Because Mammon Hates The Idea of the Jubilee, and Hopes You’ve Forgotten It

Who’s the fairest of the all? Mammon!

 

Have you been getting tired of all the Debt Crises du jour stories? Back in April, I did a little tongue-in-cheek post about Mammon, and how even if we actually worshipped him, we would do so in a manner that would put us at risk. And in terms of debt forgiveness, Mammon, would prefer we bring back debtor prisons, rather than ever forgive debt.

Would you be surprised to learn that debt was destroyed routinely back in the day? Doing so helped civilization grow and prosper, because healthy credit markets helped civilizations grow and prosper too. Today I’d like to share a little historical snippet regarding debt from the good old days. The thoughts belong to a fellow named David Graeber, an anthropology professor at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of the book Debt: The First 5,000 Years. This is from a post at the Wall Street Journal’s “Speakeasy” blog,

Contrary to popular belief, credit has been the predominant form of money in world history. In ancient Mesopotamia, elaborate credit systems predated coinage by thousands of years. Periods in which people assume that money really “is” gold and silver, let alone use cash in most everyday transactions, are more the exception than the rule. Ancient empires, for instance, used coins mainly to pay soldiers, and when those empires dissolved in the early Middle Ages, society didn’t really “revert to barter,” as its often believed, but returned to elaborate credit systems—denominated in Roman (and then Carolingian) currency that no longer actually physically existed.

The remarkable thing was that they were able to maintain these credit systems despite the lack of any reliable state authorities willing or able to enforce contracts. How did they do it? Two ways: but both involved insisting that there were values that were more important than mere money.

The first was the cult of personal honor. In most parts of the world, in the Middle Ages (Europe was only a partial exception), merchants had to develop reputations for scrupulous integrity—not just always paying their debts, but forgiving others’ debts if they were in difficulties, and being generally pillars of their communities. Merchants could be trusted with money because they convinced others that they didn’t think money was the most important thing. As a result, “credit,” “honor,” and “decency” became the same thing—an identification which passed into ordinary life as well. As a result in England, where probably 95% of all transactions in a Medieval village were on credit, and decent people tended to avoid the courts, people still speak of “village worthies,” or “men of no account.”

The apogee of this system though was the world of Medieval Islam, where checks were already in wide use by 1000 AD, and letters of credit could travel from Mali to Malaysia, all without any state enforcement whatsoever. In Melaka, the great Indian Ocean entrepôt, merchants from as far a way as Ethiopia or Korea notoriously avoided written contracts, preferring to seal deals “with a handshake and a glance at heaven.” If there were problems, they were referred to sharia courts with no power to have miscreants arrested or imprisoned, but with the power to destroy a merchant’s reputation, and therefore, credit-worthiness, if he were to refuse to abide by their rulings.

This latter brings us to the second factor: the existence of some sort of overarching institutions, larger than states, usually religious in nature, that ensured that credit systems didn’t fly completely out of hand. For much of human history, the great social evil—the thing that everyone feared would lead to the utter breakdown of society—was the debt crisis. The masses of the poor would become indebted to the rich, they would lose their flocks and fields, begin selling family members into peonage and slavery, leading either to mass flight, uprisings, or a society so polarized that the majority were effectively (sometimes literally) reduced to slaves. In periods where economic transactions were conducted largely through cash, there are many parts of the world where this actually began to happen.

Periods dominated by credit money, where everyone recognized that money was just a promise, a social arrangement, almost invariably involve some kind of mechanism to protect debtors. Mesopotamian kings used to rely on their cosmic ability to recreate society to declare clean slates, erase all debts, and simply start over. In ancient Judea this was institutionalized in the seventh-year Jubilee. In the Middle Ages, Christian and Islamic bans on usury and debt peonage, far from being impediments to trade, were actually what made most trade possible, since they ensured ordinary people were not entirely impoverished, and had the means to purchase the merchants’ wares, and because those religious systems became the foundation for networks of honor and trust.

That was my bold highlight. Religious systems the foundation for networks of honor and trust? Imagine that! You can find the entire post here, and his book where they sell books or in your local library. Therein Graebel writes,

It seems to me that we are long overdue for some kind of Biblical-style Jubilee: one that would affect both international debt and consumer debt. It would be salutary not just because it would relieve so much genuine human suffering, but also because it would be our way of reminding ourselves that money is not ineffable, that paying one’s debts is not the essence of morality, that all these things are human arrangements and that if democracy is to mean anything, it is the ability to all to agree to arrange things in a different way.”

I think the Jubilee year was every 50th year, actually, but mechanisms for debt destruction may be an idea that needs to be brushed off if we intend to hold Mammon at bay. Food for thought.

To Find Peacefulness of Soul, Be Confident in the Mercy of the Lord

What follows are a few thoughts on Christian peace of the soul by my friend John C.H. Wu. They are from the chapter in his book “The Interior Carmel” that reflect upon the beatitude “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” How soon we forget this calling of ours! Not only our vocation as peacemakers, but our destiny to become the adopted children of God.

The Source of Peace

John C.H. Wu

Nothing conduces to peace more than self-abandonment to the good pleasure of God. In The Imitation of Christ there is a conversation between Christ and the Disciple. Christ says: “Son, suffer Me to do with thee what I will: I know what is best for thee.” The Disciple answers: “Lord, what Thou sayest is true; Thy care over me is greater than all the care I can take of myself…If Thou wilt have me to be in darkness, be Thou blessed; and if Thou wilt have me to be in light, be Thou again blessed; if Thou vouchsafest to comfort me, be Thou blessed; and if it be Thy will I should be afflicted, be Thou equally blessed” (III,17).

When King David was in danger of death, he could still sing as if he were in the greatest secruity and prosperity:

Many say: “Who will show us good things?”
Lift up the light of Thy countenance upon us,
O Lord!
Thou hast given greater joy to my heart
Than that of men, who abound in corn and wine.
As soon as I lie down, I fall asleep in peace.
For thou alone, O Lord, makest me to dwell in
security
(Psalm 4.7-9).

Is it not clear that his inward peace flowed from his absolute confidence in God?

Christian peace is rooted in faith, nourished by hope, and perfected by love. It is a peace which is not achieved directly by man, but given by God to those who are disposed to receive it. It issues from the indwelling Holy Trinity in the center of your soul. When you realize that God has found a home in your spirit, which is the apex of your soul, you feel a security which the world can neither give or take away.

Perfect love casts out fear, as St. John says; and the reason is that “God is love, and he who abideth in love abideth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4.16). If God abides in you, you have nothing to fear any longer, seeing that “Greater is he that is in you, than he who is in the world” (1 John 4.4). Then you will feel with St. Paul:

If God be for us, who is against us? Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? or distress? or famine? or nakedness? or danger? or persecution? or the sword?…For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8.31-39).

Not even the atom bomb or cosmic rays can separate us from the love of God. Teresa of Avila wrote,

St. Teresa of Avila

You know that God is everywhere; and this is a great truth, for, of course, wherever the king is, or so they say, the court is too: that is to say, wherever God is, there is Heaven. No doubt you can believe that, in any place where His Majesty is, there is fulness of glory. Remember how Saint Augustine tells us about his seeking God in many places and eventually finding Him within himself. Do you suppose it is of little importance that a soul which is often distracted should come to understand this truth and to find that, in order to speak to its Eternal Father and to take its delight in Him, it has no need to go to Heaven or to speak in a loud voice? However quietly we speak, He is so near that He will hear us: we need no wings to go in search of Him but have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us. Nor need we feel strange in the presence of so kind a Guest; we must talk to Him very humbly, as we should to our father, ask Him for things as we should ask a father, tell Him our troubles, beg Him to put them right, and yet realize that we are not worthy to be called His children.

It is all as simple as that. But you say, How do I know that God is delighted with me? Well, if you have anything on your conscience, go to Confession immediately and begin anew. Don’t be afraid of the priests. They are, every one of them, potentially great sinners like you and me. A holy priest, Msgr. John Murphy, who died not long ago, said in a speech on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee something to the following effect: “Those of of you who have known me well during during these years must think that you are witnessing a miracle today!” The holier you are, the greater glory you give to God; for His power is revealed in the very distance between your present attainment and what you might have been without His grace.

The point I am driving at now is that we must have full confidence in God and His priests, who are endowed with the power to bind and loosen. God cannot abide in your soul when you are in mortal sin. He is, of course, still present in other modes, but abide in you He cannot. And if He is not at home in you, you will not be at home with yourself nor anywhere else. You make a hell for yourself and for others who have to live with you.

Get up as quickly as you fall, and you will recover your past merits. You will not have to start the journey all over again; you will continue from the point where you fell. According to St. Thomas (Aquinas) and other theologians, grace may even revive in the soul in a higher degree than before its loss, provided contrition is fervent enough. This is the way to peace, because it will restore the indwelling of the Holy Trinity within us.

For those of us with a scrupulous conscience, I want to quote the words of Father Alfred Wilson, C.P., in his Pardon and Peace(1948):

Love of God is the most effective antidote to sin. If we love God intensely, we shall hate sin effectively. If you desire to hate and conquer sin, try to forget all about yourself for a time, and study instead and ponder the goodness and loveableness of God, so that your soul may be refreshed by basking in the sunshine of His love. Get out into the fresh air of God’s love and away from the fetid atmosphere of the repulsive and depressing dungeons of self and sin.

Nothing pleases God like a contrite heart coupled with a loving confidence in His mercy. If our conscience accuses us, then be sorry, go to Confession, and resolve to do better hereafter. Thus, our peace of mind is restored. If we have the testimony of a good conscience, then, as St. John says, “We have confidence towards God, and whatsoever we shall ask, we shall receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3.21-22).

Obviously it is foolish to think that sins need not be repented of and absolved, that they will dissolve themselves in the course of time. The longer they stay on your conscience, the worse trouble they will make, leaving you no peace and nagging at you constantly like a shrewish housewife. Can you enjoy peace of mind with a buzzing bee in your ear? But it is even worse to entertain a mean idea of God, as though He were not a forgiving Father.

Fr. Mateo

I have come across a very significant story in Fr. Mateo Crawley-Boevey’s book Jesus, King of Love. As it has helped me, it may also help some of my readers:

One of the many souls who regard Jesus a tyrant was preparing to make a general confession for the hundredth time. Restlessly, she spent the days of her retreat writing down the sins of her whole life. She neither meditated nor prayed; she was entirely absorbed in an examination which stifled her.

At last she went into the confessional. She read out the list of her sins, repeating and explaining over, and over again, in fear and trembling. When at length she thought she had finished, a voice was heard which very gently and very sadly said,

“You have forgotten something very important.”

“I thought I must have,” she answered, terror-stricken, and hastily prepared to read it all again.

“Your sin is not in your notes,” continued the Voice, “and it offends me much more than all that you have said. Accuse yourself of lack of trust.”

The voice moved her her to the depths and she sought to ascertain if it were really her confessor’s. The Confessional was empty! Jesus had come to give her a supreme lesson.


For the Verses on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf Icon

Patricia Cornell, proprietor of St. Theodosia’s Icon Shop writes,

The Pantocrator on your website is one of my favorites! The text in the Book Jesus is holding is a combination of two Biblical texts on “judge not lest you be judged in the same way” (my paraphrase). It is one of my favorites and I handcraft this image, as well.

In Christ,

Patricia

Thanks Patricia! Actually, when Christ holds an open book, this is a variant of the Pantocrator and is called “Christ the Teacher.” I went to the link she provided to see her work and found the following information on the scripture verses on the icon(which whisks readers to the treasures contained on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf in the right sidebar),

John 7:24–”Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.” Matthew 7:2–”For with the judgement you pronounce, you will be judged and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”

I knew I liked it for multiple reasons!

Grosse Point Blank Sound Track (Music For Mondays)

John Cusack is Martin Blank

My wife has a theory: the sound track makes the movie. I’m not saying I agree with her 100% on this, but her point is well taken. Some folks know how to adapt music to films, but most don’t. This is the first in a series of posts where I can firmly say, “They got the music right on this one!” [Read more...]

Postcards from WYD: Hey…I Know That “Kid!”

Remember I told you that Marc Barnes, aka “the Kid” , and blogger at BadCatholic, was in Madrid for World Youth Day? The proof is above. That photograph is one of 106 that Life Teen International has posted over on their Facebook page. Here’s another with Marc and his buddies,

Go check them all out. And while you’re at it, go check out Marc’s post over at Virtouspla.net It’s about Superman, or something.

Quote of the Week

The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait. —G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter V.

Want to Fight Truthiness? Come to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. Please.

Sheesh! I wonder if the video below was done before or after the allegations of problems with the staff of Real Catholic TV came to light. It is so far off the deep end, as you’ll see. Anyone with access to books can refute this asserted notion in under two minutes.

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That the Priscillianists were heretics is undisputed. But alas, Priscillian and his staff were excommunicated (and executed, by the way) not because they were “taking communion in the hand,” as alleged in this video. Unless, that is, you mean they took Our Eucharistic Lord by the hand and carted Him home with them, which was (and is now) an abuse. You see, Priscillianists wouldn’t communicate inside church at all, had weird ascetic practices, orgies at night, and assorted other troubling routines. Take a look,

The doctrines held by the Priscillianists were a mixture of Manicheism and Gnosticism.. They denied the Trinity of Persons and advocated Dualism and Docetism. They held the use of flesh-meat and marriage to be unlawful, but permitted sexual intercourse, on condition that generation should be prevented. They celebrated their orgies with great debauchery, and principally at night. For the suppression of this abominable sect, stringent laws were enacted by the Synods of Astorga and Toledo, in 446 and 447. Even as late as the year 563 the second Council of Braga found it necessary to adopt measures against the Pricillianists. After that, the sect disappears from history.

And there is this, and this, and this.

This would seem to me to be spinning an erroneous narrative from out of a tiny thread of truth. Isn’t that some new word that Stephen Colbert coined? Yes. Truthiness. And as everyone knows, books are the sworn enemy of truthiness, as Stephen explains here (forgive any commercials please).

Go with your gut—not! And seriously, once again, stuff like the RCTV video at the top of this post leads folks, who presume that what Mr. Voris is saying is factual, to doubt their appointed leaders. I’ve already covered that topic once before, remember? Follow your bishop.

This is where the YIMCatholic Bookshelf earns it’s keep, see? Because if what I found there supported Mr. Voris’s assertions, this post would have been written to reflect that. But, as my research shows in this particular matter, the Priscillianist heresy has nothing whatever to do with what he purports it has to do with. So this latest video, then, is much ado about nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zippo.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Using the search window of the YIMCatholic Bookshelf will bring you at least 27 books explaining this heresy in varying detail. Want to see what St. Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori has to say about them? Please do! While you’re there, look up assorted other information alluded to, like the Council of Sarragossa, etc. And then, there is Google.

Got reference questions? Want to do some fact checking? Fight “truthiness!” Stop in to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. It’s open 24/7 and all at the low, low, price of “free.”

Because of a Marine in Charge of Justice and Peace



Originally published on February 10, 2010.

Before I was a Catholic, yet seriously considering  the idea of becoming one, my wife made a suggestion to me.  My daughter was preparing for her First Communion and while the children were being prepared, there was someone speaking to the parents in the parish hall in the interim.  My wife said he was a very good speaker and that I might enjoy what this person had to say. I was dubious, to say the least. [Read more...]

I Hear Guitars…And Lot’s of Reverence.

The English version of the World Youth Day theme song…sing along!

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Thoughts on the Economy: Catholic, and Not

Ok, class. Today’s lesson is on a little thing called “regression to the mean.” That’s a fancy way of saying that when something gets out of whack, you know, like when one thing shoots for the stars while everything else is holding steady, see, well, it will move back to where it belongs. And usually suddenly. Like a bursting bubble, which by now everyone with a pulse and a 401k is familiar with. Right? [Read more...]


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