselves from God can only mean that Adam and Eve no longer think of Him in terms of love. Something has happened to make them think that God is their enemy, a threat to their well-being. Bl. John Paul II describes the state of their thinking as placing God “in a state of suspicion, indeed of accusation.” He continues: “For in spite of all the witness of creation and of the salvific economy inherent in it, the spirit of darkness is capable of showing God as an enemy of His own creature, and in the first place as an enemy of man, as a source of danger and threat to man” (Lord and Giver of Life, nos. 37-38).
A Lie about Love The greatest lie ever told contradicts the greatest of all truths: God is love. God is “the absolute Good, which precisely in the work of creation has manifested itself as the Good which gives in an inexpressible way: as bonum diffusivum sui, as creative love” (Lord and Giver of Life, no. 37). Bl. John Paul II introduces this Latin phrase, which means “the good is diffusive of itself,” precisely to underscore that God is love. Love desires what is good for another, and the primordial act of love is to bring goodness into existence through creation. Adam and Eve’s consciousness of having been created, of having received the gift of life and all the goods of the Garden, constituted their conviction that God is love, and this conviction led to their obedience. March/April 2012 19
The father of lies insinuates that God is jealous of His creature, that somehow He fears that Adam and Eve will become His equals in the knowledge of good and evil. And with that the Liar implies that God’s motive for forbidding the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not out of love for them but out of love for Himself. Suddenly a new way of looking at the commandment is conceived. It represents a hindrance to fulfillment, not a safeguard. It is a limitation, not freedom-preserving. And if this is true of the commandment, it can only be because it is true of God. If He is not love, then He is a danger, a threat, an enemy to man. If God is not for man, then man must be for himself. Man must love himself without reference to God. He must disregard, that is, disobey, the commandment in order to strike out on his own to secure that fullness of life that he cannot fail to desire. “The sin of the human beginning consists in untruthfulness and in the rejection of the gift and the love which determine the beginning of the world and of man” (Lord and Giver of Life, no. 35). Sin, then, is defined as disobedience of one of God’s commandments, but now we can add that this disobedience is rooted in distrust of Him, and this distrust is the result of doubt about His love. This is precisely how the Catechism understands sin: Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed
“The entire economy of salvation is unified by the revelation of God’s love, the rejection of this love by sin, and God’s response in Christ, to give a definitive revelation of divine love so that in faith we may have victory over sin.”
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In this text, the lack of trust in God’s goodness is the equivalent of placing God’s love in a state of suspicion. This is an error in judgment about God that is contrary to the witness of creation and redemption. The sin of Adam and Eve is that they have “conceived a distorted image of God—that of a God jealous of His prerogatives” (no. 399). Now, this misconception of God cannot be merely an error in reasoning. For it to be sinful it must be a deliberate assent to a falsehood that is known to be false. Bl. John Paul II conveys this inner movement in terms of freedom. As all sins do, the sin of Adam and Eve entails “the closing up of human freedom” in regard to God, and an “opening of this freedom—of the human mind and will—to the one who is the ‘father of lies’” (Lord and Giver of Life, no. 37).
A Love Revealed in Law God rightly expects obedience from us precisely because He has given ample proof of His love. We must read closely the verses introducing the Ten Commandments: “And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage’” (Ex. 20:1-2). Before giving the Law, the Lawgiver identifies Himself as the one who has demonstrated His love for His people by setting them free from slavery. Would He liberate them only to turn around to enslave them anew by commandments that were not in their best interest? In other words, with these verses God is saying, in effect: “My motive for liberating you is love, and that is my motive for giving these commandments.” The foundation for keeping the commandments is the conviction of faith that God is love. Keeping the commandments and believing in God’s love are, then, inseparable. Put another way: the power for keeping the commandments is the conviction that God is love. God knows that when His people disobey it can only mean that they have doubted His love, that they have been deceived into thinking that there is some higher happiness than that promised by God. Thus, for example: “Harden not your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work” (Ps. 95:8-9, emphasis added). They had seen the ten plagues, the parting of the sea, the pillar of fire. They had seen all the evidence of God’s love, and yet, despite this, they did not trust enough to obey. Like Adam and Eve, who had witnessed the goodness of creation and opened their freedom to another, they sinned. All of this sheds light on St. John’s teaching that “sin is lawlessness” (1 Jn. 3:4). Without a Lawgiver that one can trust, there is in effect no law at all, since the foundation for obeying it is destroyed when there is doubt about the Lawgiver’s love. If God’s law is not seen as liberating and lifegiving, as the path to fulfillment, it will not be observed. Some other law will replace it, but outside of God’s law any other
God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of (cf. Gen. 3:1-11; Rom. 5:19). All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness (no. 397).
law is groundless. Sin as interior suspicion of God’s love leads to lawlessness, to a state in which each person is a law unto himself, deciding for himself what is good and what is evil. This leads to interpreting Jesus’ words about truth setting us free in terms of obeying God’s commandments (see Jn. 8:32). The truth that God is love sets us free from the doubt and suspicion that He may not be love, and the inevitable disobedience that this brings. Christ died so that we can live in “the certainty of being loved” (CCC, no. 2779). In the power of this conviction we are able to keep the commandments, which are entirely for the sake of our fullness of life (see Rom. 7:10). Christ came so that we may have life, and have it abundantly, and He fulfills His mission by revealing the steadfast and merciful love of God that gives us the power to keep the commandments that safeguard this fullness of life (see Jn. 10:10). St. John virtually identifies the Gospel with the truth that God is love: “So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love” (1 Jn. 4:16). Bl. John Paul II called the revelation of God’s love in Christ the “key truth of faith,” “the apex of all that has been revealed . . . that illumines the whole content of divine revelation,” “a summary and synthesis of the entire Good News.” He told us: “The Church’s faith reaches its peak in this supreme truth: God is love!” This is the truth we need to know because without it we sink into lawlessness, into sin. Beyond unleashing the power to keep the commandments, believing in God’s love becomes especially meaningful as we confront evil and suffering. Perhaps the most common challenge to faith is steadfastly to hold that God is love even when He seems to hold back. The Catechism is straightforward about the temptation to faith that can result from the experience of suffering: Even though enlightened by Him in whom it believes, faith is often lived in darkness and can be put to the test. The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it (no. 164).
and Eve doubted God’s love despite all the evidence for it. They did not pass the test. In contrast, Christ did pass the test. His conviction that His Father is love never weakened, despite the fact that during His Passion and crucifixion there was no evidence for it. The summit of faith is to participate in the Paschal Mystery and to believe that God is love even when we say with Christ, “My God, why have you abandoned me?” This is the victory of faith over the world (see 1 Jn. 5:4), that is, over all that is opposed to God’s love, over all lawlessness, over sin. St. Paul went so far as to say that “he who has doubts is condemned . . . because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). This could be interpreted in terms of faith in God’s love. What proceeds from faith based on the conviction that God is love will be conformity to His will, precisely because one is convinced that His will and His commandments are directed to what is best for us. What does not proceed from faith in God’s love can only reproduce the suspicion of Adam and Eve, so that without faith all one can do is strive for self-fulfillment according to one’s own judgment of what is best, relying on oneself rather than God. The entire economy of salvation is unified by the revelation of God’s love, the rejection of this love by sin, and God’s response in Christ, to give a definitive revelation of divine love so that in faith we may have victory over sin. People might say: Who in their right mind would reject God’s love? The response is that sin is irrational and that we are not in our right mind when we choose to disregard God’s commandments, and thus to reject His love, in order to seek something that we think we need to be happy, right here and right now. With every moment of truth, every moment of conscience, every free choice, faith is put to the test. To pass the test is to overcome the temptation to think that there is another happiness, another fulfillment for us, apart from God, and to do this based on the conviction, based on the definitive revelation of God’s love in Christ, that God loves us more than we can love ourselves. lw
Love’s Victory over the Lie Life is a test, and because faith gives meaning to life, it also has the nature of being a test. We have seen that Adam
Douglas Bushman is the Director and Associate Professor of the Institute for Pastoral Theology at Ave Maria University in Naples, FL. March/April 2012 21
The Mercy of God
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., with Michael Mohr
In this article, Fr. Hardon lays out for us the practical meaning and application of the Fifth Beatitude: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” The promise, “they shall obtain mercy,” includes not only mercy for ourselves by practicing mercy toward others, but also mercy for those who unjustly offend us, just as Jesus did for us on the Cross. This all depends upon our willingness to forgive those who actually provide us this opportunity to forgive them and thus to be forgiven, “As [i.e. in the same way as] we forgive those who trespass against us.”—Michael Mohr
f there is one divine attribute that we spontaneously associate with Christ and Christianity it is the attribute of mercy. Mercy, we may safely say, is the distinctive quality of being a Christian: to be a Christian is to be merciful. There are many reasons for this. One reason cannot be that the word mercy, just as a word, is so common in the New Testament. By actual count, justice is used almost three times as often as the word mercy in the New Testament. This is not a matter of arithmetic; it is a matter of spirit. The spirit of Christianity is the spirit of mercy. Pope John Paul II went so far as to say that “Jesus Christ is the incarnation of Divine Mercy.” Surely Christ is the incarnation of God. But among the divine attributes which most distinguishes who Christ is as the incarnation of the Godhead, none identifies Christ more concretely and distinctively than mercy. What is mercy? It comes in two stages. First stage: Mercy is love shown not only to those who are in need. Mercy is love shown not only to those who are in want. Need expresses the real objective absence or lack in someone. Want is rather the subjective, 22
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the psychological desire to get whatever a person wants. Can people need what they don’t want? Yes. Objectively they may need many things which subjectively they may not want. Do people want things which they don’t need? Do they ever! Nevertheless this is not a clever distinction. Mercy is meeting people’s needs; it is also meeting people’s subjective wants. Did the Mother of Mercy practice the love shown to those who are in want? We would hardly say that there was an objective need at the marriage feast in Cana. People want certain kinds of food but they are not on a strict cardiac diet; nevertheless people do have tastes. I am loving them mercifully when I am trying to meet even their psychological or subjective wants, though by strict medical logic they may not need what they so obviously want. Second stage: I cannot exaggerate the importance of understanding our Faith clearly in order to live it properly. Mercy is love shown not only to those in need or love shown not only to those who are in want, but mercy is love shown to those who are not lovable. Are there lovable people in need? Are all people in need lovable? Mercy is love shown to those who do not deserve to be loved, they don’t have a claim on my love—in fact maybe just the opposite. What they deserve from me is rejection. Mercy is love shown to those who do not love—that is as far as we can tell. Mercy is love shown to those who have rejected our love. We’ve tried three times or thirty times. Remember Peter’s question to Christ? “How often shall I forgive my brother? Seven times?” Christ, using an Aramaic figure, said, “As often as he has wronged you.” Mercy is loving rejected love. No one in their right mind or heart, apart from the grace of God,
can do this. It is impossible naturally to love people who have rejected our love of them. Mercy is love shown to those who have been unjust to the one who now is supposed to love them. Mercy is shown not only to those who fail in love but to those who fail in justice, those who cheat us, those who steal from us. Described in this way, we see that mercy is no ordinary love. There are three levels to altruism, three levels to giving to others: the lowest level is justice; a higher level is love; the highest level is mercy. Mercy therefore is love because it goes beyond justice. I am just when I give someone what that person has a claim to. But I love when I give to someone who has no claim on my giving. Notice the difference. Love implies not only that I give what I do not owe, but that as mercy I give when someone else owes me. Mercy is love to someone in need; it is also love to someone who has no claim on my love. Mercy, therefore, is love twice over. lw
Fr. John Hardon, S.J. Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., (1914–2000) was a distinguished theologian and a prolific writer, speaker, and catechist. He founded a number of Catholic organizations, including the Marian Catechists, and he was a good friend of the CUF apostolate. Learn about the cause of Fr. Hardon’s beatification at www.mariancatechist.com Michael Mohr is chairman of CUF’s board of directors and a consecrated Marian Catechist. He and his family live in Tucson, Arizona.
Jesus, Our New Temple by J.P. Nunez
esus held the Temple in the highest regard, calling it a house of prayer and the dwelling place of God. Why then did He predict its doom and allow it to be destroyed? Did God abandon His people? No, He replaced it with a far greater Temple—a physical dwelling place so holy that no man could have imagined it. Jesus Himself is that Temple, and He continues in this role in the Eucharist. Through this sacrament, He goes beyond the limits of the old Temple and extends His presence throughout the earth. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is presented as the new Temple. At the beginning of the Gospel, John explicitly calls Jesus’ body a temple (Jn. 2:19-21), and he continues this theme throughout the book. While he never explains what this means for Christians after Jesus’ Ascension, it easily lends itself to a Eucharistic interpretation. As Jesus’ physical presence on earth, the Eucharist should be our new Temple. Throughout the rest of the Gospel, John shows Jesus fulfilling the feasts that were celebrated in the Temple. For example, Jesus proclaims at the Feast of Tabernacles that He is the light of the world (Jn. 8:12, 7:2). During this feast, the Temple was lit by giant candelabras whose light spread throughout the whole city of Jerusalem. Thus, Jesus is saying that He, not the building in Jerusalem, is the true Temple that lights up Jerusalem and the whole world. During the Feast of Dedication, Jesus says that the Father has consecrated Him to go out into the world (Jn. 10:36, 10:22). This feast celebrated the consecration of the second Temple, the one built after the first was destroyed by the Babylonians. Again, Jesus is ascribing to Himself an aspect of the Temple that was celebrated at this feast. He is the true consecrated Temple of God. For Jesus to continue as our Temple after His Ascension into heaven, He must still be with us in a physical manner; a merely spiritual presence will not do. And since the new Temple is Jesus’ physical body, only the Eucharist can fit that description here on earth after His Ascension. In order to appreciate the significance of all this, we must understand the role that the Temple played in ancient Israel. Only if we know what the first Temple meant to God’s people in the Old Covenant can we know what the new Temple should mean to us in the New Covenant. The Israelite Temple was God’s visible dwelling place on earth. The writers of the Old Testament often expressed this by saying that God’s name or His glory dwelt within it (Ps. 74:7, 1 Kings 8:10-11). For them, to enter the Temple was to enter into the presence of God, and it gave them a tangible, visible place to go if they wanted to be with Him in a deeper way (Ps. 63:1-2).
“In the New Covenant, the Eucharist should be to us what the Temple was for ancient Israel.” Additionally, the Israelites would offer their sacrifice to God at the Temple (2 Chron. 29:20-21, 30:15). It was the center of their religious lives, the location where the worship God desired was given to Him according to the Law of Moses. Finally, the Temple was also a place of pilgrimage. The worship prescribed by God’s Law was so important that He commanded all Israelite men to travel to the Temple three times a year, for the feasts of Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles (Deut. 16:1-17). Since these feasts could only be properly celebrated in the Temple, God wanted His people there to worship Him. In the New Covenant, the Eucharist should be to us what the Temple was for ancient Israel. For instance, since it is the dwelling place of God among us, we should attend Eucharistic adoration or receive Communion when we want to be with Him in a deeper way. At the end of time, God’s people will no longer need a Temple because He Himself will dwell with us (Rev. 21:22). But we have not yet reached that stage. God does not yet dwell with us in His fullness, so we still need a Temple. We need the Eucharist to bring us into the fullest possible communion with Him here on earth. Because of this, the Eucharist should be our place of pilgrimage and the center of our religious lives. Many Catholics desire to travel to far away places like Fatima, Jerusalem, and Assisi to visit the spots where the Virgin Mary appeared, the sites where Jesus lived and preached, and the places where great saints lived. But we often forget that the greatest place of pilgrimage, our Temple, is much closer than these famous shrines. Unlike the ancient Israelites, we do not have to undertake long, arduous journeys to our Temple. For most of us, the Eucharist is only a short drive away. We should take advantage of this great blessing and make the Eucharist our privileged place of worship and pilgrimage. Put simply, the Eucharist—our New Temple—should be the cornerstone of our prayer lives. No matter how often we celebrate this great sacrament or how mundane its appearance may be, we can never take it for granted or let it become commonplace. We must always keep in mind that the Eucharist is the greatest gift God has given His people. lw J.P. Nunez is a graduate student in theology and philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he also received his bachelor’s degree in both fields. He currently works at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. March/April 2012
Are We Dunghills or Fertile Soil? Why Understanding Concupiscence is Important by Mike Sullivan
ate one night, when St. Augustine was a youth, he and his buddies, “a group of bad youngsters,” stripped a pear tree of its fruit. They ate some of it but threw most of it to the pigs. The young Augustine didn’t steal the pears because he was hungry, or even because he desired them. He stole for the thrill of stealing. “Foul was the evil,” he said, “and I loved it.” I had a similar experience when I was a boy: I tried to steal a toy gun even though I had $20 in my pocket—which at the time I considered a small fortune. A friend and I wandered around the toy department with a forced casualness. Our awkward movements caught the attention of a security guard, who caught us with our pockets full of loot. We didn’t steal because we couldn’t afford the toys nor because we really wanted them. We did it for the thrill. We wanted to do something evil. If someone had asked me if I wanted to commit a sin, I would have said no. But the truth was that I was overpowered by the desire to do something wrong. The word for that is concupiscence. When desire to do something wrong springs up within us— often without our consent—we have an opportunity to either give in or build virtue by reigning in the flesh with the will. The desire to commit a sin is not sinful in itself. The sin comes when we give our consent to the evil desire. Just as Adam and Eve didn’t sin until they chose the forbidden fruit, so with us, our temptations themselves are not sinful. This point is often misunderstood and is a major difference between Catholic and Protestant theology.
We Are Not Dung Most Protestants consider concupiscence itself to be sinful. Martin Luther was tormented for many years by his inability to overcome his fallen nature. He found peace only in the thought that man is depraved and simply can’t avoid sin. He and other Protestant Reformers were convinced that even our good works are nothing but sin. This doctrine is known as total depravity and is accepted by many Protestants. In this view human nature is steeped in sin, and man’s only hope for salvation is confessing his faith and believing in the Lord as his Savior. With faith, the “cloak of righteousness” covers over the filth of whatever sins may have corrupted the soul. It is oft-repeated (albeit unverified) that Luther said Jesus covers up our sinfulness as snow covers a dunghill. This is a far cry from the Catholic understanding of forgiveness, in which Jesus wipes the sin away completely through the sacrament of confession. Luther’s teachings skewed the traditional understanding of the relationship between faith and works: “It does not matter what people do; it only matters what they believe. . . . God does not need our actions” (Luther’s Works, Erlangen, vol. 29, p. 126). “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but have stronger faith and rejoice in Christ, who is the victor of sin, death, and the world. Do not for a moment imagine that this life is the abiding place of justice: Sin must be committed. . . . Sin cannot tear you away
Where Luther Got It Wrong
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he idea that we’re bound by an unavoidable law of sin led Luther to develop his thinking about “total depravity.” He believed that even sin couldn’t separate us from Christ. To defend this view, his followers often cite Romans 8:38-39, where St. Paul asks what can separate us from the love of Christ. Paul lists a number of things, but they are all trials, not sins. The belief in “total depravity” is based on a few Bible passages, most notably Romans 7. St. Paul describes in detail how his flesh and spirit wrestle. For him, as for St. Augustine (and, in fact, for all faithful Christians), there
is a struggle going on within him. His spirit and flesh are battling: So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of my self serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin (Rom.7:21-25).
from Him, even though you commit adultery a hundred times We are called to serve God with all our faculties, both natural and a day and commit as many murders” (A Letter from Luther to supernatural. We must use our free will to choose what is good and Melanchthon, n. 99, August 1, 1521). holy and avoid what is evil. If we don’t have authentic free will, as Luther’s words are shocking for Catholics, as they undermine many Protestants have claimed, how can we possibly live an upright our understanding of free will. Gerard Wegemer, a professor Christian life? How can we freely follow Jesus’ command in the New of English at the University of Dallas and a prominent Testament when he quoted Deuteronomy, “You shall love the Lord scholar of St. Thomas More, points out the dangers of such your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all a position. Wegemer describes your mind” (Mt. 22:37)? More’s reaction to the works and If all we do is fraught with sin, as teachings of the Reformers: the Reformers taught, why bother to They deny free will and thus ascribe Adam and Eve lived in a state of “original justice”: the strive for virtue? responsibility for evil to God, not The Catechism of the Catholic state of integrity wherein their whole beings were to His creatures. At the same time, ordered to the will of God. With the Fall, man has Church, on the other hand, says: the “one special thing” they use to been deprived of the gifts our first parents enjoyed. The way of perfection passes by spice everything else is a doctrine These gifts are commonly called the “preternatural way of the Cross. There is no of liberty that teaches that “having and supernatural gifts.” With baptism, only the holiness without renunciation and faith, they need nothing else.” . . . spiritual battle. Spiritual progress supernatural gifts are restored. Luther’s denial of free will “plainly entails the ascesis [self-denial] and sets forth all the world to wretched mortification that gradually lead Preternatural gifts: living.” After all, if the way we act to living in the peace and joy of infused knowledge is not within our control, what the Beatitudes (no. 2015). absence of concupiscence incentive is there to struggle against We have a fallen nature, but we freedom from death and sickness one’s passions and temptations? are not snow-covered dung. Rather, Furthermore, if our actions make Supernatural gifts: as Paul said, we make up for what no difference to God, why should indwelling of God in our souls through grace is lacking in the suffering of Christ they make any difference to us? theological virtues (faith, hope, charity) (cf. Col. 1:24). So when we offer our More considers Luther’s denial of struggles and good works to Christ, free will to be “the very worst and most mischievous heresy they multiply and unite with His and help to build up the body that was ever thought upon, and also the most mad” (Thomas of Christ, the Church. The “dunghill” is in reality fertile soil. Our More: A Portrait of Courage, Scepter, 123–25). cooperation with God’s grace nurtures the soil to produce good fruit: “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old Invitation to Hypocrisy Luther’s denial of free will remains a stumbling block for many has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). By making use of the sacraments, prayerfully examining our good Christians who strive for virtue and holiness. This basic misunderstanding is made especially harmful when coupled with the consciences each day, and aggressively working to build virtue, we common “once saved, always saved” mentality. The danger of this can be assured that when we call upon Christ, he will aid us in our belief is that it can give rise to a disconnect between how one lives daily struggle for holiness so that we can say with Paul at the end and what one believes: If it is impossible for me to overcome sin, and of this life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I through my faith I’m assured salvation, then what keeps me from living have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). lw a blatantly duplicitous life? Our modern culture is rife with examples of Christians—Catholics included—who go to church every Sunday CUF President Mike Sullivan originally wrote this article for This Rock magazine in 2005. and yet live in a way that is incompatible with Christ’s teachings.
Effects of Original Sin
Luther’s view is that we are free in our thoughts, and therefore able to say “yes” to God through an act of faith, but we’re not free to carry out this act of faith through our works. Thus we aren’t responsible when we fall short of living a moral life. We can almost hear St. Paul’s anguish: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul himself answers this question in the next paragraph of his Letter to the Romans: “For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1-2). So, to break free of the law of sin, we must embrace the “spirit of life in Christ,” which means that we must embrace the Christian moral life.
In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul affirms that this is not simply possible, but that we are responsible for doing so. Paul first notes that only faith “working through love” is availing (Gal. 5:6), for it is through our actions that we say “yes” or “no” to God and His free gift of salvation. Paul then elaborates on his point in Galatians 5:13-25: For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”…But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the
desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. …And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. In other words, when we live the Christian life, we are transformed and Christ’s indwelling builds upon our fallen nature. This is much more than simply accepting the precepts of the faith. We are called to assent with conviction and commitment to follow the person of Jesus Christ and to obey His will in our lives. March/April 2012 25
(Servant, 2010) “In suffering we are tempted to lose hope and faith in the Lord’s love and in His desire for our eternal life with Him. But that same suffering can teach us, if we let it, to turn to God and place our hope and trust in Him.” These words of Amy Welborn, in her forward to Debra Herbeck’s Safely Through the Storm: 120 Reflections on Hope, identify the need for hope in anyone who encounters suffering (namely, everyone) and a reason to reflect daily on the virtue of hope. Safely Through the Storm offers 120 reflections, ranging in length from one sentence to one page, on all aspects of hope from a variety of voices of the Church resounding through the centuries. As I read the quotes I was heartened to be reunited with some of my favorite saints of times gone by as well as a few holy men and women I have known personally in this life. Simple to read but rich in content, Safely Through the Storm can serve as a source of meditation for those who are in the midst of suffering, as well as an arsenal of hope to be stored up before we come to the next valley of suffering. These reflections provide a sense of communion with others by granting access to the lives and thoughts of both past and present saints and thereby to Christ Himself, the very source of our hope. —Leslie A. Elliott
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(Our Sunday Visitor, 2012) In his 2011 “Apostolic Letter on the Year of Faith,” Pope Benedict XVI writes, “By faith . . . men and women of all ages . . . have confessed the beauty of following the Lord Jesus wherever they were called to bear witness to the fact that they were Christian: in the family, in the workplace, in public life.” For many of us it is at our places of employment where we tend to struggle to bear witness to our faith and where we are most in need of direction and support. Kevin Lowry has, therefore, done us a service with his book, Faith at Work: Finding Purpose Beyond the Paycheck. In thirteen chapters he covers the challenges that many of us face on the job. Lowry brings a wealth of experience in secular work and a thoughtful reflection on what it really means to “earn a living but also to live your faith.” He teaches us with anecdotes and stories and writes with humility that admits to the daily struggles. His presentation reminds me of a good discussion around the kitchen table. It gets to the point and invites others to join in the conversation. To this end, he includes action steps and questions for reflection with each chapter. This accessible and enjoyable book has material that can help every reader. As the author writes, your job “really can help you become a saint.” —Regis J. Flaherty
(Eternal Life, 2009) In this welcome booklet, Devotion to the Sacred Heart, Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, S.J., gives expression to his own burning love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and explains splendidly how this devotion in the Church has grown since the seventeenth century thanks to such chosen souls as St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and St. Claude de la Colombière. This devotion provided the perfect antidote to the insidious heresy of Jansenism and is offered by God in these turbulent times where faith has grown cold and religious indifference has alienated so many from a loving God. Fr. Hardon emphasizes the need for acts of reparation to the Sacred Heart for the sins disfiguring the Body of Christ in this world that impede its mission of evangelization to over 100 million Americans “deprived of the spiritual strength of the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacrament of the Eucharist.” In the Holy Eucharist is the living Heart of Christ in all the perfection of His human nature. With the clarity which has distinguished all his writing, Fr. Hardon shows how devotion to the Sacred Heat is grounded in solid dogma and how love of the Holy Eucharist is an “essential element in the devotion to the Sacred Heart.” Indeed, “Devotion to the Sacred Heart is a synthesis of Catholic doctrine.” —James Likoudis CUF president emeritus
THE POPE SPEAKS
Veni ad Salvandum Nos! by Pope Benedict XVI
hrist is invoked in an ancient liturgical antiphon: “O Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver, hope and salvation of the peoples: come to save us, O Lord our God.” Veni ad salvandum nos! Come to save us! This is the cry raised by men and women in every age who sense that by themselves they cannot prevail over difficulties and dangers. They need to put their hands in a greater and stronger hand, a hand which reaches out to them from on high. This hand is Christ, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary. He is the hand that God extends to humanity, to draw us out of the mire of sin and to set us firmly on rock, the secure rock of His truth and His love (cf. Ps. 40:2). This is the meaning of the Child’s name, the name which, by God’s will, Mary and Joseph gave Him: He is named Jesus, which means “Savior” (cf. Mt. 1:21; Lk. 1:31). He was sent by God the Father to save us above all from the evil deeply rooted in man and in history: the evil of separation from God, the prideful presumption of being self-sufficient, of trying to compete with God and to take His place, to decide what
“The very fact that we cry to heaven in this way already sets us aright; it makes us true to ourselves. “ is good and evil, to be the master of life and death (cf. Gen. 3:1-7). This is the great evil, the great sin, from which we human beings cannot save ourselves unless we rely on God’s help, unless we cry out to Him: Veni ad salvandum nos! Come to save us! The very fact that we cry to heaven in this way already sets us aright; it makes us true to ourselves. We are in fact those who cried out to God and were saved. God is the Savior; we are those who are in peril. He is the physician; we are the infirm. To realize this is the first step towards salvation, towards emerging from the maze in which we have been locked by our pride. To lift our eyes to heaven, to stretch out our hands and call for help is our means of escape, provided that there is Someone who hears us and can come to our assistance. Jesus Christ is the proof that God has heard our cry. And not only this! God’s love for us is so strong that He cannot remain aloof; He comes out of Himself to enter into our midst and to share fully in our human condition (cf. Ex. 3:7-12). The answer to our cry which God gave in Jesus infinitely transcends our
expectations, achieving a solidarity which cannot be human alone, but divine. Only the God who is love, and the love which is God, could choose to save us in this way, which is certainly the lengthiest way, yet the way which respects the truth about Him and about us: the way of reconciliation, dialogue and cooperation. Dear brothers and sisters, let us then turn to the Child of Bethlehem, to the Son of the Virgin Mary, and say: “Come to save us!” Let us repeat these words in spiritual union with the many people who experience particularly difficult situations; let us speak out for those who have no voice. Let us turn our gaze anew to the grotto of Bethlehem. The Child whom we contemplate is our salvation! He has brought to the world a universal message of reconciliation and peace. Let us open our hearts to Him; let us receive Him into our lives. Once more let us say to Him, with joy and confidence: Veni ad salvandum nos! lw Taken from the Holy Father’s Christmas 2012 Urbi et Orbi message, December 25, 2011.
The Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions March 2012
General: That the whole world may recognize the contribution of women to the development of society.
General: That many young people may hear the call of Christ and follow Him in the priesthood and religious life.
Mission: That the Holy Spirit may grant perseverance to those who suffer discrimination, persecution, or death for the name of Christ, particularly in Asia.
Mission: That the risen Christ may be a sign of certain hope for the men and women of the African continent.
Combating Spiritual Desolation with the Saints by Kevin Bezner
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f you asked me a few years ago about “spiritual desolation” I would not have had much of an answer for you. We all have struggles in our lives, and I’ve had my share of professional and personal difficulties, but I entered an all-time low—a period of spiritual desolation—when the bank where I worked collapsed a few years ago. In fact, it was only prayer, liturgy, spiritual direction, and some counseling and spiritual reading that provided stability for me during the most unstable periods and kept me from losing my way. At the time, I could not recognize and interpret the interior movements within my soul. I fell prey to temptation and made a series of bad decisions that I still live with. Although I continue to experience times of desolation, I am more capable of handling them as a result of my experience. I know now that anyone, with the grace of God and the guidance and wisdom of the saints, can work through the peril that confronts a soul in desolation. In The Spiritual Exercises St. Ignatius of Loyola tells us that desolation is a time of darkness, turmoil and restlessness. During such times, we tend to be lazy in our prayer, sad, and generally separated from God. This is the opposite state of consolation, when we are full of the love of God and feel joy and peace because we are close to God. St. Ignatius explains that the good spirit brings consolation, the evil spirit desolation. The first piece of advice Ignatius offers for dealing with desolation is to avoid any change, since the evil spirit fills us with all types of thoughts about changing our situation. If we give in to the confusion caused by the evil spirit, we fail to make good decisions. Even though I had gone through the Spiritual Exercises and had led Ignatian retreats, I did not follow Ignatius’ advice when I most needed it. I was tempted, and I fell. Once the bank failed, everyone I knew was filled with anxiety, just as I was. I had not lost my job, and there was no indication that I would. Still, I remained in a state of inner turmoil. I prayed, attended Mass more frequently, went to counseling and spoke with my spiritual director, yet I could not shake the fear that I was one of those who would lose my job. I have lived with instability and low wages for much of my life. During the years I worked at the bank, I had both stability and a good income. For the first time in my life, I had savings. I believed that if I lost my job I would lose everything. Even as I turned to Ignatius and continued to remind myself of the importance of not making any change at work, I spent far too much time listening to the words of the evil spirit who was telling me that I needed to protect myself and should look for work elsewhere. I made a promise that I would accept a new job only if it were better
“Ignatius says that there are three reasons God allows desolation: because we have been negligent in prayer, He wishes to test us, or He wants us to come to a true understanding of who we are and how much we depend on Him for His grace and knowledge. “ than the job I had. I thought that my selfcontrol would protect me from making a bad decision. It didn’t. What I thought of as a perfect job emerged. I went through the interview process, but I saw red flags. I prayed and asked God to guide me. Deep in my heart I knew I should pass up the opportunity. Fear and desire took over. I accepted the job and within two months I understood that I had made a terrible mistake. I had not followed the advice of Ignatius that in a time of desolation we should remain in place. My failure thrust me deeper into desolation. Stuck in a job that was nothing like the description I had received, surrounded by people unhappy that an outsider had been brought in, I made every effort to dig in. I wanted to endure. I saw myself as suffering for Christ. Yet this time I listened to Ignatius and increased my prayer and meditation. I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours daily. I also prayed the Rosary daily. I went to Mass as often as I could. I meditated daily on Scripture. I resisted the turmoil in my life, telling myself that I needed to be patient. Finally, through prayer, I found an answer, one I had not expected.
Why Desolation? Ignatius says that there are three reasons God allows desolation: because we have been negligent in prayer, He wishes to test us, or He wants us to come to a true understanding of who we are and how much we depend on Him for His grace and knowledge. Through prayer, I reached the decision that I needed to follow additional advice from Ignatius: that once we get off the path we go back to where we started to get on the right path. I finally understood that the stability I had in my life came more from the community of faithful that surrounded me than from the job I had held. I needed their support. Once I made the decision to give up my new job and return home, even if that meant returning without a new job, I felt a burden lifted from my heart. I felt consolation at that moment, which allowed me to know that I was making the right choice, and in
March/April 2012 29
the weeks ahead I felt many moments of consolation. Yet I was still under attack by the evil spirit. The difference was that I was more equipped to fend off his assaults. I was becoming a more balanced person. During the second week of the four weeks of The Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius suggests a meditation on the three classes of men. The person in the first class wishes to rid himself of attachments but dies before doing so; the person in the second class wants to give up attachments on their terms not God’s; the third class wants to give up attachments for the love of God. The third person is the one Ignatius wants us to emulate. This is the person who makes all decisions based on whether they allow him to serve God better.
With the commandments, the Our Father, and the beatitudes, hen we go the way with Christ in total Jesus has given us a clear roadmap confidence, that is the shortest way to the for our journey. We are also blessed longed-for happiness; but when I take the with the saints and doctors of the burden onto my own shoulders and want to discover Church, who offer further guida shorter and better way, I will bang my head against ance to us in their lives and words a wall in every direction, will suffer wounds and, tired about the many obstacles we will to death, will return home to Him who alone is “the encounter on the way, including way, the Truth, and the Life.” desolation. In The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey He loves me and He is almighty, and in the greatest to God Based on the Wisdom of the things as well as in the smallest He has wonderfully Saints, Ralph Martin offers excelprepared everything in an ultimate personal love for lent advice from various doctors of me and for all whom I love, if I work with Him, humbly the Church on how to handle difand confidently, and not—confused and terrorized ficulties. All of these saints teach by the devil—against Him. that spiritual growth is the result of “resisting temptations and enWhen I, as a tenderly beloved child, walk trustingly during trials.” All teach as well that with Christ—even though, for a moment, it may be prayer is essential. It is the same dark, and I have to hold fast to faith and to obedience, advice St. Ignatius offers in helpI may be sure that just these moments of fidelity are ing us to understand and work deeply meaningful, that they draw down the greatest through times of desolation. Marstreams of grace on all beloved souls, and at the same tin recounts how St. Thérèse, for time bring my soul nearer to Christ. example, had to learn patience and Resisting Temptations, self-denial in order to conform her Enduring Trials “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, will to God’s will. She gained this One important caution Fr. wisdom through prayer. As these Be it done to me according to Thy word.” Mitch Pacwa offers in his book great saints show us, we can achieve How to Listen When God is Speak“a certain peace and stability in our —Meditation by H. Lyman Stebbins, CUF founder ing is that the spiritual life is not lives.” This only comes to us when about making your life better. All “we cooperate with grace and make decisions, even those concerning career, should reflect only whether efforts to center our life on God—praying, resisting temptations, usthey will allow you to serve God better. When I added everything ing wisdom in the choices we make.” up, I realized that I had put a great many obstacles in my path by When I returned to the home I had left, my troubles did not choosing a new job. My heart told me that God had wanted me to immediately leave. I had enough savings to carry me through for stay where I was, to work out my salvation in the place where I was a few months, but I found a job through an old friend. Within a at the time. Instead, I chose to leave. I gave up the stability I was year, though, I was let go. I spent two months unemployed before experiencing in my spiritual life as I worked within a particular faith accepting part-time work that carried me through for the next year community, my parish, only because of my fear of losing the finan- and a half. I struggled, but I also found myself growing spiritually. I heeded St. Ignatius’ advice and even returned to meditating on his cial stability I had. In my decision, I was the second class of man. Fr. Pacwa also reminds us that everyone goes through periods of exercises. I continually worked on further developing my prayer life. spiritual desolation. He notes that even Jesus experienced desolation The troubles of my life did not disturb me as they had in the past in the form of testing at the end of the forty days He spent fasting because of prayer. Guided by saints and doctors of the Church, I am in the desert. Since each of us will experience periods of desolation, still working to cooperate with God’s grace. I am far from holy, but I we need to be prepared for them. Just as athletes train, we too must am headed in the right direction. lw train so that we can hear God’s voice during times of desolation. Kevin Bezner is a poet, teacher, and catechist who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. He teaches English at Belmont Abbey College. Regular prayer must hold a central place in our training.
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A NEW EVANGELIZATION
Undaunted Warriors by Emily Stimpson
t Franciscan University of Steubenville, it’s easy to be pro-life. The same is true for other culturally Catholic schools such as Christendom, Thomas Aquinas, and Benedictine. At those colleges and universities, it’s not a radical or brave thing to spend Saturday mornings praying outside of abortion clinics or setting up memorials on campus for the victims of abortion. Rather, such deeds are the norm among students. They’re expected. That’s not a bad thing. There’s real value in experiencing what it’s like to live in a culture that is what a culture ought to be, a culture where life, sexuality, and human dignity are all seen as sacred. That’s why those schools have produced some of the pro-life movement’s strongest and most effective leaders. But, for as much admiration as those schools’ students deserve, it’s hard not to admire their pro-life peers at secular schools even more. At countless colleges and universities across the country, it is a radical thing to wake up early on a Saturday to pray outside Planned Parenthood’s offices, and it is an act of bravery to set up public displays of pro-life convictions. Just ask Sarah Buttitta, Thomas McConnell, or Steve Macias. Like their Catholic school peers, all are adamantly and actively pro-life. Unlike their Catholic school peers, however, standing up for those beliefs on campus has been anything but easy. At the University of Buffalo, Buttitta waged a year-long battle against her school’s administration simply for the right to establish a pro-life student group on campus. With that battle won, Buttitta and her small band of fellow pro-lifers began another battle: defending their displays from destruction. Both last spring and fall, no sooner did the group set up their “Cemetery of the Innocents” (rows of crosses placed in the ground in remembrance of lives lost to abortion) than were the displays ripped down by unknown vandals.
This past fall, one of the attacks occurred in broad daylight and was led by a faculty member. Screaming, “Let’s start a riot,” the faculty member and several students tore the crosses out of the ground, then destroyed them. McConnell, president of Students for Life at Clarion University, encountered a similar problem last April when their Cemetery of the Innocents Display was dismantled during the night. At Clarion, the crosses were spray painted and arranged on the ground to spell out “pro-choice.” Then, there’s Macias, who in 2009, as student body president at Sacramento City College, had the audacity to allow the school’s pro-life group to set up a display on Constitution Day. When administrators discovered what he (along with the rest of the student council) had approved, they threatened to remove him from office if he didn’t stop the display. They carried through with their threat when he refused. It took three months, a failed recall election, and the threat of a lawsuit before they reinstated him. Fortunately, despite all the opposition they’ve faced, all three remain undaunted. “It’s actually strengthened our resolve,” McConnell said. “It makes us want to show them we’re not anti-woman. We’re pro-life, in part, because we believe abortion hurts women.” “All the obstacles just show how much they need us on campus,” seconded Buttitta. Unfortunately, experiences such as those are more the rule than the exception. Every year, dozens of similar cases are reported to Students for Life of America and the Alliance Defense Fund, groups that provide training, resources, and assistance to pro-life students nationwide. Dozens more are believed to go unreported, with many students unaware of their rights or where to turn for help. The cases that do get reported, however, are all of a piece. While groups advocating for homosexual rights, abortion rights, and similar issues operate freely, pro-life students
face unjust fines and penalties, are denied the right to bring pro-life speakers to campus, and are prevented from hosting events or setting up displays. They also routinely deal with acts of vandalism and encounter open hostility in and out of the classroom from both professors and peers. On one level, that’s disheartening. Thirtynine years after Roe v. Wade, one would hope that the pro-life cause had gained enough traction in the culture for a group of students to bring Janet Smith to campus without university administrators going apoplectic. On a deeper level though, stories like these are anything but disheartening. To see Buttitta, McConnell, Macias and thousands more like them doggedly advocating for a culture of life in the midst of a culture of death, is to see the future of the pro-life movement. It is also to know that the pro-life movement will be in the hands of people whose convictions have been tried and tested, who have fielded the worst their schools’ pro-abortion forces could throw at them, and who have nevertheless remained undaunted in their defense of life. And that’s just one more reason for hope. lw
Emily Stimpson Emily Stimpson is an award-winning Catholic writer based in Steubenville, OH. A contributing editor to Our Sunday Visitor newspaper, her work has also appeared in Franciscan Way, First Things, Touchstone, Faith and Family, Loyola’s Best Catholic Writing series, and elsewhere. She is also the author of “The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years”. March/April 2012
LOOKING AT A MASTERPIECE
The Resurrection by Madeleine Stebbins
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“Unlike other depictions of the risen Lord which emphasize the ethereal quality of His glorified body, Piero della Francesca portrays Him as a conquering hero, giving us a sense of His infinite power.” all at once, we are shown the many facets one at a time. For instance: the infant Jesus, Christ the Good Shepherd, the Divine Mercy, the suffering Servant, and so on. What we see here is the image of Christ, the Kyrios, the Lord of Lords in His supernatural strength, the Victor Rex (sequence of Easter), with sovereign power over life and death. He who just a few hours ago had been like “a worm and no man” (Ps. 22:6), wounded, bleeding, crushed to death, here comes forth out of the tomb like an athlete with His muscular foot on the tomb. Unlike other depictions of the risen Lord which emphasize the ethereal quality of His glorified body, Piero della Francesca portrays Him as a conquering hero, giving us a sense of His infinite power. He has an awesome majesty which forces us to our knees. The realization that this glorious God is also merciful Love is what has for centuries moved men and women to give their all to Christ. Through this masterpiece we begin to understand the great ancient Greek prayer of adoration: Ágios o Theos, Ágios íschyros, Ágios athánatos, eléison imas. Holy God, Holy mighty One, Holy immortal One, Have mercy on us.
There is something breathtaking in this fresco. We get an astonishing sense of His presence and are directed upwards by the vertical rush out of the grave of Christ in the exact center with His banner of the victorious cross, the Vexilla regis, unfurled and held high.1 It is like the effulgence of a flame. His is the last word, the ultimate victory. We seem to hear a burst of trumpets. Yet at the same time there is a stillness. His halo is a luminous crown, His eyes are all seeing, His gaze penetrating. There is a hieratic quality in His face and head, like an icon. He is sacred. He stands before us as “a bridegroom coming forth . . . as a giant to run his course” (Ps. 19:5, Ps. 18:6 DouayRheims). Resurrexit sicut dixit. Alleluia. 1
A banner chosen by H. Lyman Stebbins as the CUF logo.
Madeleine Stebbins Madeleine Stebbins is the wife of CUF founder H. Lyman Stebbins. She served as CUF president from 1981–84.
© Alfredo Dagli Orti / Piero Della Francesca /The Art Archive at Art Resource, NY
iero della Francesca was born in 1415 and died on the very day Columbus landed in America, October 12, 1492. Better known in his time as a mathematician and geometrist, he is now recognized as one of the great artists of the early Renaissance. This fresco, painted in the 1460s, is on the wall of what became the Civic Museum in Sansepolcro, Tuscany. It is apparent that his expertise in solid geometry influenced his interest in perspective. In the background of this fresco on the left we see a barren landscape and leafless trees, whereas on the right nature is blooming, symbolic of the world before and after the Resurrection. The act of redemption has been accomplished. A new light has dawned on the world. The earth is transformed. In the foreground leaning against the side of the sarcophagus are the sleeping guards, sluggish human beings, not yet awakened to the presence of God, two of them blinded by the divine light. The soldier in brown, center left, is reputed to be a self-portrait of the artist. The contrast between the practically lifeless guards and the fullness of life in the figure of Christ is striking and expresses the force of His supremacy over death. The color of the Lord’s garment, no longer the scarlet blood-red of His martyrdom, is a beautiful rose color, the liturgical color for joy. The wound in His side is still open. His blood is still flowing in eternity for our salvation. Through a divine pedagogy, the Church in her liturgical year slowly reveals to us many aspects of the Holy Face of Christ. Since we humans are unable to grasp them
ormer Swiss Guard and accomplished CEO and business leader Andreas Widmer gives a behind-the-scenes look into “the most authentically human person I’ve ever met,” and reveals how those memories shaped and reared the success of the corporate executive. In what papal biographer George Weigel calls “a powerful example of leadership at work,” Widmer recounts with anecdotal lure his personal experiences serving Blessed Pope John Paul II in the Swiss Guard, and the secrets of successful leadership that he learned at the feet of the great pope. 978-1-931018-76-0, $12.95
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