Wednesday, December 23, 2009

JPII Tiara?

So I was talking to Fr. Erik today, who informed me that apparently John Paul II was given a tiara! I have done some research, and it looks like Fr. Z posted on this about two years ago, so I will only include the picture. It was given to him by the Hungarian church in 1981, an obvious sign of devotion to the Roman pontiff on the part of that (at that time) greatly persecuted Church. What many people are not aware of, is that JPII, as Bishop of Krakow,, regularly clandestinely ordained priests for Hungary and Czechoslovakia during the time of communist repression. Perhaps this gift was one expression of thanksgiving to him not only for his witness as pope, but also for his secret aid that he had offered for decades through covert ordinations and border smuggles.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The big news this weekend was, of course, the declaration by Pope Benedict XVI of a number of (famous) new venerables--two who are Polish: our beloved John Paul II, as well as the martyr, Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, who was murdered gruesomely by the SB (Polish equivalent of the KGB) in 1984. For Poles, these two men are national heroes, who stand as witnesses to the truth about human freedom.

Both John Paul II and Fr. Popieluszko, in the particular way in which God was calling them, stood for the inherent dignity and truth about man that, no matter what external force can take away, human freedom cannot be suppressed, and is a basic and intrinsic right given by God. Whenever reflecting on the (typically modern) suppression of human freedom by external forces, I recall the words of Chesterton:

Freedom is doomed to destruction at every turn, unless there is a recognized right to freedom. And if there are rights, there is an authority to which we appeal for them." (G.K.'s Weekly, April 28, 1928)

While communism sought to offer freedom to the proletariat by seeking to address the alienation of man from his labor and capital, Wojtyla and Popieluszko (the latter through his chaplaincy of Solidarnosc) proclaimed the truth that true freedom cannot be had apart from the truth about the human being. Who is man? Why is he free? Why does his freedom surpass that passing and illusory freedom promised by the authroities? Both proclaimed that true freedom comes from God, is an inalienable part of being created inHis image and likeness, and that if we fail to protect the inherent dignity of each human being, and his right to freedom, everything else that was meant to liberate man will ultimately lead to his enslavement. And so these two Polish priests suffered as a result of their bold challenges to the system and proclamation of the Gospel. Both were stalked by the secret police, both were followed and placed under surveillance, yet both also persevered in their peaceful witness to the truth.

"Oppose evil with good." This was Fr. Popieluszko's motto, and this desire to always do the good was what drove the communist authorities crazy in their dealings with Wojtyla. Two different men, two different cities, and two different generations--yet both men were incorruptible and ultimately paid the price, while conquering the evil which they opposed. Wojtyla was systematically opposed, yet caused fear in the authorities. The authorities feared Popieluszko, and could only resort to kidnapping him, beating him multiple times, and throwing him into a river to squelch his message of freedom, joy, and peace to the people of Poland.

Needless to say, I think we have much to learn from the example of these two (soon to be) saints--although we enjoy the "freedoms" of our country, we do struggle against secular humanism which ultimately fails to address the truth about man in the same way that commusim did. For the truth about man transcends all political systems, all material values, and all economic markets--we are made for eternity, and our freedom to choose goodd derives from the ability to participate in the work of God, and in doing so, to become more of who we are meant to be.

This becoming who we are meant to be is, of course, one work of the liturgy upon us--which leads me to today's update. We are now in Utah for Christmas, and were able to visit our favorite church (where we were united in Matrimony), the Cathedral of the Madeleine. I was very pleasantly surprised to see the new Benedictine setup on the altar--an arrangement that Pope Benedict has praised in his book, Spirit of the Liturgy. The altar crucifix helps the people call to mind that sacrifice that is being re-presented, and reminds the priest of the saving work in which he is participating--without the distractions of the congregation. All are united around the crucifix of Our Lord, the true Light of the world, to whom we all pray ad orientem.

In addition to this new setup, I was blown away by the cathedral's new vestments. I don't know who made them (yet), but they certainly look a bit like St. Bede's studio in Australia. Fine, nobly simple vestments are faithful to the Church's tradition of honoring Christ, present in the priest and the Eucharist, and give God his due--hey, you wouldn't show up to a wedding wearing a t-shirt. When the priest wears vestments that are beautiful, rich, lavish, yet nobly simple, we are reminded of the great mystery that is taking place--a fitting reminder for the Advent season--Jesus Christ, the redeemer of mankind, comes to us to offer Himself to us in an intimate communion of love. We receive the grace of God and truly become (more of a) new creation in Christ. The beauty of the liturgy--the sights, sounds, smells, and noises sanctifies our senses and increases in us the ability to perceive the world throguh divine eyes--leading to an increase of what JPII called the "peace of the interior gaze," a way of seeing the world that leads to true intimace with God and others. Videri sequitur esse, as JPII has said in the theology of the body.

Indeed, John Paul II provides a hermeneutic of proper vision that can help one understand the right disposition needed towards God and other human beings. In taking human embodiment very seriously, John Paul points to the central role that vision plays in manifesting a proper stance toward God and the world. “The look expresses what is in the heart. The look, I would say, expresses man as a whole.” Commenting on the axiom operari sequitur esse (operation follows being), John Paul II notices Christ seeking to show that “man ‘looks’ in conformity with what he is: intueri sequitur esse (looking follows being).” Thus, the inner state of the human being, his stance toward God, is made manifest through the way the person looks at the world and people around him. The reality of sin, concupiscence, “has the effect that in the interior, in the ‘heart,’ in man and woman’s interior horizon, the meaning of the body proper to the person itself is obscured.” One can choose to see the other in conformity with the spousal meaning of the body, in which each human being is seen with a fullness of vision within the full dimension of his or her subjectivity.

In order, therefore, to live in right relation with others, one must recapture the ability to see in a way that is in conformity with the deepest truths about the human person. It is necessary to acquire a vision of the world and of other human beings, in their relation to God, through an “inner dimension of a share in the vision of the Creator Himself.” Saint Paul wrote, “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” Thus, one must acquire a way of looking at the world, which expresses the purity of the interior of the person. Such purity leads to the “peace of the interior gaze, which creates precisely the fullness of the intimacy of persons.” Thus, human intimacy, right relationships between persons, is established on the basis of a proper way of looking.

Kudos to liturgies that help to elevate our senses and enable us to grow in our ability to perceive the world with the divine gaze. By gazing upon the newborn Christ, the baby in the manger, may we all grow in our ability to see the world the way it ought to be seen.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Soul of the Woman

Jan Vermeer, Martha and Mary
One of my favorite stories told by our belvoed Bishop D'Arcy (and he likes to tell a lot of stories!) is the account of his ad limina visit with Pope John Paul II a few years before his passing. Bishop asked the pope about some of the cultural issues facing our American society, especially the issues related to the challenges to marriage and the family. In a great impersonation of JPII's hard Polish accent, Bishop D'Arcy quotes the pope as saying, "It is necessary to understand the soul of the woman."

How true is this!? So many of the very things that were meant to "liberate" women have actually only led to their entrapment and their objectification as a result of the lust of men. Recently, I ran across a great speech entitled "Feminine Identity: Challenge and Quest," given by one of my new favorite people, Msgr. Cormac Burke (formerly a judge of the Roman Rota), in which he discusses the necessity of understanding the truth about femininity, which I actually think can apply to all of us during this Advent season.

He notices:

Love and life and creativity go together. One of the major impoverishments of our value-free world is that we are no longer artists, no longer creative in any true sense. What sort of creativity can spring from a life-view which refuses to envision limitless beauty, goodness, love, life, glory, generosity - or their opposites?

During Advent, we are forced (especially by the readings during the liturgy), to focus on the fact that we will die, we will be judged, and one day Christ will return as a triumphant mercifully just Judge. Are we preparing our lives for this? Are we living in our homes, in our families, in our workplaces in such a manner that we rejoice in, and respect, the dignity of work---not only of our material work, but the work of our person--the recognition that each of us is a project that is to be made by God's grace through our human action. We are true artists, and ought to be always aware that each on of our acts is either helping create a beautiful picture, contributing to a beautiful masterpiece, or is either tarnishing, obscuring the glory for which God has created us.


Home needs to be remade. To be homemakers is one of the highest ideals for both men and women, especially today. It draws them on to true personal fulfilment, and involves them in the great enterprise of rehumanizing our modern world.

Burke notices that this work of art called life begins in the home--the first school of life and of love for each of us. It is in our homes that we must, as both women and men find the opportunity and blessed occasion to become who we ought to be--through the exercise of charity in our actions and way of treating one another. The way I scold my child, the way I speak to my wife, the way I welcome visitors in my home helps me to humanize society, or dehumanize it at the most fundamental level. A key to this is the confidence that the woman has in the home, and the affirmation which she receives:

Yes, indeed, for we have gone through a century in which woman has stepped down from her pedestal, has cast away her throne and her crown, and preferred to have the democratic right of being just one guy more.

Burke notices the ravages of feminism. But why has woman become "just one guy more?" Many times it is because a man who is unwilling, unable, or clueless as to how to live authentic masculinity treats a woman as just one guy more. A man must recognize the calling to cherish, affirm, build up, and respect the great dignity that a woman has. The sweetheart whom he has married has become the mother of the future of the human race. Who would not bow down in awe in admiration of such a great calling and vocation?

If this richness of the home is not built up, we will (as we are) continue to face a dehumanization and demoralilzation of society:

"...a dehumanized, devalued, civilization where, having stupidly mortgaged our life's possibilities, sinking them in the acquisition of material things, we see society totter on the verge of bankruptcy. In a frenzy of accumulating possessions and experiences, we have pawned or jettisoned the treasure of selfhood and self-gift, and now we are tempted to think there is no way of redeeming what has been so recklessly thrown away. Oh, but there is. It will take time, but there is a way to redemption, and it depends very principally on woman's proudly recovering her feminine identity."

So I think that we all have some thinking to do about what John Paul II might have meant when he said that it is necessary to "understand the soul of the woman." I am convinced that if men and women seek to open heartedly and sincerely understand the opposite sex, we will be well on our way to building up a true communion of persons within our families, the Church, and the greater social order.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Ad te levavi animam meam; Deus meus in te confido. Non erubeseam: neque irrideant me inimici mei; etenim universi qui te exspectant; non confudentur. Vias tuas domine demonstra mihi: et semitas tuas edoceme. Gloria patri.

All my heart goes out to thee; my God, I trust in thee, do not belie my trust. Let not my enemies boast of my downfall. Who ever waited for thy help, and waited in vain? V. Lord, let me know thy ways,teach me thy paths (Ps 24:1–3).

Advent is finally here. It's been a crazy fall, and I am looking forward very much to a quiet, reflective time of preparation for the nativity of Our Lord.

Advent is also a time to think about the end times...and there are possible a lot f ends before us. Right now, the ND Stanford game just came on. Is it going to be the end of the Charile Weis era? I guess we will see. What a good way to begin Advent, though. The football season ends. Time to look forward to more quiet weekends...We'll see the results of the end of our season soon...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Three Saint Joe's

This diocese has at least six St. Joseph Catholic Schools! Sometimes I myself cannot keep straight which Saint Joseph's Catholic School we are at in a given week.

Today, we were in Decatur, IN at St Joseph Catholic School, which is attached to Saint Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, a beautiful, yet modern, art nouveau church from the 1940's. I think it is a great example of a very short period of modern, post-WWII architecture that actually witnessed many beautiful and traditional edifices. Another one of these is Holy Cross Church in South Bend, IN.

Anyway, not too much to say right now. It's late, and tomorrow and Wednesday, we're off to another Saint Joseph's--this time in South Bend.

Friday, November 13, 2009


An announcement is imminent. We will have a new Ordinary for the Dicoese of Fort Wayne-South Bend tomorrow at 10:15 E.S.T. The press conference will be in Fort Wayne at the Archbishop Noll Center, and then again at 2:15 p.m. at Saint Matthew Cathedral School in South Bend. This is truly an event that happens "once in a generation."

We'll see what happens...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Patience is a Virtue

Any comments about the re-design? Please be patient as I tweak things here and there to fully update the blog according to the signs of the times...

Dolan Blog

Today I was happy to discover that Archbishop Dolan is blogging with a new blog entitled "The Gospel in the Digital Age." He has just published a wonderful op-ed piece that was refused by the NY Times. We need to pray that shepherds like him will remain strong in the faith, and that God will grant the U.S. Church more strong and ardent defenders of the faith in the public forum!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Has it really been over a month since I have last posted? Sad. But maybe not really. It's at crazy, busy times like this that we find happiness in carrying out the signified will of God, a concept very dear to me, and taught to me by one of my beloved friends who is a monk at Our Lady of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Huntsville, UT. Since September, we've been:

--Presenting our First Comes Love chastity education program at about fifteen schools in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

--Spoken at a Mother-Daughter prayer breakfast at a local Catholic high school.

--Spoken to a few sophomore retreats of the said Catholic high school.

--Working on a presetnation on the theology of the family for Saint Ann's Parish, in Augusta, MI

--Spoke on chastity at Holy Cross College, Notre Dame, IN

--Spoken to Saint Matthew's Co-cathedral youth group

--Helped run the Day of Formation in Bioethics with Fr. Tad Pacholczyk

--Trying to sleep with a one year old who doesn't like to snooze in the house

--Trying to catch up on sleep

--Did I mention being tired?

Hopefully, I will find more time to post on the many exciting things going on, both here and abroad. Bear with me...

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Eucharistic Adoration

Raphael's Disputation Concerning the Holy Eucharist

Fr. Richard McBrien has a column this week in which he expresses his belief that the rise of eucharistic adoration in recent years is "doctrinal, theological, and spiritual step backward, not forward."

He makes two valid points, but then he misses the point with his conclusion:

1) Eucharistic adoration needs to be liturgically grounded.
2) The Mass provides all that a Catholic needs, spiritually and sacramentally.

This emphasis on the centrality of the liturgy in the life of the Church is a correct understanding of Vatican II's teaching that the "Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith." Everything that we do as Catholics flows from the Eucharist and returns to it. Is not the Eucharist our participation in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ? We participate in the radical and transformative event which stands at the center of human history. We take part in the sacrifice of Christ whose passion has redeemed the us, redeemed all of creation--and which opens for us the possiblity of participating in the Trinitarian life as God's adopted children. Our entire life must be eucharistic--recognizing our need for redemption, and being grateful to our God for having "loved the world so."

Precisely because the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, ought it not to be revered not only within Mass, but also outside of Mass? Indeed, if the liturgy is truly for the "life of the world," then is not the world to also be affected by it? If this is true, then our participation in devotions, such as Eucharistic adoration, is ordered to the radical truth about the liturgy--that in it, we encounter the work of the Trinitarian God who has sanctified all of creation. This is why we can enter into a chapel outside of Mass, and in an encounter with what appears to be a host, give thanks to the Eucharistic Lord for having redeemed matter and all of creation. Much more could be said here...

Another point that the column misses is love. The Eucharist is the sacrament of charity, by which those who receive it with the right intention and properly disposed become friends of God, partakers in the divine nature. Christ's love for us did not end on the cross--it continues by our participation in that event in each and every Mass. It continues by our participation in Eucharistic adoration, in which Christ, through the ministry of His Church, makes himself present for us to contemplate. We can come to him as friends, and speak and converse with Him about our lives. Although he is closer to us than we are to ourselves, He waits for us in a sepcial way in the Eucharist, and by making an act of the will to come and be present with him in adoration, we ourselves express our love for Him. The great mercy of God--that by coming to spend time with Him in adoration, we ourselves grow in grace and virtue, because we become who we are by our actions. If we choose to spend time with Him, to take time from our busy schedules in order to be with Him, our intentions are purified, our hearts are enlarged, and our will is strengthened. We recognize the primacy of God's love in our lives--and by doing so, we are led more perfectly to participate in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the Christ whom we contemplate visually and eat spiritually in adoration enters into us physically, through our sacramental and spiritual eating in Holy Communion.

If one understands the love and mercy of God for us, He comes to understand the great gift of Eucharistic adoration, and its intrinsic connection to the Eucharistic liturgy.

On a side note, just because Fr McBrien is at Notre Dame, his views are not indicative at all of the attitude towards adoration on campus. Thanks to great priests such as Fr. Kevin Russeau, CSC and Fr Richard Warner, CSC, Eucharistic adoration at Notre Dame now totals about 50 hours a week, and is steadily increasing!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Gay Marriage vs. 1st Amendment

Well put. I'd like to keep my first amendment rights!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Pius is Awesome

Pius XII, of Happy Memory

Recently, I have been doing a lot of historical research on the theology of marriage and the family, for a series of presentations that I will be giving at a parish in Michigan, this coming November. So, I've happily been reading a lot of the popes on the topic.
A beautiful theme that emerges and is clearly seen is the continuity of the Church's present teaching about marriage and the family, with the teaching from past centuries. Many people like to argue that with Vatican II there was a radical break with the past teaching on marriage, especially as regards the teaching on the traditional "ends." While this argument may be acceptable to a degree, I think it needs to be much mroe nuanced. The teaching on the ends never disappeared from documents such as Gaudium et Spes 48-52, nor did it disappear from the huge corpus of JPII. Rather, I think it has been enhanced and made more palpable, robust, and beautifully articulated, through the adoption of personalistic language, and the insistence on the centrality of conjugal love, which is of its nature orderd to both "ends" of marriage.
I particularly love this quote from Pope Pius XII in his Address to Midwives: "Happiness in marriage is in direct proportion to the mutual respect of the partners, even in their intimate relations; not that they regard as immoral and refuse what nature offers and what the Creator has given, but because this respect, and the mutual esteem which it produces, is one of the strongest elements of a pure love, and for this reason all the more tender."
I think many times in the Church today, even among "faithful" Catholics, and perhaps due in part to the popularity of the theology of the body, there is a widespread curiosity about the morality of "x" act or the acceptability of "y" act. While these discussions are needed, and moral theologians need to articulate with clarity the "limits," a focus on legalism within sex can often obscure the deeper meaning of the conjugal act. The Church needs to articulate clearly and without hesitation the morality of specific acts, but perhaps it would also be good to place an emphasis and focus on the respect and tenderness between spouses, and particuarly as this can be expressed in the conjugal act. Pius' insistence on tenderness is not unlike Karol Wojtyla's in Love and Reponsibility, where tenderness is a necessary element of interpersonal relations, and a safeguard against a utilitarian mindset--which can even subconsciously enter into the dynamic between two spouses.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Dives in Misericordia

Ted Kennedy

The weekend was troubling. It is certainly true that Senator Edward Kennedy was a giant. There is no doubt that he has left his mark forever on American politics. Certainly he stood for important causes and values. Yet one thing that I cannot understand was his continued support for, rather, active crusade, for unlimited abortion rights, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and gay marriage.

For all Catholics, this record cannot be ignored, and it ought to certainly leave an uncomforatble distaste in our mouths. The man meant so much, was loved by so many, and is now being hailed by the media and the country as a national hero, and has been buried in Arlington, alongside some of the nation's heroes. Cardinal McCarrick read at his funeral from the correspondence between the senator and the Holy Father.

Here in South Bend, I just learned of another correspondence between the senator and another member of the hierarchy. Bishop John D'Arcy, our belvoed bishop of South Bend and Fort Wayne, was the auxiliary bishop of Boston before he was transferred here. Himself a descendant of the very devout Irish Catholic community in Boston, it comes as no suprise that he knew Senator Kennedy, and many of his friends and colleagues. He told us today at staff lunch about some of thier last correspondences, in which the bishop assured the senator of his prayers for him and for his family.

These touching personal stories, and an examination of conscience on my part, leaves me with two things to say:

1) Kennedy's legacy will be remembered for the good, the bad, and the ugly. His death signals the death of an era, an era of confused Catholic politics, which came about as a result of the Hyannisport Congress in 1964 when the Kennedy family met with leading moreal theologians of the time, Fr Charles Curran, Fr Richard McCormick, Fr Milhaven, and others who justified to him that one could in fact hold the teachings of the Church in private, and separate them from their political actions in the public. Unfortunately, this position, together with that one articulated by Gov. Cuomo in his famous ND speech in 1984, has created the problem we have today, of Catholic politicians who do not act for the common good by placing the teachings of the Church at the forefront of their agendas. Kennedy's sad legacy and horrible record on life issues cannot be forgotten, and must be remembered as a huge taint on his character and public record in office.

2) We must trust in the mercy of God, and remember that the justice of God is also the mercy of God. There is no such thing as the "God of justice" and the "God of mercy." We believe in a God who is merciful, and who in being merciful, manifests his justice as a result of his love, which is wholly Other. We can hope and pray for the senator, and beg God to be merciful on this flawed and deeply misguided man. The mysterious and imperceptible workings of grace can so easily be judged by us, who while recognizing the flaws and horrible consequences of the man's politics, can ourselves be quickly moved to judge his soul.

Let me conclude with some words from von Balthasar's book, Credo, that I think have helpled me sort out my thoughts on the situation:

"The Exalted shares in the authority of the Almighty, for the Father "has given judgment to the Son, that allmay honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. (Jn 5:22)." Which power could be greater than that of judging what is most intimate and most hidden in every human being and allocating to him or her eternal destiny accordingly? Almightiness consists much less in that which human beings imagine it to be, namely, changing things in accordance with one's will--Jesus proved, through his miracles, that he could do that too--than in exerting an influence on the freedom of human hearts without overpowering them. Enticing forth from them, through the mysterious power of grace, their free assent to the truly good.

The Church Fathers used to say that God's grace works not through force bu throguh "persuasion," in that it suggests the choice of the better and gives the weak human will the strength to assent to that out of its own conviction and strength. Up to what point the sinful will can continue to resist this inner force of conviction exerted by the good--perhaps to the very last?--is only something for the Almighty Judge of all hearts to know." (p. 65)

We can pray that God moved Senator Kennedy's will to respond to his grace, given especially in those moments of suffering, difficulty, and proximity to death.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Theology of the Body Explained

I just discovered a new commentary on the Theology of the Body. One of the only comprehensive commentaries out there in English is Christopher West's Theology of the Body Explained, Michael Waldstein's Introduction to Man and Woman He Created Them.

The one I have found, is unfortunately, in Polish, and is entitled O Jana Pawla II Teologii Ciala (About John Paul II's Theology of the Body). This commentary is unique, as it contains a series of essays by very prominent scholars, including:

Andrzej Szostek, MIC: "Conscience: Witness and Guardian of the Salvific Truth about Man."
Tadeusz Styczen, SDS: "Man's Self Portrait: The Adequate Anthropology of Karol Wojtyla-John Paul II."
Mieczyslaw Krapiec, OP: "The Body as the Constitutive Element of Man."
It promises to be an important and much-needed work. In Poland, the "theology of the body," and John Paul II in general, is taken as a serious theologian and philosopher, whose thought has shaped and directed the future course of the Church. Unfortunately in this country, many people see the "theology of the body" as a popular phenomenon, for the married couples of the parishes throughout the country.
As the essays in this commentary show, however, the thought of the "theology of the body" affects many more areas than just marriage ministry, and needs to be seriously considered by moral theologians and philosophers alike.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Saw God Today

Unfortunately, much modern popular music is full of immorality, esepcially when it comes to love. Most songs about love are actually about lust, and abotu borken hearts, hurt relationships, and jealousy, anger, and resentment. It is int he country music genre, however, that there continue to exist great songs (although increasginly less!)

I love this song by George Strait, since it is a beautiful reminder of the most important things in life. Very rarely do we have a popular song that affirms the truth of human love, and that children are really a "supreme gift" from God, who blesses a couple with the ability to co-create life with Him! There is nothing more beautiful than a new baby, who can remind us of the innocence, wonder, awe, and childlike attitude that we all ought to have in relation to God, our loving Father.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Our Anniversary

Our GQ Pose

It is hard to believe that two years ago today was the day of our wedding! how quickly time flies. Although no ontological change took place, a new existence came about when we entered into marriage--it's hard to even imagine what life was like before this!

I married the most beautiful, holy, wonderful, and deep woman who has taught me the ways of the Lord, and encouraged me to be a saint. This is what one of the beautiful aspects of marrying young--to "grow up" together with your best friend, who is also your sister in humanity and your spouse!

Please pray for us as we week to live the reality and truth of Christ's love for us, which is to be a model of His love for the Church, and God's love for creation. Please pray that we may do what John Paul II calls alled marriages to: "Spouses are therefore the permanent reminders to the Church of what happened on the cross." (FC, 13). What a a mystery and a profound calling to live up to!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Objective vs. Subjective Dimensions of Love

"Tobias and Sarah," Jan Steen (1626-1679)

Throughout the recent Christopher West debates, to which I have already alluded earlier, I think that one element of the Theology of the Body has been left out, although David Schindler alluded to it in his discussion of the objective nature of concupiscence.

I have been reading JPII's commentary on the Song of Songs and the Book fo Tobit, all found in TOB 108-117b. One of John Paul II's beautiful points is the synthesis of these two books, from which he draws out both the objective and the subjective dimensions of marital union as a language of the body confirming the sign of covenant and grace. What struck me in this read through this section of the TOB is John Paul II's repeated insistence on the priority and importance of the objective dimensions of the "truth of living in communion."

He notices that the Song of Songs speaks powerfully of the "subjective dimension of the truth of human hearts," but that the "prayer of the new spouses in Tobit seems certainly to confirm the [objective dimension] in a menner different from the Song of Songs, and also in a manner that is undoubtedly more deeply moving." [116:4]

John Paul's analysis here seems to reflect the Thomistic idea of love as goodwill, which is based on friendship and expressed through concrete acts and tasks. In Love and Responsibility, John Paul II speaks of "love as desire," "love as attraction," "love as friendship/goodwill" and "betrothed love." Here in TOB, it appears that he is continuing the reflection on the interplay and relationship between his "four loves," and shows particular the necessity to fuse the erotic, love as desire, experienced suibjectively within the human heart, and the agapeic love as goodwill. The fusion of these two loves, the purification of desire through goodwill in friendship, results in a deeply moving and beautiful betrothed love. This, John Paul II points out, is the essence of the spirituality of marriage.

It is popular these days to speak of the "spirituality" of things: work, the priesthood, marriage, nature, etc. Rather than giving some sort of banal answer like "the spirituality of marriage consists in making your spouse happy by random acts of kindness," (an answer you could find in countless self-help and therapy books out there), John Paul II proposes that the spirituality of marriage consists in making yourself, with your spouse and for her, a "sacrifice and offering acceptable to the Lord." Yes, through their sexual lives spouses speak a "language of the body," which expresses the total self gift promised in the vows, but also through their entire common existence, spouses are called to speak a "liturgical language." (TOB 117b:3) "In the daily life of the couple, acts become tasks, and tasks acts. These acts--likewise also the obligations--are by nature spiritual, but they are still at the same time expressed by the 'language of the body.'"

Three things come to mind:

1) My fear about West's presentations is a lack of enough emphasis on the objective dimensions of living in a communion of persons. Real love is not just about the beautiful longing, love, and poetic romance expressed in the Song of Songs. Real love also means the performance of conrete tasks, day in and day out, for your spouse, modeled on the love of Christ for His Church. This helps one keep in mind that when the times are tough and the "subjective" element of the "dimension of the heart" might be lacking, this is ok. I think it is important, especially for young Catholic married couples to keep this in mind, since there exists a not too uncommon phenomenon of the "perfect, young, orthodox couple" getting married, then disillusioned, and then seeking an annulment. True love, as expressed by the theology of the body, is not just about speaking the sexual language of the body, but the "liturgical" language of the body.

2) Speaking the "language of the liturgy" with one's body means uniting oneself to the sacrifice of Christ, and to the original covenant of God with man. Man was created as cosmic priest, to rule over himself, and creation, and to say to God, "We offer You these gifts from your own gifts in all and for all." Christ came fully revelaed to man how to live according to this original plan, and as Pope Benedict tells us, we are all called to become "true liturgists of Jesus Christ." This means that we develop a liturgical worldview by which each act we perform becomes sanctified as it is done by God's grace and for His glory. In marriage, the spouses speak this "litrugical language" through their acts of duty and faithfulness to their given tasks, speaking with their acts always the language of tenderness in self-giving love.
3) These points are in radical continuity with the early Wojtyla, who recognized and argued that man fulfills himself through the performance of his own acts, and this is done most fully through the performance of acts in community, as this provides the possibiltiy of living out a gift of self, acting in solidarity with and for others.

Thus, the objective dimension of love, expressed through a living in communion of persons based on speaking a "liturgical language," as expressed in the prayer of Tobit (Tob 8:5-8) needs to always be emphasized by anybody who seeks to popularize the theology of the body, as it does a great disservice to mislead people through an overly optimistic (though admittedly, beautiful) emphasis on the subjective dimension of love in the human heart as experienced by two spouses living according to God's plan.

Friday, July 17, 2009

L'Osservatore Popolano (ie: The common people's observer)

Here are come further comments about my gripe with LOR. They are spurred on by some confusion people had regarding my original comments abotu the issue.

OK, I don't REALLY think that somebody should burn down L'Osservatore Romano. What I do think is that the editor, Giovanni Maria Vian, needs to be replaced. Why?

1) He, as I mentioned, has come on TV in Italy saying that Obama is not a "pro-abortion president." What this indicates to me is that

1) either he is ignorant of Obama's policies and anti-life record as president, in which case he is simply being a less-than-impressive journalist, who is unable to keep up on international politics;

or 2) he has an agenda by which he is tyring to adopt Obama's tactics of appealing to Catholic voters by trying to downplay the real issues at hand and adopt the rhetoric of "common ground." Unfortunately, there are some issues that are either black or white, and it is impossible to compromise. Thus, the only common ground that we can share with the pro-choice people is the desire to "reduce abortions." The problem is that while claiming that this is their goal, which Obama has said many times, he has also appointed one person after another (the new surgeon general being the latest) who is radically in support of his policies regarding "reproductive rights," which include abortion and contraception. For the editor of the pope's quasi-official newpaper to go on record saying things like he has, speaks to me of something fishy...either he is deliberately trying to sow confusion, and has bought into the European fascination with Obama (or rather, with anybody that is not Bush), or he is simply ignorant of Obama's real record.

2)Vian is right in saying that Obama's first 100 days could have been "worse." They always can be. He could have started a new war with Iran, he could have appointed a much more radical judge to the Supreme Court, he could have pushed for FOCA...

However, Vian made the point specifically about life point is that actually, Obama's first 100 days mark the most radical changes in policies and issues related to life in the shortest period of time ever. Period. We know that he has appointed pro-choice Catholics to very prominent positions (ie: Health and Human Services secretary, one of the assistants in the same office, the surgeon general, Judge Sotomayor (who while not having a cleaer record on abortion is highly praised by NARAL etc.), Miguel Diaz (who is not pro-choice, but espouses a logically incoherent position realted to life issues), and on and on and on. Not to even mention the speech at Notre Dame (which was also downplayed by the LOR). So the point is, the editor of the Vatican's nespaper has no right to publish such pieces when they are clearly contradictory to the reality, and are simply bait for a liberal media in this country that is only seeking to support Obama and make it appear that faithful, orthodox Catholics are fanatical and radical.

3) About Michael Jackson...rather than praising him and saying things like "His judicial ups and downs following allegations of paedophilia are well known. But no charge, even as bad and shameful, was sufficient to diminish his legend among the millions of fans around the world," if the LOR ought to comment at all, it should focus on the tragedy of his life. The man is a tragic figure who never truly experienced love in his childhood, which led to his many identity crises, and led to his creation of himself as an idol...rather than continuing to treat him as an idol as the rest of the world, Jackson deserves to be treated as a person by somebody. Shouldn't the Church, which upholds the dignity and value of every person, treat him in this manner? Furthermore, ignoring the controversies (ie: "bad and shameful charges") associated with him diminishes the gravity of the immoral acts he may have committed (I say "may," since he was never found guilty, but then again, neither was O.J.)

4) I will withhold further comments about Harry Potter, since I am not qualified to speak about the books or movies, as I have not read them. I do point to the scandal, however, and maintain it as such, that the editor of LOR, which ought to support the work and mission of the Holy Father, is shooting him in the foot. In 2003, Ratzinger said in a letter to a German author, reagrding her critique of Potter, that, "It is good that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly." Ratzinger's point is that the unsupervised and undiscussed acceptance of the content in Harry Potter can work very strongly on a child's imagination, which is innocent and attune to the existence of moral good and evil. This capactiy of every child to possess an awareness of these deep truths, however, must be carefully nurtured and directed by its parents according to the faith, so that it does not develop a thwarted vision of reality. The problem with Harry Potter therefore is not that it really deals with things imaginary, but rather that it imaginatively deals with reality. (How's that for a Chestertonian phrase?)

The point is, if Ratzinger has said something publicly about the issue, the LOR should not contradict him, if it seeks to be faithful to its own mission, among which is:

1 - to reveal and to refute the calumnies unleashed against Rome and the Roman Pontificate;

5 - to inspire and promote the veneration of the august Sovereign and Pontiff;

I'm just pointing out the contradictions between the mission of the paper and its recent activities.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Polish Christian Artist

Magda Aniol sings a really cool song about John Paul II. The refrain is, "there is nobody better than John Paul II," until the final part of the song (still in rhyme) begins singing "we have a new (pope), Benedict XVI."

I think it is a beautiful example of how so many young people in the so-called "John Paul II" generation in Poland have shown that their faith is not only based on a national/cultural attachment to the "Polish pope," but rather, that the faith is based upon the love of Jesus Christ and His Church, out of which comes a great love for our current (German!) Holy Father.

While obviously the Church in Poland has its own struggles (such as lustration in the post-communist era), one very admirable and beautiful quality about the faith there is its simplicity and fidelity to the Magisterium and its love for the Petrine Ministry. Obviously, not all Catholics in Poland actually take to heart what they externally profess (such is human nature), but if I were to generalize (never a very good thing to do), I would say that the admiration for the Holy Father has to do with his upholding of traditional moral values and the value of the family and relationships based on Christian charity in a community, all essential aspects of the "fully developed and integrated human life" that the communists sought to destroy. Hence, in the pope was (and is) not only the Vicar of Christ and successor of Peter, but more concretely, one who understands that human life can only flourish when emphasis is placed on the true and unadulterated dignity of the human person. In this sprit, I hope to offer some upcoming reflections on the new encyclical, Caritas in Veritate.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back from Vacation

John Joseph enjoys the mile-high view!

Sorry about no posts in awhile. We are finally back from vacation, which included a sweeping tour of the West, while visiting family.

We were at the Grand Canyon a few days ago, and today I learn that a man drove off it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Corpus Christi: Krakow Today

Cardinal Dziwisz Venerates the Altar at the beginning of Mass
Participants and Onlookers

One of the Stational Altars

Cardinal Macharski

Cardinal Dziwisz Gives the Final Blessing

The tradition of the Corpus Christi procession in Krakow continues in this day, pretty much as it has for centuries. The celebration begins with a Mass celebrated by the Archibishop of Krakow outside of the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Wenceslaus and Stanislaus, on Wawel Hill, and then processes down the hill to four stational altars. The altars are located at the corners fo the main market square, and at each altar, one of the many auxiliary bishops of Krakow preaches and gives a reflection.

This year, the theme was the 30th anniversary of the visit of John Paul II to Poland in 1979, which as Cardinal Dziwisz recently pointed out, was the beginning of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. The texts used at the altars were taken from the words of John Paul II to the Poles of thirty years ago, and are certainly as applicable today, as they were then. John Paul II emphasized the relationship between Christ and the history of Poland. Indeed, the very first words of his first encyclical were "Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of Man, is the center of the universe and of history."

With this message, John Paul II arrived in Poland, to the trembling of the communist authorities, and encouraged the people by preaching the truth about the course of human events and of the history of Poland: from its inception, Poland began as a Christian nation with the baptism of Mieszko I, a pagan tribal chief, in 966. From that day, Christianity has survived, flowered, and blossomed in Poland, and has played a role in the very heart and soul of Poland for a longer time than the ancient Orthodoxy of Kievan Rus or Muscovy. With that momentous decision in the backwoods of north central Europe in 966, a Christian nation was born and the blood of the martyrs began to flow through the lifeblood of Poland. This is the truth that the Marxists sought to deny. They sought to understand man through materialistic and economic worldviews, and Poland through the eyes of an anti-religious dialectic. What they failed to account for is the instrinsic connection between the Christian faith of the Poles and the transcendence and dignity of the human person, the capability of the human spirit, and in this case, the Polish spirit, to only understand itself fully through reference to the truth about the good.

This is the message that John Paul II came to preach, and only his words can express it most perfectly:

" It is right to understand the history of the nation through man, each human being of this nation. At the same time man cannot be understood apart from this community that is constituted by the nation. Of course it is not the only community, but it is a special community, perhaps that most intimately linked with the family, the most important for the spiritual history of man. It is therefore impossible without Christ to understand the history of the Polish nation—this great thousand-year-old community—that is so profoundly decisive for me and each one of us. If we reject this key to understanding our nation, we lay ourselves open to a substantial misunderstanding. We no longer understand ourselves. It is impossible without Christ to understand this nation with its past so full of splendour and also of terrible difficulties. It is impossible to understand this city, Warsaw, the capital of Poland, that undertook in 1944 an unequal battle against the aggressor, a battle in which it was abandoned by the allied powers, a battle in which it was buried under its own ruins—if it is not remembered that under those same ruins there was also the statue of Christ the Saviour with his cross that is in front of the church at Krakowskie Przedmiescie. It is impossible to understand the history of Poland from Stanislaus in Skalka to Maximilian Kolbe at Oswiecim unless we apply to them that same single fundamental criterion that is called Jesus Christ.
The Millennium of the Baptism of Poland, of which Saint Stanislaus is the first mature fruit—the millennium of Christ in our yesterday, and today—is the chief reason for my pilgrimage, for my prayer of thanksgiving together with all of you, dear fellow-countrymen, to whom Christ does not cease to teach the great cause of man; together with you, for whom Jesus Christ does not cease to be an ever open book on man, his dignity and his rights and also a book of knowledge on the dignity and rights of the nation.
Today, here in Victory Square, in the capital of Poland, I am asking with all of you, through the great Eucharistic prayer, that Christ will not cease to be for us an open book of life for the future, for our Polish future.

We are before the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In the ancient and contemporary history of Poland this tomb has a special basis, a special reason for its existence. In how many places in our native land has that soldier fallen! In how many places in Europe and the world has he cried with his death that there can be no just Europe without the independence of Poland marked on its map! On how many battlefields has that solider given witness to the rights of man, indelibly inscribed in the inviolable rights of the people, by falling for "our free­dom and yours"!
"Where are their tombs, O Po-land? Where are they not! You know better than anyone—and God knows it in heaven" (A. Oppman, Pacierz za zmarlych).
The history of the motherland written through the tomb of an Unknown Soldier!
I wish to kneel before this tomb to venerate every seed that falls into the earth and dies and thus bears fruit. It may be the seed of the blood of a soldier shed on the battlefield, or the sacrifice of martyrdom in concentration camps or in prisons. It may be the seed of hard daily toil, with the sweat of one's brow, in the fields, the workshop, the mine, the foundries and the factories. It may be the seed of the love of parents who do not refuse to give life to a new human being and undertake the whole of the task of bringing him up. It may be the seed of creative work in the universities, the higher institutes, the libraries and the places where the national culture is built. It may be the seed of prayer, of service of the sick, the suffering, the abandoned—"all that of which Poland is made".
All that in the hands of the Mother of God—at the foot of the cross on Calvary and in the Upper Room of Pentecost!
All that—the history of the motherland shaped for a thousand years by the succession of the generations (among them the present generation and the coming generation) and by each son and daughter of the motherland, even if they are anonymous and unknown like the Soldier before whose tomb we are now.
All that—including the history of the peoples that have lived with us and among us, such as those who died in their hundreds of thousands within the walls of the Warsaw ghetto.
All that I embrace in thought and in my heart during this Eucharist and I include it in this unique most holy Sacrifice of Christ, on Victory Square.
And I cry—I who am a Son of the land of Poland and who am also Pope John Paul II—I cry from all the depths of this Millennium, I cry on the vigil of Pentecost:
Let your Spirit descend.
Let your Spirit descend.
and renew the face of the earth, the face of this land.

With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that fateful day on Victory Square in Warsaw, the victory of truth over falsehood, of freedom over slavery, of transcendence over conformism began, and the history of the world changed forever.

Corpus Chrisit Procession: Krakow 1937

This is the Corpus Christi Procesison in Krakow in 1937, when Prince Adam Cardinal Sapieha was the Archbishop of Krakow, before World War II. Karol Wojtyla was only 17!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Segments of the (Faithful) Church Working with Obama

I recently opened up two of the newspapers to which I subscribe: Today's Catholic and the National Catholic Register. Both of the newspapers ran stories that were re-printed from other news agencies, such as the Catholic News Service, and L'Osservatore Romano.

I have almost come to the point of desperation and am tempted toward hopelessness: not only is the American liberal media in a love affiar with President Obama, but so also is the Catholic press, and even the Vatican. Why? Obama has brilliant political strategists: he knows that a slim majority of Catholics voted for him, based on his presentation of social policies and an agenda that fits some aspects of Catholic social teachings. He knows that he needs to maintain and count on support from Catholics in order to further his agenda and goals. So begins the onslaught against faithful Catholics who believe in the Church's teachings on the dignity of each human life, and the hierarchy that accompanies the gravity of certain moral issues in relation to others:

-the Notre Dame affair: a speech through which Obama deludes many Catholics with his conciliatory rhetoric and appealing notion of "common ground" in a politically and socially divided nation. He is met with applause and warm congratulations by Fr. Jenkins, who has demonstrated compelte disregard for millions of Catholics in this nation.

-the appointment of Kathleen Sebelius as the HHS, as well as Alexia Kelley (from Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good) as an adviser in this department

-the appointment of Miguel Diaz as the new US Ambassdor to the Vatican. Dr. Diaz was on the Catholics for Obama steering committee, donated $1000 to the Obama campaign, and signed a petition in favor of Sebelius' nomination. He is a Rahnerian theologian who is interested in liberation theology (not that there is anything wrong per se either of the two).

--the nomination of the reverse-racist and liberal Justice Sotomayor for the Supreme Court position.

Why has Obama not selected pro-choice atheists or liberal Protestants for any of these positions? The Catholic Church would be better off.

Two things come to mind.

First, a spiritual persepctive: The devil is at work in our culture and our society, perhaps right now in a way more than ever before. One of the dangerous and effective ways in which the devil works is in small and unnoticeable ways, seemingly insignificant things that, after a period of time, contribute to the downfall of the good and the creation of scandal so as to sow discord. If one looks at the specific choices of these liberal Catholics, we can see the hand of the devil at work. Sure, on the surface, some of these persons will be "nice people," say they are "faithful to the Church," and even claim to be pro-life. But all one has to do is look at the president whom they support, and to whose campaign they have contributed time and money. So as a good friend of mine who is a priest said to me not too long ago, we would definitely see a great rise in the influence of evil working subtly if Obama were to be elected. To put it logically:

The devil hates the Catholic Church and will seek to destroy it.
The Catholics chosen for these posts support policies detrimental to the witness of the truths proclaimed by the Church.
These persons have been chosen by Obama.
Obama is cooperating with the work of the devil.

I am not saying Obama is possessed, but that there are certainly evil influences guiding his actions. I think this is his deliberate strategy, because he knows that the more he can break up the Catholic Church, the more divided will be the voice of opposition to his abysmal pro-life record.

Second, why in the world can't the Catholic media undestand this?

For weeks now, the editor of the L'Osservatore Romano has been defending his soft stance on the Obama administration's policies, even going so far as to say on Italian television that "I don't believe that Obama is a pro-abortion president."

Are you kidding me? Do you actually live in the United States? Why in the world is the editor of the quasi-officialVatican newspaper even involving himself in making political statements like this?

Then, I find out that Archbishop Pietro Sambi thinks Diaz is "an excellent choice because he knows very well the United States and because of his background in the Catholic Church." Furthermore, he thinks "Latin Americans should be very proud." Since when is evertyihg a racial issue? Why need the ambassador be selected on the grounds of his race?

The, I find out that Obama's speech in Cairo, in which he cites the Koran and offers a "we will now work with all of you together to find common ground" content, is praised by the local hierearchy of the Middle East. "It's the beginning of a new process, a new era. Obama really wants to change things, and the image of the United States will benefit from it," said the Chaldean bishop of Cairo.

Are you kidding? Why in the hell does a Catholic bishop care about the 'image of the United States?"

The only image I can think of that our country is projecting is that we do not value human life, but place a price on the hierarchy of its worth (utilitarianism): if you're alive, great. If you're alive and handicapped, that's too bad. If you're old, your life sucks. If you're not born, we can decide what to do with you. If you're not alive, we can bring you to life. Now let's export this mentality to Africa and South America through the UN and programs such as USAID.

As Michael Novak has said, we ask Rome for a sip of water, and they give us a bag of stones.

Maybe I am particularly sensitive to the issue, since I am a double domer and was heavily involved in ND Response to protest Obama. But the fact of the matter remains: the Catholic hierarchy, even within high levels in the Curia, are expressing themselves in a manner that undercuts and undermines the efforts of faithful, pro-life Catholics to expose the truth of the Obama agenda. I don't care if statements have to be made for political or for reasons of politeness: say something, but don't praise Obama, don't suggest your agreement with his policies, and for heaven's sakes, don't undercut the work of many good and faithful Catholics who already find themselves in a very difficult position to defend human life at all stages.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Theology of the Body and the Need for Beauty in Catechesis


Here is a talk that I gave not too long ago at a conference on catechesis in our diocese:

Since the beginnings of our Western intellectual tradition, philosophers, poets, and artists have expressed the universal human longing for beauty. Humans all desire beauty, long for it, and cannot live without it. An encounter with a beautiful landscape, piece of art, or person leads us to transcend ourselves, and carries us into the realm of the eternal, the unknown, the mysterious, and the sacred. Dostoevsky wrote that the “world will be saved by beauty.” How true it is that an encounter with a truly beautiful person (not necessarily only physical beauty), can carry us into a new dimension of existence, can bring joy into our day, and inspire us to do the good. This is because such a person lives out the truth of their humanity. We think of Mother Teresa serving the poorest of the poor, in spite of fifty years of spiritual darkness. We think of Maximilian Kolbe, sacrificing his life voluntarily for the life of a stranger, and thus living out the truth of his human person, to live as self-gift. The saints are beautiful people because they witness to us the truth about the human being.

True beauty is in reality authentic love, living out the call to holiness. “Man cannot live without love; he remains a being incomprehensible to himself,” wrote John Paul II in his inaugural encyclical, Redemptor hominis. “Beauty is the splendor of truth,” wrote Plato. It is this “splendor of truth” that John Paul II discussed throughout his life, in his academic works from the period before his papacy, and in his encyclicals and papal documents, even titling one of them with this very phrase.
Unfortunately, we live in a world often devoid of beauty, truth, and goodness. The walls of the dark halls through which our culture passes are plastered with images of the grotesque; the immoral and the evil is often presented as good; there is a contempt for truth, as expressed in the “dictatorship of relativism,” in which objective and transcendent truths about creation, and most especially, the human person, are presented as socially constructed, malleable norms which have changed and continue to change over time.

The dignity of the human person is trampled upon through wars, poverty, materialistic consumerism, and most especially through attacks on the dignity of men and women, and the gift of human sexuality. It is difficult to see how Saint Irenaeus could have said that the “glory of God is man fully alive.” What does it even mean for “the human person to be fully alive,” when even many members of our own Church pass through life apathetically, distracted by the pursuits and pleasures of this world, without placing their thoughts, hopes, and dreams in the world to come? How are we called to live beautiful lives, in conformity with the truth about our existence as human beings? How can the Church minister to its young faithful, who are often hopeless, disillusioned, or apathetic about their lives?

A calling to be “fully alive,” to live out the deepest and most authentic human vocation, seems difficult if not impossible. We have lost our vision of what it means to be “fully alive,” to possess life “abundantly” here on this earth, in anticipation of the world to come. Our world espouses an attitude that seeks to build a utopia on earth. Such an attitude, a lack of an eschatological perspective, is seen in a particular way in the prevalent attitude toward sexuality. Sexuality is seen as a commodity to trade, and the desire for “great sex” is an important part of many peoples’ lives. Just look around in the magazine stands in the grocery store. Though original sin is a reality in the course of human history since the Fall, in a particular way, the twentieth century was especially characterized by these attitudes towards sex and the human person, which we will call heresies.

The nature of a heresy, according to Chesterton, is that it is at best a half-truth, a fragment of the truth that is exaggerated at the expense of the rest of the truth. It is so insidious because it is so attractive. Many “heresies” have been spread about the nature and meaning of human beings and their gift of sexuality. One writer said, “I would go even so far to state that there is no other source of true contentment or understanding of life values than that which comes from the realization of love in marriage…” Pretty good words. These are from Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. She goes on to say, “Through sex mankind may attain the great spiritual illumination which will transform the world, which will light up the only path to an earthly paradise.” Sanger recognizes the sacredness of sex, that sexuality has spiritual dimensions, that sex can be a great source of joy and fulfillment, and it is realized in the love of marriage. At the same time, she proposes that sex is a beautiful thing whose end is to build up a utopia on earth. Since she believes there is no eternal end for human beings, this great sacredness of sex can be the key to an earthly paradise. This leads her to conclude that sex is a primary end of human existence, and therefore unlimited access to this commodity, made possible through birth control, can “break women’s bonds…and free her to understand the cravings and soul-needs of herself and other women. It will enable her to develop her love-nature separate from and independent of her maternal nature.”

This author’s ideas are alive today in the spirit of the sexual revolution, which is built upon the heresy that sex is sacred and must therefore be used by an individual, and that an individual can use others to obtain it. If a woman espouses these views about herself and her sexuality, Sanger proposes, then she will come to see men as “veritable gods…worthy of the profoundest worship.” Michael Waldstein asks whether this attitude has truly turned men into “veritable gods,” or whether such a philosophy has developed a culture of “users and consumers,” who can dispense with their sexual objects once the thrill and “erotic excitement ebbs away?”
This example of a modern “heresy,” which reduces sexuality to a commodity to be traded and a means for using other people to gain one’s own satisfaction, lies at the foundation of many of the problems we face in our cultural edifice today, in which women especially have suffered greatly as a result of the confusion regarding sexuality. At a more fundamental level, this outlook contradicts the proper ordering within and meaning of a human person.

Sanger died just over forty years ago, and her ideas seem to have taken hold of a good portion of cultural attitudes. Thousands of miles away, behind the Iron Curtain, another contemporary philosopher reflected upon the meaning of human sexuality and human love. This man had suffered much in his early childhood, and lost his entire family by his mid twenties. Life brought him many challenges and tests of human love, but by the 1940’s, he wrote that he had “learned to fall in love with human love.” As a young priest, this philosopher was placed in a parish and his pastoral assignment was to minister to college students and young married couples, whose hopes, dreams, failures, and struggles under a communist regime he had quickly come to appreciate.

These experiences, the desire to help young families grow in love in the midst of anti-family pressure from the government, widespread encouragement of abortion, rampant alcoholism, and economic policies that sought to break down the family, led this man to compile a book that would encourage young people to live their humanity to its fullness. In this book, entitled Love and Responsibility, which our philosopher Karol Wojtyła published in 1959, he sought to discuss human love from a philosophical perspective. He asked, “What can we know of the human person and the universal phenomenon of love, based on experience, reason, psychology, and sexuality?” Drawing upon his discussions with philosophers, psychologists, and mostly his conversations with the young friends to whom he ministered, Wojtyła argued that the opposite of love is not hate, but “use”: using another person as an object, as a means to an end. The key to this authentic understanding of human dignity lies in Wojtyła’s personalisitc norm, which can either be presented in a negative or positive way. Fundamental to the protection of human dignity is the insight that a “person is the kind of good which does not admit of use and cannot be treated as an object of use and as such the means to an end.” Wojtyła reformulates this philosophical principle and points out, “the person is a good towards which the only proper and adequate attitude is love.”

Furthermore, this attitude of love must be understood in a personal way, taking into account that we are all sexual beings. Love itself, as Pope Benedict points out in Deus Caritas Est, can be a confusing term, especially for us anglophiles who only have one word for the concept. Wojtyła proposes four kinds of love. Love as attraction is a type of love, by which we are drawn to the sexual values of another person. These values reside in a specific person. “The attraction on which love is based must originate not just in a reaction to visible and physical beauty, but also in a full and deep appreciation of the beauty of the person.” So we arrive back at our universal longing for beauty. We are all attracted to beauty, and physical beauty is a valid and important attraction, but it is not enough. We must learn to desire a person.

Desire, the second type of love, is “of the essence of love” because we are all limited and finite human beings, who are not self-sufficient and therefore “need other beings.” This explains why we can all become lonely, and sometimes feel an inexplicable longing in our hearts. Augustine realized that this longing to “be with” another can only be fully satisfied by God, when he said, “My heart is restless until it rests in You.” Desiring after another person can be authentic when we realize that a person is a “good for me.” Thus, it is good for a husband to desire his wife, who brings the best qualities out in him. It is using her when he desires her simply because he wants to get his pleasure and satisfaction. Love as desire is therefore not complete. “It is not enough to love a person as a good for oneself, one must also, and above all, long for that person’s good.”
To truly love another person is to desire their good. For this reason, parents sacrifice their time, money, and leisure for the care of their children. A priest starts adoration at his parish for the spiritual good of his parishioners. Love as goodwill is therefore “selflessness.” In Wojtyła’s view, therefore, true and fully authentic love consists in the sacrificial and unselfish love in which a person makes a gift of his person to another. For a man and a woman, authentic love “cannot but be love as desire, but must as time goes by, move more and more in the direction of unqualified goodwill.”

Finally, “Love finds its full realization” not in the individual, but “in a relationship between…persons.” Betrothed love consists in self-giving, which differs from “desiring the good” for another. Death to self serves as the foundation of this highest form of love. Though a doctor, pastor, or teacher might give of herself, this might only be the result of circumstance, goodwill, or friendliness. Betrothed love, however, is self-surrender to a “chosen person.” This is the most perfect, sacrificial love that each human being is called to.

These key insights about human love and about a utilitarian mindset that entered into our cultural understanding of human relationships and sexuality, in a particular way, from the early days of the twentieth century, as seen in the writings of Margaret Sanger, form a foundation of Wojtyła’s thought. Love and Responsibility, became a “bestseller,” and Janet Smith has proposed that this work belongs on the list of the classic books of western civilization, alongside Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Dante: “The pope’s book belongs in this group, since I think generations to come will read his book — they certainly should do so, for if they do they will find that it boldly confronts questions we all have about life and offers a way of viewing human relationships which, if accepted, would radically alter the way in which we conduct our lives.” The book was so popular that the philosopher-priest (a bishop by this time), decided to write a sequel to this book, examining the human vocation to love from a theological perspective.
In a particular way, he sought to address some of the important developments in the Church and society since the publication of Love and Responsibility, especially the promulgation of Humanae Vitae and its aftermath. Karol Wojtyła desired to articulate clearly the “adequate biblical anthropology” necessary for a complete and comprehensive understanding of the encyclical and its implications. He thus wrote this book, largely a commentary on the Book of Genesis, the Gospels, and the Letters of Saint Paul, and titled it, “Man and Woman He Created Them,” a “theology of the body.” Before the volume was published, however, Wojtyła, as we all know, ascended the throne of St. Peter. Since at the time, it was not customary for a pontiff to publish a book, John Paul II decided to convert his work, written in Kraków, into a series of catecheses, given at the weekly Wednesday audiences. Thus, the first five years of his catechesis as pontiff was born.

This catechesis formed the foundation of his pontificate, and throughout his encyclicals, documents, speeches, homilies, letters, and other works, the pope referred to the concepts he had introduced in the theology of the body, as a result of his many years of pastoral experience and philosophical and theological training. Vatican II reminds us that, “Preaching and catechetical instruction…always hold the first place” in a bishop’s activity (Christus Dominus 13). In these catecheses, though written before he was elected pope, the pope speaks as (1) pastor of the universal Church; (2) in a form central to his office; (3) on a topic central to the faith (human and divine love). They can therefore be considered authoritative and to hold primacy of place in the ordinary Magisterium of the Bishop of Rome as pastor of the universal Church, to which the catecheses are addressed.[1]

These catecheses seek to provide a lens through which to view the Catholic Church’s teachings on morality, sexuality, the human person, nature, grace, and indeed, as George Weigel has written, theology of the body “will compel a dramatic development of thinking about virtually every major theme in the creed.” John Paul II re-orients us to the “beginning” of the Book of Genesis, and the “beginning” of human existence as created by the Trinitarian God. John Paul II himself points out that the themes in theology of the body, among others that we are created to dwell in communion with one another, as an image of the communion of Persons in the Trinity, and that true love consists in self-gift, the relationship that characterizes the Persons of the Trinity, are meant to remind us of “the final and grandiose goal of all evangelization.” (3/10/1987, Buenos Aires).

That human beings are beautiful, that we are created to love with a total self-surrender and in a gift of our whole selves to another, and that we can one day participate in the very life of the Trinity itself, a foretaste of which can be had here on earth, are central themes of this work. In a particular way “the Church addresses [these] to the young, who are beginning their journey towards marriage and family life, for the purpose of presenting them with new horizons, helping them to discover the beauty and grandeur of the vocation to love and the service of life.” (Familiaris Consortio 1)

Of course, the Church always recognizes that the domestic church is the primary place of catechesis of the young. “The Christian family, in fact, is the first community called to announce the Gospel to the human person during growth and to bring him or her, through a progressive education and catechesis, to full human and Christian maturity.” (FC, 2) The theology of the body is therefore fundamentally important for families, and the domestic church is to become a school of prayer, of love, and of primary education in the faith. However, the pope recognizes that “In so far as the ministry of evangelization and catechesis of the Church of the home is rooted in and derives from the one mission of the Church and is ordained to the upbuilding of the one Body of Christ,(128) it must remain in intimate communion and collaborate responsibly with all the other evangelizing and catechetical activities present and at work in the ecclesial community at the diocesan and parochial levels.” (FC, 53)

It is therefore not only the work of individual families to take seriously the pope’s teachings presented beautifully in the theology of the body, and in the accompanying papal documents, but it is a task of the entire ecclesial community. At World Youth Day in Toronto, the pope encouraged young people, and indeed all Catholics, to “not be content with anything less than the highest ideals! Do not let yourselves be dispirited by those who are disillusioned with life and have grown deaf to the deepest and most authentic desires of their heart…You are right to be disappointed with hollow entertainment and passing fads, and with aiming at too little in life. If you have an ardent desire for the Lord you will steer clear of the mediocrity and conformism so widespread in our society.” (Message for XVII World Youth Day)

It is time to once again re-propose wholeheartedly to those around us, in particularly the young, with whose spiritual formation we have been entrusted, to always strive for what is good, beautiful, and true. We have seen from the saints, human beings who have been fully alive, that the world will truly be saved by beauty, in the splendor of its truth.

[1] See Catechesi Tradendae, 7 for JPII’s understanding of catechesis. In the audiences, he is commenting on the Catechism, providing a lens through which to read it.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Trinity Within

Pope Benedict's angelus address yesterday, during this week after Trinity Sunday, was unusually beautiful and clear. This is another exmaple of this pope's ability to preach about the most complex and deepest of the Christian mysteries in a manner that is accessible to all and inspiring to even those without any theological education.

I have not been able to find the entire text online in English (for the Italian, see here), but Zenit has excerpts from the address:

Christ revealed that "God is love 'not in the unity of a single person, but in the Trinity of a single substance,'” the Holy Father said, quoting the preface."The Trinity is Creator and merciful Father; Only Begotten Son, eternal Wisdom incarnate, dead and risen for us; it is finally the Holy Spirit, who moves everything, cosmos and history, toward the final recapitulation," the Pontiff explained. "Three Persons who are one God because the Father is love, the Son is love, the Spirit is love. God is love and only love, most pure, infinite and eternal love.""The Trinity does not live in a splendid solitude," he added, "but is rather inexhaustible font of life that unceasingly gives itself and communicates itself."Benedict XVI said one could get a sense of the Trinity simply by observing nature from the most elementary cellular levels to the planets, stars and galaxies."The 'name' of the Most Holy Trinity is in a certain way impressed upon everything that exists, because everything that exists, down to the least particle, is a being in relation, and thus God-relation shines forth, ultimately creative Love shines forth," he said."All comes from love, tends toward love, and is moved by love, naturally, according to different grades of consciousness and freedom," the Pope affirmed."Every being," he continued, "by the very fact of existing and by the 'fabric' of which it is made, refers to a transcendent Principle, to eternal and infinite Life that gives itself, in a word: to Love." Benedict XVI affirmed that there is proof that human beings are made in the image of the Trinity, because "only love makes us happy, because we live in relation, and we live to love and be loved.""Using an analogy suggested by biology," he concluded, "we could say the human 'genome' is profoundly imprinted with the Trinity, of God-Love.”

This gives me great ideas about our own presentations to eighth graders. Part of our job consists of presenting chastity to eighth graders, and it is impossible to speak of chastity without reference to the Trinity. Why is this so? Simple.

We've all heard that we "look like our mom" or that we "look like our dad." By looking at a child, we are able to understand something about its parents, and by looking at the parent's features, we are able to understand that the child has its "father's nose" or its "mother's cheeks." We are, in a certain sense, made in the image and likeness of our parents.

We've also all heard from the very beginning of the Book of Genesis that we are made in the "image and likeness of God." Well, if we are made in the image and likeness of God, and God is Trinity, and God is also Love, then it is impossible to understand who we are as human persons without reference to the mytery of the Three Persons of the Trinity who dwell with each other in a communion of self-giving love. This, I think, is one of the deepest insights that has been at the forefront of the teaching of both Pope Benedict and of John Paul II. It is certainly a fundamental insight, and "thesis" of the Theology of the Body. We are made in the image of the Trinitarian God, three Persons who dwell in a relation of self-giving love with and to one another, and we can only find ourselves through the living out of this gift of self (see Gaudium et Spes 24).

Thus, Pope Benedict is reminding us --and this is one of the important features of the Trinity Sunday--that when we think of being in the "image and likeness" of God, it is not just through our ability to think and to choose, reason and intellect, but also, and perhaps more importantly, in our ability to enter into relationship with one another, in the midst of a community of love. We are therefore called to live out God's image by living in a communion of love, with our spouses, our children, at the parish level, and even in the relationships we establish in the professional arena.

I find Pope Benedict's speech fascinating, since many modern biologists (mostly atheistic materialists) are also arguing that human beings are pre-programmed genetically with a "morality gene." I don't find a problem with this. It simply is further scientific proof that we, as human beings, have the first precept of the natural law written into our very genetic strucutre: to do good and avoid evil. As Christians, however, we understand that love is the fulfillment of the law, and the only way to live out who we are to be is to be governed by thi self-giving, relational love of which Benedict speaks.

I will write more about this later, especially as it relates to the Christopher West debate--although this has been raging on the blogs, I hope to contribute my own thoughts about it, from a persepctive that I do not think has been raised by either West, Schindler, Smith, or Waldstein. More on that later...