From The Victories of the Martyrs by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, one of my two “favorite” Saints, some excerpts from a sermon he gave on The Dolors of Mary. The excerpt is cut and pasted from pages towards the back of the book which are not numbered, which makes referencing them extra fun. At any rate, with the “Little Christmas” of The Annunciation coming up this Saturday, I thought it timely to post this material, which closes with the four promises made to St. Elizabeth of Hungary by our Blessed Lord, concerning the benefits He would shower on those who develop a deep devotion of, and meditation on, the Dolors of Our Sorrowful Mother:
To understand how great was the grief of Mary we must understand, says Cornelius a Lapide, how great was the love she bore her Son.” But who can ever measure this love? Blessed Amadeus says that “natural love towards Him as her Son, and supernatural love towards Him as her God, were united in the heart of Mary.” Those two loves were blended into one, and this so great a love that William of Paris does not hesitate to assert, that Mary loved Jesus “as much as it was possible for a pure creature to love Him.” So that, as Richard of St. Victor says, “as no other creature ever loved God as much as Mary loved Him, so there never was any sorrow like Mary’s sorrow.”…….
…….St. Bernadine of Siena even says that “the sufferings of Mary were such, that had they been divided amongst all creatures capable of suffering, they would have caused their immediate death.” Who, then, can ever doubt that the martyrdom of Mary was without its equal, and that it exceeded the sufferings of all the martyrs; since, as St. Antoninus says, “they suffered in the sacrifice of theri own lives; but the Blessed Virgin suffered by offering the life of her Son of God, a life which she loved far more than her own.”
………[L]et us be devout to the dolors of Mary, Saint Albert the Great writes, that “as we are under great obligations to Jesus Christ for His death, so also are we under great obligations to Mary for the grief she endured when she offered her Son to God by death for our salvation.” This the angel revealed to St. Bridget: he said that the Blessed Virgin, to see us saved, herself offered the life of her Son to the Eternal Father; a sacrifice which cost her greater suffering than all the torments of the martyrs, or even death itself. But the divine Mother complained to St. Bridget that very few pitied her in her sorrows, and that the greater part of the world lived in entire forgetfulness of them. Therefore she exhorted the saint, saying: “Though many forget me, do not thou, my daughter, forget me.” For this purpose the Blessed Virgin herself appeared in the year 1239 to the founder of the Order of Servites, or servants of Mary, to desire them to institute a religious order in remembrance of her sorrows; and this they did.
Jesus Himself one day spoke to Blessed Veronica of Binasco, saying, “Daughter, tears shed over My Passion are dear to Me; but as I love My Mother Mary with an immense love, the meditation of the sorrows which she endured at My death is also very dear to Me.” It is also well to know, as Pelbart relates it, that it was revealed to St. Elizabeth of Hungary, that our Lord had promised four special graces to those who are devout to the dolors of Mary: first, that those who before death invoke the divine Mother, in the name of her sorrows, should obtain true repentance of all their sins; second, that He would protect all who have this devotion in their tribulations, and that He would protect them especially at the hour of death; third, that He would impress upon their minds the remembrance of His Passion, and that they should have their reward for it in Heaven; fourth, that He would commit such devout clients to the hands of Mary, with the power to dispose of them in whatever manner she might please, and to obtain for them all the graces she might desire.
I have great appreciation for the all the writings of the Moral Doctor (Liguori), but I have found The Victories of the Martyrs the least best of the nine volumes of his ascetical writings that I have read to date. Saint Alphonsus, probably due to limitations of time, focused exclusively on the early martyrs of the Roman Empire, and then skipped ahead to covering the 17th century martyrs of Japan, which he covered in detail one might describe as excruciating. There is nothing in between, even with the martyrdom (white or red) of millions of Catholics at the hands of muslims, or Eastern Orthodox, or pagans in northern Europe, or wherever.
Certainly a volume attempting to category every major Christian martyr from every time would quickly turn into a library itself, but I was hoping that the saint might cover a bit broader range of martyrs both chronologically and geographically. Perhaps my expectations were out of line.
Please understand, I am not saying I don’t like the book. Only that compared to the sublime excellence of the other eight volumes I’ve read, this one was only very good. So far, I still have probably 50-60 pages left (it’s hard to tell, with the inexplicable editorial decision not to number the last 100-odd pages). Perhaps I’ll be blown away in the 10% or so remaining, but perhaps not.
I am looking forward to seeing other volumes by Liguori, who wrote torrentially, translated into English (or re-printed, since there are translations long out of print). The twenty-two volumes of his ascetical works were only a small portion of his total output. Since good souls have taken on the project of translating much of Bellarmine’s writings into English (previously available only in Latin), I pray they consider delving into this saint, as well.
That is, if anyone at Mediatrix Press is
listening reading. Hint.
This prayer is especially suited for those who struggle with addiction or obsessive/compulsive behavior. It is from Father’s Manual by Fr. A Coomes, SJ.
Addiction is a hell I well know. Addiction may or may not be a disease, but it is certainly self-inflicted, as many of our worst wounds are. There is also a huge spiritual component to addiction that so many in programs like AA and NA miss. The founders of AA described addiction in demonic terms, as a “cunning and baffling enemy,” and this definition was not accidental. While they were loathe, for a variety of reasons, to make Alcoholics Anonymous an explicitly Christian program, what all the _________ Anonymous programs do is essentially instill a vaguely Christian form of spirituality. They even say that recovery can only come from a spiritual awakening.
Many AA and NA meetings are hosted in churches, but those churches are almost universally protestant. A more explicitly Catholic program would surely be more effective but might turn people off.
Today, even in traditional Catholic parishes, the most rampant addiction is less substance abuse than it is porn use and self-abuse. Again, a cunning and baffling enemy has turned many people into slaves to their passions. But these people most often carry around their porn theater in their pocket. It becomes a nightmare many have a hard time escaping.
Lord Jesus Christ, You are the strength of the weak and the confidence of those who trust in You. Be my secure confidence and my abundant strength!
Teach me to understand myself and to believe in the effectiveness of Your saving Grace. Grant me the courage not to stop trying and teach me the humility to trust in You when I tend to be discouraged by my weakness.
Give me, too, the honesty needed to face my problem without excuse and without pretense, and give me the practical good sense to accept the means needed to help myself. Most of all, give me the wisdom and faith to make a good Confession, and to have the firmest purpose of amendment.
Towards any who criticize me for weakness, give me charity; with those who do not understand, give me patience; and give me the humility to accept whatever aid I may receive from those who want to help me.
And, above all, let me never forget that yYou love me and that You earnestly want to help me. Let me be completely convinced, too, that You more than anyone can assist me – – and that you will support me at all times if only I learn to put a realistic trust in You.
I found NA to be very helpful in the initial stages of becoming clean, but after a while I recognized the limitations in a system where many simply treat the spiritual aspect – which is the point of it all – as a joke. I determined I would be better off going to the source, so to speak. I have never had cause to regret that decision, but also know that NA remains available should I need it.
Sorry I’ve been away so much. My son had a major test yesterday. We’ll get the results on Thursday. Thank you for your continued prayers. God bless you.
Prayer for a Christian Atmosphere in the Home March 7, 2017Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, Domestic Church, family, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Interior Life, Lent, reading, sanctity, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.
Another helpful gem from Father’s Manual by Fr. A. Coomes, SJ. Raising a family has always been hard, but with our kids exposed to more temptations and diabolical interference than perhaps any time in history, it is especially vital to maintain the home as a literal domestic church, full of virtue and with clearly marked lines drawn around every possible vice. I am better at explaining this than I am living it! We are all fallen creatures and almost all of us have been damaged by detritus we have picked up from the sewer in which we were raised and have been forced to live all of our lives. That’s not a commentary on anyone’s particular home life, least of all my own (though far more substantial problems can result from less than ideal upbringings, certainly), but simply a recognition of reality . I wasn’t Catholic as a child or young person, I was very secular and accepted without question most of what the world told me – how much of that do I hold onto today? How many bad habits or ideas do I have of which I am unaware?
You get the point. I thought this was good, hopefully you will, too (pp. 43-6):
Lord Jesus Christ, You are the way and the truth and the life; and it is by following You that we willmost surely find the way to our Father in Heaven.
Help me, instructed by You and Your example, to create a truly Christian atmosphere in my home.
May there be in all things a deep and true family life in our home, and a family life patterned after the Holy Family at Nazareth.
May You always be a guest at our activities, our conversations, our recreations – in a home that is truly and meaningfully centered around You.
May Your picture and that of Your Mother on our walls be treasured reminders of Your love for us and a token of our love for You.
May the Holy Bible, and other books and literature that tell us of You, lead us to a closer knowledge of You,a nd be welcomed and read by every member of the family.
May the thoughts expressed in our home be uncomplaining – at one with Your thoughts and those of Your Holy Church.
May there be a deep respect for all things holy, and may my children learn from me and from their mother a love of family prayer and of the Sacraments.
May charity of speech reign in our home.
Instill in use a tolerance of our neighbors that will be free from all littleness – and free from all prejudice.
May our ways be ever gracious in imitation of Your own; and may we show a special regard for the aged, the underprivileged, the handicapped, the infirm.
And, in all the things that I expect of my children and that I want to characterize our home, let me ever be a convincing example. May my words be always words that I may invite You to utter with me; my thoughts always thoughts that I may ask You to think with me; the feelings I make my own ever be feelings I may ask You to entertain with me; may the interpretations and judgments I make be such that I may expect You to share them with me.
So in all things may I, together with my family, be so directed by the inspirations of Your Grace that we may be completely one in You.
Perhaps striving to improve the tranquility, virtue, and piety of your home life could be a (admittedly slightly tardy) part of your Lenten program? It is for me.
The best way to fix this fallen culture is one family at a time.
First video – I know some of you are aware of Mediatrix Press, but they are producing a whole slew of extremely powerful, edifying titles from some of the greatest Doctors in the history of Holy Mother Church. Ryan Grant’s project to translate so many of the works of St. Robert Bellarmine into English – which has never before been done – is a huge blessing in and of itself. But they also have many other great titles, most of which are from long out of print and “forgotten” sources. An overview of the company below:
You can also adopt a book, providing Patreon-type support to help bring books into print. Check them out! It is so important to support apostolates like this that do so much to help restore the great Tradition of our faith. Faith comes by hearing, yes, but also by READING! I more or less read my way into the Faith, or, more to the point, tradition. The study of Church history is the process of becoming a Catholic.
At any rate, the other video is a good sermon by that priest so many admire – and rightly so – this time on the subject of being a friend of the cross. He talks about the need to make holy communions, and to have a lot of intentions when we go to the rail to maximize the benefit of the grace we receive, he speaks of overcoming regret in a positive way, not moping on it or endlessly kicking ourselves over past failings, but using the pain of those failures as a source of motivation, and he speaks of how to pray to gain healing for past wounds – self-inflicted and otherwise.
I’m out of time to give a better description, but it’s a very good sermon. If you’ve heard many of this priest’s sermons before, some of this may sound familiar, but I think it’s a new and expanded take on the topic (and I’m remembering the days when we had 50+ minute sermons at Mater Dei! Not anymore, they’re generally much shorter). Anyway, enjoy:
Flightline Friday: The Best Book on the ATF Program and YF-23, Ever February 24, 2017Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Flightline Friday, foolishness, fun, history, reading, sickness, technology.
I did a Flightline Friday about a year and a half ago discussing, among other things, the YF-23 Advanced Tactical Fighter prototype produced by Northrop. The Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program was initiated in the 1980s by the USAF to produce not just an F-15 replacement, but a fighter that could finally and decisively sweep the skies over Central Europe during an all-out conflict with the Soviet Union. It was designed to be the most comprehensively advanced and dominant air combat aircraft ever produced.
The program evolved over the course of the 80s. From many disparate concepts from a whole lot of companies – very few of which exist anymore – the program was eventually narrowed down to a competition between a team led by Northrop (with McDonnell Douglas) and Lockheed (with General Dynamics and Boeing). Northrop produced the YF-23 (and this was ALL Northrop, McAir had almost nothing to do except some cockpit layout and providing the landing gear from an F-15), and Lockheed the YF-22 (here the situation was entirely different, GD contributed TONS to the Lockheed design and may have saved their bacon. Lockheed massively redesigned their aircraft proposal in 1987-8, requesting 6 additional months from USAF to do so, because the original concept had so many problems).
At any rate, history shows, for reasons that are still inexplicable to some, that USAF preferred the ugly, block-like YF-22 to the graceful YF-23. Both aircraft had advantages over the other – the YF-23 was faster, in most respects stealthier and had superior supersonic maneuverability, while the YF-22 was better in the close-in, subsonic fight and carried substantially more missiles internally.
Even though the aircraft were designed nearly 30 years ago, much data on them has remained classified. Particularly classified has been concrete data on the production aircraft proposed by Northrop for the F-23. The actual production F-23 would have differed significantly from the YF-23, for a variety of reasons, though not nearly so much as the F-22 has wound up differing from the YF-22 (of course, USAF had a great deal to do with that, and details on Lockheed’s original engineering and manufacturing development version of the YF-22 – basically their vision of the production aircraft – have been even harder to find than those of the F-23).
Also somewhat limited has been extensive detail on the numerous other submissions made over the early phase of the ATF program from companies like Grumman, North American (Rockwell), McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, etc.
Well all that has ended, as former Northrop Chief Test Pilot and YF-23 lead pilot Paul Metz has now, in conjunction with Steve Ginter, produced THE seminal book on not only the F-23 but the entire ATF program. And this thing is an absolute gem. I was up way past 1 last night because I could not put the book down.
Just a few of the highlights:
- Loads of never-before seen photos of ATF submittals and YF-23
- Incredibly detailed construction drawings of YF-23
- Extensive sections of the F-23 EMD submittal (upon which the USAF judged the winner of the competition – again, this was the manufacturer’s plan for final production design, maintenance, operations, etc) are repeated
- Incredibly detailed construction drawings of the F-23 EMD design. There has been one of these outted before but Metz adds several more
- Detailed history of YF-23 development including key players involved, like Yu Ping Liu, who designed the aircraft’s stealth characteristics
- Detailed history of Northrop’s internal design progression towards a stealthy air combat fighter over the years 1971-1986. The YF-23 design was basically fixed by late 1985 (!!)
- An unprecedented amount of material on the Naval ATF version. During the late 80s, it was planned that the Navy would buy a navalized version of the ATF winner to replace the F-14. The end of the Cold War killed that idea.
The book is brand new (hit shelves Christmas last year) and a bit high (~$38). It’s not real long but it is jam packed with information. One of the things I have noted from those involved in the YF-23 program is the fact that it was a labor of love, the people working on it really loved each other and the amazing product. That really shows through in this book, even though Metz eventually went to work for Lockheed and became chief test pilot on the rival F-22 team (after Lockheed won the competition), I get the sense from this book that his heart was always with the F-23. As well it should have been. It is still, as of this writing, conceptually the most advanced and capable aircraft ever produced.
A quick addendum: I noted in the post linked in the top some deficiencies with the YF-23 design that may have helped inform USAF’s decision to prefer the F-22 concept. Because we knew so little about the F-23 EMD proposal, it was assumed some of those problematic features would have remained the same. No more. The F-23 EMD corrected both the engine fan blade viewing problem and, for the most part, the shortfall of internal carriage of AMRAAMs compared to the F-22 (still would have been one short, but that’s a pretty small difference). The F-23 EMD was MUCH different from what people thought based on the limited info that was out there. If anything, it made the aircraft even more attractive. If only they could have gotten rid of that canopy brace……
If you have anything more than a passing interest in the F-23 or F-22, get this book.
St. Francis de Sales on Dealing with the Sins of Others February 1, 2017Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Interior Life, reading, Restoration, sanctity, Spiritual Warfare, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.
Another excerpt from Finding God’s Will for You, a collection of letters sent by the great Doctor of the Church over the course of his exceptional apostolate. This one deals with how to deal with the sins of others, and not falling into despair because we can’t “save” all we would like to see saved. From pp. 102-5:
God has supreme hatred for sin, and yet He most wisely permits it. This is to allow rational creatures to act according to their natural condition; it is also to render the good more worthy of commendation when they do not violate the law, even though they are able to violate it. Let us therefore adore and bless this holy permission. [I have heard priests describe the gift of free will as “strange,” even hard or cruel, because why didn’t God just create everyone as mindless followers of His Will and thus to be saved. St. Francis informs us as to why: because He didn’t, we should not have been made in His image if we did not have free will, and because he wanted us to freely choose Him and His Love from among all the enticements and pleasures of the flesh.]
However, since the same Providence that permits sin has infinite hatred for it, let us together with Providence detest and hate it, desiring with all our power that sin permitted may never become sin committed. As a result of this desire, let us use all possible remedies to prevent the birth, growth, and domination of sin. In this let us imitate our Lord, who never ceases to exhort, promise, threaten, prohibit, command, and inspire us in order to turn our will away from sin as far as possible without depriving us of liberty.
But when a sin has been committed, we must do all in our power to have it wiped away. We should be like our Lord, who assured Carpus, as has already been noted, that if it were needful, He would submit to death a second time in order to deliver a single soul from sin. But if the sinner is obstinate…..in company with the Savior of our souls, let us weep, sigh, and pray for him………
……Meanwhile, no matter how obstinate sinners may be, we must never lose courage in aiding and serving them. How do we know whether perhaps they will do penance and be saved? Happy is he who, like St. Paul, can say to his neighbor, “day and night I did not cease with tears to admonish every one of you. Therefore I am innocent of the blood of all, for i have not shrunk from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” As long as we are within the limits of hope that the sinner can amend, and they are always of the same extent as those of his life, we must never reject him, but rather pray for him and help him as far as his misfortune will permit. [Thus, many of our corrections and blandishments of those many lost in sin and error in the Church must continue, so long as there is hope that they may repent.]
But at the very end, after we have wept over the obstinate and have rendered them our duty in charity of trying to reclaim them from perdition, we must imitate our Lord and the apostles. That is, we must turn our mind from them and place it on other objects and tasks more useful to God’s glory. “It was necessary that the word of God should be first spoken to you,” said the Apostles to the Jews, “but since you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy,” of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, “behold, we turn to the Gentiles.” [A true and hard saying, but one that must be borne in mind. There are many fields for the spread of the Gospel, if not turns out to be sterile, we must move onto another. That is incredibly sad, especially when it involves someone we love, but if we tried and prayed and wept for years over loved ones no progress, our efforts may be put to better use elsewhere.]
“The Kingdom of God,” says the Savior, “shall be taken from you and shall be given to a nation yielding its fruits.” We cannot spend too much time weeping over some men without losing time suitable and necessary to procure the salvation of others. True, the Apostle says that he has a “continuous sorrow” over the loss of the Jews, but this is the same as when we say that we bless God at all times, which means simply that we bless Him very frequently and on every occasion. In the same manner, the glorious St. Paul has a continuous sorrow in his heart because of the reprobation of the Jews, since on every occasion he lamented their misfortune.
For the rest, we must always adore, love, and praise God’s avenging and punitive justice, just as we love His mercy, since both are daughters of His goodness. [Well now, isn’t that contrary to the church of infinite mercy and zero justice we hear preached today. In point of fact, mercy cannot be separated from justice. If it is, it becomes mere weakness and sentimentality. Those who wish to replace justice with a false sense of mercy will get neither, but will only gather a harvest of rank indifference and moral decline – which may well be what the purveyors of the church of infinite mercy want in the end, anyway] By His Grace, He wills to make us good, for He is good, yes, supremely good. By his justice, He wills to punish sin because He hates it, and He hates it because, being supremely good, He hates that supreme evil which is iniquity.
In conclusion, note that God never withdraws His mercy from us except by the most equitable vengeance of His punitive justice, and that we never escape the rigor of His justice except by His justifying mercy. Always, whether He punishes or gives grace, His good pleasure is worthy of adoration, love, and everlasting blessing. Always, whether He punishes or gives grace, His good pleasure is worthy of adoration, love, and everlasting blessing. Hence, “the just man” who sings the praises of God’s mercy over such as shall be saved likewise “shall rejoice when he shall see vengeance.” With joy the blessed shall approve the judgment of damnation passed on the reprobate as well as that of salvation on the elect.
Since the angels have exercised their charity toward the men they had in their keeping, they shall remain in peace when they see them obstinate or even damned. Therefore, we must acquiesce in God’s will and kiss the right hand of His mercy and the left hand of His justice with equal tenderness and reverence.
Now this is a Francis I can really get behind. Too bad there aren’t more like him around these days.
Thanks to Reader TT for the Kind Gifts February 1, 2017Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, awesomeness, fun, non squitur, reading, thanksgiving.
I wanted to give a special shout to reader TT who went through some shipping hassle to send me a very nice gift of all five volumes of The Catechism in Examples off my Amazon wishlist. That was really generous and unexpected. Thanks, TT!
I’ve also received some other items from folks who wish to remain anonymous. I thank you all for everything you have taken the time to send. My hope is to draw fruitful material from whatever I am sent off the wishlist and share it with readers in posts. It may take me some time to get around to a particular book, but I will eventually get to it.
It means a great deal to me that people think enough of my prattlings to go to the time and expense to buy me a little something (or a big something). I do appreciate it!
A Beautiful, Edifying Episode from the Life of St. Simeon Stylite January 26, 2017Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, episcopate, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, history, Interior Life, mortification, reading, Saints, sanctity, the struggle for the Church, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.
The man who stood upon ever-taller stone columns for decades, St. Simeon Stylite is probably better known among Eastern Christians than those in the West. Fortunately, St. Francis de Sales included the following episode from the life of St. Simeon Stylite in some of his letters, letters which were compiled into a book called Finding God’s Will For You. There are serious lessons regarding obedience in this tale, too, but obedience is an issue so fraught with peril in today’s Church, where so much of the leadership has gone amok. How to deal with authority that is demanding acceptance of grave sin and destructive error under threat of severe persecution? There are writings from the Tradition that help guide us, but they are not terribly voluminous or comprehensive.
This situation we are going through is not entirely unique. In the protestant revolt, whole bishops and princes tried to take dioceses and countries into error. Did souls go along, under obedience or more prurient motives? Most did. But in almost every locale, some remained faithful. Many of those are called Saints or Blesseds today.
I think the lesson, as it develops below, also serves as a guide to us. Worthy shepherds will give broad latitude to subordinates who show a willingness to be obedient. But those seeking to impose their will, and heterodox beliefs, on the Church, will always seek to impose their will in virtually every regard, and won’t grant such latitude. Whenever it comes down to promotion of error, subordinates are freed from their duty of obedience. Unfortunately, those seeking to impose a different religion often know how to mask their efforts to at least some degree, making the process of discernment a most difficult one. Pray that God may enlighten you as to which matters require your obedience.
Anyway, from Finding God’s Will For You, pp. 61-2:
While the incomparable Simeon Stylites was still a novice at Telada (a monastery in Syria), he refused to respond to the advice of his superiors who wished to keep him from practicing the many strange forms of austerity he observed with inordinate severity. For this reason he was expelled from the monastery as a man not very susceptible to mortification of heart and much given to that of the body. Afterward he came to his senses, became more devout and wiser in the spiritual life, and behaved quite differently, as is proved by the following event.
When the hermits who were scattered about the desert regions near Antioch learned of the extraordinary life he led on his pillar, where he seemed to be either an angel on earth or a man from Heaven, they sent him a representative whom they instructed to speak for them in the following fashion: “Simeon, why have you left the great path of the devout life, trodden by so many great and holy predecessors, and followed another path unknown to men and far distant from everything seen or heard of up to the present? Simeon, get down from that pillar, and join the others in the way of life and method of serving God used by those good fathers who were our predecessors.”
In the event that Simeon agreed with their advice and showed himself ready and willing to descend from his pillar so as to condescend to their will, the hermits had instructed their messenger to leave him free to persevere in the kind of life he had begun. Bu such obedience, those good fathers said, they could easily recognize that he had entered this kind of life under divine inspiration. On the contrary, if he resisted, despised their exhortation, and wished to follow his own will, then they resolved that it would be necessary to take him down by force and make him give up his pillar. [These were most wise shepherds with the love of Christ in their hearts. They are happy to give wide space for novel forms of devotion, even when they do not fully understand them, provided sufficient submission to Christ and His Church is evident]
When the deputy had arrived at the pillar, he had no sooner announced his mission than the great Simeon without delay, without reservation, and without any reply, started to descend with obedience and humility worthy of his rare sanctity. When the delegate saw this, he said, “Simeon, stop and stay there, persevere with constancy, and have good courage. Follow valiantly your enterprise. Your sojourn on that pillar is from God.”
….I implore you to observe carefully how those holy anchorites of old in general meeting found no surer mark of heavenly inspiration in a matter so extraordinary as the life of St. Stylites than to see that he was simple, gentle, and tractable under the laws of most holy obedience. God blessed the submission of that great man and gave him the grace to persevere for thirty whole years upon a column more than fifty feet high….Thus this bird of paradise, living in air and not touching earth, was a spectacle of love for angels and of admiration for men. In obedience, everything is safe, apart from obedience, all is subject to suspicion……..
……..A man who ways that he is inspired and then refuses to obey his superiors and follow their advice is an impostor. All prophets and preachers inspired by God have always loved the Church, always adhered to Her Doctrine, and always had Her approval……… [When the superiors give evidence of being impostors by not adhering to Doctrine, the entire machine breaks down. Especially when even the highest authority gives such evidence. The great trouble is, after 50 years of successively advancing inculcation of error in souls, there are very few who don’t hold erroneous beliefs, who don’t support some form of abuse. If it were not for her supernatural element, I daresay, the machine stops.]
I get in “trouble,” sometimes, as I am viewed as not being sufficiently supportive, or critical, of groups like the SSPX. But in this time of mass confusion and untold calamity, I have a difficult time telling someone “you err” in their differing responses to the crisis. I do have some limits – I think sede vacantists go too far, and those who reject the Church altogether and leave for some other sect/church – but overall I have a hard time blaming someone, in this unending mass of confusion and conflict, from arriving at a little bit different conclusion than my own. I think the key remains: “Love God, and do what you will.” I pray He will be merciful and understanding with us all who are groping about in the dark in this time of so little light.
Book Discussion: Ever Read The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene? January 24, 2017Posted by Tantumblogo in General Catholic, Holy suffering, horror, mortification, persecution, priests, reading, Revolution, sadness, secularism, Society.
Ever read The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene? What did you think of it? Apparently, it was criticized by the pre-conciliar Holy Office, but I am not certain whether it ever appeared on the Index of Forbidden Books. I am not certain I found anything in the book that was sufficient to merit being banned by the Holy Office, but I do agree that the book was in some respects “paradoxical.” It was not a typical Saint’s story.
For those who are not familiar, The Power and the Glory tells the semi-fictional story of a hunted, persecuted Mexican priest in the state of Tabasco during the darkest days of the Cristiada. This priest is the last functioning priest left in the entire state. In fact, since the book was set in 1940, he has been the only priest in the state for nearly a decade. All other priests fled, were shot, or apostatized, married, and given government pensions to live on. He has lived deep in the jungles, always hiding, always hunted and hounded by the law. This horrid persecution had persisted, by the time the book was set, for nearly two full decades.
This lead character around which the story revolves is morally ambiguous, in a sense. He frequently in the book performs acts of practically heroic virtue, while at the same time being a near alcoholic with a strong desire for drink and having fathered a child in a one-time fall into lust while lonely, depressed, and drunk. At times I felt the priest too hard on himself, as he judged that he had done little worthwhile even as he served as the only priest an entire region of Mexico knew for nearly a decade. He was terrified of his salvation over his sins and his inability to go to confession. There is a sort of priest remaining in the state, in the capital of Villahermosa, a man who renounced his priestly mission, “married” a woman at government behest (even though the marriage was never consummated), and lives on a government pension, growing steadily more obese as he has nothing to do all day except eat, loathe himself, and be tormented by neighborhood children who constantly belittle him. At the climax of the book, the moral cowardice of this bad former priest is plainly revealed.
Nevertheless, regarding the main character, he has several opportunities to escape, but is prevented from doing so for a long time (I won’t ruin the story by telling you whether he finally escapes in the end, or not) by the untimely, or timely, intervention of someone needing his sacramental services. Even though it likely means his death, in every instance the priest chooses to remain and serve the people calling out to him, but with an often begrudging heart which steals away some of the virtue of his choosing to stay. But who save for great Saints would not be somewhat conflicted over choosing to stay or go under such oppressive circumstances. There is an ugly Judas character also involved in this priest’s sufferings. He shadows the priest through half or more of the book and is hideous in his ability to constantly justify his black heart.
I don’t want to share any more of the plot as I don’t want to ruin it for those who haven’t read it, but I am very interested to know if any blog commenters have read the book and what they thought of it. My
conclusions were two-fold: I’ve read several books on the state persecution of the Church in Mexico, books that were full of statistics and tales of cruelty and suffering, but never one that made me feel as if I could really understand what living under such conditions on a day to day basis would have really been like. This book did that in spades. For that, I strongly recommend the book. But, on the other hand, there is some unfortunate moral ambiguity surrounding the main character of the unnamed priest – I don’t know if author Greene was trying to be “realistic” by not giving a “sanitized” version of a man’s character, or if he was trying to get people to think about what really constitutes holiness, and whether this priest’s destiny was a happy or unhappy one.
Because of that ambiguity, I can only recommend this book for those well formed and committed to the Faith, which naturally includes most readers of this blog. It is not suitable, for several reasons, for children or for those who are struggling to hold onto their Faith or who are very new to the Church (perhaps). In many ways, it’s a beautiful story and a very sober appraisal of how people conduct themselves under extremely difficult circumstances. I don’t read much fiction because it frequently bores me, but The Power and the Glory is very well written and really grabbed my attention. But there are certain scenes I wish were not present in the book, where the author perhaps let his personal bias against certain types of pious souls tell too much. On the other hand, there are some really cutting scenes dealing with protestants and their love of comfort. The priest does rather adroitly defend the Faith against his most cruel persecutor, too.
One thing the book is great for: informing readers of the hellish reality of life under that kind of severe, state-sponsored persecution. There are myriad small ways people are forced to surrender their beliefs, to modify their behaviors……..it reveals how horrid an empty, soulless, secularist existence is. Definite food for thought as we see our own culture and Church, Trump and Brexit, et. al., notwithstanding, heading in a similar direction.
Anyway, I’m interested to know what you guys think, if you’ve read the book. I’m kind of on the fence. Would the book be as effective if it had a different ending? Could it have been more so? Was it realistic, or unnecessarily harsh? I’m really on the fence, and very interested to hear what you think. Hopefully some of you have read it, and are willing to take some time to share your thoughts.
Ten Hindrances to Devotion by St. Peter of Alcantara January 24, 2017Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, Domestic Church, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Interior Life, mortification, priests, reading, Saints, sanctity, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.
Part two, as promised in yesterday’s post, which provided aids to developing a rich interior life. Today’s post covers those things that tend to inhibit the development of a strong practice of devotion to Our Lord and Lady. From Treatise on Prayer and Meditation pp. 128-131:
Just as there are certain things which help with devotion, so there are others which impede it. Among the latter:
1] Sin is the first, and not merely mortal sin, but venial sins also; for these, although they do not deprive us of charity, diminish the fervor of charity, which is practically the same thing as devotion. Consequently, we should be very much on our guard against them, not so much for the evil they work in us as for th egreat good of which they despoil us.
2] A second hindrance is the remorse of conscience, when it is excessive, which proceeds from these sins, for it disturbs and casts down the soul, frightens it and makes it unfit for every good work. [Excessive lamentations or remorse can also be a sign of pride, as in thinking one too good to have done X or Y. Just something to keep in mind. We certainly should have remorse for our sins, but that remorse should lead to humility and an understanding of our total need for God’s Grace, and not deep depression or other disturbances of our interior life]
3] Scruples, for the same reason, constitute another hindrance. They are like thorns, allowing the soul no rest, so that it can neither repose in God nor enjoy true peace. [Being afflicted with scruples can be a truly hellish experience, and one almost always self-inflicted. I have a daughter that is struggling with certain scruples, please pray for her.]
4] Every kind of bitterness and sourness of heart and unreasoning depression are also hindrances, for then one can hardly relish the taste and sweetness of a good conscience and of spiritual joy.
5] Overmuch worry is a further hindrance. Cares are like the flies of Egypt, which distress the soul and prevent it from enjoying that spiritual rest which is experienced in prayer. It is precisely then, more than at other times, that they disturb the soul and turn it away from this exercise. [A trend should be discernible – anything that tends to rob the soul of peace for long periods are detrimental to the interior life. Something to consider when we get exercised over the state of things in the Church and world today. A certain level of knowledge is of course beneficial and even necessary, but if reading news begins to seriously affect our peace of soul or derail our practice of the Faith – or even, God forbid, tempts us to fall away – then we need to retract from whatever is causing us to lose peace and focus on other, happier things, at least for a while]
6] Too many occupations are also a hindrance, for they take up much time, stifle the soul, and leave a man without leisure or heart for divine things. [Recreation is necessary. So are distractions, at times.]
7] Pleasure and worldly consolations, if indulged in to excess, hinder a man from prayer. “He who devotes himself overmuch to the delights of the world,” says St. Bernard, “does not deserve those of the Holy Ghost.”
8] Delicacy and abundance in food and drink form another hindrance, and especially long-drawn-out meals. These are a very bad foundation for spiritual exercises and devout watching. When the body is weighed down and charged in excess with food, the soul is very unfitted to soar aloft.
9] The vice of curiosity in the senses and in the intellect is a hindrance too. Seeking to hear and see all sorts of things, wishing to have about oneself things that are pretty or quaint…..all this takes up time, embarrasses the senses, disturbs the soul and diverts it in every direction, and thus impedes devotion. [We must be very careful in what we allow ourselves, and our families, to be exposed to. Everyone has their own needs, their own limits, and their own weaknesses. The best way to proceed is experientially, paying attention to how we feel and how we behave, internally and externally, to see if new or changed levels of stimuli produce a positive or negative effect in our spiritual lives. Anything that tends towards the negative must be eliminated or sharply curtailed.]
10] Finally, any interruption of the holy exercises, unless for a good and pious reason, is a hindrance, for as a learned writer said, the spirit of devotion is something very delicate, and once it goes, it either does not return at all, or at least only after much difficulty. [While St. Peter was originally writing primarily for religious, thus the seriousness of an interruption of the exercises religious are required under duty and obedience to perform, we can still take from this an understanding that we should try to develop a regular prayer regimen for ourselves, to the extent possible, and not deviate from it. We should not allow our concentration to be interrupted during prayer time by needless distractions. Prayers said mechanically are unworthy of significant grace. Strive to grow in focus during periods of prayer and meditation]
Thank you for the kind comments to the previous post on St. Peter of Alcantara. His book is excellent. He’s been hard to excerpt, but these two short chapters were perfect for a blog. I’ll certainly share anything else I can that is not too onerous for online reading.