Weekly Prayer Intentions – 17 June 2019

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, forever and ever.

Amen.

Please pray for me during a trying time.

Please pray for some people I need to forgive. J. and S.

Please pray for all those struggling with sin, that they may find restoration and healing through the Sacraments.

St. Luke, pray for us.

Please leave your prayer intentions or Saint intercessions in the comments, for myself and passers by to pray for this week.

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen.

 

Advertisements

LVI – Letter from the Editor

I haven’t quite recovered from whatever derailed me some time ago. I flirt with consolation but find myself desolate again. The weight of the world, friends. There are maybe four blogs I follow that symbolize my activity here.

  • Orthosphere, those wise men who understand the world and what its made of. These are the philosophers. I aspire to be as wise as they, but I find my contributions have been of diminishing insight.
  • Barnhardt, the woman strong in faith and fighting viciously or valiantly (it is hard for me to tell which some days) for the preservation of the Faith. I aspire to understand my Faith so thoroughly, and defend it so definitely.
  • Beauty Beyond Bones. She has a story to tell and is not ashamed to tell it, because she knows she is helping people. She has a reach that is unfathomable to me. I aspire to a like reach, and to tell a story as powerfully as she does.
  • Conservative Tree House. He is a political commentator for the age of Trump, and has a thorough and practical knowledge and knows the consequences of the uncertain movements in the world.

These four blogs are the four pillars of my aspiration. Political, Religious, Philosophical, Story telling. If i had to condense that into one word, I might say “Informed Evangelism”. There has been no coherent theme for my writings up to now other than public musings on topics inspired from those four.

So, I think it’s time for a bit of a pivot. I am going to be taking on another personal endeavor, reading the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola, with the intention of growing spiritually. I will try to bring that spiritual focus here. I still enjoy politics so I will not resist commentating, but bringing focus and intention to it. I am also going to try to hammer down a publishing schedule.

Luckily I don’t have but a sprinkling of followers, so hopefully this is not too disruptive. Suggestions welcome!

AMDG

LV – The Power of Liturgy

What Is Liturgy?

Contemporaneous usage gives the definition of Liturgy as “The formulas for conduct of divine service”. The word itself is derived from French liturgie (which shared its modern meaning) by way of Latin liturgia, meaning public ministration. This is one of the rare cases where the Latin word is derived from Greek leitourgos, meaning the person performing a public ceremony. The roots being leitos, meaning public, and -ergos, ‘that works’, from ergon meaning work. Leitourgos was a person performing a public work and the word came to mean the work itself, and was taken into Christianity when the works of consecrating the Eucharist were standardized and the Mass was codified. This sacred setting gave it a stricter definition, coming to mean the way in which the public works were performed.

In short: From ‘Person performing a public work’, to ‘A public work’, to ‘Way a public work is performed’. The word is used in sacred contexts most often, but carries no sacred meaning unto itself, only a sense of formality. It is thus apropos to other formal public ceremonies.

The Sense of Importance

Formal public ceremonies lend those ceremonies a sense of importance. Indeed, the more regular the ceremony, the more important it is. It is Liturgy that lends these ceremonies a sense of importance. The Inauguration of a President. Graduation from College. The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Every single one of these follows a prescribed formula, so everyone who experiences it does so in more-or-less the same way. Liturgy is the common element to all of them. Consider a proof by counterexample: When a Liturgy is abandoned, the ceremony loses it’s importance and reverence.

Consider a wedding. Traditionally, a wedding is composed of two parts: Marriage and reception. Marriage is a liturgy, indeed it is explicitly a Sacrament performed around a Mass. The reception following the Marriage is a party which is not ceremonial in any way. As religion is removed from the Marriage, it becomes more and more, well, irrelevant. People are pretending to officiate marriages in barns, on beaches; Friends and relatives are pretending to be officiants. The liturgy, which gave Marriage a sense of reverence, was altered or removed, and thereby thrown into irrelevancy. Because Marriage is pretended to be a civil ceremony rather than a spiritual one (people must rationalize why exactly there needs to be a ceremony in the first place), the availability of the civil contract is widened.

Therefore, Liturgy serves two roles: In the present, it creates a sense of reverence which defines the occasion as an important one. Secondly, it connects the ceremony to all previous ceremonies by preserving the importance which was historically ascribed to any given occasion.

The Gravity of the Mass

This brings us to the modern context of Liturgy, namely, the Mass. It is becoming something of a cliche, but it gets to the heart of the latin Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi. The Mass is the public ceremony of offering the Sacrifice of the Eucharist in persona Christi. Mass is important for a number of reasons, not least of all because how it is done illustrates all three of the Lex components. Prayer, Belief, and Life, all roll into one beautiful Liturgy.

Changing the Mass has allowed irreverence to seep into the liturgy. Reverential silence is not a sure thing at any Mass or any Church. Contemporary music mixes with traditional hymns. I don’t here propose to offer an opinion on which liturgy is best or most accurate, but ambiguity means that there are differences and the people see and react accordingly. The converse is also true: If you begin treating Mass with greater reverence, your spiritual life will necessarily change (dare I say, improve!). Liturgy is a way our actions demonstrate the difference between the mundane and the Holy.

AMDG

LIV – Dear God: It’s Complicated

Prayer is absolutely essential to living. It is fundamental to faith (in the spirit of Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi) and fundamental to having a relationship with God. So, I ask: How do we pray?

Turn Around

The first question is, what is our current relationship with God? How we talk to a stranger is different from how we talk to a friend is different from how we talk to family. We need to identify where God fits into our lives and where we want God to be. God will meet us wherever we are. Conversion has it’s root in the latin convertere, literally meaning “To turn around”. God is a fixed point, we are fickle creatures that need to continually ensure we are aligned with God. Sometimes all it takes to break that inertia is a small step.

The best thing you can do is to rely on what already exists. Perhaps this name is not good branding, but ‘formula’ prayers are prayers which have already been written and can be found in manuals of prayer or other spiritual works. The “Our Father” was given to us by Christ himself. The “Hail Mary” was written by Luke, but is attributed by Luke to the Angel Gabriel. These are the basics. A step further, perhaps memorize some of the Acts of Faith, Acts of Hope, Acts of Contrition, for example. The Jesus Prayer is the shortest prayer I know (Besides, of course, ‘Amen’!).

The key is to do something. Maybe today all you can muster is a Hail Mary. Tomorrow, how do you feel about doing two? Push yourself, but not to the point where you spiral into despair when your prayer life flags. The Formula prayers help build a skeleton around which to hang the “Free form” prayers. There are 4 kinds of prayer, which can be remembered with the mnemonic ‘ACTS’: Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, Supplication (also known as petition).

  • Adoration: Adores and glorifies God (Glory Be…)
  • Contrition: Contemplate sins and ask God for mercy (O Jesus, Son of God…)
  • Thanksgiving: Gratitude for God for our blessings (Thanks be to God!)
  • Supplication: Bring your requests to God (…Give us this day our daily bread…)

I list examples of formula prayers that go with each of these types, so you can connect your free-form prayer to these.

So, where is the relationship?

Relationships build slowly over time. You will not wake up tomorrow and feel (as some do!) that God is their best friend and most ardent advocate. Imagine, for example, a relationship with a significant other or spouse. How did it begin? Perhaps you met first in passing, shared a few words. As you spoke more and more, you started spending more time together. As you spent more time together, you began to feel an emotional attachment and connection to each other. When you fall in love, you start to feel as if you are not complete without the other, wondering how you ever got by on your own! The parallels here are not hard to see. Start with prayer. Speak to God early and often. Spend time with God in Adoration, or even just in front of the Tabernacle: He’s there all the same. This is an investment and it will take consistent effort. Prayer alone can only get you so far. How many relationships flourish when a couple never spends time together EVER? How many relationships flourish if they spend time together but do not speak? How can you form an emotional connection?

Don’t begin by expecting to feel as if God is your best friend, the same way you don’t begin speaking to someone by asking them to marry you. Joan d’Arc has an excellent quote: “Act and God will Act”. Bring the raw materials to God, and God will do the heavy lifting.

Non Sequitur

I have not been feeling myself lately. My prayer life is the first thing to go when times get tough. In the young-adult group I attend, we were talking about prayer and I shared how I like to put Christ in a box, and only reach in when I feel like it but otherwise keep him tucked away out of sight. Today the clouds of my mind began to clear, and I can think with focus: How do I build my relationship with God? What does that word, relationship, even mean? At a minimum it means I can’t keep God in a box. I need to turn around and see how God is acting in my life, and reach out to God so he can work in my life.

Pray for me.
Pray for a special intention of mine.
Pray for spiritual growth.
St. Athanasius, Pray for us
St. Luke, Pray for us.
St. Joseph, Pray for us.
Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, Pray for us.

AMDG

 

 

 

 

(h) – Parable of the Ship

The captain of the ship was young once. Bright eyed, full of excitement, eager to explore the world. He had the means at his finger tips, he needed only to select the ends. He wanted to visit the great ports of the world, to cross the greatest seas. Boldly he would berth in the bustling Black. Swiftly he would sail the Suez. He would persevere across the Pacific; he would admire the Adriatic. The blustery Baltic would bear him to shore; the calm Caribbean would be his refuge. Berths in Manhattan, Singapore, Sydney, Buenos Aires, all had his name printed on them. The captain of the ship was young once, he dreamed all of these dreams. Now his ship is old and rusted, beached on a long sandy shore. His hair is grey, his skin wrinkled and stretched thin over his gaunt frame. The fuel tank in his ship is as full as the day he took the helm. His map is littered with erased paths, where his plans briefly took shape and were abandoned before they were begun. He tells himself, today is the day he will choose, today is the day he will get under way. He frowns at his map, and erases another line. Perhaps tomorrow.

LIII – Two Rights Don’t Make a Law

Following the recent conversation at Orthosphere, I’ve decided I need to clarify one of the fundamental elements of my political philosophy. I wrote about it early on and haven’t really returned to it except in passing. Here we will do a new examination, with the wisdom of experience and a more refined thesis.

THESIS: Rights are the post-enlightenment imitation of natural law. Rights are privileges granted by government. Rights are not guaranteed by God except where they also describe natural law.


What Even Are We Talking About?

We need a firm understanding of natural law, first. Natural Law is that which is given to us by God. As such, it is objective and universal, and exists separate from the human intellect. In other words: The human intellect can discover Natural Law, not create it. Natural Law describes moral behavior. The temptation here is to get into the specific ‘laws’ or rules that make up Natural Law, but that would be to miss the point. The principle is just this: Natural Law cannot be changed. If you are changing something, either you are wrong or it’s not natural law.

Rights, then, were an early attempt to codify Natural Law in Human Law. The enlightenment gave us the famed ‘Rights of Man’ by Thomas Paine, which summarizes neatly the previous work by enlightenment philosophers. It is important to note why I am harping on Rights as a post enlightenment concept. Before the enlightenment, Rights and Natural Law were considered synonymous, which is why we have so much confusion right now. You’ll find Rights discussed in many encyclicals and other theologians discussing rights. I think Thomas Aquinas himself dedicated a section of his Summa Theologica to Rights, which he understood to mean Natural Law. The Enlightenment fundamentally the coronation of Man as supreme ruler of his nature, not God. The pithy axiom cogito ergo sum is the pinnacle of post enlightenment pride: “I think, therefore I am”–where, then, is room for our creator? Deus est ergo sum, “God is therefore I am” is less catchy for sure. So the enlightenment, in removing God from his rightful place as ruler of our hearts and minds, now began to tinker with rights. An even neater summary can be found in our Declaration of Independence, and further still in our Constitution in the form of the “Bill of Rights”. The former enshrines “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” as God given rights to which all men are entitled.

Rights Are Not Law

We can look at Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness as a case study in Rights and Laws. God does indeed grant us our lives, which does indeed imply that all men are entitled to their lives. This opening assertion lends credence to the subsequent pair, because it is correctly describing the Natural Law of Life as a Right as well.

Liberty, then: does God grant us liberty? Perfect freedom would imply a complete absence of legal system. One objection might be, well, perfect freedom isn’t achievable! Very well, let us concede that perfect freedom is an unrealistic standard. The Right to Liberty simply means we have the right to be more free than…well, what, exactly? Than others? Don’t they also have the right to liberty? To our past state? So we should be marching inexorably towards perfect freedom? Compared to the Tyranny of King George III? Is ‘Tyranny of King George III” the benchmark for all tyranny and liberty, which God handed down? You see now that Liberty is not a fixed point, not the way Life is. All men have the right to life, full stop. Are you going to take a mans life? Don’t do it, it is always contrary to Natural Law. But you can see, rather than hold “Liberty” to the objective standard of “Life”, instead “Life” got pulled down to the subjective standard of “Liberty”. Life, as a right, became negotiable for post-revolutionary American History, as demonstrated by our dealings with Native Americans and the Slave Trade.[1]

The Pursuit of Happiness. What exactly does this mean? Pursuit of happiness for the individual or for the family? society? If my happiness involves having your possessions, can I claim a divine mandate because God granted me the right to your stuff? This point is absurd on it’s face. The Pursuit of Happiness stands to neither the standard of Liberty, which is measurable if subjective, or Life which is perfectly objective. The Pursuit of Happiness is totally un-measurable, because it introduces the element of feelings. Feelings are not objective and so cannot be Law, but here we are declaring that, because we are unhappy, King George III is illegitimate.

Because “Liberty” and “Happiness” are relative states, which change based on who we are comparing them to, it tells us that these things are not Natural Law.

Right Privilege

Rights, rather, describe Privileges, or things which Government promises to let us do and on their honor they won’t go back on that promise. The Bill of Rights is exactly this. God does not guarantee the ability to speak freely. Laws don’t even let people speak freely; one cannot, for example, shout “Fire” in a crowded theatre. So Government is asserting it’s decision, unilaterally, to allow it’s people to speak with a wide latitude as long as it is within certain parameters. Different governments may disagree on what those parameters are. It is a privilege to be allowed to speak. It is a privilege to be able to bear arms. The Government is allowing us these things. Rights, then, wear the clothes of natural law, and appear inalienable, when in fact they are simply regular laws and are in fact quite alienable.

A great example of this is the recent discussion around the right to privacy. We do not, in fact, have a right to privacy. The government can decide to allow us the privilege of privacy, or they can allow us no privacy. Government gets to decided how much latitude they allow us, and within what parameters. As far as the internet is concerned, it remains an open question. God certainly does not guarantee the right to privacy, so it is not an inalienable right. Any protestations take the position of “You owe us this” when the practical function is “We would like this please.”

So You Want To Be A Monarchist

So now that we acknowledge that there is no such thing as rights outside of natural law, what now? This understanding subverts most political tropes, and you can use this as a reality filter for analyzing big political news. It is useful also theologically: discerning between that which is given to us by God and that which is given to us by Caesar helps distinguish what is most important and what issues are worth our outrage.

The concept of Rights will not go away. But when Natural Law gets infringed upon by a poorly disguised persecution which masquerades as an inalienable right: Then we have a problem.

 


[1] I understand there is some historical nuance, but none defend them as proud moments in American history, and none can argue that those periods of history would not have been improved by perfectly embracing the Right to Life.

 

LII – A Brick House Built on Solid Ground

There is another excellent conversation going on over at Orthosphere, and a recent contribution is lengthy enough to be a post unto itself.

The conversation at present revolves around how to describe the layered structures of society so as to describe how the ‘wholly owned’ government bureaucracy relates to it.


Commenter:
Scoot,
I don’t know what Zippyist notions of authority might be, but the political rule is rule among equals in the classical conception. Which differs from monarchical rule where the king is more like a father to the people.

Kristor,
When you say you have used despotic rule with your children, you haven’t understood what Aristotle is saying. The despotic rule is ordered to the good of the ruler. The ruled slave does not count. It is NOT paternal at all.

[Furthermore,]
There are no isolated families either. All families are embedded in some City or another. A family is not self-sufficient unit of cultural continuity. The immigrant families adopt the local culture.
And individual can not be denied. He is embedded in a family but he can not be derived from a family.
Aristotle puts it strongly. He analogises a family without the City as a cancerous cell.

The error of Communism is to overemphasize City.
The error of classical liberalism is to overemphasize individual (and to derive family and City from individuals)
The error of familism-is to overemphasize family. Political relations as obtain in the City are not same as or reducible to relations as obtain in the family.

I agree that families are not isolated. If you’ll permit the analogy of society as a brick house, families are the smallest irreducible units (bricks) of the house, and the legal structure are the supports and framing. So again I don’t think we have a disagreement in principle, only in terms.

I guess I would put it this way. If I understand correctly, it seems your thesis is that society is structured on an Aristotelian basis between individual, family, and city. I am proposing a different conception. The precepts of my proposal are as follows:

  1. All exercises of authority are the same. This is what I described as a Zippyist notion. [Authority Figure] has a moral capacity to oblige [subject figure] to choose [preferred behavior] to [non preferred behavior]. A Father obliges a child to mow the lawn over sitting in front of the TV. A Mayor obliges a citizen to drive the speed limit rather than street race. A Sovereign obliges a citizen to march to pay a share of his income to the treasury rather than use it for his own ends.
    1. It seems to me your description of ‘political, monarchic, and despotic’ serves to describe attitudes of that authority. Political rule as rule among equals, as you say, is a mechanism of exercising authority. An Equal has a moral capacity to oblige a fellow equal to choose [XYZ] over [PDQ]. Monarchical rule follows the same rubric, but maybe has different perception by ruler and ruled. Likewise with despotic: Someone is obliging another to do something. How, why, and what everyone thinks of it are all variable. But Authority is being consistently exercised.
  2. Because all exercises of authority are the same, all authority structures can be compared by analogy. To wit: A Father is like a King, but a Father cannot rule like a king. A families ends and means are completely different. But the way Authority is structured, from Father to Subject, is comparable.
  3. The end, the goal, the objective of all exercises of authority are distinct, but the lesser is contained within the greater, and the greater directs the subordinate units to the greater aim. Said another way: Families, as bricks in the house of society, are not self sufficient units nor autonomous units, as you say. It is the role of the Mayor to oblige the family to choose the good of the city over the good of the family, if ever they differ. Likewise it is the role of the Sovereign to oblige the City to choose the good of the Nation over the good of the City. anything else is chaos, as you describe.
    1. One thing you say that perhaps I don’t understand is this: “A family is not a self-sufficient unit of cultural continuity.” Why not? A child is more likely to retain the culture of the parents, and parts of the culture of the surrounding society. But if cultural continuity were the aim of the the authority figure at any level, they would have the moral capacity to oblige the subordinate authority to prefer [XYZ cultural elements] to [PDQ cultural elements]. I would disagree that culture itself is an end of political authority but I do not disagree that there are some authority structures designed for cultural continuity. I would only say that cultural continuity is not, in my opinion, the biggest determinant in the usefulness of the family as a unit of authority.
  4. The role of the individual is to comply with all authority structures of which they are part. An individual ought to work to the benefit of their family structure, city structure, and nation structure but not all on their own. An individual works in a family to the benefit of the family. An individual works in a family so the family can work to the benefit of the city. The family works in the city so the city can work to the benefit of the nation. An Individual that views themselves as the supreme end and means of all of these structures is the cancerous cell you describe. They are not operating within the social structures or hierarchy, they are not helping any group benefit. That is why I assert that individuals are best contextualized as part of a family: That is their first exposure to the greater aims of their nation.
  5. The “Political” realities (i.e. the legalistic structures through which authority is exercised) are extremely convoluted. In Democracy, there is no clear, distinct Sovereign in the traditional sense. The people select a delegate to stand first among them, which gives their chosen delegate power and authority (this is the social contract). But in the present day and age, the exercise of that authority is limited by other delegates who oversee and restrict actions of the Executive delegate (this body is the legislature), and who adjudicate conflicts between executive and legislative delegates (the judicial). All three ultimately derive their authority from the people, and the people obey the authority of the delegates. It is a tautological system, and when it grows to be large and unwieldy, it can and does break down. There are a lot of things to consider when exercising authority, so structures are built to facilitate. The beginning of the bureaucracy is when executive or legislative delegates appoint subsequent delegates who derive their authority from those executive or legislative delegates. And their term does not end when the source of their authority ends. Thus the bureaucratic state, which is separated from direct link to the people, and at varying times subject to or in rivalry with the legislative and executive delegates. This bureaucracy is an authority structure which is distinct from and not directly subordinate to the greater aims of the political authority. It finds itself variously subject to or in rivalry with the Family, City, or Nation. It is wholly owned by the governing polity, but serves its own ends. This is the challenge of the day.

PS: In point #5, I describe politics at a national level. This structure is not reducible to the subordinate levels, as pointed out in #2. A family can be neither democracy nor Monarchy, but is its own ‘political’ structure.

If a family is like a brick, a “city” is like the wall, and the nation is the house. A pile of bricks does not make a nation. A series of parallel walls does not make a house. Each brick must be ordered towards the wall. Each wall must be ordered towards the house. One does not consider the house when making the brick, but how it fits into the wall. The rules that govern how to order the bricks will not be the same as the rules that govern how to order the walls.


Kristor: Scoot, thanks for all the work you have done on this. I have only two quibbles. First, when you say that all exercises of authority are the same, it seems to me that you should make it crystal clear that what you mean is that however they might differ in other ways, all exercises of authority are alike in that they all involve an authority who has a moral capacity to oblige others.

Second, you say that, “A family can be neither democracy nor monarchy …” I would amend that to say, “A family can be neither a pure democracy nor a pure monarchy.” I would add further that a properly ordered monarchy would integrate aristocratic and democratic processes. Such is the Polybian ideal, that engenders stability of the social order. Feudal subsidiarity is one way to accomplish that, provided that members of each level of the subsidiaritan stack have a safe, regular and established way to appeal the rulings of their immediate superiors to the judgement of a higher court.

Bearing in mind that neither Scoot nor I would propose that the city is nothing but a big family or that the family is nothing but a big individual, it seems to me then that neither Scoot nor I have any fundamental disagreement with Bedarz on that score.

LI – AMERICAN EMPIRE PART 3

American Empire Part 1
American Empire Part 2


A Study in Authority

All power structures are prone to internal rivalry. Rivalry can, in some cases, be anticipated and controlled for. Rivalry, properly harnessed, can strengthen a system rather than weaken it. Stable rivalry requires three points of contact, balancing the Sovereign Authority, the means of enforcement, and the source of legitimacy.

First, regarding Sovereign Authority, it must be broad enough to allow effective rule but limited in such a way as to prevent it from becoming absolute. A Sovereign whose authority is very restricted cannot exercise that authority effectively. A sovereign whose authority is totally unrestricted quickly becomes a tyrant, ruling absolutely. So some balance on the authority of the sovereign is important.

The Sovereign only exercises authority through decisions to enforce or not enforce their edicts. A Sovereign cannot act unilaterally to enforce their authority, they must utilize some enforcement mechanism. This can be the military, a police force, typically some body of people. Any number of means of enforcement are available to the Sovereign. However, this body has it’s own authority unto itself, and is governed by a will of its own. This body must be loyal to the sovereign, to enforce their edicts. They must also be loyal to the subjects, unwilling to enforce tyrannical edicts. This is the second balance which must be struck. The Sovereign must be able to rely on the enforcement mechanism to obey their will but also reject actual abuses.

Finally, the Sovereign is only able to exercise authority if they have a legitimate claim to that authority. Legitimacy is typically derived from some source, and must also be accepted. The source of legitimacy must be objective and unquestionable; the acceptance of legitimacy must be preserved. If the source of legitimacy is in doubt, the ability to enforce edicts is weakened and the effective exercise of authority is diminished. If the acceptance of legitimacy is lost, the authority of the sovereign is undermined.

These three forces, Scope of Authority, Enforcement of Authority, and Legitimacy of Authority, serve to balance the various stakeholders in a nation.

Case Studies in Rivalry

The Kings of Rome had, initially, a balanced system. The King could not unilaterally extend the scope of their authority without consent of the Senate. The military would enforce edicts, but was an essential control against sovereign overreach. The failure of Roman Monarchy was manifold: The Senate was the source of legitimacy for the King, and they began to withdraw their acceptance and consider themselves the legitimate rulers. The last King of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, undermined the source of legitimacy by having senators killed and refusing to replace them. He was cruel in his enforcement, losing the acceptance of both the senate and favor of the populace. The last straw was his crime of raping a woman: The senate took control of the enforcement mechanism, with the support of the people, and overthrew him. The Sovereign, from inception and across seven kings, gradually extended and allowed the sovereign to be cruel and unjust. Each of the pillars was gradually undermined, and ultimately collapsed.

For pre-revolutionary British monarchs, the collapse was a little more overt. Legitimacy was assured by birthright, and the legislature enabled the growing tyranny of King George III. The result was that the Legitimacy of the monarch ceased to be accepted by the people, and the chosen enforcement mechanism, self governance of the remote colonies, outright failed. The Legitimate monarch of the British colonies was rejected by the colonial population in favor of self rule.

Consequences of Rebellion

In both cases, a singular sovereign was replaced by a collective sovereign in the form of a powerful, elected legislature. In the Roman case, they simply removed the Monarch and took all the accidents of authority and power unto themselves. In the American case, it took some time before the nation coalesced into the burgeoning young republic. In both cases, we have arrived at the Republic phase of these nations.

 

L – Contra Desperatio

I’ve seen a couple blog posts this week that have added sand to the bags of despair I already carry around my shoulders. I reject the despair that pervades the Church, and society, these days.

The despair I have seen looks kind of like this:

  • Society does not value God
  • Society does not value tradition
  • The Church does not value it’s own tradition
  • A society that values neither God nor Tradition cannot save the Church.

These thoughts do nothing to help the Church and I did not realize how deeply they weighed on me until I thought about writing this post.

First Objection: Regarding Despair, Generally

Despair is the opposite of Hope, which is a theological virtue. Despair is thus a very human feeling when we lose sight or focus of God. There is a quote that gets thrown around like a cliche these days: Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it[1]. For a Church which appears to be under siege from within and without, this is little consolation. They already appear to be here. This idea was given to me by our local Priest via a friend: This is not a defensive statement. The Church is not under siege by hell, hell is under siege by the Church. The earth is enemy occupied territory, and the Church is a stronghold in it’s midst. In the end of days, the gates of hell will not prevail to keep the Church out! The victory is already won! The Church is eternal! We are chastised periodically, sure. But Fulton Sheen himself acknowledged[2] that the Church has died and been reborn in 500 year intervals since it’s inception. The Church will not fail. Trust in God!

Hope, however, does play a pivotal role when considering despair. What if we Hope for too much? What if our expectations are for Heaven on Earth? We will quickly find that we become disappointed. We must temper our expectations: The Church will never be victorious on Earth, until Christ comes to take his seat at the end of days. Until then, we are waging a perpetual war for the souls of our fellow man, and even for ourselves. Yes, we want our Priests to be pillars of society, guided by the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Love of St. Francis of Assisi. Yes, we want our fellow man to be packing the pews Every Sunday, every Day, to commune with God. Yes, we want to know the words to speak to our fellow man and to show them the strength that Love and Fear of God brings us. The perfection of these dreams will not come to pass in this life. We must strive, always strive, to attain these dreams, but we cannot expect to realize them. We can do so much more on so many fronts, but we cannot ever be satisfied that our work has been done. It feels like a trial of Sisyphus, and in a way it is: We are a fallen people and it takes the dedicated effort of every man woman and child to maintain the status quo, to say nothing of any advance. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, the Israelites were not obediently awaiting him; they had begun worshiping a Golden Bull. When Christ was carrying his cross, he too fell three times. We are fallen, but the Hope lies in the fact that God has given us the means to get back up again.

Second Objection: Regarding Society and God

Society doesn’t value God, plain and simple. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to value God. That actually means it’s more important than ever for us to not just value him in our hearts, but to live a bold witness to our convictions. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi: As we worship, so we believe, so we live. In other words: We must lead by example. Treat God with reverence, visit Him often, remain in communion with Him via the sacraments. Invite God into your home, your workplace, and your life. These are things we as individuals can accomplish. What effect will this have on society?

It might seem trivial now, but our actions are the clearest opportunity for conversions. Our strange behaviors signal to others that we live by a set of values they do not understand. They will ask questions. They will try to understand why you believe what you believe. They will compare your way of life to theirs. Some will use it as an excuse to reject you. Others will try to resolve the cognitive dissonance it creates in their hearts and minds, and no small number will ultimately be converted by it; if not now then later on. Society does not value God, but you can show society what it looks like if they do; you can show them the strength and vigor it brings your life. Society is not changed all at once. Society is changed by individuals, one at a time. We must begin with ourselves!

Third Objection: Regarding Society and Tradition

The best tools we have at our disposal for our Praying, Believing, and Living, is the traditions of the Church. These are not distinct, they are not written in some extra document like a constitution enshrining traditions. Traditions are the Church. Look to the Saints! We can pray just as they did, we can believe just as they did, we can live just as they did. Nothing about their lives is off limits to us. Mass is uniting our present state with the whole Church, across infinity. The Church Militant (present day Catholics) unites itself with the Church Penitent (Those in their purifying time in Purgatory), as well as the Church Triumphant (Those living in the beatific vision). It is the tradition that makes it the same for all three components.

Society has been taught that they can define their own traditions. These take an over-large portion of their time, and supplants and replaces their proper focus of God. Tradition keeps society rooted in the things that keep it alive, vibrant, and healthy; it is the fullness of these things only through the Church. Through our individual effort, we must bring society back to the Church. We must NOT suppose that the Church must be brought to society. The Church does not need reform, it is society. The traditions are fine and keeping the Church healthy; the people must embrace them fully.

Fourth Objection: Regarding the Woes of the Church

The Church may seem to be in a sorry state. What can be done? Can you or I elect a new Pope? Can you or I change who gets to be priests? We are given challenges individually and collectively in order to purify us and help us grow. The Church may be in such a time right now. To focus on the woes facing the Church too much is to cultivate despair. Trust God and know that He is with us. The Priests will receive their reward, if they have done evil. The traditions that worked are not fully forgotten, and will not go away forever. Politics are temporary. Suffering is temporary. God will use it to purify us and show us what is important.

In Conclusion

There is no better time to be a Catholic. That is why I crossed the Tiber: there is a beautiful core of Truth that the Church gets to keep and it is not found anywhere else in the world. When the Church struggles, that is when we must fall into battle lines and storm the breach. If the Church is in a period of desolation, we must not change things, but fight to keep everything the same. I reject despair because it weighs me down, and makes it harder for me to live my faith.

St. Athanasius, he who stood against the world, pray for us, that we may share your strength and, through our Lord God, fill our hearts with conviction that our Faith is Truth, and that our Church will never die.

 


[1] Matthew 16:18

[2]Fulton Sheen, The Fourth Great Crisis of the Church

XLIX – Day 91 of Exodus 90

Happy Easter my friends. Alleluia, He is Risen! The King of Kings has sealed the covenant and redeemed the sins of mankind!

My Exodus journey has completed, but the call to Holiness has not faded from my ears. On Day 30, I was grappling with the magnitude of this journey, beginning to realize the weight of this undertaking. On Day 60, I was humbled by the full force of realizing that I am a sinner totally unworthy of the grace of God. But in this last week alone, I have received so many blessings, I can only see it as the grace of God. I needed to be humbled to full appreciate His work in my life. I needed to mortify myself to appreciate the everlasting life.

And do not take this to mean that I have ‘finished’ anything. The only thing that is finished today is one finite season in, God willing, my long life of many seasons of spiritual growth. While I have a renewed appreciation and love for my God, I remain an unworthy sinner.

Through this journey, though, I have been given many tools and learned many lessons. Many of these lessons can only be learned through your own experience, but hopefully in reading them here you can be prepared to recognize the opportunities to learn and grow.

Regarding the Sacraments

Do not underestimate the power of the sacraments; or rather, the power of God to work through them on your life. Between my conversion and Day 1 of Exodus, I was rotten about going to Mass, and as a result I struggled to gain a spiritual footing. It’s like going out to sea with oars but no canoe. You think you have the tools, but without the proper foundation they are useless. My friend (Shembone) wanted company, and I needed help, and we began a routine of going to Mass together, and helped secure it as a habit in my life. Remember this when people talk about both Sin and Grace affecting the whole body of the Church. My friend would not consider himself an evangelist, but he did a lot for me over the course of this Exodus through that alone.

Mass is the fundamental sacrament. I also was given the grace to hear daily Mass frequently on Saturdays. Just one additional day of Mass can reinforce the habit. And when Sin necessarily requires separation from the Eucharist, it reinforces the urgency to get to Confession. I did not have a healthy mindset regarding confession. I committed to once a month when I converted, thinking it would be a reasonable expectation. I found myself extremely frustrated. I couldn’t make it the full month without needed confession. I viewed that great sacrament as a personal failure when in fact it is the great Joy, the consequence of Christ’s passion we celebrate today. My Exodus brother, previously referred to here as Japhethbone, helped reinforce in me the importance of Confession. Weekly, Every two weeks, whenever: Go to Confession when the sin makes a home in your heart and separates you from the grace of God. God will welcome you back with open arms, every time.

Furthermore, how much do you contemplate your first, great Sacrament, Baptism? The Holy Water as you enter a Church is there to remind you of that Sacrament. If you begin to strengthen your weekly habit of Mass and even begin to go to daily Mass even one additional day, you will be reminded far more often of your baptism and have many reasons to give thanks.

Regarding Prayer

My prayer life ebbs and flows with the rhythms of my life. I had only the most basic understanding of prayer at the beginning of Exodus. The spirit would move me, for periods of time, to pray a Rosary daily. And then I would stop. For Exodus, this devotion to our Blessed Mother became the cornerstone of my prayer life. Exodus called us to do more. I still struggled throughout Exodus to really expand my prayer life. But I did learn some valuable lessons here. First: Prayer is powerful, and we should be committed to it often. Building prayer into your daily routine can add structure to a chaotic life. Beginning the day and Ending the day in prayer turn your thoughts to God, and consecrate your day to Him. Examining your conscience daily is also, I’m convinced, a cornerstone of a strong life in God. I neglected that task nearly completely, but in connection with devotion to the Sacraments, it helps highlight where you are and reinforce where you are going. How can you fight against Sin if you do not know the weaknesses of your fortress?

Also, and not to be understated, spend time with Scripture. The USCCB has a daily readings email list, or find any number of devotionals which go through Scripture. I had never read Exodus before, and the lessons to be learned are remarkable. Let God speak to you through the written Word.

Second afterthought, last but by no means least: Adoration. Spend time in the presence of God. Words cannot express the feeling of being in His presence. Let Him do the work, you just need to be there.

Regarding Asceticism

“Simplify, Simplify” is a quote from Henry David Thoreau which I like to remember. The initial sting of this Exodus was not in the ascetic practices themselves, but in how much stuff I have that I don’t need. Cold showers are not that bad, and you learn to not miss your phone when major functions are terminated. I even learned to not miss the music I would listen to, which was by no means spiritual. Fasting and Abstinence (when combined, I refer to it as Fastinence) are powerful ways to remind yourself of what you really need, and to not fill the hole in your spirit with food. Every life can be simplified, and if you haven’t given thought to how yours can, it can be rejuvenating to do so.

Regarding Fraternity

The cornerstone of human life, I am convinced, is community. This Exodus journey was undertaken by only myself and Japhethbone. This would not have been possible alone. Where one struggled, the other could help lift him up. Where one despaired, the other could give hope. We both hit some low points during this time, but our mutual reinforcement ensured our success. Putting Exodus down would mean abandoning the Fraternity, and would mean saying an adamant “NO” to the practices, to scripture, and ultimately to God. It doesn’t take a loud “Yes”, but only a little one, each day, no matter what, to keep going. Fraternity reinforces that.

But now, beyond Exodus, what comes of the fraternity? I am sure we will remain committed to our practices in some form, but what of our bigger community? How can we reinforce others? As I stated when I was musing on my theme for this year, how can we be as Shepherds to each other and to those around us? With the close of Exodus, our Fraternity has just grown to include every soul we encounter. The best thing we can do is live our witness, lead by example, and support with love and charity those around us who need it, and even a few who don’t.

Onward and Upward

I am spiritually invigorated by the Exodus 90 and I hope that you all have gotten some benefit out of my musings on the subject. My spiritual journey is far from over, and there is plenty of room for everyone to grow.

God bless you, whoever you are.
God bless my friends, my fraternity, and my community.
God bless the Priests I encountered throughout this, the Priests of my Diocese, and the Priests around the world.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, Pray for us
The Divine Heart of our Blessed Mother, pray for us
St. Athanasius, Pray for us
St. Luke, Pray for us
St. Joseph, pray for us
St. Peter, pray for us

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam