Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Priest - Problem

I was amazed at the extent of the problem of many priests in the US: Sex. It is bad enough that seminary training since the past century is far from what the Holy Father would want it; they have been turning out priests who are not faithful to their vow of celibacy. But the problem has degraded even to unnatural sins: sex between two men or with minors.

Spiritual writers, like St. Thomas of Aquinas, have stated that in the spiritual life, one must progress every minute. St. Benedict described this as conversion of life. We must be converted continuously towards the perfection of Charity. They describe this as the three stages of conversions which we must undergo in the spiritual life. He who does not progress, deteriorates, St. Thomas of Aquinas states.

Let us look at the normal pace and direction of the Spiritual life towards the perfection of Charity. Let us start with children. They are born with a tendency to choose evil, the original sin we inherited from our first parents. But this tendency matures only at the age of reason. So before they lose their initial innocence, parents, god-parents and the Church should raise them to the supernatural level through Baptism and an act of faith, just as the parents of St. Therese did. From then on, the child grows in nature. But he should also grow in grace; this way he will not have much problem with regard to the devil, the world and the flesh. But if he does not grow in grace, these three enemies of the soul will bother him and cause him to sin. In which case he would need the sacraments of Penance, and perhaps of Matrimony. If he continues to grow in grace after Matrimony his journey will be smooth. If he does not grow in grace, he could commit adultery. Many remain in that sinful state. If they get worse, they could easily enter into other vices like avarice, gluttony, etc.

Now, let us go back to the seminarians. Like all children, after baptism, they had within themselves the spiritual tools to progress in the life of grace up to the perfection of Charity. But if their parents had neglected their growth in grace they could be unprepared for seminary life. If within the seminary, their life in grace is neglected, their concupiscence could start to act up. They would be attracted to girls. But since there are no girls in the seminary they could begin with self-inflicted impure acts. If they do not overcome this by ascetical exercises, they could tend to desire these impure pleasures from others. And since they are surrounded only by men, they could be attracted to each other. But because of "whistle - blowers" they could prey on children, instead. This is just the application of the above principle of spiritual life, "He who does not progress will regress." While great efforts are needed to progress, no effort is needed to regress.

Ignorance of the workings of grace and the spiritual life while living in the purely human level (in short, the absence of growing up in true Faith) is the cause such a problem.

Catholicism is the answer and solution to all problems from drug addiction to adultery; more precisely, monasticism. Didn't monasticism solve all the problems of Europe, transforming that pagan continent into a Christian one? And wasn't the neglect of monasticism that caused the return to paganism? Didn't Pope Benedict hint a return to St. Benedict's monasticism?

The "gay" problem had been tackled even as early as the time of St. Basil. He had such problems with his first followers who were new converts from paganism and who could still easily regress. St. Peter Damian discussed this problem lengthily and his solution was the monastic life.The Gregorian reform initiated by Pope Gregory VII was an attempt to stem this scourge among others. It is a problem that cannot be solved unless the individuals concerned take the initiative to grow in the spiritual life. Peter Damian, also a Benedictine monk, imposed both the rule of St. Benedict and St.Romuald in order to show the greater need to lead a stricter than the ordinary monastic life. (Painting is "Basil and Emperor Valens" 1st half of the 18th century by Pierre Hubert Subleyras.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Here in our monastic community we had been busy preparing for the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the principal Patroness of the Philippines. A Solemn Pontifical Mass was concelebrated by two bishops and five priests, the choir singing the Gregorian Chant and Renaissance acapellas. After, the faithful partook a repast in the Oratory grounds.

The Church was to be described in three stages: first, in the old Testament Church, wherewith the people of God were set aside away from the rest of the people. The second, during the public life of Christ wherewith they were for a while in the world to listen to the Word of God. And thirdly, after Pentecost, when the Church returned to the desert.

These three stages are represented by the feasts during the Advent season. The first Sunday of Advent showed who were to receive God's favorable judgment; this is followed by the feast of the Immaculate Conception; and in preparation for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the feast of Juan Diego.

These stages describes the three degrees of Humility which is the breeding ground of the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. So we see the humility of Christ who was God but humbled himself to be a servant "I came to serve and not to be served." Then we see the humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary who was, though not a god, was somebody; but she humbled herself to be a handmaid of the Lord. And then, Juan Diego who was a "nobody" and called himself a nobody.

Evidently it would be difficult to copy the humility of a God who became man. It is easier to copy the humility of a human, though chosen to be the mother of God, who remained a human. But it is easier to copy the humility of a "nobody" Aztec who remained a nobody.

To be humble like Juan Diego consist in living the life of Repentance preached by John the Baptist and perfected by Christ. To be humble like Mary is slightly more difficult and consist in living the life of Repentance and having devotion to Mary. But to imitate the humility of Christ we must live the life of Repentance, be devoted to Mary and have her mediation to raise us up to be Christ-like.

In Scriptures, the first state is described in the old Testament and the beginnings of the New Testament. The second state is described in the public life of Christ. And the third state is taught to us after Pentecost. Thus in the second state Mary was Mother of Christ. And in the third she was the personification of the Church.

Thus Scriptures describe the Church of the Old Testament as Sion. In the New Testament the Church was described as the daughter of Sion or the New Jerusalem or the woman in the world. And the third was described in the Apocalypse as the Woman in the Desert...which resembles the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Since the first and second stages are over, the Church has been focusing on the third stage wherein the Church, though primarily Christocentric, will take a Marian character. So the first Christians returned to the desert to learn the Christocentric aspect of the spiritual life. Attaining this, the fathers of the Church began adding devotion to Mary by honouring her with the title of the second Eve.

This Marianization of the Catholic Church gained ground in the times of St. Dominic and Bernard of Clairvaux. It disappeared for a while under the onslaught of the serpent but continued in the era of the renewal in France with Berulle, Olier and Louis de Montfort, who was so convinced of the Marian character of the Church (the Woman of the Apocalypse) that he established an order that would correspond to its description.

The 1400s and 1500s were years when Mary seemed to fortify this tendency by her numerous apparitions, with Our Lady of Guadalupe, being the most impressive of them all.

The three important truths that are the objects of Faith are: that there is a God; the second person became man; and that He redeemed mankind. In the act of Redemption, begun in the Old Testament, Mary plays an important part in the Incarnation (in which the description on how the Spirit overshadowed her and came upon her is replica of Pentecost) and in the end of our journey which is to be with God the Father in Heaven.