Wednesday, September 02, 2009
The Holy Father is hinting that the problem is that many of the Faithful and the Priests are without Faith. In the same way that St. Paul was hinting to the Corinthians that they did not have the Holy Spirit. The goal of both the Year of St. Paul and the Year of the Priests is for all to attain Faith or at least recover lost Faith.
Vices are the obstacles to faith or what causes the loss of Faith. Virtues and vices cannot co-exist. Virtues presumes the presence of grace, while vices presumes a state of sin. Any vice can prevent a soul from having the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity.
Virtues and vices are habits. Virtue is the habit of doing good while vice is the habit of doing evil. When there are vices the entrance of virtue becomes impossible. Today vices are rampant. They are the most saleable commodity and the greatest source of wealth. The biggest bulk of advertisements is about vice. Economies are based on greed, business on tourism and luxury items are for vanities, even food excites gluttons. Comforts and conveniences tempt the slothful, education fosters greed. Vice is the air that people breath today. The program for national 'recovery' consist in recovering the momentum of sliding down to the pit of vices that was temporarily slowed down by the recession. And there is sex education for all levels awaiting our children to further speed up the plunge into the depths of vices.
A mastery of the topic on virtues and vices from St. Gregory the Great and St. Thomas of Aquinas will show that practically everything man is doing today is a vice while virtues are practically non-existent. And as long as vice is present, Faith is unattainable.
Vices has also invaded the priesthood.
When the Pope as Cardinal wrote the "Ratzinger Report" whose sub-title is "Crisis in the Catholic Church" he put the blame for the crisis in the Church on the 'restlessness of the priests.' Now if we look for the place of 'restlessness' in the list of vices it is the last of the Capital sins. St. John Cassian in his "Institutes" states that if one is restless that means he has all the capital sins (i.e. all the vices). Now that is not a flattering description of our priesthood. Of course the Cardinal did not mean all priests. He said "the common problem" with our priests. A priest with seven vices cannot reach Faith in any near future. He is in fact plunging into hell, the final destination of vices. With "restlessness" that priest would have the pride of Satan.
A book became popular among young seminarians some time ago, especially at Regensburg. The title of the book was the "Secret Enemy of the Priesthood." It contains the summary of the treatise of St. Thomas of Aquinas "On Virtues and Vices."
Vices must be removed before virtues can exist. St. Gregory states in his "Moralia" that Pride is the mother of vices, the chieftain, the general. Under pride is a host of offspring or lower officers commonly called the Capital sins. And under each capital sins are a host of other vices. These are three categories of vices. Let's take an example. Under pride would be the capital sins gluttony and lust. And under gluttony and lust would be talkativeness. A talkative person is a glutton, lustful and, therefore, proud. The proud talks much about food and sex. Any vice shows the presence of pride.
At the beginning of the year of the priest the Holy Father mentioned 'vices' again as the obstacle to reaching Faith.He mentioned some vices that were known to be in those "outside the Church.' Because the early Christians who entered the Church were purified of their vices by the spirit of poverty while priests and religious were purified by their observance of the vow of poverty. Poverty prevented the entrance of certain vices, particularly Greed, into the Church. But now it has entered the Church due to lack of the spirit of poverty.
Quoting St. Ambrose of Aulpert, the Holy Father mentions the entry of "Greed" into the Church. The vice of "Greed" is the root of all evil. Before the 7th century Greed was mostly among those outside the Church. But in the 7th century St. Ambrose noticed that Greed had entered the Church. The root of all evil had entered the Church. He noticed this when greed had entered monasteries (he was a Benedictine Abbot.) Since what happens inside monasteries is reflective of what is happening inside the Church and vice versa, that is what made Ambrose think that it, too, had entered the Church.
If so greed would gradually erode the weak Faith of most Catholics. Quoting Ambrose, Pope Benedict believes the same thing is happening today, confirming what Pope Paul VI said that "Satan had entered the Church"....through greed and its mother, Pride.
With the faithful and priests infected with vices whose mother is pride, which is the very sin of Lucifer, the Pope fears that the institutional Church would look more like Satan than its founder Jesus Christ.
And so the Holy Father's call for the Year of St. Paul (or year of Faith) and the Year of the Priests. The first step is to know what are vices and remove them. This effort will be rewarded by God with the gift of the first basic elemental virtue of Humility. This is the beginning of the Life of Repentance that leads to Faith. This was Pope Benedict's message at Monte Cassino as he encouraged the priests after declaring the Year of the Priest. First, "Ora"- to pray for the grace for what you are about to do. Next "Labora"-to work for the salvation of your soul. "Lege"-to read or study the commands of Christ from the New Testament that you may know your vices. Having known your vices now you can repent; then grace will fill your soul. And with this grace are the virtues, especially of Faith.