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JPII and St. Nicholas

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

JPII, Papal Order of St. Sylvester, and Heraldry

Chivalry still exists in the Church. Over the years I have met knights and ladies from very diverse socioeconomic backgrounds: Knights and Ladies of Peter Clavier in Detroit and Columbus, Knights of Malta (philosopher Craig J.N. DePaulo), Knights of Columbus, and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

But I was unaware of the Papal Order of St. Sylvester, the likes of which JPII expanded to include ladies as well as knights in 1987. Pope St. Sylvester established the order during the rein of Constantine, following the persecution of Diocletian. Having endured both persecution and, for the first time, legal recognition of Christianity in Rome, Sylvester witnessed the blood of the martyrs' triumph over paganism in his day.

Members of the order wear the following:

"The cross of Saint Sylvester with white enamel, and the image of Saint Sylvester on a gold medallion surrounded by gold rays between the arms of the cross" (http://www.chivalricorders.org/vatican/papal.htm)

Pope St. Sylvester, ora pro nobis!

Another piece of evidence that chivalry is alive and well in Catholicism is the papal coat of arms. Below is the Vatican's write up on the arms of JPII (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/biography/documents/hf_jp-ii_bio_19781016):
The coat of arms of Pope John Paul II is intended as an act of homage to the central mystery of Christianity, the Redemption.

And so the main representation is a cross, whose form, however, does not correspond to the customary heraldic model. The reason for the unusual placement of the vertical section of the cross is readily apparent if one considers the second object inserted in the coat of arms the large and majestic capital M. This recalls the presence of Mary beneath the cross and her exceptional participation in the Redemption.

The great devotion of the Holy Father to the Virgin Mary is manifested in this manner, as it was also expressed in his motto as Cardinal Wojtyla: TOTUS TUUS (All yours). Nor can one forget that within the confines of the ecclesiastical province of Krakow, there is situated the celebrated Marian shrine of Czestochowa, where the Polish people for centuries fostered their filial devotion to the Mother of God.

Friday, December 27, 2013

JPII and "Good King Wenceslaus"

"Slavorum Apostoli" chronicles the missionary journey of Sts. Cyril and Methodius through the territory of the Slavs in Eastern Europe. Much like the brief mentioning of St. Nicholas in the same document, JPII gives a mere 'shout-out" to Wenceslaus, the Duke of Bohemia:


About 905-906 the Latin Rite took the place of the Slav Rite and Bohemia was assigned ecclesiastically to the Bishop of Regensburg and the metropolis of Salzburg. However, it is worthy of note that about the middle of the tenth century, at the time of Saint Wenceslaus, there was still a strong intermingling of the elements of both rites, and an advanced coexistence of both languages in the liturgy: Slavonic and Latin. Moreover, the Christianization of the people was not possible without using the native language. And only upon such a foundation could the development of the Christian terminology in Bohemia take place, and from here, subsequently, the development and consolidation of ecclesiastical terminology in Poland (#23).

As I said, much like St. Nicholas, JPII uses Wenceslaus as a unitive figure or landmark in the evangelization of the Slavic peoples. He represents an infiltration of the Gospel into the language, hierarchy, and customs of the Slavs, to such an extent that royalty even identifies with the language and message of Cyril and Methodius. Only a century after the Saints evangelized the region, Wenceslaus and others fully incorporated the life of Christ in the day to day, to the point of shedding their blood for Him.

In regard to Christmas, St. Wenceslaus is famous for the following line from "Good King Wenceslaus":

Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the feast of Stephen! (Dec 26th)

Merry Christmas!
С Рождеством

Thursday, December 19, 2013

JPII and St. Nicholas

 all pictures on this post via St. Nicholas Center

The only recorded "meeting" of St. Nicholas and JPII was in the Italian city of Bari, a coastal and mercantile hotspot far away from Nicholas' original place of Apostolic service, Myra, in present day Turkey. His relics were taken away from monks of Myra by Italian merchants (c.1087). Consequently, a basilica was constructed in Bari which housed the stolen relics from Myra (all pictures on this post via St. Nicholas Center: www.stnicholascenter.org). JPII visited the Basilica di San Nicola in February of 1984.

Because St. Nicholas is so loved by the Byzantine and Orthodox churches, JPII identifies his presence in Bari as an opportunity for Christian unity and common patrimony. The Byzantine rite claims Nicholas as her patron. Like the importance of Sts. Cyril and Methodius to Russia and the Russian church (who also claim Nicholas as a near patron, along with most of the Orthodox world), St. Nicholas plays a pivotal role in the unity between Eastern and Western Churches in the eyes of JPII. The slavic Pope notes of St. Nicholas' tomb:

Here is prolonged mysteriously a singular testimony of holiness, which has enlightened the hearts of millions of faithful of the East and the West. Here the memory of faith brings to life the presence, not extinguished by the death of a man who lived in the East between the third and fourth century, but found with magnificent expression of that special, unique kind of Christian genius that the Holy Spirit has given to the brothers of the East for the edification of the Church (Address of John Paul II at the Basilica di San Nicola, 26 Feb., 1984, Par #1)

 all pictures on this post via St. Nicholas Center
The Pope refers specifically to the relics of Nicholas himself, which, despite having been stolen from Myra, still exude a healing "manna" that pilgrims seek after for healing ( all pictures on this post via St. Nicholas Center: www.stnicholascenter.org). The healing qualities extend beyond physical ailments. They touch upon actual ruptures in the Church, as JPII goes on to quote Pope Urban II:

Just remember the Synod of Bishops Greek and Latin, in 1098, presided over by Pope Urban II here in this church, 'ante corpus Blessed Nicolai' in an effort to give expression to the intuition of harmony not only possible, but recognized in the nature of the Church. (Address of John Paul II at the Basilica di San Nicola, Par #2).

A true testament to the holiness of St. Nicholas lies in the fact that although his remains were taken from Myra to Bari, his relics continue to work miracles by the power of God's grace. His holiness is not erased because of the theft committed by Italian merchants. Rather he is remembered by JPII as charismatic, and a leader chosen by God:

All that honors the Church of Bari, and pays tribute to St. Nicholas, gentle man - according to the portrait of him that it was delivered by tradition - full of unfailing energy; magnificent image of Christ, the bishop who defended the true faith, he loved righteousness, has protected the poor and the widows (ibid).

 all pictures on this post via St. Nicholas Center
Of note also is his compassion for the impoverished, especially displayed in the story about his generosity toward the three daughters without dowries. That is why he is often displayed with three golden orbs (more commonly seen today as oranges placed in stockings). (all pictures on this post via St. Nicholas Center: www.stnicholascenter.org)

Why JPII does not specifically mention Christmas in his speech about St. Nicholas is hard to determine. The attention he draws to the Incarnation, in keeping with his theme of unity of Christians, suffices:

And the Church, for her part - I noticed in my first Encyclical - 'sees. . . its fundamental task in ensuring that this union is renewed continually. The Church wishes to serve this single end: that each person can find Christ, in order that Christ may walk with each person the path of life, with the power of the truth about man and the world, contained in the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption' (ibid).

He doesn't limit the influence of St. Nicholas to just Christmas, but extends it to the Redemption as well. By providing the gold needed for the daughters' dowries, Nicholas pointed to the payment of the Redemption wrought by Christ's blood. Likewise, by standing up against Arius at the council of Nicea, Nicholas firmly defended the Incarnation of the Word of God as well. JPII celebrated Mass in the Basilica di San Nicola, and brought all of these elements together in the sacrifice of Jesus to the Father. St. Nicholas was there in his relics and in spirit.
St. Nicholas of Myra is mentioned in Dante's Divine Commedy in Purgatorio XX "...Nicholas unto the maidens gave,/In order to conduct their youth to honour"

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

JPII vs. Ideology

I intend to devote a post entirely to JPII and Leo XIII, but a general rebuke of ideology in the name of Catholic Christianity is in order via the works of these men, as well as Maciej Zieba's commentary on "Centesimus Annus". The basic premise of my argument is that ideology distorts reality by using persons as means and not recognizing them as ends. This can occur in socialism, capitalism, and nearly every other system, including an ecclesial system, whereby that which is not personal reality, namely ideas and materials, replaces personal reality.

When I use the phrase "personal reality", I am referring to the Catholic Christian understanding that persons are ends in themselves, that is, the only creature, man, whom God created for its own sake (CCC #356). Persons are not ideas or materials for utilization. They can freely cooperate in a given system, as in free market capitalism, and freely respond in faith to God, but they are not systems in themselves to be coerced into action or strictly used for production. Despite the speculative accuracy of Meyers Briggs testing, a person is not a machine to be relied on for utilization in a given specialization. In theory, persons are free and largely unpredictable.

That said, systems are necessary for upholding the common good of persons: economically, socially, and so on. Were there not an agreed upon economic approach for upholding the common good of man, entropy would reign. Capitalism, for example, is the most successful system of economic exchange available to man to date, because all of the others distort the freedom of persons and personal reality. Nevertheless, Capitalism does have its shortcomings, and as an ideology, can prove to severly distort the worldview of its adherents. Likewise, as with any other system--including ecclesial--when taken as ideology can severely distort the worldview of its adherents.

In "Centesimus Annus", JPII argues that Catholic Christianity is not an ideology. In his work "Letter from Poland:Faith is not Ideology", Maciej Zieba O.P. makes constant reference to "Centesimus Annus" and outlines this list of Ideology's red-flags:
(1) it contains a conception of truth and goodness
(2) its followers believe that they are free to impose their conception upon others
(3) it expresses the whole of reality in a simple and rigid scheme.

He then follows the list with a concise rebuttal:

The Pope maintains that Christian truth does not fulfill the second and third conditions, and so Catholicism is not an ideology.(http://www.crisismagazine.com/1994/letter-from-poland)

I would simply add to his rebuttal, that ideologies do not recognize the person as a subject; merely as an object. With this in mind, ideology can therefore operate in opposition to personal freedom in the name of well-intentioned ideas.

Capitalism is a perfect example of this abuse, especially when it operates without reference to morality. The buying and selling of marijuana in some States in America, along with pornography and the business of "gentleman's clubs", constitutes a grave abuse of capitalistic ideology. In these cases, buyers are drawn into behavoirs that inhibit their freedom as persons and sellers are either using themselves, or their "people", as materials for use.

Yet, such ideology is excused as 'freedom' because it employs the willingess of its buyers and sellers to invest in it. On the contrary, the abuse of 'freedom', namely, the guaranteed loss of right reason with marijuana and the use of persons in the adult business, outweighs the ideological excuse. I want to make clear that personal freedom depends upon objective truth and goodness. In other words, the fact that a person is free does not enable him to do whatever he want to enslave himself. Or, in the case of an embryo or fetus, no action by another free person in the name of 'freedom' against the person as embryo/fetus is justifiable (Please see www.personhood.net for more info).

Another example of an impersonal ideology is socialism. Thanks to Pope Leo XIII's encyclical letter "Quod Apostolici Muneris", we have the following identification of socialists:
1) opposed to private property
2) against marriage between one man and one woman
3) advocate unconditional equality

As familiar as #'s 2 and 3 sound to the state of our world at present, #1 is really the most controversial in regard to Biblical Christianity. Indeed, many Christians themselves will site Acts Chapter 2 as justification for socialism/communism. But the sharing of common materials among persons in covenant, as the early Church did, is not the same as opposition to private property. Nor would one argue that a husband and wife and their family are communists because they share living space and other materials. Marriage between husband and wife is a reality that socialists are staunchly against! Why? Because the marriage covenant, as with religious congregations, interferes with the ideology that no one should have private property or take a subordinate position to another (as in the case with parents and children, etc.).

Conscious subordination of persons for the good of the whole of a family or congregation is opposed to entropy and in accord with right reason. It is not ideology to make decisions for the common good of persons. As I said before, some systems are necessary to insure people's well-being.

The crux of this matter, namely, between the common good of people and individual's personal well-being is where the Church has the most trouble with ideology. Orthodoxy is objectively good, so long as it is not used by Church members deliberately against the good-will of individual persons. What I mean by that is far more delicate a subject than with capitalism, because the economy of salvation is all the more valuable. Nevertheless, prosetylization or coercion of any sort at the expense of persons is unjust and ideological. Historical examples I can think of are the Spanish Inquisition, and forced baptisms of non-Christians. These are actions divorced from the recognition of persons, and stand in stark contrast to the familial subordination of persons I mentioned earlier. While the forced baptism of a non-Christian is an objectively and ideologically good idea, it does not respect the underlying covenant of persons involved: including the Persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Infant baptism does not fall under this category because a baptized infant will later have the chance to accept or reject the faith at Confirmation (although the decision is not limited to this Sacrament by time and place).

The Anabaptists, those against infant baptism, take the ideological stance that infants are incapable of receiving salvation at baptism. Therefore, they replace the Sacrament of Confirmation with Baptism later in life, as though baptism did not bring about an ontological change in the person, but was merely based on decision. The Amish in particular, will require their candidates for baptism to spend time away from their tight-knit community in order that they may make an informed decision to join or not to join the group by baptism. Rather than being an offense against the subjectivity of the person in this case, the Anabaptists place too much emphasis on the individual person and not enough on the objective and ontological truths of salvation that accompany baptism. Again, with Catholicism we have a both/and situation against ideology, whereas Anabaptists maintain an either/or approach. (Please see my previous post on Objective and Subjective Solipsism for more information).

Overall, I have laid out an argument that can utlimately be summed up in the differentiation between ideas and persons. The Catholic Church is not a mere framework of ideas, but the living body of her Head, the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus. Unfortunately, many people experience faith as ideology. In reality, the encounter with the Person of Jesus should define a Catholic Christian, and the following of the Lord's commandments should necessarily follow his Person.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

JPII and/vs Feminism

In 1949, Simone De Beauvoir wrote The Second Sex as an early argument for pre and post-war feminism, largely influenced by existentialism. It pre-dates Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique (1963) by about 14 years, and was published in French. The two works together form the catalyst for the worst of feminism today. As for the best of feminism, I specifically have in mind Wojtyla's understanding of female saints of his day, as contemporaries of De Beauvoir, emobodying "feminine genius" and not "feminine mystique"!

Some background on Simone De Beauvoir (special thanks to TMIY, http://www.slideshare.net/PDEI/light-to-the-nations-week-10?from_search=4):
1) Born and raised in Paris, France
2) After WWI, her family underwent financial crisis and she attended a local convent for her education
3) She became an atheist at age 15
4) At about age 20, she began a lifelong friendship with Jean-Paul Sartre and claimed him, Hegel, and Leibniz as her main philosophical influences

A key concept to Sartre's philosophy included: woman "being-in-itself", and man "being-for-itself". In other words, men were geared for 'freedom', and women were merely geared for 'commitment'. De Beauvoir's Second Sex aimed at destroying women's dependence on 'commitment' by divorcing women's maternal dimension from their social/'professional' lives. She is said to have taken these practical steps to bring such a change about:
1) Insistence that girls be raised without dolls, houses, and traditionally 'feminine' things
2) Discouragement of women to stay home and raise children
3) Encouragement of young women to strive for professional success at all costs
4) Wrote and signed French women's "Manifesto of the 343", numbering in the millions of women, who had had an abortion for the sake of advancing career and demanded free birth control

Compared with the Magna-Carta-like scale of Second Sex, Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique was a simple amendment for the cause of feminism. But it's timing was much more effective, as the second generation of women since the War were more susceptible to revolution in the 1960s, especially in regard to sex. Worldwide, women's mindsets altered drastically from interdependent to independent, thanks to the work of De Beauvoir and Friedan. Colleges and Universities began offering "Women's Studies" programs with more depth added to radical feminism by diversity of class and race. Within two decades, the 'normal' understanding of women's roles and biology had morphed entirely into an obscure indecipherability from that of men. Androgyny had become the socially constructed norm, as the outdated heteronormative view was only permitted for select Arab, Indian, and Israeli peoples.

What began as Sartre's differentiations between men and women (freedom and commitment), ended with just freedom/'being-for-itself'. This is the state of things today in most countries, namely, a lack of identity in the most fundamental sense of male and femaleness. Such is the case with the global push for same sex marriages, a kind of 180 degree turn from less than a century prior. {I do not want to be misunderstood here to mean that same sex attraction is a result of 20th century philosophy. That would be folly. What I mean is that from a modern philosophical and legal standpoint, there is little reason left to uphold the view of marriage between one man and one woman)

What were some of the outide socioeconomic pressures in Europe during the world wars? In other words, what may have been contributing factors to such outlandish philosophies of the last century?
Death Toll
A) European casualties in WWI= 15,893,629 enrolled men(http://www.pbs.org/greatwar/resources/casdeath_pop.html) Note: does not include Great Britain or Russia. France's total casualties (alone) of enrolled men=6,160,800
B) European casualties in WWII= 5,217,700 enrolled men (http://www.world-war-2.info/statistics/) Note: ibid^
Civil Service/Employment
C) Many women were forced to enter the workforce by governments during wars
D) On account of so many male deaths, women needed to support themselves
E) Higher education determined higher salary, etc.

I am not so naive as to think that the 20th century was not traumatic for women on both a macro and a microscopic level. And that even some of those who held to the age-old understanding of the human person grew desparate and disillusioned by war, hatred, and the overall problem of evil. My post is not intended to condemn feminism or its founders, misguided though they may have been. I very much hope that the guinea pigs of the movement (men and women both) have run their course and will teach future generations what not to do. But again, I am not so naive, and I estimate that at least another generation is gearing up to implement the philosophies of its founders.

Proof of my estimation is largely found in legislation. De Beauvoir's "Manifesto of 343" has been internationally legal in various forms for nearly half a century (Roe v Wade, etc.). Likewise, same sex marriage was just legalized in France this past year (2013). Unfortunately, legislation tends to outlive generations.

But where documents like that of Friedan and De Beauvoir thrive, so do that of great minds like Von Hildebrand, Wojtyla, Lewis, and others! I want to draw attention, particularly, to John Paul II's "Mulieris Dignitatem" as the medicene for the wounds inflicted by De Beauvoir. Otherwise, De Beauvoir's work communicates that womanhood in itself is undignified, which is fallacious. The woman as a human person, in reality, is central to the history of salvation and cannot, therefore, be replaced by androgyny. Nor can she be replaced by women trying to embody the worst vices of men, like Sartre, whom JPII seems to be directly addressing in his letter:

In the name of liberation from male 'domination', women must not appropriate to themselves male characteristics contrary to their own feminine 'originality'. There is a well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not 'reach fulfilment', but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their essential richness. ("Mulieris Dignitatem", #10)

The limitation placed on man and woman by Sartre and De Beauvoir's philosophy finds a direct contrast in the thought of Wojtyla. Where the former limit man to 'freedom', Wojtyla calls man to 'responsibility'. Likewise, where they limit woman to 'commitment', Wojtyla affirms woman as 'gift'. These are not mutually exclusive terms either, since Wojtyla perfects the original terms with their logical conclusions.

In "Mulieris Dignitatem", John Paul II also presents the unsaid conclusion to De Beauvoir's feminist program, namely, 'dominance'. Since De Beauvoir understood man's freedom to be 'dominating' of women, she wanted to empower women to do the same. Ironically, neither sex benefits from dominance, but rather, 'service' remains the key to reigning with dignity ('to serve is to reign'). In the end, 'dominance' only robs women of their fundamental right to reign in a specific sphere of humanity: maternity.

Thus, we have the basic principles from JPII in place for refuting De Beauvoir and Friedan's feminism, but how are they practically lived in today's world? A world where men's and women's occupations and professions are nearly interchangeable, where family's are redefined, and where confusion remains as to what the authentic expression of sexual identity is.

Again, JPII offers a simple, but forgotten, answer. For women, the self-giving service of maternity is not optional. Whether married or celibate, a woman can and must realize her maternal vocation and identity. Divorcing her body from her career, refusing to serve in her home, rejecting the Intelligent Design of her person by the Creator are all decisions for 'dominance' and not for 'gift'.

Visibly and daily, marriage between a man and a woman presents an obvious portrait of such service. Children are an excellent reminder of women's cooperation in the history of salvation, as a type of memorial of the Incarnation to which Mary addressed her 'fiat'. Indeed, without Mary's cooperation, the Incarnation would have been thwarted.

To expand on how unmarried or purposely celibate women live authentically, again, maternity is non-negotiable, although its expression is different from marriage. The authentic expression can be applied to the workplace for women in the secular world (though persecuted), as much as it can be applied to a convent or abbey. For a hypothetical example, the widowed queen of France can either choose to 'dominate' or 'serve' the common good by approving or disapproving of unethical legislation, and behaving in a way that befits her office as a high-profile woman who influences others.

Likewise for a nun, the opportunity for 'dominance' is just as accessible as 'service'. In my opinion, we have seen a majority of the LCWR display the incorrect expression of their femininity since the sexual revolution. The alternative are nuns who exercise their maternal authority in obedience, respect, and conformity to the example of the Theotokos.

The final question I want to ask is, would JPII have come to the conclusions he did without the bad examples of De Beauvoir, Sartre and others? In other words, is "Mulieris Dignitatem" just a conservative reaction to the feminist movement gone out of control? I would argue that that is not the case. Instead, I believe that Wojtyla's understanding of the human person is inspired by God first, and is seen to have always been lived out in the Church. As much as De Beauvoir was a contemporary of Wojtyla, so was Mother Theresa of Calcutta, St. Faustina, and St. Mrs. Gianna Beretta Molla.

The Church has always and will always hold the keys to authentic masculintity and feminity, because she(the Church) was founded by the One God in three Persons who said, "Let us make man in our image and likeness...male and female".

Monday, December 2, 2013

JPII and Cardinal Avery Dulles

The first time I encountered Avery Cardinal Dulles was at a Borromean lecture in Columbus, Ohio. There, I was operating lights for the stage on which he was delivering his address regarding the Church's response to terrorism. I only remember two things:
1) I fell asleep on the control panel for the lights, causing them to flash wildly during his presentation
2) When I woke up and fixed the problem, it was time for questions to be asked of the Cardinal. Someone asked him if the Boston Tea Party was the first act of terrorism, and if so, why should America be fighting against it! He replied with, "My lecture topic was the Church's response to terrorism, not 'America's' response".

After the fact, my impression of Cardinal Dulles was of straightforward brilliance. He is arguably ranked with the most Christ-centered Jesuits of the past century (though I wasn't interested in that qualification at the time of hearing him): Fr. Pacwa, Pope Francis, Fr Robert Spitzer, etc. But what sets him apart from even these priests was his pastoral wisdom for ecclesial matters, his simple articulation of defending the magisterium and pope, and lastly, his attention to details of Christian truth.

He was elevated to Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001. This after having served in the Navy during WWII and earning the Croix de Guerre medal as a lieutenant. Following the war, he joined the society of Jesus in 1946 (mirroring Karol Wojtyla's same year of ordination). Indeed the two men paralelled each other in a few ways, most notably their 'man of war'-like approach to defending Christ's Church and especially Vatican Council II.

A few more obscure facts about Dulles:
1) First American to be named a Cardinal based on theological works
2) suffered from polio since WWII

Again, like Wojtyla's later years, Avery Dulles knew the suffering of a debilitating disease. During WWII he contracted polio, and had boughts with the illness for the rest of his days. He did outlive Wojtyla by five years (Dulles: 1918-2008, Wojtyla: 1920-2005).

The two men helped to define for very different generations, what it meant to participate wholeheartedly in the life of the Church. I am referring specifically to the pre-conciliar generation and the post-conciliar generation. To each respective generation, both Dulles and Wojtyla defied the "laws" of liberal/conservative ideology. Instead, they insisted on the presence and Person of Jesus as essential to any approach to theological thinking. Unfortunately for me at the age of 17 (January of 2003), the presence and Person of Jesus in Cardinal Dulles' lecture only had a hypnotic effect. But looking back today, I can see more clearly.

Overall, it would be hard to argue with the witness of heroic virtue of Avery Cardinal Dulles. Here are some more examples in regard to his strong faith (see also JPII and Jesuit Reform from an earlier post):
1) He was the son of a Presbyterian pastor, and converted to Catholicism as an adult (1939) with his family's disapproval
2) He joined an order that was informally opposed to his own formal and informal conclusions about the Church.

I would even venture to say that Dulles outdid Wojtyla on a number of levels:
1) longer life with illness
2) more ideological enemies
3) lived through and served in WWII

Nevertheless, Cardinal Dulles did not almost single-handedly bring down the iron-curtain! Close, but not quite.

Avery Cardinal Dulles, ora pro nobis!

Short List of his works available in pdf online (please add to it if necessary)
1) "Filioque": What is at stake?
2) "Models of Catechesis"
3) America Magazine
4) Firstthings: Particularly, Dulles' teaching on Covenant http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/08/the-covenant-with-israel

Friday, November 15, 2013


A Catholic ministry that I have come to greatly respect comes to us out of the Lone Star State from a former energy derivatives trader, Steve Bollman. In the great jubilee year of 2000, he heard a call from God to found "Paradisus Dei", a lay ministry that serves as an umbrella organization for the program I am involved in, "That Man is You". It integrates faith and reason by incorporating the authentic teaching tradition of the Church with science and statistics. Blessed John Paul II, Pope Leo XIII, St. John Chrysostom, St. Iranaeus and many others are regularly referred to when considering male leadership in four distinct roles: morality, spiritual combat, economic stability, and political integrity. Far from being a strictly American or Texan approach to faith, Steve Bollman gets at the heart of the Universal Church by identifying Christ as the standard of virtue and perfection throughout history, including the Old Covenant pre-figurement of Christ in David, God's anointed king.

The first year of the program encourages husbands and fathers to become "men after God's own heart". David himself received this description, even with tremendous responsibility and temptation. He did, in fact, sin grievously--only to repent of his wrongdoing and accept the consequences of his actions. Therefore, besides the four leadership roles listed above, TMIY identifies five leadership traits to accompany the roles:

1)personal responsibility for one's actions
2)develop clarity of thought
3)maintain integrity of action
4)lay a foundation for the future
5)pay the necessary price

Reinforced by the writings of saints and church fathers (see above) as well as statistics and science necessitating the need for contemporary improvement, the program gives men a chance to hear God's continuous call on their lives and consequently discuss appropriate responses in small groups afterward.

Year two, my current course, is entitled, "Light to the Nations" and focuses in on the family. It draws from JPII's writings on the family as "placed at the heart of the great struggle between good and evil, between life and death and between love and all that is opposed to love” (Pope John Paul II, Letter to Families, #23). Likewise, he called the family the "domestic church" and the "nucleus through which passes all of human history". The timing of this course could not be better for me, as I begin raising my son at the start of my second year of marriage! Indeed, TMIY is timely for many parishes throughout the United States and is recently expanding to pilgrimages in France and Italy.

Speaking of Europe, Steve Bollman does not neglect the effects of 19th & 20th century philosophy on modern thinking. Readily accessible in JPII's Theology of the Body, Steve identifies Freud, Nietzsche, and Marx as the three european architects of the "culture of death" and masters of suspicion. Their influence still plagues the legislation, prejudices, and ideologies of western thought today. In direct contrast to such ideologies, JPII calls for a "civilization of love", the most basic unit of which is the family.

Inarguably, the family is the battleground for either succumbing to the "culture of death" or truly embodying the "domestic church". TMIY's emphasis on male leadership (particularly that of a 'father who is rich in mercy') is much needed throughout the Church to bring about authentic images of Trinitarian communion in marriage and family life. Thankfully, Steve himself and Blessed John Paul II serve/served as excellent examples of 'fathers who are rich in mercy'.

Friday, November 1, 2013

JPII vs. the Da Vinci Code

As promised, the follow up to mentioning Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code in the light of Blessed John Paul II is here! With full awareness that Brown's work deserves no refutation on account of its sheer errancy, I am compelled to refute it anyway because of the damage it has done to the faith of loved ones. Not to mention its popularity at the time of its publication, topping the Bible, proves that it must be dealt with, since it was not dealt with in my parish or education. As always, JPII's writings come in very handy, as does the general understanding of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church.

That said, I will outline the two main errors with Brown's magnum opus and the popular evidence in support of his claims:
1) He claims the grail legend points to Mary Magdalene as the grail (Holy Blood and Holy Grail, Messianic Legacy, Da Vinci's "Last Supper")
2) Jesus was not a celibate rabbi (Last Temptation of Christ, Freemasonry, From Ritual to Romance, The Golden Bough)

Since JPII has not published directly against Brown's publication, what he does have at my disposal for refutation of the above are the following:
1) General Audience of December 11, 1991 "Jesus as Bridegroom"
2) General Audience of July 17, 1993 "Apostolic Celibacy"

The questions worth asking are: Did Jesus die and rise at all? Since he did, was it because he was a political leader with a family or the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world? Has the Church been proclaiming truth about Jesus' celibacy for two millenia, or just controlling the paternity and Apostolic Succession of the Church? Was Jesus more like the Son of God, or just a son of David? Who was the beloved disciple of Jesus, is he the same as who the Bible says he was, namely, John?

I think that for most uncatechized Catholics, these are questions that cannot be answered by the Da Vinci Code alone. In other words, like Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor in its own day, Da Vinci Code will more or less strangle the seed of faith in any average parishioner. Why is that? And is JPII partially to blame for not seeing this attack on the faith? Based on his writings, as I said with the abuse crisis in an earlier post, he informed the faithful of "the one thing necessary" on a weekly basis! His catechesis was specifically geared toward a clearer understanding of sexuality in light of the Gospel of life, both celibacy and marriage alike.

Why such confusion? For one thing, the internet has made information, both accurate and inaccurate, readily accessible. For every one valid document, there may be a handful of "tabloid"-type documents. The Da Vinci Code is exactly that, with the headline reading "Jesus' Secret History Discovered!" or "The Search for the Holy Grail Found in Mary Magdalene!". After all, what has more shock value nowadays: traditional logic and eye-witness testimony, or outrageous hearsay?!

Further proof of Jesus' celibacy can be verifed by his cousin John the Baptist, as recorded by JPII, Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews), and the Gospels:
1) He wore camel's hair, lived in the desert, and ate locusts
2) He was a celibate jew, trained by the Essenes(also celibate)
3) He took a nazirite vow(no shaving, strong drink or contact with death)
4) He identified Jesus as the "Lamb of God who takes away sins"
The life of John the Baptist fills in a few unspoken facts about Jesus' celibacy, explaining the heart of the question brought up by Brown's book:

*Although rare and very unpopular, Jesus was not the only celibate jew (Jeremiah, Daniel, and John were too according to Scripture)

As JPII's General Audience of 12/11/91 reiterates, John the Baptist played a very crucial role in announcing Jesus as "Bridegroom" and "Lamb of God". St. John the Baptist says in Jn. 3:29-30:

I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease (RSV)

Needless to say, the "bride" John the Baptist is referring to is not Mary Magdalene. Jesus calls himself the "Bridegroom" in Mt 9:15 in direct connection with the messiah of Israel, whom John the Baptist says he himself is not. Therefore, since the disciples of John the Baptist thought that perhaps he was the messiah--or bridegroom-- of Israel and he insisted on Jesus instead, then Jesus is precisely the Bridegroom of Israel and not of any isolated woman. In other words, Jesus is the Bridegroom of Israel/Church/People of God/Ekklesia!

As simple as what the above concludes to be true, the Da Vinci Code concludes otherwise and with a lot more esoteric and convoluted information. On a certain level, it does require faith to see Jesus as the messiah and Bridegroom. After all, many of his contemporaries missed the boat. But reason can also help us to realize that JPII, the Bible, and Church Tradition are more reliable than Dan Brown's 'shock value' references.

In fact, in the person of the Pope--the Vicar of Christ--we have a celibate man intent on following the life of Jesus in all of its authenticity. What authenticity does Dan Brown's life follow--Robert Langdon, a fictional symbologist of Harvard?

Two final points to clear up speculation on Brown's "anti-thesis": Jesus' own words on celibacy, and the legend of the grail in classic literature.
The first of the two points needs no explanation, the Scriptural account in Matthew's Gospel speaks for itself:

10 The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." 11 But he said to them, "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it." (Mt. 19, RSV)

The second of the two points concerns a pair of long-held interpretations of the grail legend besides that of the conspiracy theorists, namely, the authors of Holy Blood... and Da Vinci Code. The pair hinges on Joseph of Arimathea and St Lawrence the Martyr. The BBC has this to say about Joseph:

The legend states that Joseph of Arimathea became a missionary after the death of Jesus and was eventually sent to England to preach the Gospel. He took with him the Holy Grail, and his pilgrim's staff...After landing in England he made his way to Glastonbury. When he stuck his pilgrim's staff in the ground at Wearyall Hill it overnight turned into a flowering thorn tree...In time Joseph converted thousands to Christianity, including, it is said, 18,000 in a single day at the town of Wells. He also converted Ethelbert, the local king...Joseph went on to found Glastonbury Abbey...He became so well-known and admired that when he died at the age of 86, his body was carried by six kings in the funeral procession (http://www.bbc.co.uk/thepassion/articles/joseph_of_arimathea.shtml).

It also says this about his presence in Sacred Scripture:

The story of Joseph of Arimathea is told in all four gospels. Joseph was a wealthy man who came from Arimathea in Judea. He was a good and righteous man who managed to be both a member of the Council (the Sanhedrin) and a secret supporter of Jesus - which is why he did not join in the Council's actions against Jesus. After the death of Jesus, Joseph asked Pilate for permission to take Jesus' body and bury it properly. Permission was granted and the body was taken down. Joseph, helped by Nicodemus, wrapped the body in cloth with the addition of myrrh and aloes. They buried Jesus in an unused tomb that Joseph may have intended for himself, where it was protected by a heavy stone rolled against the opening (ibid).

Now, if anyone would agree with conspiracy theories on the holy grail, the BBC would! Yet, they give an honest account of his life from the perspective of British legend--since, the grail itself was the source of the quests of Arthurian legend. The Oldest work of literature in line with the BBC's references are Joseph d'Arimathie (c. 1190 AD), an epic poem by Robert de Boron detailing the history of the grail. The decendants of Joseph of Arimathea, not Jesus, guarded the holy grail and were known as Fisher kings. Within the last 100 years, C.S. Lewis re-introduced the title "Fisher king" with his Arthurian fantasy, That Hideous Strength.

But as I said, the grail legend is not limited to England, as the stone chalice used at the last supper now resides in Spain (see agate picture above), and was believed to have been taken there by St. Lawrence the Martyr from Rome. Here is some evidence that the chalice is authentic:

Antonio Beltrán, professor of archaeology at the University of Zaragoza, noted that the cup is formed by a deep red agate, called "Oriental carnelian," with streaks in the form of flames. By its material he asserts that it must come from a workshop in Palestine, Syria or Egypt between the fourth century B.C. and the first century A.D... Jorge Manuel Rodríguez, president of the Spanish Center for Sindonology, explained that although films have always shown "a wooden Holy Grail, […] that material did not comply with the norms of purification of the Jews."

and specifically about St. Lawrence:

José Vicente Martínez, professor of ancient history at the University of Valencia, and American researcher Janice Bennet, doctor in Spanish literature both spoke about Pope Sixtus II: martyred in Rome during Valerian’s persecution, entrusted the Holy Grail to Deacon Lawrence to protect it from the emperor. A manuscript by St. Donatus told of this event, said Bennet, as well as the fact that Lawrence was a native of Valencia (ibid).

Notice then, that accounts of the grail in both England and Spain have no mention of Mary Magdalene. Instead, the common thread to grail legend is the very body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ and the unworthiness of all who seek it! It points toward the institution of the Eucharist at the last supper when Jesus made a new covenant between God and his undeserving people. Sister Madeleine Grace C.V.I says the following:

The saga of the holy grail has been told and retold in various cultures and languages for hundreds of years. The appeal of the quest is universal because it expresses at its deepest level our human desire for union with God. The grail itself has been depicted in a variety of ways, including a chalice or a ciborium with the consecrated host inside. The home of the grail is in the unexplored area of the soul. In variations of the story, it is seen as a temple or castle, in a remote and mysterious place. Ultimately, the grail is identified with the words of Paul, "I live no longer, Christ lives in me." The search for the grail becomes the awareness of Christ abiding within, and this presence is seen most readily in a reception of the Eucharist(http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=982)

As with all relics, including the most recent vials of Wojtyla's blood, the intention of preserving them is to draw devotees closer to Jesus' humanity and divinity. The Da Vinci Code falsely draws readers to a portrayal of Jesus' humanity that is inconsistent with history, the saints, and legends.
Who knows, maybe someday a tabloidist will invent some stories about Karol Wojtyla that are inconsistent with his biographical records. In the face of so much written, visual, and eye-witness evidence (no different from Jesus!), the truth behind the slavic Pope will be preserved until the Second Coming.

For more information on the Valencia grail:
http://www.speroforum.com/site/print.asp?idarticle=4287 http://www.marypages.com/HolyGrail.htm as 2nd class relic of the holy grail given by Joseph of Arimathea

Thursday, October 24, 2013

JPII and Dante


Some may have heard of the recent Dan Brown novel, Inferno, which is based on the first volume of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. In it, Robert Langdon travels about Italy to finally discover that the Catholic Church is ruining the world by encouraging overpopulation! Once again, Dan Brown drops "secret knowledge" on millions of unenlightened westerners (stay tuned for another post on JPII vs. The Da Vinci Code).

Instead of giving Dan Brown undeserved attention in this post, my focus is much moreso on Dante Alighieri, JPII, and the Virgin Mary. Most notably from JPII's comments and meditations on Dante in placing Mary as the apex of the Divine Comedy, especially in his Address: "At a Reading of Dante's Divine Comedy 08/31/97". Rather than focus on hell, as Brown does in his Inferno, JPII chooses to emphasize "Paradiso", and more specifically, Mary's overarching influence from heaven:

In the grand scene presenting man’s search for salvation, the Poet assigns a central place to Mary, 'humble and higher than creation', the familiar and sublime image of the woman who sheds light on the parable of the final ascent, after having supported the traveler’s tiring journey. What a consoling vision! Almost seven centuries later, Dante’s art evokes lofty emotions and the greatest convictions, and still proves capable of instilling courage and hope (http://www.fjp2.com/us/john-paul-ii/online-library/speeches/13833-at-a-reading-of-dante-alighieris-qdivine-comedyq-august-31-1997)

"Vision" is the word used to describe Mary in Paradiso, much like that of St. John the Evangelist in the book of Revelation. Furthermore, it is a "consoling vision", in stark contrast to the despair of the Inferno and difficult climb of Purgatorio.

Recall that just prior to Paradiso, Dante presents Beatrice as the crown of beauty, truth, and goodness. In a way, Beatrice prepares Dante to meet Mary, helping him to repent of his sins in the last few cantos before his ascent to "Paradiso". JPII captures Dante's joy to finally meet the Virigin Mother, calling her both "familiar and sublime" as Dante finishes his "tiring journey". It is as though Dante had already encountered aspects of Mary in Beatrice, explaining the 'familiarity'. Likewise, the 'sublimity' requires purity of heart to behold, which is why Dante had to repent of all that was not worthy of meeting the Theotokos. In notes on this topic, the University of Texas at Austin provides a detailed explanation of Dante's painful purification in his Purgatorio:

Examples of chastity and lust are provided by the penitents themselves as they walk within a raging fire on the seventh and final terrace of Purgatory. The spirits--at least those who desired partners of the opposite sex--cry out words spoken by Mary at the 'annunciation' when she asks how, not having sexual relations with a man (virum non cognosco [I know not man]), she will give birth to Jesus (25.127-8; Luke 1:34) [http://danteworlds.laits.utexas.edu/purgatory/09lust.html].

Mary is understood to be the example par excellence of those who upheld chastity and temperance in their lifetimes. In turn, Mary gives way to the rightful Lordship of her Son, as was so often communicated by JPII with his motto "totus tuus". His intention in devoting himself to Mary was precisely to be given over to Jesus, and although not explicitly stated by Dante in the Divine Comedy, this same theme is implied in the text.

Perhaps that is what is so effective in Dante's work, namely, the implication of God's presence throughout the epic poem but in such a hidden and surprising way as to attract both believers and non-believers into reading it. I remember friends reading, by their own free will, the Inferno in highschool because they said it was both "scary and fascinating". Little did they know that it touched on the faith and virtue needed for them to meet their Maker at the end of their days! Furthermore, the poem humbly places readers within the worldview of 'man's search for salvation', making some mistakes with Limbo and political judgments, but by and large staying true to Catholic understanding of the afterlife, especially in regard to the purification for sins before the beatific vision of God. Lastly, it successfully synthesized all of classic literature prior to Christ into a common patrimony (personified by Virgil) pointing to the revelation of the Blessed Trinity and salvation.

I want to fill in a bit about Dante's political life, to help explain some of the mistakes he made with the poem--but not so as to discount its relevance and rightful place in Catholic history. The condensed biography of Dante Alighieri is simply the following list (exerpted from New Advent--http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04628a.htm):

1) He fell in love with a child-hood friend, Beatrice, at nine. She was his muse even after her death in 1290, inspiring his first poem in 1294.
2) He began a military/political career in 1295 with the pro-papal Guelf party
3) He marries and has four children
4) The Guelfs split in two in 1300, into "whites" (pro-papal) and "blacks" (anti-papal) with Dante joining the latter
5) He is exiled from Florence, but later hailed poet laurete of Italy
6) Dies at Ravenna, 1321

Compare Dante's life choices amidst political upheaval, war, and papal corruption with Karol Wojtyla! In some ways they are similar: poets, citizens of countries at war, etc. Yet, they are very different as well: married man vs. priest, soldier vs. laborer, anti-papal vs. pro-papal. Imagine if Wojtyla had been outspoken in his criticism of Pope Pius XII for being neutral during WWII! Or for not doing more for refugees in the Vatican! It wasn't as though there were insufficient reasons to question/accuse the Church during the second world war. He certainly had his "Virgil" to thank in both his father, captain Wojtyla, and mentor: Cardinal Sapieha. Yes, Karol Wojtyla took a narrower road to Paradise than Dante Alighieri--and that "made all the difference!"

To conclude then, in Dante Alighieri we have a Catholic genius not to be confused with Dan Brown's depiction in Inferno, but more appropriately ranked with the caliber of JPII. Likewise, we have two men with lifelong devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, meeting precisely in their love of her as the crown of creation.

I deeply hope that Dante is resting in peace with the assurance of an ecstatic gaze on the beatific vision, including the beauty that created his beloved Beatrice.

*Update (This from a series on Purgatorio by Dreher):
Dante, like all the medieval intellectuals, believed in what you might call “number mysticism.” In the premodern metaphysical vision —a vision still embraced by philosophical Traditionalism; a very good, easily accessible presentation of this is in Prince Charles’s book Harmony — anyway, in the premodern metaphysical vision, the entire cosmos is shot through with divinely given order, and meaning. We can read the order and harmony of the world, and see in this the expression of God’s nature. This is a topic that is far too rich and complex to get into in this blog series. The important thing to know is that Dante incorporated this understanding deeply into the bones of the Commedia. Writes Prue Shaw:

Dante’s is a world where the number three seems to be a key to understanding reality in many of its fundamental aspects. The numerical pattern three-in-one is built into the very structure of things, a medieval version of what modern thinkers call a “fractal.” (Fractals are self-similar patterns: at whatever degree of magnification one uses, one sees the same pattern reappearing.) It is perhaps not surprising that Dante used the principle of three-in-one to structure his imagined world and the poem which celebrates it. What is astounding is how successfully he did so.

The Commedia as a product of human making — a man-made work of verbal art — was designed by Dante to embody the three-in-one principle. With satisfying symmetry, it does so both in its overall structure and in its individual component parts. The poem has three sections — Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso — which constitute one poem, the Commedia. The basic building black from which it is constructed is the terzina, or tercet, a single metrical unit consisting of three lines. Dante invented this metrical scheme, and by so doing made three-in-oneness a part of the very fabric of his poem.

There’s more. The tercet form Dante invented goes like this: aba bcb cdc. The entire poem is written this way; you can’t tell it in the English translations, but in the Italian original, the entire poem is linked in a chain of verse — this to express Dante’s metaphysical view that all reality is linked in a great chain of being. The pilgrim is learning how important it is to pray for the souls of the dead in Purgatory because we are all part of one community, one reality, in God. By extension, he’s learning how the human community is supposed to be united in harmony, by love, because we really are all brothers.

But there’s more to Dante’s structuring. Again, Prue Shaw:

The mirroring of patterns in the poem from overall structure to individual metrical unit goes even further. Because each line of the poem has eleven syllables, each tercet has thirty-three syllables, matching the thirty-three cantos in Purgatorio and Paradiso. Inferno has an extra canto, which functions as a preface to the whole work, making a total for the poem of one hundred cantos, the perfect number. (The perfect number is ten squared, ten itself being a perfect number, or so medieval mathematicians thought, because it is the sum of 1 + 2 + 3 + 4. So the poem is not just a verbal artifact but a mathematical one as well.

The medievals believed in the concept of habitus, which is to say the personal culture and worldview one carries in one’s head as a result of how, where, and among whom one lives. Our habitus shapes us; even when we have left people in our habitus behind in our journeys through life — and indeed, in the Commedia, Dante is propelled relentlessly forward, and repeatedly told in Purgatorio not to look back — the people from Dante’s habitus as a Tuscan of the High Middle Ages are unavoidably part of his habitus, even if they define the sins he’s trying to overcome. Dante the pilgrim has to go down into Hell so he can go up into Heaven. We pilgrims may have to go back to our past in some sense, to confront our personal histories, so we can go forward to a future that is more holy and peaceful.

"What Virgil offers us, symbolically, is a circle instead of Dante’s line, with man’s soul trapped in an inexorable cycle of births and deaths, undergoing an endless chain of one 'inferno' and 'purgatorio' after another. 167
Michael C. J. Putnam Materiali e discussioni per l'analisi dei testi classici No. 20/21 (1988), pp. 165-202
I will look most closely at Dante’s version of Anchises, as they take shape in Paradiso 15 and especially in Purgatorio 30, in the characters of Cacciaguida and Virgil. Dante’s Virgil, like Aeneas’ father, can accompany his protégé only so far in this complex quest. I will examine in particular the parallels and differences in these limitations set to the father-figure as guide. 169

The irony is, of course, that Aeneas’ action is one of the most Illiadic moments of the epic with Turnus wearing Pallas’ sword-belt standing in for Hector in Patroclus’ armor…The ending of the Aeneid lacks the fulfillments that bring the Illiad to a conclusion, the ransoming of Hector’s body and the lamentations and funeral that complete at once a life and a poem. 177

As we move from Aeneas’ epic and Virgil’s text to the Divina Commedia we change from tragedy of pagan darkness (and, I would add, from the dissonances implicit in Virgil’s pessimistic cyclicality) to the ‘comedy’ of Christian revelation (the Commedia as a type of Novum Testamentum) and the grace of its splendid acts of completion, in the concentrated focus on the Paradisal rose. We make the larger transitions metonymically in the smaller textual metamorphoses of Cacciaguida from Anchises (and, in part, the Sibyl) to God the Father, and of the pilgrim from Aeneas, entrapped finally in resentment, to a Christ figure who will suffer immediate earthly ‘inferno’ only to perform his own act of redemption for Florence by the endurance of his poetry." 190

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October 22nd Memorial

Some good information from Dr. Mulholland of Benedictine College on Blessed John Paul II:

Oct. 22, the liturgy offers us the memorial of Blessed John Paul II. It will be the last time this optional memorial is celebrated before his canonization this April...John Paul II’s first encyclical, “The Redeemer of Man,” was central to his thought and his whole trajectory as Pope. The pastoral initiatives of the Jubilee Year of the Redemption, the Jubilee of the New Millennium, the encounters with young people and so many papal trips and visits, all revolve around the understanding of human beings in their greatness and in the mystery of sin and the Fall. At the core of John Paul’s writings is the deep truth of the reality of man’s plight and his radical need for a Redeemer...John Paul the Great’s second encyclical was an extended meditation on God the Father as “rich in mercy.” His canonization date, Divine Mercy Sunday, recalls his push for this feast day, (as had been requested by St. Faustina whom he canonized) and his dying on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005. God, “rich in mercy” is mentioned in the opening prayer of the Mass celebrated for Blessed John Paul...John Paul’s encyclical which followed upon the fall of communism, Centesimus Annus, has a whole chapter on man as “the way of the Church.” The missionary impulse goes way beyond preaching sermons. God’s Word must become flesh as well in just political and economic systems. In October 1978, the former Karol Cardinal Wojtyla had begun his pontificate telling all “Be not afraid” of opening wide the doors to Christ, the doors of our hearts but also the doors of political and economic systems. For Blessed John Paul II, living a life where we all help everyone we meet to be better is both a virtue and a social principle: solidarity...(zenit.org/articles/blessedjohnpauliislegacy/)

All in all, a few snippets to back up my posts on Karol Wojtyla's legacy. For more information on the above from my own blog, please search "JPII and Redemption", and "JPII vs Liberation Theology"

Blessed John Paul II, ora pro nobis!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dies Domini, "Lord of the Sabbath" and JPII

To preface this post, it's necessary to point out that I have lived with my new family in a Jewish Orthodox neighborhood for the past year. There, a rabbi lives a few blocks away from us, and we are surrounded by young families who routinely set aside Friday evening to Saturday evening as their "shabbat".

Interestingly, Karol Wojtyla grew up in Wadowice with similar circumstances as my family's current neighborhood described above (please see my previous post: Catholics and Jews for further reference). Suffice it to say, that the Catholic/Jewish neighbohood Wojtyla grew up in made a major impression on him, shaping his understanding of Judeo-Christianity worldwide. Again, not because he went out of his way to seek such a worldview, but because the relationships he was involved in with friends like Jerzy Kluger formed him as such.

The Apostolic Letter on the Lord's Day or "Dies Domini" explores the Church's need to re-discover the cultural catalyst of celebrating the Lord's resurrection each Sunday! I will draw largely from the text of Dies Domini, as well as a Master's thesis for Sacred Heart Seminary written by Nico Angleys on the same topic. Together, these sources do not merely conclude that the jewish understanding of Sabbath in anticipation of the messiah is enough. Instead, they conclude that the Messiah has already come in the Person of Jesus who rose from the dead three days after celebrating the passover, wherein he instituted the Eucharist, and the day on which he rose is the same Sunday we celebrate! Therefore, Sunday has replaced Saturday as sabbath, and ultimately become "the day of the Lord".

Within the first few paragraphs of his letter, JPII admits to such a strong impression of "the Lord's Day" from his early days as a Bishop in Poland:
Many of the insights and intuitions which prompt this Apostolic Letter have grown from my episcopal service in Krakow. I see this Letter as continuing the lively exchange which I am always happy to have with the faithful, as I reflect with you on the meaning of Sunday and underline the reasons for living Sunday as truly "the Lord's Day", also in the changing circumstances of our own times. (Dies Domini #3)

He goes on to point out that for numerous reasons, including: economic instability, secularism, persecution, etc. the practice of observing the holiness of Sunday has been gradually declining since the early 1900s. The fact that the early Church, he says, had to literally shed blood for the sake of observing the Lord's Day on Sunday should make us grateful for the little persecution we have in the same regard today. JPII says of Justin Martyr and others under the persecution of Diocletian: "many were courageous enough to defy the imperial decree[banning Eucharistic assembly] and accepted death rather than miss the Sunday Eucharist." (ibid, #46) As for the history and logic behind Sunday as the given day for celebrating the Lord's Resurrection, I will summarize his points below:
1) Jesus rose from the tomb on Sunday, "first day after the sabbath" (Mk 16:2;Lk 24:1;Jn 20:1)
2) "Sunday" was originally named by the Romans as 'day of the sun'; Christianized by the early Church (and met with persecution)
3) Accoring to St Gregory of Nyssa and Maronite Liturgy, the early Christians of Jerusalem viewed the Jewish "shabbat" and Christian Sunday as two "brother days" (De Castiatione 46), with Sunday taking the highest place on account of the Lord's resurrection on that day
4) The necessity of conscience to participate in Eucharist on Sunday

Late in the Apolostolic Letter, JPII references the "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mk 2:28) as the authoritative principle in transferring the Jewish day of rest to the day of the Lord's Resurrection on Sunday. That is to say, Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, has the authority to be "Lord of the Sabbath" on Sunday, rather than Saturday, because he proved his authority by rising from the dead on that day! Nico Angleys' thesis brings this idea to the fore in his introductory paragraphs of "Keeping the Lord's Day Holy" by linking the decalogue, the new evangelization, and the authority of Jesus:
Time belongs to God. In his eternal and infinite wisdom, he gave us a command pertaining to time: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Jesus upholds this command and is given the title “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28, Matthew 12:8, and Luke 6:5). In the Great Commission, Jesus tells his disciples: “teach them [the disciples of all nations] to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Thus, in our day, the work of evangelization involves teaching the third commandment and declaring the blessing of sanctified time to a culture fixated on time. (part 1, Introduction to "Keeping the Lord's Day Holy")

Nico Angleys effectively points to Christ as central to the Lord's Day, fittingly celebrated on Sunday as stated above. He quotes from Dies Domini in regard to the linkage between Jerusalem of the old covenant and the New Jerusalem under the Messianic reign of Jesus:
In one of the concluding paragraphs of Dies Domini, he writes that “Sunday has the additional value of being a testimony and a proclamation” and then launches into an inspiring crescendo of reasons for this proclamation that culminates in the unending Sunday of the heavenly Jerusalem described in Revelation 21. (Part 1, #2 "Proclamation" of "Keeping the Lord's Day Holy")

Lastly, both JPII and Nico Angleys agree that Jesus completes the old covenant remembrance of the sabbath by A)Instituting the Eucharist on the night of Passover [the event where God delivered his people with the blood of a lamb] B) re-creating the order of nature by rising from the dead on Sunday [restoring to grace the fallen creation of God's creation account in Genesis].

What does that all mean practically? Or how does the layperson incoporate the practice of keeping Sunday (Saturday night through Sunday evening) holy besides going to Mass? JPII gives a few examples:
1) recitation of Saturday evening Vespers in family homes or local parish
2) dialogue between parents and children, especially thankfully remembering God's work in their lives
3) Catechesis for preparation to enter into the Mass, receive the Eucharist
4) family meal
5) Pilgrimage to nearby shrine

In today's culture, these examples go a long way with evangelization. "Fighting for Sunday" may become more intense as things continue to disintegrate, but having the teaching in place from JPII and others will strongly reinforce efforts to live God's law of love.

Friday, August 23, 2013

JPII vs Modernism

Due to the upcoming canonization of Blessed John Paul II, some suspect him of having invested himself in the heresy of 'modernism' as refuted by St. Pius X in "Pascendi Dominici Gregis". In fact, it is suspected that all of the Second Vatican Council fathers, including John XXIII (who will be canonized soon) and BXVI, were invested in modernism to such a degree that they were consciously allowing the gates of hell to prevail over the Church.  {Please see my previous post on the Tridentine Mass for background of the schism that occurred during JPII's reign}.  I want to simply refute the already refuted heresy of modernism by St. Pius X in the life and teachings of Karol Wojtyla.

It is essential to define exactly what 'Modernism' is, as it has become a rather popular term among traditionalists to critique Church leaders of the past fifty years. What St. Pius X means by 'Modernism' is more or less the following:

Laymen and clergy who lack the protection of sound philosophy and theology are setting themselves up as would-be reformers of the Church and her faith. Typically, they are men of erudition and strict moral probity. But they also, in his words, ‘double the parts of rationalist and Catholic, and this so craftily that they easily lead the unwary into error’. They know perfectly well at what they are aiming which is a total ‘make-over’ (in our contemporary parlance) of revelation as hitherto understood.

Right off the bat, does this sound like the man who--together with Joseph Ratzinger--compiled the most thorough Catechism of the Catholic Church in light of the Nicene Creed that the Church has yet seen? Riddled throughout that Catechism, unlike the former Baltimore Catechism of happy memory, are footnotes upon footnotes of St Thomas Aquinas as well as early Church Fathers.

Granted, St. Pius X's definition of "Modernist" would seem to apply to Wojtyla's use of phenomenology and scientific method in some instances to research controversial issues like the morality of stem cells, IVF, sexual morality and fertility, etc. But, did not Cardinal Wojtyla, and later JPII himself, have the good of the faithful and glory of God in mind when publishing works like Love and Responsibility? Did he not merely use the means of reason and philosophy to aid the faithful in the inevitable fight between the culture of death and the culture of life?

The real question is, and is sadly misunderstood by many who would too quickly dismiss Wojtyla's genius, were the methods of philosophical inquiry used by Karol Wojtyla "protected by sound philosophy and theology"? The answer is resoundingly, "Yes, they were sound and rooted in Catholic tradition".

Here is why the above answer is true: not only did Karol Wojtyla rely on St. Thomas Aquinas as a basis for objective reality and absolute moral truth, he also relied upon St. Augustine for inquiry into the 'intersubjectivity' of man--that is, the 'immanence' of the follower of Christ both consciously active in the Church and unconsciously (see my post on JPII vs. solipsism for further notes on subjectivity).

Now, 'immanence' is a potentially bad word among traditionalists, and St. Pius X has almost no tolerance for experiential believers and Pentecostalism divorced from the true and reasonable parameters of conscience described by St. Augustine in his Confessions. Allow me, then, to draw a line between the two types of 'immanence' that St. Pius X describes in "Pascendi", with the help of Fr. Nichols and St. Augustine:

Pius admits that an appeal to immanence can have an acceptable sense. Semi-quoting Augustine, it can be a way of saying God works in a way even more intimately present to me than I am to myself. But Modernists mean more than this: they mean that divine action always invests itself in the activity of nature: so revelatory divine action doesn’t differ in principle from any other manner in which creative processes have divine causality behind them. The implication, thinks the pope, is pantheism.

To pinpoint exactly where Fr. Nichols is drawing his information in the letter of Pius X, it is in paragraph 19, the section titled "The Modernist as Theologian". Another way of saying Fr. Nichol's summary of the nineteenth paragraph is that the Christian is allowed to recognize God as closer to him than he is to himself, but he is not allowed to insist on changes in revelation based on his own feelings, sentiments, or subconscious desires. Believe it or not, this is one of the main dangers that Pius and every Pope since his time has made clear to both be wary of and to balance with objectively acceptable absolute truths identified by St. Thomas Aquinas, namely, natural law and the doctrine of the Magisterium.

At this point, is there any inconsistency between JPII and St. Thomas Aquinas, or St. Augustine for that matter? Let us use Wojtyla's own words:

It is for this reason that the Church has given preference to the method and doctrine of the Angelic Doctor. Quite other than exclusive preference, this deals with an exemplary preference that permitted Leo XIII to declare him to be inter Scholasticos Doctores, omnium princeps et magister. And truly such is St Thomas Aquinas, not only for the completeness, balance, depth and clarity of his style, but still more for his keen sense of fidelity to the truth which can also be called realism: fidelity to the voice of created things so as to construct the edifice of philosophy; fidelity to the voice of the Church so as to construct the edifice of theology.

And again on St Augustine, drawing largely from Leo XIII's "Aeterni Patris":

Pope Leo XIII praised his philosophical teachings in the Encyclical Aeterni Patris; later, Pius XI made a brief synthesis of his virtues and teachings in the Encyclical Ad salutem humani generis, declaring that, of those who have flourished from the beginnings of the human race down to our own days, none—or, at most, very few—could rank with Augustine, for the very great acuteness of his genius, for the richness and sublimity of his teachings, and finally for his holiness of life and defense of Catholic truth. Paul VI later affirmed: 'Indeed, over and above the shining example he gives of the qualities common to all the Fathers, it may be said that all the thought-currents of the past meet in his works and form the source which provides the whole doctrinal tradition of succeeding ages.

Is this just lip-service from one modernist to another? Or, is this the truly prayed over material of the Slavic Pope who found in himself the continuation of these great Catholic thinkers? I strongly suggest the latter.

In conclusion, I have argued the following:
1) JPII is far from being a Modernist heretic, but is profoundly rooted in Tradition
2) St. Pius X allows for the teachings of Vatican II in his letter
3) St Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine are the objective and subjective litmus tests for true continuity with Tradition

For more info, please see JPII's "Fides et Ratio", section "The Magisterium's discernment as diakonia of the truth" in paragraphs# 54-56

And, a helpfully simple Peter Kreeft list against Modernism:
1) Is God a transcendent, supernatural, personal, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, providential, loving, just Creator? Or is God an immanent cosmic force evolving in nature and man?
2) Do miracles really happen? Or has science refuted them? A transcendent God can perform miracles; a merely immanent, naturalistic God cannot. The three great miracles essential to orthodox Christianity are the Incarnation, the Resurrection and the new birth.
3) Is there a heaven? Or is heaven just all the good on earth?
4) Does God really love me? Or is that just a helpful sentiment?
5) Does God forgive my sins through Christ? Or is sin an outdated concept? In other words, is Christ a mere human example or a Savior from sin?
6) Is Christ divine, eternal, from the beginning? Or is he only divine “as all men are divine”?
7) Did he physically rise from the dead? Or is the Resurrection only a myth, a beautiful symbol?
8) Must we be born again from above to be saved, to have God as our Father? Or is everyone saved automatically? Does everyone have God as Father simply by being born as a human being, or by being reasonably nice during life?
9) Is Scripture God’s word to us? Or is it human words about God? Does it have divine or human authority behind it? And can an ordinary Christian understand its true meaning without reading German theologians?
10 )Most important of all, can I really meet God in Christ? If I ask him to be my Lord, the Lord of my life, will he really do it? Or is this just a “religious experience”? This question is really one with the question: Did Christ really rise from the dead? That is, is he alive now? Can I say: “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!”?

[1] Aidan Nichols O.P., “Modernism a Century On" Crisis Magazine
[2] Ibid. & https://archive.org/details/popepiusx_1409_librivox
[4] Apostolic Letter to the bishops, priests, religious families and faithful of the whole Catholic Church on the occasion of the 16th centenary of the conversion of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor, 28 August 1986.
[5] http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/toward-reuniting.htm