instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The unity of the Spirit

The word that popped out to me today during the readings at Mass was "striving." As in:
... live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness,
with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace....
St. Paul doesn't (in this translation at least) tell the Ephesians to strive to live in a manner worthy of their call. Nor does he tell them to strive to live with all humility and gentleness, nor to strive to live with patience, nor to strive to bear with one another through love. He just tells them to do these things.

But he does tell them to strive to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

That might not mean anything in particular. Or it might mean that preserving the unity of the Spirit is particularly important. Or that preserving the unity of the Spirit is particularly difficult. Or that it's both important and difficult.

Consider the words in these verses that describe living in a manner worthy of the call of Christ:
  • humility
  • gentleness
  • patience
  • forbearance
  • unity
The first four are generally regarded as virtues our society honors independent of any particular religious tradition. Unity, though, doesn't fit in quite the same way. "You're really patient" is a compliment. "You really preserve unity" is... an unusual thing to say, and a compliment, I guess, if the speaker approves of the specific unity preserved.

Even then, unity is often seen as merely an instrumental good, a means to some good end. Political unity is an instrumental good that can lead to political success. Social unity leads to strengthening of the social group, against competing groups or simply against decay.

The unity St. Paul is writing of, though, is the unity of the Holy Spirit. It does happen to lead to other goods, but primarily it is a good in itself, because there is in fact
one body and
one Spirit, as you were also called to the
one hope of your call;
one Lord,
one faith,
one baptism;
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
That seems like something worth striving for. Given the current state of US vs THEM, it's also something that needs striving for. Fortunately, St. Paul tells us how to do it: through the bond of peace. Unfortunately, through the bond of peace is how St. Paul tells us to do it, and that's not something we've worked very hard on mastering in recent decades.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Comments on Mary

While I think of it, let me steal from some comments I left on a post about Protestant concerns with Catholic devotion to Mary at Catholic and Enjoying It!. The original post was set up by a quotation from St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to Mary:
Devotion to our Blessed Lady is necessary for salvation,and that (even in the opinion of Oecolampadius and some other heretics) it is an infallible mark of reprobation to have no esteem and love for the holy Virgin; while on the other hand, it is an infallible mark of predestination to be entirely and truly devoted to her.
Devotion to Mary is not optional. Devotions to Mary are.

By that, I mean we are obligated to love and honor Mary, but we are not obligated to use a particular means of devotion, like the Rosary, litanies, Immaculate Heart devotion, and so forth.

As for St. Louis, my advice is that Protestants who are struggling with Catholic devotion to Mary not read him and stick to more doctrinal and dispassionate sources. Plenty of Catholics -- in his own lifetime as well as today -- don't get St. Louis either.

The particular quotation is not Catholic doctrine, in that the Church doesn't teach that giving due honor to Mary is categorically necessary for salvation (much less that it's sufficient). It is, though, wrong and contrary to God's will to fail to give due honor to Mary; that follows directly from the meaning of the words "to give due honor." In some, even most instances, it may not be culpably sinful, depending on what a person knows, believes, and wills. But if someone knows and believes what the Church teaches about honoring Mary, and still wills to do otherwise, they sin, and I suppose there are circumstances in which it could be mortal sin.

Devotion to Mary follows from the doctrine of the Incarnation, as feeding the hungry follows from the second greatest commandment. I may fail to feed someone who is hungry because I don't know he is hungry; I may fail to give due honor to Mary because I don't know what honor she is due.

The real stumbling block, which seems to be where a lot of people start on this question even though it's found pretty far down the doctrinal path, comes with the answer to, "How much honor is due Mary?" The answer is that a whacking great lot of honor is due her, way way way more than seems sensible or balanced to someone coming at it out of curiosity or intellectual questioning.

And it is nonsensical and imbalanced, unless you set it next to the answer to the question, "How much worship is due God?" Eventually, you come to see that honoring Mary not only follows from worshiping God, it leads back to it, even that, while distinguishable, the two acts are inseparable. As St. Louis de Montfort put it, true devotion to Mary is simply a means (the very best means, in his opinion) of keeping your baptismal promises.


Lumen Gentium Chapter 8 is a good place to start reading about "the duties of redeemed mankind toward the Mother of God."

St. John Paul II's 2002 Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae is pretty good on the Rosary as the "School of Mary," the general idea being to learn to see the mysteries of Jesus' life from the perspective of Mary.



Mary is not only my spiritual mother. She is also the Mother of God, whom we can come to know through her actions, joys, and sorrows during her earthly life. If any thought of a mother is troublesome, Mary is Queen of Heaven and Earth -- though I once saw someone say they can't relate to queens.

The Litany of Loreto, to pick one source, also presents Mary as Mirror of justice, Seat of wisdom, Cause of our joy, Spiritual vessel, Vessel of honor, Singular vessel of devotion, Mystical rose, Tower of David, Tower of ivory, House of gold, Ark of the covenant, Gate of heaven, Morning star, Health of the sick, Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted, and Help of Christians.

If the tradition of the Church offers no means at all for someone to relate to Mary, I'm not sure what to say; maybe it's for that person to provide the tradition with a new way.

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Changing the subject

I asked my spiritual director, "How can I become holy?"

He said, "Love the poor."

"Sure, I'll love the poor," I replied. "But how can I become holy?"

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Rhetoric matters

CNN.com ran a story with a remarkable headline over the weekend:
O'Malley apologizes for saying 'all lives matter' at liberal conference
To many who don't frequent liberal conferences, this headline may sound like a step beyond Animal Farm, with "some lives are more equal than others" too feeble a way of saying what these liberals are really thinking.

I think, though, what's going on is a failure of rhetoric. The words "Black lives matter" are being spoken as a slogan to invoke the problem of black citizens dying at the hands of white police, but they are being heard as an assertion in a free-flowing conversation about race in the United States.

To put it another way, what's being said is "#BlackLivesMatter" and what's being heard is "Resolved: Black lives matter."

As a proposition, "Black lives matter" is unassailable. This very unassailability, though, makes its emphasis in (what is taken to be) a free-flowing conversation about race suspicious. Why press this uncontested point? Is the implication that I am a racist? Is it that black lives matter more?

Hence the reflexive response that got Martin O'Malley booed: "All lives matter." It is equally unassailable, and it counters both worrisome implications.

If anything, the rhetorical failure leads to worse things if it happens when the context of deadly force used against black Americans is recognized, particularly if trust and respect between the parties in the discussion are lacking. Then the impulse is to find an unassailable counterargument to confound those who are saying, "Black lives matter." So we hear, "Are you saying cops lives don't matter?" Or, "Why aren't you chanting, 'Black lives matter!' when black Americans are killed by black criminals?"

This sort of thing can be a sound counter-argument -- but it assumes an argument to counter. The safety of police, and the incidence of black-on-black crime, are legitimate problems. But so is the alleged mistreatment of blacks by police. If every time someone tries to allege the mistreatment of blacks by police, others change the subject, then when do we discuss allegations of police mistreatment of blacks?

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Religious submission of the intellect and will

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I miter've known

Our parish was assigned one of the priests who was just ordained for the Archdiocese. Last weekend was his first at the parish, but we were out of town, so as we pulled into the parking lot this morning my wife and I wondered whether we'd see him.

We did. He was the young fellow processing in next to the pastor, just in front of the deacon who was in front of the bishop.

Boy, you're gone for a week and they change everything.

(Actually, it was of course the visiting Archbishop Dufour of Jamaica. Our parish is sponsoring what looks to be semi-annual missions to Jamaica to help with the Mustard Seed Communities there.)

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Mass Etiquette, annotated

The graphic on the left is from Veritas Kapanalig. I thought I'd add some more detail. Click on the image to enlarge.
No need to thank me. It's what I do.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Since no one's buying "Safe, legal, and rare" anymore

Time for a new motto:


Own it, America.

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Sunday, July 05, 2015

Semper reformanda

The homilist today preached that what the Church calls the Seven Deadly Sins (which are really the Seven Capital Vices, but what are you going to do?) are the principal thorns in the flesh that people experience. He summed up:
"Pride, jealousy, greed, anger, gluttony, lust, and sloth. These are the seven major sins of the Church."
Ain't that the truth, Father?

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Lumen Gentium on prophesy and gifts

12. The holy people of God shares also in Christ's prophetic office; it spreads abroad a living witness to Him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips which give praise to His name.(110) The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One,(111) cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples' supernatural discernment in matters of faith when "from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful" (8*) they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God.(112) Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints,(113) penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.

It is not only through the sacraments and the ministries of the Church that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the people of God and enriches it with virtues, but, "allotting his gifts to everyone according as He wills,"(114) He distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. By these gifts He makes them fit and ready to undertake the various tasks and offices which contribute toward the renewal and building up of the Church, according to the words of the Apostle: "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit".(115) These charisms, whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation for they are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church. Extraordinary gifts are not to be sought after, nor are the fruits of apostolic labor to be presumptuously expected from their use; but judgment as to their genuinity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good.(116)

110 Cf. Heb. 13:15.
111 Cf. Jn. 2:20, 27
112 Cf. 1 Thess. 2:13.
113 Cf. Jud. 3
114 1 Cor. 12:11.
115 Cf. 1 Thess 5:12, 19-21.
116 Cf. Jn. 11:52.
(8) Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Encycl Divinum illud, 9 maii 1897: AAS 29 (1896-97) p. 6S0. Pius XII, Litt Encyl. Mystici Corporis, 1. c., pp 219-220; Denz. 2288 (3808).S. Augustinus, Serm. 268, 2: PL 38 232, ct alibi. S. Io. Chrysostomus n Eph. Hom. 9, 3: PG 62, 72. idymus Alex., Trin. 2, 1: PG 39 49 s. S. Thomas, In Col. 1, 18 cet. 5 ed. Marietti, II, n. 46-Sieut constituitur unum eorpus ex nitate animae, ita Ecelesia ex unil atc Spiritus.....

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