Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wisdom from...

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WALTER HILTON (ca. d. 24 March, 1396): True Lovers of God

Love opens the eyes of the soul to the vision of God, and confirms it in the joyous love that springs from that vision. It comforts a man so much that he has no anxieties and is quite indifferent to what people say or do against him. The greatest harm that could come to him would be to forgo the vision of God, and he would suffer any injury rather than that.

When a true lover of God suffers at the hands of his fellow men, he is strengthened through the grace of the Holy Spirit and is made so truly humble and patient and peaceable that, whatever wrong or injury he suffers, he always retains his humility. He does not despise his persecutors or speak ill of them, but prays for them with pity and compassion more tenderly than for those who never harmed him. And he does indeed love them more, and more fervently desires their salvation, because he sees that he will have such great spiritual gain from their evil deed, even though they never intended that he should. But this kind of love and humility, which are beyond human nature, are only brought about by the Holy Spirit in those whom he makes true lovers of God.
(The Scale of Perfection, Book 2, 38.)

Hilton was an Augustinian canon and outstanding mystic at Thurgarton, near Newark, in Nottinghamshire, and left a legacy of writings, especially The Scale of Perfection (Scala Perfectionis), first printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1494.

ST. AUGUSTINE: Christ Our Way

Jesus said: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." He meant: It is by me that you come; it is to me that you come; and it is in me that you remain. How do you wish to go? I am the Way. Where do you wish to go? I am the Truth. Where do you wish to remain? I am the Life. Christ as God is the homeland where we are going. Christ as Man is the Way we must travel.
-- Christian Doctrine 1, 34

Prayer. O Lord, my God, you alone do I love; you alone do I follow; you alone do I seek. You alone am I prepared to serve.
-- Soliloquies 1, 15


[1] There are some persons to whom the inquiry seeking to demonstrate that God exists may perhaps appear superfluous. These are the persons [e.g., St. Anselm of Canterbury] who assert that the existence of God is self-evident, in such wise that its contrary cannot be entertained in the mind. It thus appears that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated, as may be seen from the following arguments.

[2] Those propositions are said to be self-evident that are known immediately upon the knowledge of their terms. Thus, as soon as you know the nature of a whole and the nature of a part, you know immediately that every whole is greater than its part. The proposition God exists is of this sort. For by the name God we understand that than which a greater cannot be thought [id quo nihil maius cogitari possit]. This notion is formed in the intellect by one who hears and understands the name God. As a result, God must exist already at least in the intellect. But He cannot exist solely in the intellect, since that which exists both in the intellect and in reality is greater than that which exists in the intellect alone. Now, as the very definition of the name points out, nothing can be greater than God. Consequently, the proposition that God exists is self-evident, as being evident from the very meaning of the name God.

[3] Again, it is possible to think that something exists whose non-existence cannot be thought. Clearly, such a being is greater than the being whose non-existence can be thought. Consequently, if God Himself could be thought not to be, then something greater than God could be thought. This, however, is contrary to the definition of the name God. Hence, the proposition that God exists is self-evident.

[4] Furthermore, those propositions ought to be the most evident in which the same thing is predicated of itself, for example, man is man, or whose predicates are included in the definition of their subjects, for example, Man is an animal. Now, in God, as will be shown in a later chapter, it is pre-eminently the case that His being is His essence, so that to the question what is He [quid est]? and to the question is He [est]? the answer is one and the same. ...

[5] What is naturally known is known through itself, for we do not come to such propositions through an effort of inquiry. But the proposition that God exists is naturally known since, as will be shown later on, the desire of man naturally tends towards God as towards the ultimate end. The proposition that God exists is, therefore, self-evident.

[6] There is also the consideration that that through which all the rest are known ought itself to be self-evident. Now, God is of this sort. For just as the light of the sun is the principle of all visible perception, so the divine light is the principle of all intelligible knowledge; since the divine light is that in which intelligible illumination is found first and in its highest degree. That God exists, therefore, must be self-evident.

[7] These, then, and others like them are the arguments by which some think that the proposition God exists is so self-evident that its contrary cannot be entertained by the mind.
(SCG, I, x)


At the beginning of each month, ask for divine inspiration and put yourself in the presence of God. Imagine yourself to be a poor servant sent by God into this world as into His own house. Indeed, it is He who put us here, and so we should approach Him with humility. He had no need of you, but He put you here to exercise His liberality and His goodness toward you, and to give you His paradise. To enable you to obtain what He has planned for you, He has given you an intellect to know Him, a memory to keep Him in mind, and will and a heart to love Him and your neighbor, an imagination to have a picture of Him and His gifts, and all your feelings to serve Him and glorify Him.
(Letters O. XXVI, pp. 170-171)


IF a modern philanthropist came to Dotheboys Hall I fear he would not employ the simple, sacred and truly Christian solution of beating Mr. Squeers with a stick. I fancy he would petition the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into Mr. Squeers. I think he would every now and then write letters to the newspapers reminding people that, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, there was a Royal Commission to inquire into Mr. Squeers. I agree that he might even go the length of calling a crowded meeting in St. James's Hall on the subject of the best policy with regard to Mr. Squeers. At this meeting some very heated and daring speakers might even go the length of alluding sternly to Mr. Squeers. Occasionally even hoarse voices from the back of the hall might ask (in vain) what was going to be done with Mr. Squeers. The Royal Commission would report about three years afterwards and would say that many things had happened which were certainly most regrettable, that Mr. Squeers was the victim of a bad system that Mrs. Squeers was also the victim of a bad system; but that the man who sold Squeers' cane had really acted with great indiscretion and ought to be spoken to kindly. Something like this would be what, after four years, the Royal Commission would have said; but it would not matter in the least what the Royal Commission had said, for by that time the philanthropists would be off on a new tack and the world would have forgotten about Dotheboys Hall and everything connected with it. By that time the philanthropists would be petitioning Parliament for another Royal Commission; perhaps a Royal Commission to inquire into whether Mr. Mantalini was extravagant with his wife's money; perhaps a commission to inquire into whether Mr. Vincent Crummles kept the Infant Phenomenon short by means of gin.
(Introduction to 'Nicholas Nickleby.')


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pets and the doctrine of Creation...

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My dad recently remarked how surely animals must have been made by God for our enjoyment and companionship. I think we all, in our tenderer moments, have felt the same. Animals are virtually perfect reicipients of whatever grace we, from time to time, muster up. And this is to our liking, since there is nothing worse than an awkward, self-excusing gift giftee. Then again, when they are not gratifying our godlike urge to give ourselves in love, pets are loyal and devoted engines of care and comfort. Because they so perfectly seem to fulfill their inner law of being--to live their nature--we envy animals. As humans, we have the responsibility of living according to a nature that is designed to transcend itself.

The elusive simplicity of animals allows us to treat them even more considerately and patiently than we do fellow humans. A mean-spirited dog is purely a product of bad raising, or perhaps subject to rabies, and the like. Cujo is so disturbing precisely because it transforms--deforms--the 'purity' of animal nature, even when it is that of a purely unlikeable animal, into something consciously malevolent--something terrifyingly human. A mean-spirited human, by contrast, is a special target of scorn and scolding. This is a necessary tension in the human experience: on the one hand, we really ought to "know better" when we are acting foully, but on the other hand, our transcendent nature seems, unfairly, to grant us little if any charity on the part of our aggravated neighbors. The asymmetrical dialectics of animal-human and human-human relations is most apparent in connection with animal abuse. The kind of person who would abuse animals is not simply 'cruel but in all likelihood downright 'misanthropic', a jerk in general.

But I digress. The small point I would like to suggest is this: just as their is a transposed, derivative analogy between the grace we give animals and the devotion they give us, so I believe their is a transposed, transcendent analogy between us and God. I won't go so far as to say we are God's pets, but then again, based on the naturally affectionate, receptive life of animals, would that be so bad a formulation, I wonder? Part of what led my dad to formulate his view of pets as 'given to us for our joy', was an tacit denial of the hoary idea that we are the 'masters' over nature, as many people are led to think Genesis 1:26 teaches.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

神 說 : 我 們 要 照 著 我 們 的 形 像 、 按 著 我 們 的 樣 式 造 人 ,使 他 們 管 理 海 裡 的 魚 、 空 中 的 鳥 、 地 上 的 牲 畜 , 和 全 地 , 並 地 上 所 爬 的 一 切 昆 蟲 。

Und Gott sprach: Laßt uns Menschen machen, ein Bild, das uns gleich sei, die da herrschen über die Fische im Meer und über die Vögel unter dem Himmel und über das Vieh und über die ganze Erde und über alles Gewürm, das auf Erden kriecht.

Entonces dijo Dios: Hagamos al hombre a nuestra imagen, conforme a nuestra semejanza; y señoree en los peces del mar, en las aves de los cielos, en las bestias, en toda la tierra, y en todo animal que se arrastra sobre la tierra. [Deus] ait : Faciamus hominem ad imaginem et similitudinem nostram : et præsit piscibus maris, et volatilibus cæli, et bestiis, universæque terræ, omnique reptili, quod movetur in terra.

The Hebrew for 'dominion' is radah (רדה), and it basically means to tread upon, like a victor, to reign. Pretty grim, I know, but this is why the connection between the old testament and the new is so vital for Christian theology. In Christian theology, the dominion of Christ is the model for all other forms of dominion. And Christ is, of course, the Defeated Victor, the Crucified Savior, the Suffering Servant, the Infant King, and so forth. In a word, the Anointed One who anoints us with His blood. Indeed, at Christmas we celebrate the adornment of the manger with animals as Christ was adored by their keepers. In this way, Christ subsumed and sanctified the keeper-pet relation under His own sovereignty, and in a way that utterly triviliazes the master's power in comparison to--or at least, without obedience to--His own kingship, which is supreme even as an infant. Hence, while the old testament, left to itself, may have afforded a tyrannical view of man's sovereignty over creation, the Christian tradition is driven by its Lord to see dominion as an inherently loving, self-giving process. Hence, I see the gift of pets as a kind of pedagogy in knowing God. We are given pets for our pleasure, yes, but also for a chance to sacrifice for something lesser than us, just as God sacrificed for us.

The spirit of the Christ Mass...

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What will you give Jesus this year for Christmas?

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' ... 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Matthew 25)

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wisdom from...

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To reign in heaven simply means exercising a single power with God and all the holy angels and saints through being so united with them in love as to want only what they want. Love God more than yourself, then, and already you will begin to have what you desire to possess fully in heaven. Be at one with God and with other men and women -- so long as they are not at variance with God -- and already you will begin to reign with God and all the saints. ... So, if you want to be a king in heaven, love God and other people as you should and then you will deserve to become what you desire.
(Ep. 112: Opera Omnia, 3, 244-246.)

Anselm was archbishop of Canterbury and made an outstanding contribution to the speculative thought of his day.

ST. AUGUSTINE: Light to My Lamp

Remember, even those who live justly do so not through human merits but through divine helps. No persons live justly unless they have been made just; and humans are made just by him who can never be unjust. As a lamp is not lighted by itself, so the human soul does not give light to itself but calls out to God: "You indeed, O Lord, give light to my lamp."
-- Commentary on Psalm 110, 2

Prayer. You will light my lamp, Lord my God. I stand in the darkness of my sins, but my shadows will be dispelled by the beam of your wisdom and your face will shine upon me.
-- Commentary on Psalm 66, 4


[1] ... [T]he intention of the wise man ought to be directed toward the twofold truth of divine things, and toward the destruction of the errors that are contrary to this truth. One kind of divine truth the investigation of the reason is competent to reach, whereas the other surpasses every effort of the reason. I am speaking of a “twofold truth of divine things,” not on the part of God Himself, Who is truth one and simple, but from the point of view of our knowledge, which is variously related to the knowledge of divine things.

[2] Now, to make the first kind of divine truth known, we must proceed through demonstrative arguments, by which our adversary may become convinced. However, since such arguments are not available for the second kind of divine truth, our intention should not be to convince our adversary by arguments: it should be to answer his arguments against the truth; for, as we have shown, the natural reason cannot be contrary to the truth of faith. The sole way to overcome an adversary of divine truth is from the authority of Scripture.... For that which is above the human reason we believe only because God has revealed it. Nevertheless, there are certain likely arguments that should be brought forth in order to make divine truth known ... for the training and consolation of the faithful, and not with any idea of refuting those who are adversaries. For the very inadequacy of the arguments would rather strengthen them in their error, since they would imagine that our acceptance of the truth of faith was based on such weak arguments.

[3] ... We shall first seek to make known that truth which faith professes and reason investigates. This we shall do by bringing forward both demonstrative and probable arguments, some of which were drawn from the books of the philosophers and of the saints, through which truth is strengthened and its adversary overcome [Books I-III]. Then, in order to follow a development from the more manifest to the less manifest, we shall proceed to make known that truth which surpasses reason, answering the objections of its adversaries and setting forth the truth of faith by probable arguments and by authorities, to the best of our ability [Book IV].

[4] We are aiming, then, to set out following the way of the reason and to inquire into what the human reason can investigate about God. ...
(SCG, I, 9)


It is better to yield to the views of others than to try to force them to follow our desires and opinions. The human mind is a mirror that reflects all the colors that are presented to it; do not imitate the chameleon, that takes on all colors except white. Oh yes, condescension not accompanied by candidness is very dangerous and cannot be shunned sufficiently.
(Camus, The Spirit of Saint Francis de Sales, I, p. 296)


CARLYLE said that men were mostly fools. Christianity, with a surer and more reverent realism, says that they are all fools. This doctrine is sometimes called the doctrine of original sin. It may also be described as the doctrine of the equality of men.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Masons and the Church

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A kvik note, mostly for my own reference, prompted by the sporadic discussion of the topic over the holidays.

According to the previous Code of Canon Law (promulgated 27 May 1917; effective 19 May 1918), it is illicit for a Catholic to be a Freemason, and vice versa. I quote from a Masonic webpage:

... Those who join a Masonic sect or other societies of the same sort, which plot against the Church or against legitimate civil authority, incur ipso facto an excommunication simply reserved to the Holy See. (c. 2335). [p. 924.]

Simply Reserved to the Holy See (4) 1. Masonic Societies (c. 2335). a. The censure is incurred if the society is one which plots against Church or State, openly or secretly, whether members are secret or not, bound by oath or not. Cappelo thinks Socialists are included. Communist party certainly is. Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, Sons of Temperance, are forbidden as intrinsically wrong, but not under censure (Holy Office, 20 June, 1895, 18 Jan., 1896).

b. Conditions for absolution: total withdrawal from the society, promise to have nothing to do with it and pay no more dues, to repair scandal as far as possible, to turn over insignia, etc., to withdraw name from rolls as soon as this can be done
without grave loss (Holy Office, 7 March 1883; Gasparri-Serédi, Fontes, n. 1080, Vol. IV, p. 412).

c. In the case of the Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, Sons of Temperance, no censure has been incurred. The conditions for absolution of the sin are the same as above except that, to avoid grave loss, a person may continue paying dues. The confessor must refer each case to the Apostolic Delegate or his Metropolitan (Holy Office, 18 Jan., 1896; Ecclesiastical Review, Vol. 14, p. 361). [p. 960.]

This stricture is not defunct. The new 1983 Code of Canon Law states:

Can. 1373 A person who publicly incites among subjects animosities or hatred against the Apostolic See or an ordinary because of some act of power or ecclesiastical ministry or provokes subjects to disobey them is to be punished by an interdict or other just penalties.

Can. 1374 A person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; however, a person who promotes or directs an association of this kind is to be punished with an interdict.

Both Codes imply that a person genuinely unaware of the anti-ecclesial intentions of the assocation they join, is not entirely guilty. Once, however, a person promotes such an organization, or knowingly continues in it once he or she is aware of its anti-ecclesial aims, he or she is culpable.

Although this Code does not reference the Masons by name, as the 1918 Code had, a 1983 CDF "Declaration on Masonic Associations" clarified exactly canon 1374, thus:

...the Church’s negative judgment in regard to Masonic association remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who enrol in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.

Catherine Caridi, a Catholic canonist, addresses the question many may have, namely, "What's so bad about Freemasonry, anyway?" She answers thus:

Over 100 years ago, Pope Leo XIII addressed the aims of Freemasonry in his encyclical Humanum Genus. The pope pointed out that their “fundamental doctrine… is that human nature and human reason ought in all things to be mistress and guide,” which on the surface does not necessarily appear objectionable. But a consequence of this foundational belief is that “they deny that anything has been taught by God… And since it is the special and exclusive duty of the Catholic Church fully to set forth in words truths divinely received, to teach, besides other divine helps to salvation, the authority of its office, and to defend it…, it is against the Church that the rage and attack of the enemies are principally directed” (12).