Saturday, January 30, 2021

Year of St Joseph: Remptoris Custos!

How fitting in this year dedicated to St Joseph in the Universal Church, that the work of Karol Jozef Wojtyla should have a prominent place as well:

Of note, especially, is paragraph# 6 which highlights Joseph as guardian of the Incarnate Word, and  somehow of the Redemption:

Joseph's way of faith moved in the same direction: it was totally determined by the same mystery, of which he, together with Mary, had been the first guardian. The Incarnation and Redemption constitute an organic and indissoluble unity

St John Paul II goes on to emphasize in this vein, the significance of Joseph being added to the Roman Canon by Pope St John XXIII:

 Precisely because of this unity, Pope John XXIII, who had a great devotion to St. Joseph, directed that Joseph's name be inserted in the Roman Canon of the Mass-which is the perpetual memorial of redemption - after the name of Mary and before the apostles, popes and martyrs.

For nearly 2,000 years, St Joseph was not even mentioned in the official prayers of the Church.  Yet now, the "protodulia" or piety always owed to him only behind that of Mary's "hyperdulia" is fully realized in the Liturgy of the Mass.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Ephesians 5:21 [Mulieris Dignitatem, Patristic Scholars & NFP]

I am particularly grateful to the Van Schaijik family of The Personalist Project in Pennsylvania for initially bringing to my attention the topic of Mutual Subordination.  While we may not see eye-to-eye on everything, I have come to appreciate their explanation of the Church's teaching on this matter.  Indeed, it has become a central dynamic in my view of marriage along the lines of St John Paul II's work in #24 of "Mulieris Dignitatem".  Dr John Grabowski has written extensively on the topic, especially as it relates to the development of the Church's understanding of Matrimony between two equal, complementary, and distinct persons (man & woman).

In 2016, an essay entitled, "The Patristic Origin of 'Mutual Subordination'" was published at the St Paul Center for Biblical Theology from the perspective of a divergent view on the more high-profile topic of Mutual Subordination.  While the authors were willing to compromise with a potential for "mutual service", the divergence stemmed largely from an insistence on asymmetrical and non-reciprocal (one-way) marriage dynamics.  While I can agree with an asymmetrical perspective to a degree based on the philosophical explanation of Angelo Cardinal Scola's Nuptial Mystery, I cannot dismiss the call for reciprocity (two-way) in the relationship between husband and wife.  Our own local Bishop has been very clear on the need for reciprocity based on St John Paul II's teaching as well (min. 18ff).

A logical illustration of the two perspectives can be formulated as follows:

Non-reciprocal (One-Way)
If asymmetrical & non-reciprocal
Then one-way relationship w/ wife's submission to head

Reciprocal (Two-Way)
If asymmetrical & reciprocal
Then two-way relationship w/ mutual submission

The most common argument against the latter is that the two-way dynamic is not practical in application.  On the contrary, Dr Grabowski illustrates how practical a dynamic it can be when Natural Family Planning (NFP) is involved!  After all, it is not the choice of any one individual to cooperate in pro-creation.  As the saying goes, "it takes two to tango".

Sr Prudence Allen makes some crucial distinctions worth noting in her paper "Mulieris Dignitatem Twenty Years Later":
  • egalitarian complementarity--a distortion which emphasizes too much sameness between men and women
  • hierarchical complementarity--a distortion which emphasizes male authority to the detriment of female equality
  • Ontological complementarity--the proposal of St. John Paul II for how best to approach understanding human dignity embedded in Mulieris Dignitatem

Lastly, it is important to recall the often neglected Person in the mutual submission verse as written in St Paul's Letter to the Ephesians 5:21, "Be subordinate to one another, out of reverence for Christ".  As Archbishop Sheen explains in his Three to get Married, there is a Third-party involved in the Sacrament of Matrimony.  In the end, He is the head of the Christian family that accepts His reign. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Theology of Risk

Primarily drawing from the work of Mother Angelica and Blessed John Henry Newman, the development of a “Theology of Risk” (as identified by Mother Angelica herself) has garnered an increasingly high profile since the passing of the great founder of EWTN1 . Likewise, Newman’s broad- reaching verbiage concerning risk runs along the lines of a business venture in what he calls “Making a Venture of Faith” 2 . The consensus between the two proposes that modern man has lost a sense of the value of what Christ offers in reconciling him to the Father, so much so that man is unwilling, or oblivious to, the call of God to risk his life and livelihood for the Gospel just as Christ did for his sake.

On the other hand, magnanimous men and women (like Mother Angelica) have taken enormous risks as acts of faith in the providence of God. As a result of this Imitatio Christi, they may very well have bridged the chasm between the “rich man” and Abraham’s bosom. In contrast, there are more than enough examples of rich young (and old) men who walk away from such a challenge in sorrow: Charles Dickens’ tale about Ebenezer Scrooge is one such example that could have ended similarly to more and more cases of modern men of the world. In general, men have lost a sense of what it means to risk for the Gospel. Particularly those men whose job it is in the business world to minimize risk, be adverse to risk, or to only risk what is nearly guaranteed to make a return based on a cost/benefit analysis. These parameters could be applied to the Gospel, as in the parable of the talents and the building of the tower, etc. Yet, worldly men who might even darken the door of a parish each week, do not desire to “make a venture” for eternal life. Instead, they experience peer pressure to store up treasures for the moth to destroy; they go the way of mammon in the hopes that insurance, stocks and bonds, etc. will pass on their legacy to the next generation without pause. To be clear, these prospects are not evil unless the “love of money” for its own sake is involved.

Pope Leo XIII and St John Paul II stressed the great good and potential that work, capitalism, and private property engender in the economy 3 . Simultaneously, their treatment of legal immigration and mission speaks to the need for mobility as well as stability, the willingness to “move” mountains if necessary by faith so as to make a claim in the reality of the Resurrection. Without such a claim, there is little proof in the relationship between a man and the “father of faith”, Abraham. Abraham, who himself was as well as his son Isaac, were successful businessmen throughout their long lives: risked his home, his only son of the promise, his herds and crops by tithing to Melchezidek, and so on. Chief of these risks, of course, is Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac in the belief that “God could raise him from the dead” 4 .

In Isaac, as a type of Christ, Abraham had a sense of being a type of the heavenly Father (Imitatio Patri) by not withholding his beloved son. He underwent a Kenosis, that is, a self-emptying with tremendous risk for his livelihood. As a result, it is Abraham who welcomes the downtrodden Lazarus beyond the grave. It is Abraham, and not the rich man—famous for making corporal demands of Lazarus only when it was too late--, whom we call, “father of faith”. His lofty title is as a result of “becoming obedient unto death”, an extraordinary paradox in which Abraham is both a type of Christ and a type of His Father (Imitatio Christi et Patri). After all, Abraham was “as good as dead”, meaning essentially that he had hit rock bottom. Nevertheless, God made him the “father of many nations” with “descendants as numerous as the stars and sands of the seashore”.

What assurance did Abraham have of the fulfillment of this promise? He was eventually given the son of the promise, and even then, Abraham was willing to risk losing him out of obedience. Had Abraham not engaged in a “Theology of Risk”, his story would be that of the “rich old man”. He would have walked away to Ur of the Chaldeans “sad for he had many possessions”. This is the plight of many men today, young or old, unwilling to take on the adventure of being a father of faith and risk losing their lives for the Gospel. Perhaps an Ebenezer Scrooge moment may still loom on the horizon for them while they passively sleep and dream, but making that presumption after many missed opportunities may undermine the prospect of taking an active risk for the greater glory of God today.

1 Mother Angelica. Arroyo, 151-153
2 “Sermon 20”. Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman
3 Rerum Novarum * Centessimus Annus
4 Heb 11:19

Friday, June 28, 2019

JPII & Paul Ricoeur vs Masters of Suspicion

With news of scandal plaguing the Church’s every level in current events; an understandable reaction could continue to gain considerable traction, namely Donatism.

This is a heresy that raged in the time of St. Augustine, when Emperor Constantine reinstated former apostates (Traditors) to the episcopacy, etc. 1 The Donatists held firm to the belief that not only these reinstated Church leaders, but all clergy who were potentially in mortal sin could not administer valid Sacraments.

Under St. John Paul II, extreme situations arose with a range of men like Archbishop Lefebvre to Marcial Maciel. Some deem Lefebvre as saintly in his rejection of the Second Vatican Council, and most rightly deem Maciel as a scoundrel. In either case, there is room to question the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Church, and to even reject certain aspects or persons in authority as a result of mistrust. An outright rejection such as with Archbishop Lefebvre’s unlawful ordination of SSPX bishops in 1988, could easily be judged by objective behavior as Donatism, especially since the original Donatists were named after a bishop who was also consecrated out of rivalry against the Traditors 2 .

In the Theology of the Body, I believe that St. John Paul II addressed Donatism under a different guise, and he identified it as the “hermeneutic of suspicion” after philosopher Paul Ricoeur. 3 JPII pointed out three men in particular who propagated this way of approaching the world as Nietzsche, Freud and Marx. 4 In our day, this constant suspicion has run rampant in the Church, even to the point of certain scholars accusing the Pope of heresy without substantial proof or outright defiance on his part. I am not proposing that a healthy skepticism is out of the question, rather, I am pointing out the similarity between Donatism and even Manicheanism and being a “Master of Suspicion”.

 The opposite of suspicion, according to St. John Paul II, is the “Ethos of Redemption”. This is a trust in the Redeemer of man who has the power to dynamically transform the sinful human condition into that which is even able to overcome concupiscence. 5 While I am not excusing abuse in any way, I do find abundant consolation in the “Ethos of Redemption” because it Christologically orients my gaze away from the fallen world to the Redeemer.

 It may be said that naïveté may have caused St. John Paul II to elevate men like Theodore McCarrick or Marcial Maciel to positions of authority in the Church. More importantly, it was his confrontation with a suspicion propagated by the Communist innovator Marx and others that helped him to see men as innocent until proven guilty. In Communist Poland, so many false accusations against priests could easily have brought one to the same suspicious attitude that pervades today. Instead, JPII stood fast against it while also administering justice as seen in the case of Archbishop Lefebvre.


1 Cantor, Norman F (1995), The Civilization of the Middle Ages. P. 51
2 Ibid.
3 Paul Ricoeur, “Existence and Hermeneutics,” in The Conflict of Interpretations: Essays in Hermeneutics, 13
4 St. John Paul II, Theology of the Body 46:6-
5 Ibid.

Monday, July 10, 2017

JPII Locates "Patron of Europe": St. Benedict of Nursia

T.S. Eliot lhad the European Continent in mind when he composed “The Wasteland”.  Georg Ratzinger[1] was present and on-site when the oldest monastery in the world, Monte Cassino, was destroyed by American artillery in World War II.  Much of the visible roots of Christian Europe were literally ‘uprooted’ by open warfare in the 20th century, including July 11th’s Saint’s final resting place, as I said regarding Monte Cassino.  Thankfully, new monastic life is taking root at the very site of Benedict of Nursia’s original monastery despite a few natural disasters[2].  As Patron of Europe, St. Benedict’s intercession is not limited to the post-war “Wasteland”, but can truly help to rejuvenate a “new springtime” in more ways than one (Lectio Divina, Ora et Labora, etc.)

St. John Paul II located Blessed Paul VI’s Apostolic Letter Pacis Nuntius of 1964 as the first time that St. Benedict was named “Patron of Europe”.  It’s no small title as JPII linked the Saint with the likes of Cyril and Methodius, the former of whom still has owns the secular right of claiming the Russian language under his namesake, Cyrilic.  Wojtyla writes:

The ever-living relevance of the eminent figures of Benedict, Cyril and Methodius, as concrete models and spiritual aids for the Christians of today, and especially for the nations of the continent of Europe, which, especially through the prayers and work of these saints, have long been consciously and originally rooted in the Church and in Christian tradition[3].    

These three saints launched never before seen waves of culture that still inspire hope and consolation in the midst of the “Wasteland”.  After all, once the Roman Empire fell, the dark ages posed a similar threat to today’s paganism and degeneration.  I’m reminded actually of the present day situation in inner city Detroit, a veritable “wasteland” that has hints a tremendous spiritual renewal with the latest “Unleash the Gospel” from Archbishop Vigneron[4]! 

Furthermore, St. Benedict’s legacy contributed immensely to Christian culture in the USA as well!  Abbot Boniface Wimmer brought the Benedictine Rule to Pennsylvania in the 19th century and founded the Archabbey of St. Vincent[5] where I have visited multiple times and learned Lectio Divina.  There are also Benedictine Universities across the country, some in need of renewal (especially in Minnesota) and some in excellent standing, like Wimmer’s own St. Vincent’s!

There is still much to be accomplished through the living and prophetic intercession of St. Benedict of Nursia all over the world.  St. John Paul II did well to emphasize patron of Europe in the letter of Paul VI, and Pope Emeritus Benedict was on the mark by choosing Benedict as his namesake.  Despite the wasteland, there is over generations of faithful in the land a guarantee of a new springtime in Europe.