09 February 2010

Theology of the Body --- NOTHING NEW HERE


Half truths are often more dangerous than a full blown lie.

What you are about to read here might be construed by some as "devisive".   Infact, it is intended to be.  The truth has a way of dividing those who wish to accept it and those who wish to put up walls against it.  This devisivness, however, is not meant to be an end but a biproduct of the means --- that it might cause one to pause and consider who decides what is authentic Catholic spirituality, and how to live a life of love of God as a true Christian.

Not but a few weeks ago, four speakers --- 2 men and 2 women, held a conference on the subject of living a life in purity.  Although I did not attend, I spoke with a friend who did attend after having read an article on the event in a Catholic newspaper.

The article pointed out some good points, albeit, quite basic.  It even pointed out that the war against the culture of life, against the virtue of purity, is also a spiritual warfare (this is something Catholics have said since the time of the Apostles).  One of the speakers said quite aptly, "“It’s not about sacrifice,” he said. “It’s about sanctification.”  Amen!   The speaker also reportedly said that 'the commandments are not the product of a controlling God, but of a loving God.'   Excellent!   This is true.

Both the article and what my friend told me about the conference did not at all surprise me.  The emphasis of the talks were about leading others by living a life of valor.   But what was NOT emphasized or even stated as far as I can tell (and judging from what I already know about the speakers, I can say this is no surprise to me) was what work precisely was required in order that a man lead a "life of valor" in purity.  

Let me back up and make a quick observation from a wider view:   MOST Catholics today (let alone those who call themselves by the name of "Christian" yet who are not in the one, holy, universal church with apostolic authority), are constantly receiving the message to "go out and evangelize" and "go out and lead others" as their 'good work' to others.  This would be good IF this message wasn't the end but a means, and then only a means when one had discerned it was God's call.  Those who wish to lead, after all, God says should learn to be servants.   What makes this message spiritual dangerous, however, is that it makes leading others an end to itself in Catholic spirituality.   This is a false belief.   Yes, faith without works is dead, but works without faith are also dead.   Leading others is supposed to be a biproduct of the end for which we seek, not the end itself. 

But what is the means to holiness, or more specifically in the context of the message of purity, what is the means to purity, or living a life of "valor"?   It means setting out to become a saint.  This starts with the interior life, not with the actions, rather, the actions must be born of the interior life, in order to become not merely cultivated actions lacking consistency, but become habitual acts of virtue.

It is said that what makes a saint is not how many times a person has fallen, but that he got back up quickly ever time he had fallen.   What needs clarification in this statement is that it can not be said that a person who is living a saintly life falls repeatedly into mortal sin, or even fully deliberate venial sins.   Yes, a person must quickly get back into the grace of God by means of the Sacraments as soon as possible, but this repentance is only part of the process.  One must employ the normal means of growing in holiness in order to prevent falling into mortal sin in the first place.   However, this is rarely ever discussed today even by priests.

Before saying what is required of one wishing to prevent vices of lust and vanity (the two means by which men and women, respectively, tend to fall into sins that are opposed to purity), let their be some clarity here as to what authentic Catholic spirituality is not:   Authentic Catholic spirituality is not simply moderation in terms every activity that is within the norm within the culture that glorifies and normalizes vices against purity.   The many, very popular modern theologians would have you believe that even the virtue of religion most be moderated in even the frequency of its observance just as in the same way that one commits to physical exercise.  Moderation, to them, means compartmentalizing religion and the acts, both interior and exterior that are religious in nature), to one, sequestered area of one's life. 

In this sense, yes, it is IMPOSSIBLE to remain out of sin for most people, even with the supernatural efficacy of the Sacraments.   How is that?  The Sacraments of the Church work ex opere operatis, from the disposition of the recipient which comes ex opere operato, the work done.  

Then, how is one's disposition become an obstacle to purity?   Whenever an individual has a disordered attachment to sin -- even a venial sin --- and/or a disordered attachment to even a lawful good, therein lies the obsacle to God's grace in the Sacraments.   In other words, God doesn't position the obstacles, we do.

Now here comes the part that you didn't get from the modernists:

In order to remain in the grace of the Sacraments, three additional things must be practiced:

1.)  Avoid all unnecessary near occasions of sin.

Here's one, quick and very practical suggestion in this area: 
get rid of your television. 

2.)  Practice daily mortifications of the senses that tend to lead you into sin. 

As a general rule, women fall by their ears and men by their eyes.  Women, be careful with what  you hear, men with what you see.  Women must practice modesty of dress and overall decorum and not take part in conversations that have elements of impurity which are so common today.  Men must also do the same in decorum and conversation, but they must also pay special care to practice mortification of the eyes.

Also, very necessary year round, but especially during Lent, mortification of the senses, most particularly of taste, should be practiced daily. 

3.)  Practice daily mental prayer.

Without these three things, one not only will likely fall out of grace, but they will begin to fall deeper and deeper into spiritual dispondency, and believe in and settle for spiritual mediocrity.  They will shoot for Purgatory (either intentionally or unintentionally) and rather than a supernaturalized hope, they will formulate theology that maintains a false hope which presumes upon God in lieu of the interior work He truly expects of them.  This is precisely why it is so dangerous that many false prophets preach only the side of God's mercy and the need for all men and women to become "leaders" . In fact, if one is constantly thinking that to be Christian they must be a leader, and make THAT the priority over establishing and maintaining authentic, catholic spirituality, they put their very salvation at further peril.  When the ego is stroked into Pharisaical mode, "Look at me, I am a light to the world", with the shallow expectations to be a sinner who strives at the very least of what God asks (to keep the commandments), when they almost inevitably fall into mortal sin they take others with them by their scandal.   The interior life is not merely an option for those who wish to live in a monastary.   The interior life is the origin of every good external act.  Even good acts, in of themselves, do not bear holy lasting fruit and do not please God unless they are done out of Sanctifying grace.+