Saturday, January 31, 2009

POPE BENEDICT and his Social Encyclical

Everybody is talking about Pope Benedict's next encyclical. It seems to be a social encyclical. And the suspicion is that it has been signed and waiting to be promulgated. Meanwhile the entire world is going into recession and the people's question is how long will this recession last; and will there be a rebound as in past recessions?
What could the Pope be saying or hinting recently with regards to the present world economy?

Popes are well known to predict many human events way ahead. The rise of communism and its spread around the world has been seen by the Popes of the last two centuries. We wonder, will there be a recovery in the present recession?

Pope Benedict has given us a syllogism in the tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas. Simply stated, if we agree on the major and the minor, we can come to a conclusion.

The Holy Father gave the major saying that true progress is commensurate to spiritual progress. If we progress in the spiritual sphere, everything else in the physical and natural will progress. If we are progressing spiritually, we will progress in the natural sphere: nobody will go hungry. As the Gospel has it: If we seek first the kingdom of God, everything else will be given us. Here, the Holy Father is enunciating a general Evangelical principle.

Now let us come to the minor proposition. The Holy Father mentioned in one of his Christmas messages that greed has ruled world economy. He added that while there is progress in everything material, there has been no commensurate progress in the spiritual sphere.

In the minor proposition the Holy Father is hinting that the recession is due to this dichotomy and divorce between human and spiritual progress. He is not insinuating that he is attributing the recession to economic factors existing in the world today. He is saying that there is a higher and greater factor involved in the recession....a Divine Factor which, every time man forgets the end for which he was created, chastises them with war, famine, plagues, earthquakes and .... recessions. And it is this factor that we must consider as to whether we will rebound from the recession or not.

The Holy Father declared this year a year of faith in honor of St. Paul. Why did he do that when the faith has been preached in every corner of the world? Because as seen by St. John the Baptist in the Old Testament and mentioned many times by the Blessed Virgin in her apparitions, man has no faith. Even Christ mentioned it: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth? "

If we consider the Divine Factor in this syllogism we are forced to conclude that this recession, just like natural calamities and wars, is a chastisement as St. Alphonsus Liguori would have said, and because of the impossibility for men to obey the reason for which he was created, the recession will be here to stay .... and worsen. This conclusion is what follows if we consider the major and minor of the syllogism.

When he went to Assisi in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI said that the solution to all the problems of the world, since they are all interrelated, is to return to the spirit of poverty of St. Francis of Assisi. But for a world wallowing in greed as the Holy Father mentioned last Christmas 2008, there is no way to do that. ("St. Francis honored by a simple man" by Giotto)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Forgetfulness of ORIGINAL SIN.

Pope Pius IX noticed the sinfulness of the world during his time. He had to escape with his life to Gaeta pursued by the Romans! During one of his meditation he saw what was wrong with the world: it forgot the existence of original sin. Jesus came to save us from original sin and its consequences, actual sins. This was the whole story of salvation and we forgot it.

Pope Benedict XVI also had been reminding us to review the doctrine of original sin because many Catholics neither know nor understand it.

As Mary had always been Jesus' co-worker in the salvation of souls, what better help can the Church get than to call on her, the mother of the Church and the type of the Church to help out? And what wiser move than to declare her Immaculate Conception? Thus the Pope declared to the world the cause of its problem: original sin ... and the solution? The imitation of Mary, who was spared from it.

From the beginning and up to the end of time original sin will be the cause of every evil in the world. It is because of it that death entered into the world.

What is original sin? God created us and willed to save us after the Fall. So He made a plan of salvation by which we could be saved. On our part all we had to do was to subject ourselves (our free will) to His Will. Adam and Eve went against His Will. The refusal to subject one's will to God's Will is original sin. And ever since the Fall, man could not subject himself to God's Will: "I will do what I want."

Christ had to die to restore man to his original state. With this restoration, greater graces would enable man to know God's Will so he could once again subject himself to God and be saved. Without this grace, he would remain outside the sphere or influence of God's Divine Providence.

The natural state of man in his fallen nature is that he goes against his supernatural end, he goes against his natural end and he goes against the nature around him. The consequence is that he destroys his soul by immorality, he destroys his body with illnesses and he destroys his environment. It is natural to fallen nature to abort babies, and wipe out the whales.

To be truly Catholic, to be truly restored to our original state, we must be like Mary, not an Immaculate Conception, but, through repentance, be without sin. This is what Pope Pius IX was trying to say when he proclaimed a doctrine that was believed from the beginning of the Church but whose application in one's personal life many were ignorant of.

That we have forgotten the teachings on "Original Sin" is putting it mildly. We have not at all learned the doctrine on original sin: what really happened in paradise, how Adam and Eve were in paradise and after the fall, what is the true spiritual state of each person today and finally how the Catholic Religion is the only way that can reinstate man to his former place. (Portion of " The Creation" late 12th century, Miniature from the Bible de Souvigny.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Grace works on this principle: he who does not progress, retrogresses. God gives us grace every second. This grace contains three elements: the will of God, how to do the will of God and the strength to do God's will. God does this every second so we move towards Him every second by responding favorably to these graces.

It also works on a negative way in that Grace tells us what is contrary to the Will of God, how to avoid it and the strength to avoid it. Every second God, through His grace, tells us what good we must do and what evil we must avoid, how to go about doing each and the strength to obey His graces.

But these graces does not come every second...unless we respond favorably to it. When we reject His promptings He withholds it to encourage us to ask for it in prayer thus the necessity for unceasing prayer in asking God to respond favorably to it.

Every second God presents to us the good we must do and the evil we must avoid. Sometimes He presents to us consecutive goods to do or consecutive evils we must avoid. So we need graces to do the consecutive goods God presents to us and graces to avoid the consecutive evils we have to avoid. Since these goods and evil comes in floods and graces (to do good and avoid evil) can only from God, if you are following my reasoning we would need to pray unceasingly.

The choice between the good we must do and the evil we must avoid does not cease. It is continuous. God constantly presenting the good and the devil presenting the evil. Now comes the problem, one cannot pray unceasingly in the world with all its destruction. More often than not, man misses the good he must do (if he is without God's grace) and does the evil he must avoid (which is natural without grace.)

In fact, in the example of Christ, he demonstrated to us how to develop the habit of unceasing prayer during His 30 years of hidden life, before he went into the world (though He had the unceasing presence of God all the time.) That is why He overcame Satan in the desert. Without this habit of prayer it is impossible to walk through the world safely. What most people have is sporadic prayer. That won't work.

The first monks, inspired by angels, tried developing this by reciting 150 psalms a day and keeping that attitude of prayer in between the divine office. That is impossible for most people, even for most monks today. That's why Pope Benedict keeps on repeating the importance of prayer in his addresses to the Bishop. If they don't do it, they won't receive the grace to know God's will, one of which is to pray. Without knowing how to pray, how can they teach people how to get those graces. Without those graces men will find it impossible to do good and avoid evil.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


When we heard that the Pope would be going to Turkey, our panic button went wild. Why take such an unnecessry risk?! Now we hear him planning to go to Jerusalem and visit Gaza, there goes our panic button again! Why? Is this really needed?

Because He is the Pope, he must go about doing his act of love for Christ by feeding Christ's lamb and sheep. And he knows his theology of grace which he has summarized in the first five items of his Compendium of the Catechism.

The Holy Father is always an external source of grace. This grace is given to those he gets in contact with in any way and has three effects on the recipients. First, it reveals to the soul what is the will of God. Secondly it makes the soul love the will of God. And thirdly, it gives the soul the strength to do the will of God. But, of course, the free will of the soul must give its stamp of approval to the grace of God. Just by going to those places mentioned above the Pope knows he is a Mediator of graces.....even without speaking. So much more when he speaks!

He also knows that if there is any one who has any evil design towards His holiness, the free will of that evil doer is under the control of God. For a person to sin he needs the permissive will of God. Without that permission, no one can do evil to anyone. God can even give such a person efficient graces to make him do good instead of evil, as what happened to St. Paul. So why worry since everything is in God's hands?

It is for the same reason that the late Pope John Paul II was holding those much maligned ecumenical prayers at St. Francis church. He was not giving approval to the other religions or sects. He was allowing himself to be an instrument of God's grace for the participants and for the whole non-catholic world. We can only understand such acts if we understand the theology of grace.

The documentary "Into the Great Silence" has caused waves around the world. But sadly, one comment was : "I just want to to go to heaven the ordinary way. That life is not for me." If one truly understood the theology of grace, one would see that all the things the monks did had to be done in order to enter Heaven. And if any monk there left the monastery, the reason would simply be that 'he did not learn the theology of grace;' which shows the necessity of what the monks were doing: they were just responding to the movement of grace.

Pope Benedict is not worried that the Church is disappearing from Europe and other parts of the world because he knows that God is not remiss in sending the needed graces for those meant to be saved. And with all the problems besetting the world today the Holy Father knows that those who respond favorably to the graces that God gives will know exactly what to do, will love to do His Will and will have the strength to do the right thing, while the rest of the world will continue to go on panic mode!


The Jesuits are commonly believed to have been established by St. Ignatius and the Franciscans by St. Francis of Assisi; the Dominicans by St. Dominic and the Redemptorists by St. Alphonsus of Liguori. But Monasticism is the replication of the Holy Family and a direct product of Pentecost.

In the beginning, God devised a plan by which He would save mankind after the Fall. It would consist in 1.) establishing a Church and 2.) He would teach us how to enter that Church. It is the Church who would bring us back to God.

Immediately after the Fall, the mechanism for God's plan went into effect. In the Old Testament God gave us types by which we can understand the fulfillment of His plans. He chose a people, the Chosen People, and this would be the type of the Church. And He showed how one may join the Chosen People. He would choose each one personally.

God the Son would be the one to establish the Church and by His life He would teach mankind how to enter the Church. To accomplish both He had to become man. So he was born on Christmas day. There we have the image of the Catholic Church, the Holy Family, and we were also taught how to enter the Church, "by contact" (as Ecclesiologist would put it) as exemplified by the shepherds and by "long distance" as exemplified by the Magi.

Well, Monasticism is imitating the Holy Family.

After Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles to formally establish the Church on earth, the Apostles went about 'Baptizing.....teaching all the commands....and how to do it.' What were they, in effect, doing? They were beginning to establish communities of unbelievers in imitation of the Holy Family. And history would describe these attempts as establishing monastic communities.

Most of the apostles were martyred too soon to be able to establish monastic communities but all of them had started the seed of the movement. St. John the Evangelist, because his life was prolonged by a tyrant boiling him in oil and he coming out younger rather than dying, was known to have established a fully monastic community.

So Pope Benedict, in addressing the Congregation of Religious and Consecrated Life reminded them that monasticism is the only life that came out directly from Pentecost, of course, with its origin from the Holy Family. And this is shown in the lives of Jesus and John the Baptist. Jesus lived with the Holy Family, St. John grew up in the dessert (thus starting the monastic tendency).

Monastic life is in imitation of the 30 years of hidden life of Christ, with Mary and Joseph. It is essentially the life of Repentance that begun in the Old Testament and perfected by Christ in the New Testament.

And the Holy Father reminded all the orders that monastic life is the basis of all orders. Is it any wonder that St. Ignatius was living a monastic life in Manresa under the direction of Cisneros, a Benedictine monk; and St. Francis was a monk in the forests of Assisi; and St. Dominic lived by St. Augustine's rule for monasteries and St. Alphonsus' spirituality is essentially monastic?

At the beginning of his pontificate, didn't Pope Benedict XVI remind us that the world today can be saved only by the Rule of St. Benedict as it did before? That is like saying that the world can only be saved today by the Catholic Church, the type of which is the Holy Family, (so the importance of the family) and of which monasticism is its practical application.