Friday, May 29, 2015

The Bread of Life

Twelfth Conference on the Most Sacred Heart

 Fr. Henry Brinkmeyer

It is an axiom admitted by all that love ever tends to union. This springs from the very nature of love; for love is nothing else than an effusion and an impulse of the heart by which it tends to the being loved. We naturally desire to be with those who are dear to us, and when we are obliged to separate from them, our inmost being seems, as it were, torn asunder, and tears in voluntarily spring to our eyes. And when again we meet dear friends from whom we have been long parted, when a mother, for example, meets her child who has been far away, does she not eagerly fly to clasp him to her bosom? Love, then, essentially tends to union, first of all to a spiritual union, though of actual presence. Consequently, since the Sacred Heart is consuming itself with love for man, it has devised a means to be united to man. Oh, how admirable are the artifices of Christ's love! Behold that union marvelously and sweetly effected in the Blessed Sacrament.

In receiving the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is united to us. That is the first effect and the first aim of Holy Communion. And that union is of the closest possible nature. No earthly alliance is comparable to it. Men may love one another on earth, but their souls are ever separated. Heart cannot melt into heart. But in the Holy Eucharist, there is nothing, absolutely nothing between the soul of Jesus and our own: our soul rests on His. The most intimate material connection known to us is that existing between us and our food. It becomes our flesh, our blood, our bone. It becomes part of the heart with which we love, and part of the brain with which we think. Similarly, in Holy Communion Jesus unites Himself so intimately to us that He lives in us and we in Him:
He who eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, abideth in Me, and I in him.
But there is a vast difference: we absorb our food, it changes into us. The reverse takes place in Holy Communion; here, the stronger life absorbs the weaker, our being is transformed into His, not His into ours. I do not mean to say, however, that the substance of our soul is changed into His, but His life, His spirit, His virtues, His divine inclinations enter into our souls.
I live by the Father: he that eateth Me, the same shall also live by Me. 
The same shall live by Me. 
He who eateth My flesh [...] abideth, remaineth in Me.
These utterances indicate something more than a transitory, temporal union with Jesus. They point out a permanent union, a continued indwelling of our Lord in the soul that has eaten His flesh. How can this be, since it is certain that the Body and Blood of Jesus leave in a few moments after our reception of Holy Communion? Some theologians explain this by saying that even after the Body of our Lord disappears, which takes place as soon as the outward appearances of the bread undergo a change, that even then, though the Body is gone, His adorable soul remains and continues the real union which was contracted when we received the flesh and blood, the soul and the divinity of Jesus. Try to understand this, it is a most beautiful explanation of the words of our Lord:
He that eateth My flesh [...] abideth in Me and I in him.
He that eateth Me, the same shall live by Me. 
And again, when we receive Holy Communion we receive the living flesh and blood, the human soul and the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. His flesh and blood are with us but a short time, a few minutes; for as soon as the species, that is, the appearances of bread are changed, the flesh and blood are no longer there. Yet, according to this teaching, the human soul of Jesus remains, and remains united to our soul in all reality. It penetrates into the depth of our being, it penetrates the deeper, the more fervent our Communion is, and it will not leave us entirely unless we fall into mortal sin. Our Divine Lord's blessed soul takes possession more and more of our whole nature, speaks with our lips, thinks with our brain, and moves in all our actions. In proportion as our old human life disappears before His influence, human views and feelings grow less, and the thoughts and desires of Jesus are substituted for them. Instead of the love of ease comes the thirst for suffering; instead of selfishness, a devoted zeal, instead of indifference, a tender piety like that of Jesus, who lives more and more completely within us, because our old self is dying beneath the Sacramental touch, and the word of Scripture is realized in us:
I live; no, not I, but Christ liveth in me.
This truth is beautifully illustrated by that old legend of the monk who, while our Lord was entertaining him with a gracious vision of Himself, heard the bell ring that called him to his appointed task. Duty's claim fulfilled, he returned to find his God awaiting him, not as the Holy Child, but as grown to man's estate. Thus had Jesus developed in the heart of the faithful monk, while he was performing the duty of the hour, and thus does He grow in us, and become, as it were, another Christ in our lives by His intimacy with our souls in the Holy Eucharist.

But even if the created soul of our Lord does not continue its actual presence, His graces do remain. How could he come and go without leaving a benediction on our lives? Even though He remains but a little while, He assuredly confers signal gifts upon the soul. And such is the doctrine of the Church: she teaches us, that besides the wonderful union of Jesus with our soul which Holy Communion effects, it moreover bestows special graces of its own. The Blessed Sacrament is indeed the chief fountain of grace. Other sacraments infuse grace into our souls, but in the Blessed Sacrament we possess Him who contains in Himself the source and the plenitude of all grace. I will not speak of the increase of sanctifying grace which Holy Communion, like every other sacrament, produces; that, I fear, would occupy too much time. But Holy Communion, like every other sacrament, has also a grace peculiar to itself, and which the other sacraments are not intended to confer. What is this special grace of the Blessed Sacrament? It is difficult to express it in a few words, yet a brief explanation may not prove useless.

We are supposed, when receiving Holy Communion, to be in the state of sanctifying grace, and Holy Communion augments this grace. But sanctifying grace is not enough; the soul must utilize it. A power is of no avail if allowed to remain inactive. A man may have great talents, a talent for painting, for music, for philosophy, for science, but of what profit are these gifts if not exercised because of his negligence, sloth, or other passions? He must stimulate himself to action, then he will derive benefit from them. In like manner, sanctifying grace may reach immense heights in our souls, but if it remain dormant, it will prove almost fruitless; and, indeed, we incur imminent risk of losing it forever. Hence, sanctifying grace with its attendant virtues must be stimulated to exercise by actual grace. 

What then is the actual grace given us in Holy Communion? The actual grace given us in Holy Communion is precisely the causing of habitual charity to break out into actual charity; like a fire fallen from heaven, it kindles into a bright flame the sanctifying grace which lies, as it were, like unconsumed fuel in the bottom of our souls. It makes our cold hearts burn with an unwonted fervor, which may be very brief, yet none the less real. We are able to sur mount obstacles that before we could not overcome; sometimes things appear easy which but lately seemed impossible to our sluggish, cowardly nature; occasionally even a sudden gush of feeling may spring up in our hearts so as to cause us to break out into acts of love, and to impel us to generous resolutions. All this does not come from ourselves. It comes from Jesus within us, it is the actual grace of Holy Communion.

At times we feel spiritually refreshed, a kind of sweetness and holy joy embalms our souls; we experience anew a relish for heavenly things, we arm ourselves once more for the stern battle of life. What is all this but the unction of actual grace? The poor sinner who commits deeds for which he hates himself, who has so keen a sense of the beauty of virtue and of the degradation of guilt, yet ever follows a course that fills him with bitterest remorse, who painfully feels the shame of sin, until he is driven to the verge of despair, that poor sinner kneels again and again at the altar to receive his God. This perseverance in drinking at the fountain of grace will gradually but surely cool down the blighting fever of sin; evil images and tendencies will depart from his mind, slowly his falls become less frequent and less weakening; in the most awful temptations he will sometimes be victorious. Spiritual joy, so long a stranger, at last dawns upon his soul, habits of vice are uprooted, contrary habits of virtue are established, and, thank God, that sinner falls no more! Again, what is all this but the actual grace conferred by Jesus in Holy Communion?

Oh, how wrong are they who deprecate the frequent reception of Holy Communion! How many sinners, groping in darkness, would turn to paths of virtue if they were encouraged to kneel often at the table of the Lord! How many souls there are who ought to communicate frequently, yet who refrain from approaching our Lord because they do not understand the nature of love, and have erroneous ideas concerning the effects of this Sacrament! Oh, the Sacred Heart of Jesus is burning with love, it is intensely longing to enter the hearts of creatures.
With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you.
Why, then, refuse to give Him entrance into our hearts and the hearts of others?

Absolutely speaking, no creature is worthy to receive Him. Even the angels are not pure in His sight. But He is willing to come to every one whose soul is not dead in mortal sin, and whose heart makes fitting preparation to receive Him. The confessor, of course, will judge how often it is expedient for us to eat the Bread of Life; he will discern whether our preparation be reasonably sufficient to justify our approach to the Lord's banquet table. All should, however, remember that weekly communion is not frequent communion. Every adult Christian who is sincerely desirous of avoiding mortal sin or who is laboring to correct the criminal habits he has contracted, may once a week, partake of the food of the strong and drink the wine that germinates virgins.
Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you.
Let the sinner, the worldling, the imperfect, the child approach Him. He loves them unutterably! Let them receive Him often, the oftener the better, if they have but the approbation of the guides of their souls. The road they have to traverse is so difficult, their daily occupations so absorbing, their temptations so intense, their faults so numerous, how shall they ever reach the goal except in the strength of a Bread Divine?
Arise and eat: for thou hast yet a great way to go.
As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth Me, the same shall also live by Me.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Piarum Aurium Haeresi Proxima?

A few days ago, Pope Francis recorded a statement addressing an ecumenical gathering of Protestants held in Pheonix, Arizona, to which the Holy Father had been invited but which he did not attend. In that statement (the whole of which can be read here), Pope Francis made the following remark:
I feel like saying something that may sound controversial, or even heretical, perhaps.
The original Spanish, which is even clearer, reads:
Y me viene a la mente decir algo que puede ser una insensatez, o quizás una herejía, no sé.
That is, "something that might be folly, or perhaps a heresy, I don't know."

Let me preface what I'm about to say by noting that I do not want to spread scandal among my fellow Catholics. I don't comb through the Pope's speeches and homilies looking for ambiguous turns of phrase which could be used to foment discontent among the laity. I try to assume good faith whenever and wherever possible. But there comes a point at which to fail to object to something wholly objectionable becomes indistinguishable from condoning it. Besides, if you're not thoroughly scandalized by what you've read already, chances are good that any scandal arising in you due to what follows will be of an ill-placed sort to which I feel no need to cater.

With that being said, let's see what one of the most prolific papal apologists today, Mr. Jimmy Akin, has to offer in the way of a hermeneutical key for unlocking the intent behind this particular statement.

According to Mr. Akin, the Pope chose these words because he is introducing a thought which might be "unfamiliar" to many of his listeners. That is, says Akin, the Pope is employing "a touch of hyperbole, or exaggeration, to make a point." And what is that point? That real unity already exists between Christians on the basis of their shared enemy, i.e. the devil - an ecumenism of archfiendery, if you will. A novelty, to be sure, but nothing which is incapable of being reconciled with the Magisterium of the last 50 years. Taking this into account, Akin reaches the following rather soothing verdict: "Properly speaking, his proposal not only isn't heretical, it doesn’t even sound heretical."


First, the Spanish language offers a range of words to describe something as being unfamiliar, novel, startling or even shocking. The word "heresy" would not, I imagine, top anyone's list of suitable synonyms.

Second, the recipients of this message are Protestants. What part of "the devil hates all Christians" is "unfamiliar" to Protestants, so as to require the use of "exaggeration" to make the point? Remember that these Protestants invited the Pope to join them in prayer, so it's not as though they need to be shocked into the realization that Catholics are Christians.

Third, it's obvious that the Pope is using the term "heresy" to intensify or maximize what he has already described as smacking of "folly", namely, the notion that real unity already exists between Christians on the basis of their shared enemy. In other words, if "folly" is bad, Pope Francis is telling us that what he is about to say is doubleplusbad.

Fourth, the Pope knows that the error of which his statement smacks, i.e. religious indifferentism, has been formally condemned as such on numerous occasions (Qui pluribus, 1846; Noscitis, 1849; Multiplices inter, 1851; Maxima quidem, 1862; Quanto conficiamur, 1863).

Fifth, granting that the Pope is employing the term hyperbolically, he can intend to communicate to his listeners nothing less than that what he is about to say will likely offend pious ears.

Sixth, in order to claim that the statement doesn't smack of heresy, one has to contradict the explicit admission on the part of the Pope that his statement smacks of heresy. That is, the Pope himself says that the statement has an air of heresy about it, so to interpret his statement in any way so as to remove this heretical taint is to give a meaning to the Pope's words which he himself clearly does not intend to give them.

Sorry, Jimmy. It just doesn't wash.

The inescapable fact is that no Pope has ever spoken like this before, because this is not how Popes speak.

Popes do not preface a statement with, "This might come off as heretical, but...," or "This might be offensive to pious ears, but...."

Popes do not speak in this manner because there is no other way to interpret such words than as a preface to a public profession of a sentiment worthy of at least theological, if not canonical, censure.

To quote Mr. Patrick Archbold: Make of that what you will.

Religion Overthrowing Heresy and Hatred
Pierre Le Gros the Younger (1666-1719)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Church of the Late First Century: Morality and Dogma

Reading N°17 in the History of the Catholic Church

 Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

The fact that the Church of the late first century was often surrounded by a pagan Gentile culture helps to explain the form in which the Didache sets forth the Christian moral teaching. Some scholars have thought this teaching contained traces of Montanism and Encratism.[1] But an unbiased examination of it reveals nothing more than a stern asceticism, justified by the need of warning Christians against infiltrations from the surrounding paganism. "Thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use magic; thou shalt not use philtres [magic potions]; thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide."[2] "Regard not omens, for this leads to idolatry; neither be an enchanter nor an astrologer nor a magician, neither wish to see these things, for from them all is idolatry engendered."[3] Such commands evoke that whole pagan world where voluptuousness, cruelty, and superstition had almost unbridled sway and met the gaze at every turn.[4] "Be not one who stretches out his hands to receive, but shuts them when it comes to giving[5] ...for the Father's will is that we give to all from the gifts we have received."[6] As for the poor, "provide for him according to your understanding, so that no man shall live among you in idleness because he is a Christian."[7] "If he has a craft, let him work for his bread."[8] "If he will not do so, he is making traffic of Christ; beware of such."[9] By such firm and prudent words, a remedy is pointed out for the ills that afflict this Gentile world, which Christianity is entering for the first time. The helpfulness of labor has never found more earnest advocates than the first Christians.

As we might expect, a statement of Christian morality at that period does not neglect the important question of family duties. "Thou shalt not withhold thine hand from thy son or from thy daughter, but thou shalt teach them the fear of God from their youth up."[10] Beyond the family circle, there is a sort of enlarged family, including the servants. A Christian will be mild toward his servants. "Thou shalt not command in thy bitterness thy slave or thine handmaid [...] lest they cease to fear the God who is over you both; for he comes not to call men with respect of persons, but those whom the Spirit has prepared."[11] A Christian's mildness, inseparable from the spirit of firm justice, will extend to all men. "Thou shalt not desire a schism, but shalt reconcile those that strive. Thou shalt give righteous judgment; thou shalt favor no man's person in reproving transgression."[12] A Christian should go still farther toward those who are his brethren in Jesus Christ. He should hold himself ever ready to place his personal belongings at their service, for "if you are sharers in the imperishable, how much more in the things which perish?"[13]

Such are the chief precepts of individual and social morality that we find in The Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles. A general commandment inspires them and dominates them all: love of God and love of neighbor. It is impressive to see how insistently the author of this little book repeats this commandment and inserts it in the midst of his particular precepts. "First, thou shalt love the God who made thee, secondly, thy neighbor as thyself."[14] "Bless those that curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those that persecute you."[15] "Thou shalt hate no man.[16] "Be thou long-suffering and merciful and guileless and quiet and good."[17] The most expressive and complete symbol of love is found in the Eucharist. "Concerning the Eucharist, hold Eucharist thus. [...] As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains, but was brought together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom."[18] Lastly, this love, which is recommended as the principle of all, is not a vague private sentiment. It does not dispense with obedience to the hierarchical authority and faithfulness to the teaching received by tradition. "My child, thou shalt remember, day and night, him who speaks the word of God to thee, and thou shalt honor him as the Lord."[19] "See that no one make thee to err from this way of the teaching, for he teaches thee without God."[20]

The teaching here spoken of seems to be especially the moral doctrine we have just set forth; but this is closely connected with a dogmatic teaching that is expressly recalled by the Didache. This dogmatic teaching is of the simplest and, at first glance, appears to lack originality. But a close examination shows that its originality and interest consist precisely in this, that it takes its phrases almost word for word from the Old and New Testament and gives us a symbol of faith essentially identical with that of the Church today. Men sometimes try to point out a contrast between the "grand gesture" of the Gospel and the "scholastic formulary" of Catholicism; the natural connection between the two is found in the Didache. The following is a summary of its dogmatic teaching.

God is in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.[21] He is the heavenly Father,[22] the Creator,[23] and almighty. Nothing happens in the world without Him,[24] and to Him belongs eternal glory through our Lord Jesus Christ.[25]

Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior,[26] the Son of God.[27] He speaks in the Gospel, He is spiritually present in His Church, and He will come again visibly on judgment day.

The Holy Ghost is God with the Father and the Son.[28] He has spoken by the mouth of the prophets and He prepares man for the divine call.[29]

The Church of God is universal, and every man is called to belong to it.[30] It has been sanctified by God, freed from all evil, and prepared by the eternal kingdom.[31]

The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles naturally echoed the great and mysterious expectancy of the kingdom of God, which solaced men after the Savior's death and in which the thought of each one's preparation for death, "which comes like a thief," the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the last judgment, and the ancient Messianic hopes of the Jewish people, more or less transposed and spiritualized, are mixed together in a way that is sometimes curious.[32] The Didache stresses the necessity of watching, of not letting the lamps go out, of having the loins girt, in a word, of being always ready. In this it does but repeat the teaching of Christ. It speaks of the signs that will accompany the parousia, or second coming of the Son of God: the increase of false prophets, the darkening of the heavens, the sound of the trumpet, and the resurrection of the dead.[33] These, too, are merely the recalling of Christ's words.[34] Like Christ, it declares, "ye know not the hour in which our Lord cometh."[35] Like Him, it is concerned with the founding of the Church upon a solid hierarchy. Nowhere in this devout writing do we observe that feverish expectancy of a proximate end of the world, destructive of all authority[36] and serving as the principal basis for Christian renunciation, which, we are sometimes told, existed at the beginning of Christianity.[37] These Christians, whose religion is nourished by the thought of the mysterious parousia, are of the number of those whose faith nothing will shake, neither the tragic death of the bishop of Jerusalem nor the destruction of Jerusalem itself.


[1] These heresies of the second century will be discussed infra.
[2] Didache, II, 2.
[3] Ibidem, III, 4.
[4] We know how indulgently the most famous philosophers spoke of the loosest morality, and how the most serious Greek philosopher sanctioned the exposing and destruction of infants. (Cf. Aristotle, Politica, bk. 4, chap. 16.)
[5] Didache, IV, 5.
[6] Ibidem, I, 5.
[7] Ibidem, XII, 4.
[8] Ibidem, XII, 3.
[9] Ibidem, XII, 5.
[10] Ibidem, IV, 9.
[11] Ibidem, IV, 10.
[12] Ibidem, IV, 3.
[13] Ibidem, IV, 8. It is sometimes asked whether this passage did not prescribe a real community of possessions. That it did not seems beyond doubt. A real community of goods was never obligatory, even at Jerusalem, where St. James supposes the existence of rich and poor (3:1-9; 5:1-5). It lasted but a short time, and did not exist elsewhere.
[14] Ibidem, I, 2.
[15] Ibidem, I, 3.
[16] Ibidem, II, 7.
[17] Ibidem, III, 8.
[18] Ibidem, IX, 4.
[19] Ibidem, IV, 1.
[20] Ibidem, VI, 1.
[21] Ibidem, VII, 1.
[22] Ibidem, VIII, 2.
[23] Ibidem, I, 2.
[24] Ibidem, III, 10.
[25] Ibidem, VIII, 2; IX, 4; X, 4.
[26] Ibidem, X, 2.
[27] Ibidem, XVI.
[28] Ibidem, VII, 3.
[29] Ibidem, IV, 10.
[30] Ibidem, X, 5.
[31] Ibidem, IX, 4; X, 5.
[32] On the formation and characteristics of the eschatological hope in Israel and in Christian times, see Labauche, Leçons de théologie dogmatique, II, 347-393, and Lemonnyer, art. "Fin du monde," in the Dict. apol. de la foi catholique.
[33] Didache, XVI, 1-8.
[34] Similar expressions are to be found in the prophets, in their malediction of certain kingdoms whose downfall they predicted. (Cf. Ezech. 32:7 f.; 38:20.)
[35] Didache, XVI, 1.
[36] Sabatier, Religions of Authority and the Religion of the Spirit, p. 23.
[37] This is the error maintained by Loisy in The Gospel and the Church, and in Autour d'un petit livre.


Join the discussion at:

Monday, May 25, 2015


Thirteenth in a Series on Catholic Morality

 Fr. John H. Stapleton

Gula (Gluttony)
Hieronymus Bosch
Self-preservation is nature's first law, and the first and essential means of preserving one's existence is the taking of food and drink sufficient to nourish the body, sustain its strength and repair the forces thereof weakened by labor, fatigue or illness. God, as well as nature, obliges us to care for our bodily health, in order that the spirit within may work out on earth the end of its being.

Being purely animal, this necessity is not the noblest and most elevating characteristic of our nature. Nor is it, in its imperious and unrelenting requirements, far removed from a species of tyranny. A kind Providence, however, by lending taste, savor and delectability to our aliments, makes us find pleasure in what otherwise would be repugnant and insufferably monotonous.

An appetite is a good and excellent thing. To eat and drink with relish and satisfaction is a sign of good health, one of the precious boons of nature. And the tendency to satisfy this appetite, far from being sinful, is wholly in keeping with the divine plan, and is necessary for a fulsome benefiting of the nourishment we take.

On the other hand, the digestive organism of the body is such a delicate and finely adjusted piece of mechanism that any excess is liable to clog its workings and put it out of order. It is made for sufficiency alone. Nature never intended man to be a glutton; and she seldom fails to retaliate and avenge excesses by pain, disease and death.

This fact, coupled with the grossness of the vice of gluttony, makes it happily rare, at least in its most repulsive form; for, be it said, it is here a question of the excessive use of ordinary food and drink, and not of intoxicants to which latter form of gluttony we shall pay our respects later.

The rich are more liable than the poor to sin by gluttony; but gluttony is fatal to longevity, and they who enjoy life best desire to live longest. 'Tis true, physicians claim that a large portion of diseases are due to over-eating and over-drinking; but it must be admitted that this is through ignorance rather than malice. So that this passion can hardly be said to be commonly yielded to, at least to the extent of grievous offending.

Naturally, the degree of excess in eating and drinking is to be measured according to age, temperament, condition of life, etc. The term gluttony is relative. What would be a sin for one person might be permitted as lawful to another. One man might starve on what would constitute a sufficiency for more than one. Then again, not only the quantity, but the quality, time and manner, enter for something in determining just where excess begins. It is difficult therefore, and it is impossible, to lay down a general rule that will fit all cases.

It is evident, however, that he is mortally guilty who is so far buried in the flesh as to make eating and drinking the sole end of life, who makes a god of his stomach. Nor is it necessary to mention certain unmentionable excesses such as were practiced by the degenerate Romans towards the fall of the Empire. It would likewise be a grievous sin of gluttony to put the satisfaction of one's appetite before the law of the Church and violate wantonly the precepts of fasting and abstinence.

And are there no sins of gluttony besides these? Yes, and three rules may be laid down, the application of which to each particular case will reveal the malice of the individual. Overwrought attachment to satisfactions of the palate, betrayed by constant thinking of viands and pleasures of the table, and by avidity in taking nourishment, betokens a dangerous, if not a positively sinful, degree of sensuality. Then, to continue eating or drinking after the appetite is appeased, is in itself an excess, and mortal sin may be committed even without going to the last extreme. Lastly, it is easy to yield inordinately to this passion by attaching undue importance to the quality of our victuals, seeking after delicacies that do not become our rank, and catering to an over-refined palate. The evil of all this consists in that we seem to eat and drink, if we do not in fact eat and drink, to satisfy our sensuality first, and to nourish our bodies afterwards; and this is contrary to the law of nature.

We seemed to insist from the beginning that this is not a very dangerous or common practice. Yet there must be a hidden and especial malice in it. Else why is fasting and abstinence - two correctives of gluttony - so much in honor and so universally recommended and commanded in the Church? Counting three weeks in Advent, seven in Lent and three Ember days four times a year, we have, without mentioning fifty-two Fridays, thirteen weeks or one-fourth of the year by order devoted to a practical warfare on gluttony. No other vice receives the honor of such systematic and uncompromising resistance. The enemy must be worthy.

As a matter of fact, there lies under all this a great moral principle of Christian philosophy. This philosophy sought out and found the cause and seat of all evil to be in the flesh. The forces of sin reside in the flesh while the powers of righteousness - faith, reason and will - are in the spirit. The real issue of life is between these forces contending for supremacy. The spirit should rule; that is the order of our being. But the flesh revolts and, by ensnaring the will, endeavors to dominate over the spirit.

Now, it stands to reason that the only way for the superior part to succeed is to weaken the inferior part. Just as prayer and the grace of the sacraments fortify the soul, so do food and drink nourish the animal; and if the latter is cared for to the detriment of the soul, it waxes strong and formidable and becomes a menace.

The only resource for the soul is then to cut off the supply that benefits the flesh and strengthen herself thereby. She acts like a wise engineer who keeps the explosive and dangerous force of his locomotive within the limit by reducing the quantity of food he throws into its stomach. Thus the passions being weakened become docile, and are easily held under sway by the power that is destined to govern, and sin is thus rendered morally impossible.

It is gluttony that furnishes the passion of the flesh with fuel by feeding the animal too well; and herein lies the great danger and malice of this vice. The evil of a slight excess may not be great in itself; but that evil is great in its consequences. Little over-indulgences imperceptibly, but none the less surely, strengthen the flesh against the spirit, and when the temptation comes the spirit will be overcome. The ruse of the saints was to starve the enemy.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dominica Pentecostes

El Greco (1541-1614)

Deus qui hodierna die corda fidelium sancti spiritus illustratione docuisti: da nobis in eodem spiritu recta sapere, et de eius semper consolatione gaudere.

O God, who on this day hadst taught the hearts of Thy faithful by the light of the Holy Ghost, grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things and ever to rejoice in His consolation.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Criticizing the Pope

St. Paul rebukes St. Peter

Steve Skojec over at One Peter Five has recently broached a topic of great importance for faithful Catholics today: Can a Catholic criticize the Pope? I was tempted to write a longer piece on this subject, but it's so important that I think it wiser to try to keep the discussion focused at one place. Since Steve brought it up, and wrote a good article to get the discussion started, I'm perfectly happy to direct readers over there. I see that Pat Archbold of Creative Minority Report has done the same. If you're interested in hearing my thoughts on the subject, please see the comments section beneath Steve's post.

The Memorial

Eleventh Conference on the Most Sacred Heart

 Fr. Henry Brinkmeyer

According to Clement XIII, one of the aims of the devotion to the Sacred Heart is to inspire us with love for the Blessed Eucharist by recalling to our minds the unspeakable love which instituted it. The divine Sacrament of the Eucharist has been called the last effort of the boundless love of our Saviour for man. It may be considered under four heads: first, as a Memorial; secondly, as a Sacrament; thirdly, as a Sacrifice, and fourthly, as the Real Presence.

Every tabernacle is surmounted by a cross because the Blessed Sacrament is a blessed memorial of our Lord's Passion and death. "As often as ye shall eat this bread and drink this chalice, ye shall show forth the death of the Lord until He come." Why? First, because it was given as a parting gift on the eve of the passion, and secondly, because it contains our Lord and perpetuates Him as the Victim of the Cross.

In the first place, it was given as a parting gift. Let us recall the touching episode of the Last Supper. Jesus and His apostles are seated at the table for the celebration of the Paschal solemnity. It is the last meal they are to take together, for He is about to leave them. They have lived in His company for almost three years. He has been the kindest of masters and truest of friends, and now He is to part from them. Their hearts are filled with sorrow. Our Lord is sorrowful, too. He knows how they will miss Him. He knows their weakness. "You shall all be scandalized in Me," He says to them. Every farewell makes a pathetic scene. He is going to meet death; tomorrow evening at the same hour He will be in His grave, and they will have shamefully forsaken Him; their head and chief will have even thrice denied Him. Jesus foresees all this, yet He will not cast them off. "Having loved His own, He loved them unto the end." Even in those last hours of His life, when His soul is sorrowful unto death, He will give them a token of His undying love. He will give them a pledge of affection which shall compel them to remember Him.

A death-bed gift is always a precious gift, more especially if it be a souvenir to which the heart of the dying one clings, and around which entwine all the tenderest memories of the dear departed one. What gift will He bestow in that last hour? The Father had so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son. What will the Son bequeath to us, He who is not only God, but also man, whose kind human Heart with all its human love is shrinking from the impending separation, and bleeding to leave those He loves alone, like poor sheep scattered without a shepherd? "My delight is to be with the sons of men!" "O Lord," we may exclaim, "abide with us. The greatest gift Thou couldst bestow would be Thy lasting presence in our midst! Alas! That cannot be since Thou art to die and return to Thy Father. But lo! Thy loving pledge we hear: 'I am with you all days, even to the consummation of ages.'"

Yes, love makes all things possible, His presence amongst us is indeed the gift He is about to confer upon His children. He is to die, and yet to remain living amid these scenes until the end of time. Listen to His words:
I am the living Bread that came down from heaven. [...] Who soever eateth Me, the same shall live by Me. [...] Take ye and eat, this is My Body. Drink ye all of this, for this is My Blood.
And then He adds:
Do this; do as you have seen Me do. You also take bread and wine and consecrate them into My Flesh and My Blood, and do this in memory of Me.
As often as ye shall eat this bread and drink this chalice, ye shall show the death of the Lord till He come!
O Lord, is it possible? Is such Thy dying gift? Yes, we too shall be Thy guests. Blessed be Thy holy name! This very morning we have gathered at Thy Banquet. Thou hast fed us as Thou didst feed Thy apostles and disciples, and Thou art still as truly, really, and substantially present here, as Thou wert that blessed night with Thy chosen ones in Jerusalem's upper room.

The Blessed Eucharist is a Memorial because it is the parting gift of our Lord to the apostles and to us. But it is also a Memorial because it contains our Lord as the Victim of the Cross; it perpetuates Him, as it were, in that state. How does it do this? We shall have an opportunity of studying this more profoundly when later we consider the Blessed Eucharist as a Sacrifice. For the present, let us dwell upon one or two ways in which it perpetuates amongst us the Victim of the Cross.

First of all, that Victim was silent. It had been prophesied of Him: "He shall be dumb as a lamb before His shearers and He shall not open His mouth." He was reviled, but He did not revile; He suffered, but He threatened not; He was cursed and blasphemed, but He cursed not His guilty blasphemers. And when He was dead, His ears did not hear the wails of His Mother and of the women, His eyes did not see the tears of the dear ones around Him; a corpse feels not, hears not, speaks not. Such is the state of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. He speaks not. Of course, no one doubts that He could speak miraculously, if He chose, but day and night there reigns perpetual silence in and about His tabernacle. He never breaks the stillness around His altar throne.

In many a church and chapel He remains a whole day, sometimes a whole week without receiving the homage of a single heart, but He utters no complaint. In some churches, let us blush to acknowledge it, He is neglected, His tabernacle is enveloped in dust, yet no murmur falls from His sacred lips. He sees His children frivolous and irreverent even during the celebration of the divine mysteries, still He does not rebuke them. He beholds some before His very face polluting their souls with mortal sin, but not a word of indignation escapes Him. The unworthy communicant approaches, opens his sacrilegious lips, receives Him and hands Him over to the demons of sin in his Judas-like soul: but Jesus is silent, except perhaps for a whisper of reproach breathed to that conscience stained with the infamous crime committed against His patient, long-suffering Lord.

It is night; all is peaceful in the church ; the little lamp alone sends a few trembling rays of light into the dark aisles. Suddenly the gates of the church are forced asunder by lawless, ungodly men. The tabernacle door is ruthlessly opened, the ciborium seized, and He is made a mockery of, He is cast upon the floor, He may be trampled upon amid diabolical laughter, and then He is left alone to be wept over in anguish by His angels, His priests and His people: but He is silent, for He is none other than the Christ who died on Calvary, the ancient Victim of the Cross.

Again, as man Jesus was, until His Passion, the most attractive and the most beautiful of the children of men. But behold Him on the cross, behold Him dead in the arms of His weeping Mother. All His beauty has departed, the light has vanished from His sacred brow. Was ever a body bruised and rent as His? His face is disfigured with welts and blots of clotted blood, ashy, pale and haggard beyond description because of the terrible agony He has endured. His whole body is disfigured by cruel blows, by piteous falls, by lash and scourge, by hunger and thirst, and by the sharp wind blowing that day over the Mount of Sacrifice. The words of the Prophet Isaias have found their fulfillment:
There is no beauty or comeliness in Him, and we have seen Him, and there was no sightliness in Him that we should desire Him. [...] He was despised and the most abject of men.
Poor, outraged Jesus! Now glance at the Blessed Eucharist and behold Him there. Where is His beauty? Where His strength? Where His awful majesty? Where the splendor of His glory? He is under the species so small that I carry them daily in my hand. He is so concealed that He does not show the form of a human being. At the foot of the cross in the arms of Mary, we do not see His divinity, we see at least His body, mangled, horribly disfigured, it is true, still it is His body. But here He cannot be seen at all. We perceive a little white veil, nothing more. Faith alone has power to penetrate the folds of that veil. O silent Dweller of the tabernacle, Thou art indeed a hidden God, Thou art here, more than ever, the Victim of the Cross!

My dear friends, when we look at the Blessed Sacrament, let us recall that pathetic word of our Lord, "Remember Me!" Let us reflect that it is a Memorial of the greatest sorrow men ever witnessed, a Memorial of the greatest pain a creature on earth ever endured, a Memorial of the tenderest, most faithful, most unselfish, most heroic love the world shall ever know the last gift of a Heart that fears to be forgotten. Oh, yes! Lord, we will remember Thee!
May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, and my hand wither and rot away, if I should ever forget Thee!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Church of the Late First Century: Liturgy and Ritual

Reading N°16 in the History of the Catholic Church

 Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

The Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles supplies information on the liturgy of the late first century which is no less interesting than that on the hierarchy. The Christian's life is described as a life of prayer. He must pray at least three times a day.[1] From other sources, we know that the hours for prayer were the third, the sixth, and the ninth,[2] i.e., nine o'clock in the morning, noon, and three o'clock in the afternoon. The Christian's attitude at prayer was usually that of the orant, standing, bareheaded, with hands raised to the level of the shoulders. The Jews ordinarily prayed with their head covered. Slaves were not permitted to uncover their head, but St. Paul directed Christians to pray bare-headed, like free men.

Outside the fixed times of prayer, the Christians were urged "to seek daily the presence of the saints (i. e, other Christians, their brethren), that they might find rest in their words,"[3] and to "be frequently gathered together seeking the things which are profitable for their souls."[4] On Sunday, the Lord's Day, they are to confess their sins, be reconciled with their brethren if there have been any quarrels between them, and to offer the sacrifice.[5]

The prayer formulas mentioned in the Didache are the Lord's Prayer and the prayers accompanying the reception of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. The Lord's Prayer is quoted verbatim, along with the following doxology: "For Thine is the power and the glory for ever,"[6] a doxology that recalls the formula in Paralipomenon: "Thine, Jehovah, is greatness, power and majesty, victory and magnificence."[7]

The Baptism of the Neophytes
Masaccio (1401-1428)
Brief but exact information is given about Baptism. Whoever is to be baptized prepares himself by a day or two of fasting.[8] First, he must be taught all that he is to believe.[9] He will be brought to some body of running water - spring, brook, or river[10] - because running water, being fresher and purer than stagnant water, is a better symbol of the regenerating and refreshing action of the Sacrament. If living water is not to be had, other water may be used that has been gathered in some receptacle; in this case the water is poured three times on the head of the person to be baptized, "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."[11] This is the earliest mention we have of baptism by pouring. This method which, as we have already stated, must have been employed in the beginning by the Apostles on various occasions and by way of exception, later disappeared from the current practice of the Church in consequence of the regular building of baptismal pools, which happened wherever Christian communities gathered together and where baptism by immersion was practiced.[12] Baptism by pouring, used only for sick people, was no longer administered except in case of absolute necessity.

It has been remarked how carefully the Doctrine of the Apostles enumerates sins;[13] it even arranges them in two lists, which, after a fashion, might be considered early examinations of conscience.[14] It clearly affirms that sins can be forgiven.[15] We know also that in Antioch, at the beginning of the second century, sinners could obtain remission of their faults by applying to the bishop.[16] The self-accusation of sins, spoken of in the Didache,[17] may not have been a sacramental, but a simple ritualistic confession, similar to that which the Jews used to make to one another in their synagogues.[18]

Agape Banquet
from a fresco in the Catecombs of Ss. Mercellinus and Petrus

Likewise, it is not sure that chapters 9 and 10, containing thanksgiving prayers with regard to a mysterious meal, refer to the Eucharist. The meal alluded to may have been the purified and Christianized continuation of the Kiddush, or Jewish religious meal, and the invocations preceding and following it may be regarded as something like our blessing or grace before and after meals.[19] In chapter 14, however, the mention of the Eucharist is beyond doubt.
On the Lord's Day come together, break bread and hold Eucharist [give thanks], after confessing your transgressions, that your offering may be pure; but let none who has a quarrel with his fellow join in your meeting until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice be not defiled. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord, "In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice, for I am a great king," saith the Lord, "and my name is wonderful among the heathen." Appoint, therefore, for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord.[20]
There has been much insistence upon the identity of the Lord's sacrifice (θυσία) with that of Malachias, and thereby the comparison of the Lord's sacrifice with the Old Testament sacrifices. This, however, leaves no doubt as to the agreement of chapter 14 with the Apostolic and universal Eucharist of the Lord.[21] That is indeed the "breaking of bread," the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, spoken of by St. Paul and St. Justin.[22]

True, the words of institution, the words of consecration, are not mentioned. It is not explicitly said that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ, as was later specified in the paraphrase given of this passage in the Apostolic Constitutions. But we should not forget that the Didache was a manual of piety for the use of the ordinary Christian, and not a ritual.[23] Moreover, if we consider the time and place of this book's composition, after Christianity's first contact with the Greco-Roman world, which was so avid of mysteries and so accustomed to look upon Oriental ceremonies as curious symbols, we are not surprised that the Christians were fearful of handing over the holiest of their mysteries to the extremely fanciful and perchance insulting interpretations of the pagans. Herein we find one of the circumstances that best explain the spontaneous origin of the "law of the secret," which did not rest on any written text, but upon a custom that was equivalent to a law and that assuredly had a solid justification. "The way of the Eucharistic prayers as given in the Didache - by suppressing the formulas most closely connected with the mysteries - was in accord with the rule known as the discipline of the secret."[24]


[1] Didache, VIII, 3.
[2] Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, VII, 7.
[3] Didache IV, 2.
[4] Ibidem, XVI, 2.
[5] Ibidem, XIV, 1 f.
[6] Ibidem, VIII, 2.
[7] 1 Par. 29:11.
[8] Didache, VII, 4.
[9] Ibidem, VII, 1.
[10] Ibidem.
[11] Ibidem, VII, 3.
[12] De Rossi, Bullettino di archeologia cristiana, 1886, p. 19.
[13] Didache, Ch. 1-5.
[14] Ibidem, Ch. 5.
[15] Ibidem, XI, 7.
[16] St. Ignatius, Ad Phil., Ch. 8.
[17] Didache, IV, 14; XIV, 1.
[18] Buxtorf, Synagoga judaica, chap. 20.. Cf. Morin, De poenitentia, Bk. 4, Ch. 2, N° 21 f. Such, at least, is the view of several eminent Catholic scholars, e. g., Funk, Patres apostolici, I, 14, 32.
[19] Batiffol (Études d'histoire et de théologie positive, pp. 71-78), Cagin (L'Eucharistie, p. 254), Duchesne (Bull. crit., 1884, p. 385) and Ladeuze (Revue de l'Orient chrétien, 1902, pp. 339-399) think that there is question here of both the Agape and the Eucharist. The question of the Agape is of considerable apologetic importance. Most Rationalists hold that originally the Eucharistic supper was merely an ordinary meal which, after long evolution, became divided into two distinct ceremonies: the Eucharist and the Agape. Among the noteworthy books on this subject, is that of Baumgartner, Eucharistie und Agape im Urchristentum. The learned author cites and minutely analyzes a vast number of texts, grouped according to the countries whose practice they show. Then he states the following conclusions: In the first century we find, in all Christian centers that we know of, institutions that are perceptibly identical with regard to the Agape and the Eucharist. On Sundays, early in the morning or sometimes about midnight - the hour of the Lord's Resurrection - the Christians met together to celebrate the Eucharist. This latter is connected with religious instruction and includes essentially the prayer of thanksgiving pronounced by the bishop over the bread and wine; the people take part in this liturgical function by saying the Amen and by receiving Communion. Sunday evening, the Christians, following an old Jewish custom, take their meal in common, and this image of their brotherly love is also an occasion for them to refresh and succour their needy brethren: it is the Agape, a meal sanctified by prayer and by the exercise of the charismata of tongues and of prophecy; the celebration of the Eucharist was never connected with this evening meal, but, according to St. Paul (1 Cor. 11), the Agape was an image of the great love which Christ showed to His disciples at the Last Supper. "Baumgartner's work," says Vanhalst (Revue d'histoire ecclés., 1911, p. 721), "forms a solid defense of the Roman conception of the Eucharist. It is of genuine scientific value, harmonizing with the dogmatic conceptions of Catholic tradition." Yet, on several points, particularly on the subject of the Jewish prayers recited before the meal, Baumgartner's study should be supplemented by that of Mangenot, "Les soi-disant antécédents juifs dl l'Eucharistie," in the Revue du clergé français, 1909, PP. 385 ff., and by that of Batiffol, "Nouvelles études documentaires sur la sainte Eucharistie" in the Revue au clergé français, LX, 513.
[20] Didache, XIV, 1-3; XV, 1.
[21] Cagin, op. cit., p. 255.
[22] We do not understand how Rauschen (Eucharistie und Bussakrament in den ersten 6 Jahrhunderten der Kirche, p. 2) can say that one may hardly appeal to the Didache in favor of the Real Presence. If that text were isolated, doubtless it would be obscure; but when compared with so many other Apostolic, patristic, and archeological texts, its interpretation leaves no doubt.
[23] The prayer formulas given by the Didache are, moreover, only indications. We know that, in those early years, the celebrant himself improvised prayers. That practice continued until the fourth and even the fifth century. See Cagin, Te Deum ou lllatio, p. 342, and Souben, Le Canon primitif de la messe, p. 12.
[24] De Rossi, Bullettino di archeol. crist., 1886, p. 23.


Join the discussion at:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On Sorrow

If you're connected to any form of social media, chances are good that you're being barraged with exhortations to "be a joyful witness" and to "transmit joy and hope to others." It would seem that there's nothing more worthy of contempt these days than giving the appearance of being a "sad Christian," an "old maid," or a "sourpuss," to use a few choice insults which have been directed at faithful Catholics over the past few years. One gets the distinct impression that, no matter what you do, all will be forgiven as long as you do it with a smile.

Well, I call phooey

Personally, I'm tired of the insinuation that I'm a bad Catholic if I'm not glad-handing everyone I meet. Why not let prospective converts know the truth from the get-go?

Being Catholic is not always easy. It's not always fun, either. Sometimes, you have to make sacrifices that hurt. Sometimes those sacrifices are made for you. Sometimes you understand why, and sometimes you don't. But, as a Catholic, you can be sad without losing hope; you can experience sorrow without falling into despair. The great strength of Catholicism is not that it eliminates suffering, but that it gives our suffering meaning.

There's an old woman who sits, always alone, a few pews ahead of me at church. She never speaks to anyone. She knows all the hymns by heart. And she weeps bitterly through the whole Mass.

When I see her return to her place after having received Our Lord, her eyes are puffy and bloodshot, her nose red and shiny. Before the ciborium is placed back in the tabernacle, she has moved on to her second handkerchief, the first having been utterly demolished during the consecration.

After Mass, she kneels and sobs, sits and sobs, blows her nose a last time, collects her things, and then rises to leave. She always looks exhausted, like she has just returned from the bedside of a terminally ill loved one. There is a hint of a smile on her lips, but the smile is neither for me nor for the other parishioners, with whom she doesn't even try to make eye contact. She's smiling for Our Lord, who is in her heart.

She might be old and wrinkled, but at that moment, she's truly beautiful, positively glowing with love of God. And I love her for it.

If you are a "sad" Catholic, take heart, gentle reader: you're in good company.

Mater Dolorosa, ora pro nobis!

Does Richard Dawkins Exist?

Regular readers will have noticed that things around here have taken a decidedly philosophical turn as of late. I've written several longish articles (see here, here, herehere and here) which I sincerely hope have been able to spark in you an interest in our rich Catholic philosophical heritage. Now, I realize that engaging in the study of philosophy can be a somewhat daunting task, and I'm still looking for ways to make the treasures of Catholic philosophy more readily accessible to those of you whose resources in time and energy may be limited. In the meantime, I would like to keep the flame burning by presenting you with a talk delivered earlier this year by Dr. Dennis Bonnette of the Aquinas School of Philosophy with the delightfully cheeky title Does Richard Dawkins Exist? It's just over an hour long, and it's best enjoyed in one sitting, so try to find some undisturbed time to take it in.

The presentation itself is a very accessible introduction to Aristotelian-Thomist metaphysics. Dr. Bonnette goes about his task by contrasting the Theistic Hylomorphism of the Thomist school with the dominant scientistic philosophy of the day, i.e. Atheistic Materialism. For those of you engaged in apologetics, this video is sure to whet your appetite for more substantial portions. A brief outline of the talk is as follows:

  • Introduction (0:42-2:06)
  • The Case for Atheistic Materialism (2:06-25:10)
  • The Response of Theistic Hylomorphism (25:10-59:20)
  • Conclusion (59:20-1:02:20)

If you enjoyed the video, and would like more of the same, please let me know in the comments section.

Monday, May 18, 2015

In hoc signo perturbes

This post offers only a series of images, and I invite you, gentle reader, to peruse them at your leisure (the images can be viewed in a larger format by clicking on them). I'm not drawing any conclusions from this, and it's not meant to tempt you to wild speculation, either. It's just a starting point for a potentially interesting conversation, either here or elsewhere. Those who feel inspired to research the images further are welcome to add their own insights in the comments section.

Pope Francis

Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga

Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández

Cardinal Chibly Langois

Archbishop Ludwig Schick

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne

Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick

Bishop Edward Scharfenberger

Bishop Myron J. Cotta
Bishop Jaime Soto

Bishop Pierre Nguyên Van Kham

Bishop Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan

Bishop Gabino Zavala (Ret.)*

Bishop David O'Connell

Bishop Luc Van Looy

Bishop Kevin Doran

Bishop Justin Mulenga

Bishop John Conway McNabb

Bishop Moses Hamungole

Bishops Robert Barron, Michael G. O’Connell and Joseph V. Brennan

Bishop Robert Barron
(just making sure)

Newly Recognized Chinese Bishops at Youth Synod 2018

*Note: Bishop Zavala resigned in 2012 after it was discovered that he had two children. The picture is from before his resignation, and is the earliest confirmed sighting thus far. Interesting, no?