Praise Divine Mercy!

"Jesus, I trust in you!"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Favorite Poem of Mine

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

- G.K. Chesterton

A beloved poem of my childhood.

Friday, March 14, 2008

On salvation...

The following is an old journal entry of mine I was reminded of recently. I think it might have some use to others.

One often missed point in ecumenical discussions is that Catholics view salvation very, very differently.

In Catholic theology, if a person dies in friendship with God then they go to heaven. "Justification" refers to the grace which allows a human being this friendship. In other words, the sacrifice of Jesus nullifies the fall. This grace is received primarily through the sacraments, although it can received otherwise as well. Baptism clears away all of the inner consequences of the fall.

Many non-Catholics would have us believe that a person is saved once and guaranteed that salvation. This would imply that a person who has accepted Christ could rape, murder and commit every kind of abominable sin and still go to heaven if he or she had accepted Christ previously.
To be fair on that aspect, many Protestants will then say of such a person that such actions would indicate that they never were saved in the first place.
How then, can ANYONE assume salvation? I'm certain you have heard of cases where pastors and other spiritual leaders were found to be terrible sinners. If they are not saved, what does that say for the rest of us ordinary people?

This brings back again to a problem of semantics, notably "grace", “justification" and how Catholics view them in the context of salvation. When Catholics use these words they are referring to purification.
To quote David P. Lang's Why Matter Matters:
According to [Luther], the sacraments of Baptism and Penance do not really produce an interior change in the soul. They are merely occasions for God to declare the person "righteous"—an external (or "legal") imputation of justice only, demanding simply a subjective (or "fiducial") trusting faith in Christ the Savior. In actuality (i.e. "ontologically") the soul remains mired in its unregenerate state of corruption; God just covers over the fetid swamp with a white celestial canvas and some heavy supernatural deodorant (as it were). By contrast, the orthodox Catholic position is that sanctifying grace works a profound transformation within the soul, elevating it to a divinized condition consequent upon the removal of sin's stain. (33)

Since Catholics view salvation as genuine purification whereby the soul is made suitable for heaven, repentance of all sin throughout life (and after death in Purgatory) is considered necessary. Of course, this needs to be differentiated from meriting heaven by works-- a soul achieves heaven not by its own power, but through this sanctifying grace of God, which brings us in union with him through the merciful forgiveness of sin. To put it more simply, a person who dies in the grace and friendship of God achieves acceptance into heaven. There is no other work than to simply love God, despise that which offends Him, and seek reconciliation for weakness or error. All the sacraments are thus intended throughout life to bring the individual soul closer to God through grace, combating the evil of the world.

So then, a Catholic is not simply saved. A Catholic is saved through baptism and continually being saved though participation in the grace through the other sacraments of reconciliation and communion. If you ask for an assurance of salvation, a Catholic might answer that he or she is in a state of grace and is saved at the moment were death to occur. While this may seem less than the guarantee given by the Protestants, it is truly more so—Catholics know when they are saved because they can be truly free of the guilt of sin.

A personal relationship with Jesus Christ

Here is a prayer by St. Ambrose from a devotional in the Latin Missal

O loving Lord Jesus Christ, I a sinner, presuming not on my own merits, but trusting in Thy mercy and goodness, with fear and trembling approach the table of Thy most sacred banquet. For I have defiled both my heart and body with many sins and have not kept a strict guard over my mind and my tongue. Wherefore, O gracious God, O awful Majesty, I a wretched creature, entangled in difficulties, have recourse to Thee, the font of mercy: to Thee do I fly that I may be healed, and take refuge under Thy protection. And I ardently desire to have HIM as my Savior, whom I am unable to withstand as my Judge.

To Thee O Lord, I show my wounds, to Thee I lay bare my shame. I know that my sins are many and great, on account of which I am filled with fear. But I trust in Thy mercy, of which there is no end. Look down upon me, therefore, with the eyes of Thy mercy on me, who am full of misery and sin, Thou Who wilt never cease to let flow the fountain of mercy.

Hail, Victim of Salvation, offered for me and for all mankind on the tree of the Cross. Hail, noble, and precious Blood, flowing from the wounds of my crucified Lord Jesus Christ and washing away the sins of the whole world. Remember, O Lord, Thy creature, whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Blood, I am grieved because I have sinned, I desire to make amends for what I have done.

Take away from me, therefore, O most merciful Father, all my iniquities and sins, that, being purified both in soul, and body, I may worthily partake of the Holy of Holies. And grant that this holy oblation of Thy Body and Blood, of which , though unworthy, I purpose to partake, may be to me the remission of my sins, the perfect cleansing of my offenses, the means of driving away all evil thoughts and of renewing all holy desires, the accomplishment of works pleasing to Thee, as well as the strongest defense for soul and body against the snares of my enemies. Amen.

That line, "I ardently desire to have HIM as my Savior, whom I am unable to withstand as my Judge" strikes me to the very core. God by rights is our judge, but He has chosen to save us instead.
To me this communicates most deeply the unconditional fatherly love with which He regards us. Often I feel five years old again when I talk to God.

I was inspired to post this by a moving reflection by Father Longenecker on the concept of a personal relationship with Jesus. Father Longenecker is yet another example for the impact of the faithful converts who seem be re-catechizing the Church, having once been an Anglican priest.

To excerpt:
The problem I had was that I felt more and more that the 'personal relationship with Jesus' was more 'personal' than 'Jesus'. As I grew older and got a wider experience of Evangelical Christianity it all seemed rather sentimental and subjective. Not only were the different denominations idea of the personal relationship different, but every individual's personal relationship seemed as different as could be, and I naturally began to suspect that much of the , 'personal relationship with Jesus' consisted of sincere, but subjective emotions, and that the Jesus people had a personal relationship was often more of a reflection of their own inner desires, their own personality, their religious preferences and what they had been taught about Jesus than anything else.

I then began to meet a few Catholics who seemed to be closer to Jesus than anyone I had ever met, but they never spoke about a 'personal relationship with Jesus.' Then when I became a Catholic I began to experience the personal relationship in a way I had never experienced before. Suddenly things did not depend on my own emotional world, but on objective realities. Catholicism was something hard and real and solid. "Here" as John Henry Newman observed, "was real religion." The Eucharist was real. Confession was real. The priesthood was real. The visible Church was real. The saints were real. Jesus was real, and my personal relationship with him was very, very real, and I was not sure that what I was experiencing was actually something I liked. Humankind cannot bear very much reality, and the reality of my relationship with Christ entered a new and disturbing dimension.

Go and read the rest. And spend some time reading his other posts too.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Psychology of Atheism

One of the most jarring accusations by atheists is that believers are suffering from some kind of delusion. Believers, they suggest, are merely looking for a comfortable father-figure. However NYU psychology professor Paul Vitz has a rather fascinating rebuttal to these accusations, entitled "The Psychology of Atheism."

Part 1:

Part 2

It occurs to me that because we are subject to our parents when we are young and helpless, for good or ill, our relationship with them affects how we relate to God. Early abuse leads one to expect those with power to abuse it. I find it telling that children are born expecting their parents to be infallible. One might posit that it is an early breaking of this trust that leads to a lack of faith in God.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Martin Luther

Protestants claim they follow a "reformed" version of Christianity begun by Martin Luther.

Yet Luther had the following to say:

"We are compelled to concede to the Papists that they have the Word of GOD, that we received it from them, and that without them, we should have no knowledge of it at all."
Martin Luther, commentary on St. John.

In his sermon of August 15, 1522, the last time Martin Luther preached on the Feast of the Assumption, he stated:

There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith . . . It is enough to know that she lives in Christ.

The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart. (Sermon, September 1, 1522).

[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ . . . She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures. (Sermon, Christmas, 1531).

No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity. (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation, 1537).

One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God's grace . . . Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ . . . Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God. (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521).

Luther gives the Blessed Virgin the exalted position of "Spiritual Mother" for Christians:

It is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man is able to exult in such a treasure. Mary is his true Mother .. (Sermon, Christmas, 1522)

Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees . . . If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother. (Sermon, Christmas, 1529).

Martin Luther had the belief of Mary's Immaculate Conception, Luther's words follow:

It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527).

She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin- something exceedingly great. For God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. (Personal {"Little"} Prayer Book, 1522).

Martin Luther on Mary's Perpetual Virginity

Here are some of the founders of refom commenting on Mary:

Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that.
{Luther's Works, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30) & Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (vols. 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (vols. 31-55), 1955, v.22:23 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) }
Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . I am inclined to agree with those who declare that 'brothers' really mean 'cousins' here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers.
{Pelikan, ibid., v.22:214-15 / Sermons on John, chaps. 1-4 (1539) }

A new lie about me is being circulated. I am supposed to have preached and written that Mary, the mother of God, was not a virgin either before or after the birth of Christ . . .
{Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:199 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) }
Scripture does not say or indicate that she later lost her virginity . . .
When Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her . . . This babble . . . is without justification . . . he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom.

{Pelikan, ibid.,v.45:206,212-3 / That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew (1523) }
Editor Jaroslav Pelikan (Lutheran) adds:

Luther . . . does not even consider the possibility that Mary might have had other children than Jesus. This is consistent with his lifelong acceptance of the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary.
{Pelikan, ibid.,v.22:214-5}
". . . she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin. . . . God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. . . . God is with her, meaning that all she did or left undone is divine and the action of God in her. Moreover, God guarded and protected her from all that might be hurtful to her."
Ref: Luther's Works, American edition, vol. 43, p. 40, ed. H. Lehmann, Fortress, 1968

". . . she is rightly called not only the mother of the man, but also the Mother of God. . . . it is certain that Mary is the Mother of the real and true God."
Ref: Sermon on John 14. 16: Luther's Works (St. Louis, ed. Jaroslav, Pelican, Concordia. vol. 24. p. 107)

"Christ our Savior was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb. . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that."
(REf: On the Gospel of St. John: Luther's Works, vol. 22. p. 23, ed. Jaroslav Pelican, Concordia, 1957)

"Men have crowded all her glory into a single phrase: The Mother of God. No one can say anything greater of her, though he had as many tongues as there are leaves on the trees." (From the Commentary on the Magnificat.)

(Regards to Dave Armstrong, for collecting these quotes).


The unfortunate aspect of Luther's theology is that he misunderstood the concept of "to Jesus through Mary."

Correctly expressed, Mary is regarded, to quote Wordsworth, as "our tainted nature's solitary boast." As Mary knew Jesus in her womb, so we might hope to know Him at the moment of Holy Communion. Lord, but that we could stand with her at the foot of the cross!

In Luther's time, a false view was sometimes taught that God is a wrathful and angry deity and that Mary is responsible for softening Him. While Our Mother certainly prays for pardon of our sins, she does so in the Grace of God, from which Mercy is found. If God accedes to her requests more than others, it is only because she exists in complete loving subjection to His will. Mary fills us with hope and praise of God, because she is the one who in whom His promises are seen fulfilled. In praying to Mary, we express our sincere faith in all that Christ taught and our hope to fulfill His promises in our own earthly and eternal lives. The most tender moments are revealed when Jesus speaks to his mother. One of His last acts while dying on the cross was to give her into the care of His disciple, commanding "Behold your mother" (John 19: 27).

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of
Mercy, our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
to thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Pray for us O holy Mother of God,
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Meditation On the Most Loving, Sacred Heart of Jesus

I found this medieval image of Jesus with the children.

Luke 10: 13-16
And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it."
Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.

When I saw this picture I was struck the many varied faces and postures of the children. All are simple and honest in their approach to Jesus, but display differing temperaments. It seems as though the arms of Jesus are drawn back both in blessing and to make hasty room as the more eager children hyperactively rush onto His lap. One child, shy and hesitant, is led steadily toward Him by his Mother, who herself looks like many a painting of the Blessed Virgin with her blue veil. One child is simply content to sink his face into Jesus' lap. Others look up seeking guidance.

But the child that strikes me the most is the small boy who has his head pressed against Jesus' chest.

When I was very small, I used to sit on my grandfather's lap just like that, with my ear pressed against his chest. Sitting that way, the thrum of his heartbeat drowned out the other sounds. My arms could feel the blood rushing through his body. I was fascinated by this. Listening carefully, I attuned my breathing to match his. It seemed at those moments that I was feeling him live. My grandfather became a separate living person to me, not just this role-idea of "grandpa" but a real person who loved and protected me. A person who suffered much on my behalf in the act of raising me. I want to love Jesus more like that, adoring His loving pierced Heart. I want to keep my face buried in His chest and listen closely to that Heart, which drowns out the voices of the world. In my weakness, I need to cling to Him desperately, aligning my own self with His way.

I can only ask my beloved Grandpa, who now rests with my Lord, to pray for me.

It liiiives!!!

Since Fr. Renzo was gracious enough to put a link to my blog when he started his a few months ago, I thought I might start updating again. I do confess I have been behind on reading his Trilogy, having decided to prioritize my booklist. (When one gets in the middle of more than four books, something has to give).

This blog seemed a bit pointless before, when the only one reading was my best friend, to whom I tell everything already.

You see, I had hoped to share the gifts God has given me and ask the Little Flower St. Therese for her prayers in this endeavour.

St. Blog's Parish