Gloria Olivae

To promote the messages of Pope Benedict XVI and harness small monastic Benedictine communities in his and the service of the Church.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

"DEUS CARITAS EST" AND PRAYER

God, by His foreknowledge, knows all the prayers of men and had pre-ordained the events in the world taking those prayers into account. Though He hears all, God takes only into consideration those prayers directed towards the salvation and happiness of men.

God, Himself, desires the salvation and happiness of men. He has ordained to give men everything to attain these ends. But He withholds it until man asks for it in prayer. This is what happened to the Samaritan woman. Christ’s had so greatly desired to give her living waters. When the woman asked for it “Lord, give me this water.” Christ gave it to her. But only after she asked for it. The same thing with Mary Magdalene. Though a great sinner, yet God so desired to grant her salvation and gave it to her the moment she asked for it.

Charity is a theological virtue that is necessary for salvation. In fact, it is salvation itself. It is happiness. We can only possess these through prayer…..with great humility.

A blessed and happy life is the desire of every soul. A Happy life is what God wants to give us. If we ask in prayer for a happy life, God would surely give it to us. This happy and blessed life is Charity.

God created all things that man might realize that he is a beggar. He has to ask for everything. So man must realize that he can only go to Heaven if he asks for it. And if Charity is necessary for our happiness he must realize the great need to ask for it. And he should ask for it knowing his great need for it.

Prayer is raising our hearts and minds to God. Why? To find out His will for us. A Will he is desirous to reveal to us….if we only asked. With "Deus Caritas Est," Pope Benedict XVI had just told us what is God’s Will for us….to be happy-- and what is needed for the happiness and salvation of our soul. He told us what God wants to give us. We have only to ask….but ask like beggars, for such we are.

And since charity is the only thing we need to be happy and be saved, this is all we have to ask. All its adjuncts will also be given to us. If we need anything else to be saved, all will be given to us. “Seek first the Kingdom of God,and all the rest will be given to you.”

I think the Holy Father sees a problem: people do not know what God wants to give them. So they ask for the wrong things like prosperity and peace to accompany the enjoyment of that prosperity. God will give some degree of prosperity sufficient for the quest of charity. He gives this together with Charity as an adjunct and not apart from it.

Perhaps the Pope also sees the problem of people not even realizing the need for Charity for the salvation of one’s soul; perhaps he sees it ill-defined everywhere. People do not pray,
and those who wish to do so do not know how.

Aside from this, there is the problem of those who do not believe in God. What problems! Ronald Knox once wrote that if we can put ourselves for a moment in the shoes of the Pope and imagine the burden he carries, we would fall on our knees and weep.

And what about the other things in life? St. Thomas wrote: we may ask for everything else as long as it is needed for the attainment of charity. But first and foremost we should ask for charity. ("St. Peter's release from prison" by S. Pistolesi.)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

DEUS CARITAS EST in THREE STEPS

In mystical theology we were taught that there were three steps towards the perfection of Charity. Charity is, of course, Christian Perfection. These three steps could be allegorically compared to the three Divine Calls underwent by the apostles.

The first Divine Call is when Christ called Peter and Andrew, the brothers James and John. At this first Divine Call they underwent their first conversion. They were already following John the Baptist and so they were prepared for the first call of Christ. The results were dramatic; Peter and Andrew left the boats and nets and the Zebedees left their boats and father. Matthew left his toll booth. They became fishers of man.

They left all things and made provision that there was no way by which they could go back to those things. When Christ preached to the crowd who left Him, Christ asked His apostles: “Will you also leave me?” And they answered “Lord, Where shall we go?” That is how they left all things. They had no place to go if they left Christ. Now that is a true following of Christ. Many followed Christ. But those who left all things and followed Christ became the true disciples. Those who followed Christ without leaving all things went back to all those things.

The young rich man who wanted to follow Christ was told to go home, sell all his things and give it to the poor and then follow Christ. Because he could not part with his possessions, he had something to come back to and, thereby, was unable to follow Christ. He failed Christ’s first Divine Call and as a consequence could not undergo his First Conversion.

The result of the First Divine Call that signaled the first Conversion of the apostles is a knowledge of the beauty and godliness of the teachings of Christ. This is what made them attached to Christ and not the fact that they had nothing to go back to.

The second conversion of St. Peter was during the Passion. He denied Christ three times and Christ looked at him. The look of Christ was Christ's Second call that initiated the Second conversion of St. Peter. Christ’s look was an invitation to Peter to completely depend in humility on God’s grace since left to himself he would end up betraying Christ. Peter’s conversion consisted in realizing his need for complete dependency on the grace of God. John the Evangelist, too, who ran away briefly was called and underwent his Second conversion under the cross.

The result of their second conversion is knowledge and understanding of the Passion of Christ. So Peter who, before, did not want Christ to undergo his Passion was now convinced He had to go through it. Later on he would even express his desire to undergo it, too. Which he, in fact, did through his martyrdom.

The third Divine Call that signaled the third conversion took place on Pentecost. But let us look briefly at the events that took place just before Pentecost. Christ called Peter and asked him three times “Do you love me.” It was a demand for Charity. “Feed My Lambs” was their job after the First conversion. “ Take care of My Sheep” was their job after the Second Conversion. And “ Feed My Sheep” was the order for one who has reached the perfection of Charity. And for such a person he must now feed his sheep by teaching them Charity. Though it was an order for all the apostles, at that moment in John 21:15 it was exclusively for Peter and his successors which, in fact, Pope Benedict just did.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The THREE LOVES IN "Deus Caritas Est."


Pope Benedict mentioned Agape; then Eros and there is Egoism. Agape is Love of God attained when the intellect climbs up from the knowledge of man within the family, then to knowledge of the Church as a family and finally up to God as a Trinity. Since in that climb by the intellect the will goes inseparably with it, the will falls in love with the beauty of God and with God. Then both the mind and the will go down to the knowledge and love of the Church as a family and further down to the family. The person, now, knows and loves the Church and knows and loves the family. Note that the rise to God is done by the intellect. When the intellect reaches God, it is joined by the will by loving God. Then the love of God spills down to the neighbors; first to the Church and then to the rests of men.

The second love is Eros. Eros is natural love. It is naturally good and usually exist in the love of parents for children and love between husband and wife. It is commonly found in friendship. Natural self-love is good. However the existence of Eros is short lived due to the fallen nature of man. Because of this Eros has to be elevated to Agape immediately, otherwise it deteriorates to egoism. So marital love immediately descends to treating each other as objects; and parents-children relationship deteriorates into using the children as entertainments. Even friendship between two persons begins as Eros. And it immediately turns into fornication even before they get married. It deteriorates that fast. Usually in one date.

Egoism is love of self in its most selfish and vicious kind. It is from this that all evils come out of the mouth; and makes a man unclean . For from this come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, perjury, slander. All the evils in the world come from these.
Same sex-marriage, pedophile, abortion, euthanasia, family planning, etc. are all evils because they all came from here. The whole world is wallowing in egoism. It has taken away from the world the reason for its existence.

While it is easy for Eros to climb up to Agape, it is almost impossible for egoism to climb up to Eros or Agape. Violent procedures are needed. So the Gospels used violent words in presenting the cure: “To die to oneself,” “To hate oneself.” Egoism is a cruel prison that does not easily give up its prey. And yet our present way of life and ways of the world hurls all souls into this dungeon. This is the dungeon of one’s own free will that had closed itself to God and directed all its love to self.

Christian Asceticism or monasticism is the only known way to free oneself from the imprisonment of egoism. But sadly, most monasteries today, having toned down their way of life has been unable to do so. Only the truth of humility, working through renunciation to the point of self-contempt and hating one’s life can rid us of egoism. This is why St. Benedict, St. Bernard, St. Ignatius and most of the saints had given due attention to this virtue that accompanies Faith, Hope and Charity.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

HOW TO ATTAIN CHARITY

1. Charity is Christian Perfection. And to reach it we have to pass two stages; the beginner's stage and the proficient's stage.

2. Christ said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” The commands of Christ may be divided into two groups. One group that direct us towards Charity and the other which commands us to remove everything that are obstacles to Charity.

3. There are certain things in life that can hinder our growth towards Charity but are not really obstacles. Like properties, human affections and, sometimes, doing our own will. These should be governed by the so-called Evangelical Counsels. Otherwise, if misused, they can be detrimental. This is something we must all realize that all Christians are bound to observe the spirit of the Evangelical Counsels if we must remove those small hindrances to Charity. The Counsels are not exclusively for the use of religious. Without the aid of the Counsels it would be impossible for anyone to reach Charity.

4. The sign that one has reached the beginnings of Charity, thus the beginnings of Christian Perfection is the absence of mortal sin because Charity and mortal sin cannot exist together. They are contradictory.

5. But even within Charity, there are still three stages. The Charity of the beginners, the Charity of the Proficient and the Charity of the Perfect. The Charity of the beginners is when one is free from mortal sin; the Charity of the Proficient is when a soul is further purified from any defect in the senses (commonly called the dark night of the senses) and the last stage, the Charity of the Perfect wherewith the soul is further purified in spirit (commonly called the dark night of the spirit). A description of these last two may be seen in the life of St. Therese of Lisieux during her last years.

6. These stages on how to attain Charity might appear daunting at first sight. For those who have kept the innocence of childhood, like St. Therese, it would be easy. But for those who have “grown up” it would be a “narrow road” because they have to become children again and then, tread the path to Charity.

7. It is only when we reach Charity that we are united with God, and worthy to receive the Holy Spirit thus becoming the temple of the Holy Spirit.

8. In the light of Deus Caritas Est, we can find out how we stand before God and, as a consequence, find out our chances of salvation. (Painting is "The hospitality of Saint Julian" by Cristofano Allori.)

"DEUS CARITAS EST" in TWO STEPS


1. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” This is Charity, or the Love of God: to keep the commandments…. of Christ. To have Charity, we must find out those commandments and how exactly the Lord would want us to observe them; and then obey them as the Lord says in His Apostolic Commission. Learning what those commandments are and how to observe them …AND obeying them is a lifetime work.

2. While the first part of the Encyclical described how love for God is to be shown: “If you love Me keep My commandments,” the second part discussed how some of those commandments are to be observed. We are not at liberty to observe Christ’s commands in any way we want. We cannot feed the hungry in just any way. We have to feed them the way Christ fed them.

3. The second part of the Encyclical also explains how obedience to the commands of Christ shows one’s love of neighbor. The Apostles showed their love of neighbor when they taught the people the commandment to love God as the Lord has commanded them. Many acts or commands that prove one’s love of God are directed towards neighbor. Thus, love of neighbor is love of God

4. This is how the Church continues to exist in those who love God first and then love their neighbor. We are the neighbor of today who is tasked to love God now and hopefully spill that love of God to our neighbors.

5. But with the way our present time was described by the prophets, “their love will wax cold,” true lovers of God will be few, and also, as a consequence, lovers of neighbor. The world has forgotten its reason for existing. (Painting is "The Charity of St. Catherine of Sienna.")

Friday, February 10, 2006

Deus Caritas Est


1. This is the essence of the Catholic Religion.
Pope Benedicts XVI’s encyclical is out. He goes into the basic and all-embracing topic of Charity. This is the very essence of Christianity and explains everything else therein. What is refreshing is that the Pope just confirmed that the Apostles, the Fathers of the Church, and St. Therese of the Child Jesus were right all the time. What is bewildering is that some have reacted in awe as if this was the first time they heard of it. G.K. Chesterton noted that Catholicism is a vibrant youth that is always new.

2. Pope Benedict did not write about other topics because this encyclical explains it all.
In the early pagan times slavery was the rule. Christianity told the masters and slaves to love one another and slavery was abolished. The employers and employees were told to love one another and the socio-economic system improved. Husbands and wives were exhorted to love one another and there was no divorce or separation. Parents and children were taught how to love one another and there was no abortion and children were raised up well. Civil leaders and citizens were told to love one another and there was civil peace and liberty. The rich and the poor were told to love one another and no one was hungry. Neighbors were told to love one another and there was no war. I can go on and on. Obviously love can solve all problems and could have turned earth into paradise. After this encyclical, if the world gets this right, the Pope does not have to write another encyclical.

Charity is the main topic. Everything else in Catholicism is sub or sub-sub topics that must be anchored on Charity otherwise they could get lost in the deeps. But seeing how some are already misinterpreting the Encyclical, the Pope might just have to write 20 more.

3. The Holy Father emphasized the need to obey the commands to love God and to love one’s neighbor, and these two can never be separated as Christ said the second is just like the first. The first must be love of God and the second is love of neighbor, which must be an overflowing of the first. Love of neighbor cannot exist alone. We must aim at love of God. Love of neighbor will be a natural off-shoot that the first love will overseer.

4. The Pope warned us of the disastrous effects of separating love of neighbor from love of God. Love of neighbor alone is disastrous and the Encyclical noted Julian the Apostate who tried to imitate the love of neighbor of the Christians but without the love for God. He tried to combine love of neighbor with paganism. Today, the world has set aside God -- and we have returned to paganism…

5. When love of God and neighbor go hand in hand, those around experience the presence of God because they see the love of God in the love of neighbor. Errors are removed, truth becomes evident, and conversions take place in attraction to the God behind the love of neighbor.

6. How is it that with all the aids given by Europe and the US to nations in crisis and in the throes of tragedies, removal of errors and the discovery of truth do not happen? Because their act of helping one’s neighbor is not accompanied by love of God. This is a secret which only the Catholic Church has, but which even many Catholics do not know.
Absence of the love of God, instead, encourages abuse, ingratitude, corruption and hatred of donors. On the part of the donors it causes donors’ fatigue.

As the Holy Father says in his encyclical, the gift should be a source of humility for the giver but not a source of humiliation for the receiver. This is done if the giver gives of himself in the gift --- by loving his neighbor out of his love for God.

7. In the second part of the Encyclical the Pope enumerates some common works of charity, constantly reminding us that the soul of such works is the love of God. Catholics should cooperate with civil authorities and other groups to be able to instill in their works the true soul of charitable endeavors, the love of God.

The Pope emphasized how to do good works in detail. Many good works of Catholics are not done properly. Thus the receiver feels humiliated and insulted. And they do not feel the presence of God.

8. In his Encyclical, the Pope did not include “how to attain love of God.” This is a detail reserved to mystical theology. I wouldn’t want to go into detail and spoil the Pope’s encyclical by recalling that the way to reach love of God is through the purgative, illuminative and unitive way, a narrow road that few Catholics tread.

In Scriptures, some truths are known and some are hidden. The Encyclical is the same; it shows us, as it were, the address of where we should go, but not the way. The Pope leaves it to the true seeker to find this address by a certain way of life.

9. Then the Holy Father showed his traditional knowledge by reminding us that this was the way the first monastic communities did things. This is no secret. It was the way St. Benedict and his monks did it. The Encyclical mentions two great monastic figures, St. Martin of Tours and St. Anthony the Hermit. Charity was learned in monasteries that were referred to as “the school of the Lord’s service.”

The love of God always overflows into obedience to God’s will. Sometimes God’s will is for a saint to take care of the sick, the cripple, and the orphan like St. Vincent the Paul. At other times, according to the needs of the Church (and not necessarily the need of the age) God wants pure contemplatives, like St. Therese ……like the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

PONDER IN YOUR HEART


1. The knowledge of religion is infused.
The Catholic Religion being a revealed religion cannot be learned in an ordinary way. It must be revealed to a soul through infused knowledge. It is no wonder that very few, indeed, have a knowledge of the Catholic Religion.

2. St.Benedict’s way.
St Benedict has laid down the steps necessary for one to receive this knowledge in a simple way in his monastic “school of the Lord’s service. ” The first is Fuga Mundo. The next is humility.
The first step is “Flee the world;” the next is growth in humility or poverty in spirit. That’s just about it. While growing in humility (St. Benedict enumerates 12 degrees while St. Gregory enumerates 7), God gives the soul Faith, Hope and Charity. Even in Faith God reveals certain supernatural truths and reveals more and deeper truths as a soul goes into Hope and Charity. Saints usually use Scriptures, the writings of the Fathers and doctors of the Church to check and verbalize the truths they have learned directly from God.

3. Another way.
Another way to attain this knowledge is by searching. Searching for what? Truth. One is confronted by a truth that he cannot understand. So he ponders upon it until such time that God reveals the truth to him. Mary pondered things in her heart. Though she had infused knowledge, (she knew many things not known by the rest of Israel,) like the Messiah was to be born of a virgin), she had to ponder things in her heart, faced by the prophecy of Simeon.

4. Therese received it the first way.
St. Therese, as a child, had this knowledge even while yet living in her father’s house. As a nun, she merely used Scriptures, the Following of Christ and John of the Cross to confirm and verbalize what she already knew ….by her humility: Hers was a continuous effort to do God’s will and deny her own will. This is the above mentioned monastic way of attaining infused knowledge. St. Therese received this knowledge as a child.

5. The second way is more difficult.
If I have not received these truths through revelation and I find myself faced with these truths that are beyond my natural comprehension what should I do? I must humbly accept that these are beyond my capability, pray humbly for understanding and patiently ponder them in my heart. Either way a soul may attain to supernatural truths.

6. Pride of life prevents learning.
The Church is faced today with Catholics who either cannot understand or cannot accept her truths. Why? Either because God has not yet revealed these to them or, faced with these truths beyond natural comprehension, they meet it with pride. The reason for both is pride.

7. Remaining children and becoming like children again.
Like St. Therese, it is easy to be a recipient of this infused knowledge if one remains as a child. If we have lost our childhood, then we should become like children again. To do so is to be humble in heart or poor in spirit. He is humble who looks at an awesome truth and remains silent, withholding judgment while pondering things in his heart. He is conscious in his heart that he does not possess all knowledge and is probably faced with a truth that is beyond his comprehension. He knows there is a limit to human or natural reasoning wherewith he cannot go beyond its limits. He knows there are truths that are within the realm of the supernatural, all beyond the limits of his mind. And there is nothing he can do except wait humbly for the mercy of God who in His own time may decide to reveal this knowledge or wisdom to him.

8. A proud man.
A proud man who stands before these truths will be annoyed by his inability to understand. And his impatience will be his biggest obstacle to understanding. God never reveals His truths to the proud and impatient. He gives this knowledge to the humble, especially to children. Proud and unable to understand, he will set the truth aside or misinterpret it. This is what is happens when a proud man reads the writings of Pope Benedict XVI. Unable to understand his mind they are in danger of misinterpreting his ideas.

9. Stand in Awe.
No, everyone must have a moment of silence before profound truths. Stand in awe and recognize your nothingness before the majesty of the Divine Truths. Ponder things in your heart humbly. And maybe He will have mercy on you and reveal the truth to you.

In fact, all the truths of the Catholic Religion must be handled this way. It needs abundant patience to stand in awe, to ponder and to understand.

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