15 September 2010

St. Alphonsus's Meditation on The Sorrows of the Blessed Mother

"We have now to witness a new kind of martyrdom—a Mother condemned to see an innocent Son, and one whom she loves with the whole affection of her soul, cruelly tormented and put to death before her own eyes.
“There stood by the cross of Jesus His Mother.” Saint John believed that in these words he had said enough of Mary’s martyrdom. Consider her at the foot of the cross in the presence of her dying Son, and then see if there be sorrow like unto her sorrow.
Listen to the words in which Mary revealed to Saint Bridget the sorrowful state in which she saw her dying Son on the cross: “My dear Jesus was breathless, exhausted, and in His last agony on the cross; His eyes were sunk, half-closed, and lifeless; His lips hanging, and His mouth open; His cheeks hollow and drawn in; His face elongated; His nose sharp; His countenance sad: His head had fallen on His breast, His hair was black with blood, His stomach collapsed, His arms and legs stiff, and His whole body covered with wounds and blood.”
All these sufferings of Jesus were also those of Mary: “Every torture inflicted on the body of Jesus,” says Saint Jerome, “was a wound in the heart of the Mother.” “Whoever then was present on the Mount of Calvary,” says Saint John Chrysostom, “might see two altars, on which two great sacrifices were consummated; the one in the body of Jesus, the other in the heart of Mary.”
Nay, better still may we say with Saint Bonaventure, “there was but one altar-that of the cross of the Son, on which, together with this Divine Lamb, the victim, the Mother was also sacrificed;” therefore the Saint asks this Mother, “O Lady, where art thou? Near the cross? Nay, rather, thou art on the cross, crucified, sacrificing thyself with thy Son.” Saint Augustine assures us of the same thing: “The cross and nails of the Son were also those of His Mother; with Christ crucified the Mother was also crucified.” Yes; for, as Saint Bernard says, “Love inflicted on the heart of Mary the tortures caused by the nails in the body of Jesus.”
Mothers ordinarily fly from the presence of their dying children; but when a mother is obliged to witness such a scene, she procures all possible relief for her child; she arranges his bed, that he may be more at east; she administers refreshments to him; and thus the poor mother soothes her own grief. Ah, most afflicted of all Mothers! O Mary, thou hast to witness the agony of the dying Jesus; but thou canst administer Him no relief.

She would have clasped Him in her arms to give Him relief, or that at least He might there have expired; but she could not. “In vain,” says Saint Bernard, “did she extend her arms; they sank back empty on her breast.”
Our Blessed Lady herself said to St. Bridget, “I heard some say that my Son was a thief; others, that He was an impostor; others, that no one deserved death more than He did; and every word was a new sword of grief to my heart.”
But that which the most increased the sorrows which Mary endured through compassion for her Son, was hearing Him complain on the cross that even His Eternal Father had abandoned Him: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” Words which the Divine Mother told the same Saint Bridget, could never, during her whole life, depart from her mind.
“All,” says Simon of Cassia, “who then saw this Mother silent, and not uttering a complaint in the midst of such great suffering, were filled with astonishment.”
“Christ,” says Lanspergius, “was pleased that she, the cooperatress in our redemption, and whom He had determined to give us for our Mother, should be there present; for it was at the foot of the cross that she was to bring us, her children, forth.” If any consolation entered that sea of bitterness, the heart of Mary, the only one was this, that she knew that by her sorrows she was leading us to eternal salvation, as Jesus Himself revealed to Saint Bridget: “My Mother Mary, on account of her compassion and love, was made the Mother of all in heaven and on earth.”
And indeed these were the last words with which Jesus bid her farewell before His death: this was His last recommendation, leaving us to her for her children in the person of Saint John: “Woman, behold thy son.”"   --- from The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus Liguori 

Domenico Scarlatti Stabat Mater IV-VI

Domenico Scarlatti: Stabat Mater I-III

The Many Faces of Protestantism Among Catholics - Part I

There are many 'faces' of Protestantism among Catholics today.  As-a-matter-of-fact, there number is so proliferate, pretty much as many as there are errors and flavors of Protestantism, that it is impossible to enumerate them.  However, this blogger is a bit perturbed over the frequent recurrence, that it seems there is little chance of fully escaping them while even among practicing Catholics.  So, at the invariable risk of making a countless number of people (namely confused Catholics) angry with me, I decided to go ahead, never-the-less, and point them out as they may often appear, and allow the reader to decide for him/herself as to whether or not this is hogwash, or something of a rather serious concern. 

We'll start with a relatively 'lighter' one...

ERROR:  "The 'NEW' Pentecost"
WHERE YOU'LL LIKELY SEE IT:   EWTN, Catholic Radio, Steubenville.
 WHAT THEY SAY:   There is to be a "New Pentecost" and/or that every one is in need of experiencing their personal "Pentecost"
WHAT THE CHURCH TEACHES:  There is only one Pentecost.  It already happened.  Guess when? 
This is a hoot.  This is ever so popular among the Charismatics, even those who are careful enough to not come out and admit to you that they are Charismatic (but they won't deny having gone to a Charismatic service and that they found nothing wrong with it).   It ranges from just starting to step in it, to those who are knee-deep in and even swimming in it.  

"But," you say, "what's wrong with saying that people need to have a conversion of heart by the Holy Spirit?"  Answer:  Nothing, except when you call it another "Pentecost".   The reason:   Pentecost happened once, for the purpose of giving the Apostles a special commission that will not, to that extent and purpose of first bringing the Word of God and the sacred traditions supporting its understanding as given to them by Christ himself --- to the entire world.  That was a time in history that formed the Church and all that was needed to be revealed for the purpose of salvation was revealed.   Since then, anyone else going out to do something similar would not be given the same charisms to the same extent, or for the same purpose.  Rather, charisms may be given to spread what was given to the world already by the Apostles.  Nothing new can be taught, because nothing new will be revealed.   Yes, further clarification can be imparted, but nothing contrary to what is already revealed nor contrary to the understanding of the Church.  It can only be further clarified within the understanding that was already passed down through the Holy Ghost by way of the Apostles. 

Another way this error comes out is through people asking for charisms, and/or putting charisms at a higher level than virtue and holiness.  They aren't even at the same level.  A person can have a charism and not be particularly virtuous.  Also, charisms should not be sought out because it is tempting God.   God gives to whom He wills such things, and they are special gifts --- not graces.  They do not assist in the spiritual welfare of the person who has the charism, but their benefit is intended for others for whom this person comes in contact.   People cannot impart what they don't have, that is why even if someone has a charism, it doesn't mean that their first priority should be, say, evangelization.  Always, our first priority should be to love God, and in order to do that, we must receive His grace.  Therefore, we should be asking for graces to grow in holiness, and not charisms.  

The saints always warned us not to ask for such things, as they will be often granted --- but not from God, who wills not to be tempted, but from the devil, who, by the way, is the great imitator of every virtue except obedience, and can always grant what appears to be a charism to someone with unholy desires for such special gifts. 

Incidentally, Charismatics see holy obedience as a secondary, even at times optional virtue, and definitely second to mystical experiences.  Again, this was warned against by the saints, in particular the Church Doctors, who tell us that even they could be fooled by the tricks of the devil, and that no one should ever ask for charisms or mystical experiences because it is a type of idolatry and in the context of any liturgy, it is sacrilegious.

ERROR:  Dale Carnegie Catholicism:  Being a Good Catholic = Winning Friends and Influencing People (i.e. success in career, family, etc.)
WHERE YOU'LL LIKELY SEE IT:   Sermons from both confused traditional and confused Novus Ordo priests, some of EWTN (Johnette B.), Calvin-inspired theologians.
WHAT THEY SAY:   When you use your talents, God will bless you.  He will bless you and with temporal success.    It’s that simple.   Also, you might hear that if you are doing the holy Will of God, that you will become irresistible, and have many friends, and that if you have many enemies, you are probably doing something wrong.  
WHAT THE CHURCH TEACHES:   Our Lord teaches that if you truly follow him, you will end up being a “sign of contradiction”.   Many people will not understand you.   There are those few for whom God has a special vocation to keep them in the limelight so to speak, and God gives them characteristics and opportunities where as they discern and follow HIS will, they will, in fact, grow admirers, but enemies as well.  However, this has more to do with God’s calling for them in their path than anything else.  The grace of God does make a person more appealing, but to those that are on the same path.  Otherwise, people often attack the weaknesses that they are afraid of seeing in themselves, even limitations that are temporal, e.g.: poverty, handicaps, etc.  They will tend avoid such people when they themselves have disordered attachments to the opposite, which in this case would be money and physical well-being. 

God more often separates little by little, those for whom He calls closer to Him in this life.   Again, this is partly to do with the path that God has for them.  Also, don't forget, many of the saints had pretty tough lives, and had many enemies within their very ranks:  St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Basil the Great, St. Bernadine of Sienna, etc. See Bob and Penny Lord's book here.    

ERROR:  What we can do for one another is greater than God in The Sacraments.
WHERE YOU'LL LIKELY SEE IT:   Peppered through out the Church, from both traditional priests and Novus Ordo.
WHAT THEY SAY:   Loving your brother is either (or a combination of): a.) more important than even the Sacraments, b.) more necessary than the Sacraments for salvation, c.) A greater sacrifice than even Christ’s Sacrifice at the Altar, d.) A greater proof of God’s love living within you than His giving to you the body of His Son, e.) *Jesus gave us only 2 commandments, and not one of them was pertaining to the Sacraments.
WHAT THE CHURCH TEACHES:  The Sacrament of Baptism is necessary for salvation.   While it is possible to do a moral good without the Sacraments, it is impossible to please God without being in a state of grace.  The means to this grace begins by receiving the Sacrament of Baptism, and then that life of grace must be nurtured after the age of reason by receiving Christ in the Holy Eucharist.   We are able to love our neighbor in the natural sense without the Sacraments, but Jesus tells us first to love God, then (secondly) to love our neighbor as ourselves.   The means to this order of love is what Christ tells the baptized … “Unless you eat of my body… you do not have life in you.”  God wishes for us to have a supernatural love for our neighbor as that gives Him glory, living under the under this order of love in which we were made to live and give Him glory.

That last point of how I’ve heard this extreme error *(under “what they say”, letter ‘e’), is extreme blasphemy.  God, Himself, comes to us through the Sacraments. 

ERROR:  Calling those who deny Christ our "brothers and sisters in Christ"
WHERE YOU'LL LIKELY SEE IT:   Just about everywhere, but happening less and less.
WHAT THEY SAY:   “…Our “Jewish/Muslim/Protestant” brothers and sisters in Christ…”
WHAT THE CHURCH TEACHES Indifferentism is a heresy.  It is condemned by the Church.  We don’t really know whether or not someone is promoting the ever-so-popular false ecumenism when they say this, but it leans towards that direction.   The Church teaches that in the visible body of Christ, our brothers and sisters are not recognized by those outside the Church.  (see Catechism).
The Church also recognizes that people can be outside the physical body, but incorporated in a mystical way into the spiritual body of Christ, if they do not knowingly object to Christ and/or his teachings given to us by the Holy Ghost through the Bride of Christ.  However, we do not know who these people might be, and it is wrong to presume that those who deny Christ and/or the teachings of His Bride are in Christ’s mystical body.   The Church, therefore, traditionally reserves referencing only those formally in the visible, body of Christ as “brothers and sisters” in Christ.  This, too, has scriptural origins besides traditional.

More often than not, immanentism, the heresy which seeks to place God at level with us by saying either that the highest good is what we can do for one another. Sometimes, this occurs more subtly, suggesting that what we can do for one another is greater than what God does for us in giving us the supernatural life of sanctifying grace (which does not eliminate our free will, but promotes within us the love of God, among other infused graces, from which comes the love of neighbor).

ERROR:  The 15-Passenger Van is the modern sign of the Predestined.
WHERE YOU'LL LIKELY SEE IT:   A little everywhere, but predominating in traditional circles, where the people mean to follow the Church teachings on everything, but lose sight of the difference between having something better (the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, for example) and being someone better (as comparing oneself to others).
WHAT THEY SAY:   “I give thanks, Oh Lord that I am not like this here sinner/Publican/heretic/fill-in-the-blank!”  It becomes evident also by gossip and detraction perpetuated commonly by unholy curiosity and spiritual slothfulness.
WHAT THE CHURCH TEACHES:   OK, this isn’t just families, but this can be anyone who thinks that they are better than anyone else.   They can recognize that they are better off for having the things that were given to them by God --- not even deserving them, but that is different. 

While it is absolutely true that if a child is raised in a family that teaches values and virtues, that he will likely grow in a better appreciation for them, and therefore be more likely to imitate them, it is not true that a person who does not grow in such a family will be able to lead a virtuous, and yes, holy life.   I mention this because I've heard a few priests say just the opposite:  That a person raised in a bad home will take with him these bad habits inevitably, and fight them even while trying to be holy and live in the Sacraments.  This is taking one bit of truth, and then carrying that ball in the wrong direction.  The bigger picture is that those who are brought to sanctifying grace are given infused graces of faith, hope and charity.  We do not merit these graces, therefore, it doesn't make us egalitarianists to say the simple fact that holiness, such grace comes from God, and not from our parents.   Likewise, it is possible that a child from a traditional home will lack the supernatural understanding and appreciation of the Sacraments, even while he might know more about them than anyone else.   What separates the just from the unjust is a spirit of poverty and humility.   Remember the Pharisee and the Publican:  the Pharisee did everything he was supposed to do and did it well, but without the spirit of poverty.  The Publican, on the other hand, not only did not do what he was supposed to, but then came to such remorse that he dared not approach near the sanctuary, yet begged God for mercy.   Only one of them left justified.

God choses to whom He will give His graces and to the degree that He wills.   

ERROR:  Holiness is passed on by one’s lineage.
WHERE YOU'LL LIKELY SEE IT:   This is a newbie heresy, coming predominately from traditional circles that are often rightfully indignant about the break down of families and the scandals in the Church and the lack of dignity in our culture that they fly off the reservation by becoming scandalized themselves.  When this leads to thinking that they are the chosen ones to lead the world they start forgetting the “first fruits” of charity and become blinded to the teachings of the Church.
WHAT THEY SAY:   “I was born Catholic!”  “David passed on his holiness through his bloodline.” 
WHAT THE CHURCH TEACHES:  EACH AND EVERY, SINGLE ONE OF US was born with our father being the devil.  None of us were “born Catholic”.   We are baptized into the Church --- and it is by the blood of Christ that we are born into the Church and become a part of the Mystical Body.   None of us deserves to be in the Mystical Body, but can have this due to God’s mercy.

David did NOT pass along his holiness.  David passed on a spiritual lineage that designated a special office.  The closest thing we have to this today is the priesthood stemming from Christ, as he passed it to his Apostles.

ERROR: Seeking signs for those who are the Predestined:  i.e.:  Someone who lives a “miserable life” with much suffering is apparently not following God, and therefore predestined to Hell.”
WHERE YOU'LL LIKELY SEE IT:  Strange homilies…the occasional, well-meaning priest who may have missed class the day the seminary taught on the Molinists or the Council of Orange. 
WHAT THEY SAY:   “People who have numerous trials are receiving signs from God that they are headed in the wrong direction, and often have a predilection for eternal suffering,” or, “some people are predestined to hell”.
WHAT THE CHURCH TEACHES:   The Church dealt with this a very long time ago, and re-dealt with it again.   The Molinists were heretics.  God wishes everyone to enter heaven, and no one is predestined to hell.  There are those that are predestined to Heaven, but we can’t know who they are without extra-ordinary graces that only very few saints were granted.  The Church Doctors, however, have taught that continued suffering can be a sign for predestination … to Heaven, but not to hell. Then again, it is only a single ‘sign’, and not meant to determine another person’s eternal destiny or state of soul.   Such thoughts stem from unholy (sinful) curiosities.  

It is important to remember that no one goes to hell by not having committed an unrepented, mortal sin with full knowledge and consent.  Likewise, no one who is goes to Heaven and was also predestined goes there without having consented by their free will to follow the Holy Will of God.+

14 September 2010

Calvinism Versus Catholicism

Calvinism has an acronym for the core of its beliefs regarding salvation:  TULIP.   Since there seems to be more than a few CATHOLIC priests about lately who are, somehow, falling into errors of Calvinism or Semi-Calvinism, it would be good to look into what the Church actually teaches on these errors that are starting to crop up from within.   We'll do this by looking at these five, Calvinistic beliefs and contrast what the Church's doctrine teaches.   These five areas are:

TULIP: T=total inability (to please God without special grace); U=unconditional election; L=limited intent (for the atonement's efficacy); I=intrinsically efficacious grace (for salvation); P=perseverance of the elect (until the end of life).


The Calvinists believe that since original sin, we are unable to please God without His grace.  

This is actually true in a sense, that without SUPERNATURAL grace, our acts are unable to please God.   However, God gives all people ACTUAL grace, to lead them to the SUPERNATURAL graces (in which the normal means, since Christ, are through his Sacraments).  A morally good act disposes a person to an increase in actual grace, and itself, is born of this actual grace.  

Where the Calvinists go amiss is that they believe that we are no longer in the image of God due to original sin, and that every act is immoral without grace.   The Catholic Church, however, teaches that an act can be moral, but not necessarily in supernatural grace.  The act does not displease God, if the act itself is moral, but unless it is from a person who is in Sanctifying grace, it does not carry with in the supernatural life of God Himself.    Human beings, having been made in the likeness of God, have a special role in giving God glory by the very fact that they are human.  We are not less human because of original, but less prone to sin, that is to say, prone to acting less than human.  Moral acts in actual grace, are, naturally speaking good, but lack the supernatural efficacy by themselves. 


The Calvinists believe that God chooses whom He wills to receive salvation, and passing over the elect, does not even give them the grace to do chose to receive it.  This is an ERROR. 

While it is true that God decides to whom He wills to receive salvation, and that among them there is the pre-ordained, it is not true that persons are without use of their free will.  Catechism of the Catholic Church: "To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of 'predestination', he includes in it each person's free response to his grace…." (CCC, n. 600).  It is Catholic teaching on election and predestination that God 'wants all men to be saved and to arrive at an acknowledgment of the truth.' (1 Tim 2:4).


Basically, limited atonement says that Jesus died to save the elect.  This is propagated either directly, as just described, or by subtleties, i.e.: Jesus died for everyone, but that only the elect receive the efficaciousness of act of sacrifice, and that is why only the elect are saved.  That is an example of a semi-Calvinistic view, although, as dangerous as if it were full Calvinism.

Whether or not the act of God's Sacrifice of His only Son is efficacious in a soul is dependent upon that person's free will --- which is comprised of their full knowledge and consent.  This is Catholic teaching.  Generally, most devout Catholics understand this.   Actual mortal sin, for instance, requires the full knowledge and free choice consent.  
The normal means of 'atonement' is through the Sacraments of the Church, which are given to us by Christ.  If one leaves this out of the understanding of atonement, they are leading people towards error, since the Sacraments are a substantial part of how atonement is normally found.  This is why, I believe, many Catholics who fall into semi-Calvinism --- because, simply, they lose the distinction between having something better than the rest of the world (the Sacrifice of the Mass, for example), and actually being better than the rest of the world. 

God made salvation possible for all by Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, but He gave them the free will to deny or accept that possibility for themselves.  The free will of those who are eventually saved is guided by God in the form of Supernatural grace (imparting of Himself).  The normal means of this is through the Sacraments.   This is important to recognize, as Calvinists will water down the importance of Baptism, and likewise, and even more fervently, they water down the importance of the Blessed Sacrament.   They will say things such as love of neighbor is greater than even the Sacraments, however, this is BLASPHEMY.   God, Himself, tells us that Baptism is necessary for salvation.  He does say for us to love Him, then also to love our neighbor as ourselves, but in order that we love Him in the way that please Him, we must begin this supernatural walk with (valid) Baptism.   We, as Christians, sustain this Supernatural life of our Baptisms through the Sacraments of Penance (which restores lost grace) and Holy Communion (which is Christ physically presented to us).  


The Calvinist teaching on irresistable grace is that once a person comes to receive the grace necessary for salvation, he never can lose it, such as with "once saved, always saved."   This is obviously an error, as it would, again, deny the roll of free will in each and every person throughout their lives. 

God's grace is always efficacious, but at the same time, it does not do away with our free will.  Aquinas: "The first cause of the defect of grace is on our part; but the first cause of the bestowal of grace is on God's according to Hosea 13:9: 'Destruction is thy own, O Israel; thy help is only in Me.' " (Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 112, Article 3, Reply 2.)  Even with grace, we can still fail.  Grace permits us to fail, eventhough itself never fails.  God does not choose to be the only one who determines a person's salvation.

But what about graces, such as those that are infused, which act without our free will, such as those we receive through Baptism?   Actually, it is Catholic teachings that some graces are what are called "prevenient", and are irresistable, but they, by themselves, to not lead to salvation in an adult, who can choose to do or omit the good deeds.  Therefore there is also graces which come after prevenient graces, which are known as "subsequent".

Earlier I refer to both actual grace and sanctifying grace.  Actual grace is the grace from God to do good. Sanctifying grace is the grace from God to be good. Both actual grace and sanctifying grace are divided into prevenient grace and subsequent grace. 

Actual grace's first grace is prevenient.  That is to say, that for a person to do a good act, he must have first understood that the act was, in fact, good.   That conception of the act being good came by means of the prevenient grace.  The act of doing the good was subsequent grace, subsequent to the prevenient grace.  The choice, made by the person with prevenient grace, was completely free.  At no time did the person have his will forced to do the good.

Sanctifying grace (a.k.a. the "state of grace") can also be broken down into these same two areas:  prevenient and subsequent.   The graces are first infused in the soul, such as in Baptism, that promote the good inclinations towards good acts, and they are given as irresistable graces --- without the cooperation of the recipient, but from God alone.  However, this person receiving these graces must chose, by his own free will, to cooperate with the grace in order to remain there. 


Perserverance in the sense of grace, is given to us to perservere even along with our free will.  Catechism of the Catholic Church: "When we say 'lead us not into temptation' we are asking God not to allow us to take the path that leads to sin. This petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength; it requests the grace of vigilance and final perseverance." (CCC, n. 2863).   The Church says that we should pray for the grace of final perserverance because we require it.  Those that are predestined require it, and those that are not predestined require it.  If the Calvinist or Semi-Calvinist view was correct, the elect would not require it, and the non-elect would not benefit from it, and God and His Holy Bride would not need to tell us to pray for the gifts of the "grace of vigilance and final perserverance."


The Catholic understanding of predestination is that the predestined are not without free will to chose sin and that which will lead them away from God even in eternity, and those that are not among the predestined are, as well, free to choose the good as well.   Grace and free will work hand in hand.