Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Evolution - one more time.

As a young boy, reading "The descent of men" and "Origin of the species," I got the impression that man came from the monkeys. And I believed it. When I became a Benedictine monk, meditatimg upon my defects and sins, I became more convinced that I was a monkey. Some childish questions followed; why didn't the apes continue turning into men, why didn't man continue to be superman; or why didn't the apes turn into rats (reversed evolution)? This topic had been raised once more because of statements made by the cardinal from Austria.

Pope Benedict XVI said: "The purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men...we are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary." These words confirm the old belief that the first men was a finished product.

The idea that evolution is an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection, and that evolution is governed by a wise intelligent being were not part of my old theology. I learned that there was no evolution of whatever kind. When God created Adam and Eve they were as human as we are right now.

Evolution is not a scientific fact; it is an explanation (and not a very good one). Evolution does not go against religion; it goes against rationalism, G. K. Chesterton states. Evolution was born when man had ceased to believe in God who created everything out of nothing; in evolution man found it more thinkable to believe that the ape turned itself into a man.

Chesterton, using comon sense, wrote in "Everlasting Man" that the art works of early man showed that primitive man was as human as his office mates in the Daily News. Art is the expression of man's culture. It is a copy of life. It shows how man lived. It expresses the nobility or ignobility of a civilization. He observed that the art of early men was more artful than our present art. Their art reflected their innocence and the intelligence that come from that innocence. It reflected a high degree, not of technology, but of culture. Art is born, Chesterton continues, when the temporary touches the eternal. And the charcoal drawings in those ancient caves showed that the first men were in contact with the eternal. Their sketches were meant to entertain their children as the universe entertains a philosopher. Try to compare the art of the cavemen with the art of the French and Russian revolution. It's like comparing the art of a man with the scribblings of an ape.

Scientific discoveries had consistently shown that the "caveman" showed great intelligence. We thought we were intelligent until we found the civilization of Egypt, until we discovered the civilization of the Aztecs. Now we are discovering that the"Ice Man" was sophisticated in running his life. We live in concrete homes, the caveman lived in caves or flimsy huts. Both sheltered themselves. The disparate materials they used were dependent on materials available and not on the quality of their minds.

Let's consider how God acted in Scriptures. God was always in a hurry He was in a hurry to replenish heaven after the fall of the angels. So He created man. Jesus Christ was in a hurry to work out the redemption of men to replenish heaven with new citizens as seen in His restless activity while on earth. And Christ in His teachings kept on reminding us to repent as soon as possible. Never to wait or waste time "Today, if you hear His voice..." It would not be consistent with God's behaviour if He tarried for a million years to wait for that chimp to become a man. He didn't have to wait. God is outside time.

God could have done things fast, redeem man fast, and end the world fast. The first man was a finished product and not an object of evolution.

This is not a conflict between science and religion. Because the theory of evolution is not scientific at all and is, therefore, not science. The fear we had, which had been comfirmed, is that it would affect morality. That heterosexual marriage would evolve into same sex marriage.

What I learned from my evolution teacher was that God created the world. "Let there be light." There was a big bang and it all started: everything began small, like one- celled amoebas; then those amoeba-like-fish in the water went up the land, lost their fins and grew legs for walking. Then not satisfied with walking on land, they climbed trees and became apes. They probably developed vertigo so they came down the trees. While down on earth, God gave them human souls and eureka... there was Adam and Eve.

Of course, science cannot prove this. Anyway it is only an intellectual proposition with no basis in fact. But then I began to wonder. If everything begun small and grew big, how come at the begining we have giant dinosaurs and now they have shrunk to lizards?

Groote, purportedly the author of the spiritual classic "The Imitation of Christ," wrote that there is such a thing as a "forbidden tree." And this tree is made up of forbidden knowledge. Not so much because this knowledge is forbidden but more because this was an utter waste of time and distracts the soul from the more important job of working out his salvation. And St. Paul tells us not to be concerned with genealogies, whether we came from apes or chimpanzees.. The quests for knowledge of things in the stars fall under the same category of forbidden knowledge. The stars are there, not for us to explore for inhabitants , nor for us to measure the distances from here to there. No. The stars were created for us to marvel at the glory of God.

Man did not evolve. He was as he is. Probably a little sun-burned because he only wore fig leaves. Well, let me modify my statement, probably man is worst now than beforew. Because man in his depravity abused the environment and descended below his human dignity and even below the beasts. The soul of man today is worst than Adam and Eve, who had retained the innocence of childhood inspite of the fall. Man today have perverted themselves into adulthood. "Unless you become like little children..."was Christ's message from the cave." Or shall we say "Unless you become like Adam and Eve?"

We, Catholics have the secured confidence that nothing ever change in the spiritual realm. This is our foundation in believing in Tradition... that the teachings of Christ that had been handed down to us have not changed and will never change just as the movements of the stars had been so precise that we can set our watches by them. But we also have the more dreary confidence that nothing will ever remain the same. Everything is in flux.

Why don't we just stick to the Bible and say 'man came from the slime of the earth.' That sounds better for my ego than to say that he came from the apes. That's what we are, all the rest of us.....slime of the earth. But man's nobility rests on the fact that the slime was moulded by the hands of God. But the evolutionist prefer to tell man that he came from King Kong.

The evolutionists and liberals believe that eventually men can marry men and women can be ordained priests and the problems of the world will all be solved. This Darwinian mentality, which was Heraclitus' difficulty, is the source of all heresies. If the fruits are bad, couldn't it be that the tree is a bad theory? Yes, the Church has not condemned the theory of evolution. But evolutionist find it impossible to prove it. So why waste time on it.

But spiritual evolution , on the other hand, is a theological reality. We can be born lunatics and end up contemplatives. G.K. Chesterton described evolution as a "slippery slope." Do you remember who used that phrase recently? "A miry slope" where it is very easy to slide down to heresy."

Let us listen to what Pope Benedict XVI said about evolution and leave the rest as "forbidden knowledge" ...and how about starting to memorize the prayers in Latin as he encouraged. (Picture above is "Paradiso Terrestre" by Peter Wenzel.)

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Wastelands.

Europe have been described as a spiritual wasteland. The whole world is. . . in different degrees. The Catholic Church, herself, looks like a wasteland except for a few, select greeneries that God had chosen from the many. There is nothing in the wasteland that can nourish the soul.

The converts to Catholicism from England, around the year 1800, had noticed this and described England as a wasteland. T.S. Eliot described his times " as a time of disillusionment and the disintegration of values... that caused despair...and developed a deep respect for tradition and the keen moral sense which underlay them." He wrote this after a nervous breakdown and stay in a sanitarium. Neurosis and psychosis, the mental states of the world today (and their natural manifestations, like homosexuality, lesbianism and suicide) are the products of this wasteland.

These writers described it as the era of modern secular liberalism. Evelyn Waugh similarly described this in his novel "A Handful of Dust" wherein he attacked the vacuities of modern life. It was a conflict between flesh and faith. Just like St. Benedict's times. It was in this scenario that converts, like Olivia Plunket Greene found the Catholic Church under the influence of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross; she, eventually, lived a solitary and celibate life, like St. Benedict.

Eliot continues: the key to understanding the "inferno" of Dante is to understand first the "Purgatorio" and the "Paradiso." Pope Benedict XVI's dictatorship is a foretaste of "inferno" on earth. Most of us do not believe in hell nor in the devil because we have no concept, whatsoever, of heaven or purgatory. Our present life is just the continuation of Eliot's times. Is our present era of relativism a taste of "inferno" because we have forgotten "Purgatorio" or "Paradiso?" Has'nt Pope Benedict XVI reminded us to regain the knowledge of heaven and purgatory through the Sacrifice of the Mass wherewith the Church Triumphant, Suffering and militant are present?

St. Benedict of Nurcia left Rome to live in a cave because he wanted to run away from a wasteland. Siegfried Sassoon, another convert, would describe his journey to the Catholic Church as "a long and contemplative search for truth." Sounds like a monk.

Understanding Catholic truths cannot be attained by study, as seminarians, religious and theologians do. It can only be attained by living a way of life. The book of Wisdom describes truth as a gift given to the humble, "Draw near to me, ye unlearned, and gather yourselves together into the house of discipline, (Ecclus. 51:31)(or Sir. 51;23.) It is a gift given to the unlearned if they live together in community in the house of discipline. Monasticism is for the unlearned to live together in a house of discipline. The disciplined life is living a humble life. This is how one learns the deep truths of Christ. And the monastic life of St. Benedict is meant to make us humble and as a consequence worthy to receive the gift of knowledge and wisdom.

St. Benedict has a chapter on the degrees of humility which was copied later by St. Ignatius. Well, humility is the basis of the Christian religion. It is for all. "Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart." Wisdom and knowledge are gifts dependent on the degree of one's humility, and not on the number of years spent studying theology.

Note how many of these converts have more knowledge and wisdom than the usual born Catholics. In humility they had confess their former errors and in humility had accepted the truth. Converts, often, do not reaize that their efforts to go deeper into the truths of the Church expressed in their efforts at Apologetics are, in fact, a desire for the monastic life or contemplative life. Did you notice how some converts, like Edith Stein, went all the way to become a Carmelite (contemplative)nun. Men, like John Newman, Robert Benson, Ronald Knox became priests. They cannot be mediocre Catholics.

In Scriptures, the wastelands had always been described as the abode of the devil. Christ went to the desert, after preparing Himself for battle during His hidden life (which he did not have to do being a God but which He did for our imitation) to do battle against the devil. The early monks believed that the devil abided in the desert wasteland. So they retreated within the protective shield of the monastery to train themselves for the battle, then ventured into the desert to do battle against the devil. St. Anthony the hermit was described as shining with the perfection of holiness after he emerged from the desert tombs where he prepared himself. Then he went forth to do battle against the devil.

Pope Benedict XVI has described the world as a spiritual wilderness. He went short of saying that this world had become the abode of the devil. Pope Paul VI had already mentioned it. The signs of both the presence and possessions by the devil are all around.

The devil entered into Judas Iscariot because of the manner of his life. There is a way of life that invites the devil to possess a soul; just as there is a way of life that invites the Holy Spirit to abide in a soul. And the way of life described as the tyranny of relativism, is an open invitation for the devil to come in. Shall we wonder why as head of the CDF Cardinal Ratzinger exerted efforts to improve the ritual for exorcism?

We need a spiritual mind to detect the wasteland amids the dazzling lights and entertainments of the world. We need extraordinary graces to see the emptiness in the fullness of a shopping mall. Don't we see this miracle of grace among such people as Edith Stein, a philosopher, who saw nothing worthwhile around her.

In such a scenario how do we go about seeking God and the salvation of our souls. St. Benedict showed us the steps. We must first desire to truly seek God, flee the world (because it would be impossible to worship God in a pagan environment), undergo a rigid regimen of training in discipline within the protective walls of a monastery and then go forth to the wasteland to do battle against the spirits of evil. With such a prepration we are assured of victory; without it we could end up a casualty.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Nativity of Monasticism.

Pope Benedict XVI and Don Giussani were, in some way, nurtured spiritually in Sacro Speco, Subiaco, the cave where St. Benedict stayed after running away from paganized Rome. In an address on "Europe in the crisis of culture" in Subiaco, which Giussani frequented with the young, then Cardinal Ratzinger noted the wisdom of St. Benedict in being able to present the entire Gospel in an easy and simple form for beginners in the spiritual life, "To put nothing to the love of Christ."

Caves have a symbolic meaning in Christianity. When Christ decided to become man, he was born in a cave. And it was there that the shepherd and Magi found Him. It symbolized a way of life completely different from the ways of the world. This was the definition of "metanoia" or conversion given by Pope Benedict XVI in his "The New Evangelization." There was nothing new really. He just showed how to do it right!

Isn't this the aim of the World's Youth Day and of every Catholic? In Cologne, where reportedly the relics of the Magi are, the motto is "We have come to worship Him." We must first know the way to seek God through the Catechism, we must actually seek Him through obedience to the commands of Christ learned from the Gospel and summarized by St. Benedict, and hopefully find and worship Him.

When the Israelites left Egypt with its fleshpots and went to the desert, it was in order to worship God. The shepherds were out of the city, in the fields watching their flocks. St. Benedict, also, felt he had to leave his studies in the city and go to a cave in order to worship God. Abraham had to leave the city of Ur and dwell for a while in the desert. Is it any wonder why caves and deserts which Christ, Himself, frequented were important places for the first Christians... and are now being pointed to us by Pope Benedict XVI?

Well, the caves and deserts (and forests and boats) were the symbols of the monastic life. It is the place where we find Christ, the place were the Israelites found God. It is the place where we can come to worship Him. But we must first "flee the world" and find where the child dwells... in the cave of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Monasticism, from the beginning, was for laymen. The Holy Family during the 30 years of hidden life was the model of monasteries. The desire to be away from men to be alone with God is inherent in man. St. Augustine said it is better to talk with God than to talk with men. Monks were described as laymen who were seriously seeking God. Converts are never at ease with mediocrity because there is within them that desire to do more, which St. John Chrysostom described as "the call of the desert."

The monastic life is a way of life by which we seek God, find God and worship God. Seminaries and convents were established for this same purpose and patterned after the first monasteries. Except that they were established when the Church has become lax and effeminate, and thus failed in their purpose of making its inhabitants search, find and worship Christ. This is why St. Vincent de Paul tried to restore monastic life by establishing seminaries for the diocesan clergy. It was an attempt during his times to prevent the present problems we are now facinf with some priests.

The journey or pilgrimage to Cologne, Germany, must be symbolic of the monastic life ... a fleeing from the "cities", to search, find and worship God in Cologne. And if each delegate live the monastic life "in spirit", as exemplified in the rule for beginners written by St. Benedict, by fleeing the world to go to the "cave" of Cologne, who knows, they might just find Christ and worship Him. And hopefully, like the Magi go back to their cities living a completely different way of life (conversion) and proclaiming with great joy what they saw...a child in a cave.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

No Salvation Outside the Church.

A person may be a member of the Catholic Church only in name but not in spirit; on the other hand he can be a member in spirit but not in name. The Church mentions baptism of desire as one way of spiritual membership and Baptism of blood as another way. The Holy Innocents is an example of the latter. Let me dwell a little more on Baptism of desire: these are my musings pending the publication of the compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church where the topic is discussed at better length..

A theological stand is held in that a soul, who lives according to its conscience, who lives a naturally good life, etc., but who is invincibly ignorant of the true faith could be saved through baptism of desire. Ronald Knox in commenting on "salvation outside the Church" says: "The simplest way to put it, I think, is this - there is no other religious body in the world except the Catholic Church which makes a supernatural contribution to a man's chances of salvation. He may receive natural help from some other source; his conscience may be stirred by the preaching of the Salvation Army, or he may learn a useful habit of mental prayer from the Buchmanites, or his sense of worship may be stimulated by the beauty of the ceremonies which he witnesses at the Church of the Cowley Fathers. But there's only one religious body whose membership, of itself, tends to procure our salvation, and that is the Cathlic Church. If anybody is saved without visible membership of it he is saved, not because he's an Anglican, not because he's a Methodist, not because he's a Quaker, but for one reason only ---because he is a Catholic without knowing it. (ISG, 118-19)

The doctrine is clear. But I would like to focus on "without knowing it,"...on the invincible ignorance. Today, is it possible to be in the state of invincible ignorance when the Gospel had been preached throughout the world? Have we not reached a point wherein the Gospel had been preached throughout the world? Is it possible that in the Providence of God, He will give a soul the knowledge of Catholicism and still withold a small amount of grace wherewith the soul may come to know and enter the Catholic Church? Would'nt God have the power to show the Church and give such soul the opportunity to enter the Church considering He had already given the soul so much graces? And isn't God's way like this: whenever He has given a soul the grace of conversion, He, also, "sends" someone, precisely, to point out the Church to such a soul, as Christ sent Philip to the Eunoch?

Isn't this clear in the lives of converts? All of the converts who were encased in their previous beliefs, from John Newman to Edith Stein, found the Catholic Church? God's way is evidently clear. That when He gives the grace of conversion to a soul, He gives it so that they may find and enter the visible Church. Why should God fall short in the case of a few souls and deprive them of graces from entering the visible Church?"

Is it possible for God to give a soul the grace of conversion and still keep him in invinsible ignorance? How come in the stories of converts, God did not allow them to remain in invinsible ignorance if they can be saved without entering the visible Church, He who knows the hearts of men? If Christ came to establish His Church, membership of which is necessary for salvation, why should he withold the grace of membership when by His almighty power, He can give the occassion for them to enter?

Take the hypothetical case of a native, alone in an island who was enlightened by God into following his conscience and living a good natural life, can he be saved as he is? Theoretically, yes. But basing it in the Providence of God, God would either arranged it in some way that he gets in contact with the Church enabling him to enter the visible Church or God will "send" him a messenger, like Philip, who would introduce him to the visible Church. It is for this purpose that God instituted "apostles," meaning "sent" that such souls may be able to enter the visible Church. Isn't this the apostolic commission: that we go to all nations and point the Church and teach all how to enter the Church?

Going back to Ronald Knox's "he is a Catholic without knowing it," this is theoretically correct. But most probably God will give him the grace to know and enter the visible Church.... if he is to be saved.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Polarization in the Church

Even before the elevation of CardinalRatzinger to the Papacy, the world have been polarized into two camps; those for Christ and those against Christ. During apostolic times, those against Christ( satan and his cohorts) were outside the Church and attacked those within. But Satan saw that in this way he was just sending hordes of souls to heaven through martyrdom. No, he wanted them in hell. So he changed his tactic. He placed his cockles within the Church and attacked her from within. St. Paul would, eventually, describe this as the "Great Apostasy" that would follow the smaller apostasies and herald the end times. Pope Paul VI would comment that the "smoke of Satan" had entered the sanctuary of the Church. Satan had entered the Church since the beginning of Christianity as the parable of the wheat and the cockle illustrates. Should we be surprised that he is all around?

It is a visible sign of the true Church that we have cockles within the wheatfield of the Lord rather than the "we are all saved" declarations of other sects. Ronald Knox noted that in England everyone was saved except the Catholics.

Did you notice that this polarization became more pronounced with Pope Benedict XVI? The historian Hilaire Belloc stated that when Martin Luther left the Catholic Church he, himself, was amazed at his following. He was not a charismatic leader nor a brilliant preacher. So why did half of Europe follow him. Because half of Europe was already Protestant at heart. They were just waiting for an excuse to apostatize. And the Luther was their excuse.

The world of Pope Benedict XVI is already pagan at heart. He was the excuse the apostates and schismatics were waiting for.

St. Paul gave the "great apostasy" as a sign of the end times. Are we in the end times? Does this explain the great apostasy happening today. Is this why Pope Benedict looks forward to a small Church? Is this why the Pope is hesitant in exerting efforts arresting the great apostasy? Prophesies are always fulfilled.

During this polarization, there is nothing we can do about the other side. All our efforts must be in keeping ourselves and our love ones in the RIGHT side,(literally the side of those who will be saved) on the side of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Homosexuality and the Priesthood

The early Christian Church existed in an era of paganism. And the pagans had all the perversions of nature, being pagan. They had slavery, killing of babies, homosexuality, lesbianism, adultery, drunkenness, and many other vices.

Christianity came with emphasis on virtues that should replace the pagan vices. But in the process of conversion, the first Christians saw that it was impossible to practice the teachings of Christ amidst an environment of pure paganism. The two, Christian virtues and pagan vices were completely at odds. They found it necessary to fly away from the pagan environment. But there was still the flesh to overcome, aside from the devil and the world. The flesh had the defects that fallen nature have left in our souls. To overcome our fallen nature amidst a pagan environment would be impossible. So the first Christians embraced the ascetical practice called "Fuga Mundo," flight from the world. You did'nt have to do this if you lived in a Catholic environment; it is needed if you live in a pagan environment.

If we live in a pagan ambiance, which seems to be the case at the time of St. Benedict, and which modern spiritual writers as Coleridge, Chesterton, Belloc described as the state of our present era, we would succumb to the pagan perversion like abortion and homosexuality.

Our priests and seminarians have been exposed to such an environment for the last two generations. Most of them had entered the seminary bitten by that pagan virus.

But in the early Christian times, St. Benedict, by an inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had devised a manner by which this perversion could be cured. It was the Gospel, presented in a concise form adapted to the simple minded, like the peasants of his time. Like the Gospel, its focus is in the development of virtues as cure for the perversion of pagan vices.

History tells us that the practice of slavery, common among the pagans, disappeared when the first Christian masters loved their slaves and Christian slaves honoured their masters. Christian love removed all borders that separated slave from master. The other pagan perversions, like homosexuality, lesbianism and adultery were replaced with Christian virtues.

Monasticism, i.e., living the Gospel, dispelled the vices by developing the virtues. And so even if these perversities were mentioned in the Old Testament, it was hardly mentioned in the early monastic history of the Catholic Church. The early Christians did not have these vices, neither among the lay nor the priests.

Why did it suddenly re-appear? Because our civilization had returned to paganism. Pope Benedict called it the dictatorship of relativism. He also referred to it as forgetting God. Pope Pius X called it the heresy of Modernism. Spiritual writer noticed it around the 1800 and it never left us.

What's the point? The Catholic Church had corrected these pagan perversions when she first came in contact with paganism. How come the Bishops do not know how to cure these now? Their solutions, like "one strike and you're out" and other solutions show ignorance of the Church' s traditional solution to a problem that was cured and non-existent during the advent of monasticism. Why don't they apply the solution well known within the Church and used with great success in her history . . . monastic life?

These priests are sick spiritually. The Church, as usual, knows the medicine. She had tried the solution before and found that it worked. Why don't they try it now? Just to throw these priests away while they are sick and need spiritual help, goes against the spirit of Charity. Why not rehabilitate them in the way the Church had done to pagans all these centuries. This is not the first time that the Church had met this problem. It was prevalent at the time of St. Benedict. And she solved it.

Now that we lack priests, would not saving them by rehabilitating them an easier way of maintaining the parishes with priests?

The monastic life is a remedy, not a punishment. The monastic life is meant for the extirpation of vices, like homosexuality, says St. Benedict, and the preservation of charity. Imagine, not only healing the sickness of homosexuality but in addition to it making those priest saints. What else do you want? But nobody seems to know this answer. And those bishops plan to spend millions of dollars just for a study to find out the cause and attempt an answer? Don't we say "Christ is the answer." Why are we looking for other answers?

The cause of this perversion is deficient knowledge of Catholic truths and total ignorance of the spirituality of the Gospel...which is one and the same thing. In theological parlance, they lack knowledge of ascetical theology, which is the application of dogmatic and moral theology in everyday life. And Pope Benedict is telling us that the so-called Holy Rule of Saint Benedict is the application of the entire Gospel in everyday life "...for the extirpation of vices and the preservation and development of Charity."

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI - and the problems of the Church

Dissident Bishops, hallucinating nuns, pagans in Church worship, homosexual priests, heads of Vatican Curias that had run amock, pro-abortion Catholic speakers treated as stars in Catholic schools, closing down of parishes ... name it and Pope Benedict have it. So why does he not pick up the phone and simply fire all those cockles? Christ said the angels will do it when it is time for the second to the last Pope, or something to that effect.

The Holy Father knows we are living at a time where there is not much he can do about this state of affairs. He would be wasting his time trying to remedy this situation. He knows Scriptures point to this age as not only hopeless but will even get worse. "Their love will wax cold." And he knows that the Holy Spirit is running the church.

I think we are now facing the same situation as what our Theology professors use to tell us in Casus Conscientiae. If you are in a sinking ship, you save those whom you can save; which could be a total stranger who is beside you while foregoing your loved one who is far from you. Difficult choice! But it must be made. Of course, you can try saving both and die trying.

Theologians distinguish between the "Ecclesia" and the "Elect." When Christ said: "Many are called but few are chosen," the "many" make up the "Ecclesia," which in Scriptures refers to the fish-net that contained both the good and bad fishes, or the field with both the cockles and the wheat (that is the good and the bad). The "many" who are called constitute the Church, "Ecclesia," who are called out from among ALL. While the "elect" are the few that are called out from among the "many." The "Ecclesia" is one thing, the "elect" are another. And it was the capital mistake of Protestantism that it never realized that, thus believing they were all saved.

St. Paul clearly stated that he was sent to preach to the "elect" and prayed that by the end of his life he had done the will of God of having preached to the "elect," though he found himself preaching to the Ecclesia, too. But the "elect" within the "Ecclesia" was the object of his preaching.

It is possible that, like St. Paul, Pope Benedict XVI will preach to the "Ecclesia" because that is his vowed duty, but his concentration will be on the "elect," which he often referred to as the small Church? This would mean the fervent hidden nuns in convents, faithful monks in monasteries and all those lay writers and bloggers who are explaining and defending the Mystical Body of Christ. Don't forget those mothers living quietly like Mary in their homes and the countless young boys and girls that they inspire to be saints.

Joshua had an army to fight his enemies. But he had to test them by a stream to choose the few from among the many who will fight the battles of the Lord.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Martha and/or Mary?

There are some bloggers who are thinking of entering the convent (I just read two young girls) wondering whether they should enter an active or contemplative order. Let me clarify a small point regarding the story of Mary and Martha that had always been presented as the two ways of life in the service of Christ, the active and the contemplative life.

The story of Mary and Martha is not two exclusive ways of life. They are two activities in one way of life. Each Christian seeking to serve God must be a Martha and Mary at the same time. And the lesson Christ is advancing is that between the two activities, in one and the same way of life, the life of Mary must take precedence. Let me repeat. The Christian way of life requires we are Marys and Marthas at the same time with emphasis on being a Mary, because "Mary had chosen the better part." Every active order must have a contemplative in spirit.

Pope Benedict presented St. Benedict of Nurcia as an exemplar for the renewal of the Catholic faith in Europe. St. Benedict's motto is "Ora et Labora." Work and pray. That is Martha and Mary. He gave emphasis to praying or contemplation and called it the "work of God." This, of course is the Divine Office. And they had many activities, "labora," farming, teaching in monastic schools, inventing farming implements, running hospitals, etc. The principle is that you can, always "Ora" while doing your "Labora" but not vice versa.

Dom Chautard, in his spiritual classic "Soul of the Apostolate" emphasized this principle. He compared contemplation to a fountain of water, the "soul," while the apostolate as distributing this water with a glass. And he asked: what if you are not a fountain? You will run out of water to distribute in your apostolate. You must first be a inexhaustible fountain through contemplation before you distribute water in the apostolate. If in the apostolate you run out of water due to lack of a contemplative spirit, you would eventually burn out. And this would be a spiritual catastrophe.

In choosing a religious order, therefore, it is good to choose one that is more on the contemplative and less on the active, like St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who was contemplative and yet did more for the church than all the active sisters in her century. In the plan of God, the very active orders were raised by God for some temporary need of the Church. The contemplatives were raised for a permanent need of the Church.

The Cross and the Eucharist.

If you noticed, during the elevation of the sacred host during Mass, it comes in line with the cross where either a dying or dead and broken Christ is crucified? That is no accident. The Catholic Church had studied that for 2000 years to teach us an important doctrine. In fact, there are three important doctrines that are being taught at that moment. First, an incident in the past, an ongoing truth in the present and an eschatological doctrine in the future. There is always a danger among Catholics to see only one... the historical past.

That aligning of the consecrated hosts with the crucified Christ reminds us of an incident in the past... that once upon a time, the Son of God, became man to make up for the sins of man. And to satisfy the justice of God, He had to die on the cross. No one else could do this to redeem mankind.

The second truth is that in the consecrated, elevated Host, Christ had once again returned to earth present in His mystical Body. That is why the whole mystical body of Christ, the Church militant, suffering and triumphant and the whole heavenly host are present at mass with the Blessed Trinity. And thirdly, the scene reminds us of the Apocalyptic event in heaven after the end times to which we all look forward to after winning our battles here on earth.

But let me focus on the cross (which should never hold a figure of the resurrected Christ but either a dying or dead Christ.) It should remind us of what Christ did for us... He suffered and died for us sinners. We must view this with great gratitude.

Isaias had mentioned that ingratitude is the very essence of sin. And gratitude is the foundation of holiness. And St. Paul reminded us constanctly to be thankful. If during Mass, we look at the cross, and simply be grateful to Christ for having done all those things for our salvation, that solitary act of gratitude will do more to lead us to holiness and deserving to join in the Apocalyptic celebration in heaven with the lamb than anything you can imagine.