Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Maria Regina

The Coronation of the Virgin
Diego Velásquez (1599-1660)

Concede nobis, quaesumus, Domine: ut, qui solemnitatem beatæ Mariae Virginis Reginæ nostrae celebramus; ejus muniti praesidio, pacem in praesenti et gloriam in futuro consequi mereamur.

Grant us, we implore Thee, Lord, that we who keep the festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary our Queen, may, by her assistance, obtain peace in this life and glory in the next.

Monday, May 30, 2016


Forty-Fifth in a Series on Catholic Morality

 Fr. John H. Stapleton

The Eighth Commandment concerns itself with the good name of the neighbor; in a general way, it reproves all sins of the tongue, apart from those already condemned by the Second and Sixth commandments, that is to say, blasphemous and impure speech. It is as a weapon against the neighbor and an instrument of untruth that the tongue is here considered.

By a "good name" is here intended the esteem in which a person is held by his fellow-men. Call it reputation, character, fame, renown, etc., a good name means that the bearer is generally considered above reproach in all matters of honesty, moral integrity and worth. It does not necessarily imply that such esteem is manifested exteriorly by what is technically known as honor, the natural concomitant of a good name; it simply stands for the knowledge entertained by others of our respectability and our title to honor. A good name is therefore one thing; honor is another. And honor consists precisely in that manifestation on the part of our fellows of the esteem and respect in which they hold us, the fruit of our good name, the homage rendered to virtue, dignity and merit. As it may therefore be easily seen, these two things - a good name and honor - differ as much as a sign differs from the thing signified.

The Eighth Commandment protects every man's honor; it condemns contumely, which is an attack upon that honor. Contumely is a sign of contempt which shows itself by attempting to impair the honor one duly receives; it either strives to prevent that honor being paid to the good name that naturally deserves it, or it tries to nullify it by offering just the contrary, which is contumely, more commonly called affront, outrage, or insult.

Now, contumely, as you will remark, does not seek primarily to deprive one of a good name; which it nearly always succeeds in doing, and this is called detraction; but its object is to prevent your good name from getting its desert of respect, your character supposedly remaining intact. The insult offered is intended to effect this purpose. Again, all contumely presupposes the presence of the party affronted; the affront is thrown in one's face, and therein consists the shocking indecency of the thing and its specific malice.

It must be remembered that anger, hatred, the spirit of vengeance or any other passion does not excuse one from the guilt of contumely. On the other hand, one's culpability is not lessened by the accidental fact of one's intended insults going wide of the mark and bearing no fruit of dishonor to the person assailed. To the malice of contumely may, and is often, added that of defamation, if apart from the dishonor received one's character is besmirched in the bargain. Contumely against parents offends at the same time filial piety; against God and His saints, it is sacrilegious; if provoked by the practice of religion and virtue, it is impious. If perpetrated in deed, it may offend justice properly so called; if it occasion sin in others, it is scandalous; if it drive the victim to excesses of any kind, the guilt thereof is shared by the contumelious agent.

Sometimes insult is offered gratuitously, as in the case of the weak, the old, the cripple and other unfortunates who deserve pity rather than mockery; the quality of contumely of this sort is brutal and fiendish. Others will say for justification: "But he said the same, he did the same to me. Can I not defend myself?" That depends on the sort of defense you resort to. All weapons of defense are not lawful. If a man uses evil means to wrong you, there is no justification, in Christian ethics, for you to employ the same means in order to get square, or even to shelter yourself from his abuse. The "eye-for-eye" principle is not recognized among civilized and Christian peoples.

This gross violation of personal respect may be perpetrated in many ways; any expression of contempt, offered to your face, or directed against you through a representative, is contumely. The usual way to do this is to fling vile epithets, to call opprobrious names, to make shameful charges. It is not always necessary that such names and epithets be inapplicable or such charges false, if, notwithstanding, the person in question has not thereby forfeited his right to respect. In certain circumstances, the epithet "fool" may hold all the opprobriousness of contumely: "thief" and "drunkard" and others of a fouler nature may be thus malicious for a better reason. An accusation of immorality in oneself or in one's parents is contumelious in a high degree. Our mothers are a favorite target for the shafts of contumely that through them reach us. Abuse is not the only vehicle of contumely; scorn, wanton ridicule, indecent mockery and caricature that cover the unfortunate victim with shame and confusion serve the purpose as well. To strike one, to spit on one and other ignoble attacks and assaults belong to the same category of crime.

The malice of contumely is not, of course, equal in all cases; circumstances have a great deal to do in determining the gravity of each offense. The more conspicuous a person is in dignity and the more worthy of respect, the more serious the affront offered him; and still more grave the offense, if through him many others are attainted. If again no dishonor is intended and no offense taken, or could reasonably be taken, there is no sin at all. There may be people very low on the scale of respectability as the world judges respectability; but it can never be said of a man or woman that he or she cannot be dishonored, that he or she is beneath contempt. Human nature never forfeits all respect; it always has some redeeming feature to commend it.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Blog Housekeeping

Gentle Reader,

I've fiddled around with the settings for the comment section, and chosen the option to sync comments made here with those made on +Google. This has changed the comment format significantly, though I am uncertain as to whether this is an improvement. I'll leave it like this for a few days to see how things go. If you have tips or suggestions regarding this or any other feature of the blog, please do let me know.

God Bless,


Waiting for Shelob

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Chink in the Armor: An Appendix to A Crisis of Meaning

As I noted in an earlier post, I cut a lot of material from my first draft of the article published yesterday at OnePeterFive on the role of Sacred Scripture in the rise of Modernism. In the list of papal actions provided in Part II, the last item mentioned was Pope Pius XII's Divino Afflante Spiritu. Here's the part that explains how this document represents a turning point in the battle of the Popes against Modernism:

A Chink in the Armor:
Biblical Inerrancy and Divino Afflante Spiritu

That all 73 books included in the canon of Sacred Scripture are entirely free from error is the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church, having been universally proclaimed since the Age of the Fathers.[1] Pope Leo XIII restated this teaching, underscoring its infallibility as part of the Universal Magisterium, in his 1893 encyclical Providentissimus Deus as follows:
For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican.[2]
Commenting on this and related passages in Providentissimus Deus, Pope Benedict XV noted with grief in his encyclical Spiritus Paraclitus that, despite Leo XIII’s clear and emphatic instruction, attacks against the doctrine of biblical inerrancy were being launched from within the Church itself:
But although these words of Our predecessor leave no room for doubt or dispute, it grieves Us to find that not only men outside, but even children of the Catholic Church – nay, what is a peculiar sorrow to Us, even clerics and professors of sacred learning – who in their own conceit either openly repudiate or at least attack in secret the Church’s teaching on this point. We warmly commend, of course, those who, with the assistance of critical methods, seek to discover new ways of explaining the difficulties in Holy Scripture, whether for their own guidance or to help others. But We remind them that they will only come to miserable grief if they neglect Our predecessor’s injunctions and overstep the limits set by the Fathers. Yet no one can pretend that certain recent writers really adhere to these limitations. For while conceding that inspiration extends to every phrase – and, indeed, to every single word of Scripture – yet, by endeavoring to distinguish between what they style the primary or religious and the secondary or profane element in the Bible, they claim that the effect of inspiration – namely, absolute truth and immunity from error – are to be restricted to that primary or religious element. Their notion is that only what concerns religion is intended and taught by God in Scripture, and that all the rest – things concerning “profane knowledge,” the garments in which Divine truth is presented – God merely permits, and even leaves to the individual author’s greater or less knowledge. Small wonder, then, that in their view a considerable number of things occur in the Bible touching physical science, history and the like, which cannot be reconciled with modern progress in science![3]
As the above passage makes clear, Benedict XV was well acquainted with the Modernist plan to weaken the doctrine of biblical inerrancy by the introduction of a distinction between matter pertaining to faith and morals on the one hand and matter pertaining to the historical record and physical science on the other. It was a distinction called for by the Modernists of the late 19th century, such as Charles A. Briggs, A. Leslie Lilley and Alfred Loisy[4]– the last of whom was excommunicated by Pope St. Pius X (†1914) in 1908. Despite Benedict XV’s explicit rejection of this plan – the point-by-point refutation extends over several lengthy paragraphs[5] – the distinction upon which it turned nonetheless found explicit mention and, as the Modernists would later interpret it, implicit approval in Pius XII’s Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943):
Hence this special authority – or, as they say, authenticity – of the Vulgate was not affirmed by the Council [of Trent] particularly for critical reasons, but rather because of its legitimate use in the Churches throughout so many centuries; by which use indeed the same is shown, in the sense in which the Church has understood and understands it, to be free from any error whatsoever in matters of faith and morals [emphasis added].[6]
The limiting effect of the final clause – presumably appended by Augustin Cardinal Bea,[7] who, together with Jacques-Marie Voste, O.P., was largely responsible for the drafting of the encyclical – is as obvious as it is potentially devastating: if the inerrancy of the Latin Vulgate – i.e., the canonically approved normative edition of Sacred Scripture – is to be described as obtaining “in matters of faith and morals,” the question naturally arises as to whether it is equally free from error in matters not pertaining to faith and morals, e.g. those pertaining to the historical record and the natural world – a notion the very suggestion of which could only represent a tremendous victory for the Modernists.

It is certainly possible to argue that, as the passage in question is dealing with the critical estimation of the Latin Vulgate as one among many editions of Sacred Scripture, the phrase “in matters of faith and morals” does not intend to limit in any way the inerrancy of Holy Writ as regards its substance; rather, it merely intends to acknowledge that the received edition of the Vulgate – like all texts which have been passed down through countless generations – can be improved in regards to its form by careful critical evaluation – for example, through comparison with older or newly discovered manuscripts. This is doubtless the manner in which Pius XII understood and promulgated it, for he goes on to say that the exegete must undertake his interpretation of God’s word “in full accord with the doctrine of the Church, in particular with the traditional teaching regarding the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture, and which will, at the same time, satisfy the indubitable conclusion of profane sciences.”[8]

Nonetheless, the wording and placement of the phrase could not have been more opportune for the enemies of the traditional teaching on plenary inerrancy. It signaled a way around the dogma which did not require denying it outright. A chink in the armor which had been carefully crafted by every Pope since Gregory XVI to defend the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture had been found, and the Modernists knew exactly how to exploit it during the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council.

The original schema of the planned Dogmatic Constitution treating Divine Revelation, which was drawn up by the Preparatory Theological Commission in 1960 and presented to the Central Preparatory Commission for approval the following year, summarized the authentic magisterial teaching on biblical inerrancy as follows:
Because Divine Inspiration extends to everything, the absolute immunity of all Holy Scripture from error follows directly and necessarily. For we are taught by the ancient and constant faith of the Church that it is utterly forbidden to grant that the sacred author Himself has erred, since Divine Inspiration of itself necessarily excludes and repels any error in any matter, religious or profane, as it is necessary to say that God, the supreme Truth, is never the author of any error whatever.[9]
Three things are noteworthy in regard to this passage: (1) the perennial doctrine of plenary inerrancy was clearly and emphatically presented as such; (2) the phrase “in any matter, religious or profane,” an allusion to and rejection of the distinction proposed by the Modernists, was included; (3) the last phrase, i.e. “of any error whatever,” is actually drawn from Divino Afflante Spiritu – as indicated in footnote 7 of chapter 2 – but without the caveat “in matters of faith and morals.” It would appear that the members of the Preparatory Theological Commission, headed by the notoriously conservative Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, preferred to treat the dubious phrase as charitably as possible – by ignoring it completely.

When the schema was presented for deliberation by the Council Fathers in 1962, a fierce conflict broke out. Spearheaded by Franz Cardinal König of Vienna, who spoke on behalf of the Germanic contingent, a number of progressive prelates came forward to express their reservations regarding the traditional teaching on biblical inerrancy. Cardinal König himself was so brazen as to flatly assert that Sacred Scripture contains numerous positive errors pertaining to history and natural science, and that the Constitution must, as a result, limit the application of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy to matters of faith and morals alone.[10] More than 180 Council Fathers – a small but nonetheless significant minority – stood firmly against any caveat being added to the text which could be seen as limiting the scope of the teaching in the way proposed by Cardinal König. When the assembly eventually split into irreconcilable factions over this and similar matters, Pope John XXIII personally intervened by ordering a new schema be drafted under the joint supervision of Cardinal Ottoviani and Cardinal Bea. The document would go through a total of 5 major revisions – the third of which saw the participation of a young Fr. Joseph Ratzinger – before being passed in the Fourth Session by a vote of 2,344 to 6. The final version of the paragraph treating biblical inerrancy reads as follows:
Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of our salvation [emphasis added]. Therefore “all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind.”[11]
As the final vote indicates, nearly all of those Council Fathers who initially objected to König’s proposal allowed themselves to be convinced that this phrasing was sufficiently amenable to an orthodox interpretation; the appending of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 to the paragraph apparently allayed all fears that “that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of our salvation” was, in reality, nothing more than a different way of saying “in matters of faith and morals.” As for the more than 2,100 Council Fathers who didn’t object to Cardinal König’s proposal, it seems they were either unconcerned with or even approving of the possibility of the magisterial teaching on biblical inerrancy being effectively eviscerated in favor of a position previously condemned as heretical.[12]

In any case, the fact that a high-ranking prelate could stand in assembly with his brother bishops and speak out against an infallible teaching of the Magisterium, and have the overwhelming majority either agree with him or, at least, do nothing to contradict him, is a sobering indication of the breadth of the apostasy in the 1960's, and it confirms the suspicion that the dubious phrase contained in Divino Afflante Spiritu – 20 years before the opening of Vatican II – was not simply an example of poor wording, but was rather placed there as a signal to all who held with Modernism that the tide was turning in their favor. The long wait which began with Gregory XVI and Pius IX was nearing its end; soon, they could let fall the masks of obedience and piety and work openly to realize that dream of the Enlighteners which, as Leo Cardinal Suenens would later observe, really amounted to “the French Revolution in the Church:” Vatican II.


[1] St. Gregory of Nazianz: “We who extend the accuracy of the Spirit to every letter and serif will never admit, for it would be impious to do so, that even the smallest matters were recorded in a careless and hasty manner by those who wrote them down.” Orations, 2:105. Cf. St. Clement of Rome, First Letter to the Corinthians, 45:1-3; St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2:28:2.
[2] Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, §20. Cf. Council of Trent, Fourth Session (1546), Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures; First Vatican Council, Third Session (1870), Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith Dei Filius, §13.
[3] Benedict XV, Spiritus Paraclitus, §§18-19.
[4] Cf. Briggs, Charles A. (1909). “Modernism Mediating the Coming Catholicism,“ in The North American Review, Vol. 189, pp. 879-880; Lilley, A. Leslie (1908). The Programme of Modernism, pp. 15-87; Loisy, Alfred (1912). The Gospel and the Church, pp. 23-52.
[5] Cf. Spiritus Paraclitus. §§17-25.
[6] Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu, §21.
[7] Augustin Bea (1881-1968) was a German Jesuit biblical scholar who served as the first president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. He also served as personal confessor to Pope Pius XII. He was the grand architect of modern ecumenism, and the driving force behind Nostra Aetate.
[8] Divino Afflante Spiritu, §46.
[9] Schema Constitutionis Dogmaticae de Fontibus Revelationis (1961), §12. Joseph A. Komonchak (Trans.)
[10] Cf. Grillmeier, Alois Cardinal (1989). "The Divine Inspiration and the Interpretation of Sacred Scripture," in Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, Vol. 3, pp. 205-206. Also: Zia, Mark Joseph (2006). „The Inerrancy of Scripture and the Second Vatican Council,“ in Faith & Reason, pp. 175-192.
[11] Second Vatican Council, Fourth Session (1965), Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, §11.
[12] The clear parallel to the 2014-2015 Synod on the Family should be obvious to all.

Friday, May 27, 2016

A Crisis of Meaning: Sacred Scripture and the Rise of Modernism

I was recently invited by the good folks over at OnePeterFive to write an article on the role of biblical studies in the Modernist crisis. I've written a few shorter pieces on it over the past year (for example, here and here) but never treated the matter in the depth it deserves. Excited by the idea of writing an article on a subject I'm greatly interested in for a publication I highly respect, I gladly accepted the kind and generous offer. Little did I realize, however, that the first draft of an already limited outline would grow to more than 50 pages, with no end in sight. After making some painful editorial decisions, I pruned everything down to 10 pages and submitted the article for review. The first half of the article was published yesterday, the second half today. I invite all my readers to go check it out:

A Crisis of Meaning:
Sacred Scripture and the Rise of Modernism

Also, I have a lot of material that ended up getting cut out, but which adds depth to some of the points skimmed over or hinted at in the article, due to concerns over length. Provided there is some interest, I will publish some of that material here on the blog over the new few days.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Novena to the Most Sacred Heart

The Feast of the Most Sacred Heart falls on June 3rd this year. Today, therefore, is the day to start a novena in preparation. Any approved prayer to the Sacred Heart can be used for the novena, but I find the following particularly fitting:

Love of the Heart of Jesus, inflame my heart. 
Charity of the Heart of Jesus, abound in my heart. 
Strength of the Heart of Jesus, uphold my heart. 
Mercy of the Heart of Jesus, forgive my heart. 
Patience of the Heart of Jesus, do not weary of my heart. 
Kingdom of the Heart of Jesus, be established in my heart. 
Wisdom of the Heart of Jesus, teach my heart. 
Will of the Heart of Jesus, dispose of my heart. 
Zeal of the Heart of Jesus, consume my heart.

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, pour down Thy blessings abundantly upon Thy holy Church, upon the Supreme Pontiff, and upon all the clergy; give perseverance to the just, convert sinners, enlighten unbelievers, bless our parents, friends, and benefactors, assist the dying, free the souls in purgatory and extend over all hearts the sweet empire of Thy love. Amen.

Immaculate Virgin, pray for us to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Adorable Trinity, we thank Thee for all the favors Thou hast conferred on Thy servant, St. Margaret Mary, and through her intercession, we hope to obtain the graces we ask for in this novena.

The Reign of Commodus and the Martyrs of Scillium

Reading N°49 in the History of the Catholic Church

 Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

Emperor Commodus (180-192)
The Emperor Commodus was a complete antithesis to his father, Marcus Aurelius. He was without any care for the country, without any policy unless that of all tyrants, which consists in confiscating and proscribing through hatred and fear and avarice. Yet, from this inane and blood-thirsty despot, the Christians suffered less than from his upright and intelligent predecessors. At one time, it would seem that his father's spirit was urging him, that the impulse given by Marcus Aurelius was being continued: the blood of martyrs was poured out copiously. At another time, a gentler influence, that of the Christian servants of his palace or the all-powerful prayer of a beloved woman, inclined his fickle soul toward clemency.

The best known episode of the persecutions that raged in Commodus' reign is that of the Scillitan martyrs. The Acts of these martyrs is rightly reckoned among the earliest and most reliable monuments of Christianity antiquity. From it we quote the following:
On the seventeenth day of July [AD 180], when Speratus, Nartallus, Cittinus, Donata, Secunda, and Vestia were brought into the judgment-hall at Carthage, the proconsul Saturninus said: "Ye can win the indulgence of our lord the Emperor if ye return to a sound mind." 
Speratus: "We have never done ill; but when we have received ill, we have given thanks, because we pay heed to our Emperor." 
The Proconsul: "We, too, are religious, and our religion is simple." 
Speratus: "If thou wilt peaceably lend me thine ears, I will tell thee the mystery of simplicity." 
The Proconsul: "I will not lend my ears to thee when thou beginnest to speak evil things of our sacred rites." 
The Proconsul Saturninus said to the rest: "Be not partakers of this folly." 
Cittinus said: "We have none other to fear except only our Lord God, who is in heaven." 
Speratus said: "I am a Christian." And they all agreed with him. 
The Proconsul: "What are the things in your chest?" 
Speratus: "The books and epistles of Paul, a just man." 
The Proconsul: "Have a delay of thirty days and bethink yourselves." 
Speratus: "I am a Christian." And with him all agreed. 
The Proconsul read out the decree from the tablet: "Speratus, Nartallus, Cittinus, Donata, Vestia, Secunda, and the rest who have confessed that they live according to the Christian rite, [...] it is determined, shall be put to the sword." 
Speratus: "We give thanks to God." 
Nartallus: "Today we are martyrs in Heaven; thanks be to God."[1]
Among the Christians martyred under Commodus, mention should be made of the philosopher Apollonius, the senator Julius, and a large number of other confessors of the faith.[2] But the Christians, spreading in increasing numbers through all ranks of society, became numerous at the imperial court. We know, for example, of the aged eunuch Hyacinth, a priest of the Church of Rome. He was the foster-father of that Marcia who was a former slave of a nephew of Marcus Aurelius and entered Commodus' palace as a slave in AD 183, following the confiscation of her master's property. She at once became the favorite of the Emperor, who raised her to the rank and honors of a real wife, except for the title of empress. The tradition is that she greatly favored the Christians and rendered them many kindnesses, inasmuch as she could do anything with Commodus.[3]

St. Victor (185-199)
The author of the Philosophumena relates that one day Marcia, wishing to perform a good work, sent for Pope Victor and asked him for the names of the martyrs who were laboring in the mines of Sardinia. She then obtained letters of pardon, entrusted them to her old friend, the priest Hyacinth, and gave him full powers for carrying out the pardons.

A modification had taken place in the relations of the Empire and the Church. It was not yet, indeed, an official recognition of Christianity, but the summoning of this Pope to the palace to receive a communication touching his Church, and this commission carried by a Christian priest to the procurator of Sardinia, were events that show the social importance acquired by the Church and the notice which the government authorities were taking of her and of her hierarchical organization.


[1] Leclercq, Les Martyrs, I, 109-111. 
[2] St. Irenaeus, Haereses, IV, 33.
[3] Dion Cassius, Roman History, LXXIII, 4.


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Monday, May 23, 2016

Thou Shalt Not Steal

Forty-Fourth in a Series on Catholic Morality

 Fr. John H. Stapleton

The Seventh Commandment is protective of the right of property which is vested in every human being enjoying the use of reason. Property means that which belongs to one, that which is one's own, to have and to hold, or to dispose of, at one's pleasure, or to reclaim in the event of actual dispossession. The right of property embraces all things to which may be affixed the seal of ownership; and it holds good until the owner relinquishes his claim, or forfeits or loses his title without offense to justice. This natural faculty to possess excludes every alien right, and supposes in all others the duty and obligation to respect it. The respect that goes as far as not relieving the owner of his goods is not enough; it must safeguard him against all damage and injury to said goods; otherwise his right is non-existent.

All violations of this right come under the general head of stealing. People call it theft when it is effected with secrecy and slyness; robbery, when there is a suggestion of force or violence. The swindler is he who appropriates another's goods by methods of gross deception or false pretenses while the embezzler transfers to himself the funds entrusted to his care. Petty thieving is called pilfering or filching; stealing on a large scale usually has less dishonorable qualificatives. Boodling and lobbying are called politics; watering stock, squeezing out legitimate competition, is called financiering; wholesale confiscation and unjust conquest is called statesmanship. Give it whatever name you like, it is all stealing; whether the culprit be liberally rewarded or liberally punished, he nevertheless stands amenable to God's justice which is outraged wherever human justice suffers.

Of course the sin of theft has its degrees of gravity, malice and guilt, to determine which, that is, to fix exactly the value of stolen goods sufficient to constitute a grievous fault is not the simplest and easiest of moral problems. The extent of delinquency may be dependent upon various causes and complex conditions. On the one hand, the victim must be considered in himself, and the amount of injury sustained by him; on the other, justice is offended generally in all cases of theft, and because justice is the corner stone of society, it must be protected at all hazards. It is only by weighing judiciously all these different circumstances that we can come to enunciate an approximate general rule that will serve as a guide in the ordinary contingencies of life.

Thus, of two individuals deprived by theft of a same amount of worldly goods, the one may suffer thereby to a much greater extent than the other; he who suffers more is naturally more reluctant to part with his goods, and a greater injustice is done to him than to the other. The sin committed against him is therefore greater than that committed against the other. A rich man may not feel the loss of a dollar, whereas for another less prosperous the loss of less than that sum might be of the nature of a calamity. To take therefore unjustly from a person what to that person is a notable amount is a grievous sin. It is uniformly agreed that it is a notable loss for a man to be unduly deprived of what constitutes a day's sustenance. This is the minimum of grievous matter concerning theft.

But this rule will evidently not hold good applied on a rising scale to more and more extensive fortunes; for a time would come when it would be possible without serious guilt to appropriate good round sums from those abundantly blessed with this world's goods.

The disorders necessarily attendant on such a moral rule are only too evident; and it is plain that the law of God cannot countenance abuses of this nature. Justice therefore demands that there be a certain fixed sum beyond which one may not go without incurring serious guilt; and this, independent of the fortune of the person who suffers. Theologians have fixed that amount approximately, in this country, at five dollars. This means that when such a sum is taken, in all cases, the sin is mortal. It is not always necessary, it is seldom necessary, that one should steal this much in order to offend grievously; but when the thief reaches this amount, be his victim ever so wealthy, he is guilty of grave injustice.

This rule applies to all cases in which the neighbor is made to suffer unjustly in his lawful possessions; and it effects all wrongdoers whether they steal or destroy another's goods or co-operate efficaciously in such deeds of sin. It matters not whether the harm be wrought directly or indirectly, since in either case there may be moral fault; and it must be remembered that gross negligence may make one responsible as well as malice aforethought.

The following are said to co-operate in crime to the extent of becoming joint-partners with the principal agent in guilt: those in whose name the wrong is done, in obedience to their orders or as a result of any other means employed; those who influence the culprit by suggesting motives and reasons for his crime or by pointing out efficient means of arriving thereat; those who induce others to commit evil by playing on their weaknesses thereby subjecting them to what is known as moral force; those who harbor the thief and conceal his stolen property against their recovery; those whose silence is equivalent to approbation, permission or official consent; those finally who before, during or after the deed, abstain from performing a plain duty in preventing, deterring or bringing to justice the guilty party. Such persons as the foregoing participate as abettors in crime and share all the guilt of the actual criminals; sometimes the former are even more guilty than the latter.

The Tenth Commandment which forbids us to covet our neighbor's goods, bears the same relation to the Seventh as the Ninth does to the Sixth. It must, however, be borne in mind that all such coveting supposes injustice in desire, that is, in the means by which we desire to obtain what is not ours. To wish for, to long ardently for something that appeals to one's like and fancy is not sinful; the wrong consists in the desire to acquire it unjustly, to steal it, and thereby work damage unto the neighbor. It is a natural weakness in man to be dissatisfied with what he has and to sigh after what he has not; very few of us are free from this failing. But so long as our cravings and hankerings are not tainted with injustice, we are innocent of evil.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Martyrs of Lyons

Reading N°48 in the History of the Catholic Church

 Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

Divine Providence has permitted the preservation of one of the most exquisite accounts of martyrdom of which the Church can boast. It is recorded in a document of unquestioned authenticity, the letter written in AD 177 by the Churches of Lyons and Vienne to the Churches of Asia and Phrygia.[1] Even Renan, in presence of this memorable document, was unable to restrain his deep feeling. He says:
It is one of the most extraordinary pieces that any literature possesses. Never has a more impressive picture been drawn of the lofty enthusiasm and devotion to which human nature can attain. It is the ideal of martyrdom, with the least possible boasting on the part of the martyrs.[2]
The city of Lyons was at that time the administrative metropolis of the three provinces of the Gauls. The representatives of sixty-four peoples resided there, as in a federal city. The worship of Rome and Augustus, in the charge of a high priest representing the three Gallic provinces, was there conducted with the greatest solemnity. It has been said that, at the very time when in the Eternal City the Roman religion seemed to be retreating before the advance of philosophy, it was establishing a mighty center for itself in the great Gallic city.[3] Furthermore, the stream of commerce which had long since developed between the ports of Asia Minor and the Gallic cities of the Rhone had, by the very force of things, become a field of fruitful apostolate. The Christian communities of Lyons and Vienne were increased by the addition of Syrian and Phrygian elements that brought, along with the Christian traditions of the East, a constant renewal of vitality.

St. Pothinus of Lyons
An aged and venerable bishop governed the Church of Lyons in the middle of the second century: Pothinus. His principal helper, his right hand as it were, was Irenaeus. Both were natives of Asia. Both of them, too, had been disciples of Papias and Polycarp, who in turn were disciples of St. John. The Church of Lyons was nourished with the purest doctrine by an active correspondence with the churches of Asia, and it radiated its light. Archeological monuments indicate, if not a strict filiation, at least some religious dependence between the churches of Autun, Langres, Chalons, Tournus, Dijon, and the Church of Lyons.[4]

The Roman colony had its center at Fourvières; the famous altar where the worship of Rome and Augustus was celebrated was at the confluence of the Rhone and the Saône. The center of the Christian population was probably on the islands of the confluence, near Athanacum, now Ainai.

Between the two religions, Christian and pagan, a clash was inevitable. This appeared the more imminent since a floating population of laborers, clerks, people who were rich and poor, idle and busy by turns, according to the fluctuations of commerce, was ever ready to foment disturbances. In 177, this popular agitation, for some unknown reason, was suddenly turned against the Christians. The Christians were publicly insulted. In the streets, on the country roads, in the public places, they were attacked, stones were thrown at them. It may be that the native Lyonese confused the Christians and their mysterious ceremonies with those gross Gnostics who had been brought to the great city of the Gauls by the commercial activity of Asia. Unhappily, the Roman authorities were unconcerned with repressing these enmities or dispelling these misunderstandings. In the absence of the imperial legate, the tribune and the duumvirs attempted merely to put an end to the agitation by arresting a number of those whom popular report designated as Christians.

Among those whom they imprisoned were the venerable Bishop Pothinus, the priest Zachary, the deacon Sanctus, the neophyte Maturus, Attalus of Pergamus, a young female slave, Blandina, and several other Christians. One of them was placed under arrest at the first sitting of the court. This was Vettius Epagathus, a young man of noble birth and great virtue. Affected by the tortures that were being inflicted upon the accused, he gave vent to his indignation and requested that he should be heard in defense of his brethren, while he ventured to assert that there was nothing at variance with religion or piety among them. But the judge only asked whether he also were a Christian. He confessed and was thereupon transferred to the ranks of the accused.

Amphitéâtre des Trois-Gaules, Lyon, France. The column
standing in the arena is a memorial to the Holy Martyrs
killed for the Faith during the persecution.
Meanwhile, the imperial legate returned to Lyons. The trial continued. At first, the slaves of the accused were brought forward and put to the torture. When urged by the soldiers, says our document, "they falsely accused us of Thyestean feasts and Oedipodean incests, and things which it is not right for us either to speak of or to think of."[5] These abominable lies added to the popular rage. But every effort was made to obtain a confession of these crimes from the accused themselves. In the amphitheater, before an infuriated multitude thirsting for the sight of blood, the Christians were scourged, placed in hot iron chairs, thrown to wild beasts that dragged them around the arena, in short, subjected to every torture that the maddened crowd demanded. The deacon Sanctus, from whom they tried to force a revelation of the secrets of the Church, would say nothing more than, "I am a Christian." Not another word could be extracted from him. The executioners then exercised their fury upon the slave Blandina. She was short and feeble. Her fellow-Christians, especially her mistress (also among the accused), were apprehensive lest she should weaken. But she was heroic. For a whole day, she endured the most atrocious tortures, repeatedly saying: "I am a Christian woman, and nothing wicked happens among us."

The greatest anguish of the accused was not the thought of torture; it was the fear that some of their brethren might prove weak and deny Christ. Ten of them actually did so. But every day, the arrests continued. Loyal Christians filled the places left vacant by the apostates. Our document tells us that those who resisted showed no arrogance or contempt toward these weak brethren. They condemned no one, but merely wept and prayed. They humbled themselves beneath the hand of God, to whom they owed their constancy; if anyone called them martyrs, they would not accept this title, saying that those only are martyrs who have confessed Christ to the very end.

The attitude of Pothinus, the venerable head of the Church of Lyons, was sublime. The legate asked him who was the God of the Christians. The Bishop replied: "If you are worthy, you will know." He was beaten unmercifully; the populace threw at him whatever they could lay hands on. Half-dead, he was thrown into a dungeon, where he expired two days later.

In fine, those who were found to be Roman citizens were sentenced to be beheaded; the others were destined for the beasts.

A fifteen-year-old boy named Ponticus, and the slave Blandina, were kept for the last. It was hoped that, after they had witnessed all the sufferings of their brethren, they would weaken. But both of them showed admirable strength. The most refined torture was inflicted upon the boy. The tender words of Blandina aided him, with the grace of God, to remain constant to the end.

Blandina now alone remained.
After scourging, after the beasts, after the gridiron, she was at last put in a net and thrown to a bull. She was tossed about a long time by the beast, having no more feeling for what happened to her through her hope and hold on what had been entrusted to her and her converse with Christ. And so she, too, was sacrificed, and the heathen themselves confessed that never before among them had a woman suffered so much and so long.[6]

The martyrdom of St. Blandina

Forty-eight martyrs died thus in the metropolis of the Gauls.[7]

The letter of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne, from which we have taken the details of this martyrdom, closes with these words:
Divine grace did not fail the martyrs; the Holy Ghost dwelt in their midst.
The Acts of St. Felicitas, of St. Justin, in fact, nearly all the Acts of this period, close with a triumphant doxology: "Glory to God unto all ages!" Of the two powers that clashed in the great Gallic city as in the capital of the Empire, it was the Christian power that triumphed. More and more, the Empire was visibly nearing its fall.

Marcus Aurelius observed this. The philosopher in him vainly resisted through sheer duty, saying:
Let the god that is in thee be lord of a living creature that is manly and of full age [...] as one who awaits the signal of recall from life in all readiness.[8]
If this meditative prince, transformed into a man of action during part of his reign, could have penetrated the future, he would have spoken with still greater bitterness the words he addressed to the tribune who came to his tent for the last time to ask for instructions:
Go to the rising sun; I am setting.
From all sides, barbarous races were pressing on the Roman frontiers. In their rear, the great nation of the Goths was beginning to move forward. Upon all these races, who were soon to give the death-blow to the Roman colossus, the rising sun of the Gospel was casting its rays. Perchance the philosopher-prince had some foreboding of the future of the world when, in his last hour, with a gesture that was more despairing than stoical, he turned his head from his son Commodus and covered his face so as to see no one, and to die alone.


[1] With the exception of Ernest Havet, whose extraordinary bias is well known, all historians who have written of the early centuries of the Church, both ancient historians and modern - e. g., Tillemont, Renan, Harnack, Aube, Gaston Boissier, Duchesne - regard this letter as undoubtedly genuine.
[2] Renan, Marc-Aurèle, p. 340.
[3] Boissier, Inscriptions antiques de Lyon, p. 407; Bernard, Le Temple d'Auguste et fa nationalité gauloise, p. 30.
[4] Tillemont, Mémoires, III, 35 ff.; cf. Bulliot, Essai historique .sur l'abbaye de Saint-Martin d'Autun, pp. 47-50.
[5] Eusebius, H. E., V, i, 14.
[6] Ibidem, no. 56.
[7] Their names will be found in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum (ed. De Rossi-Duchesne), p. 73, and in Leclercq, Les Martyrs, I, 106 f. About half of the martyrs have Greek names, and about half, Latin. From this fact we may infer a similar numerical proportion among the Christians of Lyons.
[8] Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, III, 5.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

On Apples and Hand Grenades, or the Virtue of Religious Conquest

Some people - among whom are folks I respect - are getting their panties in a twist over an admittedly tasteless parallel recently drawn by Pope Francis between Mohammed's commandment to wage war on the infidels (Al-Baqarah 191-3) and Christ's commandment to go out and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20):
La Croix: The fear of accepting migrants is partly based on a fear of Islam. In your view, is the fear that this religion sparks in Europe justified? 
Pope Francis: Today, I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam. It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew's Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.
As far as Modernist 'coexist' agitprop goes, this is pretty standard fare: 'Don't condemn the Koran just because it can be interpreted as enjoining religious conquest. The same thing can be said of the Bible, you know.' At which point, the listener is supposed to say: 'Gee, I guess you're right. How could I have been so hypocritical?' While mind-numbingly facile, this argument actually works more often than not. Go figure.

Much of the outrage has been directed towards the parallel itself, which the editor-in-chief of one respectable Catholic blog rejected as "non-existent." And I get the point: a command issued by a murderous pedophile to enslave, rape and murder non-Muslims can't really be compared to Christ's command to teach and make disciples. A case of apples and hand grenades painted to look like oranges.

While I sympathize, I think this criticism misses the mark. The truly disturbing aspect of the Pope's statement is the unspoken rejection of all forms of religious conquest inherent in it.

As I've said before, the problem with Muslim fundamentalists is not their fundamentalism, but rather their devotion to an evil creed. Similarly, the problem with jihad is not that it is religious conquest, but that it uses deception, violence and terror to spread that evil creed. Religious fundamentalism is a virtue, provided that it is in the service of divine truth. Religious conquest is a noble undertaking, provided that it uses legitimate means for the spreading of God's Kingdom.

If your take away from each news item reporting yet another act of Islamic terrorism is that it was caused by religious fundamentalism, you've bought into the lie of relativism.

Religious fundamentalism is not the problem. The problem is Islam.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

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 13, 2016

Heaven: The Triumph of Grace

Last in a Series on the Life of Grace

 Fr. Raphael M. Moss, O.P.

Gratia Dei vita aeterna! In the last of our Conferences on Grace, we pointed out that the works of God, in the lives and souls of His creatures, may be looked at in two ways. We may consider them according to their pre-existence in the eternal all-seeing mind of God, as determined by His will, or we may study them as they are in themselves, in their varied order and succession, the many changes they undergo, their actions and sufferings, as they gradually develop and finally attain the purpose of their being, or fail in its accomplishment. We were then considering man's supernatural life from the former point of view, whereas, in these conferences, we have confined ourselves to the latter, since our purpose was, as we stated, to contemplate the workings of this supernatural life, to understand the sources of its power and energy, the means to which it has recourse in times of weakness and failure, and the consequences of final triumph or defeat. By this route we have once more arrived at the term; we are once more face to face with that most glorious supernatural end for which God made us, the perfect knowledge, love, and possession of Himself! Gratia Dei vita aeterna. The grace of God is everlasting life!

Man has an instinctive hope of a higher and nobler life than this world can give, and the groundwork of this hope is his faith in a future state. We appealed to this universal belief when we were speaking of eternal punishment, for, as we then pointed out, it is not merely the idea of a future state which reason puts before us, but a future state of happiness or misery, reward or punishment, according to the life we live here below. For man, as a reasonable being and gifted, therefore, with understanding and free-will, is the master of his own acts, and deliberately chooses for himself the paths he intends to pursue. In other words, there is and must be some clear and definite end before his mind, moving him to this or that particular course of action; and it is the moral goodness or badness of the purpose he has in view which specifies his action, and stamps it as good or bad in the moral order.

But common sense forbids us to suppose an indefinite series of such incentives to action. There must be what we call a last end, an end in which the will of man finds all that it can desire, and to which in reality all other ends are but as means. And what is this last end? According to St. Thomas, it is nothing less than perfect happiness, for nothing less than that can satisfy the heart of man; and hence it is that all men are of one accord in seeking happiness, though, as we must confess, all are not agreed as to how and where this happiness may be found. Some would have us seek it in the paths of honor and glory, or in the possession of abundant riches, and the enjoyment of the many pleasures of mind and body that are their fruits; but the voice of nature is not easily silenced, and it tells us very clearly that it was not for such things as these that we came forth from nothingness, crowned with such manifold gifts. No created good can give us perfect happiness. The good we seek is limitless and boundless - nothing less, therefore, than the source of all good, God Himself, who alone can satisfy our desire with good things.

It surely cannot be denied that life would be a dismal failure if this world were the end of all. Quite apart from what we learn by faith, a daily experience burns in upon the soul the knowledge of that conflict between the opposing powers of good and evil, ever waging in us and around us, and so frequently resulting in the triumph of the latter. The many so-called "social problems" are evidence of this. Something has gone wrong somewhere, causing suffering and sorrow as a necessary consequence, and against this all our natural instincts rise in obstinate revolt, urging us to do our best to set things right, even though we feel we know not how or where to begin. For we are convinced that suffering and injustice cannot be the normal condition of things. Bishop Hedley notes:
It is one of the strong proofs of God's existence, and man's immortality, that there lies in the heart of every human being the inextinguishable conviction or inspiration that evil can not finally triumph.
We cannot believe that so many millions of our race have lived and suffered and died in vain. We cannot persuade ourselves, no matter how we try, that so many brave, enduring men and loving women have borne the burden of the day and the heats, only to rest for ever in the grave! The very thought of it makes our hearts ache, and it would be but a poor and empty consolation to say to ourselves: "All this is fate, all this is the result of hopeless necessity and must go on for ever, and the only prospect before us is the nothingness of death." It cannot be! It is against the instincts of our reason, and the dictates of our common sense, ever loudly protesting that there must come a time when virtue is rewarded and vice punished, and when justice reigns supreme. We talk about "success" and "failure" in this life, but no matter how sincerely we may wish to talk, there is deep in our hearts a strange uneasy consciousness that the words are but conventional. They might possibly change places, we cannot help thinking, if right were might, and we feel that a day will come when they may be transposed for good and all. It is this hope of better things which makes our lives worth living, and enables us to solve its puzzling riddles and endure its heavy burdens. Look at that wonderful story put before us by Holy Scripture, which by its very pathos, no less than by its moral grandeur, has become so familiar to all of us as well nigh to have grown into a proverb, the story of Job and his sufferings. We should utterly miss its real lesson were we to imagine that it had been handed down through the long ages merely to teach us patience under trial. The heart of its teaching is disclosed to us in the magnificent profession of faith and hope uttered by an innocent man in the hour of his abasement, when sorrow and misunderstanding had crushed him to the very earth:
I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that at the last day I shall rise out of the earth and be clothed again with my body, and in my flesh I shall see my God, whom I myself shall see, and my eyes shall behold, and not another: this my hope is laid up in my bosom.
For our experience of life, at all events, but rarely brings us face to face with sufferings so mani fold, and, of their very nature, so ennobling as those which were laid upon him. What we see is in every way more vulgar and more commonplace, of the sort imagined so vividly and expressed so powerfully by a well-known modern writer in words which we may be allowed to quote in full:
Thou knowest my life, God, that I was poor, so poor, and unlovely and alone! And each day I awoke so weary that I had scarce the strength to struggle up that I might go forth to work for the day's bread. And night after night I laid me down so tired, too tired to sleep. And, as I lay, the unendurable thought of the burden which I must take up on the morrow, and every morrow, and the still more unendurable thought of dying, and being thrust down among foul and rolling things into black nothingness and decay, set my heart leaping like the heart of the hunted and desperate creature which hears the hounds behind it, but sees no nook or cranny into which to creep that it may escape their cruel fangs.
But if this be a true picture of countless lives, and it most surely is, who could look upon it and realize its utter misery, and then profess his faith in the existence of Almighty God, unless that same firm faith in God assured him that the sufferings of this life were not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed? For faith in God implies belief in a God of infinite power, infinite wisdom, and infinite love. It was this faith which nerved the heart of Job and upheld him in his hour of tribulation; and it was this faith which enabled him to pass through the furnace of trial, seven times heated though it was; a faith, a belief, within the reach of our poor ordinary efforts also, a knowledge we possess in common with him by virtue of our common humanity. Once again then, as ever, we see our faith and reason walking hand in hand, showing us the same truth, enforcing the same lesson, for whilst reason so unfalteringly asserts the existence of another life beyond the grave, in which its natural instincts place all that is good and beautiful and true, faith stands by its side to help it and confirm it, by declaring that the good and true and beautiful for which we long is in reality infinite in perfection, being none other than the Goodness, Truth and Beauty of the infinite God Himself. This is the great truth we have now to examine, the nature of that Heaven, placed before us by divine revelation, when it bids us ever to incline our hearts to keep God s justifications, because of the reward. What, then, do we mean by Heaven, and what does our faith teach us about it?

Heaven is the beautiful dwelling place of the Sacred Humanity of Jesus, the everlasting home prepared from before the foundation of the world for those of God's creatures who should be found worthy of a share in its blessedness. Its gates were first thrown open when the trial of the angels was accomplished and the light of the vision of God burst upon the intelligences of those who had persevered. But they, like God Himself, were purely spiritual, and therefore we may say that it was not until our Blessed Lord ascended from the Mount of Olives and enthroned His human nature at the right hand of the Father, that Heaven became, as He Himself described it, and as we now love to think of it, the many mansions of our Father's house. Where in the mighty universe this land of happiness may lie we do not know, for God has not revealed it to us; but it would be a great mistake to hastily conclude that therefore we know nothing, and that all that we can say is purely fanciful. Though, for His own good reasons, God has left us ignorant as to where it is, He tells us clearly what it is, and from the high mountain of revealed truth, as from another Nebo, we can see the promised land; and no matter how many years of wandering in the desert lie before us, we can, whenever we wish, refresh our wearied hearts and spur on our lagging footsteps, by turning our eyes towards that world of happiness where God will be all in all.

The very first truth impressed upon the minds of her children by the Catholic Church is that God has created us to His own likeness, marking our souls with the seal of His own adorable image that we might know and understand the purpose of our creation, that we might realize our own great task of living for Him and for His glory, and so give back to God the things that are God's. It is in this likeness or resemblance to its Creator that the perfection of the rational creature consists, being gradually worked out and developed in this life and only finished and completed when the veil is drawn aside and the soul sees its Maker face to face. "When He shall appear," says the apostle, "we shall be like unto Him, because we shall see Him as He is." For this resemblance to God consists in knowing Him and loving Him, according to our limited capabilities, as He knows and loves Himself; and hence we see at once that it can only be found in the intellectual part of our nature, since it is only by means of our intellectual powers that we are capable of knowledge and love. But for the sake of clearness, we may distinguish in it three grades of intensity.

All men are capable of knowing and loving their Creator, because all possess the same human nature, made up of a body and a reasonable soul, and this aptitude or capability constitutes the first grade, which St. Thomas justly calls the likeness of nature. But many souls have more. In them, the divine resemblance deepens into what the Angelic Doctor calls the likeness of grace, and this consists, as we have seen in our former conferences, in that habitual union with God which supposes and is based upon the more or less intimate knowledge and love existing in souls made beautiful by faith, hope and charity. In this world, however, for many obvious reasons, it cannot attain its full perfection, and hence there remains the likeness of glory, which is to be the reward of God's servants in the life to come. We want to see the full significance of this and the manner of its accomplishment.

We said that this likeness of the soul to God was the groundwork of its perfection, and that it was to be found in the intellectual powers of the soul. This is equally the case whether we are speaking of the likeness of nature or the likeness of grace; and it is a truth which we learnt in the pages of our Catechism, when we were taught to recognize the divine likeness in our soul in its triple power of understanding, memory and will. But because glory, like grace, far from destroying nature, really and truly perfects it, we must apply the same teaching to the life of the soul in the world to come, and we shall find that the ultimate perfection which it there attains consists in the perfection of these same intellectual powers, for there God Himself gives to the understanding the fullness of light, the fullness of peace to the will and to the memory the fullness of eternity.

In Heaven, God will be to the mind the fullness of light. What do we mean by this? "While we are in the body," says St. Paul, "we are pilgrims from the Lord." We are separated from Him who is our last end, exiles from our Father's house, wanderers in a foreign land. This is a truth borne in upon us by the beautiful things of this world which surround us on every side, no less than by the many sorrows and miseries of which we were just now speaking. For when God made the world, He blessed it, because He saw that it was good; and though man's sin provoked His curse and covered the earth with the thorns and briars of suffering, yet it was not wholly spoiled. It is not all sorrow and misery. To quote once more the eloquent writer already referred to:
Who of us can truly say of our lives that the evil was greater than the good? That the gladness was less than the grief? For every tear that starts to the eye, our lips have worn a thousand smiles. Love and friendship, and little children, fields and flowers, sea and sky, sunshine and starlight, have made life glad and beautiful.
But all these things are meant to lead us on to God. By their very beauty, their varied perfections, their attractiveness, they speak to us of Him who formed and fashioned them, and gave them to us, the divine, almighty Artist, the tender Father, whose goodness and beauty they so faintly shadow forth. Sadness and sorrow and the many wearinesses of life drive us to God; the joys and pleasures of earth are meant to draw us to Him. We cannot rest in them, even if we try, for we were not made for them, beautiful as they may be, but for Him who is reflected in them. Hence St. Paul says so justly that we see God now as in a looking-glass, and that cannot satisfy us, nor shall we ever be satisfied until His glory shall appear and we stand face to face with the Creator of all, for in that clear vision of Him, and in that alone, can we find perfect happiness.

To prove this same great truth, St. Thomas lays down two most certain principles:
Man is never perfectly happy as long as one unsatisfied desire remains within his soul, and then, in the next place, the perfection of every faculty is always in proportion to its attainment of its object.
From these two principles, the Angelic Doctor concludes that man's ultimate and perfect happiness can be nothing less than the unclouded vision of God, for, he argues, if our intellect be cognizant of some effect, without knowing anything of its cause beyond its mere existence, it must necessarily desire a fuller knowledge and endeavor to obtain it, since its perfection depends upon the completeness with which it apprehends its object. Hence, to know the created things around us, and yet to know nothing of their Creator save the bare fact of His existence, would make real happiness impossible. The mind demands and necessarily requires a full and perfect knowledge of the first great cause, and in this knowledge of its Maker and the union with Him which it implies, finds perfect happiness. This, and nothing less than this, is the attainment of its last end, the satisfaction of all its desires, and therefore theologians call it the "Beatific Vision," or the sight that makes us happy.

It may seem at first sight that we are no nearer than when we began, and that we are attempting to explain what is in reality totally beyond us. We talk about the "Beatific Vision," but the words hardly convey any definite idea to our minds. As far as this life is concerned, we are met by the words of Holy Writ assuring us that "no man hath seen God at any time," and we cannot forget that most striking scene in the Book of Exodus, where Moses, the chosen friend and servant of God, buoyed up by the wonderful condescensions of his Maker, pleaded and entreated for this very grace. "If I have favour in Thy sight, shew me Thy face, shew me Thy glory." And God replied: "Thou canst not see My face, for no man can see Me and live. But when My glory shall pass, I will set thee in a cleft of the rock, and protect thee with My right hand until I pass, and I will take away My hand, and thou shalt see My back, but My face thou canst not see." St. Paul, too, was caught up into what he calls the third heaven, and he tells us that what he saw may not be put in words, and that over and above there was something which eye hath never seen, nor ear heard, nor heart of man imagined. Truly, it would seem that the silence of prayer were more fitted for such a subject than the heaping together of words, and yet our faith falters not nor trembles, but contemplates the revealed truths of God, and shows us clearly and definitely the happiness of our heavenly home.

The "Beatific Vision," then, which makes heaven what it is, is nothing less than the sight of God face to face; that is to say, it is an intellectual act by which the soul attains its last end, and, having attained it, is filled with the joy of possessing it; and our Blessed Lord Himself would seem to impress this wonderful truth upon us when He asserts so solemnly:
This is eternal life, to know Thee, the true God.
In this life we know God by faith; but in eternity, when "that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away," and "the glory of the Lord shall be revealed." When we were speaking of faith, we showed that, since all supernatural truth is of its very nature far beyond the reach of a created mind unless its natural powers be supplemented by divine assistance, it was necessary that God should give to the mind that supernatural help we call the "light of faith" - a "light" because it manifests; a "light of faith" because the truths so manifested put forward no intrinsic evidence. But in Heaven, all is changed. The veils that tried us so much in this life are drawn aside, the deepest mysteries are made clear, they flood the mind with the brightness of their evidence, and faith is lost in knowledge. Yet human nature is not changed. Its powers are ever finite, and God is infinite, and therefore, in the place of faith, another supernatural help is given which we call the "light of glory." By this most wonderful gift, the mind of man is lifted up and strengthened, and so endowed with power from on high, that the poor trembling soul may gaze upon the unveiled glory of God, the eternal fountain of all life and all knowledge, hitherto hidden in light unapproachable, and man sees God and lives!

But we cannot know God and see His infinite perfections without instantly cleaving to Him, and preferring Him above all things, and hence the immediate consequence of the vision of God is an unending act of love. To see God face to face and not love Him would be as impossible as to pass in to a glowing furnace and not feel the heat. In this life, it is very different. By the fall of our first parents, not to speak of our own repeated falls, our wills have become weakened, and a sad experience teaches us that, though our conscience may tell us what is right, our poor weak wills may turn to what is wrong, and as long as life lasts, so long will this struggle continue, and always shall we lean to sin and evil, and always shall we shrink from duty and from good. But the vision of God will change all this, and God will be to the will the fullness of peace. The instant that the light of God's countenance is signed upon us, our wills are made perfect, and forsaking for ever all that is unworthy of them, they cleave at once and for ever to the good that is eternal. Our freedom is not destroyed, but rather made complete and perfect, and what God wills, as He wills it, and because He wills it, becomes the delight of the soul. Moreover, in the light of the Beatific Vision the soul sees the love of God for His creatures, and the sight and perfect knowledge of that love, unutterable and eternal, at once wins back such a return of love, that her strong immortal life would break with its intensity, were such a thing possible, when the vision is even then confirming her in her immortality. To know God, to love God, to possess God, her gratitude is summed up and expressed in that inspired cry of the Psalmist:
Thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever.
For ever! God will be to the memory the fullness of eternity! The soul sees that God's love will never change, that it cannot change. It cannot change, because such a privation would be a punishment which an all-just God could never inflict except because of sin, and sin is impossible to the soul that has once gazed on the beauty of the all-beautiful God. Its happiness is, therefore, eternal. The soul sees that she can never fall away from God; she sees that God can never abandon her, and so her joy is made full and will endure for ever. Millions and millions of ages will pass in that beautiful kingdom of light, but they can bring no cloud to the bright sunshine of that joy. And it is a joy which never palls, a happiness which never wearies. The soul is never used to it, never tired of it, never loses anything of its first unspeakable delight. The rapture of the first moment endures for all eternity, as long as God shall be God.

But this is not all! A day must come when the body and soul are once more united, and we profess our firm faith in this truth and our longing hope for it in the closing words of the Creed: "I believe in the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting." It was this same faith and hope which supported Job, as we have already pointed out:
I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that at the last day I shall rise out of the earth and be clothed again with my body, and in my flesh I shall see my God, this my hope is laid up in my bosom.
The effects of the vision of God on the soul overflow on the body, and confer upon it also the most wonderful gifts, so wonderful as to appear almost a new nature. St. Paul describes them to us:
It is sown in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it shall rise in glory; it is sown in weakness, it shall rise in power; it is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body.
Let us see what these gifts imply. Whilst we live in this world we are under the law of suffering, for our bodies are corruptible of their very nature, and a day must come when the health and strength of which we are sometimes so proud must forsake us utterly, and we shall die.
The dust returns to the earth from whence it came, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
But when the time of reunion comes, when the trumpet sounds and the dead rise again:
We shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality; and when this mortal hath put on immortality then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory! Death, where is thy victory? Death, where is thy sting?
The second gift of which St. Paul speaks is that of brightness or "glory." When our Savior on the mountain top allowed the glory which was in His soul to transfigure His mortal body, we are told that His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as snow, and He Himself has assured us that, in like manner, the bodies of the just shall "shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." But brightness and beauty imply a further gift.

There may be some few people in this world whose lines of life have fallen in pleasant places, and who hardly know the meaning of incessant hard work and its consequent weariness; but for the great majority of our race, the hewers of wood and drawers of water, whose life from morning till night is one long round of toil, what comfort and consolation in this thought! "It is sown in weakness, it shall rise in power." To go where we will, to do what we like, as though we shared in some mysterious way in God's omnipotence and immensity, and yet never to feel the burden of fatigue or the lassitude that spoils the most enthralling pleasure.

And then, lastly, "it is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body." When our Lord rose from the dead, there was no need to roll away the stone that covered the mouth of the tomb. His glorified body passed through it as the rays of the sun pass through the clear crystal. So also when the disciples had closed and barred the doors of the upper room, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst of them, and it was His own real Self and not a mere phantom.
Touch Me, and see, it is I Myself. A spirit hath not flesh and bones as I have.
And this gift also is bestowed on those who have won for themselves a place in the kingdom of God.

There are many other thoughts over which we might linger, for the subject is and ought to be attractive to those who are looking forward to the coming of this kingdom, even as home-sick exiles love to think about the beauties of their fatherland. The endowment of the glorified bodies of the just with these gifts revealed to us by St. Paul, necessarily implies powers of enjoyment which we can hardly imagine. The pleasures of sense here in this world are innocent in themselves and in no way against God's law. But they sometimes seem to be the means of making us forget God's law, because of their strange power. They intoxicate the mind and heart, and even seem to dominate free-will itself. In Heaven, they will exist in all their intensity, and to surrender ourselves to their uttermost delights will be an act of highest worship and perfection.

Then there is the joy which arises from the company of the blessed. Love is the best, most perfect, most absorbing of all earthly joys and at the same time the most God-like, for "God is love." What must be the bliss of an unending life amongst unnumbered millions of perfect beings, loving each one of them, and being loved in return with a love surpassing all possibilities of earthly love. Yet we do not love, nor are we loved by all alike. The natural affections of earth are not extinguished by the happiness of heaven. On the contrary, they are intensified in every way, and what a joy to be with those we loved so dearly when on earth and to realize that another separation is impossible. The partings of earth are bitter, and sometimes cast a shadow on the soul which never seems to lift, but the deeper the shadow and the more complete our loneliness, the brighter is our gladness and our joy when once again we meet those whom we have lost.

For ever and for ever we shall dwell with them amongst that multitude that no man can number, now rejoicing at the dazzling glory of those chosen souls that follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, now exulting in the magnificence of the martyrs with their crimson robes dyed in their own blood, now wondering at those stars of heaven, the teachers of God's people, of whom Holy Scripture declares that they shall shine with the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars for all eternity, because they have instructed many unto justice.

"Shew us the Father," said the Apostle St. Philip; "Lord, shew us the Father, and it is enough." Shew us the Father! Take away the veil that hides from us the face of God, and then, and not till then, the infinite void in our hearts will be filled! The world goes on its way, and the way of the world is evil. False Christs and false prophets abound everywhere, and they are ever seeking to turn man away from his true end. They would try to persuade him that his happiness is in riches, in pleasures, in an equal distribution of power, in education, in himself, for there is a fashionable religion now-a-days which dethrones the all-perfect and eternal God for a vague and pitiful deity called "humanity"! But it is all in vain; God gave us our nature and our nature cannot change; and those who listen to these false teachers only turn away in disappointment, and wander hither and thither crying out in the bitterness of an unsatisfied heart: Quis ostendit nobis bona! Who will show us any good? Only the Catholic faith can give an answer, and its answer is ever the same: God made man to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him for ever in the next. We see the same great truth solemnly affirmed by the Savior of the world Himself, when He had finished His work on earth, and for the last time gathered around Him His faithful friends and disciples to hear His words of farewell:
As the Father hath loved Me, I also have loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments you shall abide in My love, as I also have kept My Father's commandments and do abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you and your joy may be filled.
And what was this joy of which He spoke and which He called "His joy," because so utterly beyond all reach of sorrow? It was the joy of His soul in the vision of the Godhead, the joy which He promised them and all His faithful servants when He said:
I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man shall take from you. [...] Father, I will, that where I am, they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me, that they may see My glory which Thou hast given Me, because Thou hast loved Me before the creation of the world.
A few more words, and we have done. The very glory of heaven should fill us with fear and trembling. If the reward were less, it might seem more easy to deserve, more easy to obtain! But it is so infinitely great, and so easy to miss, and if it be missed? But it must not be missed; we must make up our minds to fight on until the end. The harder the struggle, the more chance of success, if only we fight on bravely and perseveringly, for we serve a good Master, in whose eyes effort seems to count for victory. How can this earth have any real hold upon our hearts when heaven is placed before us? How can joys and pleasures, which at the best endure but for a day, make us risk a happiness which is eternal? As Catholics nay, as reasonable beings we should be ready to despise all, to risk all, to sell all in order to buy this pearl of great price, eternal life in the kingdom of God. Once we have made up our minds to this, life must be happy because it is the way to God, and death must be welcome because it comes to us as His messenger, changing into fruition the "hope that is laid up in our bosom," and dispelling for ever the shadows of earth with words that are the revelation of heaven:
The Master is here, and calleth thee.