Because I Will Follow!

Let me squeeze this in right before Good Friday. Something I learned in the Marine Corps besides leadership is a little trait called “followership.” This should be self-explanatory, but often times everyone wants to lead and nobody wants to follow.

Listen to Bono and the boys and remember that even leaders must follow. Choose your leader wisely. Choose to follow Christ. Amazing grace will follow you for all the days of your life.

Update: Why the Best Leaders are Great Followers. H/T to Father Christian of Blessed is the Kingdom

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Because the Beggar Just Might Be an Angel

This morning it is raining in my neck of the woods. It was accompanied by thunder and lightning, and yet it was a gentle and warm rain. As I was pulling into the parking garage, I noticed the trolley bus was pulling up to the stop outside. Good, I thought. I won’t have to walk in the rain.

But as it turns out, this particular bus driver is one of the impatient ones. As I was walking towards the exit of the garage, he motored off. Truthfully, I didn’t think much of this because I usually walk up to the office anyway. I just opened up my umbrella and kept on going, like the fellow in Merle Keller’s painting here.

My walk takes me by the new bus transit center that was opened recently. As I stood at the cross walk waiting for the light to change, I noticed with some amusement that a brand new sign proclaimed that our town was designated a “Solar City” by the Department of Energy. This must be because of the lone solar panel at work at the bus station. It’s the only one I’ve seen in town.

As it was raining, there were only a few of us walking. Pretty soon I learned why I was walking too. I noticed a man up ahead coming towards the station as I was walking past it. By his appearance, and by the reception he was getting from the other pedestrians, I knew he was a homeless person. Most treat them like lepers, but I no longer do.

As he approached me now, he asked if he could ask me a question, and to his great surprise I said Sure. You would have thought I had given him $1000. He asked if he could step under my umbrella as he talked and I said Absolutely. By now, you’re thinking I have a death wish or something, right?

Then he just thanked me for even noticing him. He said that most whom he approached wouldn’t even look at him. That is the “homeless person equals leper” effect at work. It’s not a new phenomenon, having been around forever. He didn’t want to give me a sob story or anything, he said, but he only wanted to ask me if I would give him a blessing.

Having no money on me, I tried to give him my apple and orange but he insisted that he only wanted a blessing and nothing more. I agreed to this immediately and I told him I would pray for him right away. I asked him for his name and he told me, “Vernon.”

“Vernon,” I said, “I will keep you in my prayers.” He thanked me profusely, stepped out from under my umbrella, and continued his walk towards the bus station. I resumed my walk towards the office, but now with mental prayers rising up to heaven for Vernon.

I had never seen Vernon before, and quite honestly that is the case with most of my encounters with the homeless. No “regulars,” just passing strangers. In a post yesterday, I wrote that I don’t spend much energy worrying about things I cannot have an effect on. But I’m also well aware of these words written by St. Teresa of Avila,

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Could I change Vernon’s life by merely acknowledging his presence? It’s possible. Will my prayers for Vernon be answered? Undoubtedly yes, and I’ll never know to what effect. Chalk this up to my faith in “Son Power.”

Why did I talk to Vernon? Because the homeless, the beggars on the streets, are people that have a name. They are people with a story, and with wants and needs. And they are like you and me, except we are one tragedy removed from being in their shoes. Would it surprise you that they may just want a hug?

Maybe I was like the lone solar panel in my town which makes the whole enchilada a “Solar City.” The one bit of yeast helping the whole loaf to rise. It’s Lent, and Lent is for alms giving. This is what we do. Ayn Rand, with her leaven of the Pharisees,  wouldn’t like it one bit. So I knew it was the right thing to do.

St. Francis gives his mantle
to a beggar

Perhaps Vernon is an angel in disguise. St. Francis of Assisi, even before his conversion, handled beggars like this,

He was not one of those typical society men who hardly have a penny to give a beggar, but willingly spend their hundreds on a champagne feast. His way of thinking was the following: “If I am generous, yes, even extravagant with my friends who at the best only say ‘thanks’ to me for them, or repay me with another invitation, how much greater grounds have I for alms giving which God himself has promised to repay a hundredfold?”

This was the inspiring life thought of the Middle Ages, which here carried out the genially literal and genially naive translation of the words of the gospel: “As long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.” Francis knew — as the whole Middle Ages knew it — that not even a glass of cold water, given by the disciples, would remain unpaid and unrewarded by the Master.

Therefore a pang went through his heart when, one day as there was a crowd in the shop, and he was in a hurry to get through, he had sent a beggar away. “If this man had come from one of my friends,” said he to himself, “from Count this or Baron that, he would have got what he asked for. Now he comes from the King of kings and from the Lord of lords, and I let him go away empty-handed. I even gave him a repelling word.” And he determined from that day on to give to every one who asked him in God’s name — per amor di Dio, as the Italian beggars still are wont to say.

And so have I. I don’t have much in a material way to give. Just some spare change, or an apple and an orange, or an uneaten lunch. But “hey brother, can you spare a prayer?” will always be answered in the affirmative and always given freely (even when it isn’t asked for).

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Because Christ Didn’t Say “Take Up Your Palms And Follow Me”

Before I was a Catholic, I never really gave a lot of thought to Palm Sunday. This morning we awoke to glorious sunshine, with nary a cloud in the sky. The previous few days had been cloudy, cool, and wet. But a day like today is how I always picture Palm Sunday in my mind’s eye.

It is the height of paradox that on this day of glory for Our Lord, a mere five days later he was convicted, scourged and thrown on the mercy of the crowd, who voted unanimously to have him crucified while clamoring for the release of the criminal Bar-Abbas. An ironic exchange between two men whose names mean almost the same thing. Bar-Abbas, “son of the father” for Jesus, “Son of the Father.”

This morning I was browsing the volumes on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf via the search window with references for “Palm Sunday.” The digital reference librarians there promptly delivered 193 volumes to my laptop. Everything from sermon notes of Blessed John Henry Newman to The Life of St. Clare. I could spend a month of 8 hour days just going through these selections alone.

But for today, I settled on the sermon notes of another former Anglican reverend who became a Catholic priest: Robert Hugh Benson. What follows is a rough outline of his Palm Sunday sermon from around the year 1913. I like his style and his way of painting a portrait with words, even if many of his missing words must be imagined. What struck me most about his outine is what led me to title this post as I did. Because this wasn’t the day of glory for Our Lord.

How often it is that I yearn for the palm instead of the cross. But how often it is that the cross presents itself to me more often than the palm.

Monsignor Benson will now take the pulpit,

PALM SUNDAY—GOOD FRIDAY
Mark xv. 39: Indeed this man was the Son of God.

Introduction.—Extraordinary how we miss the point in this world. With men: meet a person, label him; and find out a year later that we have misunderstood. Movements: a popular stir; see external events, miss significance (France and England for example). We are like uneducated people at a picture gallery; admire frames, are blind to pictures.

So Too With Our Lord On Earth. He came to His own . . .(John i, 11) Especially typified in last week of His Life.

I. Two Processions.

1. Two great events: one was Palm Sunday Procession. Conceive excitement of apostles. At last their Master vindicated; yields to people. Early afternoon start; strange intoxication in air; people come out and look; carried away, join. Rumor runs ahead; for road is full; crowd swells and swells. Cheering begins. Presently on turning a corner, another crowd runs into them, wheels and turns. Children, dogs; grave men crying and laughing—even great ecclesiastics are swept along: glorious sky; city of David.

At last a check . . . ‘Stop them; it is not decent. Hear what they are saying: Hosanna.’ For a moment disciples hesitate. ‘I tell you,’ rang out the grave exultant voice, ‘that if these should hold their peace the very stones would cry out.’ There is no doubt; He has yielded. Here is the kingdom coming with power. Scepter and crown—triumph of Jesus at last. ‘Thank God, thank God!’

2. Five days later.—Another procession: streets thronged; heads thrust out; windows—roofs. Hear them: ‘It is the King of the Jews,’ they say, sneering. First come children marching and singing; mob; spear-heads of escort. Then, in center, a piteous spectacle. A Figure staggering along, robed in blood-stained tunic; crowned! bearing a vast scepter indeed! Before him goes the herald —placard I.N.R.I. Street full of howling and laughter; dogs bark; soldiers again; then mob, four abreast roaring out songs . . . on, on to the Enthronement of the King.

And when last shouts have died, and all is gone, friend of Jesus sinks down sobbing—Failure after all! And all that day there is blank misery. All mock and weep; all but one beneath the Cross; and from him a strange confession. Others on Palm Sunday had called Him Son of David, roused by splendor. Now one gives Him a higher title yet. Text (Mark xv. 39: Indeed this man was the Son of God).

II. Same Mistake Today.

As we look back now, we know the truth. ‘For this cause,’ says our Lord, ‘came I into the world. I am come to save sinners … I have a baptism to be baptized with.’ (John xviii. 37; Matt. ix. 13; Luke xii. 50) We know that the real triumph was Good Friday, not Palm Sunday: not in palms and Hosanna; but spear-heads, scourge, and nails: not in strewing of their garments, but stripping of His own. Not colt but Cross was His Throne. On the colt He reigned over a few hundreds, on the Cross He is King of the World.

Yet we continue to make the same mistake.

Which after all is the glory of the Church? Ah! look close and test it by the Cross.

(1) Splendor of domination in the Middle Ages? Or the catacombs; burning of martyrs; rack; beasts. Both have their place. Our Lord sanctioned outward glory by Palm Sunday; but He did more than sanction suffering.

Not ‘If any man will be My disciple, let him follow Me with palms and singing’; but…’Let him take up his cross and come after Me.’
(2) Court of France; when Church was honored? or now when against overwhelming hatred she is being stripped and scourged . . .

(3) Look at comfortable Catholics in world, well spoken of; and Poor Clare… which is the more glorious? Both are permitted.

(4) Tranquil death-bed of a good man, who has neither sinned much nor suffered much? or dying sinner—sinned beyond description, who turns and weeps for mercy?

Look at your own life too. Have you not believed you were succeeding, and that God was with you when all went well? That was your Palm Sunday—perfectly right. People praised you, rejoiced with you. But the real test comes in sorrow. It was then that the crucified Lord was near to you… when darkness was thick: rent four ways at once; become aware that no friend would reach you. Then He was manifest in you. His Hands upon yours; His Kiss on your lips; His Heart beating on your broken heart.

Blessed are they that hunger and mourn: for they shall be filled and comforted.

Conclusion.—Today we are rejoicing: giving one more gift to God’s glory and the honor as well of the saints who won their crowns by suffering; all in memory of a happy event. Things are well with us; your priests happy; you are happy. There is a large congregation. This then is your Palm Sunday —Christianity does not exclude joy: our Lord has sanctioned it. But it is important to remember on days of rejoicing that they are only one half of life. The spiritual man is absorbed neither in joy nor sorrow; neither exalted nor depressed.

The real test of the soundness of our joy is found in our behaviour during sorrow and conflict. We need so much. St. Peter’s warning not to be bewildered when conflict comes, as if a ‘strange thing’ happened to us.(1 Peter vi, 12)

God knows there is enough conflict coming: all over the world that old drama of the Passion is being re-enacted—in S. America, in Spain, in France, and not least in England, evidences of old enmity of world against God which crucified our Lord. Face this, then, bravely; be prepared to suffer. Oh! brethren; it is in this that glory shows itself.

You have magnificent churches here, evidences of old splendor; but you produced finer things than that. You have contributed saints to heaven—such as Richard Langley (Mr. Richard Langley was a Yorkshire gentleman, executed on December 1, 1586, for harboring priests.), infinitely greater. See that you continue—it is an acceptable gift that you give today; but there are even better—crucified, mortified souls.

The deeper the darkness, the clearer is His Cross; the more ecstatic the harps of Heaven, the more radiant the smile upon the Face of God.

****

Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Matt xvi, 24;Mark viii, 34; Luke ix, 23)

Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Son of the Father, give me the courage to do just that.

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Because the Saints Give the Best Advice

I may be a new Catholic (relatively speaking, RCIA Class of 2008) but I’ve been around the block a few times. I like to think that I know the difference between noise and signal. I’ve mentioned before why I’m not a disciple of this priest, or that priest, but of Christ.

Remember the counsel of the Holy Spirit through St. Paul?

Brothers, I could not talk to you as spiritual people, but as fleshly people, as infants in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it. Indeed, you are still not able, even now, for you are still of the flesh. While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving in an ordinary human way? Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.

“But God caused the growth.”

I’m definitely not the follower of laymen like Michael Voris. Why? You mean besides not having enough time in a day for following his rants on video? Because he quite simply has as much authority as I do regarding teaching the Faith. In other words, none. He doesn’t speak for the bishops of the Catholic Church. And even if he means well, like I do, his “Vortex” is often times just that. I try not to go that route though, though I’m not always successful.

Here is an example of what I mean. Exhibit A of “Noise.”

If you were able to make it past 15 seconds before you hit the stop button, my hat is off to you. And if you made it through the next 20 seconds of product placement, you are a better person than I am. If you made it another minute without hearing St. Ignatius of Antioch whisper, “Therefore it is fitting that you live in harmony with the will of the bishop,” then perhaps you would like to spend some time (but not money) getting acquainted with his letters.

St. Ignatius of Antioch

Because this isn’t my idea, but the instruction of St. Ignatius of Antioch,

Beware therefore of such men; and this will be possible for you, if you are not puffed up, and are inseparable from God, from Jesus Christ, and from the bishop, and the ordinances of the Apostles. He who is within the sanctuary is pure, but he who is without the sanctuary is not pure; that is to say whoever does anything apart from the bishop and the presbytery and the deacons is not pure in his conscience.

St. Philip Neri also had some great advice for all of us in regards to becoming fully human as well as on how to spend our time learning about the Faith,

It is very useful for those who minister the Word of God, or give themselves up to prayer, to read the works of authors whose names begin with S., such as Saint Augustine, Saint Bernard, etc.

You can find authors like that (free of charge) in your Bible, and on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. Your “signal to noise” filtering ability will improve markedly after your exposure to them.

St. Philip Neri

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Because Mammon Is Going To Be Angry

Gordon Gekko, Disciple of Mammon

OK. Let’s say (just for fun) that we’ve tossed Christ and His Church into the dustbin of history. Too many rules and regulations, see? Too much guilt and that unpalatable need to be responsible, etc.

We’re now “all-in” on worshiping the god named Mammon. We love Mammon and will always do his bidding willingly.

Would it come as a surprise to you to learn that we are about as faithful to our new god as we were to our former God (with the capital “G”)?

Would you be shocked to learn that we lie to Mammon? That we disrespect Mammon? Or that we try to fool Mammon the way we used to try and fool the God of Mercy? We even use current taxpayer money to support an organization that kills future taxpayers (who happen to also be creators of future Mammon baksheesh), all the while building social programs that can’t be funded without them. Genius you say?

I’ll be sticking with my old religion (thanks, but see title of this blog) because frankly, Mammon is going to be pissed!

Mammon the Merciless

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Because Martin Luther Threw This Out of the Bible?!

I’ve written a little bit in the past about how it was that I came to be a Catholic. Everyone knows Catholics are born and not made, right? That’s what I used to think too.

But when I started looking into the matter, I skipped the opinions of the literati and of “those who know best” and just started reading the books of the Bible that had been removed by Martin Luther and his brethren during the Protestant Reformation.

Amazingly prophetic stuff like this for instance,

Wisdom 2: 1a, 12-22

The wicked said among themselves,
thinking not aright:
“Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
Reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God
and styles himself a child of the LORD.
To us he is the censure of our thoughts;
merely to see him is a hardship for us,
Because his life is not like that of others,
and different are his ways.
He judges us debased;
he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure.
He calls blest the destiny of the just
and boasts that God is his Father.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.
For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him
and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put him to the test
that we may have proof of his gentleness
and try his patience.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death;
for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”
These were their thoughts, but they erred;
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they knew not the hidden counsels of God;
neither did they count on a recompense of holiness
nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.

****

Why was this removed from my Bible? Search me. Because that prophecy has been fulfilled. As someone who is much smarter than me said recently, “the Bible is not a book, it’s a Library. And this is key to interpreting Scripture.”

And as I’ve said before, unless you have the complete, unabridged copy of the Bible, your engine is missing a few parts. And I don’t care how smart one guy thinks he is, you don’t mess with the Word!

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Because War is S.O.P. on Planet Earth

The sword shall begin with his cities and end by consuming his solitudes. Because they refused to repent, their own counsels shall devour them. (Hosea 11:6)

You may not have noticed that people are being killed in a war in a little country called the Ivory Coast. You noticed the insurrection in Egypt, though. And you noticed the cruise missiles raining down on Libya, because you started paying $4.00 a gallon for gas pretty quickly thereafter.

Golly, you may be thinking, when will it ever get peaceful again?

Again!? Are you nuts? It’s never been peaceful here on planet Earth. Not since “the Fall,” anyway. S.O.P. in the title above means “Standard Operating Procedure.” Don’t believe me? Then just step into my time machine and I’ll show you.

That’s right. I have a time machine and nobody else can use it! Not Mark Shea especially!

That’s not true though because the good folks over at Conflict History want lots of people to use it too. They have a beta site up and running for their Conflict History Timeline. The subtitle? “Browse the Timeline of War and Conflict Across the Globe.” Even Mark can use it…but I found it first!

It may not be pretty, but this timeline is pretty awesome. This we’ll get you started in the 1982-2011 time period. As you can see, the world is on fire!  That’s been the case pretty much since Cain killed Abel.

Almighty God, from whom all thoughts of truth and peace proceed, kindle in the hearts of all men the true love of peace, and guide with Your pure and peaceable wisdom those who make decisions for the nations of the earth; that in tranquility Your kingdom may go forward, till the earth be filled with the knowledge of Your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

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Seven Classic Songs We Love (Music for Mondays)

No, this isn’t the “royal we” I’m referring to. For today’s edition of MfM, the “we” I’m identifying is all of us. Because the songs that follow soared up the charts and had catholic, that is “universal,” appeal.

Because if somebody didn’t like them, it’s probably because somehow, they never heard them. Now this isn’t an exhaustive list, as that would probably be at least 500 songs long. But I’m willing to wager that these seven tunes resonate with you even to this day.

These are all pretty modern, as they span the years 1967 up through 1974, and yet they seem timeless. Give them a listen, along with the scripture verses they evoke for me and see if you can’t remember an episode in your life that these songs bring into focus for you.

Some are one-hit wonders, and others went triple Platinum. But they all went far because they spoke to us in a catholic (with a small “c”) way. First up, a song that put us on the edge of our seats…

Bobbie Gentry, Ode to Billie Joe. The year is 1967. The war in Vietnam is raging but news of friends and families and neighbors takes precedence. This “story” song comes along and everyone listened, because this is how our lives unfold too. Remember Matthew 24:2?

Then two shall be in the field: one shall be taken, and one shall be left.

Otis Redding, Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. Is it just me, or do you also get a profound sense of peace when you look upon the ocean? Once again the words of a prophet come to mind (Amos 5:8),

Seek him that maketh Arcturus, and Orion, and that turneth darkness into morning, and that changeth day into night: that calleth the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name.

Creedance Clearwater Revival, Proud Mary. It’s 1969 now and CCR rolls out this tune that becomes a huge hit across the country and world wide. Ike and Tina Turner sent it even further. The lyrics appeal to many and bring these words from the mouth of the LORD to mind (Isaiah 55:1),

All you that thirst, come to the waters: and you that have no money make haste, buy, and eat: come ye, buy wine and milk without money, and without any price.

Blues Image, Ride Captain, Ride.  Pretty much a one hit wonder in 1970, but covered by great bands like the Doobie Brothers too. This is the original though. The appeal? Listen to the lyrics and see if you don’t hear the reason the Christ came and why we spread the Good News (Isaiah 42:7),

To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Neil Diamond, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. Live from a BBC concert in the year 1971. This song reminds me of Galatians 6:2,

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

Lynn Anderson, Rose Garden. Her monster hit from the year 1973. Bearing crosses and one another’s burdens is tough work. Nonetheless we aren’t called to be “sour-faced saints” either. This song is sort of like the whole book of Ecclesiastes in a song less than 3 minutes long. See Ecclesiastes 9:9,

Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest, all the days of thy unsteady life, which are given to thee under the sun, all the time of thy vanity: for this is thy portion in life, and in thy labor wherewith thou laborest under the sun.

Paul McCartney & Wings, Band on the Run. The Beatles broke up, but all of them went on to solo careers. This song by Paul came out in 1974, and climbed the charts like a rocket. I think it’s still going too, just like the Voyager spacecraft.

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. (1 Corinthians 9:24)

What comes to your mind when you hear these songs? Let us know in the commbox, and I’ll see you here next week.

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Because of Christian Monasticism

I’ve written here before that one of the many reasons that I became a Catholic was because of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. But the reason goes deeper than just this historical one-off. 

You see, one of the reasons that I became a Catholic was because of monks and nuns who have given up everything to follow Christ and God and still do so to this day. I admit that I used to think folks who did this were nuts. But a close reading of scriptures show that it isn’t. 

Recently, I found a book written by a Paulist Father named Bertrand Louis Conway that helps explain the reasons why this practice isn’t strange, but very Christian.  Fr. Conway called his book Studies in Church History and he wrote it in response to questions from non-Catholics that came up all the time while he was conducting missions in the Paulist’s missionary field. In case you didn’t know, that field is here in the United States only.

The excerpt below is from the first chapter of the book. This will get you started,

from Studies in Church History
Christian Asceticism in the First Three Centuries

It is true that the ascetic teaching of Jesus does not hold the predominant place in the Gospels which our rationalistic critics think necessary for our defense of monasticism. But Our Lord did not come to establish a community of monks pledged to the highest degree of perfection, but to found a Church for all men. Our Lord’s general moral teaching was undoubtedly most sublime. Christians are to be perfect as their Heavenly Father is perfect; they are all called upon to live a life of self-denial, sacrifice, renouncement, and suffering.

His words are: “I came not to send peace but the sword. … He that taketh not up his cross is not worthy of Me.” “He that shall lose his life for My sake shall find it.” “If any man come to Me and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Self-denial is an essential characteristic of the true follower of Jesus, and in times of persecution, such as He evidently had in mind in the above texts, this self-denial was to be heroic even unto death.

But there are other teachings of our Savior intended only for an elite few. They are in no sense commandments for the multitude, but counsels left to the free choice of those who were to follow Him more intimately in the way of perfection. Protestantism, cursed with the worldly taint of a merely human gospel, has ever ignored Our Lord’s teaching on the counsels. That is the chief reason of its bitter hatred of monasticism and the religious life. That is why the liberal Protestants of today do their utmost to trace the origin of asceticism to a pagan philosophy or a pagan religion.

Jesus mentioned the counsel of chastity in the nineteenth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel. He was restoring marriage to its primitive purity, and prohibiting divorce even in the case of adultery. When, in view of this strict teaching, the disciples declared: “It is not expedient to marry,” Jesus took occasion of their remonstrance to set forth clearly the practice of celibacy “for the kingdom of heaven.” The prohibition of divorce is a commandment for all Christians;he practice of celibacy is a counsel for the elite few. “He that can take, let him take it.”

Some nonCatholic scholars arbitrarily try to show that these last words of Our Lord refer to the indissolubility of marriage, while others think it strange that our Lord should recommend celibacy while extolling marriage. The first theory does violence to the context, while the second sees opposition where in reality none exists. It is unquestionably true that Our Lord’s counsel of celibacy marks the beginnings of asceticism, for virginity is its basic and essential element. Asceticism is possible even when the other practices that generally accompany virginity are absent; but without virginity it does not and cannot exist.

Jesus counseled poverty even more explicitly. He said: “Do not possess gold, nor silver, nor money in your purses.” “Take nothing for your journey, neither staff, nor scrip, nor bread, nor money.” “Sell what you possess and give alms.” “Every one that doth not renounce all that he possesseth cannot be My disciple.” “If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor.”

He did not give a command to the rich young man, but clearly made an appeal to his generosity: “If thou wilt be perfect” are His words. Finally, Jesus asked His chosen ones to renounce their own wills, “to deny themselves and to take up their cross.” Harnack ( a Protestant author) is wrong in declaring that the Catholic Church teaches two different moral codes, one for the multitude, and another for the monk who stands for a higher type of perfection. The difference between them is merely a difference of degree, or rather of means. Both have the same end in view, viz., the love of God and the love of the neighbor for God’s sake.

Read the rest, with all the footnotes, at the YIMCatholic Bookshelf

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For Stuff My Abba Macarius Says

I’ve mentioned in the past that my patron is St. Macarius the Great. He was a Desert Father who lived between the years 300 – 390 AD. He went into the desert when he was thirty years old, became a priest when he was 40 years old, was accused of adultery, and when he was proved innocent, he fled and headed to a place in the Egyptian desert called Scetis.

I probably went right by Scetis once or twice and never even knew it when I took a trip up to the battlefield at El Alamein when I was stationed in Cairo.

I also made a trip up to Alexandria too, and may have passed it by again in my ignorance. I was young and more interested in the human history of the battlefields in North Africa at the time. If I only knew then what I know now.

How did I choose Abba Macarius’s name for my confirmation name? I’ve written about that before, but I left out one little thing. It’s silly actually because it makes no sense at all. I confess that selfishness is one of the reasons. I figured that when I needed a little help from my patron, if I chose one of the well known saints, the line for my prayers to wait in would be long and winding. My solution? Choose a saint no one has heard of and the prayer line will be short! See? I’m always thinking.

A more serious reason why I chose Abba Macarius was because of the homilies attributed to him. I found out he wrote twenty-two homilies, but it turns out it’s more like fifty. Did he really write them? Or did someone else write them and use his name (much as the writer of Ecclesiastes leads us to believe he was King Solomon)? I don’t know, and I really don’t care. But having them available accomplished several things for me. First, they give a viewpoint of early Christianity that is very Catholic. Secondly, they help me by giving me access to my patrons’ wise council whenever I need it (which is often!).

The saints point us to Christ and His ways. These homilies do just that. They are powerful and I’d like to share a couple of them with you,

Homily 7: How the soul ought to demean herself in
holiness and purity, towards her Bridegroom Jesus Christ.

If a glorious prince should take a liking to a poor woman that has nothing, and have her brought home to him for his spouse, she ought ever after to show all good will to this husband, and retain a constant love for him. But if she transgresses the bounds of decency and duty, then she is turned out of doors with disgrace and reproach, and is full of sorrow; reflecting from how great wealth she is fallen, and what glory she has lost. Thus also the soul, which Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom, shall espouse to himself, ought to please Christ, her lover; carrying herself in the house of this heavenly Spouse with a fair deportment, and a grateful sense of the grace bestowed upon her. Lo! such a soul is actually invested with the full command of all her Lord’s goods, and her body becomes the glorious tabernacle of his Godhead.

But if she does not the things that are pleasing to him, and is not perfectly observant of his will, then with reproach and disgrace is she disrobed of all her honor, as no way proper for the communion of the heavenly King. And after that, there commences an universal grief and lamentation over that soul among all the saints and intellectual spirits: angels, powers, apostles, prophets,and martyrs, mourn for her. For as “there is joy in heaven,” as the Lord has said, “over one sinner that repenteth,” so is there great grief and mourning in heaven over one soul that falls from eternal life.

We must therefore strive, and with the utmost prudence take care to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Whosoever therefore you are, that have been made partakers of the Spirit of Christ, look upon yourselves in no case whatever, whether small, or great, to be above advice; neither do any despite to the Spirit of grace, that you may be never excluded from the life which you have been made to partake of.

Let us therefore beg of God, that we, as many as have been partakers of his grace, may minister acceptably in the service of the Spirit, according to his will; that thus serving him according to his will with a spiritual service, we may inherit eternal life.

But can a man fall that has the gift of grace? Answer: If he grow careless, he certainly falls. For his enemies are never idle, or backward in the war. How ought you then never to desist from seeking after God? For the damage which you sustain by your neglect is exceedingly great, though you may seem to be even established in the mystery of grace.

Are the perfect liable to affliction or war, or are they entirely free from care? Answer: An enemy never respites any from the war. And Satan is perfectly void of mercy: wherefore neither is he backward to set upon any man whatever, though he does not attack all in the same measure and degree.

But there is need of much pains and labor, that a man may seek and lay the foundations, till such a time as the fire shall come into the hearts of men, and purge away the thorns. And thus do they begin to be sanctified, giving glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, for ever. Amen.

Homily 8: That spiritual men are liable to temptations and fictions.

As the experienced husbandmen, in a year of plenty, expect a time of dearth; and on the other hand, when dearth and difficulties overtake them, they are not dejected; as knowing there will come a change. So in the spiritual state, when the soul falls into divers temptations, it is not surprised as at a strange or unusual thing, neither does it despond, because it knows that they come by permission, that it may be tried and disciplined by the evil that befalls it. Neither again, when it abounds in wealth and ease, is it free from apprehension, but expects a change.

For when a man is rich in grace, there is yet a remnant of corruption with him: he has one however that takes his part, and that comes to his assistance. Whenever therefore any one is in afflictions, and the storm of corrupt affections thickens upon him, yet ought he not to quit his hope. For then sin gains ground. But when a man retains his hope in God, sin crumbles as it were, arid, and dries away.

As a well that runs, and has all about it nothing but moist grounds, when the heat comes on, both itself and its adjacent bogs are dried up; thus it is with the servants of God, in whom grace abounds; that dries up the concupiscence, not only that which is from the wicked one, but that also which is natural; because (of) that, now the men of God are greater than the first Adam.

Christians therefore belong to another world, are the sons of the heavenly Adam, a new generation, the children of the Holy Spirit, the bright and glorious brethren of Christ, perfectly like their Father, the spiritual and glorified Adam, of that very city, of the same kind, and of the self-same power. He himself says, “Ye are not of this world, even as I am not of this world.”

Yet a fear they still have upon them, not indeed that of novices, that live in a dread of wicked spirits; but a fear and concern how they may best employ the spiritual gifts they are entrusted with. And such a one as this looks upon himself to be despicable beyond all sinners. This reflection is as deeply rooted in him, as if it were his very nature. The more he advances in the knowledge of God, so much the less is he in his own eyes. And though he learns never so much; he is still as one that knows nothing. But these things are wrought in the soul by the ministration of grace.

The case is not unlike that of an infant in the arms of a young man; the bearer carries it about whithersoever he pleases: so does grace also carry the mind about, and bear it upwards into the very heavens, to the perfect world, and eternal rest.

****
As the Holy Spirit says in the Epistle to the Hebrews,

Continue to have confidence, since the reward is so great. You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised.—Hebrews 10:35-36

Abba Macarius, pray for us.


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