Sunday, February 22, 2015

First Sunday of Lent 2015

In this first Sunday of Lent, Let’s recall Benedict XVI’s take on the three temptations. They are all about the use of the extraordinary to overcome temptation: to use supernatural power to change stones into bread = to transform the Christian message into a political/economic one (akin to Marxism); to throw Himself from the temple top and be saved by some supernatural miracle = to seek extraordinary sensible signs to convince people of the truth of Christ; and to change the world into a global Christian theocracy = to transform Christianity into a global political ideology.

         The extraordinary is always working on the epistemological level of sensible perception and conceptual or propositional knowing.  It is always working with the sensibly extrinsic, the empirical/scientific: the technological.

         Jesus Christ, the Creator of all things, cannot be known except by migrating to the transcendent level on which He can be experienced as person. Of course, Christ was experienced sensibly (“Feel me and see” Lk. 24), Even John the Baptist slipped from that level evidenced by the question at the end of his life: “Are you he who is to come, or should we look for another?” And the answer was to look at the mercy of Christ giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, etc. in secret. But, Ratzinger commented on this passage saying that you can’t find Christ as you find dollar bills and neon signs. You have to sacrifice yourself in service to the others in order to experience the Christ that is passing you by in ordinary life. If you go out of yourself thinking about others and not thinking about yourself, you will recognize Him.

         And so, Lent is calling us out to the peripheries.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

More On Escriva as "Christ Himself"

Class: OLP – February 13, 2015.

On October 16, 1931 in a trolley in Madrid, Josemaria Escriva experienced hearing within himself: “You are my son, you are Christ.” He found himself babbling for several hours after that:  “Abba, Pater…”: Father, Father.

Question: is it possible to actually become another Christ, Christ himself, as Escriva affirmed in his writings and throughout his life, and has established the spirit of Opus Dei on this truth and its consequence which is divine filiation? And are we talking metaphor, or ontological exaggeration?

Joseph Ratzinger on the meaning of Son of God: To be nothing in self.

The Son is nothing in Himself: “The Son as Son, and in so far as he is Son, does not proceed in any way from himself and so is completely one with the Father; since he is nothing beside him, claims no special position of his own, confronts the Father with nothing belonging only to him, retains no room for his own individuality, therefore he is completely equal to the Father. The logic is compelling: if there is nothing in which he is just he, no kind of fenced-off private ground, then he coincides with the Father, is ‘one’ with him. It is precisely this totality of interplay that the word ‘Son’ aims at expressing. To John ‘Son’ means being-from-another; thus with this word he defines the being of this man as being from another and for others, as a being that is completely open on both sides, knows no reserved area of the mere ‘I.’ When it thus becomes clear that the being of Jesus as Christ is a completely open being, a being ‘from’ and ‘towards,’ that nowhere clings to itself and nowhere stands on its own, then it is also clear at the same time that this being is pure relation (not substantiality) and, as pure relation, pure unity. This fundamental statement about Christ becomes, as we have seen, at the same time the explanation of Christian existence. To John, being a Christian means being like the Son, becoming a son; that is, not standing on one’s own and in oneself, but living completely open in the ‘from’ and ‘towards.’ In so far as the Christian is a ‘Christian,’ this is true of him. And certainly such utterances will make him aware to how small an extent he is a Christian.[1][2]
The Christology of Chalcedon and Constantinople III would have to intervene here:

Chalcedon: There is one divine Person and 2 natures, divine and human.
Constantinople III: The divine Person assumes the human nature (will) and, as active Agent, wills with His human will [not destroying it, but perfecting it as will and human]. He lives out His divine Life humanly, and reveals most perfectly who He is by His total gift of self on the Cross, thus revealing the ontological meaning of Son.

Now. this nature as “son” revealed as self-gift on the Cross becomes ours by 1) being made in His image and likeness from the beginning; and 2) by receiving the sacrament of Baptism which introduces us into his act, which is the death of the Cross (and revelation of His Persona).

How does this introduce us into the Ipse Christus? By giving us the power to do what we could never do without Him: to make the gift of self in ordinary life.

However, how do we live ordinary life? On the surface. Revelation has not taken place.

·         Here is a woman going into a retreat presumably in grace and with a sense of personal goodness. She prays on the Friday night of the retreat:

My Daily Surrender
To You, O Lord, I surrender my life: every breath I take; every beat of my heart.
To You, O Lord, I surrender my days: my prayers, works, joys and sufferings.
To You, O Lord, I surrender my nights: every restful and sleepless moment, every pain and worry.
To You, O lord, I surrender my family” my husband, my children and all the others.

·         On Sunday morning, after two Masses, possible a confession and time of silence before the Blessed Sacrament, the good woman examines herself courageously and writes:

Examination of my life:

·         I am consumed with self
·         I am lazy
·         I procrastinate
·         I lie/ I hide from God/ I cheat God
·         I am self-righteous with others
·         I condemn/ I slander/ I judge
·         I criticize/I mock, ridicule and grumble
·         I lament/I seek self pity and praise
·         I want from others what I will not igve to others
·         I want from others what I will not give to others
·         I want to be loved unconditionally without loving the others unconditionally
·         I am rash with others
·          I run from mortification
·         I am controlling and manipulative
·          I take and do not give
·         I harbor resentment s and grudges
·         I do not accept others as Christ does
·         I fail to see Christ in the others
·         I persecute  others
·         I do not let go
·          I supersede God and usurp His authority with my pride
·         I am selfish
·         I want my way because I think it is the best and only way
·          I react instead of listening
·         I react instead of contemplating
·         I want the last word
·         I put down others to appear superior
·         I seek to help others but I am really looking for myself, needing to be needed
·         I ask others how things went, but I’m really fishing for compliments
·         Fearful of not being accepted, I brag, exaggerate, get loud
·         I gossip which seems to give me importance in the eyes of others.
·         To give myself importance, I name-drop
·         I am constantly concerned about what the others think of me

In the Gospel, this ability to see the truth of the self is success. Christ said to the Samaritan woman who confessed to Him, “I have no husband:” “Thou hast said well” (Jn. 4, 18). 


What is faith? Ratzinger: Faith is an action that produces revelation. Revelation is the experience of becoming Christ. That action is the prayer that Simon shared with Christ (who was praying alone to the Father, Luke 9, 18). “Who do men say that I am,” “Who do you say that I am?” “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16). And the anthropological and epistemological point: Like is known by like, and this because “to know” is to become one being with another (as scripturally, “Adam knew his wife”  (Gen. 4, 1)   Therefore, faith is grace (Love received) to go out of self and experience being Christ in act, and therefore knowing Christ ab intus from within oneself as “Ipse Christus.” It isn’t that Christ is within you, or that you are imitating Him. It is, rather, that you are a work-in-progress becoming him. It becomes ontological identity. As God named Himself Yahweh (I Am, Ex. 3, 14) and Christ said (I Am, Jn. 8, 24, 28, 58), now, you and I can say “I am.”  
Here’s the way I put a few days ago: I quote myself:

“Here is the revolution for our day concerning the meaning of Christian faith after reducing it to propositional truths for over a millennium. The Habilitation thesis of Joseph Ratzinger distinguishes between revelation and faith.  Revelation is a divine Person. Faith is an act of the human person whereby he goes out of himself, converts from himself, does an about-turn and in so doing becomes, to some degree, Christ himself Who is the Revelation of the Father. Hence, Revelation as the Person of Christ cannot be identified with the printed words of Scripture but their source. He comments that you cannot put Revelation in your pocket, but you can put Scripture there. You experience Revelation by prayer, the act that mimics the Logos of the Father as pure relation and self-gift to Him.”


 Notice that it is a death-event for the self that receives the grace (love) from the sacrament of Baptism. Scripture does not yield revelation. Re(vel)ation is the removal of the veil that is the self as individual-in-self. To be an “individual-in-self” is precisely Satan. Consider Robert Barron’s use of Dante’s Inferno: “At the center and deepest ground of Hell, buried to his waist in ice, presides Satan, the great beast [666], the one-time angel of light whose pride had destroyed him. His angel’s wings have been transformed into the wings of a bat which beat the air unceasingly, producing the atmospheric conditions of this underground, upside-down world… Following Aquinas and others, Dante held that the goal of the human spirit is to soar upward and outward in the direction of the fullness of reality…. (T)he geography of Hell, moves in the opposite direction, toward greater and greater fear and  narrowness, culminating in the single point where Satan himself is frozen in place. His angelic wings, originally evocative of the sailing upward of the healthy soul, now beat in vain, symbolizing the pointless efforts of the soul locked in sin… When we live in fear, we close in on ourselves, inhabiting, in the end, a kingdom precisely as large as the narrow confines of our egos.”[3]

Satan cannot escape from himself. But discover Christ by lowering yourself, looking at the evil that is dormant within you, and naming it to another. You must speak it and name it to be freed. And again and again. By lowering yourself and escaping yourself you experience the Christ that you are to become. It becomes a most intimate of all encounters. The two footprints in the snow is now not just beautiful metaphor, but ontological reality. You begin to live out the connection of Gaudium et spes #22 and #24. Gaudium et spes #22 proclaimed that Jesus Christ is not only the revelation of who God is, but of who man is. Christ is the meaning of man, the Prototype of the human race, and it is in Him alone that we can discover who we are and achieve our full stature. We will do this by turning the ordinary events of my life into occasions of making the gift of self which is loving God and the others (Gaudium et spes #24). Hence sanctity is achieved in the world in ordinary life. It is the meaning of true secularity (secularity is the freedom resulting from being master of self to get possession of self so as to make the gift of self) and the eschatological fulfillment of the Kingdom of God – here – in Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect man.

            Ratzinger once said this in the most puzzling way, but to my mind the truest and most succinct (and in a popular magazine):
“What does the Church believe? This question includes the others: who believes, and how should one believe? The Catechism has dealt with both fundamental questions: the question of ‘what’ to believe and of ‘who’ believes, as one question with an interior unity. In other words, the catechism illustrates the act of the faith and the content of the faith in their inseparability….

   “What does all this mean? The faith is an orientation of our existence as a whole, in its completeness. It is a basic decision, one which has effects in every aspect of our existence and one which is realized only if it is supported by all the efforts of our existence. Faith is not solely an intellectual process, or solely one of the will or emotions; it is all of these together. It is an act of the entire self, of the whole person in the unity of all the elements of that person gathered into one. In this sense it was described by the Bible as an act of the ‘heart’ (Rom. 10, 9). It is a highly personal act. But precisely because of this, it surpasses the self, the ‘I,’ the limits of the individual. Nothing belongs to us as little as our self, St. Augustine affirms in one passage.

            Where the human being as a whole is at stake, he surpasses himself; an act of ‘being with.’ And even more: we cannot realize ourselves without touching our most profound foundation, the living God, who is present in the profundity of our existence and sustains it. Where the human being as a whole is at stake, together with the ‘I’ there is also present the ‘we’ and the ‘you’ of the totally other, the ‘you’ of God.”[4]

Hence, the simple but mystical conclusion: the act of faith is the very act of revelation whereby we become Christ and experience Him as ourselves. The act of faith and the act of revelation is the action of prayer that can be every one of our most insignificant, secular and ordinary acts if we keep converting them into “self-gift.” The ordinary way of faith is the mystical life – for everyone.
Person = Action in Christ:

            This is the consequence of being beyond the categories of substance and relation: “For what faith really states is precisely that with Jesus it is not possible to distinguish office and person; with him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person ia the office, the office is the person. The two are no longer divisible. Here there is no private area reserved for an ‘I’ which remains in the background behind the deeds and actions and thus at some time or other can be ‘off duty;’ here there is no ‘I’ separate from the work; the ‘I’ is the work, and the work is the ‘I.’”[5]

Person = Action in Escriva (you):

            "(A)ll those who knew Josemaria Escriva perceived that his person was inseparable from the mission for which God had chosen him. Having been able to form a particularly close and profound relationship with him for 40 years reinforces in my memory this characteristic dimension of his human and spiritual physiognomy. I have seen him, so to speak, in his 'first act' as founder, that is to say, in the daily and continuous building of Opus Dei, and as a consequence, of the Church, as he affirmed not in vain that the Work exists solely to serve the Church.

"(T)he identification of his very self with his foundational activity implied that Mons. Escriva perfected himself as a subject - up to the point of living the virtues to a heroic degree...[6]

Conclusion: One can become another Christ, and Christ Himself, because Christ as Creator transcends all the created categories that comply with our way of conceptualizing things into categories. Hence, the Person of the Logos of the Father is both “one” with Father as Son (Jn. 10, 30: “I and the Father are one”), and distinct from the Father as Son (Jn. 14, 28: The Father is greater than I). As revealed to us, the Person of Christ is self-gift to the Father (obedience) and self-gift to us (redeeming). Since He is nothing in Himself, He is totally “for.” Made in His image and Baptized into Him to mimic His act, if we make progressively frequent and more profound gifts of ourselves in the small ordinary actions of every day, we do what He is, and therefore we become/are Him.

Hence, Escriva’s 1931 and life-long experience of Ipse Christus. And I would dare say that this experience was the provocation of the calling of the Second Vatican Council and the re-thinking of the whole doctrine of the Church in terms of the subjectivity of the believer. As John Paul II said in his Catechism for Krakow in1972: “If we study the Conciliar magisterium as a whole, we find that the Pastors of the Church were not so much concerned to answer questions like ‘What should men believe/, ‘What is the real meaning of this or that truth of faith?’ and so on, but rather to answer the more complex question: ‘What does it mean to be a believer, a Catholic and a member of the Church”’ They endeavored to answer this question in the broad context of today’s world, and indeed the complexity of the question itself requires.
   The question ‘What does it mean to be a believing member of the Church?’ is indeed difficult and complex, because it not only pre supposes the truth of faith and pure doctrine, but also calls for that truth to be situated in the human consciousness and calls for a definition of the attitude, or rather the many attitudes, that go to make the individual a believing member of the Church. This would seem to be the main respect in which the Conciliar magisterium has a pastoral character, corresponding to the pastoral purpose for which it was called. A ‘purely’ doctrinal Council would have concentrated on defining the precise meaning of the truths of faith, whereas a pastoral Council proclaims recalls or clarifies truths for the primary purpose of giving Christians a life-style, a way of thinking and acting.  In our efforts to put the Council into practice, this is the style we must keep before our minds.[7]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 134.
[2] Ratzinger: “I think it is not unimportant to note how the doctrine of the Trinity here passes over into a statement about existence, how the assertion that relation is at the same time pure unity becomes transparently clear to us. It is the nature of the Trinitarian personality to be pure relation and so the most absolute unity. That there is no contradiction in this is probably now perceptible. And one can understand from now on more clearly than before that it is not the ‘atom,’ the indivisible smallest piece of matter, that possesses the highest unity; that on the contrary pure oneness can only occur in the spirit and embraces the relativity of love. Thus the profession of faith in the oneness of God is just as radical as in any other monotheistic religion; indeed only in Christianity does it reach its full stature. But it is the nature of Christian existence to receive and to live life as relatedness, and thus to enter into that unity which is the ground of all reality and sustains it. This will perhaps make it clear how the doctrine of the Trinity, when properly understood, can become the nodal point of theology and of Christian thought in general…idem 135.

[3] Robert Barron, “And Now I See – A Theology of Transformation,” Crossroad, (1998) 32-33.
[4] J. Ratzinger, “What Does the Church Believe? The Catholic World Report, March 1993, 27.
[5] J. Ratzinger “Introduction to Christianity,” op. cit. 149.
[6] L'Osservatore Romano, May 28, 1992.

[7] John Paul II, “Sources of Renewal” Harper and Row, 1979 17-18.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I could not resist repeating this from pre-Francis Bergoglio: "A certainty of faith that is not ideology, exaggerated moralism, existential security... but the living and irreplaceable encounter with a person, with an event, with the living presence of Jesus of Nazareth."

"Look once and a thousand times to the Virgin Mary.  May she intercede with her Son that he might inspire the appropriate gesture and word that will allow you to make Catechesis a Good News for everyone, always keeping in mind that “the Church grows, not by proselytism but by attraction.”

"Be aware of the difficulties.  We are in a very odd moment of our history, including the history of our country.  The recent National Catechists Congress held in Morón was very realistic in pointing out the difficulties in handing on the Faith in these times of so many cultural changes.  Perhaps on more than one occasion weariness may defeat you, uncertainty may confuse you and even lead you to think that the faith cannot be presented today, and that we should be content just to transmit values....

"For this very reason, our Pope Benedict XVI invites us to enter together through the door of faith.  To renew our faith and in the faith of the Church to follow, doing what she knows how to do in the midst of lights and shadows.  This is a task that does not originate in a strategy of conservation, but rather is rooted in a command of our Lord that gives us our identity, relevance, and meaning.  Mission springs from a certainty of faith.  From that certainty which, in the form of kerygma, the Church has been handing on to human beings over the course of two thousand years.

"A certainty of faith that coexists with the thousand questions of a pilgrim.  A certainty of faith that is not ideology, exaggerated moralism, existential security... but the living and irreplaceable encounter with a person, with an event, with the living presence of Jesus of Nazareth.

"Therefore I urge you: live this ministry with passion, with enthusiasm.

"The word enthusiasm (ενθουσιασμóς) has its roots in the Greek “en-theos”, that is to say: “that bears a god within.”  This term means that, when we allow ourselves to be led by enthusiasm, a divine inspiration enters into us and makes use of our person to manifest itself.  Enthusiasm is the experience of a “God active within me” so as to be guided by his power and wisdom.  It also implies the uplifting of the mind to something that inspires interest, joy, and admiration, provoked by a strong interior motivation.  It is expressed as passion, fervor, boldness, and determination.  It is opposed to discouragement, disinterest, apathy, coldness, and disappointment.

"The “God active within” us is the gift that Jesus gave us on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit:  “I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49).  In this way what was announced by the prophets is fulfilled: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my spirit within you” (Ezek 36:26-27).  (Argentine Episcopal Conference, Pastor Guidelines for 2012-2015)

"We know that the enthusiasm, the fervor to which the Lord calls us cannot be the result of a movement of our will or a simple change of mind.  It is a grace ... an interior renewal, a profound transformation that is founded and relies on a Presence, who one day will call us to follow him and who today, once again, becomes for us a way, so as to transform our fears into ardor, our sadness into joy, our confinement into new visitations....

"While thanking you from my heart for all that you do as a catechist, for your time and your dedication, I ask the Lord to give you an open mind, so as to recreate dialogue and encounter among those whom God entrusts to you, and a believing heart so as to follow, exclaiming that He is alive and loves us as no one else does.  I have a picture of Mary Help of Christians that says, “You who believed, help me!”  May she help us to follow by being faithful to the Lord’s call....

"Do not stop praying for me that I may be a good catechist.  May Jesus bless you and may the Blessed Virgin take care of you."


Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J.

Buenos Aires, August 21, 2012

Monday, February 09, 2015

The Act of Faith: An Act of Self-gift empowered By the Father Whereby One Becomes “Another Christ, Christ Himself.”

Here is the revolution for our day concerning the meaning of Christian faith after reducing it to propositional truths for over a millennium. The Habilitation thesis of Joseph Ratzinger distinguishes between revelation and faith.  Revelation is a Person. Faith is an act of the human person whereby he goes out of himself, converts from himself, does an about-turn and in so doing becomes, to some degree, Christ himself Who is the Revelation of the Father. Hence, Revelation as the Person of Christ cannot be identified with the printed words of Scripture but their source. He comments that you cannot put Revelation in your pocket, but you can put Scripture there. You experience Revelation by prayer, the act that mimics the Logos of the Father as pure relation and self-gift to Him.

From a short discourse by Saint Bonaventure, bishop
He who knows Jesus Christ can understand all sacred Scripture (2nd Reading of the Office of Reading of Monday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time).

The source of sacred Scripture was not human research but divine revelation. This revelation comes from the Father of Light from whom the whole concept of fatherhood in heaven and on earth derives. From him, through Jesus Christ his Son, the Holy Spirit enters into us. Then, through the Holy Spirit who allots and apportions his gifts to each person as he wishes, we receive the gift of faith, and through faith Christ lives in our hearts. So we come to know Christ and this knowledge becomes the main source of a firm understanding of the truth of all sacred Scripture. It is impossible, therefore, for anyone to achieve this understanding unless he first receives the gift of faith in Christ. This faith is the foundation of the whole Bible, a lamp and a key to its understanding. As long as our earthly state keeps us from seeing the Lord, this same faith is the firm basis of all supernatural enlightenment, the light guiding us to it, and the doorway through which we enter upon it. What is more, the extent of our faith is the measure of the wisdom which God has given us. Thus, no one should overestimate his wisdom; instead, he should soberly make his assessment according to the extent of the faith which God has given him.
[Me: Notice that faith does not come from reading scripture. It comes from the Father (“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him…” Jn. 6, 44). Our earthly state, which is sin, keeps us turned back on ourselves and is, as it were, a “veil” over our intelligence. Ratzinger describes faith as an act of “conversion:” “ Man’s natural center of gravity draws him to the visible, to what he can take in his hand and hold as his own. He has to turn round inwardly in order to see how badly he is neglecting his own interests by letting himself be drawn along in this way by his natural center orf gravity. He must turn round to recognize how blind he is if he trusts only what he sees wit his eyes. Without this change of direction, iwithout this resistance to the natural center of gravity, there can be no belief. In eed belief is the con-version in which man discovers that he is following an illusion if he devotes himself only to the tangible. This is at the same time the fundamental reason why belief is not demonstrable: it is an about-turn; only he who turns about is receptive to it; and because our center of gravity does not cease to incline us in another direction it remains a turn that is new every day; only in a lifelong conversion can we become aware of what it means to say ‘I believe.’”

The outcome or the fruit of reading holy Scripture is by no means negligible: it is the fullness of eternal happiness. For these are the books which tell us of eternal life, which were written not only that we might believe but also that we might have everlasting life. When we do live that life we shall understand fully, we shall love completely, and our desires will be totally satisfied. Then, with all our needs fulfilled, we shall truly know the love that surpasses understanding and so be filled with the fullness of God. The purpose of the Scriptures, which come to us from God, is to lead us to this fullness according to the truths contained in those sayings of the apostles to which I have referred. In order to achieve this, we must study holy Scripture carefully, and teach it and listen to it in the same way.
If we are to attain the ultimate goal of eternal happiness by the path of virtue described in the Scriptures, we have to begin at the very beginning. We must come with a pure faith to the Father of Light and acknowledge him in our hearts. We must ask him to give us, through his Son and in the Holy Spirit, a true knowledge of Jesus Christ, and along with that knowledge a love of him. Knowing and loving him in this way, confirmed in our faith and grounded in our love, we can know the length and breadth and height and depth of his sacred Scripture. Through that knowledge we can come at last to know perfectly and love completely the most blessed Trinity, whom the saints desire to know and love and in whom all that is good and true finds its meaning and fulfillment.

Notice how congenial the notion of faith as self-gift is with the Sacrament of Baptism which introduces the person into the suffering and death of Christ. That is, Baptism is the sacrament of faith whereby the person undergoes a death-event in self-giving. This is the basis of all the baptized being called to the heights of sanctity in ordinary secular life. It is the gift of self to death on the occasion of the ordinary way which is matrimony and secular work. It is the basis of matrimony being a heroic life of self gift of spouses to each other and being open to children. And since the spouses are uniquely the ministers of this sacrament, the validity of the sacrament.

                Let me put it this way: if Baptism isn’t a death event, how can ordinary life be a way of heroic and canonizable sanctity?  And the Church says it is.

5th Sunday B of Ordinary Time

Major Point: From the Gospel of the 5th Sunday: The primary mission of Christ is to preach the Word: Himself. But before He does that, He exorcises. He drives out the demons because otherwise, the people are not able to hear. The have ears but cannot hear. They cannot understand what is being said because it is of another order. As Saint Exupery said: “It is only with the heart that one understands rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” Hence, the need for prayer and the sacrament of penance in order to be able to hear the Word of God. Like is known by like. Only God knows God.
Mark 1 ,29-39: When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Rising very early before dawn, he left 
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, "Everyone is looking for you."
He told them, "Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come."
So he went into their synagogues,
preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.
Consider the problem today. Consider that 90% of the women in the Church are contracepting. Consider the opinion of the pope that more than ½ of the marriages may be invalid. Consider that confessions in an average church is 45 minutes on Saturday afternoon. Consider that the majority of the men and women in the Church may be in sin.
                What does that say for the capacity to hear the Word? This is a little twist on what Pope Francis is saying, but Healing and Preaching/Preaching and Healing go together. Why is this so? Because Christ Himself is  the Word, and you must become the Word to “hear” it. Hearing and knowing are an ontological identification. A man knows his wife by becoming one flesh with her.
* * * * * *
Pope Frrancis: “Faithful to this teaching, the Church has always considered the care of the sick as an integral part of its mission."
VATICAN CITY, February 08, 2015 ( - Here is the translation of Pope Francis' words before and after the recitation of the Angelus prayer to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.
* * *
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today's Gospel (cfr Mk. 1,29-39) presents Jesus, who, after having preached on the Sabbath at the synagogue, heals many sick people. Preach and heal: this is Jesus' main activity in his public life. Through preaching He announces the Kingdom of God and through healing He shows that it is close, that the Kingdom of God is in our midst.
Entering the house of Simon Peter, Jesus sees that his mother-in-law is in bed sick; immediately he takes her hand, heals her and makes her stand up. After the sunset, when, the Sabbath was over, when the people could leave and bring Him the sick, He heals a multitude of people afflicted by every kind of sickness: physical, mental, spiritual. Coming to the earth to announce and fulfill the salvation of the whole man and all mankind, Jesus shows a particular fondness for those wounded in body and in spirit: the poor, the sinners, the possessed, the sick, the marginalized. He thus reveals Himself has a physician of both body and soul, the good Samaritan of man. He is the true Savior! Jesus saves, Jesus cares, Jesus heals!
This reality of Jesus' healing of the sick invites us to reflect on the meaning and value of sickness. This reminds us also of the World Day of the Sick, which we will celebrate on Wednesday, February 11th, the liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes. I bless the initiatives that are being prepared for this Day, in particular the Vigil that will take place in Rome on the evening of February 10th. And here I pause to remember the president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, who is very ill in Poland. Let us say a prayer for him, for his health because it was he who prepared this World Day. And he accompanies us with his suffering in this day. Let us pray for Archbishop Zimowski.
The salvific work of Christ does not end with his person during his earthly life; it continues through the Church, sacrament of love and of the tenderness of God for mankind. Sending his disciples in mission, Jesus confers upon them a dual mandate: announce the Gospel of salvation and heal the sick (Mt.10,7-8). Faithful to this teaching, the Church has always considered the care of the sick as an integral part of its mission.
"The poor and the suffering you will always have with you", Jesus warns (cfr Mt. 26,11), and the Church continuously finds them on the street, considering the sick as a privileged path to encounter Christ, to welcome and serve Him. To care for a sick person, to welcome him and serve him is to serve Christ. The sick are the flesh of Christ!
This also happens in our time, when, despite the many advances in science, the interior and physical suffering of people raises serious questions on the meaning of sickness, pain and on the reasons for death. These are existential questions, to which the pastoral action of the Church should respond in the light of faith, having before our eyes the Cross, in which the entire salvific mystery of God the Father appears, who out of love for mankind did not spare his only Son (cfr Rm. 8,32). Therefore, each one of us is called to bring the light of the Gospel and the strength of grace to those who suffer and to those who assist them, family members, doctors, nurses, so that the service to the sick may be fulfilled ever more with humanity, with generous dedication, and with evangelical love, with tenderness.
The Mother Church, through our hands, caresses those sufferings, heals those wounds and does it with a mother's tenderness.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Re-Reading Love and Responsibility - "Self-Gift"

The first time I came across the phrase and meaning of "Self-Gift" was on p. 96 of "Love and Responsibility." It was in the context of spousal love and it was immediately understandable for me, but although immediately understandable, it was impossible to render metaphysically and anthropologically since "to be" has come down to us as "substance" ("thing-in-itself?). It was in the confluence of Ratzinger's rendering of the divine Persons (one God) as pure actions of generation, obedience and the Spirit as the Mutuality of the Two, and John Paul II's recovery of subjectivity as experience that matrimony is understood as imaging the divine Trinity. And what seems to be shaping up is the argument that matrimony cannot be validly matrimony when there has been a gift of self (which is the maning of faith as ("death event"). Clearly the culture does not experience or cognize marriage as self-gift, and therefore, one could easily conclude that more than 1/2 of marriages are invalid - with enormous consequences for the future in beefing up marriage to be understood as a way of holiness and not just procreation and mutual love, and annulling quickly and returning to the sacraments those who have divorced and remarried. Much is riding on the cognizance and retrieval of the phrase "self-gift" and crafting a metaphysics that will be fashioned by it. To this end, I believe, Robert Barron is doing precisely that in his thesis (1993) on Paul Tillich and St. Thomas on the notion of creation, and his work "The Priority of Christ."

Someone presumptuous enough to recommend some readings for those attending the 2015 Synod on the Family could undoubtedly put together an impressive list of books on marriage and sexual morality. Arguably, at the top of any such list belongs Karol Wojtyla’s classic work called Love and Responsibility. An appreciation of marriage as an indissoluble conjugal union presupposes a proper understanding of romantic or spousal love. For anyone open to the truth about such matters there is no better place to look for an exposition of love than Love and Responsibility.
This philosophical meditation was first published 55 years ago in 1960, when the cultural landscape was quite different. However, it seems to have anticipated the present code of sexual ethics which recognizes no constraints on sexual activity other than mutual consent. Love and Responsibility did not appear in English until 1981, three years after Cardinal Wojtya become Pope John Paul II. Its limited popularity is probably due to the fact that it has always been overshadowed by the Pope’s more prominent work, Theology of the Body.
Thanks to the Daughters of St. Paul, there is a new translation of Love and Responsibility that merits close attention because of its welcome precision. While the original translation was certainly competent, the new one is more consistent with the personalistic tone of Wojtyla’s provocative work. The translator, Gregorz Ignatik, has done a masterful job of capturing the subtleties of Wojtyla’s Polish prose which is not always clear or graceful. More importantly, this new translation allows the reader to see more exactly how Wojtyla’s book sheds light on the critical issues at the center of current debates about marriage and family. Karol Wojtyla meets philosophers on their own turf in order to persuade his readers that the sexual moral norms presented in Sacred Scripture can be substantiated by purely rational arguments. The result is a book that makes a lasting impression: an engaging response to the creed of absolute sexual liberation and the deconstruction of marriage.
Wojtyla’s openness to different philosophical paradigms such as phenomenology gives him a fresh context to deal with these issues even though he never loses his metaphysical gaze. Love and Responsibility begins with an account of the human person, which lays the groundwork for his moral synthesis. Thanks to his or her rational nature, the person is an embodied, self-determining moral subject. Unlike the rest of material creation, the person is someone rather than something. The person lives his or her life “from within” in a way that revolves around the pursuit of truth and goodness.
There is a temptation to use persons the way we use material objects, to regard them as a pawns under our control. However, this moral attitude is inconsistent with a person’s nature. When we use someone in this fashion we treat that individual as an object rather than a free subject. Hence, argues Wojtyla, we are obliged to treat the person as an end and never as a mere means or an instrument. This requires respect for every person’s morally reasonable, self-chosen ends, rather than use of a person merely to achieve our own ends.
Wojtyla refers to this supreme moral principle as the personalistic norm, which serves as the axis about which his discussion on sexual morality revolves. If this general principle holds, it follows that it is also morally unacceptable to use people as sexual objects purely for our own satisfaction, even if the other person consents. With this standard in place, Wojtyla articulates three themes that serve as the central pillars of his sexual morality: the existential meaning of the sexual drive, an integral view of romantic love, and a personalistic vision of chastity.
Misunderstanding about love and sexuality often begins with confusion about the nature and purpose of our sexual capacities. The sexual drive is not an irrepressible instinct but a natural orientation to a person of the opposite sex. Wojtyla insists that we should not reduce the sexual drive to a biological force at our disposal. The “liberated” man or woman of the twenty-first century tends to regard the sexual drive simply as an instinct that should be emancipated from repressive cultural norms. But Wojtyla understands this sexual drive in a completely different way.
He argues convincingly that the sexual drive has an existential meaning, because the primary end or purpose of this drive is the perpetuation of the human species.   And yet the sexual drive is also the source of spousal love that leads to marriage. Thus, the sexual drive is the foundation for both love and procreation. Thanks to sexual reciprocity, this drive opens the way for a man and woman to fully love each other, and the sexual union formed by that love is naturally open to new life. Sexual union, love, and procreation, therefore, are intrinsically linked together.
When love is forcibly detached from procreation, it loses its “special character” and can no longer develop properly or come to fruition. Marital love must always be in harmony with the procreative purpose of this drive or mutual self-gratification begins to displace a full and fruitful union of persons. Moreover, thanks to this procreative meaning, there is nothing banal or ordinary about sexual activity. On the contrary, we must recognize the “proper greatness” associated with the sexual drive. A married couple experiences this “greatness” when they freely and conscientiously take up the task of procreation and provide a being with the gift of existence which is the source of all other perfections.
But what is the nature of this love between a man and a woman that is often set in motion by the sexual drive? Modern culture has grossly distorted the truth about love and seduced people into forgetting the link between sexuality and procreation. As a remedy, Wojtyla provides a phenomenological account of love which slowly discerns its ultimate meaning. His integral conception of love includes a metaphysical, psychological and ethical analysis. Wojtyla’s “metaphysical” analysis describes the common elements of human love which includes fondness (or attraction), longing for the other, and benevolence. Benevolence brings us close to the essence of love which is altruistic and always seeking the good of the beloved. Love must be reciprocal, and it must also include the moral union and commitment of friendship enhanced by the warmth of sympathy.
The most radical form of love is spousal love which is more than willing the good of the other but “giving oneself, giving one’s ‘I.’” This reciprocal self-giving becomes a total union of two persons, which is expressed and fortified through the sexual act. Spousal love is the pathway to the perfection of the human self that comes from the unconditional gift of oneself to another.
Love also includes a powerful psychological dimension. Spousal love is energized by sensuality and affectivity. Sensuality represents a spontaneous experience of the corporeal sexual properties of a person of the opposite sex, while affectivity is an experience of less sensuous properties such as feminine charm. While this dimension of love has a role to play, love is often falsely reduced to its psychological profile. Many people confuse sensuality and affectivity with the mature, responsible love that comes only from an intimate personal union and a caring for each other’s well-being.
Finally, love has an ethical dimension because love is a virtue as well as a passion. Authentic spousal love is distinguished from counterfeit versions by this ethical character. There is an enduring commitment as well as an assumption of responsibility for the other person’s welfare that becomes the basis for the reciprocal gift of self. Also, love must be unencumbered by sexual compulsion or obsession so that it can be freely given and received. Without freedom, the gift of self loses its authenticity and perfective powers. Spousal love, which goes beyond friendship and benevolence, must transcend sensuality, and it must be shaped by permanence, exclusivity, and a mutual belonging that allows each person to find him or herself in the other.
The third pillar of Wojtyla’s sexual morality is his personalistic vision of the virtue of chastity. Many people misconstrue chastity as prudishness, and philosophers tend to equate chastity with the virtue of temperance. But chastity is far more than the regulation of our desire for sexual pleasure. Chastity is the moral habit of being able to see a human being of the opposite sex with a certain moral depth so that one always recognizes that individual as a person rather than an object for use. Love requires the support of chastity to ensure that sexual relations are never depersonalized This virtue allows us to look beyond a person’s attractive body in order to transparently perceive the whole person as a being with an inner, spiritual life, who is not to be used simply for another’s gratification.
Only the chaste person, who affirms the dignity of the other, is free enough from lust or disordered sensuality to make a sincere gift of himself to another.  Thanks to chastity, the virtue of love is not overwhelmed by passion or emotion so that unselfish spousal love can flourish.
Wojtyla’s ultimate concern in this treatise is an ethical one: how does the human person avoid using others for pleasure and live up to the high calling of love, especially marital love? To answer this question Wojtyla turns to new sources that allow for a fresh philosophical articulation of love and chastity coherent with the Catholic tradition. For those who have not recently read this book, it may be a good occasion to take a second look with the help of this new translation. For those who are unfamiliar with Love and Responsibility, a careful reading will uncover a suitable moral framework that penetrates to the heart of what is wrong with our contemporary sexual culture.

Richard A. Spinello is an Associate Research Professor in the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and an adjunct faculty member at St. John's Seminary. He is the author of three books on Saint John Paul II, includingUnderstanding Love and Responsibility recently published by Pauline Books and Media.