Thursday, October 20, 2016

Simplicity in Prayer

Did you know Southwest has never crashed? Like Qantas, at least according to Dustin Hoffman, Southwest Airlines has never crashed. But it may nearly have a few months ago. I was making a long overdue visit to my godson, born a few months prior and due for the Sacrament of Baptism in Jacksonville. Rather than spend the obligatory $100 for a direct flight, I opted for the budget airline and a connection in Houston, a mere 45 minute flight from Jacksonville.

Every flight to Houston before and after mine had been cancelled whilst a storm brewed over the Gulf and made its way to the Louisiana coastline, right in the way of my eventual second path. My own flight, scheduled for a 6PM departure, only boarded at 8:30PM. I casually asked the airport director if they had put any extra fuel in the plane; he replied no. After the plane detached from the terminal our 737 taxied for a minute and then the roar of the engines stopped. We would have to wait an hour for takeoff while other tardy flights made their way to Houston. After 70 minutes of sitting in the dark without any gin or beverage service we blasted off in one fell swoop and within 25 minutes we were over Houston. Which is where the real point of this article begins.

I have never been too fond of devotions other than the Rosary if for no other reason than that they are too wordy, that they say too much on our behalf and give us no time to think or listen. The repetition and Christological focus of the Rosary, like the liturgy of the Church, allows me to lose myself for a few minutes in the presence of the Divine.

This simple approach to prayer left the conjecture of the mind and descended to the heart after the first few lightning bolts appeared off the east side of the plane. The storm which was supposed to be over the Gulf stayed over Houston. The lightning was not just getting louder, but closer, illuminating the unlit interior of the plane, contrasting the albescent natural light to the artificial, mustard hues of the Houstonian highways below.

During my prior flight I was privileged to be sitting next to a dead-heading pilot who talked me through the landing procedure. The plane approaches the runway parallel and makes two turns to the same side to line up the aircraft. This allows the crew to survey the runway before committing to a landing. We made two right turns. And then another. And then a left. And another left. And another. And a right. They were not ready to land. They were just buying time, which would not have been so troubling had I not asked about the fuel situation while boarding (America only requires 10% more fuel than the length of the journey, which in this case was 24 extra miles of jet fuel). During our various turns the plane began to pitch, no more than the usual few degrees at first, but slowly increasing as we neared the coast until the plane rolled in 20-30 degree increments.

At this point I began to consider prayer, if for no other reason than to assuage my own discomfort. And yet, I thought, is this not a bad reason to pray? Prayer is not a psychological trick or a pagan "centering" meditation and I was not at risk of death. Some deep breathing exercises were more appropriate amid the visible discomfort of my fellow passengers. From the aisle I saw that the only persons who had not yet turned paper white were the Indian with the window seat and the chunky man who occupied both the adjacent seat and some of mine.

After fifteen minutes of turbulence we made our landing descent. Every time the plane lowered its altitude it rattled, a little at first and then very violently whenever it seemed we could descend no more. An overhead compartment was knocked open. when the cars on the road below were visible the plane shook like an M60. The pilot gave up on the descent, hit the thrust, and we climbed back into the clouds. I began thumbing around my Rosary beads; should I pray it? The rattling returned. We were attempting another descent.

We are beginning our landing approach. We are currently at 3,000 feet. Please be sure all trays are in the upright position.

The Rosary? Too many words. The Jesus prayer? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. No, too many words. The name of Jesus, the original Jesus prayer would do. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus! The rattling returned. If we had been driving on an unpaved road we could not have met more resistance in attempting to lose altitude. The pilot could not lower the aircraft any further without violent rolling and the incessant machine gun noise. I had experienced turbulence before, but nothing like this. Jesus.

One benefit to the older form of the Jesus prayer, simple repetition of the name of Jesus, is that it focuses one not merely on the idea of God made Man and the related definitions of the Church, it more importantly narrows the spiritual gaze to the person of Jesus. Which was good, because when we gave up on our second approach the plane banked to the left with I-45 below. After a few more bolts of lightning a gust of wind interrupted our turn and positioned our plane such that the wings were perpendicular to the ground. For a moment, a brief second, for the twinkling of an eye the plane had no lift and began to stall, sliding some immeasurable distance towards the cars and street lights below until, in a Holy Breath worthy of the Paraclete Himself, the plane quickly fell level again and the air pressure jettisoned the plane back up. The wings flapped like a bird's. "I don't think they're supposed to move that much," I thought, "but I'm very happy they can." We were climbing again. Jesus.

By now everyone who had an open window and who was not screaming had shut their screen closed. The Indian had joined the Caucasian passengers in turning white. Parents were now lying to their children, who have a better instinct for the truth than we give them credit for: "This is completely normal. It's just like a roller coaster. It's all going to be over soon." At one level that last statement was certainly true.

Jesus. Why did I fear a plane crash? I feared the drop more than the sudden stop. Thomas a Kempis was denied canonization for less. Or did I fear finding out something about Christ that went beyond my thinly disguised want of comfort? My thoughts wandered to Dostoevsky's imagined return of Christ on earth, wherein people merely gaze upon Him and are drawn to Him not from His teaching, but rather from His presence. Would I have to stand "before the awesome judgement seat of Christ" if another, stronger wind came at the next bank? He has been talking to all of us aboard this 737 for all our lives; soon we might finally have to listen. Jesus.

Eventually, after the long holding pattern, we dove again below the clouds, again the plane rolled like an old tanker, and again it shook like a military grade gun. This time we forewent the air pressure resistance and found ourselves a few hundred feet up. The pilots killed the thrust and our pitching plane slammed flatly into the runway a minute later to thunderous applause.

After disembarking I marveled at my resignation during our final landing attempt. The initial temptation had been to make Christ into something He is not, my private comforter, a spiritual security blanket. The Jesus prayer instead made present Christ as He is. Although I did not find myself comforted, I did find myself satisfied. There is an honesty that comes with simple prayer ratified by the Saints, prayer that is as much a gift as faith itself, prayer that lifts us up to God rather than infelicitously reduce God to our own level. Such is the simple

"Yes, sir. You can still get to Florida. You can connect in Baltimore."
"Yes, you would just need to fly back to Dallas tonight and—"
"I'll just take my money back."
"Your money back?"
"Yes. All my money back."

Monday, October 17, 2016

Yes, Jesus Loves You

(Albrecht Dürer)

Today’s feast of Marguerite-Marie Alacoque is a reminder for most Tradistanis of the Sacred Heart Devotion, something which, while an occasionally troublesome example of Catholic devotionalism, serves at the very least to remind us of that ancient truth of God’s love first revealed in the Pentateuch:
From heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might teach thee. And upon earth he shewed thee his exceeding great fire, and thou didst hear his words out of the midst of the fire, because he loved thy fathers. (Deut. 4)
Throughout the Hebrew dispensation, this truth was reiterated by the prophets:
“For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour. Since thou becamest honourable in my eyes, thou art glorious. I have loved thee, and I will give men for thee, and people for thy life.” (Isa. 43)
And the Lord said to me: “Go yet again, and love a woman beloved of her friend, and an adulteress; as the Lord loveth the children of Israel, and they look to strange gods.” (Hos. 3)
“I have loved you,” saith the Lord. And you have said, “Wherein hast thou loved us?” “Was not Esau brother to Jacob,” saith the Lord, “and I have loved Jacob, but have hated Esau?” (Mal. 1)
A greater revelation of God’s love for his people came with the Incarnation and with the ministry of Christ:
And Jesus looking on him, loved him. (Mk. 10)
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent to thee, how often would I have gathered thy children as the bird doth her brood under her wings, and thou wouldest not?” (Lk. 13)
The Jews therefore said, “Behold how he loved him.” (Jn. 11)
“As the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you. Abide in my love.” (Jn. 15)
Marguerite-Marie’s visions were of Christ enrobed in fiery splendor, much as he appears in the Apocalypse and at the Transfiguration. He is here surrounded by seraphim, and his heart is described as a “sun” issuing forth rays she fears will burn her to ash. But where the scriptural assurances of God’s love are passionate but brief, Marguerite-Marie writes endlessly about the emotions and thoughts that spring up at the fresh revelation of Christ’s heart, “burning with thirst for the salvation of sinners.” For the average Catholic, a simple re-reading of the Gospels is likely to be more invigorating to the virtue of charity than the French nun’s emotional roller coaster.

I have to think, though, that St. Marguerite-Marie’s visions were indeed a revelation to the Counter-Reformation cultural Catholicism of her time. The Church was heavily focused on tightening regulations and preventing more losses to Protestantism and secular movements, and in such times it is too easy to lose sight of the offer of friendship that God extends to all men.

As to the general practice of the Sacred Heart devotion, I do not have much to add beyond what His Traddiness has written before. The following short book on the supposed promises of Christ to St. Marguerite-Marie is very useful in gaining perspective on the devotion, and for dissuading people from getting too carried away.

A blessed feast to you all!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Consolation of Philosophy & Would Be Catholics

In an ideal world there are no lapsed Catholics who need to revert and every heretic knows that he must convert. Until the Second Coming in glory we are unlikely to live in an ideal world, despite the best efforts of Bernie Sanders, and so we find adult reversions of Catholics who lapsed as students as common if not more common than outright conversion. One of our long time readers, Marco, has blogged about the Bragan use for some time, but about a year ago expanded his writings to encompass non-liturgical aspects of Catholic life, among them the search for illumination in the Fathers after his own reversion. He writes that ten years ago he was "a man searching for meaning, for the meaning of life, and a meaning to my life." Like Saint Augustine of Hippo he dabbled in mystical religions and formulaic philosophies. None of this would be especially remarkable if not for the mention of one name, that of Nietzsche.

Every bad idea in history has come from Germany or resided there for some period of time for devilish refinement: Nazism, Communism, Protestantism, beer, the music of Wagner, sauerkraut, and more. Nietzsche unknowingly bridged the atomistic, bond breaking world created by the Reformation and French Revolution to the movement driven age of Statism and nationalistic ideology. Like the men before him he acknowledged man to be intellectually and morally self-sufficient without cause for social ties or religion, at least in theory. But, the German would say, few have the stamina to break the constraints of religion and custom; only the "super men" could realize a satisfied, individual existence, men like Napoleon Bonaparte and Ayn Rand's John Galt. Nietzsche's philosophy has offered a semi-spiritual consolation to searching for a religious view to life but for whom the leap of faith is a stride too long. It also tantalizes none other than Roger Scruton.

Roger Scruton is a philosopher of aesthetics and one of the rare men who does not read Burke for his Reflections on the Revolution in France. Scruton may well be the most renowned conservative thinker in the world. In Scruton there is something akin to George Santayana, someone who wishes the old things were true, but some hitch prevents an embrace of past ideas. Most today do not seek any truth, just Groupons for restaurants and the mall. The irreligious elect will seek consolation and virtue in philosophy, much like Dr. Scruton, who has always held Christian forgiveness and social values in high regard, despite his hesitancy to embrace them. Instead he has generally turned to Nietzsche in full knowledge that he is not the übermensch. Yet there is much Catholic in his ideas of musical aesthetics and the influence of beauty on popular culture, popular culture understood as culture for the populace and not kistch. He even once condemned Albino Luciani for replacing the most stunning of all ceremonies, the Mass of Papal Coronation, in a fit of false humility. In reading his more abstract works one sees more than a hint of a religious mind behind felicities of German philosophy.

Recently Scruton has embraced certain aspects of religious community and value. He once quipped that he preferred Christianity among religions if only because it purported to turn his favorite thing, wine, into God. Although he now resides in Virginia, he manages to spend some time as an organist in an Anglican parish when he finds himself on his native soil. While one writer doubts the authenticity of his interest in religion because of his political history, a more serious stumbling block obstructs the professor: he cannot quite bring himself to believe in the Resurrection of Our Lord. Through the Cross and His death for His friends, Scruton reasons, Jesus managed a sort of spiritual, Nietzschean manner of afterlife. Unlike most, Scruton is not scandalized by the Cross; but in the Greek sense of scandal (skandalon meaning "stumbling block"), he is scandalized by the literal Resurrection that the Apostles themselves did not see.

Disillusionment has replaced Coming of Age as the pivot moment in maturation. One discards the creeds and lessons of upbringing without replacing them. Severance from childhood, like any divorce, is a jarring thing, and rather than looking to the Church for guidance a few keen minds who the Church has seemingly failed look to philosophy for consolation. Not always, but often the thoughtful mind who turns to the comfort of philosophy is not someone who was raised in the authentic practice of the faith, not because they would know better, but because they would think differently. Disillusionment follows disappointment and is rarely followed by illumination, just frustration. Philosophy can give comfort, only God can give rest.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Do We Need Full-Time Apologists?

Every so often I peruse the New Advent website for the latest from the neo-conservative Catholic clique. Between the Fr. Longenecker and Fr. Zuhl posts, and the “Everything in the Vatican is Fine” stories, one occasionally finds a new article from the retired president of Catholic Answers, Karl Keating. Most recently, he has been writing about why Fundamentalist Protestants should be okay with sacramentals, and how they hypocritically use them even while denying this.

It all seems rather overbearingly redundant. Keating has written so many of the same types of books and articles against Fundamentalists that I’m surprised the CA blog editors haven’t just republished his old work. In spite of his international travels and hiking expeditions—all publicized on Facebook—he seems to be bored enough to scribble out more tracts against dying heretical sects. It feels obsessive, much like the fact that he took the time in his later years to write a 366-page complaint against a fellow who used too much soy sauce with his meal.

All of which brings me to my major question: Should people be treating apologetics as a full-time job? I am not questioning the necessity of apologetics nor the need of learned people to be taking significant amounts of time engaging intellectually with attacks against the Faith, but the decision of laymen to devote much or most of their time to such engagements appears to be a recent phenomenon. Ever since the creation of the Catholic Evidence Guild in 1918, their peculiar method of public interaction with anti-Catholic rhetoric has been the norm in apologetics circles.

The work of apologetics used to be shouldered by men who lived primarily other avocations. They engaged in apologetics as necessary, but not as a full-time career, whether that be in the form of public speakers in Hyde Park, radio broadcasters, or bloggers. Many of the best apologists were not just apologists—Augustine was a bishop, Thomas Aquinas a monk and philosopher, Blaise Pascal a mathematician and inventor, G.K. Chesterton a journalist and novelist, Ronald Knox a priest and schoolmaster, Peter Kreeft a university professor, and so on. Even C.S. Lewis, the best Protestant apologist of recent memory, was chiefly a scholar, professor, poet, and novelist.

The greatest apologists were men who lived lives of broad interest and learning, who made their livings in other ways, much as how St. Paul paid for his own expenses by tentmaking. The men who focus all their intellect and livelihood on the defense of the Faith are apt to end up with middling obsessions. One needs only to look at current figures like E. Michael Jones, Michael Voris, Mark Shea, Karl Keating, and a thousand full-time bloggers to see the proof of this. I always worry when a Catholic blogger announces he has decided to devote all his time to defending the Church against atheists/neo-Catholics/Democrats/rad-trads/Fundamentalists/Choose-Your-Poison; within five years I expect him to be foaming at the mouth with a tiny readership, yelling in an unseemly way at his chosen target.

Go outside. Read a novel. Plant a garden. Visit Europe. Go fishing. Write a poem. Play a video game. Find something else to occupy your time in between your job and your intermittent apologetical engagements. Chesterton could not have written Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man without losing his sense of humor had he not spent his leisure time drinking wine, wandering the streets of London, and smoking good cigars. Full-time apologists end up either as obsessed extremists or as religious businessmen, which is what usually happens in the Protestant world (as with Francis Schaeffer, Norman Geisler, Lee Strobel, and Hank Hanegraaff). When apologists start selling tickets to “Learn Your Faith” sea cruises, simony has found its foothold.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Preparation for Marriage

The bridal imagery of the Church is frequent in Scripture and Tradition, in the spiritual writings of the European monks and in the jeremiads of the Hebrew desert prophets. Other familial and societal images are used to describe the relationship between God and his people—father-son, master-slave, brother-brother, king-subject—but the marital bond has been fruitful for spiritual expositions, even if that imagery is not especially useful for everyone.

Being in the midst of marriage preparation, myself, I find it unfortunate that the priests involved in my fiancée’s and my spiritual formation in this regard find little use for the mystical symbolism that could provide a larger context for the sacrament of marriage. There is also little use for the advice of the Old Testament wisdom literature about the troubles of married life, and for the examples of saints and holy people who were not members of the Holy Family.

Fulton Sheen’s Three to Get Married is one of the recommended readings for the preparation course. Turgidly abstract and outdatedly anti-Freudian, Sheen’s complaints about the modern misuses of marriage could easily have been made in a short tract. The late bishop also makes an argument for the mystical aspect of the sacrament, but never in a way that allows the average reader to truly get a sense of what he means. He writes of spirituality, of the need for God, in the abstract, and when he talks about the heights and depths of Christian love he never really brings the reader along for the ride.
Humans in the sacraments supply the act, the bread, the water, and the words; God supplies the grace, the mystery. In the sacred act of creating life, man and woman supply the unity of the flesh; God supplies the soul and the mystery. Such is the mystery of sex.
Doesn’t that just make you want to immediately sign up for Catholic Match? Thomas à Kempis wrote more passionately about the trials and loneliness of the monastic life! Must marriage be reduced to dusty neo-Aristotelian lecture notes? How much more lively are these brief passages of bridal imagery from the Holy Writ:
He hath set his tabernacle in the sun: and he, as a bridegroom coming out of his bride chamber, hath rejoiced as a giant to run the way. (Ps. 18)
With the robe of justice he hath covered me, as a bridegroom decked with a crown, and as a bride adorned with her jewels. (Is. 61)
Will a virgin forget her ornament, or a bride her stomacher? but my people hath forgotten me days without number. (Jer. 2)
With three things my spirit is pleased, which are approved before God and men: the concord of brethren, and the love of neighbours, and man and wife that agree well together. (Sir. 25)
Can the children of the bridegroom mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast. (Mt. 9)
Come, and I will shew thee the bride, the wife of the Lamb. (Apoc. 21)
And so forth. When you have read all of the above for many years, it is quite the disappointment to realize that the parish and diocesan preparation consists of little more than filling out personality tests and reading marriage-related encyclicals aloud. It is all very good to insist that the future groom and bride understand their moral and societal duties, but there is something perverse in ignoring the joyfulness of the occasion in favor of “moral manual”-level exposition.

Strangely enough, it is the post-conciliar theologians who have attempted to revive some sense of wonder and joy in the spirituality of marriage. Everything from John Paul’s “theology of the body” to EWTN radio marriage counseling makes an attempt to reinvigorate marriage with liveliness, joy, and even fun. Perhaps it is the abuses of this movement, like the recent Familiaris consortio, that cause Tradistani priests to react in the opposite direction. There is a fear that indulgence will lead to sin and various abuses; and of course it can and sometimes does. The Church Fathers and patristic-era monastics insisted on the superiority of the celibate life over the married because even sacramental marriage is rarely free from sinful excesses.

All human loves are meant to be reflections of divine love. As fallen, concupiscible beings, our loves inevitably fall short. A father’s love for his children ought to reflect God’s love for Christ and for his adopted sons, but doesn’t it often become petty? A mother’s love ought to reflect the Virgin’s solicitude for her disciples, but it easily becomes overbearingly codependent. Friendships ought to be like the help of Jesus, our perfect friend, but too often they disintegrate into squabbles and rifts. The love of a husband and wife should be like that of Christ and the Church Triumphant, but it is as susceptible to fragmentation as the other loves.

One cannot love fully what one does not understand, but understanding is not itself love. The intellect points the will towards the direction in which it should love. We know that a father should love his son, a husband his wife, a subject his king, a poet the flowers, a hunter the foxes, a pastor his flock, &c. This knowledge does not inevitably lead to love. The will, rather, moves the lover towards the beloved. And we learn to love, not by argument, but by example. The laity will love the Eucharistic Christ just as much as the priest. The son will love and respect his mother as much as his father does. The carpenter will love the warping and shaping of the wood as much as his mentor. Only the occasional and gracious inspiration of the angels will move us to higher loves than those we see in practice.

Who has wept to see his fatherland after being absent for many years? Who stares up at the stars in wonder, his mind expanding recklessly to contain the infinite depths of heaven? Who thrills at the destruction of the suitors at Odysseus’s hands as he finally reclaims his ancestral home? Who yearns for the return of the Bridegroom, his feet once again standing on the Mount of Olives? Who sees in his beloved the vineyards of Egypt, the pillar of aromatic smoke, the dove in the cleft of the rock?
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of great thunders, saying, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give glory to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath prepared herself. And it is granted to her that she should clothe herself with fine linen, glittering and white, for the fine linen are the justifications of saints.” And he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” (Apoc. 19)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Quest for Church

"Mr. President, may I be?"
Last week I passingly mentioned an author who deserves more thought than a brief allusion in a post about liturgy. Robert Nisbet wrote a doctorate at Berkeley in 1939 and, with a few other authors, eventually published a book that contributed to a coherent conservative political thought in the 20th century. Like the "Wizard of Piety Hill" and unlike William Buckley he was more interested in social problems and social institutions than in Washingtonian affairs. His specialty as a sociologist was the history of these societal institutions. To winnow his thought into the generic "government bad, free market good" strain undersells his tremendous insights. If anything he understood the post-industrial society which followed the War to be just as vacuous as the New Deal welfare state it replaced. His Quest for Community focuses on the role of government as the great social leveler (like a bulldozer), but the commentary applies to all forms of centralization. Contrary to the ravings of modern libertarians, he understood that individualism was the consequence of centralization because it eliminated "intermediary" layers of society where people traditionally derived their identities.

I cannot say with certainty whether or not he was a Catholic, but his writing betrays a strong sympathy for the place of the Church in pre-Reformation Europe and he penned articles for Crisis in the 1980s. Much of his commentary from Quest for Community readily applies to contemporary isolation created by social media, but also to the loss of identity among Catholics in the Church, not merely individuals, but priests, too; the loss of minor orders, local chivalric chapters (not the Knights of Malta), respect for the primacy of tradition as an authority can all be read into Nisbet. Rather than interpret his writings I have reproduced the most illuminating passages below for conversation in the comment box.

*   *   *

"....powerful processes of rationalization and bureaucratization....have led, Weber declared, to a supremacy in modern times of the impersonal office and of mechanical systems of administration within which the primary unities of social life have become indistinct and tenuous."

"....there is agreement upon certain social characteristics of the Middle Ages, irrespective of the moral inferences to be drawn from them. The first is the pre-eminence in medieval society—in its economy, religion, and morality—of the small social group. From such organization as family, gild,village community, and monastery flowed most of the cultural life of the age.... The reality of the separate, autonomous individual was as indistinct as that of centralized political power. Both were subordinated to the immense range of association that lay intermediate to individual and ruler and that included such groups as the patriarchal family, the gild, the church, feudal class, and the village community."

"In the Middles Ages, allowing for all obliquities and transgressions, the ethic of religion and the ethic of community were one. It was indeed this oneness, so often repressive of individual faith, so often corrupting to the purity of individual devotion, that the religious reformers like Wyclif, Hus, Calvin, and others were to seek strenuously to dissolve."

"Two points only are in need of stress here. The first is the derivation of group solidarity from the core of the indispensable functions each group performed in the lives of its members.... The second point to stress is that the solidarity of each functional group was possible only in an environment of authority where central power was weak and fluctuating.... It is indeed this curtailment of group rights by the rising power of the central political government that forms one of the most revolutionary movements of modern history."

"At the back of this decline of religious communalism are certain decisive conflicts of authority and allegiance. These are conflicts, if we like, between the individual and Rome, dramatized by Luther's nailing of the theses to the church door. But, more fundamentally, they are conflicts between Church and sect, between Church and family, between State and Church, and between businessman and canon law. The Reformation becomes a vast arena of conflict of authority among institutions for the loyalty of individuals in such matters as marriage, education, control of economic activity, welfare, and salvation. Basically, we are dealing with two momentous conceptions of religion: on the one hand, a conception that vests in the Church alone control of man's spiritual, moral and economic existence; on the other, a conception that insists upon restricting the sphere of religion to matters of individual faith and transferring to other institutions, notably the State, responsibilities of a secular sort."

"In Protestantism there has been a persistent belief that to externalize religion is to degrade it. Only in the privacy of the individual soul can religion remain pure. There has been little sympathy for the communal, sacramental, and disciplinary aspects of religion. Protestant condemnation of the monasteries and ecclesiastical courts sprang from a temper of mind that could also look with favor on the separation of marriage from the Church, that could prohibit ecclesiastical celibacy, reduce the number of feast days, and ban relics, scapularies, images, and holy pictures."

"Three principle elements of Christianity were left in Protestant theology: the lone individual, an omnipotent, distant God, and divine grace."

"At times, to be sure, as in the Geneva of Calvin, the organizational side of the new religion could be almost as stiff as, and perhaps more tyrannical than, anything in the Roman Church. There is indeed a frequent tendency among historians to overlook the sociological side of early Protestantism.... almost from the beginning, the spread of Protestantism is to be seen in terms of revolt against, and the emancipation from, those strongly hierarchical and sacramental aspects of religion which reinforced the idea of religion as community."

"As Protestantism sought to reassimilate men in the invisible community of God, capitalism sought to reassimilate them in the impersonal and rational framework of the free market. As in Protestantism, the individual, rather than the group, becomes the central unit. But instead of pure faith, individual profit becomes the mainspring of activity."

"In the beginning, in France, England, and elsewhere, the State is no more than a limited tie between military lord and his men. The earliest distinct function of the king is that of leadership in war. But to the military function is added, in time, other functions of a legal, juridical, economic, and even religious nature, and, over a long period, we can see the passage of the State from an exclusively military association to one incorporating almost every aspect of life."

"The modern State is monistic; its authority extends directly to all individuals within its boundaries. So-called diplomatic immunities are but the last manifestation of a larger complex of immunities which once involved a large number of internal religion, economic, and kinship authorities."

"The political rulers may have been less interested in the theological elements of either Catholicism or Protestantism than they were in breaking the secular power of the Catholic Church, but the consequence was nevertheless a favorable one to such men as Luther."

"To Rousseau the real oppressions in life were those of traditional society—class, church, school, and patriarchal family. How much greater the realm of individual freedom if the constraints of these bodies could but be transmuted into the single, impersonal structure of the General Will arising out of the consciousness of all persons in the State."

"Contemporary prophets of the totalitarian community seek, with all the techniques of modern science at their disposal, to transmute popular cravings for community into a millennial sense of participation in heavenly power on earth. When suffused by popular spiritual devotions, the political part becomes more than a party. It becomes a moral community of almost religious intensity, a deeply evocative symbol of collective, redemptive purpose...."

"The Roman emphasis on legal centralization, upon the superiority of the ruler to all other forms of authority, including custom, and the general political perspective of Roman law could not but have had strong appeal to one of the Politiques."

"It follows that no association within the commonwealth can be allowed to enjoy an independent existence in the sphere of public law."

"Faith in God and incentives toward religious piety were held by the early Protestants to lie in the self-sufficing individual, even as incentives toward work were declared by the economic rationalist to be similarly embedded in the very nature of the individual. Hence, the Protestant leaders gave little direct attention to the social reinforements of conscience and faith."

Thursday, October 6, 2016

St. Bruno Day

O Bonitas!
From his hagiography:
With six companions, four priests and two laymen, Saint Bruno applied to Hugh, Bishop of Grenoble, who led them to a wild solitude called the Chartreuse. There they lived in poverty, self-denial, and silence, each apart in his own cell, meeting only for the worship of God, and employing themselves in copying books. From the name of the solitude the Order of Saint Bruno was called the Carthusian Order. Six years later, Urban II called Bruno to Rome, that he might benefit from his counsel. Bruno tried to live there as he had lived in the desert; but the echoes of the great city disturbed his solitude, and, after refusing high dignities, he finally obtained, by force of persuasion, the permission of the Pope to resume his monastic life, this time in Calabria, with only a few companions. There he lived, in humility and mortification and great peace, until his blessed death occurred, in the arms of his faithful monks, in 1101.
St. Bruno, pray for us! Restore your order and the glory of the religious life!