Wednesday, December 07, 2005

New Seminarian blog

This blog is from a good friend of mine who is taking some time off from seminary to discern his vocation in relation to his artwork. He really is a brilliant artist and much of his work was used throughout the seminary. He's now keeping a blog of his philosophy of art with samples. He's done some beautiful charcoal scenes from the movie, The Passion and of our late Holy Father. Please check out his blog. He's a dear friend and I'm glad to stay in touch with him in this way. I hope you'll find his work as inspirational as I have. He is equally inspirational in person.

Art Is Servant

God Bless you Dave!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Plenary Indulgence Attainable on Dec 8

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Plenary Indulgence Attainable on Dec. 8
Papal Decision for 40th Anniversary of Close of Vatican II

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2005 ( Benedict XVI is offering the faithful a plenary indulgence on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, the 40th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council.

The indulgence was announced in a decree published in Latin on Tuesday, signed by Cardinal James Stafford and Conventual Franciscan Father John Girotti, penitentiary major and regent, respectively, of the Apostolic Penitentiary.

The document establishes that when the Pope renders public homage to Mary Immaculate in Rome's Piazza di Spagna, he "has the heartfelt desire that the entire Church should join him, so that all the faithful, united in the name of the common Mother, become ever stronger in the faith, adhere with greater devotion to Christ, and love their brothers with more fervent charity."

"From here -- as Vatican Council II very wisely taught -- arise works of mercy toward the needy, observance of justice, and the defense of and search for peace," adds the decree.

For this reason, the decree continues, the Holy Father "has kindly granted the gift of plenary indulgence which may be obtained under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff), with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin, on the forthcoming solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, by the faithful if they participate in a sacred function in honor of the Virgin, or at least offer open testimony of Marian devotion before an image of Mary Immaculate exposed for public veneration, adding the recitation of the Our Father and of the Creed, and some invocation to the Virgin."

At home

The document concludes by recalling that faithful who "through illness or other just cause" are unable to participate in a public ceremony or to venerate an image of the Virgin, "may obtain a plenary indulgence in their own homes, or wherever they may be, if, with the soul completely removed from any form of sin, and with the intention of observing the aforesaid conditions as soon as possible, they unite themselves in spirit and in desire to the Supreme Pontiff's intentions in prayer to Mary Immaculate, and recite the Our Father and the Creed."

On Dec. 8, 1965, Pope Paul VI, in closing Vatican II, dedicated great praise to the Blessed Virgin who, as Mother of Christ, is Mother of God and spiritual Mother of all mankind.

Latin at St. Mary's

I've been very impressed with how much we use Latin here at St. Mary's in Baltimore. We use Latin Mass parts every now and then, sing the Salve Regina after Rector's Conferences and after Evening Prayer during the Marian months, and we're now singing a Latin hymn during Advent Season as well. Latin class.

So...I'm trying to get one setup :)

I've got about 10 guys who are interested and we're meeting with the Academic Dean tomorrow to discuss it. I think he's favorable to it he just wants to make sure we're serious about it.

Here's a recent, pertinent article:

Benedict XVI Encourages Teaching of Latin
Greets Members of Latinitas Foundation

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2005 ( Benedict XVI encouraged the teaching of Latin, especially to young people, with the help of new methodologies.

The Pope made this proposal today when greeting the participants in a meeting organized by the Latinitas Foundation, a Vatican institution that promotes the official language of the Latin-rite Catholic Church.

The Holy Father, who addressed the participants in classical Latin, congratulated the winners of the Certamen Vaticanum, an international competition of Latin prose and poetry.

Benedict XVI said that this foundation must see to it that Latin continues to be part of the daily life of the Church, so that understanding of many of its treasures will not be lost.

The Latinitas Foundation, founded by Pope Paul VI in 1976, has the dual aim of promoting, on the one hand, the study of Latin and classical and Christian literature, and on the other, the use and spread of Latin through the publication of books in that language.

The foundation publishes a quarterly magazine, Latinitas, and every year celebrates the Certamen Vaticanum. The foundation has also published a dictionary, the Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis, containing more than 15,000 neologisms translated into Latin.

For those who ever wondered about the Latin equivalent for "computer," "terrorist" or "cowboy," there are now answers.

"Instrumentum computatorium" is the way the Latinitas Foundation refers to computers.

Those who sow violence and terror are called "tromocrates (-ae)"; while characters in Westerns are called "armentarius."

Some of the words of the Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis can be consulted on the foundation's Web page.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Eucharist and Marian Devotion

Eucharist and Marian Devotion
Perspective of Theologian Father Michael Hull

NEW YORK, NOV. 20, 2005 ( Here is the text of a talk given by Father Michael F. Hull, who participated in the recent videoconference of theologians on the topic of the Eucharist. The Vatican Congregation for Clergy organized the event. Father Hull is a professor of sacred Scripture at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, New York.

* * *

The Holy Eucharist and Marian Devotion
Michael F. Hull

Devotion to the Holy Eucharist and devotion to Our Lady are so closely bound as to be inseparable. As Mother and Son are united in an "indissoluble tie" ("Lumen Gentium," No. 53), so too devotion to Mother and Son are tightly linked. This is expressed most beautifully by the medieval religious poem "Ave Verum," immortalized as a motet by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1791.

In his encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," the late Pope John Paul II devotes the sixth and final chapter to Mary, which he entitles "At the School of Mary: 'Woman of the Eucharist.'" Therein, the Pope points out significant parallels in the lives of Jesus and Mary.

For example, Jesus' words at the Last Supper -- "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19) -- echo Mary's words at the wedding at Cana -- "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5). Likewise, Mary's fiat to the Archangel Gabriel (Luke 1:38) prefigures the Amen of each communicant at the reception of Holy Communion.

Speaking of Mary's own reception of holy Communion after the Lord's paschal mystery, John Paul remarks: "For Mary, receiving the Eucharist must have somehow meant welcoming once more into her womb that heart which had beat in unison with hers and reliving what she had experienced at the foot of the Cross" ("Ecclesia de Eucharistia," No. 56). "Mutatis mutandis," we are also brought to the foot of the Cross in holy Communion, where we are united not only with the Lord, but also with the "stabat Mater dolorosa."

Finally, we find Our Lord entrusting his Mother to St. John, who as the "beloved disciple" had such a prominent place at the bosom of Jesus at the Last Supper, and St. John to his Mother (John 19:26-27). Holy tradition recounts how Mary and St. John eventually settled at Ephesus, the place where Mary kept so much in her heart until her assumption (cf. Luke 2:33-35 and 2:51).

During the public ministry of the Lord, Mary is rarely in the foreground. Except for the wedding at Cana -- when Jesus prefigured his miracle of the Eucharist by turning water into wine at Mary's request (John 2:1-11) -- and at the foot of the Cross -- when Jesus concluded his passion (John 19:25) -- Mary is always in the background. Her presence is always pointing toward her Son. And that is the very heart of Marian devotion: a strong, omnipresent, and relatively silent expression of devotion to the will of God oriented to his and her Son.

Throughout the history of the Church, the saints have understood this truth. Two examples will suffice.

In the fourth century, St. Ambrose expressed the hope that all of his people would inculcate the spirit of Mary as a means to glorify God: "May the heart of Mary be in each Christian to proclaim the greatness of the Lord; may her spirit be in everyone to exult in God."

Similarly, 1,400 years later St. John Bosco had a vision of two pillars anchoring the bark of Peter in the midst of a stormy sea: the pillar of the Eucharist and the pillar of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The larger pillar, that of the Eucharist, had the words "Salvation of Believers," and the smaller, that of Mary, "Help of Christians."

Mary is, indeed, the help of Christians, leading them to Jesus and the Eucharist. Devotion to Our Lady is always together with devotion to Our Lord, especially in the Eucharist, as the Church sings: "Ave verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine …"

Saturday, December 03, 2005

eighth paper

This is another paper for Philosophical Anthropology, mentioned here: Descartes' and Nietzsche's Understanding of the Human Person: A Critique and Contribution to Christianity.

Lemme tell ya, I was honestly shocked that I got an A on this one, I was prepared to get a low B at most. This is definitely the hardest paper I've worked on all semester, even moreso than my paper on the Goodridge Decision. My professor made many insightful comments on my paper, as he ususally does, but I won't put those here.

Really, all of my professors, on all of my papers have seen every hole in my logic. These have been very valuable. If you've read any of my papers on here and thought, "Well, hmmm, that doesn't sound right," odds are there was a comment made about it. If you're interested in these email me at matthardesty at hotmail dot com.

You'll also see, I'm a maniac when it comes to footnotes!

Here it is:

René Descartes, in “Part Four” of his Discourse on Method[1], states, “[B]ecause our senses sometimes deceive us, I wanted to suppose that nothing was exactly as they led us to imagine.”[2] This statement became one of the driving forces behind his effort to rectify what he believed was a system of doubts indoctrinated in him during his schooling as a child. Descartes, essentially dismissing the classics, the early Church Fathers, and Medieval scholasticism in the process, would devise a new method for discovering knowledge and truth. He would “raze everything to the ground and begin again,”[3] he said, by “building upon a foundation which is completely my own.”[4] This method would deny the senses so that then, freed from the doubts they bring, only “the things we conceive very clearly and very distinctly [would be] true.”[5] This would also further his argument for the “real distinction between mind and body.”[6] But, Friedrich Nietzsche, coming 250 years after Descartes, seems to dismiss Descartes by saying that his is just the typical “irritation and rancor against sensuality”[7] that has plagued every philosopher that has ever lived. But, this essay will show that Nietzsche’s opinion doesn’t exactly apply to Descartes. Descartes’ real purpose will be presented and then highlighted by Nietzsche’s opposing argument concerning the body in his “ascetic ideal.” Finally a conclusion will be made determining if any elements from either argument could be useful to Christian theology, a theology that is threatened by both philosophers.[8]

To be sure, the arguments Descartes posits for the doubting of the senses and thus the distinction between mind and body are baseless. In “Meditation Six” of Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes explains that the senses are suspect because of, for example, the “betrayal” of depth perception,[9] because some amputees have reported pain in their “phantom limb,” and because senses seem equally present in dreams as in wakefulness. But these are not deceptions, per se, as if the senses are inherently flawed, deceitful, or will to be malicious. They simply function according to the way God designed them and the world that they detect. Descartes himself states his trust in the order God has made and is even confidant that He is not a deceiver: “[F]rom the beginning, God made it such as it had to be”[10] and “it is impossible for God ever to deceive me.”[11] So how could his senses be absolutely deceitful?

In his search for “clear and distinct” truth, Descartes banishes from his knowledge everything he’s ever learned through his senses or by way of demonstration. This would mean the total erasure of any and all knowledge (and being) but Descartes escapes this absurdity by stating that one thing does remain: his res cogitans, his “thinking thing.” “[T]hought exists, it alone cannot be separated from me. I am; I exist – this is certain… I am therefore precisely nothing but a thinking thing.” From here he can conclude, “I am not that concatenation of members we call the human body.”[12]

He elaborates on the distinction between his mind and body in “Meditation Six.” Because Descartes has a clear and distinct idea of himself as a thinking thing only and a clear and distinct idea of his body as res extensa, an extended thing only, he can conclude that he is really distinct from his body and can exist without it. Because clear and distinct ideas come from God then it must be obvious that God intended to differentiate and separate the two.[13] Plus Descartes asserts that he recognizes distinct faculties in himself; imagining and sensing require and must belong to thinking only; and movement, shape, etc. require and must belong to a body only. Thus there is a “real distinction between mind and body,” with the mind being the sole and total source of essence and being.[14]

Again, this distinction is based on the assumption and assertion that radical doubting of the senses is acceptable. But we must not believe that Descartes was oblivious to this dubious foundation. Rather, he built it quite purposefully because it was necessary for his new vision and method for knowledge, one that he hoped would control the world and place man on top if it using mathematical physics. This is where he differs quite drastically from Nietzsche’s caricature of the philosopher.

In his work, On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche makes the case that religion and morality, especially in Christianity, are the enemy of life in man and keep him from fully expressing his will and experiencing the present at its fullest. He traces this back to the Jews who, rather than take on the morality of their conquerors, as was the traditional behavior, they resented their plight and devised their own morality.[15] In this resistance, their priestly caste succeeded in making their conquerors feel guilty for exerting the strength that they had by nature.[16] This caste then compounded the guilt by holding up their peoples’ weakness and lowly state as a virtue to be aspired to and followed. This “slave morality,” this “ascetic ideal,” has thus poisoned mankind from generation to generation.

The ascetics, as a people, retreat from life and deny themselves through “poverty, humility, chastity,”[17] and through other means in reaction to the suffering or constraint imposed on them by the various “masters” or obstacles in life.[18] Philosophers, a particularly sophisticated subset of the ascetics, retreat from life and moderate their senses not out of reaction to oppression but for higher truths, a higher realm, the gods and immortality.[19] This is the motivation behind the typical “philosophers’ irritation and rancor against sensuality.”[20] But, Descartes is no typical philosopher. He denigrates the senses not to escape this life but to control it, and he does it not to pursue the gods and the higher life but to become a god himself over this life.

For Descartes, even at “one of the most renowned schools of Europe,” knowledge and truth weren’t valuable in and of themselves, but only in so far as they yielded “everything that is useful in life.” He had a “tremendous desire to master them”[21] and “to distinguish the true from the false, in order to see [his] way clearly in [his] actions, and to go forward with confidence in this life.”[22] And what obstructed him from living “confidently”? In “Part Six” of his Discourse on Method, Descartes states his hopes for his method. He must be subtle here, to avoid eliciting a reaction to his work like that of Galileo’s, but his intentions are clear:

[I]t is possible to find a practical philosophy, by means of which, knowing the force and the actions of fire, water, air, the stars, the heavens, and all the other bodies that surround us, just as distinctly as we know the various skills of our craftsmen, we might be able in the same way, to use them for all the purposes for which they are appropriate, and thus render ourselves, as it were, masters and possessors of nature.

Mankind, with his method, would also be able to enjoy “trouble-free the fruits of the earth and all the goods found there,” the “maintenance of health,” and freedom from an “infinity of maladies,” and even “the frailty of old age.” In this regard Descartes has little use for mankind (other than to further his experiments[23]), natural law, the Church, and God who would, if he were to have his way from his day forward, no longer be the masters of these domains. This shapes his entire life’s project, and offers little to Christian theology.

Now that we have used Nietzsche’s “ascetic ideal” to highlight Descartes, can we find anything in Nietzsche’s arguments that would be useful for Christian theology? On the surface it seems to be not so, as Nietzsche rails extensively on Christianity as not only a system of belief that tends towards or sometimes falls into the faults he finds with it, but one that essentially embodies those faults. For Nietzsche, Christianity is a religion of cowardice, passive-aggressiveness, and ressentiment (“resentment”)[24]. It builds comforting illusions to escape the hardships of this life and has developed an elaborate religiosity as a weapon against its oppressors. Christians have the same “will to power” as any other peoples only theirs is under the guise of truth, compassion, and justice.

Although the picture Nietzsche paints of Christianity is indeed a caricature, he is more useful than Descartes because his arguments are based on observations of behavior, rather than mere assertions and assumptions. So, we must be careful not to fall into his caricature, to become what Nietzsche thinks we are. Is our faith just a search for security? Is it merely a form of escapism? Is our asceticism merely hatred for the body, mere “death instinct,” mere “denial of life intensity”? Or does it aid us not only in attaining the “next life” but in enhancing our current life as well? We must also ask ourselves if our prayer and worship are founded on our belief that they are true or fear of the alternative if they are not true.[25] All of these challenges, if taken seriously, can be valuable in helping us maintain Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Merold Westphal, in his book Suspicion and Faith, mentions not only Nietzsche but also Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud in his particular challenge to Christianity. He says that we must

take the religious critiques of this unholy trio seriously rather than simply trying to refute or discredit them, to read them as a kind of Lenten spiritual exercise in self-examination… If there is more to the life of faith than self-deception in the service of self-interest, the best demonstration of this is not proof but practice.[26]

So we see that by understanding Nietzsche’s scathing challenges we can not only serve to check ourselves but address the currents of his thought in society as well.

[1] Any quotes from Descartes’ Discourse on Method or Meditations on First Philosophy will be from the work that combines the two, translated by Donald A. Cress, 4th ed., ©1998, Hackett Publishing Co. Hereafter referred to as either “Discourse” or “Meditations” depending on which part of the work is referenced.
[2] Discourse, “Part Four,” p. 18
[3] Meditations, “Meditation One,” p. 59
[4] Discourse, “Part Two,” p. 9
[5] Ibid. “Part Four,” p. 19
[6] This is the title of Meditations, “Meditation Six”: “Concerning the Existence of Material Things, and the Real Distinction between Mind and Body”.
[7] On the Genealogy of Morals 3.7, p. 106. Any quotes from Nietzsche’s On The Genealogy of Morals will be from the work that combines it with Ecce Homo, translated by Walter Kaufmann, Vintage Books ed, Nov 1989, ©1967 Random House, Inc. Hereafter referred to as “Genealogy”.
[8] I arrived at the direction of this three-part thesis during conversation on the topic with Dr. Paul Seaton, St. Mary’s Seminary & University, and acknowledge his assistance here.
[9] Meditations, “Meditation Six,” p. 95: “Towers that had seemed round from afar occasionally appeared square at close quarters. Very large statues mounted on their pedestals did not seem large to someone looking at them from ground level.”
[10] Discourse, “Part Five,” p. 24
[11] Meditations, “Meditation Four,” p. 81
[12] Ibid. “Meditation Two,” p. 65
[13] Cf. ibid., “Meditation Six,” p. 96-97
[14] Cf. Discourse, “Part Four,” p. 19
[15] Cf. Genealogy 1.7, p. 33-34, “the Jews, that priestly people, who in opposing their enemies and conquerors were ultimately satisfied with nothing less than a radical revaluation of their enemies’ values, that is to say, an act of the most spiritual revenge.”
[16] Cf. Ibid. 1.13, p. 45, “To demand of strength that it should not express itself as strength, that it should not be a desire to overcome, a desire to throw down, a desire to become master, a thirst for enemies and resistances and triumphs, is just as absurd as to demand of weakness that it should express itself as strength.”
[17] Cf. Ibid. 3.8, p. 108
[18] Cf. Ibid. 3.13, p. 120, “the ascetic ideal springs from the protective instinct of a degenerating life which tries by all means to sustain itself and to fight for its existence.
[19] Cf. Ibid. 3.11, p. 117, “in that case, the case of the ascetic life, life counts as a bridge to that other mode of existence.”
[20] Ibid. 3.7, p. 106. Nietzsche also notes, “There also exists a peculiar philosophers’ prejudice and affection in favor of the whole ascetic ideal.”
[21] Discourse, “Part One,” p. 3
[22] Ibid. p. 6
[23] Cf. Discourse, “Part Six,” p. 35-36: “For, having the intention of spending my entire life in the search for so indispensable a science… I judged… to communicate faithfully to the public the entirety of what little I had found and to urge good minds to try to advance beyond this by contributing, each according to his inclination and ability, to the experiments that must be performed and also by communicating to the public everything they might learn in order that, with subsequent inquirers beginning where their predecessors had left off, and thus, joining together the lives and labors of many, we might all advance together much further than a single individual could do on his own.
[24] Cf. Genealogy 1.10, p. 36, “The slave revolt in morality begins when ressentiment itself becomes creative and gives birth to values: the ressentiment of natures that are denied the true reaction, that of deeds, and compensate themselves with an imaginary revenge… [I]n order to exist, slave morality always first needs a hostile external world; it needs, physiologically speaking, external stimuli in order to act at all – it’s action is fundamentally reaction.”
[25] The questions are from notes given by Fr. Bud Stevens on Nietzsche in Phil 501 Epistemological Issues in Theology, St. Mary’s Seminary & University
[26] This quote is from an excerpt of Suspicion and Faith in God and the Philosophers: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason edited by Thomas V Morris, ©1994 Oxford University Press, p. 223

another paper

I guess this would be my seventh paper, as I've kept count on this blog, but it's out of order in real time... I just forgot to put it up here.

This was for my History of Philosophy class, I got an A.

Leon Kass, in his book, The Hungry Soul[1], sets out to answer, among other questions, “What kind of ‘world relationships’ are entailed by the necessity of finding food? What, finally, is the relationship between what one is and what one eats?” “At stake in this inquiry,” Kass says, “is the adequacy or sufficiency of a materialistic explanation of metabolism and animal eating, and therewith of life as such.”[2] Kass breaks down the first chapter of this philosophical treatment of eating and being into ten parts. This essay will focus on the fifth part, “The Cause of Nourishing,” in which he discusses cause and responsibility vis-à-vis “metabolism and animal eating” and modern science’s explanation for these.[3] To be sure, the entire chapter (and the entire book for that matter) is rich with valuable insights and lessons both to the scientific community and to the common thinker. We will focus on the fifth part of chapter one, and the important lessons it holds, because it marks the start of a new tone in the chapter, and the book as a whole.

Kass begins by explaining that his reflections up to this point have “hardly broken new ground,” thereby implying that we should be familiar with what he has treated so far. If not, the reader is forced to wonder why and how his reflections have evaded us. Any good writer knows how to make his reader think, even about “the same ‘ol stuff.” Kass keeps us thinking throughout the entire work. After starting this part the way he does, he makes his reader suspect that a groundbreaking is eminent. But not only is he about to break new ground, he is about to enter into “controversial” territory. What he has treated so far should be of no surprise. Description and facts are more like surface coverage, explanation and cause take us to the real heart of the matter, literally and figuratively.[4]

Kass says that the act of nourishing not only drives performance, an action of the animal and man, but it is its own action as well, “one of the whole’s performances. As the many recent references to ‘self’ imply, an organism feeds and nourishes itself.” These references[5] to “self” include: “For the organism, unlike a machine, to nourish means to maintain as well as to fuel, and the organism is self-maintaining and self-repairing”[6] and “Nourishing is thus the activity of self-renewal as well as self-fueling, self-maintenance, self-healing, and self-maturation.”[7] These examples reinforce the idea of nourishing as an “accomplishment” and not just something that happens to or in an organism.

Here Kass also teaches us to think in terms of wholes with parts as even in this statement he gives the five parts of the nourishing-accomplishment: the “impulse to feed,” ingestion, digestion, absorption, and regenerative biosynthesis. Here also, he does not use the words “impulse” and “accomplishment” very lightly; he even puts the latter in italics. First, the word “impulse” comes from the Latin, impulsus, from the past participle of impellere, “to impel,” or “to push, strike against, drive forward, urge on.” And his use of the word “accomplishment” brings very human connotations with it: a sense of will, intention, volition, and as we’ll see very shortly, responsibility. Nourishing and metabolism are not just the processes that keep an organism alive, they are initiated by the very organism they sustain.

“What is in the organism that is responsible for these activities?” Again, Kass is invoking very common, human language to walk us through his points. How many times have we heard a mother ask her misbehaving child, “What’s gotten into you!”? What is in the child that is responsible for his actions? As was mentioned above, “This is, of course, the heart of the matter.” (emphasis mine) “At issue is the very nature and being of living things.” But, unfortunately, Kass states that this is a question “once much debated by philosophers, but now virtually neglected even by biologists.” Even by biologists! Of course philosophers would be consumed by such matters[8] but they are such a fickle crowd. But biologists!? Their whole science deals with “living things”! One can almost hear the underlying tone in Kass’s voice, making the comments above. With these three subtle words, “even by biologists,” he shows the folly of modern philosophy and science.

“Nothing less than a complete ontology[9] can answer the question [of the “very nature and being of living things”], and I am, quite frankly, unequal to the task” (emphasis mine). Here Kass introduces through his own witness the necessity for humility when entering into philosophical discussion. Socrates exhibited the same; for him wisdom was not in knowing all there is to know, but knowing his own ignorance and also being willing to inquire. Kass makes us wonder about his colleagues, “Is this humility in them?” A sort of intellectual pride must be at the heart of their experiments. At any rate, although Kass is “unequal to the task” he feels the question is important enough that we must do what we can to answer it and in a footnote he reassures us that the via media is always difficult, especially with matters as important as these.

The problem with society and its scientists today is that we want an explanation for every “organic change” we come across, we are not content with mystery. We must know what is “beneath” the change. We want to grab the change so we can hold it still and look at it from all sides, poke it, prod it, see what is under the hood, take it apart, dissect it, and put it back together again. If we cannot do that, it becomes a constant source of tension and grief. “When we ask about responsibility for metabolism, we are asking about such an under-lying cause, the stable something beneath or behind the flux.” In another footnote Kass implies that he uses the word “responsibility” rather than “cause” because we are not ready at this stage in the discussion to handle the 2500 years of baggage that this phrase brings. The good reader patiently proceeds.

Kass then says that “this question of responsibility or cause was first elaborated in classical antiquity” thus calling to mind the classics: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Then he goes right ahead and uses them in answering why, for example, the chair the reader is sitting in is “the way it is.” In Aristotle’s Four Causes, we see the Efficient Cause of the chair, its “from-what,” is the “carpenter-upholsterer who made it” and “his art and tools.” The Material Cause, its “out-of-what,” is “the wood or springs or cushioning.” The Formal Cause, its “what,” is “the shape or structure it displays.” And finally the Final Cause of the chair, its “for-what,” is “the use it serves, sitting.” These are all “modes of responsibility” and carefully bring us into the notion of cause.

Next, Kass moves into a more heavy-handed critique of modern science and its shrinking of the “notion of causation” to mean “only the moving cause or the efficient cause,” the first “Cause” we described above. For example, the Newtonian explanation for movement takes the easy way out: “[I]t proved easier to describe and quantify these changes than to identify the sought-for underlying substantive cause.” The modern scientist denies his very own innate capacity for wonder. He denies the “underlying substantive cause,” the “Why,” for an empty “How.” But this empirical tendency not only pervades the scientific community but the larger society as well. Kass states that the “common opinion” too has embraced these “laws of motion,” laws that at the end of the day, “do not explain motion or address its cause.” We force phenomena into our “preconceived parameters of space and time” rather than allow ourselves to be amazed.

Despite these difficulties, scientists are “by orientation” drawn to materialism and “[b]iologists are no exception.” Notice how Kass uses the phrase “by orientation” rather than “by nature.” He leaves an opening for science to change. If one is faced in the wrong direction, one can always change his “orientation” to face the right direction. Changing one’s “nature” is a whole different and eminently more difficult problem. Remember, “Descartes [a scientist] broke with his philosophical ancestors to present his doctrine of the ‘animal machine’ and a purely mechanical explanation of vital phenomena,” including “feeding, nourishing, and metabolism.” Descartes’ method, the modern method, wasn’t always the method. Kass is frustrated that modern biology has made such “enormous progress” by “eschewing all such speculation” of “form, or soul or purpose” in understanding “metabolism or, indeed any activity of life.” One can sense that he would like to put “progress” in quotation marks.

Kass then goes on, in the second to last paragraph of this part, to give examples of progress made in modern biology. He explains how scientists have figured out all of the pathways, structures, mechanisms, elements, processes, and “chemical bas[es]” of “ingestion, digestion, absorption, and regenerative biosynthesis” and even appetite! Any reader with some knowledge of philosophy will know that “appetite” carries with it quite a bit of baggage as well, but that did stop the modern scientist from clasping it under his microscope.

“[T]he whole is treated in terms of its ‘parts’” and this is how “most scientists vindicate their mechanistic and materialistic presuppositions, not only as heuristic[10] but as ontological hypotheses.” But isn’t an understanding of wholes and parts good? Isn’t that what Kass did in the beginning with the “nourishing-accomplishment”? Yes, but objects must be understood in a concept called the hermeneutic circle, when a whole is interpreted in light of its parts and the parts are interpreted in light of the whole, rather than primarily in one direction. Both directions in the hermeneutic circle, in the interpretation of an object, must be taken together. When this concept is not used, we come to a point where a flippant phrase like “you are what you eat” becomes serious science. Kass is the last one to make such a blunder.

In his closing paragraph of this part, Kass says, “Against the stream I want here to argue for the necessary supremacy of living form.” By saying he is about to embark “against the stream” he reminds his reader of the “controversy” he mentioned in the first paragraph. He has only scratched the surface. Kass also warns the reader not to interpret him wrongly; the “How” of metabolism is “both illuminating and useful.” But, now he will approach the “What” and “Why” by breaking out of his “form-material” discussion and moving toward one of “the relation of living form to its own material” which “differs markedly.” But in order to do this, we must first understand “form and material.” And so he sets us, and modern science, on a different orientation, to face the right direction.

[1] The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature by Leon R. Kass, M.D., University of Chicago Press ©1999. Any page numbers given in this essay are to be understood to come from this text.
[2] p. 20
[3] The fifth part, “The Cause of Nourishing,” is in the above book on pages 31-34. This essay is designed so that the reader can follow along with the Kass text. It steps through the fifth part, paragraph by paragraph in its analysis, so page number citations for each quote are omitted unless they reference a different part.
[4] Pun intended
[5] From the fourth part, “What Use Is Food?” p. 27-31
[6] p. 28
[7] p. 31
[8] Puns intended
[9] From the Gk. ontos “being” + logia “writing about, study of”
[10] From Gk. heuretikos “inventive,” related to heuriskein “to find,” meaning “serving to discover or find out”

Monday, November 28, 2005

my article

My recent article in The Record online:

"O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me." (Psalm 70[69])

These are the opening words to the Liturgy of the Hours, the universal prayer of the church prayed by seminarians, clergy and the laity every day. These were also my words as I knelt nervously in the chapel to receive a blessing by one of the deacon-seminarians on the first day of my arrival at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore on Aug. 25, 2005.

What a grand seminary! What a grand chapel!

Pope John Paul II, of blessed memory, knelt in that same pew 10 years earlier during his visit to Baltimore. It all seemed so daunting as I prayed for God’s help.

And he has given me his help. I’m enjoying myself and settling into the routine of daily morning prayer, evening prayer, Mass and the flow of community life with seminarian brothers from all over the country.

Thankfully, I’ve gotten into the swing of course work too, after having been out of college for three years. I have our very own Father Gladstone "Bud" Stevens, a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville who teaches at St. Mary’s on Monday and Thursday mornings: Epistemology (the art and science of knowing) and introduction to Catholic theology.

In the former, I’ve been studying Vatican II documents such as Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) and the search for and knowledge of truth. In the latter, I’m learning how to enter into a "conspiracy" with the Church. You see, the Latin word for conspiracy (conspirare) means "to act in unison with."

My remaining courses are history of philosophy, philosophical anthropology and political philosophy, all of which have done a nice job of burying me up to my ears in reading assignments. But as our professors keep telling us: "Gentlemen, you’ve got to learn how to think before you can learn theology. This is no longer about you, but the faithful whom you’ll serve, who are waiting on you to give them meaning and the truth."

So, it all seems like a nightmare when I think of seminary as if it’s "college all over again."

But it’s not. It’s more than that; it’s formation, it’s becoming a priest after Christ’s own heart, assuming that almighty God, my archbishop and my vocation director will it to be. When I think of it that way, all the reading and the papers are more than worth it.

How humbling it is to be here. What an honor it is to study for the priesthood. When I pause and think of all the sacrifices you have made and all the prayers you’ve offered for me and my fellow seminarians so we can study and pray here at St. Mary’s, it amazes me.

All I can do to repay you is to say that I will work my hardest to continue to discern if the priesthood is not only something that I want but what God wants for me as well. I will never forget all the encouragement and support so many of you in the Archdiocese of Louisville gave me before I packed up the U-haul and left for "Mary’s land."

Weekly holy hours with the community and a small daily rosary group have been my anchors in addition to your prayers.

I will work to take the words of St. Paul to the Ephesians to heart: "But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift ... to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants. ... Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ." (4:7,12-15)

Mary’s Magnificat, her canticle of praise and thanksgiving to God, is also part of the Liturgy of the Hours in evening prayer. It will be through God’s abundant grace and Mary’s intercession if I achieve "the full stature of Christ" and discern his will for me.

So, I echo Mary’s words: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. ... the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name." (Luke 1:46-49)

Please continue to pray for vocations, for Michael Wimsatt (my fellow Louisville seminarian here) and for me. Feel free to write us at: St. Mary’s Seminary and University, 5400 Roland Ave., Baltimore, Md. 21210.

Reflection for Solemnity of Christ the King

Here's my reflection for the gospel on Sunday, November 20th, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, for my Lectio Divina study group. The gospel was Matthew 25:31-46.

The three parables before this reading, of the faithful servant who was responsible while his Master was away, of the wise and foolish maidens preparing for the coming of the bridegroom, and of the talents in which the servants used the gifts their master had given them – these three are concluded with this account of the Last Judgment in which all such matters will be resolved. This is called the Last Judgment because it will happen at the end of time and will be a public proclamation of the sentence already given at our Particular Judgment, the one we receive at the moment of our death.

But how does this reading coincide with the Solemnity of Christ the King? Here Christ is identified with the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. To the righteous he says, “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me.” And to the wicked he says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” This identification with the least of his brethren hardly sets Him up as a king, right? But, in the beginning of this reading, in the first verse, we see that he will “sit on his glorious throne” and throughout the reading we see that it is “the King” who addresses the righteous and the wicked, welcoming them into his “Kingdom” or banishing them from it. As a matter of fact, this very act of judgment of all the nations gathered before him is one proper only to a King. We also see the image of the Messiah as being on a throne, judging his people, elsewhere in scripture, in the Prophets and the Book of Revelation.

So today, we are called to reflect on Christ as King, King of Heaven and Earth. But, Christ’s Kingdom is not one of brick and mortar with lavish estates and palaces and conquered lands and peoples strewn across the earth. No, Christ’s Kingdom is established in our hearts. Is Christ the King of your Heart? It is His by right. Do you obey his commands and precepts as a loyal subject of his Authority or do they fall on deaf ears? Are you quick to resist his commands as if he, the King of your Heart – who knows every square inch of your Heart and knows how to direct and order His Kingdom – does not know how to direct you, his lowly subject? In any of the monarchies on earth, if any king were to order his subject to do something, he would do it without delay would he not? And if the President were to call or write one of us, we would obey his command right away. But when it comes to Christ, who is the King of much more precious a kingdom than any country or nation, our world has largely decided that it does not need to heed His royal commands.

And so it is for this reason that we must also, today, reflect on the sheep and the goats in this passage and our place among them. If we, His loyal subjects, obey the Lord, Our King, when he commands us to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, welcome to the stranger, clothing to the naked, care to the sick and company to the imprisoned – if we do these very concrete actions – then we will show the world who the king of our hearts really is and thus who the king of this world really is. We must proclaim Him as our King, and him alone, and perform these works because he is our king. Then the world, including us, will see the oppression of their current master – pride, covetousness, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and laziness – and upon seeing this oppression, weather in their hearts or in their rulers, will allow themselves to be conquered by Christ’s grace and love and to welcome his Reign.

As Christ is totally different from any other Master, so too must our obedience be totally different. In obedience to our vices, we may do these good works, feeding the hungry, giving clothes to the naked, etc. but out of pride seeking recognition or approval or out of envy of others wealth, to show the giving we are capable of as well, as a sort of competition. In obedience to our presidents and kings, we may do these good works out of a vague sense of compassion, giving for the sake of giving, or giving to meet a certain status quo. This type of compassion is empty and without meaning or purpose. Christ, our true King, calls us to avoid both types of disordered obedience. He calls us not to mere philanthropy but true and meaningful Christian charity. And this can only happen when we identify our King, as St. Matthews does in this gospel, with the least among us. So not only are we obeying our King’s command, but in doing so we are acting for him, too him! When we can see the face of our King in the lowly and approach each one as if he was our King himself, only then are we exhibiting Christian charity. On the contrary, if we distribute food to a nation, for example, just so we can raise the poverty rate or if we welcome strangers merely to fulfill a quota or a certain level of diversity, if we do either of these and others then we are denying the Royal dignity inherent in each of the least of our brethren and we act in vain. This is why St. Paul asserts that “if I give away all I have… but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Finally, St. Teresa of Avila writes: “Here the Lord asks only two things of us: love for his Majesty and love for our neighbor. It is for these two virtues that we must strive, and if we attain them perfectly we are doing his will. The surest sign that we are keeping these two commandments is, I think, that we should really be loving our neighbor; for we cannot be sure if we are loving God, although we may have good reasons for believing that we are, but we can know quite well if we are loving our neighbor. And be certain that, the farther advanced you find you are in this, the greater the love you will have for God; for so dearly does his Majesty love us that he will reward our love for our neighbor by increasing the love which we bear to himself, and that in a thousand ways: this I cannot doubt.”

Closing Prayer:

O Jesus Christ, we acknowledge You as universal King. All that has been made, has been created for You. Exercise all Your rights over us. We renew our baptismal vows, renouncing Satan, his empty promises and his works; and we promise to live as good Christians. In particular do we pledge ourselves to labor, to the best of our ability, for the triumph of the rights of God and Your Church.

Divine Heart of Jesus, to You do We offer our poor services, laboring that all hearts may acknowledge Your Sacred Kingship, and that thus the reign of Your peace be established throughout the whole universe. Amen.

Friday, November 18, 2005

sixth paper

Here is my Philosophical Anthropology paper, mentioned here, I got an A!

St. Thomas Aquinas, in the first half of the second part of his magnum opus, the Summa Theologiae[1], treats one of the fundamental questions of human existence, the good and evil of human actions. Through the course of addressing this question he concludes that not all human actions are good, that some are indeed evil. In doing so, he reveals interesting insights into his understanding of the human person (and even provides a basis from which to compare his thought to Plato’s). Here we will focus our attention on Article 1, of Question 18 in this particular section[2] in order to examine these understandings and how he arrives at them.

Article 1 asks the following question: “Whether every human action is good, or are there evil actions?”[3] Before we begin, a clarification must be made that will affect how we understand the rest of this article and ancillary articles that St. Thomas references. When he says “Evil” here in the title he doesn’t only mean moral evil. “Evil” also suggests “non-goodness,” a distinct idea from moral evil. Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, gives the example of a tree to illustrate this point. He says that “a tree is not evil for not being God, but a tree, unlike God, can be diseased, and disease is evil for a tree.”[4] Noting this distinction from the beginning will give us a broader understanding of St. Thomas’ language which we will see later.

St. Thomas begins the article by presenting three Objections against the possibility that any human actions can be evil, which he will then analyze and refute. In Objection 1 he states: “Dionysius says that evil occurs only in virtue of what is good.” But since the power of good cannot produce evil, evil actions must not exist. Objection 2 says that an evil action is one that is deficient in some way. But all actions can be perfected and perfected actions are only good. Therefore, “every action is good and none is evil.” Finally Objection 3 again quotes Dionysius who states that evil only happens accidentally. But all actions must have proper effects, not accidental ones, “therefore no action is evil; on the contrary, every action is good.”

St. Thomas then gives a general rebuttal by quoting our Lord in John 3:20, “Everyone who does evil hates the light.” The witness of Scripture being one of his primary authorities, he states that some human actions must be evil. He then gives his own Response that will expound on the rebuttal and concludes the article with specific Replies to each Objection. In this Response and in the Replies we see the heart of St. Thomas’ understanding of the human person.

First he says that if we can understand how some things can be evil themselves, understanding evil as it was described earlier, then we can progress to an understanding of how human actions can be evil as well. The “good-ness” or “evil-ness” of an action flows from the “good-ness” or “evil-ness” of the thing that produces the action. He begins this train of thought by stating that since a thing exists at all, it is good. This he proved in two earlier Articles in the Summa and is worth examining here[5]. In the first part of the Summa under Question 5, Articles 1 and 3 ask “Whether goodness differs really from being?” and “Whether every being is good?” respectively. He answers negatively to Article 1 and affirmatively to Article 3. “Goodness and being are really the same, and differ only in idea” because goodness is desirable, and it is desirable in so far as it is perfect, perfect in so far as it is actual and actual if it simply exists. Therefore, as St. Augustine says, “inasmuch as we exist we are good.”[6] In answering positively to Article 3, it is enough to see that being denotes existence and so we are in the same line of logic used in Article 1 and can conclude that every being is good.

Returning to St. Thomas’ Response, we now have the first point revealed about his understanding of the human person, that because he exists, he is good, or to put it a better way, he is essentially good. We will see the appropriateness of this word, essence, later in our examination of the Response.

St. Thomas then states that “In God alone the complete fullness of His being is in something one and simple, while in everything else the fullness of being proper to it involves diverse things.” He makes this point to draw out the distinction between God and man. Man is good because he has being as a human, as was shown before. But, unlike God, man’s fullness of being isn’t in “something one and simple,” but requires the composite of soul and body with all of their respective capabilities intact. So in this respect if man falls short in one of these capabilities he is imperfect and so is not exhibiting the complete fullness of his being of which he is capable. Therefore, he is evil in this way, or rather; he has evil or “non-goodness” in him. St. Thomas illustrates this in his example of the blind man: “a blind man possesses goodness inasmuch as he lives, but evil (or “non-goodness”)[7] inasmuch as he lacks sight.”

Finally, St. Thomas concludes:

We must therefore say that every action has goodness, in so far as it has being: whereas it is lacking in goodness, in so far as it is lacking in something that is due to its fullness of being; and thus it is said to be evil: for instance if it lacks the quantity determined by reason, or its due place, or something of the kind…[8]

Peter Kreeft comments here that “St. Thomas means by ‘being’ not [only] ‘existence’ (for evil acts exist) but also essence [as was mentioned before], including proper form and order to the end.”[9] Here again “evil” means some sort of deficiency or “non-goodness” but this now leads us to the more popular understanding of “evil” as a moral issue because these deficiencies make evil possible.[10] It is because of this connection that St. Thomas can conclude that some human acts are evil.

An example of “non-goodness” making “moral-evil” possible is illustrated in Article 8 of Question 5 in the first half of the second part of the Summa.[11] Here the question is “Whether every man desires happiness?” In his Response, St. Thomas states that “to desire happiness is nothing else than to desire that one’s will be satisfied. And this everyone desires”[12] But, some do not know the proper object of happiness which is the vision of the Divine Essence.[13] This deficiency in knowledge, this “non-goodness,” leads man to engage in destructive behaviors, morally evil actions, that he thinks will bring him happiness but will only offend him, others, and God. Therefore a second point revealed about St. Thomas’ understanding of the human person is that though man is essentially good, he is capable of committing absolutely morally-evil acts.

We can also draw out of the previous examination a basis for comparison to Plato. Where St. Thomas’ definition of man portrays him as fully being only when he is a composite of body and soul, Plato regards only the soul as the real being and the body as merely its “prison.” For St. Thomas the body and soul, together with all its faculties work together for the attainment of happiness, i.e. vision of the Divine Essence. Plato’s vision of the Divine Essence, the “Form of the Good,” is hindered and constricted by the body, and all his energies are spent trying to subdue and minimize the body’s influence and contribution (Phaedo 64e-65b).

This brings us to St. Thomas’ Replies in our focus Article. In his Reply to Objection 1, in which Dionysius says that evil “occurs only in virtue of what is good,” St. Thomas qualifies this by saying that “evil occurs in virtue of a deficient good.” Indeed he would agree that an absolute good could not produce evil. But this particular good (which still has goodness by virtue of being a good) is “deficient” thereby allowing the possibility for evil to be produced. In his Reply to Objection 2, in which it is asserted that evil actions do not exist because actions are perfectible and therefore good, St. Thomas counters that a certain aspect of an action can indeed be perfected while another aspect, the deficient one, can yield the evil. For example, a blind man has the “power of walking” like any other man but his deficiency in sight hinders his walking. Here we have evil as a “non-goodness” which, for further example, could lead to the moral-evil of despair or impatience. Finally in his Reply to Objection 3, which states that evil only happens accidentally rather than properly – so no action is evil – St. Thomas states that an evil action can have a proper effect according to the “goodness and being it has.” For example, adultery generates another human being by virtue of the “union of male and female” not the “lack in the order of reason” (a deficiency of reason) that made the adultery possible.

Now that we have examined the entirety of this Article in St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, we can state clearly and separately two points that we have uncovered regarding his understanding of the human person: 1. That man is good because he exists and due to his essence and 2. It is possible that some of his acts are evil despite his essential goodness. One may be spurred by this examination to ask, “Why would man make evil actions?” In our brief treatment here we have said that this is due to man’s deficiencies of the soul and body that make evil possible. Armed now with this understanding of the human person and the cause and capability of evil in him, we can come to reconcile the real evil human action in this world with the dignity with which man was created.

[1] In this essay, I use the translation of Summa Theologiae in Treatise on Happiness, translated by John A. Oesterle, ©1983, University of Notre Dame Press edition, hereafter referred to as “TH.” I also refer to a different translation of Summa Theologiae used in Summa of the Summa, edited and annotated by Peter Kreeft, ©1990, Ignatius Press – that was done in 1920 by The Fathers of the English Dominican Province – hereafter referred to as “SS.” All quotes from Summa Theologiae are of the former translation unless indicated otherwise.
[2] 1-2.18.1 to be precise
[3] SS translation used here
[4] SS, p. 414, n. 120 says, “‘Evil’ is meant here not only in the narrow and specific sense of moral evil, but as the opposite of any good. St. Thomas does not believe that evil is a being, but that it is in beings. He does not belief that multiplicity and finitude are evil in themselves, as the Gnostics and Manichees taught, but that finitude and multiplicity make evil possible. A tree is not evil for not being God, but a tree, unlike God, can be diseased, and disease is evil for a tree.”
[5] TH, p. 161, n. 7 directed me toward these articles. They are, to be precise, 1.5.1 and 1.5.3
[6] The quotes in this paragraph up to this point, except for “good-ness” and “evil-ness” which are my own invention, are from the SS translation
[7] Cf. n. 4 above
[8] SS translation used here
[9] SS, p. 415, n. 121
[10] This is distinct from saying the deficiencies themselves are evil. Cf. n. 4 above.
[11] 1-2.5.8 to be precise
[12] SS translation used here
[13] Cf. 1-2.3.8

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Pre-Theology Ministry Log 05

(see here)

Pre-Theologian Ministry Log

Date: Thursday, Nov 17, 2005

Event: St. Ambrose Family Outreach Center: This week very few adults were there, I think it may be because it was the first really cold evening and maybe people didn’t feel like getting out. So Vic and I only stayed there for an hour while he helped one young man. No one else needed help and the teens were playing basketball so I chatted with the teen coordinators at the front desk

Name the feelings you experienced during the event: I was talking with one of the guys that runs the teen program, Gregory, and he was so excited to hear that I had worked in software development before seminary. He talked about the calendar project that the teens were working on and I could tell how proud he was of the project and of the kids. He showed me the calendar they made last year and went on and on about how much work it took to make and how some of the kids were really sharp with computers. He wanted to much for me to help them with their next calendar because it would be good for the kids and they could learn so much from me. They wanted me to come Tuesday night (Nov 22) but I said that Vic would be going home and St. Mary’s likes for us to come in pairs. Besides, I have work study in the library that night from 7-10pm.

What was difficult and or troubling? Why? Nothing, although I did feel very tired.

Where was God in this event? In Gregory’s zeal for working with the teens.

What have you learned about yourself in the wake of this event? Nothing evident at the moment

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Consecration: Twenty-Sixth Day

(see here)

True Devotion by St. Louis de Montfort: No. 12-38:

12. Finally, we must say in the words of the apostle Paul, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has the heart of man understood" the beauty, the grandeur, the excellence of Mary, who is indeed a miracle of miracles of grace, nature and glory. "If you wish to understand the Mother," says a saint, "then understand the Son. She is a worthy Mother of God." Hic taceat omnis lingua : Here let every tongue be silent.

13. My heart has dictated with special joy all that I have written to show that Mary has been unknown up till now, and that that is one of the reasons why Jesus Christ is not known as he should be.

If then, as is certain, the knowledge and the kingdom of Jesus Christ must come into the world, it can only be as a necessary consequence of the knowledge and reign of Mary. She who first gave him to the world will establish his kingdom in the world

Necessity of Devotion to Our Lady

14. With the whole Church I acknowledge that Mary, being a mere creature fashioned by the hands of God is, compared to his infinite majesty, less than an atom, or rather is simply nothing, since he alone can say, "I am he who is". Consequently, this great Lord, who is ever independent and self-sufficient, never had and does not now have any absolute need of the Blessed Virgin for the accomplishment of his will and the manifestation of his glory. To do all things he has only to will them.

15. However, I declare that, considering things as they are, because God has decided to begin and accomplish his greatest works through the Blessed Virgin ever since he created her, we can safely believe that he will not change his plan in the time to come, for he is God and therefore does not change in his thoughts or his way of acting.

16. God the Father gave his only Son to the world only through Mary. Whatever desires the patriarchs may have cherished, whatever entreaties the prophets and saints of the Old Law may have had for 4,000 years to obtain that treasure, it was Mary alone who merited it and found grace before God by the power of her prayers and the perfection of her virtues. "The world being unworthy," said Saint Augustine, "to receive the Son of God directly from the hands of the Father, he gave his Son to Mary for the world to receive him from her."

The Son of God became man for our salvation but only in Mary and through Mary.

God the Holy Spirit formed Jesus Christ in Mary but only after having asked her consent through one of the chief ministers of his court.

17. God the Father imparted to Mary his fruitfulness as far as a mere creature was capable of receiving it, to enable her to bring forth his Son and all the members of his mystical body.

18. God the Son came into her virginal womb as a new Adam into his earthly paradise, to take his delight there and produce hidden wonders of grace.

God-made-man found freedom in imprisoning himself in her womb. He displayed power in allowing himself to be borne by this young maiden. He found his glory and that of his Father in hiding his splendours from all creatures here below and revealing them only to Mary. He glorified his independence and his majesty in depending upon this lovable virgin in his conception, his birth, his presentation in the temple, and in the thirty years of his hidden life. Even at his death she had to be present so that he might be united with her in one sacrifice and be immolated with her consent to the eternal Father, just as formerly Isaac was offered in sacrifice by Abraham when he accepted the will of God. It was Mary who nursed him, fed him, cared for him, reared him, and sacrificed him for us.

The Holy Spirit could not leave such wonderful and inconceivable dependence of God unmentioned in the Gospel, though he concealed almost all the wonderful things that Wisdom Incarnate did during his hidden life in order to bring home to us its infinite value and glory. Jesus gave more glory to God his Father by submitting to his Mother for thirty years than he would have given him had he converted the whole world by working the greatest miracles. How highly then do we glorify God when to please him we submit ourselves to Mary, taking Jesus as our sole model.

19. If we examine closely the remainder of the life of Jesus Christ, we see that he chose to begin his miracles through Mary. It was by her word that he sanctified Saint John the Baptist in the womb of his mother, Saint Elizabeth; no sooner had Mary spoken than John was sanctified. This was his first and greatest miracle of grace. At the wedding in Cana he changed water into wine at her humble prayer, and this was his first miracle in the order of nature. He began and continued his miracles through Mary and he will continue them through her until the end of time.

20. God the Holy Spirit, who does not produce any divine person, became fruitful through Mary whom he espoused. It was with her, in her and of her that he produced his masterpiece, God-made-man, and that he produces every day until the end of the world the members of the body of this adorable Head. For this reason the more he finds Mary his dear and inseparable spouse in a soul the more powerful and effective he becomes in producing Jesus Christ in that soul and that soul in Jesus Christ.

21. This does not mean that the Blessed Virgin confers on the Holy Spirit a fruitfulness which he does not already possess. Being God, he has the ability to produce just like the Father and the Son, although he does not use this power and so does not produce another divine person. But it does mean that the Holy Spirit chose to make use of our Blessed Lady, although he had no absolute need of her, in order to become actively fruitful in producing Jesus Christ and his members in her and by her. This is a mystery of grace unknown even to many of the most learned and spiritual of Christians.

2. Mary's part in the sanctification of souls

22. The plan adopted by the three persons of the Blessed Trinity in the Incarnation, the first coming of Jesus Christ, is adhered to each day in an invisible manner throughout the Church and they will pursue it to the end of time until the last coming of Jesus Christ.

23. God the Father gathered all the waters together and called them the seas (maria). He gathered all his graces together and called them Mary (Maria). The great God has a treasury or storehouse full of riches in which he has enclosed all that is beautiful, resplendent, rare, and precious, even his own Son. This immense treasury is none other than Mary whom the saints call the "treasury of the Lord". From her fullness all men are made rich.

24. God the Son imparted to his mother all that he gained by his life and death, namely, his infinite merits and his eminent virtues. He made her the treasurer of all his Father had given him as heritage. Through her he applies his merits to his members and through her he transmits his virtues and distributes his graces. She is his mystical channel, his aqueduct, through which he causes his mercies to flow gently and abundantly.

25. God the Holy Spirit entrusted his wondrous gifts to Mary, his faithful spouse, and chose her as the dispenser of all he possesses, so that she distributes all his gifts and graces to whom she wills, as much as she wills, how she wills and when she wills. No heavenly gift is given to men which does not pass through her virginal hands. Such indeed is the will of God, who has decreed that we should have all things through Mary, so that, making herself poor and lowly,, and hiding herself in the depths of nothingness during her whole life, she might be enriched, exalted and honoured by almighty God. Such are the views of the Church and the early Fathers.

26. Were I speaking to the so-called intellectuals of today, I would prove at great length by quoting Latin texts taken from Scripture and the Fathers of the Church all that I am now stating so simply. I could also instance solid proofs which can be read in full in Fr. Poiré’s book "The Triple Crown of the Blessed Virgin". But I am speaking mainly for the poor and simple who have more good will and faith than the common run of scholars. As they believe more simply and more meritoriously, let me merely state the truth to them quite plainly without bothering to quote Latin passages which they would not understand. Nevertheless, I shall quote some texts as they occur to my mind as I go along.

27. Since grace enhances our human nature and glory adds a still greater perfection to grace, it is certain that our Lord remains in heaven just as much the Son of Mary as he was on earth. Consequently he has retained the submissiveness and obedience of the most perfect of all children towards the best of all mothers.

We must take care, however, not to consider this dependence as an abasement or imperfection in Jesus Christ. For Mary, infinitely inferior to her Son, who is God, does not command him in the same way as an earthly mother would command her child who is beneath her. Since she is completely transformed in God by that grace and glory which transforms all the saints in him, she does not ask or wish or do anything which is contrary to the eternal and changeless will of God. When therefore we read in the writings of Saint Bernard, Saint Bernardine, Saint Bonaventure, and others that all in heaven and on earth, even God himself, is subject to the Blessed Virgin, they mean that the authority which God was pleased to give her is so great that she seems to have the same power as God. Her prayers and requests are so powerful with him that he accepts them as commands in the sense that he never resists his dear mother's prayer because it is always humble and conformed to his will.

Moses by the power of his prayer curbed God's anger against the Israelites so effectively that the infinitely great and merciful Lord was unable to withstand him and asked Moses to let him be angry and punish that rebellious people. How much greater, then, will be the prayer of the humble Virgin Mary, worthy Mother of God, which is more powerful with the King of heaven than the prayers and intercession of all the angels and saints in heaven and on earth.

28. Mary has authority over the angels and the blessed in heaven. As a reward for her great humility, God gave her the power and the mission of assigning to saints the thrones made vacant by the apostate angels who fell away through pride.

Such is the will of almighty God who exalts the humble, that the powers of heaven, earth and hell, willingly or unwillingly, must obey the commands of the humble Virgin Mary. For God has made her queen of heaven and earth, leader of his armies, keeper of his treasures, dispenser of his graces, worker of his wonders, restorer of the human race, mediatrix on behalf of men, destroyer of his enemies, and faithful associate in his great works and triumphs.

29. God the Father wishes Mary to be the mother of his children until the end of time and so he says to her, "Dwell in Jacob", that is to say, take up your abode permanently in my children, in my holy ones represented by Jacob, and not in the children of the devil and sinners represented by Esau.

30. Just as in natural and bodily generation there is a father and a mother, so in the supernatural and spiritual generation there is a father who is God and a mother who is Mary. All true children of God have God for their father and Mary for their mother; anyone who does not have Mary for his mother, does not have God for his father. This is why the reprobate, such as heretics and schismatics, who hate, despise or ignore the Blessed Virgin, do not have God for their father though they arrogantly claim they have, because they do not have Mary for their mother. Indeed if they had her for their mother they would love and honour her as good and true children naturally love and honour the mother who gave them life.

An infallible and unmistakable sign by which we can distinguish a heretic, a man of false doctrine, an enemy of God, from one of God's true friends is that the heretic and the hardened sinner show nothing but contempt and indifference for our Lady. He endeavours by word and example, openly or insidiously - sometimes under specious pretexts - to belittle the love and veneration shown to her. God the Father has not told Mary to dwell in them because they are, alas, other Esaus.

31. God the Son wishes to form himself, and, in a manner of speaking, become incarnate every day in his members through his dear Mother. To her he said: "Take Israel for your inheritance." It is as if he said, God the Father has given me as heritage all the nations of the earth, all men good and evil, predestinate and reprobate. To the good I shall be father and advocate, to the bad a just avenger, but to all I shall be a judge. But you, my dear Mother, will have for your heritage and possession only the predestinate represented by Israel. As their loving mother, you will give them birth, feed them and rear them. As their queen, you will lead, govern and defend them.

32. "This one and that one were born in her." According to the explanation of some of the Fathers, the first man born of Mary is the God-man, Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ, the head of mankind, is born of her, the predestinate, who are members of this head, must also as a necessary consequence be born of her. One and the same mother does not give birth to the head without the members nor to the members without the head, for these would be monsters in the order of nature. In the order of grace likewise the head and the members are born of the same mother. If a member of the mystical body of Christ, that is, one of the predestinate, were born of a mother other than Mary who gave birth to the head, he would not be one of the predestinate, nor a member of Jesus Christ, but a monster in the order of grace.

33. Moreover, Jesus is still as much as ever the fruit of Mary, as heaven and earth repeat thousands of times a day: "Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus." It is therefore certain that Jesus is the fruit and gift of Mary for every single man who possesses him, just as truly as he is for all mankind. Consequently, if any of the faithful have Jesus formed in their heart they can boldly say, "It is thanks to Mary that what I possess is Jesus her fruit, and without her I would not have him." We can attribute more truly to her what Saint Paul said of himself, "I am in labour again with all the children of God until Jesus Christ, my Son, is formed in them to the fullness of his age." Saint Augustine, surpassing himself as well as all that I have said so far, affirms that in order to be conformed to the image of the Son of God all the predestinate, while in the world, are hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin where they are protected, nourished, cared for and developed by this good Mother, until the day she brings them forth to a life of glory after death, which the Church calls the birthday of the just. This is indeed a mystery of grace unknown to the reprobate and little known even to the predestinate!

34. God the Holy Spirit wishes to fashion his chosen ones in and through Mary. He tells her, "My well-beloved, my spouse, let all your virtues take root in my chosen ones that they may grow from strength to strength and from grace to grace. When you were living on earth, practising the most sublime virtues, I was so pleased with you that I still desire to find you on earth without your ceasing to be in heaven. Reproduce yourself then in my chosen ones, so that I may have the joy of seeing in them the roots of your invincible faith, profound humility, total mortification, sublime prayer, ardent charity, your firm hope and all your virtues. You are always my spouse, as faithful, pure, and fruitful as ever. May your faith give me believers; your purity, virgins; your fruitfulness, elect and living temples."

35. When Mary has taken root in a soul she produces in it wonders of grace which only she can produce; for she alone is the fruitful virgin who never had and never will have her equal in purity and fruitfulness. Together with the Holy Spirit Mary produced the greatest thing that ever was or ever will be: a God-man. She will consequently produce the marvels which will be seen in the latter times. The formation and the education of the great saints who will come at the end of the world are reserved to her, for only this singular and wondrous virgin can produce in union with the Holy Spirit singular and wondrous things.

36. When the Holy Spirit, her spouse, finds Mary in a soul, he hastens there and enters fully into it. He gives himself generously to that soul according to the place it has given to his spouse. One of the main reasons why the Holy Spirit does not work striking wonders in souls is that he fails to find in them a sufficiently close union with his faithful and inseparable spouse. I say "inseparable spouse", for from the moment the substantial love of the Father and the Son espoused Mary to form Jesus, the head of the elect, and Jesus in the elect, he has never disowned her, for she has always been faithful and fruitful.

3. Consequences

37. We must obviously conclude from what I have just said:
First, that Mary received from God a far-reaching dominion over the souls of the elect. Otherwise she could not make her dwelling-place in them as God the Father has ordered her to do, and she could not conceive them, nourish them, and bring them forth to eternal life as their mother. She could not have them for her inheritance and her possession and form them in Jesus and Jesus in them. She could not implant in their heart the roots of her virtues, nor be the inseparable associate of the Holy Spirit in all these works of grace. None of these things, I repeat, could she do unless she had received from the Almighty rights and authority over their souls. For God, having given her power over his only-begotten and natural Son, also gave her power over his adopted children - not only in what concerns their body - which would be of little account - but also in what concerns their soul.

38. Mary is the Queen of heaven and earth by grace as Jesus is king by nature and by conquest. But as the kingdom of Jesus Christ exists primarily in the heart or interior of man, according to the words of the Gospel, "The kingdom of God is within you", so the kingdom of the Blessed Virgin is principally in the interior of man, that is, in his soul. It is principally in souls that she is glorified with her Son more than in any visible creature. So we may call her, as the saints do, Queen of our hearts.

Prayers for Part 3

St. Louis de Montfort, pray for us!
St. Mary, pray for us!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Consecration: Twenty-Fifth Day

(see here)

True Devotion by St. Louis de Montfort: No. 213-225: (Wonderful effects of this devotion)

213. My dear friend, be sure that if you remain faithful to the interior and exterior practices of this devotion which I will point out, the following effects will be produced in your soul:

1. Knowledge of our unworthinessBy the light which the Holy Spirit will give you through Mary, his faithful spouse, you will perceive the evil inclinations of your fallen nature and how incapable you are of any good apart from that which God produces in you as Author of nature and of grace. As a consequence of this knowledge you will despise yourself and think of yourself only as an object of repugnance. You will consider yourself as a snail that soils everything with its slime, as a toad that poisons everything with its venom, as a malevolent serpent seeking only to deceive. Finally, the humble Virgin Mary will share her humility with you so that, although you regard yourself with distaste and desire to be disregarded by others, you will not look down slightingly upon anyone.

2. A share in Mary's faith

214. Mary will share her faith with you. Her faith on earth was stronger than that of all the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and saints. Now that she is reigning in heaven she no longer has this faith, since she sees everything clearly in God by the light of glory. However, with the consent of almighty God she did not lose it when entering heaven. She has preserved it for her faithful servants in the Church militant. Therefore the more you gain the friendship of this noble Queen and faithful Virgin the more you will be inspired by faith in your daily life. It will cause you to depend less upon sensible and extraordinary feelings. For it is a lively faith animated by love enabling you to do everything from no other motive than that of pure love. It is a firm faith, unshakable as a rock, prompting you to remain firm and steadfast in the midst of storms and tempests. It is an active and probing faith which like some mysterious pass-key admits you into the mysteries of Jesus Christ and of man's final destiny and into the very heart of God himself. It is a courageous faith which inspires you to undertake and carry out without hesitation great things for God and the salvation of souls. Lastly, this faith will be your flaming torch, your very life with God, your secret fund of divine Wisdom, and an all-powerful weapon for you to enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death. It inflames those who are lukewarm and need the gold of fervent love. It restores life to those who are dead through sin. It moves and transforms hearts of marble and cedars of Lebanon by gentle and convincing argument. Finally, this faith will strengthen you to resist the devil and the other enemies of salvation.

3. The gift of pure love

215. The Mother of fair love will rid your heart of all scruples and inordinate servile fear. She will open and enlarge it to obey the commandments of her Son with alacrity and with the holy freedom of the children of God. She will fill your heart with pure love of which she is the treasury. You will then cease to act as you did before, out of fear of the God who is love, but rather out of pure love. You will look upon him as a loving Father and endeavour to please him at all times. You will speak trustfully to him as a child does to its father. If you should have the misfortune to offend him you will abase yourself before him and humbly beg his pardon. You will offer your hand to him with simplicity and lovingly rise from your sin. Then, peaceful and relaxed and buoyed up with hope you will continue on your way to him.

4. Great confidence in God and in Mary

216. Our Blessed Lady will fill you with unbounded confidence in God and in herself:
1) Because you will no longer approach Jesus by yourself but always through Mary, your loving Mother.
2) Since you have given her all your merits, graces and satisfactions to dispose of as she pleases, she imparts to you her own virtues and clothes you in her own merits. So you will be able to say confidently to God: "Behold Mary, your handmaid, be it done unto me according to your word."
3) Since you have now given yourself completely to Mary, body and soul, she, who is generous to the generous, and more generous than even the kindest benefactor, will in return give herself to you in a marvellous but real manner. Indeed you may without hesitation say to her, "I am yours, O Blessed Virgin, obtain salvation for me," or with the beloved disciple, St. John, "I have taken you, Blessed Mother, for my all." Or again you may say with St. Bonaventure, "Dear Mother of saving grace, I will do everything with confidence and without fear because you are my strength and my boast in the Lord," or in another place, "I am all yours and all that I have is yours, O glorious Virgin, blessed above all created things. Let me place you as a seal upon my heart, for your love is as strong as death." Or adopting the sentiments of the prophet, "Lord, my heart has no reason to be exalted nor should my looks be proud; I have not sought things of great moment nor wonders beyond my reach; nevertheless, I am still not humble. But I have roused my soul and taken courage. I am as a child, weaned from earthly pleasures and resting on its mother's breast. It is upon this breast that all good things come to me."
4) What will still further increase your confidence in her is that, after having given her in trust all that you possess to use or keep as she pleases, you will place less trust in yourself and much more in her whom you have made your treasury. How comforting and how consoling when a person can say, "The treasury of God, where he has placed all that he holds most precious, is also my treasury." "She is," says a saintly man, "the treasury of the Lord."

5. Communication of the spirit of Mary

217. The soul of Mary will be communicated to you to glorify the Lord. Her spirit will take the place of yours to rejoice in God, her Saviour, but only if you are faithful to the practices of this devotion. As St. Ambrose says, "May the soul of Mary be in each one of us to glorify the Lord! May the spirit of Mary be in each one of us to rejoice in God!" "When will that happy day come," asks a saintly man of our own day whose life was completely wrapped up in Mary, "when God's Mother is enthroned in men's hearts as Queen, subjecting them to the dominion of her great and princely Son? When will souls breathe Mary as the body breathes air?" When that time comes wonderful things will happen on earth. The Holy Spirit, finding his dear Spouse present again in souls, will come down into them with great power. He will fill them with his gifts, especially wisdom, by which they will produce wonders of grace. My dear friend, when will that happy time come, that age of Mary, when many souls, chosen by Mary and given her by the most High God, will hide themselves completely in the depths of her soul, becoming living copies of her, loving and glorifying Jesus? That day will dawn only when the devotion I teach is understood and put into practice. Ut adveniat regnum tuum, adveniat regnum Mariae: "Lord, that your kingdom may come, may the reign of Mary come!"

6. Transformation into the likeness of Jesus

218. If Mary, the Tree of Life, is well cultivated in our soul by fidelity to this devotion, she will in due time bring forth her fruit which is none other than Jesus. I have seen many devout souls searching for Jesus in one way or another, and so often when they have worked hard throughout the night, all they can say is, "Despite our having worked all night, we have caught nothing." To them we can say, "You have worked hard and gained little; Jesus can only be recognised faintly in you." But if we follow the immaculate path of Mary, living the devotion that I teach, we will always work in daylight, we will work in a holy place, and we will work but little. There is no darkness in Mary, not even the slightest shadow since there was never any sin in her. She is a holy place, a holy of holies, in which saints are formed and moulded.

219. Please note that I say that saints are moulded in Mary. There is a vast difference between carving a statue by blows of hammer and chisel and making a statue by using a mould. Sculptors and statue-makers work hard and need plenty of time to make statues by the first method. But the second method does not involve much work and takes very little time. St. Augustine speaking to our Blessed Lady says, "You are worthy to be called the mould of God." Mary is a mould capable of forming people into the image of the God-man. Anyone who is cast into this divine mould is quickly shaped and moulded into Jesus and Jesus into him. At little cost and in a short time he will become Christ-like since he is cast into the very same mould that fashioned a God-man.

220. I think I can very well compare some spiritual directors and devout persons to sculptors who wish to produce Jesus in themselves and in others by methods other than this. Many of them rely on their own skill, ingenuity and art and chip away endlessly with mallet and chisel at hard stone or badly- prepared wood, in an effort to produce a likeness of our Lord. At times, they do not manage to produce a recognisable likeness either because they lack knowledge and experience of the person of Jesus or because a clumsy stroke has spoiled the whole work. But those who accept this little-known secret of grace which I offer them can rightly be compared to smelters and moulders who have discovered the beautiful mould of Mary where Jesus was so divinely and so naturally formed. They do not rely on their own skill but on the perfection of the mould. They cast and lose themselves in Mary where they become true models of her Son.

221. You may think this a beautiful and convincing comparison. But how many understand it? I would like you, my dear friend, to understand it. But remember that only molten and liquefied substances may be poured into a mould. That means that you must crush and melt down the old Adam in you if you wish to acquire the likeness of the new Adam in Mary.

7. The greater glory of Christ

222. If you live this devotion sincerely, you will give more glory to Jesus in a month than in many years of a more demanding devotion. Here are my reasons for saying this:

1) Since you do everything through the Blessed Virgin as required by this devotion, you naturally lay aside your own intentions no matter how good they appear to you. You abandon yourself to our Lady's intentions even though you do not know what they are. Thus you share in the high quality of her intentions, which are so pure that she gave more glory to God by the smallest of her actions, say, twirling her distaff, or making a stitch, than did St. Laurence suffering his cruel martyrdom on the grid-iron, and even more than all the saints together in all their most heroic deeds! Mary amassed such a multitude of merits and graces during her sojourn on earth that it would be easier to count the stars in heaven, the drops of water in the ocean or the sands of the sea-shore than count her merits and graces. She thus gave more glory to God than all the angels and saints have given or will ever give him. Mary, wonder of God, when souls abandon themselves to you, you cannot but work wonders in them!

223. 2) In this devotion we set no store on our own thoughts and actions but are content to rely on Mary's dispositions when approaching and even speaking to Jesus. We then act with far greater humility than others who imperceptibly rely on their own dispositions and are self-satisfied about them; and consequently we give greater glory to God, for perfect glory is given to him only by the lowly and humble of heart.

224. 3) Our Blessed Lady, in her immense love for us, is eager to receive into her virginal hands the gift of our actions, imparting to them a marvellous beauty and splendour, and presenting them herself to Jesus most willingly. More glory is given to our Lord in this way than when we make our offering with our own guilty hands.

225. 4) Lastly, you never think of Mary without Mary thinking of God for you. You never praise or honour Mary without Mary joining you in praising and honouring God. Mary is entirely relative to God. Indeed I would say that she was relative only to God, because she exists uniquely in reference to him.

She is an echo of God, speaking and repeating only God. If you say "Mary" she says "God". When St. Elizabeth praised Mary calling her blessed because she had believed, Mary, the faithful echo of God, responded with her canticle, "My soul glorifies the Lord." What Mary did on that day, she does every day. When we praise her, when we love and honour her, when we present anything to her, then God is praised, honoured and loved and receives our gift through Mary and in Mary.

Prayers for Part 3

St. Louis de Montfort, pray for us!
St. Mary, pray for us!