Tag Archives: St. Augustine

Jesus and the Rich Youth

Mark 10:17-27

The Gospel on the rich young man is rich with meaning. It is noteworthy to point out that Jesus still loved the youth despite knowing that he wouldn’t give up his possessions to follow Him (c.f. Mk 10:21).

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, Heinrich Hofmann (1889)
Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, Heinrich Hofmann (1889)

This young man had observed the laws from his youth (Mk 10:20). Although he did not choose to take on the path to perfection (give away all his possessions and follow Jesus), he did not suffer a lessening of Jesus’s love.

It is amazing how intelligent and philosophical Jesus is as he brilliantly draws from Eccl 5:10 to illuminate the path to our perfection; “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money; nor he who loves wealth, with gain: this also is vanity.”

As St. Augustine comments: “Although he did not pass the bounds of humanity, nor follow the perfection of Christ, still he was not guilty of any sin, since he kept the law according to the capability of a man, and in this mode of keeping it, Christ still loved him.”

This passage corresponds to plenty of us today, for most of us are the type who would do our best to keep away from grave sin and obey basic Gospel precepts, but we would REJECT the idea of following the Spirit’s Counsel towards Perfection.

There is a stark difference therefore, between the Perfect and Permissible Will that God has planned out for each of us.

Let us remember; when we listen to God, it becomes possible, but as long as we keep our human notions, it becomes impossible (c.f. Mk 10:27).

___

Originally posted on Instagram.
Image: PD-US

The Falling Away of Humanity from Experiencing God Through Nature

The beauty and complexity of the world is meant to continuously point humanity to our Creator. We are surrounded by trees, mountains, oceans, rivers, lakes, and clouds, and within these things much vibrant life is found, full of color and intricacies that are meant to leave us in awe and wonder. With its incredible and incomprehensible depth this beauty cannot be measured and yet allows us to grasp aspects of the nature of the Great Artist who created it. However, with people spending more time inside and away from nature, is human interaction with the natural world being attacked in order to diminish this grasping at God through it?

With this beautiful creation, God has left us a living story to narrate to us aspects of Himself. It is a via pulchritudinis, a way of beauty, not meant to only be confined to a few sentences of a definition, or even a few books, but a multitude of richness and diverse living and non-living entities delivering slight glances into a small part of God’s Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. St. Augustine, who purified his love of beauty, noted this as he attested,

“Some people, to discover God, read books. but there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Note it. Read it. God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink. Instead, He set before your eyes the things that He had made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that?”

We think to use clever analogies to explain notions to others, like the great coach, Vince Lombardi, using football to explain how to have a winning life with the words, “Football is like life — it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority,” or to communicate difficult teachings about God, like St. Patrick’s famous use of the shamrock. So too does God give us many metaphors to understand the untold amount of facets of Himself. However, more than words on a page, His analogies are realities that make up our existence, which we encounter each day with our minds and senses.

In these real-life metaphors, we see the Ocean reflecting His Power, His Greatness, and the truth that within Him there is an abundance of Life both knowable and yet greatly mysterious. We find a similar vibrancy of life in the trees of the forests, each one in a beautiful exchange with oxygen breathing creatures as the trees take in the carbon dioxide that we exhale and give to us the breath we need for our lungs, which is an amazing image of the gifts we can offer to God and the great and many gifts we receive from Him, including Life itself. Furthermore, we see the vast mystery of space, we share a slight experience of God’s view of us when we watch ants scatter across the ground, we see the Sun defeat the darkness morning after morning, and we can experience the love shared between ourselves and others, at times a great metaphor and at times not, in that we can actually share God’s actual life-giving Love with each other.

In this way, we can look out to the beauty of nature as a window to the Life of God and therefore grow closer to Him. St. Bernard of Clairvaux affirms this as he said, “Believe one who knows: You will find something greater in woods than in the books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters”. And St. John Demascus notes, “The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God”. Both of these quotes indicate the powerful effect of coming to know God by contemplating His marvelous Creation.

Every created thing shows us an aspect of God’s nature and so, due to His infinitude, we can understand the reason for His creating so much life over the span of many years. Keeping this in mind, we can come to know God through spending time in nature. We find help in understanding Him and our relationship with Him by being crushed by the immensity of the humongous ocean at the beach, we see His great love for us as we ponder the incredible colors of the Spring (only a good and loving God would place us in such beauty), we recognize His tender and caring role of providing for us by picking an apple from a tree. We can search the globe and find His goodness, truth and beauty in all the created things we come across.

We recognize that the deep connection we nourish with God through prayer is by all means greater than walking through the thick pine-wooded forest of North Georgia, but we can have a great aid in such a walk to come to see what God is like. Furthermore, we could reason that God made Nature as such so that we are able to have such a reflection, an “icon of the face of God.” We want to know God more in our hearts, but is what surrounds our hearts in this world meant to condition man for such contemplation?

If so, then is there a correlation between humans fearing God less and avoiding the natural world more? Is the decreasing number of stars visible in the skies over the cities we live in, and where humans are most known to replace God with their own pride and ego, a poetic sign of society sinking away from the contemplation of God? Are there so few stars visible in the suburbs and cities of modernity because we are sinking away from seeing His Glory through the powerful visage of the star-speckled night sky?

Even if there is not a general correlation for all, I believe that more belief in God can come through time spent within the Beauty of His Creation for many. Furthermore, we can all fall more in love with God through encountering it as St. John Chrysostom tells us, “From the creation, learn to admire the Lord! Indeed the magnitude and beauty of creation display a God who is the artificer of the universe. He has made the mode of creation to be our best teacher.” Because of this I think that being in touch with nature is something I need more of in my life.

Charity

O my Jesus, Thou who art very Love, enkindle in my heart that Divine Fire which consumes the Saints and transforms them into Thee.
O Lord our God, we offer Thee our hearts, united in the strongest and most sincere love of brotherhood; we pray that Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament may be the daily food of our souls and bodies; that Jesus may be established as the center of our affections, even as He was for Mary and Joseph. Finally, O Lord, may sin never disturb our union on earth; and may we be eternally united in heaven with Thee and Mary and Joseph and with all Thy Saints. Amen.

What do you think of when you see the word “charity”? Is it not works of altruistic love? Mother Teresa said: “The fruit of faith is love, and the fruit of love is service.” Faith without works is dead,1 and so is love. As St. Anthony of Padua declared, “actions speak louder than words.”2 Love is an act of the will. It is impossible to be charitable without an act. Just try it. When you love, you naturally want to do things or to sacrifice for your beloved. In fact, the word “altruism” comes from the Latin alteri, “to the other.”3 To love is to will the good of the other; and the good of the other is always in accordance with the will of God. Thus, to exercise charity is to become Godlike, to live out our baptismal priesthood as an Alter Christus ministering to the children of God. Charity is thus not only what we do, but the essence of who we are; as the hymn goes, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” St. Augustine says, “When the question is asked whether a man is good, one is not interested in what he believes or what are his hopes, but only what he loves. For beyond any doubt, a man with a right love also has the right faith and hope. But one who has no love, believes in vain, even though what he believes may be the truth.”4 After all, “the devils also believe and tremble.”5 St. Paul tells us that “the true faith of Christ is… faith that works by charity.”6 Therefore, “charity is not merely the supreme virtue… it is further an abiding condition and state without which any knowledge or other term of the Christian life would be impossible.”7

As the Catechism notes, “Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbour as ourselves for the love of God.”8 When we are charitable, we see Christ in our neighbor, even the most intolerable one. St. Thérèse recounts that a nun whom she found highly annoying asked, “My dear Sister Thérèse, tell me what attraction you find in me, for whenever we meet, you greet me with such a sweet smile.” The saint explains, “Ah! What attracted me was Jesus hidden in the depths of her soul—Jesus Who maketh sweet even that which is most bitter.” Thérèse tells us, “A heart given to God loses nothing of its natural affection—on the contrary, this affection grows stronger by becoming purer and more spiritual.”9 Charity goes far beyond tolerance. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver wrote,

“Tolerance is a working principle that enables us to live in peace with other people and their ideas. Most of the time, it’s a very good thing. But it is not an end in itself and tolerating or excusing grave evil in a society is itself a grave evil. The roots of this word are revealing. Tolerance comes from the Latin tolerare, “to bear or sustain,” and tollere, which means “to lift up.” It implies bearing other persons and their beliefs the way we carry a burden or endure a headache. It’s actually a negative idea. And it is not a Christian virtue. Catholics have the duty not to “tolerate” other people but to love them, which is a much more demanding task.”10

“Authentic love is an act of the will. Genuine love has two essential elements: self-sacrifice and commitment. Perfect love is total self-sacrifice and complete commitment.”11 Charity is not a one-off thing – it must be an ongoing part of our lives. As Nicholas Sparks wrote, “Love is more than three words mumbled before bedtime. Love is sustained by action, a pattern of devotion in the things we do for each other every day.”12

The Catechism continues: Our Lord Jesus Christ ‘makes charity the new commandment.13 By loving His own “to the end,”14 He makes manifest the Father’s love which He receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you; abide in My love.” And again: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”’15 St. Thomas Aquinas understood charity as “the friendship of man for God”, which unites us to God.16 According to Aquinas, charity is an absolute requirement for happiness, which he holds as man’s last goal,17 our telos.18 This is evinced in the Last Judgement account of Matthew 25, where men are judged by their works of mercy.19 As St. John of the Cross says, “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.” Christ tells us: “If any man say, I love God, and hates his brother; he is a liar. For he that loves not his brother, whom he sees, how can he love God, whom he sees not?”20 We Chinese have a saying: 爱屋及乌 – “love for a person extends even to the crows on his roof”. To love God is to love His family. St. Augustine declared, “Extend your love over the whole earth if you desire to love Christ, for Christ’s members are all over the earth.”21

“The love that is caritas is distinguished by its origin, being divinely infused into the soul, and by its residing in the will rather than emotions, regardless of what emotions it stirs up. The infused habit of charity increases any will’s natural ability to love. Furthermore, charity is also responsible for a morally good act becoming meritorious, that is, meriting an increase in grace or charity in this life and beatitude in the life to come. Since this refers to the supernatural order, namely, the capacity to share more intensely in the inner life of God through acts of love, it is a gratuitous gift dependent on what God freely deigns to give as a reward for loving Him. Over and above the added intensity a habit like charity imparts to one’s act of love of God, the habit also serves as a lasting mark in the soul, even when it is not eliciting an act of love. Charity indicates that the nature possessing it ‘is formally accepted by God as habitually able to be beatified and that the acts elicited with its help are accepted as meritorious.’ Using St. Augustine’s simile comparing the will to a horse and habitual grace or charity to its rider, Blessed John Duns Scotus explains that the horse is free to throw its rider (destroy charity through mortal sin) or it may not follow the guidance of the rider (and then its actions are not meritorious, but are either indifferent or venially sinful), or, thirdly, it may choose to follow where charity leads (and then its action is meritorious).”22

Professor William May writes:

“According to Aquinas, the principle of our moral-spiritual life is charity or the love of God, whereby we are ordered to Him as our final end. If charity within the person is lost, there is no inner source within the person to repair the harm he has done in sinning. Mortal sin destroys charity or the principle of our moral-spiritual life.”23 The two precepts of charity, to love God and to love our neighbor, constitute the life of the soul. “The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which ‘binds everything together in perfect harmony’;24 it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice.”25

So, how exactly may we practice charity?

As you well know, St. Paul tells us in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “Charity is patient, is kind: charity envies not, deals not perversely; is not puffed up; is not ambitious, seeks not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinks no evil; rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Charity never falls away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed.”26

God is love,27 and again, to be charitable is to be Godlike. “[God] is patient and kind; [God] does not envy or boast; [He] is not arrogant or rude. [He] does not insist on [His] own way; [He] is not irritable or resentful; [He] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. [God] bears all things…, endures all things. [God] never ends.”28 Here is the template for the Christian life, to love always and everywhere, especially when it is most difficult. The Dominican Fr. Herbert McCabe said, “If you truly love, one day, you will be crucified. If you do not love, you are dead already.” “Christ died out of love for us, while we were still ‘enemies.’ The Lord asks us to love as He does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself.”29

St. Thérèse writes,

I read in St. Matthew: “You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thy enemy: but I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you.” There are, of course, no enemies in the Carmel; but, after all, we have our natural likes and dislikes. We may feel drawn towards one Sister, and may be tempted to go a long way round to avoid meeting another. Well, Our Lord tells me that this is the Sister to love and pray for, even though her behavior may make me imagine she does not care for me. “If you love them that love you, what thanks are to you? For sinners also love those that love them.” And it is not enough to love, we must prove our love; naturally one likes to please a friend, but that is not charity, for sinners do the same.30

Thus, you can see that true charity is not some feel-good thing, but requires strength, sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears, and often involves doing what you’d rather not do. Peter Kreeft says:

“God is love. And love is not “luv”. “Luv” is nice. Love is not nice. Love is a fire, a hurricane, an earthquake, a volcano, a bolt of lightning. Love is what banged out the Big Bang in the beginning, and love is what went to hell for us on the cross.”31 God so loved the world, as to give His only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.32

Moreover, charity fulfills and perfects the divine law given in the Ten Commandments.33 We as Christians live no longer merely by negative moral precepts, but by the positive law written in our hearts; in fact, this life of charity present in our hearts is God Himself, the Divine Law-Giver, the Holy Spirit. Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est: “Since God has first loved us,34 love is now no longer a mere ‘command’; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.”35 He continued:

“The love-story between God and man consists in the very fact that this communion of will increases in a communion of thought and sentiment, and thus our will and God’s will increasingly coincide: God’s will is no longer for me an alien will, something imposed on me from without by the commandments, but it is now my own will, based on the realization that God is in fact more deeply present to me than I am to myself. Then self-abandonment to God increases and God becomes our joy.”36

Citing John Duns Scotus, the Pope Emeritus observed, “Just as God’s love, God’s charity, was at the origin of all things, so too our eternal happiness will be in love and charity alone: ‘willing, or the loving will, is simply eternal life, blessed and perfect.’”37

“Charity, as St. Paul writes, ‘is not self-seeking’, meaning that it places the common good before its own. So whenever you show greater concern for the common good than for your own, you may know that you are growing in charity.”38 St. Paul told the Romans, “Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbor; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.”39 “Charity, especially fraternal charity, is opposed to self-love. As it was self-love that originally destroyed the unity of man and the harmony of his powers, so it is charity, made possible to us in Christ, which restores that unity and harmony.”40 Supernatural charity is, “properly speaking, a ‘catholic’ (universal) love”,41 a disinterested love that moves you to act like the Good Samaritan or like Maximilian Kolbe. This is not a vague affection for the mereological sum of humans. Linus said to Charlie Brown, “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand.”42 Supernatural charity moves you to sacrifice even for the particular neighbor you can’t stand!

By this time, you may well be frightened at the demands made upon you by charity. But fear not! Mother Teresa said, “If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own power. Your self-sufficiency, your selfishness and your intellectual pride will inhibit His coming to live in your heart because God cannot fill what is already full. It is as simple as that.” To live a life of charity, you must depend completely on God and be nourished by Christ present in the sacraments. Pope Benedict wrote in Deus Caritas Est,

eros and agape—ascending love and descending love—can never be completely separated. The more the two, in their different aspects, find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realised. Even if eros is at first mainly covetous and ascending, a fascination for the great promise of happiness, in drawing near to the other, it is less and less concerned with itself, increasingly seeks the happiness of the other, is concerned more and more with the beloved, bestows itself and wants to ‘be there for’ the other. The element of agape thus enters into this love, for otherwise eros is impoverished and even loses its own nature. On the other hand, man cannot live by oblative, descending love alone. He cannot always give, he must also receive. Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift. Certainly, as the Lord tells us, one can become a source from which rivers of living water flow (cf. Jn 7:37-38). Yet to become such a source, one must constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God (cf. Jn 19:34).”43

Moreover, living by love doesn’t mean just pouring it all out on your neighbor; it is also a great charity to accept and express gratitude for their kindnesses to us, no matter how small or clumsy they may seem. Think of a parent allowing a child to help with the cooking, although he might make a mess and get in the way – that’s an image of how God allows us to participate in His great work of redemption, and how we can respond to others. I read somewhere that when you accept help, you’re actually allowing your fellow man to work out his salvation in deeds of grace-filled love. Love is a two-way street.

One final important point. St. Maximus the Confessor reflected that “Charity unites (us) with God and deifies (us).”44 It draws us into the life of the Holy Trinity. At the same time, as explained by Professor Wadell, charity “makes us like God, but it does not make us God… it makes us more fully ourselves. If charity made us identical to God, then our friendship with God would be over for we would no longer be the ‘other’ every friendship requires… The likeness to God charity brings is really the most radical individuation.”45 Indeed, Jesus declared that He came that we may have life to the full,46 and St. Irenaeus said that the glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God. When we live by charity, God’s kingdom will come and His will shall be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. God love you! Let us pray: “Lord God, living light of eternal love, grant that always aglow with charity, we may love You above all else, and our brethren for Your sake, with one and the self-same love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

____

1 James 2:20.

2 St Anthony of Padua, homily [http://catholicradiodramas.com/saints/a/anthony-of-padua/actions-speak-louder-than-words/] (accessed 12 October 2014).

3 Douglas Harper. Online Etymology Dictionary [http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=altruism] (accessed 12 October 2014).

4 Augustine, Enchiridion De Fide Spe et Caritate. The Newman Press, (Westminster, Maryland, 1952), p. 108.

5 James 2:19.

6 Augustine, op. cit., p. 109, cf. Galatians 5:6.

7 Polycarp Sherwood OSB, STD, St. Maximus the Confessor: The Ascetic Life; The Four Centuries on Charity. Ancient Christian Writers Volume XXI. The Newman Press (Westminster, Maryland, 1955), p. 92.

8 CCC 1822.

9 St Thérèse, Story of a Soul [http://www.storyofasoul.com/?page_id=18] (accessed 12 October 2014).

10 Abp. Charles J. Chaput, Render Unto Caesar [http://saltandlighttv.org/store/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=54] (accessed 12 October 2014).

11 Jim Seghers, “The Sacrament of Confirmation” [http://www.totustuus.com/TheSacramentOfConfirmation.pdf] (accessed 11 October 2014).

12 Nicholas Sparks, The Wedding.

13 Cf. John 13:34.

14 John 13:1.

15 John 15:9-10; cf. Matthew 22:40; Romans 13:8-10. CCC 1823.

16 Paul Wadell, “The Christian Life as Friendship with God: What Aquinas Means by Charity” in Friendship and the Moral Life. University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, USA, 1990), p. 120.

17 Ibid., p. 128.

18 Ibid., p. 121.

19 Matthew 25:31-46.

20 1 John 4:20.

21 St Augustine, Sermon on 1 John 10:7.

22 Allan B. Wolter, Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality. CUA Press (Michigan, 1997), pp. 93-94.

23 William E. May, “Sin and the Moral Life”, in An Introduction to Moral Theology. Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., (Huntingdon, Indiana, 1994), p. 167.

24 Colossians 3:14.

25 CCC 1827.

26 1 Cor. 13:4-8.

27 1 John 4:16.

28 Aaron Ross, “The 1 Corinthians ‘Love Chapter’ Isn’t Just for Weddings” [http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/1-corinthians-love-chapter-isnt-just-weddings] (accessed 11 October 2014).

29 CCC 1825.

30 St Thérèse, op. cit.

31 Peter Kreeft, “Perfect Fear Casts Out All ‘Luv’”. [http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/fear.htm] (accessed 11 October 2014).

32 John 3:16.

33 Cf. Matthew 5:17.

34 1 John 4:10.

35 Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est.

36 Ibid.

37 Benedict XVI, “John Duns Scotus”, General Audience 7 July 2010 [http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100707_en.html] (accessed 11 October 2014). Cf. Gérard Gillmen S.J., The Primacy of Charity in Moral Theology. Burns & Oates (London, 1959), p. 129.

38 Rule for Monasteries 5:2.

39 Romans 13:8,10.

40 Sherwood, op. cit., p. 93.

41 Gérard Gilleman S.J., The Primacy of Charity in Moral Theology. Burns & Oates (London, 1959), p. 304.

42 Charles M. Schulz, Peanuts.

43 Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est.

44 Sherwood, op. cit., p. 93.

45 Wadell, op. cit., p. 139.

46 John 10:10.

God Can Even Overcome Our Imperfect Parenting

“Things were in God’s plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that – from God’s point of view – there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God’s divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God’s all-seeing eyes.”

The eloquent St. Edith Stein, Jewish convert and Auschwitz concentration camp victim.

While her life was tremendously more sorrow-filled than mine, these words of St. Edith Stein resonate with me and my understanding of God’s control over my life. Everything is in His view; from conception ’til death, He has known my every move, thought, reaction. Furthermore, He brought good out of all things, even my mistakes, so that I might know Him and live with Him for eternity where my mistakes will be no more.

Unfortunately, at times, I give too much emphasis to my mistakes, especially when concerning my role as Father. However, I continue to remember and understand that God is in control and that His Providence will even allow for my bad parenting mistakes to be avenues that bring my children to Him.
As a self-diagnosed overzealous parent, I recognize that there is a lot that I want for my kids and their futures. Furthermore, right now, I want a lot for them in regards to their happiness and proper understanding of the world around them. But, most of all, I want them to have an amazing relationship with Jesus and avoid all of the problems that I went through.

To help set them on the path toward my dreams for them, I have implemented a few methods. I have worked to be present to my kids so that they will not feel an aching desire for a Father-figure their whole lives. I make an effort to emphasize quantity and quality time to cultivate a good relationship with each of them. Also, my wife and I have struggled to filter their entertainment and place limits on their technology time in hope of keeping their lives filled with innocence and wonder.

I still think all of these and more are good things to do, but I notice how much emphasis I have been placing on “my work” to raise my children. Now, I am not saying I should quit caring and let my kids do whatever they want under the guise of my trust that God will handle it. He still wants my participation. However, I think I need to worry less about those times when I fall far from the image of Fatherhood I would like to be and trust that God is ultimately in control of my children’s lives. All I can do is model for them the loving relationship with Him that I would like for them to have.

Essentially, the only power we have is that we can say yes to God’s plan for us. I personally know the deep joy and love that one has when this beautiful acceptance takes place and want my kids to know it as well. We cannot get caught up in the superficial or silly complexities of the mundane day to day that can weigh us down.

For example, when we finally have had enough of the whining and we do not speak in the tone of voice with which, we imagine, St. Joseph and Mother Mary always spoke to Jesus. Or that time we were watching “The Nativity Story” with our 3 year old and the intense birth scene came up. And there are those many other times of guilt when we think we are messing up as parents in some sort of way that we should overcome with trust in God’s love for us.

We have a perfect Father in Heaven who can make up for our imperfections. We know that our kids deserve Jesus and they can have Him. All that we can do is our best to help them come to know Him.
God’s Providence means that only good comes out of all things for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Therefore, if we truly love Him, and our kids know this, then we have nothing to worry about with our parenting. True love of God would mean we are trying our best as parents anyway and so I imagine that there can be very little we could do to keep our children from knowing God.

Although, we cannot drop the ball either. As parents we are the primary educators of our children and so we must take seriously our role as parents to shape our children. Just as our kids learn to walk and talk by being around us, they will pick up a love of Christ through our witness as well. Moreover, just as we teach them to read and write and perform math calculations, we should teach them how to pray and know about their Faith so that they can make it their own.

A classic quotation from St. Augustine is that “we must work as if everything depends upon us and pray as if everything depends upon God”. This fits perfectly into the task of parenting in that we must take it seriously and strive to give our children the best life of holiness, but remember that God is the One who is in control and He is most Faithful. Keeping in mind that His desire for my kids to know Him and love Him is greater than mine brings me great peace. Furthermore, it helps me the get over the many mistakes I make as a father, as I know that God is bringing good from them for both my and my children’s well-being.

Do Not Fear Gay Marriage

There has been a lot of turmoil over the religious freedom law recently passed in Indiana. Religious freedom activists across the board are celebrating this “step towards religious freedom” while gay “marriage” proponents are in the throes of proclaiming this the end of the world.

It’s the same old run-around that always happens when such a bill is proposed, backed, voted on, or passed. This time, for some reason, it struck me as odd that Catholics seem so surprised by this step.

Perhaps we should be surprised. The law was established by a worldly government, which is (I admit) rather shocking.

However, I don’t think Catholics should be surprised when traditional marriage “wins” a battle. The fact is, the truth will always prevail. What’s more, the traditional marriage debate is not new ground for the Catholic Church. In fact, this is old squat as far as the Church is concerned.

Don’t believe me?

Let’s take a quick tour through Church history:Saint-valentine-history-lovers-2

St. Valentine. St. Valentine died defending the Catholic view of marriage. In fact, Valentine was sentenced to a three-part execution consisting of beating, stoning, and finally decapitation because of his stand for Catholic marriage. That was in AD 269.

St. Augustine. In AD 410, Augustine wrote a work entitled Of the Good of Marriage in which he defends the Catholic understanding of marriage. He states: “it is observed, that there be no lying with other man or woman, out of the bond of wedlock.” Want to know why St. Augustine wrote this work? Because there was an attack on the good of traditional, Catholic marriage. Now, this attack came in the form of a monk claiming that there was no difference in merit between celibate marriages and conjugal marriages, so a bit different to what we’re facing today. This point serves to prove, however, that the Church is not only used to defending and fighting for marriage — it has done so in multiple fashions, against various onslaughts, and has always won.

Pedro de Corpa, Blas Rodríguez, Miguel de Añon, Antonio de Badajóz, and Francisco de Veráscola. These Spanish missionaries were martyred in September of 1597 by the natives in Florida who, as polygamists, could not accept the Catholic teaching of a life-long union between 1 man and 1 woman.

Or, look at scripture. Why was John the Baptist killed? Because he stood for traditional marriage, calling out Herod for an adulterous relationship.

There are other examples, but I think I’ve made my point. We’re seasoned veterans at this. Defending traditional marriage is nothing new for the Church. Every time the world thinks it has found a new course to take, a new argument to make, it hasn’t. The Church has been there before, done it in the past, fought this fight, and will continue to do so with more experience and grace than the “other side” will ever have to offer.

So, we as Catholics, need to have greater faith and trust in the institution Christ left us.

Pope Benedict XVI issued a year of faith two years ago. We were not called to renew or strengthen our faith for just that one year. Rather, it was a call to radically transform our faith into something that does not fear in the face of evil, and does not falter when faced with challenges. We may very well be martyred for our defense of traditional marriage, but the “blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” and our sacrifice will only serve to strengthen the teachings of the Church and the faith of its faithful. We can trust that our sacrifice will not be for nothing; the righteous position will prevail because it always has and always will.

This battle is just that: a battle in the war of Good against Evil. This battle is not the war itself. We already know how the war ends. Christ won it. He overcame the culture of death in the very act we are in the midst of celebrating this week. In His cross and resurrection, He defeated death and sin and all of the cultural manifestations that come with it. His Church will always stand through trials because she is the bride of Christ, Son of the Father, Lord of the Universe.

Pope Saint John Paul II once said, “we are the Easter people and ‘alleluia’ is our song!” We must proclaim this to ourselves: we are the Easter people. Our entire faith is based on the belief that we will rise above sin and death, as individuals and as a faithful community. Our entire life should be one of celebration, hope, and joy in the resurrection of Christ: the defeat of sin and evil and its clutches on humanity by the Lord who loves His people enough to die on a cross for them.

Our Lord will not abandon His people. If we have faith in that, we can have hope in the eternal happiness He has ordained for us. If we have hope, we will have the love for our neighbor necessary to witness to the truth, bring about conversion, and ultimately, uphold the Church that for 2000 years has stood fast against the culture of death we fear so much.

This is not to say that worldly law does not have a place. Nor do I think we should cease at incremental legislation that will protect our faith and motivate authentic justice. Simply put, we ought to distinguish between Caesar’s law and the deposit of Truth that is the Catholic Church. Just because laws do or do not uphold a specific teaching does not mean that the Church is no longer the receptacle of Truth that will prevail in winning over the culture. This means that when a law is passed, whatever the outcome, we should not fear or become despondent, but remain calm and joyful in the presence of our Lord who has already won the war.

Gay “marriage” will threaten, snarl, huff and puff, but we should not fear. For, upon this rock Christ built His Church. It will not fall simply because evil huffs and puffs a little louder.

Our Lord is with us, and if He is with us, who could possibly stand against us? Let us abide by Pope Saint John Paul II’s famous words: Be not afraid!

St. Monica, Model Wife and Mother

monicaToday we celebrate the feast of the mother of one of the Church’s most celebrated saints. St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine (whose feast day is tomorrow), prayed unceasingly for the conversion of her famous son, and, as we all know, was happily obliged by Our Lord. Not only that, but her husband, Patricius, a pagan with a terrible temper, converted to Christianity and was baptized a year before his death thanks to her prayers as well.

She is a wonderful example for married couples and parents who are called to care above all for the spiritual well being of their spouse and children. I believe that it was not only her prayers, but also her example as a pious Christian woman that also won over her husband and son. This passage from 1 Peter makes me think of St. Monica and the example that all married women should give:

Likewise, you wives be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, when they see your reverent and chaste behavior. Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of robes, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
1 Peter 3:1-5

She is also an example to all of us of our call to persevere in prayer. The conversion of St. Augustine did not happen overnight. It was a long, turbulent journey (20 years or more) during which the reluctant saint fell in and out of serious sin and his mother deeper and deeper into a conversation with Christ on behalf of her son, storming the gates of heaven with her constant tears and prayer.

In the end this great mother witnessed the baptism of one of our greatest saints and spent the last days of her life reflecting with him and longing for the joys of heaven:

“Son, as far as I am concerned, nothing in this life now gives me any pleasure. I do not know why I am still here, since I have no further hopes in this world. I did have one reason for wanting to live a little longer: to see you become a Catholic Christian before I died. God has lavished his gifts on me in that respect, for I know that you have renounced earthly happiness to be his servant. So what am I doing here?”
from St. Augustine’s Confessions

Her final request was that her son, who became a priest and bishop, remember her “at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.”

The Power of Tears

Over the past few months, I have witnessed the tears of many people. Some have been tears of joy for an answered prayer. Others have been tears of sorrow when mourning the death of a loved one who just died of cancer or unexpectedly. Some tears were shed when someone shared a personal story that called to mind painful memories, such as the trauma of divorce. And then there have been tears of repentance, like the tears shed by the woman in this weekend’s Gospel (Luke 7:36-8:3) for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In the presence of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, this woman was moved to the point of tears by which she washed Jesus’ feet to show her sorrow, remorse, and repentance.  This act of love she performed, this act of faith, saved her from her sins and brought her forgiveness.  Jesus also was moved with pity for the widow of Nain in last weekend’s Gospel. Instructing her not to weep, Jesus went and touched the coffin of her son, and he rose and began to speak.

The Lord hears the cry of the poor; He sees the tears of his children and He responds with compassion, love, and mercy. The Old and New Testaments give multiple testimonies to the power of tears. Take, for example, Psalm 6:7-9 (NAB): “I am wearied with sighing; all night long tears drench my bed; my couch is soaked with weeping. My eyes are dimmed with sorrow, worn out because of all my foes. Away from me, all who do evil!  The Lord has heard my weeping.”  In 2 Kings 20:5 we read what Isaiah told Hezekiah: “Thus says the Lord, the God of your forefather David: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you.”  In Psalm 126,  we hear: “Those who sow in tears will reap rejoicing.”

Turning to the New Testament, John records in his Gospel that Jesus wept. Tears were also important to St. Paul. In 2 Corinthians 2:4, Paul writes:  “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears, not that you might be pained but that you might know the abundant love I have for you.”  Similarly, Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:4: “I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy, as I recall your sincere faith.”  The power of tears is also expressed in the Letter to the Hebrews 5:7: “In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.”

Beyond scripture, we can also turn to the liturgy to realize the power of tears. The collect for the memorial of St. Monica reads:

O God, who console the sorrowful and who mercifully accepted the motherly tears of Saint Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine, grant us, through the intercession of them both, that we may bitterly regret our sins and find the grace of your pardon. Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Just as the Lord was moved with compassion for the widow of Nain or the sinful woman who bedewed the feet of Jesus, God was compassionate and merciful toward St. Monica. For years, Monica cried and begged the Lord for Augustine’s conversion. The psalmist was correct when he proclaimed: “The Lord has heard my weeping.”  After his conversion, St. Augustine wrote many beautiful prayers about the gift of tears. Spirit Daily has a compilation of these prayers here.

There is a beautiful theology that surrounds the notion of tears. Tears are a form of prayer which we can offer to God, be it tears of joy, sorrow, or repentance. And sometimes, our tears are even a response to God’s promptings in our prayer because we are fearful of what our “yes” might mean. This weekend we are reminded of the power of repentant tears and the Lord’s response toward them. The next time you are overwhelmed and need to shed some tears, know that you have the shoulder and the feet of a loving and forgiving God to cry on. Whatever the circumstance may be that prompts your tears, may the embrace of our God be yours.

Further Application:

There is a devotion to the Tears of Our Lady.  To learn more about the devotion, visit this link.