Saturday, November 30, 2002

Speaking of Jeff Culbreath, he now has a weblog which was launched today. I wonder though if Jeff realizes the irony of a Tridentine liturgy aficianado launching a weblog on the 33rd Anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum becoming law in the universal Church...


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"Conversations With Culbreath" Dept.

This is a continuation of the conversation thread with Jeff the last installment of which can be read HERE My previous words will be in dark blue, Jeff's responses will be in black, and my responses to them in regular blog font.

Dear Shawn,

Thank you for blogging this discussion, and for your kind words in the introduction. Although I may be in a little over my head, hopefully some good will come of it.

Well, one who recognizes their limits is a refreshing change from those who think they are outfitted for all subject areas.

All I will note on it at the moment is that my approach to music and art is very Thomistic. Some people in St. Thomas' time did not think Aristotle, Maimonides, Averros, and Avicenna had any place in the life of a Catholic theologian or Catholic philosopher. (Not that the two can or should be separated of course.) St. Thomas though saw the value they contained and was able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

That's the whole debate, isn't it? How do we separate the wheat from the chaff in the toxic cultural milieu that surrounds us? This doesn't need to be a theological controversy. The Catholic soul, illumined by grace and aided by the perennial teachings of the Church, must pursue those things are compatible with holiness -- the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Yes but we also must abandon the Donatist notion of segregating ourselves from the culture. We are to transform culture not hole up in some cloister. That function is for the monastics and those who are called to that function: to in essence "fill up in themselves what is lacking in the Body of Christ" if you will. (A friend of mine in fact who was a good musician in divers stylings recently went off to become a Benedictine novice.) Each has their role to play in essence.

Certain aspects of non-Christian culture can be redeemed and transformed. Such was the case with Aristotle, Roman statutory law, and the Winter Solstice.

And the Roman lust lottery ;-) Yes even that hedonist tool was utilized by the Church albeit in a different manner of course.

But other things must be discarded altogether. Rock music is the noise of rebellion and discontent, a wasteland of spiritual ugliness.

I believe what you are doing here is the same thing that frustrates you with traditionalism. Most people write off traditionalists in toto as ecclesial troublemakers who are narrow, rigid, arrogant, judgmental, who assault the Mystical Body with their woefully misinformed diatribes which are bereft of charitable and Traditional Christian presuppositions. The very same stereotype you as a Traditionalist (one of the few I would concede that moniker to btw and not for your liturgical preferences) fight against is the same one you impose on an entire genre of music.

As with so many fruits of modernity, there is nothing redeemable here.

Again my friend how many people upon hearing you say you are a Traditionalist would immediately chalk you up as an ecclesial rebel clinging to a pseudo-cult that had "no redeeming features" to it???

Truth exists in more places then you may immediately presume. If all rock music was ipso facto evil then it would not be as popular as it is. The same is true of historical heresies: if they were completely false they would have no hold whatsoever on the psyche of their adherents. And even "traditionalism" (falsely so-called) has its shoots of wheat amidst the chaff. If it did not then the hold it has on its adherents would not be so strong.

People may be by fallen nature ambivalent but they do not in the vast majority of cases adhere so strongly to things which are intrinsically evil in and of themselves. And as Satan uses all things to deceive - including the Tridentine liturgy which is in no manner whatsoever 'evil' - the same is the case with music in divers forms.

I think Peter Kreeft said it best. Paganism was like a virgin, prepared and ready to receive the truth of Christ. Consequently much of what we find in classical paganism laid the groundwork for evangelization.

Well said.

Modernity is like a divorcee', embittered and hardened against the Truth. What we find in modernity is not groundwork or preparation, but active rebellion.

Are we talking about rebellion against truth itself or rebellion against certain elements of truth which were overemphasized to the detriment of other balancing elements of the matrix??? Nothing after all happens in a vaccum and humanity is constantly overemphasizing one side of an equation or the other and refusing to seek balance and moderation.

For those who might be skeptical of my criticisms, there is also abundant empirical data linking rock music to negative reactions and behaviors -- not only in people, but in unborn children, in laboratory animals, and in mere houseplants. Some of this data is included in the articles I sent you.

There was also "studies" that asserted that listening to classical music when younger helped children develop into smarter kids. Those "studies" were disproven in subsequent ones. I question virtually any study or poll I hear about because I am not unfamiliar with how variables can be manipulated in order to achieve the result that the person or group want to achieve.{1} This is not to say that there is automatically no value in the studies you refer to but without knowledge of the variables involved in the studies, it is difficult to know if they were genuinely scientific or instead were done in a manner whereby the result desired was more easily achievable.

An example that comes to mind was a call I received from the New York Times back in 1992 on the election. I made it unmistakably clear that I favoured Ross Perot but the pollster kept saying "I will put you down as 'undecided'" and I reiterated at least three times that I was *not* "undecided". But in the end that is how I was ranked in their silly poll.

Those who have peace of soul will find rock music repellent; those who want peace of soul will find rock music an obstacle.

Then they are looking outward and not within my friend. And I would question the true "peace of soul" of someone who can be effected in that way by exterior things. I am dealing with this element of psychology in the revision of my treatise contra 'traditionalism' with a fresh section on psychological elements of the equation. It is akin to the fact that as a culture we suffer from a scarcity of leisure - a notion that on the surface sounds absurd but I assure you it is true to form.{2}

People today are programmed to look outward for peace of mind and soul and they will never find it exteriorly. They either have it interiorly or they do not. And if they do not and they presume that they will find it in music, literature, art, television, night clubs, church socials, or in liturgy (or wherever they look for it) then they are hostage to those who can control the exteriors.

I am reminded of the scene from "Shawshank Redemption" where Tim Robbins' character gets thrown into solitary confinement for two months after he broadcast French opera records to the inmates. When asked how he weathered the storm of two months in solitary - when even a week was seen as an eternity - he noted that he was not alone but that he had the singers with him inside. The warden and the guards could do anything to him and they could not take from him what he had within. That is the essence right there, and most people today do not realize it.

Much in the same train of thought I see value in art and music as expressions of reality as well as the restlessness of the human spirit in its search.

Yes, there may be some value in observing what rock music "expresses" about the reality of contemporary culture.

All music has a diversity of expression Jeff. To the extent that it expresses the human emotions and yearnings it is legitimate. One cannot judge the value of an item by abuses.

Like life itself this can mean turning down the wrong path at times. But then I also do not recommend such music in any form for someone who is not fortified with spiritual nourishment of the faith. Someone who knows right from wrong - and can recognize music and art for what they can be - can actually learn from them.

It is true that those fortified in the faith have a better defense against the assaults of rock music.

As opposed to the assaults of the clergy??? ;-)

But who among us is not affected by music? Music stirs the soul, for good or for ill.

Exactly.

I will note here though that I believe a person with good grounding in the faith does not have to worry about most forms of "rock music".

Shawn, it speaks volumes that you even felt this needed to be said! Don't you find it lamentable that the predominant music of our culture is only safe for the spiritually mature?

Well Jeff, I would no sooner loan my car out to a twelve year old or hand out my cigars to a minor either. Further still, I do not feel that any kind of music is safe for those who are spiritually immature. Look at those who imbibe nothing but Gregorian Chant who nonetheless are in schism from their bishop and the Catholic Church: on the surface the appearance of "fortification in faith" is actually a license for the spiritually immature to practice the very rebellion that you find so lamentable about (some) forms of rock music. Again, the solution is never in the exteriors alone: when that is the case we get people who are exteriorly righteous but inwardly the suffer from spiritual dryrot. (Our Lord castigated the Pharisees for this very problem.)

There are some that of course are extreme and cannot be recommended but we cannot judge something only by extremists.

But the "extremists" keep pushing the envelope. Forty-five years ago, rock music itself was extreme. Thirty-five years ago, the Beatles were extreme. Thirty years ago, the Rolling Stones were extreme. Fifteen years ago, AC/DC was extreme. Today, I suppose Anthrax is extreme.

Consider how society in general had a collective wedgie fifty years ago, it would not seem to me to be a strong argument to claim that they saw rock music as extreme. There were also a lot of (frankly) racist people who did not like the fact that any non lily-white music forms might receive mainstream attention. In this context I take the reactions of forty to fifty years ago with several grains of salt.

The process of de-sensitization can be described as follows:

"Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow ... In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next ... And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all ruch in upon you. The burden of self-deception has become too heavy."

And this is solved by hiding out in the cloister and griping about women wearing pants and other elements of attempted "exterior righteousness"???

(The above quote, attributed to a sociological study of the rise of Naziism, is extracted from Fr. Frank Poncelet's anti-television newsletter this month.)

I am not unfamiliar with the methods of mind control. Remember, you are talking with a former conspiracy kook. Basically where Bob Sungenis is now is almost exactly where I was about seven to ten years ago minus the explicit antisemitism element. (I had too many Jewish friends and business partners to buy into a lot of that element of the equation.)

In short, your great-grandparents -- or anyone else who has skipped the de-sensitizing intermediate steps of the last fifty years -- would be scandalized by today's rock music.

They would have been scandalized by dresses above the ankle Jeff :) Actually Babka (my maternal great grandmother) was a fan of Elvis' music. But I digress...

Again you are using a sweeping generalization. I would say that 90% of the music I listen to my great grandparents would not be scandalized by. (That does not mean that they would *like* it per se but music that deals with everyday things and situations put to a melody is not exactly a novelty.)

Those of us who have lived through its modern development have lost our natural sensitivity.

In many cases this may be true. But it does no good to cry over spilt milk and better to grab a rag and clean it up. And one way to "clean it up" is to help people learn to make the proper distinctions.

But I do not want to belabour this point at this time. I will look over the links and if you can mull over what I noted above, perhaps we can discuss this subject later on.

OK. Now to your comments about the Profession of Faith ... The reason religious submission is required is because most people are not theologians Jeff and even those that are need to remember that the magisterium teaches with divinely vested authority.

Absolutely. And that divinely vested authority extends to all previous teachings as well. Hence, controversy arises when present teachings seem to contradict prior teachings.

Of course there is also the fact that the magisterium in some cases can supercede its previous lower-level teachings or flesh out an element of a previously defined dogma to explain it in greater detail. There is more in the gumbo then it may casually appear...

Whatever the solution might be, it cannot be a mindless surrender to the "magisterium of the moment".

This sounds somewhat Protestant. Religious submission of mind and will means one places their will and opinions subject to the magisterium's teaching. This applies in a special way to the ordinary teaching magisterium of the Roman pontiff. With bishops it applies to them when they teach in unanimity on a point of doctrine that must be held.{3}

Religious submission means that the teaching authority must be given proper deference and the sincere intention to submit to its teachings and directives. At the very least it means no external controversion of the teaching whatsoever.

And as such there is guidance from above even in ordinary teaching matters even though it is not the same plentitude that is present when a definition or declaration is made on matters pertaining to faith and morals.

Yes. But the Church is not a tyranny, teaching one thing yesterday, another thing today, and another thing tomorrow. The question is what to do with contradictions that cannot be reconciled in good faith.

There are legitimate channels for this but of course the question is not most of the time if a teaching cannot be reconciled but if the reconciliation is not to the liking of the individual. How many people bother to inform themselves about the types of general norms that go into properly interpreting a magisterial pronouncement??? Another friend of mine who is a Traditionalist actually believes that the magisterium always teaches clearly and in a way for anyone to understand. This is not true at all. People learn their faith through proper catechesis and one is not catechized by magisterial documents.

At no time in history has the magisterium taken the view that laity could be catechized by reading its pronouncements. This is why apostolic letters and the like were commonly addressed to "Patriarches", "Archbishops", "Bishops", and "Clergy" who were "in communion with the Apostolic see". This was because it was the responsibility of the clergy to relate the teachings to the faithful in the intended sense. The problem we have with a more educated laity today is that they are not properly educated in theological interpretation norms yet they delude themselves into thinking that they are.

The documents of the magisterium are a lot like the Scriptures: they are comprehensible in some elements but not all elements and not in all parameters. And the laity are not to set themselves up as judges and jury over the living magisterium at any time - or to judge it by the past pronouncements when they lack the theological tools to do this properly. This does not mean of course that they cannot read the magisterial documents and (in the process of such reading) run across areas of legitimate perplexity which they seek to work through with prayer and assistance from other people, tools of interpretation, documents, etc. But it does call for a humility even in cases where the text seems "obvious" to have an "error" in it.

If there are any errors at all in the magisterium ordinaria they are very remote indeed. MUCH too remote to be treated in the kind of irresponsible amateurish manner that most people - particularly "liberals" and self-styled "traditionalists" - so often do. A sincere believer will not place their personal preferences in the position of primacy in these matters - otherwise they are no different then the Protestant who practices private judgment.

There is also a presumption by many people that none of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council - as no definitions of dogma were promulgated - are definitive. In many cases I would (and have) argued that this presumption is an egregiously flawed one. But I do not want to go into details on it now.

It seems to me that if the Council had solemnly and explicitly defined doctrine, this level of controversy would not even exist. Dissenters would simply leave the Church, as the Old Catholics did after Vatican I.

Well, most of the teachings which were clearly settled definitively were not areas where there would be any real disagreement. The areas where there would be problems were two declarations (religious liberty and the relationship to non-Christian religions) and (to a lesser degree) ecumenism. These were areas where the Church made a clear paradigm shift in emphasis where at first or even second glance is difficult to reconcile with precedent.

There is also the element of things being a lot different now because the Church at Vatican II involved herself in a long-overdue updating. A lot was dealt with and in many cases the sheer enormity of the changes that took place was difficult for people raised under the myth of the "unchanging church" to handle. (Not to mention that many changes not mandated took place under the auspices of the Council's authority.)

Anyway, I'm a long way from finishing the 719 pages of conciliar documents that must be digested and understood as a prerequisite for entering this debate. Can we pick this one up again in 2004. :-)

LOL, I am thinking of running a Vatican II documents series at my weblog. That may be a project for 2004 though. Tell you what, when my treatise is revised give it a read as I deal with a lot of the controversial subjects within it. (Albeit it is a more condensed format but snapshots of the way the Council documents and pre-Council documents are flagrantly abused to defend the agendas of groups such as SSPX and SSPV would at the very least give one reason to pursue the study of the documents carefully and without making rash judgments.)

Suffice to say, I see no real conflicts in the areas you noted above but I concede that this is not readily apparent at first or even second glance.

We must assume there are no real conflicts, of course.

Indeed. Deitrich von Hildebrand once said that any apparent conflicts between Vatican II and the previous magisterium were an illusion.

The veil issue is interesting in a way because women used to wear hats as part of their clothing. This was the standard until very recently.

The veil issue is theological, going back to the teaching of Saint Paul (1 Cor 11:3-16). I don't know whether women in Saint Paul's day wore hats as a normal part of their clothing, but it doesn't really matter. The biblical context is public worship.

I seem to recall reading somewhere that the Corinthians were into unisex haircuts and the veil was intended to discourage the women from appearing like men. I am not sure if that take is accurate or not but in light of today's tendency towards androgeny it would definitely be a good argument for the retaining of the veil.

There is no doubt in my mind that the veil has been discarded because the theology behind it is very unpopular.

Perhaps.

Among other things, the veil is a symbol of male headship -- not only in the Church, but also in marriage and society. (Somehow, the Catholic doctrine of male headship did not even make it into the new Catechism. No wonder Catholics are confused about it.)

In light of all the other areas which needed shoring up and affirming, the male headship issue is rather ancillary.

I find myself on this issue vacillating back and forth on it admittedly as I see good arguments on both sides. As a kind of concession I remind myself that if I am looking around for veils when in the chapel then I am not properly focused on the mass.

About two-thirds of the women in my church wear a veil, including three from my own household. Yet it wouldn't be right to ascribe moral culpability to those who don't, because this simple act of obedience is not being asked of them.

If for no other reason then to fight the culture of androgeny a movement to restore the veils would be a good idea IMHO.

The problem here as I see it is where the line is drawn. If the magisterium has a living authority as Catholics profess and if that authority is supreme ...

Yes, the Magisterium has a living authority. But I was unaware that Catholics ascribed to this "living" authority a supremacy over -- what shall we say? -- "non-living" authority. My understanding is that the Magisterium is an historic continuity with a living voice.

It is but at the same time the Magisterium determines which areas require continuity and which do not. Any other solution and we are defacto Protestants treating the Magisterium the way they do the Bible by attributing to it a primacy to our personal whims and subordinating the areas that we do not personally like to the areas we preferred.

... then nothing except what is either imposed on the faith or what is definitively settled can be immutable in the future.

Then it follows, of course, that nothing except what is "imposed on the faith or what is definitively settled" can be immutable *today*.

This is the tricky part as repetition of teaching plays a role in the definitive handing on of a teaching. In essence you can have a teaching that through a succession of pronouncements none of which were in and of themselves definitive would taken together hand on a teaching definitively. Thus those who ask for a "catalogue of ex cathedra pronouncements" would not exhaust all of the potentially definitive teachings of the Magisterium.

But do we really want it to be open season on all Catholic teaching that is not "definitively settled"? That is what the current attitude seems to be.

I agree with you.

Our bishops have little respect for prior teachings, and our laymen have little respect for present teachings. If Catholics can thumb their nose at Pius X today, they can do the same at JP-II tomorrow. And if it is going to happen tomorrow anyway, why wait?

Anyone who thumbs their nose at St. Pius X deserves to have their Catholic faith called into question. This does not mean that every pronouncement of Pius X has the same theological weight of course. But just as many people today dismiss with a wave of the hand the pronouncements from his era, many other people misunderstand the pronouncements of his era and try to pound a square peg into a bunch of round holes.

Thus when I addressed Fr. Chad Ripperger's misunderstanding of the concept of immanence - he lumped all forms of immanence together the way many who oppose evolutionary theory presume that all theores of evolution are homogenous - I rebutted his assertions using the encyclical Pascendi. He was trying to use Pascendi inappropriately; albeit I do not believe this was because of ill will.

Shawn, no real Catholic wants to be a free-wheeler. We want -- we positively hunger -- for the authority of a self-respecting Church.

I agree.

I guess I would have to know what you mean by "listening to former magisteriums". This sounds similar to what Protestants do with the Bible to me except applied to the magisterium. But at the same time I do not believe you are advocating "sola traditio". At this point I will let you define your meaning of the statement above: I think I know but I do not want to put words in your mouth.

My view of Catholic teaching essentially follows the definition offered by Fr. Chad Ripperger (to which, if I am not mistaken, you threatened a rebuttal):

I believe I did successfully rebut many of his claims but at the same time I was very respectful to Fr. Ripperger. Certainly he is not a Remnant-type of 'traditionalist'.

"Traditionalists, as a general rule, tend to be orthodox in the sense that they are obedient to the current magisterium, even though they disagree about matters of discipline and have some reservations about some aspects of current magisterial teachings which seem to contradict the previous magisterium (e.g. the role of the ecumenical movement). Traditionalists tend to take not just the current magisterium as their norm but Scripture(41), intrinsic tradition, extrinsic tradition and the current magisterium as the principles of judgment of correct Catholic thinking. This is what distinguishes traditionalists and neo-conservatives i.e. their perspectives regarding the role of ecclesiastical tradition and how the current magisterium relates to it."

I seem to recall using much of that quote in my essay. (It sounds familiar.)

You realize that the older Professio you professed was replaced in 1967 right???

Actually, no, I wasn't aware of that. But I'll certainly take your word for it.

This is not to say that each successive Professio was "abrogated" as a Catholic should be able to make all professions of faith promulgated by the popes and ecumenical councils.

Certainly. I could take either Professio. But I took the Vatican I Professio in full communion with the Pope and under the authority of our diocesan bishop. That should be good enough for your Legion of Faith. :-)

I would have to consult on that matter with some of the others. When the current form is used I simply add people at my own discretion. When not it is a bit more complicated because the question then arises about why the present form is not used.

For example, when the CDF sent the current Professio to a dissident theologian, the theologian responded with a signed copy of the 1967 Professio which was superceded. The reason: there was nothing in the 1967 Professio that emphasized the second tier truths and he was rebelling against one of them. Nonetheless we can discuss this later on as I do not judge a persons orthodoxy on whether they are on my list or not.{4}

It is simply that the magisterium taking into account the needs of the age sought to reiterate explicitly what was implied in the scaled down 1967 Professio ....

And this is what I don't get. We have "scaled down" the liturgy. We have "scaled down" fasting and other disciplines. And now, as you say, we have"scaled down" the Profession of Faith. I think this trend is bad, bad, bad.

There were more elements in the mix then meet the casual eye and considering the context of the time in retrospect it is easy to see that this was a bit naive. Hindsight is always 20-20 after all. The current Professio was "upscaled" from the 1967 version.

It is simply that the magisterium ... and highlight an area to which neither that professio or Pope Paul's Credo of 1968 explicitly took note of: the definitive doctrines to be held which were not de fide.

In my view, the older Professio does all this and more. As for doctrine that is not *de fide*, the older Professio has this to say:

"I admit and embrace most firmly the apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and all the other constitutions and prescriptions of the Church. I admit the sacred Scriptures according to the sense which has been held and which is still held by Holy Mother Church, whose duty it is to judge the true sense and interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures, and I shall never accept or interpret them except according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers."

Now those of us who have made this profession are sometimes perplexed by the current magisterium...Obviously, the suspicion is that the older Professio was discarded because it was too specific.

I had to delete your examples because they come right at the tail end of a rather long response and I do not have the time to treat on them at the moment. All I will note here is that there was a strong tendency towards integralist outlooks which coloured a lot of the reactions of that era.

About comparing the different versions on Rerum Novarum: Are you referring to the current Professio and the Vatican I version which you took???

Yes.

Heck, we could examine the last three Professios if you want. I have no objections to that at all.

I like that idea too. And I look forward to your reply.

Well we cannot do that in this reply as we are already longer then "War and Peace" here ;-) But if you like we can do that in another thread later on as I believe it would be very instructive for all of us.

Notes:

{1} It is not without reason that Mark Twain was attributed with the statement "there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics".

{2} Much as the fact that we live in one of the most sexually repressive societies in history is also a fact that on the surface would appear to be 180 degrees off. I would be glad to go over either of these subjects sometime if you like.

{3} This is most applicable with the teaching of ecumenical councils or plenary councils which receive papal approbation.

{4} That is more a kind of "Petersnet" guide for casual readers if you will and a visible demonstration of solidarity since we all to some extent represent the Church in what we write either in essays or on our weblogs.

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Friday, November 29, 2002


To complete the De Virtutibus "Triple Spin" we have the following message from Pope John Paul II that "The principal mission of Christians is to proclaim Christ as the only savior of mankind"... I suppose this is just the pope trying to "appear orthodox" to thereby "mask his true heretical views" right??? Yeah whatever...

In the comments box at Kevin's weblog was the following point by JB the Kairos Guy:

I don't see how one gets from teaching that Christ has his own plan for his Chosen people to "Christ is not the only Savior." Last time I checked, it was still Christian doctrine that there are mysteries about the universe, and Christ is under no obligation to illuminate them all just to please us...right?

Precisely JB.

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A good article on the military from the standpoint of a father who only understood the significance now that his son is serving our country - courtesy of Lane Core Jr's Blog from the Core

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One of the Few Catholic Commentators Who Understands the Reflections Subject...

...in my estimation anyway. Here is the link:

Christians and Jews - by Professor Kevin Miller

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More on the Mystical Body Subject With Professor Miller:

Shawn, I saw your blogged response to my email. I think you're missing my point. I'm not saying that we shouldn't make people aware of the Church and I'm not denying that those who recognize it have to join it explicitly. I'm not saying that the "incorporation" of non-Christians is full membership or that they can enjoy "table fellowship" with us.

I did not think you were saying that. I brought it up because there is often a confusion amongst people of Germanic extraction who have more of a simplistic dichotomizing "black/white" mentality on theological and philosophical issues then do those with a mindset that is more Hebrew in outlook or traditional Greek or Latin. The "body/soul" approach is easier for them to assimilate if you will than more nuanced explanations.

And I know they're not "incorporated" in a visible way.

Indeed.

But you yourself spoke of their being joined to the Church's soul.

Yes in a manner whereby they have access to Christ's graces through the Church. The soul is recognized as the Church's animating element of life much as the human soul is the animating element of our human bodies and the body without the soul (or spirit) is not alive at all (cf. James ii, 26). If access to the life of Christ through the Church was only possible to those who were visibly joined to the Body then EENS would have an Ecclesiocentric understanding. Properly understood the understanding is Christocentric. This is also the sense that EENS was defined and redefined in.

I'm saying that of metaphysical necessity (and you seem to grant that metaphysical necessity does obtain, so I'm not sure exactly where our disagreement is, if there is one) they're also joined to the body - albeit in an imperfect/incomplete and, of course, invisible (remember, body isn't to soul precisely as visible is to invisible - the pairs can't be exchanged that simply) - way.

I am not disagreeing with you. Nor was I in the original entry that you responded to.

And de Lubac explains in what sense that's so - what the invisible yet "bodily" connection is.

Can you blog that part for me to read please. I admit that I am "de Lubac deficient" in the sense that I love what I have read of his stuff but admittedly that has been very little thus far. (Mainly it has been stuff that was either devotional or apologetical in exonerating him from the barbs of the integrists of the Roman school.) I know that de Lubac pioneered the modern theology of the Church as a sacrament - modern in that he was restoring an ancient understanding of the Church's mystery.

And my quotation from the CCC was significant because of the reference therein to "Body" - the CCC affirms that when nonbelievers are saved, they're saved through the body, not just the soul.

I am not disagreeing with you (except the part about non-believers and that is a semantic thing I am sure). I prefer to say those who do not explicitly recognize Christ. I am only saying that we cannot account them as in the Church even if they are.

Maybe an explanation of outlooks would be of assistance here. The Hebrew mindset philosophically and theologically tends to look at all sides of an issue carefully and can see value in all sides involved to varying degrees. This is also not problematical for the theological and philosophical outlook of the Greek and Latin mindsets which view things more in a "shades of gray" approach whereby they tend to think things through more and avoid the snares that befall those who react in the more simplistic mould I will now refer to.

By contrast to the above outlooks you have the outlook of the Germanic peoples of northern European extraction such as the Germans and the English - not to mention the Irish to some extent would be involved in this as well. They tend to be much more "black and white" in their views of issues theological and philosophical: a simplicity that is detrimental to their proper understanding of issues whereby there is greater complexity involved.

Because the Germanic outlook is simpler, its adherents tend to be more rash in their judgments and thus are prone to fundamentalist simplicitity. It is not an accident that the Protestant dichotomizing mentality sprung from the Germanic peoples and that once it imbedded itself into their psyche that they had (and have) the greatest difficulty in overcoming it.{1}

The people who cannot purge themselves of this tendency are therefore never authentically Catholic in their outlook. The irony is that while Catholics of a Germanic mindset are not philosophically and theologically Catholic in their outlooks, they nonetheless tend to be fervent Catholics in their devotional lives. The strength is in their devotion while their weakness is rashly judging others with a hermeneutic of suspicion.

It is pointless to discuss elements such as "full and partial incorporation" with them as they dichotomize too much to properly understand it.{2} The most extremist of these sorts tend towards an ecclesiocentric Feeneyist viewpoint de facto whatever they postulate in theory on the subject of EENS. Those who are at least moderately amenable can grasp the body-soul distinction so since I dialogue with a lot of people of a dichotomist outlook, I tend towards using that distinction more. You can refer to it is my kinda "Anglican Via Media" approach on the subject if you like.


By the way, see also my "Christians and Jews" post...

Will do.

Notes:

{1} And even some of these kinds of people who become Catholic never fully purge themselves of their former fundy outlooks.

{2} And see such distinctions as "watering down doctrine".

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Thursday, November 28, 2002

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers and their loved ones.



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Tuesday, November 26, 2002

More from Crowhill:
(With an Article on the Reflections Document)

Readers of my weblog are not unaware that I was unimpressed with virtually every commentator's take on this subject when it first came up. (Particularly those who rashly threw around the term "heresy" or who felt they had to align themselves with the Third Reich in discussing the subject.) And though I hope to put that series on the covenants up in early December, I readily admit that my disgust over the overreactions has sapped my resolve to finish that series and post it to the weblog.

After all, by even responding to it I in essence give credibility to those whose grasp of the issues is either miniscule at best or who will simply shrug it off and go onto their next tirade. People who wonder why I at times rough people up as I do ...well ... if more people took the time to properly discern the relevant factors involved in a statement rather than try to pound square pegs into round holes, there would be a lot less of the kind of overconfident blustering boondoggle essays and email circulars that some of these kinds of people put out continually under the facade that they are a bunch of know-it-alls that somehow command the respect of others.

There is another element of the equation to consider too and it is the most foundational element of an authentic Christian attitude: charity. The last time I checked, charity did not involve presumption of evil in others on slight grounds. The last time I checked, charity did not involve rash reaction to events or statements.{1} The last time I checked, charity did not involve viewing the statements of others with an a priori suspicious hermeneutic.{2} This is particularly the case with modern man and his attitude of self-autonomy.

But ironically the two groups who fall prey to this the most are the liberals who embody rebellion from authority and the so-called "traditionalists" who are in reality a bunch of people infected with the modern liberal contempt for authority which is objectively speaking a mortal sin. And on the Reflections document, a lot of people who normally do not have problems in these areas frankly jumped off the deep end a bit.

Now it is true that some have modified their initial stances a bit. But others have simply abandoned it and moved onto other areas. Is it too much to ask people to inquire a bit and not be so quick to think the worst in others??? Or is the only sin now the sin of trying to give people the benefit of the doubt whenever this is at all reasonbly possible???

I can tell that some people reading this are aghast that I would mount such a defense for the writers of the Reflections document. I will wager that some of those who have this view think I am now a "pawn" of the USCCB subcommittee. No my friends, I am not. But one can disagree with someone and still do so without acting like a misanthrope. Cardinal Dulles does this in the following article. While I do not agree with all of his statements - as I think he overlooked or downplayed the significance of a couple of key elements of the equation; nonetheless he demonstrates that one can be critical without unduly presuming the worst in others in the process.{3} Here is a sample of the article:

Covenant and Mission consists of two parts, embodying reflections by each group on the theme. The two parts are ill-matched, since the Catholic section is totally focused on Judaism, whereas the Jewish section says nothing about Christianity. The Catholic reflections—which are the subject of this article—are evidently intended to assuage the feelings of Jews who remember all too vividly the polemics and persecutions of past centuries. They rely heavily on a speech of Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, delivered to a Jewish-Catholic liaison group in New York on May 1, 2001 (Am., 9/17/01), in which the cardinal was attempting to defuse the anger over several recent incidents. The present dialogue statement therefore sets forth Catholic doctrine in a very irenic fashion. In tailoring their remarks to a particular public, the authors unfortunately gave grounds for the misinterpretations in the press accounts I have cited. The statement is ambiguous, if not erroneous, in its treatment of topics such as evangelization, mission, covenant and dialogue. For More Go Here...

Notes:

{1} Charity is patient remember.

{2} Charity thinketh no evil remember.

{3} Not to mention regurgitating the kind of disgraceful unChristlike dung which is par for the course in the tradition of those who take a Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion view of the world.

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Some Articles from Crowhill:

Courtesy of Greg Krehbiel's homepage I bring you an article on the new breed of orthodox seminarians. First a small taste to whet the appetite though:

We are unashamed to proclaim our explicit and emphatic loyalty to the Pope and to the Bishops in union with him and are more inclined to emphasize catechesis, vigorous spiritual direction, cultivation of “manly” virtues, and an appreciation for spiritual classics. We place little faith in an unswerving obedience to one’s own conscience that, practically speaking, disregards Church teachings, and we exhibit a greater willingness to obey and to take radical steps to form our consciences according to the mind and heart of the Church and not according to any predetermined slant.

For more go here

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It took me over a year, but I have finally gotten Mike Gendren to agree to meet me in public debate. The subject is justification. Here's the catch, he will only do it in a Catholic Church in the Dallas area. I need your help!! If you or anyone that you know has any connections in Dallas, PLEASE let me know. Please don't let a year's worth of work go down the drain for lack of venue.

My personal experience with Mike Gendren is that he is a slippery eel. One of the reasons I started saving message board posts to my harddrive was people like him who sought to respond to challenges by deleting posts at his message board. But even when one can save them and post them anew, people like him either continue to delete them or they ban you.

In short, I posted the above note though it is from a private discussion forum because the individual actually weathered the storm and got Mike to agree to a debate. Any of my readers who know of a church in the Dallas area please email me with information on the subject. I would hate to see the fella above lose out on the opportunity to confront Mike the slippery eel in debate.


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Monday, November 25, 2002

A Brief Dissertation on the Mystical Body:

Hi Shawn, just a quick response to your use of body of Church/soul of Church distinction to explain how non-Catholics belong to the Church.

I did that because it highlights two elements of the Church's mystery: the visible and the invisible.

I'm not sure whether that distinction is the best way to go - whether, i.e., sincere non-Catholics aren't somehow joined to the body as well as the soul of the Church.

The issue is not whether they are or not but whether they can be accounted as such by Catholics. And the answer is that they cannot be.

(Indeed I wonder whether being joined to the soul/"form" is metaphysically possible without being joined also to the body/"matter.")

I doubt that it is metaphysically possible either but any bonds that are there are invisible ones since there is no manifested external verification. Whatever may be the case there is still no visible criteria to account for it. The Council of Trent recognized the validity of receiving the effects of certain sacraments implicitly (referring to baptism for the unbaptized and penance for the baptized) but these are not substitutes for the real thing. It is instead a recognition that God is not bound to the means that He binds us to.

The underlying principle remains: they cannot be accounted as members of the Church who are not baptized, professing right faith, and in submission to the ecclesiasial hierarchy. (See Mystici Corporis Christi §22.) Frederich Jurgensmeier explained it thusly in his book "The Mystical Body of Christ" when treating on the question at hand:

According to her principle, the Church as The Mystical Body of Christ embraces potentially the whole human race. There is but one Head by whom and in whom everything is created [Col. i. 16], and this Head has the tendency to unite all within Himself. According to His predestination and potency [Cf. S.T., III, q. 8, a. 3, resp], He embraces all mankind.

This Body of Christ is intended to extend beyond the present boundaries of the visible Church because it is to include all nations and ages [Apoc. vii. 9: 1 Tim. ii. 4,6: iv, 10]. However, it would be wrong to consider as actual members of the Mystical Body those who, though endowed with sanctifying grace, are not actually members of the visible Catholic Church.

The Second Vatican Council taught the same principle in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium explaining the manner whereby the People of God are both brought into the Church and how they through the sacraments grow in virtue. Reference was made in LG §8 to the Church being governed by the pope and the bishops in communion with him. The obvious implication would be that you cannot understand the later chapters apart from this section - this is a fundamental principle of theological interpretation.

After LG §8 the second chapter of the dogmatic constitution outlines the People of God. This moniker cannot properly apply to anyone who does not accept both episcopal government and the sacraments as channels through which God primarily conveys His grace.

For the elements of episcopal government, reception of baptism, reception of confirmation, and the celebration of the Eucharist are outlined in the exposition along with the sacraments of Penance, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. So no one who does not accept them can be properly accounted as part of the People of God and by definition that includes all non-Catholics except the Eastern Churches not in communion with the Pope and (at least in theory) the High Church Protestants who recognize the episcopate. They though whose bishops are not in communion with the pope would logically be excluded as well.

The bottom line is that only Catholics by definition can qualify as part of the People of God and the sensus fidelis which logically flows from it. All of this is established in Lumen Gentium *before* the discussion of the "how" of salvation applies. More on this in a moment.

For some thoughts on this, see chap. 7 of de Lubac's Catholicism. (Interestingly, the CCC #846 reformulates the "Outside the Church ." maxim: "it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body.")

But the maxim was not controverted. To reformulate something positively simply means that you recognize something in a positive manner and not a negative one.{1} Extra ecclesia nulla salus was defined at points where there was controversy and the authority of the Church was being compromised by heretics. This cannot be lost sight of.

For in the latter kind of situation, you do not give any ground whatsoever to the opponent much as I do not give any ground whatsoever to insolent self-styled "traditionalists" who like to act like misanthropes and trash people by wielding texts from magisterial statements the same way anti-Catholics wield texts of the Bible to "prove" that the Catholic Church contradicts the Bible.{2}

The root and matrix of why the Church is necessary for salvation is because the Church is God's chosen instrument for the propagation of the Gospel, the administration of the sacraments, and other means whereby we can attain salvation by the grace of God. The marital imagery of Ephesians 5 in its application to the relationship between Christ and the Church signifies exactly how close the Church is to Christ: she is "one flesh" with him. Thus no one who obstinately rejects the Church can have any part of the Passion - or as St. Cyprian noted "he cannot have God as a Father who does not have the Church as a Mother".

Lumen Gentium was drafted to explain in detail the Church's mystery and part of that mystery involves salvation and *how* people are saved. Also, Fr. de Lubac had a very strong hand in the text of Lumen Gentium in case you were not aware of that.{3} So while I have not read the source you reference (or nearly as much of de Lubac's writings as I wish I had by this time of my life); nonetheless I do not see how there is a controversion in Fr. de Lubac's view and the view espoused by the encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi or the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium. The last paragraph of LG 13 will be referenced here to explain the differentiation:

"The members of the people of God are called to share these goods in common, and of each of the Churches the words of the Apostle hold good: "According to the gift that each has received, administer it to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (i Pet. iv,10).

All men are called to be part of this catholic unity of the people of God which in promoting universal peace presages it. And there belong to or are related to it in various ways, the Catholic faithful, all who believe in Christ, and indeed the whole of mankind, for all men are called by the grace of God to salvation."

LG 13 makes the distinction in a threefold manner and devotes a section to fleshing out each one. They are (in order) the Catholic faithful who are the only ones who can be properly accounted as members of the Mystical Body (LG 14). From there, it notes others who explicitly profess Christ who are of good faith (thus they are related to the Church in a closer manner then non-Christians through the bond of baptism and other elements) but whose profession of faith or ecclesial adherence is objectively lacking in some form or another (LG 15).

Finally, there are non-Christians who are of good faith and strive to follow the law of God as best as they can discern it by the dictates of their conscience - whose status is even more objectively deficient then non-Catholic Christians (LG 16).{4}

It is also important to remember that statements are not interpreted in a vacuum. (Those of a dissident so-called "liberal" or dissident so-called "traditionalist" stripe do this continually.) Lumen Gentium in perfect continuity with Tradition explains the mystery of the Church and how salvation is possible through the Church. And as a dogmatic constitution its authority surpasses that of apostolic/encyclicals of the popes. I mention that for those who like to invent controversions between that text and previous documents of the papal magisterium by failing to follow the general norms of theological interpretation.

Getting back to the EENS issue, it was Traditionally recognized that people could be saved who were not explicitly Catholic but the "how" part of the equation was seldom touched on. It had always been recognized that people who suffer from some form of ignorance of the truth which could not be overcome with due diligence would not be held accountable for knowing that truth.

Lumen Gentium affirms this and explains how salvation could be attained by those who objectively were in error with regards to certain elements of the Gospel. The emphasis was on the saving elements of truth that non-Catholic Christians to varying degrees possess as well as those that non-Christians possess. For those of good faith the elements themselves can be salvific. For those who are not, they are not only not salvific but indeed are a sentence against them if you will.

This assessment bears itself out in a reading of the text itself for Lumen Gentium deals with EENS in the exposition on the Church's mystery in LG 14. LG 14 explicitly affirms the sense in which EENS was defined and redefined in: those who are aware that the Church is necessary for salvation and refuse to enter or remain within her:

14. This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism (Cf. Mc 16, 16; Jn. 3, 5. ) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.

That is the essence of every dogmatic pronouncement on EENS in Church History: they were all made to those who were not unaware of this obligation but were contumacious in their disobedience to the Church. This is why to focus only on that element of the equation when explaining the mystery of the Church is woefully inadequate but when one is dealing with someone who knows the necessity of the Church for salvation but who refuses to submit to the Church (like many self-styled "traditionalists"), all that is necessary to emphasize is that those who are outside the Church cannot be saved.

Lumen Gentium goes on to explain the "how" of this mystery as it pertains to Christians and non-Christians who strive to follow the dictates of their conscience and the elements of the full deposit of grace that they possess that come from the Church herself. To continue with the reference of LG 14:

They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a "bodily" manner and not "in his heart."(12*) All the Church's children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.(13*)

12 Cfr. S. Augustinus, Bapt. c. Donat. V, 28, 39; PL 43, 197: Certe manifestum est, id quod dicitur, in Ecdesia intus et foris, in corde, non in corpore cogitandum. Cfr. ib., III, 19, 26: col. 152; V, 18, 24: col. 189; In Io. Tr. 61, 2: PL 35, 1800, et alibi saepe.

13 Cfr. Lc. 12, 48: Omni autem, cui multum datum est, multum quaeretur ab eo. Cfr. etiam Mt. 5, 19-20; 7, 21-22; 25 41-46; Iac., 2, 14.

It is interesting that the Council chose as one of the reference texts for those who do not practice charity the fifth book of St. Augustine on Baptism Against the Donatists. And for the part about being more severely judged among the Scriptural texts referenced is the judgment scene in Matthew's Gospel where Jesus tells the "goats" where they went wrong in their lives.

Remember, it is a theologically certain teaching that we cannot account amongst the members of the Church anyone who is not (i) baptized (ii) professing the full symbol of faith and (iii) in submission to the ecclesial magisterium of the Church. Lumen Gentium used the concept of "incorporation" to explain the membership element of the equation which is an objectively better way of explaining it.{5}

But this does not detract from the fact what what is being explained is a theologically certain truth: that we cannot extend table fellowship to non-Catholics because they are (to use the "member" analogy) "in arrears".{6} The choice of the word "incorporation" and its implied derivatives are different (and preferable) to the older more imprecise "member" terminology but the essence and intent is to hand on the same teaching. I hope this off-the-cuff explanation is not too confusing.

Notes:

{1} For example, seeing a glass with 50% volume of water as "half full" rather then "half empty".

{2} It is one thing to do this out of ignorance and another to do so to stubbornly resist church authority. If it is clear I am dealing with the latter I am not that genteel about it.

{3} And quite likely he was the most influential of the Council periti on the text of Lumen Gentium - at least with the first three chapters anyway.

{4} Among the latter the Jewish people have pride of place if you will and are in some ways rather unique amonst non-Christian people.

{5} Since one can be incorporated by degrees and this is difficult to explain with the "member/non-member" distinction.

{6} Much the way those conscious of mortal sin cannot receive the Eucharist.

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Courtesy of Donna Lewis' Quenta Narwenion BLOG is the following test which I recently took:


The sixth book written, you're nevertheless the first chronologically. You not only describe the creation of Narnia and tell where the White Witch, the lampost and the wardrobe came from, you get to bounce between worlds with the help of Uncle Andrew's weird magic rings.

Find out which Chronicles of Narnia book you are.



Hopefully Donna Lewis and other CS Lewis fanatics will not excommunicate me when I say that I only read the first four books of the Narnia series. (The first three in fourth grade and the Silver Chair in fifth grade.) In essence I am a book that I have never read.

As far as the Narnia series goes, I kinda lost interest admittedly in them but I was reading books by the score at that time on various subjects - a trend that continued through elementary and secondary school and into college. (Only in the late 1990's with the struggles over "traditionalism" did I have a reading spurt akin to the ones I used to have years ago.) Some friends are reading the books to their children now and they are what in retrospect are "useful fiction" if you will. (As opposed to a lot of stuff which is "non-useful fiction".) The nice thing about Lewis' Narnia series is that it is written in a way that appeals to children but at the same time can be appreciated by adults too. Kinda like the old Warner Brothers cartoons and the new "Pinky and the Brain" series. (Not to mention SpongeBob Squarepants which appears to me to be a cartoon Lucy and Ethel.) But I digress...

My interest in CS Lewis was rekindled in reading some of his apologetics materials - of which The Screwtape Letters was a favourite one. Seeing the Narnia quiz got me to thinking about the whole Harry Potter situation - one that I frankly have no competence to comment on since I have not read or seen Harry Potter at all. (I do not watch many movies anymore and I tend to not read much fiction anymore except the occasional "traditionalist" periodical.) I get the impression that a lot of people are critical of the author of Harry Potter because she is not as good a fiction writer as J R R Tolkien. I find it interesting that people cannot enjoy a work on its own merits but one element of the Potter series that I have heard about is somewhat troubling. Is it true (I ask those familiar with the series) that the Harry Potter series tends to glorify disobedience to lawful authority??? Inquiring minds want to know...

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Some very observant comments on the "traditionalist" issue courtesy of Greg the Obscure can be read HERE.

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Clarification to the Previous Post:

This is to expand upon a point of the previous post which was marked with a *

After conceding amongst some friends that despite his obvious shortcomings in theology, history, science, and the like that I thought Bob was at least a pretty good cartoonist (he outclasses me in this area by my own admission) one of my friends who actually knows a thing or three about the subject of sketching/cartooning, etc. responded as follows:

Actually, as professional graphic artist who does a fair amount of cartooning, I think [Bob is] a TERRIBLE cartoonist:

After giving an analysis on the manifold flaws in his style my friend concluded as follows:

If he can take his hand out of the Kookie Jar long enough to take art lessons, he should run and not walk to the nearest art school ASAP.

Now I suppose I could claim that my friend the professional artist does not know what the hell he is talking about and puff myself up as a "sketch expert" but I would then be emulating the superrr genius and who wants to do that???

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Rerum Novarum Update:

I hope to do a more thorough update in a week or so. (Right now I am rather strapped for time and have a lot of irons in the fire so to speak.)

Under the "Semper Fi" section I added some clarifications I made about the Profession of Faith and how it is rooted both in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as Canon Law. (This technically is a theological musings entry but hopefully putting it here will help in providing a clarification of the Profession that those who are enrolled in the Faith Legion have all publicly made.)

Under the Weblog section I added Dylan's "Tenebrae" BLOG

Under the "Other Approved Sites or Links of Interest" section I added some excerpts from Fr. Newman's sermon "Faith and Private Judgment". It was put under the link to some of my "trad" writings (and pieces by others contra "trad" drivel) not by accident.

Under the Approved Websites section I added The Catholic Legate. On this one permit me for a moment a brief digression.

I have long enjoyed conversing with John Pacheco on discussion lists that we have been on over the past few years. (And also reading his writings.) John is the webmaster of The Catholic Legate and other Staffers include Anthony Schratz, Dr. Wibisono Hartono, Suzanne Fortin, Jason Moran (staff canonist), and Fr. Ignatius. "Canadian Apologetics in da hoooooouse" in short to do my best "yo MTV raps" impression.

[My rap imitations are at least marginally better than Bob E. Sungenis' attempts at cartooning - which in essence means they are quite horrid indeed* ;-)]

Anyway, to all of the aforementioned links as Sovereign Thane and Lord High Executioner of Rerum Novarum I give them all motu proprio declaring that their content is approved in the sense previously outlined in the margin of this weblog all things to the contrary notwithstanding.

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Sunday, November 24, 2002

Extreme Christmas Poetry

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Blogging has been light recently and this week will also be rather light too. I started revising my treatise last night and finished the first part. It appears that I will be going with a fifteen url format this time with each url averaging about 20 pages in length. There will also be a clean sweep of the live links to insure that they all work correctly - some apparently have expired in the past year plus since that work was last given a small touch-up. I saw Koko Taylor at Jazz Alley and ...well ... she is definitely the Queen of the Blues. Very powerful performance and she toured with an excellent backing band too. If she is in your area I recommend going to hear her sing live.

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Spiritual Instruction on Prayer (Part III):

The last part of this series can be found HERE. To start from the beginning go HERE.

5. St. Francis de Sales teaches us that merely to keep ourselves peacefully and tranquilly in the presence of God, without other desire or pretension than to be near Him and to please Him, is of itself an excellent prayer. "Do not exhaust yourself," he says, "in making efforts to speak to your Divine Master, for you are speaking to Him by the sole fact that you remain there and contemplate Him."

"Remember that graces and favours of prayer do not come from earth but from heaven and therefore no effort of ours can acquire them, although, it is true, we must dispose ourselves for their reception diligently, yet withal humbly and tranquilly. We ought to keep our hearts wide open and await the blessed dew from heaven. The following consideration should never be forgotten when we go to prayer, namely, that we draw near to God and place ourselves in His presence principally for two reasons. The first is to render God honour the honour and homage we owe Him, for the duty is fulfilled by acknowledging that He is our Creator and we are His vile creatures, and by remaining before Him, prostrate in spirit, awaiting His commands. The second reason is to speak to God and to listen to Him when He speaks to us by His inspirations and the interior movements of grace.....Now, one or the other of these two advantages can never fail to be derived from prayer. If, then, we can speak to our Lord, let us do so in praise and supplication: if we are unable to speak, let us remain in His presence notwithstanding, offering Him our silent homage; He will see us there, our patience will touch Him and our silence will plead with Him and win His favour. Another time, to our utter astonishment, He will take us by the hand, and converse with us, and make a hundred turns with us in His garden of prayer. And even should He never do this, still be content to know it is our duty to remain in His retinue, and it is a great favor and a greater honour for us that He suffers us in His presence.

In this way we do not force ourselves to speak with God, for we know that merely to remain close to Him is as useful, nay, perhaps more useful to us, though it may be less to our liking. Therefore when you draw near to our Lord, speak to Him if you can; if you cannot, stay there, let Him see you, and do not be anxious about anything else....Take courage, then, tell your Saviour you will not leave Him should He never grant you any sensible sweetness; tell Him you will remain before Him until He has given you His blessing." - St. Francis de Sales.

6. The same Saint gives further valuable advice as follows: "Many persons fail to make a distinction between the presence of God in their souls and the consciousness of this adorable presence, between faith and the sensible feeling of faith. This shows a great want of discernment. What they do not realize God's presence dwelling within them, they suppose that He has withdrawn Himself through some fault of theirs. This is an ignorant and hurtful error. A man who endures martyrdom for love of God does not think actually and exclusively of God but much of his own sufferings; and yet the absence of this feeling of faith does not deprive him of the great merit due to his faith and the resolutions it caused him to make and to keep."

7. Your vocal prayers should be few in number but said with great fervor. The strength derived from food does not depend on the quantity taken but upon its being digested. Better one Our Father or one Psalm said with devout attention than entire rosaries or long offices recited hurriedly and with restless eagerness.

If you feel wilst saying vocal prayers - those not of obligation - that God invites you to meditate, gently and promptly follow this divine impulse. You may be sure that in doing so you make an exchange most profitable to yourself and agreeable to God from whom the inspiration comes.

To be continued...

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