Monday, December 26, 2011

Retreat is near!

I will be traveling tomorrow stopping to see some old friends and will begin my retreat on Wednesday. So you will understand a pause in posting. Please pray for me! Really.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The only threat the Church can and must fear is the sin of her members.

"The only threat the Church can and must fear is the sin of her members. While, in fact, Mary is the Immaculate, free from every stain of sin, the Church is holy, but at the same time she is stained by our sins. This is why the People of God, in pilgrimage through time, turns to its heavenly Mother and implores her help; it asks this so that she might accompany us on the journey of faith, that she might encourage the undertaking of a Christian life and support our hope."

Pope Benedict said this on the feast of the Immaculate Conception this week. It is profound. We need not fear persecution. These are reassuring words as persecution of the Church is increasing. But what can hurt the Church are the sins of the members of the Church -- yes. And we are beset by these as well -- the scandals we see all around us.

I think that what the Pope said is true on the individual level. I need not fear what anyone else does but only my sins. No one else's sins can send me to hell but mine can.

We need humility and obedience to embrace this standard. No more defensiveness and no more pointing of the finger at others. Difficult...but liberating!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Jacques Philippe Has the Answer...Again

This time from In the School of the Holy Spirit:

"We cannot receive the motions of the Holy Spirit if we are rigidly attached to our possessions, our ideas, or our point of view. To allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit of God we need great compliance and adaptability, and we can acquire these little by little by practicing detachment. We should make an effort not to "hang on to" anything, either materially, or affectively, or even spiritually. The detachment we should aim for is not that of saying "to hell with all of it," or of becoming indifferent to everything, or of practicing a sort of forced asceticism and stripping ourselves of everything that makes up our lives; that kind of detachment is not what our Lord normally asks for.

But we need to keep our hearts in an attitude of detachment, maintaining a sort of freedom, a distance, an inner reserve, that will mean that if some particular thing, or habit, or relationship, or personal plan is taken from us, we don't make a drama out of being deprived of it. Such detachment should be exercised in all aspects of our lives. But it is not the material aspect that is most important. We are sometimes far more hampered in our spiritual progress by attachments to our own ideas, points of view, and ways of doing things.

We may find it profitable to read the advice of a sixteenth-century Franciscan:
'Let your will always be ready for anything that happens, and your affections perfectly disengaged. Want no one thing more than another; but if you do, let it be in such a matter that if not that thing, but the contrary were to...happen, you would receive no upset but equal satisfaction. True liberty is to adhere to nothing, to have no dependence, no bias. God does not perform his wonders except in a thus solitary and disinterested soul.'

Even when the goals we are aiming at are excellent in themselves, attachment to our own "wisdom" may be a seriously bad obstacle in the way of docility to the Holy Spirit. Such an obstacle is all the greater in that this kind of attachment often goes unnoticed, because it is obviously easier to be unaware that we are attached to our own will when what we want is good in itself. Since the object we are aiming at is good, we fell justified in wanting it with a stubbornness that blinds us; and we don't realize that the way we want our idea to come about is not necessarily in accordance with God's plan.

Our wisdom and God's practically never coincide perfectly; and this lack of congruence means that at any stage of our spiritual journey, we shall never be dispensed from practicing detachment from our personal ideas, however well-intentioned these may be."

Thanks to Micah Walker for pointing out the quotation!

Saturday, December 3, 2011


In the penultimate Divine Comedy class, Mr. Benson spent a lot of time considering the figure of Vergil in the poem. There is never any explicit proposal of Vergil's salvation, as there is for the unlikely figures of Trajan and Statius. Dante's cultural world would want Vergil to be saved. But Dante, a loyal son of the Church, does not offer that -- explicitly. And he is sad about it. The best Dante can do is for Beatrice to promise to sing Vergil's praises before the throne of God. Surely there is something in that.

I think that there is indeed. And yet, the lacrimae rerum remain. There is grief that we are left in ambiguity about Vergil. Why are things as they are for Vergil, even if there seems to be good reason to hope for better things?

Isn't life like that? There is grief, even when we have hope. We do not see clearly, not only about final things like death and salvation but even about temporal things: can the past be rectified; will the future fulfill its promise? We live in the now, and it is not big enough to answer these questions. So there is grief. And there is hope. Sin is real. God is faithful.

UCat Dominicans -- not the one in the middle!

Newly named Br. Cyprian and newly professed Br. Pachomius, O.P. at St. Gertrude's, Cincinnati, Ohio, August 15, 2017

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