Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Charity builds up on faith. And so the truth of this doctrine has once again been clearly shown by our beloved Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in his recent trip to Poland.

The faith of the Polish people was evident in their decorum during the Papal Mass. But to share such faith with others, it has to be stronger, meaning, it should be filled with Charity, so His Hoiliness encouraged them. It is only when faith is adorned with Charity that others can see Christ....and eventually follow Christ. St. Paul wrote: "Follow me because I follow Christ." They were following, not St. Paul, but Christ who they see in Paul who was filled with Charity.

Faith may be strengthened in two ways. One is when God grants the soul graces in the form of dilectations leading to the prayer of quiet. This is like putting a carrot stick in front of a donkey so as to make it move. Dilectations attract the soul to go forward. The other way is like giving a soul a little push from behind through personal studies of the writings of the Saints or the Catechism of the Church.

Let us leave it up to God, through His mercy, if He wills to give us those dilectations. Rather, let us concentrate on what we can do: study.

It is said that God ordinarily attracts the soul through the growth of faith by dilectations. But if God sees that the soul has to grow more in humility He obliges the soul to learn, not directly from Him but to learn through other men who had gone through the same route, like St. Basil, Leo the Great, Dionysius the Areopagite and St. Thomas of Aquinas.....through studies.

Though St. Thomas learned from the Benedictines of Monte Cassino the way of increasing one's faith through humility and prayer, he learned later on that studies (like apologetics, exegesis, speculative theology) can help attain faith, like a push from behind. He learned this as a Dominican and the Order had made this practice a part of their spirituality. The Benedictines have a regimen of studies but not as intense as St. Thomas envisioned it.

Here in our part of the world, we have tried the push from behind, i.e. using the help of studies by publishing a newsletter on the Catholic Faith taken from the writings of the Fathers of the Church subscribed mainly by the Catholic Diocesan priests. And among others things we have started distributing copies of the Compedium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI to all who request. These are all free of charge because God gives His graces free. This way Catholics would have no excuse in being ignorant.

We cannot love God unless we know God. Studies should encourage the faith that instils the infused knowledge of God. These studies must, however, be handled with caution since they can puff up, as St. Paul warns us. Even God's given dilectation can lose its attraction if we put our attention on the dilectation rather than on the God of consolation.

Imagine the Catholic Faith as a big chunk of knowledge over and above the capabilities of human nature. We need faith to go from the natural to the supernatural level. But Catholicism is still a big chunk to swallow. So we must nip on it little by little, taking small bites and chewing it well. This is equivalent to meditation that is the core of theological study. This is also similar to the description of the creation of the world. To adapt to the weakness of our minds God made it little by little, bit by bit, and saw that every little thing He created was good. And those bite- size Catholic truths are surely good to eat.

After we have tasted it little by little, like God's creation, we should put them back together and look at it as a whole, as God did, when at the end (of creation), He looked at it and saw that everything He made was very good. This is contemplation. This is being in the state of Charity.

Yes, the Pope encouraged the Poles to be strong in their faith that they may be able to share their faith with Europe and, hopefully, with the whole world. The only way to make one's faith strong is to reach Charity, to be a contemplative. To share our Catholic Faith with others we must teach the essence of Catholicism which is summarized in love of God and love of neighbor. Isn't this Charity? But only those who have reached Charity can teach Charity. Needless to say they are, also, the best teachers of faith.

To strengthen Faith there are the writings of the Fathers of the Church, like St. Basil; there are the writings of the Doctors of the Church, like St. Francis de Sales. All the Saints wrote on Faith and Charity. We have no excuse in not knowing our Faith; worse, in not reaching Charity.

We must have Faith. But others will only notice and follow the object of our faith, Jesus Christ, if we, also, have Charity.(Statue of St. Basil by Domenichino, 1608, Grottaferrata Abbey.)

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Happiness is when we get everything we want .... as long as we want the right things. Only God knows the right things. Being powerful He can get everything He wants, "In heaven and on earth, whatever God willed He has done," the psalm says. "Nothing happens in heaven or on earth, unless God either propitiously does it or justly permits it," states the Council of Tuzey.

If this is so wouldn't it be a great idea if we just unite our wills with His? Because this way, we can get everything we want, the right things at that, and that would be happiness. Well, that is also Charity when we have united our wills with God's will.

This is a little secret that St. Therese knew. As young as five, she prayed to God that she might never do her own will but God's will only. We should start training children this early. Because children will believe anything from authority. And if we tell them God's will is the best for them they will believe it and this should put them well on the road to Charity even at an early age.

We grown ups, bombarded by advertisements saying 'want me, want me,' no longer believe in authority. We judge things by concupiscence. And wanting to do God's will has never entered our minds. Satisfying our concupiscence is our only motivation and the cause of all our sorrows because we ourselves discover that the things that satisfy our concupiscence do not give us happiness.

Our intellect and will are attracted to truth and to the good. So they should be attracted to God who is the ultimate truth and good. But man is man and his faculties are natural and are unable to go beyond its human limits. It needs grace to leave its natural confines and soar up to the level of the divine. We have sanctifying grace to raise man to the supernatural level wherewith he becomes capable of receiving the infused virtue of Charity. It is in this level that man's will is united with God as a drop of water is united with the ocean.

Spiritual writers often refer to this as "conformity to the will of God" and a good ascetical exercise. This is fine. Except that here we are talking of two wills, God's will and my will. And the exercise consist in comforming my will continuously with God's will. St. Alphonsus Liguori talks, instead, of "uniformity with God's will." Here there is only one will: God's will; I do not have any will. Of course my will is there intact within me. But I act as if it does not exist. This latter is simpler and more efficient in uniting our will with God's will, the essence of Charity.

In the spiritual life these are the two antagonists: "Thy will be done" versus "my will be done." It is a furious battle that usually ends with man demanding that God do his will. It is worst than rebellion. It is an attempt to subdue God. Man wants God to submit His will to his. That is the way of a reprobate.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Charity of God

Judas delivered up Christ out of greed. The Jews delivered up Christ out of envy. Pilate delivered up Christ out of worldly fear for Caesar. Christ delivered Himself up out of Charity. And God the Father delivered up His Son out of Charity.

If man knew how much God loved him, he would respond in kind. In His passion both Christ and God the Father showed how much Charity they had for mankind. But at the same time through the passion, they showed how man should love God in return. And so the death of Christ by crucifixion, being the most convincing manner by which God could prove His love for man is the most fitting way in which Christ worked out the manner by which man can love God in return. He died for us while we were sinners, that He may give us the grace to be His friends.

Seeing what price Christ paid to redeem us should inspire us to abstain from all sin. What should inspire us is not the ugliness of sin but the beauty and attractiveness of Charity. Charity, however, is a Divine Act. A study of theology cannot teach us Charity. It is a gift. So our concentration must be how to be worthy of it. Charity cannot be merited. It is Charity that merits for us.

To reach Charity we must go through Faith and Hope. And Faith is the process by which we die to our natural selves to be able to be raised up by sanctifying grace which in turn will make us capable of receiving the supernatural gift of Charity. "He who loses his life will find it."

The natural self must die to rise up the spiritual level for there Charity abides. And humility is the process by which we die little by little. In ascetics this is commonly described as "white martyrdom" or acts of mortification.

Should we wonder why, if we asked Christ what we should study, He did not answer "A course in Theology." He said: "Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart." Meekness and humility are the same. That is what we must learn to become worthy of God's choicest graces....the greatest of which is Charity. (Painting is "The Betrayal of Christ," by Caravaggio, 1602.)

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Pope Benedict has written about Charity and how a Christian ought to act and live out his life. But this is also the way Christians should die.... in the state of charity. There is nothing more wonderful than to die out of love for God and neighbor.

Christ, in fact, died for love for mankind. And St. Ambrose likes to emphasize that the Blessed Virgin Mary died out of love for Christ, her beloved Son. After the Ascension, Mary suffered more during the physical absence of Christ after the Ascension than during the Passion when He was, at least, physically present to her. You can't imagine the feeling of a Mother who has loved her Divine Son so greatly and desires to hold Him but now cannot. Her desire to be with her Son in Heaven was so great that she desired to be freed from this life in order to be with Him in Heaven. And this was the cause of her death…her love for her Son.

The lives of the saints have exhibited similar happenings, wherein we see them die because of their great love for God. St. Benedict died standing up with his arms raised praising God. It is as if the soul just couldn’t wait to rush to Christ and seems to have prematurely left their bodies while in the act of loving God. All the Saints died in similar ways.

St. Benedict, with St. Joseph patron Saint of a holy death, spoke of perseverance in his Holy Rule. First, we need the grace of perseverance for the state of sanctifying grace to be worthy of Heaven. This is a grace we cannot work for. It is a free gift of God and He gives it to whoever He wills.

We need, also, the grace of perseverance to remain in the state of sanctifying grace until death. But the grace of perseverance is also a gift from God that He gives to whoever He wills. On our part we have to ask for both graces. And God will give it to us only if we asked for it in humble prayer. Are you wondering now why St. Benedict, in his rule wants his monks to concentrate on the degrees of humility? And can you see why Pope Benedict looks up to St. Benedict and his monasticism to evangelize the world once more? That we may die in Charity.

If there's anything in the world that we should desire, it is to die out of Charity. It is God's greatest grace to a soul. It is commonly called dying in the state of Sanctifying Grace, and this can be ours for the asking.

To die a holy death, or to die in the state of Sanctifying Grace, or to die with Charity, is a grace from God. No one knows the way he is going to die; we can just hope to die with Faith fired by Charity. (Painting is "The Passing of Joseph," Giuseppe Maria Crespi, 1715.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Man shares in some ways the life of plants, animals and the angels. He grows like the plants, moves like the animals and used to think as angels before his fall.

Pope Benedict encourages us to go from eros, which is human love according to the nature of man, and climb up to Agape, which obliges us to rise up to the nature of God. Pope Benedict described this as ecstacy.

But ecstacy could work in two ways: man could leave his human nature and rise up to the nature of angels, Pope Benedict's invitation in his encyclical; or he can leave his human nature and descend to the animal nature which is Satan's invitation.

This is sensual ecstasy, when man chooses to go below his human nature, to the level of the beasts. It happens when man thinks only of the things of this world and ends up loving the things of this world. His activities are reduced to purely worldly matters, as a lion only looks at his prey or a horse concentrated on the grass. Or, worse, he descends lower, into drug addiction.
Then, there is the human level, where man behaves like a human being: he loves his reason and reason governs his concupiscence to some degree.

Pope Benedict was describing the ecstacy wherein man rises up above his natural capabilities, to a realm outside his human nature, which is possible only through grace. Both the intellect and the will rise up with the help of the Theological virtues. This is the ecstacy that Pope Benedict describes, when both the intellect and the will are raised above and beyond their nature. Scriptures describes this as dying to oneself to live in Christ. It is only by dying to one's human nature that we can rise up with Christ. Having reached perfect Charity is being in a state of ecstacy. (Sometimes, as in the ecstacies of St. Teresa of Avila, the saint would be unconscious of everything around her to the point of being unable to feel the droppings from a burning candle. St. Thomas often went into such ecstacies. But the common one is more like the ecstacy of St. Catherine of Genoa, who was so conscious of her surroundings that she was once distracted by the passing by of her brother.)

There is an ecstasy of the intellect in the act of admiring the supernatural truth beheld; and there is an ecstasy of the will in the act of loving God. Ordinarily, a saint does not go unconscious or go into a trance. To do so are the more extraordinary instances.

These two ecstasies, that of the will and the intellect, are what Pope Benedict XVI refers to in the first part of his encyclical, which consists in the love of God. But before we can love God (will) we must first know him (intellect) and in these lies the ecstasy of life. Sadly, our knowledge of God is defective, and so our love for God.

In the second part of his encyclical he speaks about love of neighbor. When a soul reaches ecstasy of intellect and will, the consequence is ecstasy of action where the soul gets involved in a fervent service of neighbor. The saint in his contemplation of goodness wants to share his happiness with others. Fervent, because the soul’s activities surpass the abilities of human nature. Good examples of these are St. Vincent the Paul, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and Mother Teresa, among the few mentioned by Pope Benedict at the conclusion of his encyclical. The activities of these saints are ecstacies of action. That's why their activities cannot be duplicated by ordinary souls.

The sign of a holy life is the presence of the three ecstasies. If one is lacking, we must be cautious; beware of the devil’s tail. A religious may be engaged in feverish activities but if he has not experienced ecstasy in mind and free will, his activity could be suspect. A theologian might show profound theological knowledge but if he does not show love for God and deep concern for neighbor we are facing a fake.

"The Charity of Christ presses us" is a statement of one whose mind and free will are in ecstasy and wherein both presses the soul into ecstacy of action. (Painting of "St. Margaret of Cortona in Ecstasy" by Giovanni Lanfranco, 1622.)