Thursday, March 30, 2006

prayers for vocations

Benedict XVI Urges Prayers for Vocations On Occasion of a World Day

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 30, 2006 ( Benedict XVI is appealing to all Catholics to intensify their prayer for vocations for a Church in need of more priests and consecrated persons.

"The priest's mission in the Church is irreplaceable," the Pope wrote in a message for the upcoming World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

"Therefore, despite the fact that in some regions there is a decrease of the clergy, the certainty must never be lost that Christ will continue to inspire men who, as the Apostles, putting all concerns aside, dedicate themselves totally to the celebration of the sacred mysteries, the preaching of the Gospel and pastoral ministry," the Holy Father wrote.

The 43th World Day of Prayer for Vocations will be observed May 7. The Vatican press office published the Pope's message today.

Reflecting on the World Day's theme, "Vocation in the Mystery of the Church," Benedict XVI also analyzed the call to the consecrated life, namely, the vocation of men and women who consecrate themselves to "the total and exclusive following of Christ."

After recalling Jesus' recommendation: "The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers to his harvest," the Pope added: "We experience intensely the need to pray for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life."

"It is no surprise that wherever there is prayer, vocations flower," he said, as "the holiness of the Church depends essentially on union with Christ and openness to the mystery of grace that acts in the hearts of believers."

pics from v.d.'s visit

Here are some pics I took during my vocation director's visit to St. Mary's on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was good to see him and catch up on things and he gave me a lot of really good advice. We also had a meeting with my mentor that I think went well.

I get to walk through this scene on my way to the chapel every day... and I thought this closeup was cool:

And here is a pic of the three of us: Mike Wimsatt, my diocesan brother, Fr. Bill Bowling, my vocation director, and me

world day of prayer for vocations

Following is Pope Benedict XVI's message for the upcoming World Day of Prayer for Vocations. I like how he points out that Mary is the model of religious life. Emphasis below is mine:


VATICAN CITY, MAR 30, 2006 (VIS) - Made public today was the Holy Father's Message for the 43rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which is due to be celebrated on May 7, fourth Sunday of Easter, on the theme: "Vocation in the mystery of the Church."

"The weight of two millennia of history makes it difficult to perceive the novelty of the fascinating mystery of divine adoption which lies at the center of St. Paul's teaching," writes the Holy Father in his Message, which is dated March 5. "We are called to live as brothers and sisters of Christ, to consider ourselves as sons and daughters of the same Father. This a gift that overturns all exclusively human ideas and projects."

"What, then, must we say," Benedict XVI asks, "of the temptation, so strongly felt in our own time, to think ourselves so self-sufficient as to shut ourselves off from the mysterious plan God has for us? The love of the Father, revealed in the person of Christ, calls out to us."

Down the centuries, the Pope writes, many men and women, "transformed by divine love, have consecrated their lives to the cause of the Kingdom," and "through Christ have known the mystery of the Father's love." These people, the Pope goes on, "represent the multiplicity of vocations that have always been present in the Church."

Referring then to Vatican Council II's universal call to sanctity, the Holy Father affirms that, in each generation, Christ "calls individuals to take care of His people; in particular He calls men to the priestly ministry to exercise a paternal function. ... The priest's mission in the Church is irreplaceable.
Therefore, even though some areas suffer a shortage of clergy, we must not lose the conviction that Christ continues to call men" to the priesthood.

"Another special vocation occupying a place of honor in the Church is the call to consecrated life. ... Although they undertake various forms of service in the field of human formation and care for the poor, in education and in assistance to the sick, [consecrated people] do not consider these activities as the principle aim of their lives because, as the Code of Canon Law says: 'Contemplation of divine things and assiduous union with God in prayer is to be the first and foremost duty of all religious'."

Benedict XVI concludes his Message with a call to pray "for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. ... The Church's sanctity depends essentially on her union with Christ and her openness to the mystery of grace at work in the hearts of believers. For this reason, I would like to invite all the faithful to cultivate an intimate relationship with Christ, Master and Pastor of His people, imitating Mary who guarded the divine mysteries in her heart and contemplated them assiduously."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

on virtue

Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.
– Pope St. Leo the Great

Lectio Divina

Here is my reflection for my Lectio Divina study group on Jeremiah 31:31-34

While this passage from the Prophet Jeremiah may seem like just a simple description of the old and the new Covenant, there is much here we can find, upon deeper reflection, to prepare us for the upcoming Holy Week and the Passion of our Blessed Lord. And in this preparation we can even arrive at a newfound appreciation for the life of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, whose death we so fittingly remember at this time.

First it is important to note the language with which Jeremiah speaks of the Old Covenant between God and his chosen people. Jeremiah says that God “took them by the hand,” a phrase exclusive to his prophecy, to “bring them out of the land of Egypt” and that he “was their husband.” Of all the nations, it was Israel’s hand that God took so that she would be his spouse, the one he would favor and set apart from the rest.

But, alas, Israel was not faithful and by her sins broke the special bond between herself and God. But, as is always the case, God always keeps up his side of the covenant: he has not stopped loving Israel and never will. But since one party has broken the covenant, a new one must be made, this time with similar but different terms. “Its content did not change, but [the] people will know it in a different way.” The special bond that was shared, the special knowledge the Israelites had of God, was protected, before, by His law, written on tablets of stone and expressed as obligations and commands. But, in the new covenant, says the Lord: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts” and, we might add, in their very being. In doing so, he made the bond between Himself and His people even stronger. If man were to break this law, he would not only be divorcing himself from God, but would be divorcing himself from his very identity. Only by repenting and returning to God would man be able to reclaim his identity and be most human and most himself.

This law of God, engraved on man’s heart, is what is referred to as natural law, or man’s participation in God’s Eternal Law. It is through faithful adherence to this natural law that man can live up to his side of the demands of the new Covenant. But, he is not left solely to his own devices in this discernment. At that most holy moment, when the terms of this covenant were finally established, God, through his only Son, Jesus Christ, formed the Catholic Church to rightly instruct man in the formation of his conscience and the following of natural law. But, what was this holy moment? When was Jeremiah’s prophecy fulfilled?

“When the hour came, Christ sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.’ See how our Lord desires to be in close union with his chosen people again? “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’” And the Angelic Doctor adds that it is also “from the side of Christ sleeping on the Cross [that] the Sacraments flowed-namely, blood and water-on which the Church was established.”

So it is here that we meditate on the Passion of our Blessed Lord, the sharing of his Precious Blood at the Last Supper, its spilling through his torture, and its flowing from the cross, to establish a new covenant once and for all, to restore the bond man once enjoyed with his Creator, and to give life to the Church in order to protect that bond.

But, finally, here we also meditate on another Passion, of another Christ, another servant of the servants of God, called by many: Pope John Paul the Great. A new book, released a couple of weeks ago in Italy, describes his last moments:

Archbishop Dziwisz recalls the moment on Easter Sunday, 2005, when Pope John Paul II appeared at the window of his apartment in the apostolic palace, but found himself unable to speak… It was at that moment… that the Polish Pope realized he could no longer carry out his work. He prayed: "Your will be done,"… Realizing that he was approaching death, the Pope decided against a return to the Gemelli hospital… "He wanted to suffer at home, staying close to the tomb of Peter the apostle,"… During the last day of his life, April 2, Pope John Paul took his final leave of his associates… He prayed with them during the early part of the day, despite a raging fever and extreme fatigue brought on by a complete physical collapse. In the afternoon he uttered his last words: "Let me go to the house of the Father." Early in the evening, after a last glimpse of an image of the Virgin of Czestochowa at his bedside, he closed his eyes for the last time.

What more could we do to live a life worthy of the ultimate sacrifice of God’s only Son and the constant dedication of his holy vicar on earth, than to keep the new covenant always before us? By learning from the Church how to follow this covenant more and more, we can better appreciate our human dignity that Christ died to restore and raise up and that our Holy Father died to disclose to the world.

Monday, March 27, 2006

one day, God-willing, I'll be a Father too

From Amy at Refusal to Grasp:

"Spiritual parenthood, as a sign of the inner maturity of the person, is the goal which in diverse ways all human beings, men and women alike, are called to seek within or outside matrimony. This call fits into the gospel summons to perfection of which the father is the supreme model. So then, human beings will come particularly close to God when this spiritual parenthood, of which God is the prototype, takes shape in them." Karol Wojtyla Love and Responsibility

Friday, March 24, 2006

respect life conference

Tomorrow I'll be attending the Archdiocese of Baltimore Respect Life Conference which I'm looking forward too. I'll be serving at the Mass and then there are several really good speakers:
Paul Mulligan: Director of Project Gabriel (How to Save Lives: Starting a Direct Outreach Program for Pregnant Women in your Community)
Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, D.D., V.G.: Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore (chat during Lunch)
Drs. Theresa and Kevin Burke (You are Not Alone; Hope and Healing after Abortion and How Abortion Hurts Men)
and the Keynote Speaker - Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. MLK Jr. (The Civil Rights Movement, The Pro-Life Movement)
and others!
I'm really excited about going to this because the speakers are top-notch... and I get to wear my clerics! hehe ;)
I'll let you know how it went tomorrow
... and don't forget tomorrow is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

1 year anniversary!

Today's my One Year Anniversary being on the Catholic Blogosphere!
My first two posts are here and here back when I began the application process to the Archdiocese of Louisville!
Reflections over the year: coming soon...

nerdy seminarian humor

Here is why my Philosophy professor, Dr. Paul Seaton, is awesome:

In my paper on Kass & Descartes (which stiiiiiiiiillllllll isn't done), in an attempt to be clever, I mimicked a line from Aristotle. In his Nicomachean Ethics, Book II, Article 5, paragraph 10, after defining virtue he says "So much for the genus of virtue." What he means is "This concludes our discussion of virtue" but I always thought this line was funny because we say "So much for x" today to mean "Well, that went down the tubes fast!"

So in my paper I noted how Kass comments that modern science "throws icy water on the human spirit." I explained that at length and then said, "So much for our icy water" along with a footnote saying "Sorry, I couldn't resist" and citing Aristotle.

But, Dr. Seaton left a note on my draft saying he didn't get the joke and didn't have a copy of the Nicomachean Ethics around.

So I sent him an email saying that I was scandalized that he didn't.

His reply: "Imagine how I felt! Empoverished, naked, violated, dark night of the soul, empty, …"

I thought that was LOL funny!

There's some nerdy seminarian humor for ya!

all will go better

We need never fear that the Mass hinders us in the fulfillment of our temporal affairs; it is altogether the other way around. We may be sure that all will go better and that even our business will succeed better than if we have the misfortune not to assist at Mass.
– St. John Vianney

Monday, March 20, 2006

St. Joseph, ora pro nobis

See my previous post here on St. Joseph, Encouragement on the Path to the Priesthood.

Also this from a sermon by Saint Bernadine of Siena, priest (from the Office of Readings for March 19):
There is a general rule concerning all special graces granted to any human being. Whenever the divine favor chooses someone to receive a special grace, or to accept a lofty vocation, God adorns the person chosen with all the gifts of the Spirit needed to fulfill the task at hand.

This general rule is especially verified in the case of Saint Joseph, the foster-father of our Lord and the husband of the Queen of our world, enthroned above the angels. He was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworty guardian and protector of his greatest treasures, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Joseph's wife. He carred out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying:
Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.

What then is Joseph's position in the whole Church of Christ? Is he not a man chosen and set apart? Through him and, yes, under him, Christ was fittingly and honorably introduced into the world. Holy Church in its entirety is indebted to the Virgin Mother because through her it was judged worthy to receive Christ. But after her we undoubtedly owe special gratitude and reverence to Saint Joseph.

In him the Old Testament finds its fitting close. He brought the noble line of patriarchs and prophets to its promised fulfillment. What the divine goodness had offered as a promise to them, he held in his arms.

Obviously, Christ does not now deny Joseph that intimacy, reverence and very high honor which he gave him on earth, as a son to his father. Rather we must say that in heaven Christ completes and perfects all that he gave at Nazareth.

Now we can see how the last summoning words of the Lord appropriately apply to Saint Joseph:
Enter into the joy of our Lord. In fact, although the joy of eternal happiness enters into the soul of a man, the Lord preferred to say to Joseph: Enter into joy. His intention was that the words should have a hidden spiritual meaning for us. They convey not only that this holy man possesses an inward joy, but also that it surrounds him and engulfs him like an infinite abyss.

Remember us, Saint Joseph, and plead for us to your foster-child. Ask your most holy bride, the Virgin Mary, to look kindly upon us, since she is the mother of him who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns eternally. Amen.
Saint Joseph, ora pro nobis

Sunday, March 19, 2006

pics from full day

Douglas Brinkley signs my three copies of Parish Priest:

Picture of me and the ladies at the Pregnancy center:

Saturday, March 18, 2006

full day

Today was a full day. This morning I got up and prayed at the abortion clinic from 9-10am... it was pretty uneventful. Then from 10am-1pm at the seminary, Douglas Brinkley was doing a book-signing for Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism. This is one of very few stops he's making to promote the book. I was a underdressed for the event because I had just gotten back from the clinic. He gave an interesting little talk to about the adversity Fr. McGivney went through in establishing the Knights of Columbus admist vehement early-American Anti-Catholicism.

There were tons of Knights there (including yours truly) which was cool to see. I bought a couple copies for "Cookie" Harris, the lady I've been working with to organize various pro-life activities. She publicizes our prayer vigils to her parish, volunteers at a Pregnancy Center, is involved with the Gabriel Project, and several other things. She's also the wife of Pro-Life Maryland State Senator, Andrew Harris (and here).

I then went to Mass at 11:30am and afterwards met "Cookie" at the Pregnancy Center to give her the books I got for her. I was able to help out a little bit which was cool. If anyone tries to tell you pro-lifers only care about babies in the womb, they're wrong. This particular center had tons of supplies of everything: formula, toys, beds, strollers, maternity clothes, everything. One woman came in wanting some supplies for a friend of hers who was actually so overweight that she didn't know she was pregnant! That gives a whole new meaning to "surprise pregnancy"... but anyway, the Center gave her a supplies kit that consisted of a baby carrier thing filled with a large assortment of different things... I helped her carry it to her car.

There was also a Chinese woman there who was studying to become a Doctor in China and was there for an internship. She was very sweet and pleasant to talk to while we were sitting together in the waiting room. I felt like congratulating her for even being alive... being a Chinese woman and all... we all know how much the Chinese hate their own women, let alone their own babies... grrrrrr.... anyway, she asked me some peculiar questions. She asked me why someone would want a baby? I replied that there's several reasons but ususally because they want a family. She said she had heard that people want to have a child because they think it would bring them happiness. I agreed wholeheartedly but was a little worried because her tone indicated that was a foreign concept to her. She also asked me why someone would not want to have a baby. I replied that some think it would be an inconvenience or too expensive. She just nodded her head.

She really came alive in response to the lady who had come for the supplies. She had had three of her own children with her. The Chinese woman was so excited to see them, she kept saying over and over "You're so lucky! You're so lucky!" I felt bad for her but I couldn't really put my finger on it... I wished I could have gotten to know her better.

The Center closed at 1pm so Cookie and I went to Panera Bread and had a nice lunch and great conversation. We talked until 4:30pm about pro-life stuff, our faith, the culture, politics, my "conversion" into a more serious faith, hers as well, my vocation story, our families, etc. It was great :)

I came back to "the house" took a nap, dinner at 5:30pm, and then continued to put my paper off and off and off and off and off and off........... ad infinitum.........

Note: Blogger's photo-uploader-divis is all scrogged up so I'll post pics later

hoc est corpus meum

Since Christ Himself has said, "This is My Body" who shall dare to doubt that It is His Body?
– St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Friday, March 17, 2006

me too

If I am worthy, I am ready to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for Christ's name.
– St. Patrick

When you have fallen or when you find yourself overwhelmed by the weight of your wretchedness, repeat with a firm hope: Lord, see how ill I am; come and heal me, Lord, you who died on the Cross for love of me.
Be full of confidence. Keep on calling out to his most loving Heart. He will cure you, as he cured the lepers we read about in the Gospel.
– St. Josemaria Escriva, The Forge, #213

St. Patrick, pray for us!

This day is not all about leprechauns, shamrocks and green beer. This is a day to honor and pray to St. Patrick. He was an influential saint who, 1,500 years ago, brought Christianity to the little country of Ireland. He was born about 385 in the British Isles, was carried off while still very young during a raid on England by the Irish and sold as a slave. At the end of six years he contrived to escape to Europe, became a monk and was ordained; he then returned to Ireland to preach the Gospel. During the thirty years that his missionary labors continued he covered the Island with churches and monasteries; in 444 he founded the metropolitan see of Armagh. St. Patrick died in 461. After fifteen centuries he remains for all Irishmen the great bishop whom they venerate as their father in the Faith.

Read more here...

Also, of interest today: The Irish Madonna of Hungary

The veneration of Our Lady unites men all over the world in love, homage and supplication. It is not surprising therefore that an image of her which is dear to the hearts of one nation calls forth a sense of brotherhood and reverence in a far distant land. It is almost as if these images formed the material links in a vast chain of prayer. So the Irish Madonna of Hungary has joined two nations.

Read more here...

And Our Lady in Old Irish Folklore and Hymns

The tradition and literature of the Gael provide ample evidence that early Christian Ireland was in a very marked way devoted to the Mother of God. Of these sources of evidence, the most telling and fascinating seem to be folklore and hymns.
Read more here... for example, this hymn:

Safe from the rugged thorn springs up the tender rose
In honour hidden the parent stem, in beauty's softness grows;
So from the sinful stem of Eve all sinless Mary came,
To cover and to expiate her mother's deed of shame.
God our Father, you sent St. Patrick to preach your glory to the people of Ireland.
By the help of his prayers, may all Christians proclaim your love to all men.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

St. Patrick, ora pro nobis!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

new book on the last weeks of the life of JPII

A new book is out that describes in detail the last weeks and moments of our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II:

Archbishop Dziwisz recalls the moment on Easter Sunday, 2005, when Pope John Paul II appeared at the window of his apartment in the apostolic palace, but found himself unable to speak. The Pope's frustration was evident, and his secretary remarks that the "display of powerlessness, of suffering, and of paternal love" left "an indelible impression in the hearts of men throughout the world."

Pope John Paul was also moved by the incident, Archbishop Dziwisz recalls. It as at that moment, his longtime aide says, that the Polish Pope realized he could no longer carry out his work. He prayed: "Your will be done," his secretary reports. Realizing that he was approaching death, the Pope decided against a return to the Gemelli hospital, the book indicates. "He wanted to suffer at home, staying close to the tomb of Peter the apostle," Archbishop Dziwisz discloses. During the last day of his life, April 2, Pope John Paul took his final leave of his associates, the Polish archbishop reports. He prayed with them during the early part of the day, despite a raging fever and extreme fatigue brought on by a complete physical collapse. In the afternoon he uttered his last words: "Let me go to the house of the Father." Early in the evening, after a last glimpse of an image of the Virgin of Czestochowa at his bedside, he closed his eyes for the last time.
Read the entire article here.

John Paul the Great, ora pro nobis!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

fishers of men

Vocations Film Aims to Boost Priests Too
U.S. Bishops to Show "Fishers of Men"

WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 14, 2006 ( "Fishers of Men," an 18-minute film aimed at promoting priestly vocations, will be premiered this week by the U.S. bishops' conference.

The film, as part of a wider project, Priestly Life and Vocation Summit: Fishers of Men, intended to renew priests' sense of fulfillment in their vocation and to encourage them to draw on that
satisfaction to invite other men to pursue the priesthood. The project was developed by the bishops' Committee on Vocations.

The film, produced by Grassroots Films of New York, is a fast-paced video which shows many of the facets of a priest's daily life.

Several priests provide testimony to the importance they place on their own vocation. A dramatic re-enactment portrays how a priest can inspire a vocation through his service to someone in need of priestly ministry.

The video is accompanied by questions for discussion among priests who view the film together at their diocesan vocation summit.

One question asks, "Reflecting upon your own vocation and reasons for becoming a priest, are they similar to those presented in the film?"

Another asks, "What part of the film do you think will most inspire young men in your parish to consider priesthood as a possible vocation?"

"A hero"

The film is also intended to be used by priests in discussions with men considering the priesthood.

Men who saw an advance screening of the film have praised it highly.

"It appeals to the desire in every man to be a hero, to stand up for something great," said Kevin Kimtis of New Jersey.

"It is by far the best vocation video I have ever seen," said Brandon Macadaeg of California. "It will touch the hearts and minds of many across the country."

"'Fishers of Men' goes beyond what any person could expect of a vocations film," observed Chad Eckles of Utah. "This film touched my heart and soul."

Joseph Campo, producer of Fishers of Men, said, "I speak for everyone on the Grassroots Films
staff when I say that we have always had a positive view and appreciation of the Catholic priesthood throughout the world, and we are grateful for the opportunity to portray in the film what it means to be a priest."

Monsignor David Malloy, general secretary of the U.S. bishops' conference, said, "I thought 'Fishers of Men' was extremely moving. It reminds us why we became priests. I would love for my nephews to see it."

Father Edward Burns, executive director of the bishops' Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation, said, "With the release of the 'Fishers of Men' DVD, all the elements are in place for the Priestly Life and Vocation Summit project."

"Through workshops for priests, the goal of this is project is to renew and regenerate the priesthood in the United States," said Father Burns.

The "Fishers of Men" trailer can be viewed at
My Comments:
This video is pretty good! Grassroots Films is a solid group and very talented. I still like their vocation video that they made for the Archdiocese of New York better ("God in the Streets of New York" here and here). I get teary-eyed every time I watch it. I highlighted it here a while back. They also have a very good video for female religous life and several others as well.

Monday, March 13, 2006

statement to Catholic Democratic politicians

On Responsibilities of Catholics in Public Life
"Must Act Seriously and Responsibly on Many Important Moral Issues"

WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 12, 2006 ( Here is the "Statement on Responsibilities of Catholics in Public Life" issued Friday by the U.S. bishops' conference.
* * *
A recent public statement by 55 Catholic and Democratic members of the House of Representatives offers an opportunity to address several important points about the responsibilities of Catholics in public life.

We welcome this and other efforts that seek to examine how Catholic legislators bring together
their faith and their policy choices. As the Catholic bishops of the United States said in our June 2004 statement, "Catholics in Political Life": "We need to do more to persuade all people that human life is precious and human dignity must be defended. This requires more effective dialogue and engagement with all public officials, especially Catholic public officials. We welcome conversation initiated by political leaders themselves."

Therefore, we welcome the representatives' recognition that Catholics in public life must act seriously and responsibly on many important moral issues. Our faith has an integral unity that calls Catholics to defend human life and human dignity whenever they are threatened. A priority for the poor, the protection of family life, the pursuit of justice and the promotion of peace are fundamental priorities of the Catholic moral tradition which cannot be ignored or neglected. We encourage and will continue to work with those in both parties who seek to act on these essential principles in defense of the poor and vulnerable.

At the same time, we also need to reaffirm the Catholic Church's constant teaching that abortion is a grave violation of the most fundamental human right -- the right to life that is inherent in all human beings, and that grounds every other right we possess.

Pope John Paul II's apostolic exhortation on the vocation and mission of the laity, "Christifideles Laici," which the representatives' statement cites, declares: "The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination…. The human being is entitled to such rights, in every phase of development, from conception until natural death; and in every condition, whether healthy or sick, whole or handicapped, rich or poor" (38).

While it is always necessary to work to reduce the number of abortions by providing alternatives and help to vulnerable parents and children, Catholic teaching calls all Catholics to work actively to restrain, restrict and bring to an end the destruction of unborn human life.

As the Church carries out its central responsibility to teach clearly and to help form consciences, and as Catholic legislators seek to act in accord with their own consciences, it is essential to remember that conscience must be consistent with fundamental moral principles. As members of the Church, all Catholics are obliged to shape our consciences in accord with the moral teaching of the Church.

As bishops, we too are bound by our own consciences to teach faithfully and to recommit ourselves to continued reflection and discussion on how Catholic faith and public service can work together to promote human life and dignity and advance the common good. Through dialogue, especially the irreplaceable dialogue between Catholic political leaders and their own bishops, we hope to promote a better understanding of how the Church's teaching on human life and dignity challenges us all.

Cardinal William Keeler
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Pro Life Activities

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick
Chairman, USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Domestic Policy


You owe such a great debt to your Father-God! He has given you life, intelligence, will... He has given you his grace –the Holy Spirit; Jesus, in the Sacred Host; divine sonship; the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God and our Mother. He has given you the possibility of taking part in the Holy Mass; and he grants you forgiveness for your sins. He forgives you so many times. He has given you countless gifts, some of them quite extraordinary...

Tell me, my son: how have you corresponded so far to this generosity? How are you corresponding now?
– St. Josemaria Escriva, The Forge, #11


Sunday, March 12, 2006

great day today

Ah, today was a great day :) Four other guys and I went to a Latin Mass this morning at St. Alphonsus in downtown Baltimore becaue a couple of them hadn't seen one before. Larger pic here

Saint John Neumann lived in the present rectory as rector, master of novices, and vice-provincial. Another rector was Blessed Francis X. Seelos, C.SS.R. If he is canonized, Saint Alphonsus will be the only parish church in this country, and perhaps in the world, to boast of two former pastors as canonized saints.

Then we went to the Inner Harbor for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory and a quick trip to Barnes & Noble to pick up one of those laminated Latin charts for class. Overall, it was a great day indeed. Deo Gratias!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

get off me!

the abortion clinic

This morning, three other seminarians and I protested at the nearby abortion clinic only about 4 miles from St. Mary's here in Baltimore.

It's alarming to me how nonchalant this thing is. Roland Park, the area of Baltimore City that St. Mary's is in, is a pretty nice part of town and this abortion clinic is right in the middle of it... I mean post office across the street, dentist office and pharmacy in the same building, Northern Parkway running alongside of it... nobody knows its there.

Usually clinics are established in minority neighborhoods and poor parts of town mostly to target the African American community. The few but fervant pro-lifers in Maryland always protest the clinic downtown but nobody does anything about this one in Roland Park... Nobody! I guess I'm used to back home in Louisville where you can count on pro-lifers praying and protesting in front of the abortion clinic downtown every Saturday, and often during the week. Now, I must clarify, there is a pro-life group at one of the local parishes that has prayed at the Roland Park clinic several times over the years. But they like to plan their prayer vigils around the seminarians here at St. Mary's and our schedules are so off and on. I really want to make this a more regular thing though so I've agreed to take over the prayer vigil part of St. Mary's Pro-Life subcommittee activities. I hope we can rally the community to become more regularly involved.

Again, I found it alarming how few people know that this abortion clinic even exists right under their noses in their community. Since they only perform abortions every other Saturday, we happen to be there when they were closed. We could tell because the escorts they ususally have weren't there. But, that didn't stop us from praying anyway for an end to abortion and the closing of the clinic. Cookie Harris, wife of pro-life State Senator Andy Harris joined us and brought a young lady from her parish. One guy approached us this morning and told us he was unaware that there was a clinic there and that he supported our cause... so that was cool.

I was sad to hear from her that this clinic, Seneca Women's "Health Care," was under new managment, Whole Woman's Health, that owns four abortion clinics in Texas. They're dedicated to bolstering its business and making it a stronger clinic: They've hired four new "doctors" since coming under new management. They also now offer second trimester abortions and student discounts... how nice of them...

Anyway, below is a picture of our little group: I'm on the far right

And here's an article about our last visit that I mentioned here from the Defend Life Jan-Feb '06 Newsletter:

Seven enthusiastic young men from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore braved frigid temperatures to pray the rosary and demonstrate outside an abortion mill on Northern Parkway December 10.
The gravity of their purpose did not preclude them from exuding good cheer and poking a little fun at the two “pro-choice escorts” who had retreated inside the glass-enclosed lobby of the professional building housing the abortion mill to keep warm.

“We talked to them one time,” Max Pawlowski, a third-year theology student from Erie, Pa., confided with a grin.

“We said, ‘Why can’t we just forget all about this and go out to lunch together? After all, you don’t want to be involved with this – it’s killing babies!’ But they wouldn’t do it.”

Seminarians belonging to a pro-life subcommittee that is part of the seminary’s peace and justice committee have been coming to the prayer vigils at the abortion mill for over a year.

John Brian Rendfrey is chairman of the pro-life group, which meets every other Wednesday, prays the rosary for pro-life intentions every first Friday, and has mustered 50 seminarians to go to the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

On December 8 State Senator Andy Harris gave a talk to the group on embryonic stem cell research.

The Respect Life group of St. Joseph’s Church in Cockeysville began the prayer vigils at Seneca Women’s Health Care in December 2003.

The mill has since changed its name to Whole Woman’s Health of Baltimore, and is affiliated with Whole Woman’s Health, which has four abortion mills in Texas.

According to its website, Whole Woman’s Health affiliates perform second trimester abortions and offer student discounts. The Northern Parkway mill is located 1 ½ blocks from Mercy High School.

Cookie Harris, chairperson of St. Joseph’s Respect Life, said that the prayer vigils have a two-fold purpose.

One aim is “to be a presence to the community”: to inform passers--by and the people entering the offices within the professional building of the abortion mill’s existence.

The second purpose, said Harris, is “to be a prayer force to close it.”

The prayer vigils are held every other Saturday from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m.

For more information call Cookie Harris, 410-666-9411.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us!

Friday, March 10, 2006


Two powerful Lenten reflections for today:

Every priest who preaches the Word of God in times of persecution has no escape; he will die like Jesus on the Cross, with arms tied.
– Bl. Elias Nieves

May I give you some advice for you to put into practice daily? When your heart makes you feel those low cravings, say slowly to the Immaculate Virgin: "Look on me with compassion. Don't abandon me, my Mother." And recommend this prayer to others.
– St. Josemaria Escriva, Furrow, #849

what a woman

Since I like to post, in this blog, Marian stuff I come across, I had to excerpt a beautiful post from my good and dear friend Amy over at The Refusal to Grasp. It's part of a larger context on the proper role of men and women in a relationship. Please read the whole thing here.

Woman's role is not to be Adam. It's also not to let Adam know what his role is. Relationship's are like chinese finger cuffs in this way. The more you try to let the other know what his/her role is the worse it gets. The more you focus on being what you are, the more free you become.

Hey, I didn't make the rules, I've just lost at the game enough times to know what they are.

Somehow, even if you are dead on convinced that you are right (which we always are aren't we?) and he is wrong, the minute you point a finger, accuse, or even politely say "just move out of the way and let me do it" you can pretty much throw in the towel. It's like a chain reaction. One of you does it, then the other reacts, and it all keeps spiraling down until somebody is crying, aggrivated or just shuts down completely. On the contrary, if you recognize the small, oh so painful opportunity to die to yourself in a moment preceeding one of these conflicts, an amazing thing happens. One little death will do it and it will open the door for the other to be who they are and suddenly grace is pouring over both of you and the only problem left is how attractive he's just become.

Sounds easy, but let me tell you sista, it aint. To know what this looks like in every situation is so hard, so delicate. Somehow, everytime, it looks like Mary telling Jesus "they need more wine".

What is the fundamental difference between Eve in the garden and Mary at the wedding at Cana?

Mary did not presume to do what it was Jesus' role to do. She was completely and totally receptive to him, as man, in a beautifully, feminine, active way. She did not act for him, she provided the space where his act would be most fruitful. Mary provides space, [but not passively], actively, creatively even.

What a woman.

Amen, Amy. Amen.


Anybody feel like comparing and contrasting Descartes and Leon Kass for me? Ugh...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

is natural virtue false virtue?

Disclaimer: Don't get me wrong with this one, I would never advocate dissention from St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine :) I think they would agree with my conclusion. And believe me, my Philosophy teacher is top-notch, he'd tell me if I was going astray. That said...

Sokolowski and the Question of Falsity in the Natural Virtues

Aristotle, in Book II of Nicomachean Ethics, defines moral or natural virtue (or “excellence”) as a “characteristic”[1] that “renders good the thing itself of which it is the excellence” and “causes it to perform its function well.” To be more precise, he adds that “the virtue or excellence of man… will be a characteristic which makes him a good man, and which causes him to perform his own function well.” Furthermore, “to experience [emotions and actions, and pleasure and pain] at the right time, toward the right objects, toward the right people, for the right reason, and in the right manner – that is the median and the best course, the course that is a mark of virtue.”[2] St. Thomas Aquinas also has a definition. It is one that he says “will apply to all virtues in general… [i.e.] Virtue is a good quality of the mind, by which we live righteously, of which no one can make bad use.”[3] It is also “a habit perfecting man in view of his doing good actions.”[4] This phrase, “doing good actions,” helps us see that these natural virtues are acquired through action. Regardless, these two definitions sound to us to be very similar.

But, St. Thomas also makes a stark contrast between natural virtue and other moral virtues that are infused in us by God. He says, “those infused moral virtues, whereby men behave well in respect of their being ‘fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God’ (Eph. 2:19), differ from the acquired virtues, whereby man behaves well in respect of human affairs.”
[5] But the contrast goes even further. He says that “only the infused virtues are perfect, and are to be called virtues [simply] simpliciter… The other virtues, the acquired ones, are virtues [in a restricted sense or “in a way”] secundum quid, but not [simply] simpliciter.” Hence, “[A] gloss of Augustine on the words, ‘For all that is not from faith is sin’ (Rom. 14:23), says: ‘Where there is no recognition of the truth, virtue is false, even in good habits.’”[6] But what becomes of the man who does not know God yet is still a good person, exhibiting well the acquired natural virtues? Are these not virtues after all? Is his seemingly moral life a life of “false virtue”? Indeed, Aquinas’ and Augustine’s treatment here rings sharply in our ear toward inter-religious ecumenism. If their case is true, it has many ramifications in our theological reflection and dialogue, as Christians, with people of non-Christian religions.[7]

To address this matter further, we will turn to Monsignor Robert Sokolowski’s book, The God of Faith and Reason. He provides much material that can aid us in our pursuit of an answer to the question: Is natural virtue false virtue? And he acknowledges our instinct to declare “that it is not fair to natural virtue to call it false” and what this has done to theological reflection. Frankly, he says, theological reflection must face these problems, “the aporiae,” when it “examines ‘actions’ within the Christian setting."

First, the proper distinction must be made, before we can begin to understand what natural virtue even is. Sokolowski is a master of distinctions, shedding light on ideas and realities by looking at their counterparts or by looking at what they are not. He notes, by observing the action of mankind, that we all naturally do this, we all utilize distinctions as we seek to understand the world and everything of and not of it. We understand the living more when we contrast it to what we can know of the nonliving. We understand health more when we contrast it to disease. “Making distinctions is the first step of the exercise of reason” and looking at an object without taking into account its “proper other” only gives us half of our object’s story, half of its “disclosure.”

Sokolowski gives us a proper beginning-distinction in Chapter Seven, “Theological Virtue.” He says that “in order to discuss the integrity of what is and remains good by nature, we must first bring out more fully the differences between the natural and the Christian.” In the “natural” setting, there is a “steady anonymity of the world, in and against which action occurs.” But when this natural setting, the world, is viewed in light of the Christian understanding of the world as created and of God as its creator, “human action, correspondingly, is now obliged in a new way; it must not only bring itself forward in virtue in order to become itself; it must also respond to the generosity of creation and to the still greater generosity of the incarnation and redemption.” Sokolowski informs us that “our involvement in this new setting is cultivated in what have been called the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.” So, to both clarify our Aristotle and Aquinas distinction at the beginning and to refine the distinction we’ve made here, we could say that it is now safe to move forward with a distinction between natural virtue and theological virtue.

Sokolowski then, quite helpfully, reinforces what we said in the beginning with clear definitions of each: “natural virtue is acquired by doing good actions, first under the guidance of others and then on our own.” And in the exercise of faith, hope, and charity,
what is being done is, not merely an action within a setting of the world and its necessities, but an involvement with God who is not a part of this world… The differences within which such identifications take place are articulated when the world is taken no longer as the final setting for action, but as the place in which God the creator has intervened to make available his own divine life.
In this new Christian setting, we must keep in mind though that natural virtue isn’t assumed or transformed into theological virtue; it retains its dignity and its own distinctive character. A person, for example, who is weak in the natural virtues of self-control, can, in that struggle still be an example of faith, hope, and charity. He is still weak but at the same time can still receive the grace of the theological virtues. And, the “bonum honestum,” that which is noble and good in the natural setting, remains that which should be done by the Christian agent. “What is good by nature is not set over against what is good by grace but is integrated into it. And what is good by grace is not simply a matter of convention and arbitrary decision; rather it builds on nature and shares in the reasonableness associated with nature.” But, “the truth in this paradox is the theological truth that God’s work is not achieved through human virtue and that God can choose even the weak to make his grace manifest.” The Christian may here ask: “If God’s work is not achieved through human virtue,” what good is it? Can we now answer our question, “Is natural virtue false virtue?” with a “No”?

Sokolowski adds that Aquinas says that natural moral virtue conditions us “only” for civic life and human affairs and “from the point of view of the final end of man, good dispositions that fail to serve the final end [God] do somehow seem to be bleached of their goodness.” Here again we think Sokolowski is going to answer our question with a negative but he digresses to discuss “other shifts in the meaning of virtue between Aristotle and Aquinas.”

In Chapter Eight, “The Theology of Disclosure,” Sokolowski takes up our question again: “Augustine has said, and Aquinas has quoted him as saying, that natural virtue without faith is false virtue… It seems to deny what is obvious. According to every natural measure there were and there are good, prudent men among those who do not share the Christian faith.” So what is the conclusion? Here, a further distinction is needed:

Instead of comparing the theological good with the natural [as we’ve done up to this point], it is necessary to examine how the one comes to light against the other, to show how the theological good becomes differentiated from the natural good… If we wish to clarify what is meant theologically when natural virtue without faith is said to be false virtue, we must… turn to the theology of disclosure.
With this theology, we try to determine how the theological good becomes light; we try to show how the distinction between the natural and the Christian good occurs. “In the way things appear we also have presented to us the way things are in themselves.” Sokolowski makes another digression here so that he can flesh out his theology with examples and more distinctions. Toward the end of the chapter he provides a helpful summary and again we are back to our question. Will there be an answer?

The fact is there is one obstacle keeping us from the answer: our own expectation. Modern philosophy has so permeated our culture that we demand cut-and-dry “Yes” or “No” answers to the questions we have about life. We want “clear and distinct” ideas. There must be no more mystery; we are unsatisfied with conclusions that require further thought or reflection.

[E.g.,]Our way of thinking about moral issues is very much influenced by the way Kant formulated them. Kant was influenced by Christian moral teaching and by currents in modernity that tend toward the overly formal, detached sense of reason… we must get out from under Kant and away from his formulations of moral terms and alternatives; Aristotle can help us do so.
Thankfully, Sokolowski is an Aristotelian.

Remember when we said earlier that Sokolowski notes what “we all naturally do” by “observing the action of mankind”? He accepts wholes as they are presented to him and the being they disclose. He doesn’t see the world as simply full of parts, as modernity does, parts that need to be assembled by man in specific ways so that he can reach the conclusions he desires. Sokolowski sees the natural and the Christian setting as both being full of conclusions already, conclusions that disclose rich meaning and value. In our case, we must not neglect “what we might call the density of the simply natural, the fact that it has its own kind of wholeness on its own kind of terms.” Looking at what the whole of the natural setting (with its natural virtues) discloses grants us much more insight than what we could obtain from merely asking, “Yes or No?” or “True or false?” Placing the natural setting and the Christian setting into a distinction and looking at their disclosures doesn’t require that we necessarily pit the two against each other, as our modern tendencies would have us do. Our ecumenical discussions and theological reflections with non-Christians are much better served if we look honestly at each one and appreciate what each one is and what each one is not:

Natural virtue is what we begin with in human experience. Theological virtue is disclosed in contrast with it, so theological virtue cannot say that natural virtue does not exist or that it is simply false. However, the disclosure of the theological is so special, and the kind of activity it opens for human being is so different, that natural virtue does not render us capable in any way of behaving in the new context. Hence natural virtue comes to light as not able any longer to let us act: from this perspective it changes its color and is “not” virtue.
There is a big difference between appreciating what something is “not” and simply proclaiming it is false. And we’ve already seen above what natural virtue “is”: It renders good; puts us on the median and best course; is a habit perfecting man; by it we behave well in human affairs; and it is unopposed to theological virtue. If we can show non-Christians that we appreciate the contributions of natural virtue then they will be more open to hear our disclosure of the distinct contributions of theological virtue. We wouldn’t say they are equal here. After all, Sokolowski rightly states that “natural virtue does not provide salvation." But by appreciating natural virtue without unduly elevating it and by presenting the disclosure of theological virtue without watering it down, the distinction between the two can serve to strengthen the ecumenical dialogue between Christians and non-Christians rather than deter it.

[1] Bk. II, Art. 5: “Thus, if the virtues are neither emotions nor capacities, the only remaining alternative is that they are characteristics. So much for the genus of virtue.” You gotta love that last sentence.
[2] Bk. II, Art. 6
[3] Summa I II, Q.55, A.4: From Answer: “Lastly, God is the efficient cause of infused virtue, to which this definition applies; and this is expressed in the words ‘which God works in us without us.’ If we omit this phrase, the remainder of the definition will apply to all virtues in general, whether acquired or infused.” This definition, from Objection 1, in its entirety is: “‘Virtue is a good quality of the mind, by which we live righteously, of which no one can make bad use, which God works in us, without us.’”
[4] Summa I II, Q.58, A.2: From Answer. Also defined as “habits of the appetitive faculty”
[5] Summa I II, Q.63, A.4
[6] Here I use the translations Sokolowski provides on p. 78-79.
[7] As Sokolowski notes at the beginning of Ch. 3, p. 21, the distinction between Christians and Atheists doesn’t work as well as the distinction between Christians and Non-Christians. So we will stick to the latter here.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

that's what I'm talkin about

When you are before the altar where Christ reposes, you ought no longer to think that you are amongst men; but believe that there are troops of angels and archangels standing by you, and trembling with respect before the sovereign Master of Heaven and earth. Therefore, when you are in church, be there in silence, fear, and veneration.
– St. John Chrysostom

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Aristotle on god

Aristotle’s God: First Mover and First Mind

In his masterful work, Aristotle’s Physics: A Guided Study, Joe Sachs closes his commentary on Book VIII with the following line: “Physics discovers, and abandons itself on, the doorstep of first philosophy (prote philosophia or ta meta ta phusika).” With this he implies a deep connection and move forward from Aristotle’s Physics to his Metaphysics. The Physics first “finds itself” in its discussion of god[1], its “Deduction of Motionless First Mover” and “The First Motion.” Then, strictly following this particular discussion, one could find that it “abandons itself” on Book XII of Metaphysics and its discussion of god as the “divine thought” or the First Mind. This essay will provide a synthesis of Sachs’ commentary[2] on Aristotle’s god, presenting a course of its development from the First Mover of Physics to the First Mind of Metaphysics.

In Book VIII of Physics, Aristotle makes his “Deduction of Motionless First Mover” by first pointing out Plato’s error in Timaeus that motion was created, that there was a time when things passed from immobility to mobility. He says, “[H]ow can there be any 'before' and 'after' without the existence of time? Or, how can there be any time without the existence of motion? If, then, time is the number of motion or itself a kind of motion, it follows that, if there is always time, motion must also be eternal.”

He then moves on to look at the transitions from rest (stasis) to motion (kinesis) and asks what governs the transitions from one state to the other. A creature that is resting, given its inner motions of metabolism, heartbeat, circulation, etc., is also privy to external motions – predators, the elements, etc. – that have bearing on his restful state and can move (or “cause”: aitia) him to motion. Aristotle says: “for we observe that there is always some part of the animal's organism in motion, and the cause of the motion of this part is not the animal itself, but, it may be, its environment.” But then what causes the predator, or the rain, or what moves him/it, to cause the motion of our resting-creature? How far back to do we go? Should we even make this journey if motion can be traced back ad infinitum? Sachs states quite clearly that “Where there is an external mover (kinoun) there is a first external mover.” How do we reconcile this with the eternity of motion? Here Sachs is quickly on his way to a complete articulation (logos) of Aristotle’s Physical First Mover. He concludes:

The first mover is not an event but a being, and stands first not in time but in the order of responsibility. Every such first mover must be motionless… not in the sense of being inert, but by being fully at-work, in an activity that is the same and complete at every instant.
Sachs continues by stating that “the mover can touch the moving thing without being touched by it” as in a fleshy apple that arouses our desire (or hunger, or appetite) which in turn causes us to move to pursue the apple. Then he asks, “Is there a single, altogether motionless, first source of all motion in the world?” Life is impossible without “conditions supplied by the being-at-work (energeia) of the cosmos.” But on what does the cosmos rely?

After lengthy arguments for the perpetual reversal of motion on a straight line, and for the existence of a duration of time in which to find this reversal, Aristotle concludes several things:
1. a “single unvarying cause” denotes a primary motion;
2. “a magnitude, a motion, and a time, because they are continuous, are infinitely divisible but not infinitely divided”;
3. it is the “prior existence of potencies (dunamis
[4]) in beings that holds each motion together as one and continuous”;
4. “only circular motion can be both whole and everlasting”; and
5. “no finite mover has an infinite power, and no infinite magnitude can exist all at once”

So, again, on what does the cosmos rely? Finally, Sachs states Aristotle’s conclusion and the answer to this question: “the first mover can have no magnitude at all. It must be a source outside of nature, in contact with the outermost sphere of the cosmos, responsible by its own constant being-at-work for the unvarying first motion that holds together the world.”

Now that the First Mover has been established, what exactly this might be is “a question that does not belong to physics.” Our discussion is now free to “abandon itself” on the doorstep of Metaphysics and the First Mind.

Here the cosmos can lead us to our discovery of the First Mind as well. Plants and animals secure their perpetuation through generation and the passing on of an identity held together through thinking. But Sachs points out that the cosmos holds together in a different way: “it seems to be literally and directly eternal by way of ceaseless repetition of patterns of locomotion.” Eternal motion is not created, so what could possibly “cause a motion without undergoing a motion?” Our example of the fleshy apple from Physics is useful here as well and in the same manner as before: “The desired object causes motion only as an object of thought.” Sachs concludes: “Just as the only candidate left to be the source of unity of form among the animals and plants was the activity of thinking, so again the only possible unmoved source for the endless circlings of the stars is an eternal activity of thinking.”

But is this enough to tell us “what exactly this might be,” what this First Mover, this First Mind is? We could conclude at this point that it is this being of the “self-subsisting activity of thinking.” But first, we must attend to Aristotle’s comment that “the subject of Mind involves certain difficulties.”

Aristotle explains that “Mind is to be held of all phenomena the most supernatural; but the question of how we must regard it if it is to be of this nature involves certain difficulties.” He then goes through a series of questions and answers to define how this Mind thinks and what is the object of its thought. He concludes: “Clearly, then, it thinks that which is most divine and estimable, and does not change; for the change would be for the worse, and anything of this kind would immediately imply some sort of motion.” But, Aristotle then adds a very important caveat: “thinking [of certain objects outside of itself] cannot be the supreme good.” Therefore, “Mind thinks itself, if it is that which is best; and its thinking is a thinking of thinking.”
[6] Thankfully, Aristotle then defends his seemingly cumbersome choice of words for the action of the First Mind: “[S]ince thought and the object of thought are not different in the case of things which contain no matter, they will be the same, and the act of thinking will be one with the object of thought.”

At this point, we have worked through Aristotle’s Physics and have found that his First Mover is eternal, motionless, fully-at-work, always causing, and has no magnitude. Moving
[7] to Metaphysics we found that Aristotle’s First Mind is the unmoved source of motion, eternally thinking, the most supernatural, eternally unchanging, and completely self-absorbed in, of, and about thought. After working through the difficulties involved in articulating its nature we arrive at Sachs’ concise statement of what Aristotle’s First Mind/First Mover really is: “It is the pure holding-together of the pure holdable-together, activity active, causality caused.”

[1] I use “god” with a small “g” to differentiate it from the Christian Creator-God.
[2] All quotes from Sachs concerning Aristotle’s Physics are from Aristotle’s Physics: A Guided Study, Masterworks of Discovery: Guided Studies of Great Texts in Science, Harvey M. Flaumenhaft, Series Editor, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
All quotes from Sacks concerning Aristotle’s Metaphysics are from An Outline of the Argument of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, The St. John’s Review, Summer 1981.
[3] “The stone thrown upward rises because of the thrower, but falls because of its own heaviness. Since its reversing motion cannot have a single unvarying cause, it is not the primary motion, and that is all Aristotle takes from the consideration of it.”
[4] Plural?
[5] Focusing on Metaphysics, Book XII, chapter IX.
[6] W. D. Ross uses “on” rather than “of”: it’s thinking is a thinking on thinking
[7] Pun intended

Thursday, March 02, 2006

first paper this semester

Last semester, I posted all of the papers I wrote. One of the purposes of this blog is to promote vocations and I thought it would be helpful for guys to see the material covered in seminary. I also thought friends and family back home might be interested as well. But I also gave the grade I got on each one which I've decided not to do anymore so that it doesn't become (is? was?) a pride issue. That said, here's the first paper this semester. I wrote it a while back. It is for my modern philosophy class and is titled, "The Prince and the Summa on Virtue," comparing Machiavelli's The Prince with St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae. Again, my professors always provide many helpful comments and corrections on my papers but those would be difficult to include here. So, you'll just have to take 'em as is, not knowing the grade of course too... so if you decide to use one of them, do so at your own risk, but with a link to this blog.

In his great work of political philosophy, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli explains in concrete detail what any prince must do in order to acquire and maintain power. Seemingly in accord with the classical political philosophers and early fathers of the Catholic Church in giving such advice, he writes much about the concept of virtue. But as this essay will show, Machiavelli’s instructions to the prince, Lorenzo de Medici of Florence, are in fact a harsh break from the traditional instructions on how to best acquire and maintain power. We will see how this work defines virtue and as it builds on this definition, separates itself further and further from its classical counterpart. Select chapters from The Prince will be presented to show this development and excerpts from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae will be given to highlight the departure.

In the first chapter of The Prince, in briefly addressing “How many are the kinds of principalities and in what modes they are acquired,” Machiavelli introduces his notion of virtue as a sort of tool for assuming new dominions to add on to what has already been inherited. With this brief mention of virtue Machiavelli sends a message to the reader that where the “ancients” would have introduced such an important concept with a reasonable argument, case study, or simple definition, Machiavelli is only concerned with its utility. This remains his focus through The Prince and is his first departure from the traditional understandings of virtue and its role in the everyday lives of rulers and their subjects.

St. Thomas Aquinas begins his treatment of virtue with Question 55 in the Summa, “Of the Virtues, As to Their Essence.” Four brief definitions can be found throughout the first article: virtues are “good habits;” virtue “denotes a certain perfection of a power;” “is nothing else than the good use of free-will;” and “is the order or ordering of love.” Aquinas and Machiavelli both start with their fundamental notions of virtue and then build on that foundation. This foundation determines the direction each of their arguments will take.

In chapter six of The Prince, Machiavelli returns to his thoughts on acquiring new principalities and specifically treats those acquired “through one’s own arms and virtue.” Here we get a clearer idea of the extent of Machiavelli’s divergence from traditional virtue. Here he also mentions Aquinas’ cardinal virtue, prudence, but in a context of pessimism and dishonesty. Machiavelli says that a prince should follow in the footsteps of the great rulers that have gone before him and while he will never be able to mirror their greatness, he can at least, out of prudence, try to mimic them as close as possible in order to be equally successful. Here prudence has an air of utility as well. He adds that without the opportunity to acquire and rule a nation, any virtues (including prudence) the prince may have are wasted and without these virtues, opportunities in turn are wasted.

This further development of virtue as both utilitarian and opportunistic contrasts with Aquinas’ further development of virtue as “an ordered disposition of the soul [in which] the powers of the soul are in some way ordered to one another, and to that which is outside.” Machiavelli cannot speak of “dispositions” for he claims that “the nature of peoples is variable.” Ultimately:

[Those] who become princes by the paths of virtue, acquire their principality with difficulty but hold it with ease; and the difficulties they have in acquiring their principality arise in part from the new orders and modes that they are forced to introduce so as to found their state and their security. And it should be considered that nothing is more difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, more dangerous to manage, than to put oneself at the head of introducing new orders.
Here we see that Machiavelli will not entertain the idea of installing new orders and modes of virtue or turning to virtue to aid in “introducing new orders.” Once they have been used to acquire new principalities they are out of the picture.

Aquinas provides further contrast when he notes from Augustine (“No one can doubt that virtue makes the soul exceeding good”) and from Aristotle (“Virtue is that which makes its possessor good, and his work good likewise”). So far we have no mention from Machiavelli of the soul as the seat of virtue or “the good” as its object, both fundamental concepts in a doctrine of virtue.

In chapter 25 of The Prince, Machiavelli compares fortune to a rushing river that floods and destroys a population that can do nothing to stop it. If only they had constructed the necessary structures to divert the river and protect the people before it flooded they would not have been totally at the mercy of cruel (mis)fortune. “It happens similarly with fortune, which demonstrates her power where virtue has not been put in order to resist her and therefore turns her impetus where she knows that dams and dikes have not been made to contain her.” Here virtue is presented as merely a deterrent to bad luck, misfortune, and by extension, God. Is virtue not good in and of itself? Aquinas gives us the answer:

We must, however, observe that, as accidents and non-subsistent forms are called beings, not as if they themselves had being, but because things are by them; so also are they called good or one, not by some distinct goodness or one-ness, but because by them something is good or one. So also is virtue called good, because by it something is good.
Machiavelli goes on in this chapter to develop virtue as being only good for the prince’s character if the times allow for it. Living a virtuous life is never an absolute vocation, regardless of the people the prince acquires and the manner with which he does so. If the prince is virtuous and the “times and affairs” accept him, then he “comes out happy.” If the times and affairs change, “he is ruined because he does not change his mode of proceeding.” Here Machiavelli associates the life of steadfast virtue with one of rigidity, foolishness, and ultimately, ruin. He illustrates how well Pope Julius II was able to manage his affairs through his impetuousness and implicitly states that virtue will never bring success as Machiavelli defines it. Furthermore, through this illustration, prudence is defined as having “firm conclusions and everything in order.” The contrast with Aquinas’ definition is glaring: “prudence is right reason about human acts themselves” and “is necessary to man, that he may lead a good life, and not merely that he may be a good man.”

Chapter 25 of The Prince is a particularly egregious chapter as Machiavelli explicitly states his wish to “depart from the orders of others.” His mischaracterization of virtue expands as well as he makes a mockery of prudence. In this chapter he speaks of “those things for which men and especially princes are praised or blamed.” He says that the classical instructions to rulers on how to lead with virtue are made up of illusions and are “imagined.” “What is true,” is that leaders will be praised or blamed for a wide variety of characteristics. Returning to his pessimism for the faculties of the human person, Machiavelli states that since the prince cannot have positive traits “nor wholly observe them, since human conditions do not permit it” he must use prudence to decide if avoiding vice is in the best interest of his state one day or if avoiding virtue is in his best interest the next! Using prudence to practice vice, to bring about evil in order to maintain the state is a notion Aquinas readily and reasonably counters: “One can make bad use of a virtue objectively, for instance by having evil thoughts about virtue, e.g., by hating it, or by being proud of it: but one cannot make bad use of virtue as principle of action, so that an act of virtue be evil.”

Finally, we come to chapter 28, “In What Mode Faith Should Be Kept by Princes.” Here, Machiavelli mentions Aquinas’ theological virtue of faith in the similar vein he has been using throughout the work:

One sees by experience in our times that the princes who have done great things are those who have taken little account of faith and have known how to get around men’s brains with their astuteness; and in the end they have overcome those who have founded themselves on loyalty.
He explains that in combat, the prince must be like a fox “to recognize snares” and a lion “to frighten the wolves.” He must avoid virtue with courage and cunning if he discerns that it is not in his best interests. He must put on airs and fake virtue to reel the people in for not only is man wicked and quick to turn on him, but gullible too and easy to please. Virtue is all part of a larger scheme of control and manipulation. The prince must be able to appear “merciful, faithful, humane, honest, and religious” whenever it is useful but he must also always be ready to “act against faith, against charity, against humanity, against religion” in order to “maintain his state.” By this time, Machiavelli has developed a doctrine of virtue with a teleology of mere “glories and riches.” Aquinas has a higher end in mind: “Man is perfected by virtue, for those actions whereby he is directed to happiness [and] partakes of the Divine nature.” And through the theological virtues he is “directed aright to God.”