Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Social Doctrine: Classes 5 and 6 (April 1, 2015).

Fix the Man, You Fix the World

There was a man who had a little boy that he loved very much. Everyday after work the man would come home and play with the little boy. He would always spend all of his extra time playing with the little boy.
One night, while the man was at work, he realized that he had extra work to do for the evening, and that he wouldn't be able to play with his little boy. But, he wanted to be able to give the boy something to keep him busy. So, looking around his office, he saw a magazine with a large map of the world on the cover. He got an idea. He removed the map, and then patiently tore it up into small pieces. Then he put all the pieces in his coat pocket.
When he got home, the little boy came running to him and was ready to play. The man explained that he had extra work to do and couldn't play just now, but he led the little boy into the dining room, and taking out all the pieces of the map, he spread them on the table. He explained that it was a map of the world, and that by the time he could put it back together, his extra work would be finished, and they could both play. Surely this would keep the child busy for hours, he thought.
About half an hour later the boy came to the man and said, "Okay, it's finished. Can we play now?"

The man was surprised, saying, "That's impossible. Let's go see." And sure enough, there was the picture of the world, all put together, every piece in its place.
The man said, "That's amazing! How did you do that?" The boy said, "It was simple. On the back of the page was a picture of a man. When I put the man together the whole world fell into place."

Notice that the two encyclicals I have given you (“Of Social Concern” and “Charity in Truth” are about development and relation as solidarity   and subsidiarity. What they are talking about is the human person developing into himself by actualizing his relational physiognomy, i.e. giving himself away. The hidden dynamic that these encyclicals are talking about is the human person as subject and the relation to God and the others that is its ontological structure.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Truth is a Person -  an ”I,”   not an essence - an “it.” The failure to appreciate this profundity rises like the horns of a dilemma that has champions like Cardinal Walter Kasper (not to say the Pope) who appears to be “liberal” vis a vis doctrine for putting it at the service of the downtrodden at the “peripheries,” and Cardinal Raymond Burke who said, “The classic formulation is that ‘the Pope has the plenitude, the fullness, of power.’ This is true. But it is not absolute power. His power is at the service of the doctrine of the faith. And thus the Pope does not have the power to change teaching, doctrine.”[1]
                So it always comes down to opting for love or for truth. And the problem – or better, the “mystery” – is that they are the same thing: the divine Person, and therefore, the image of same which is the human person. And this has been spelled out with the most absolute authority in Gaudium et spes #24: “Furthermore, the Lord Jesus, when praying to the Father ‘that they may all be one… even as we are one’ (Jn. 17, 21-22), has opened up new horizons closed to human reason by implying that there is a certain parallel between the union existing among the divine persons and the union of the sons of God in truth and love. It follows, then, that if man is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake, man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself.”
To the question: what do we mean by a divine Person, Joseph Ratzinger  responded: “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.[2][3]

                This will demand a new way of experiencing and knowing reality, and then attempting to explain it conceptually and semantically. For example, the experience is not of “things” as experienced sensibly, but of the self as experienced interiorly. What we experience sensibly and outside of ourselves we call “objects.” But we have confused what we experience inside of ourselves as “subjective” (which means “not real,” and “not scientific”[4]), and this because we have not distinguished between the real ontological self (“I”) and consciousness.  Wojtyla has done that[5] (cf. “The Acting Person”).  The key to recovering the “I”,  not only as real, but the key reality to the under standing of the Church’s social teaching is to go deeper in the meaning of “lived experience.”

Wojtyla’s phenomenological metaphysics that gave the Council the tools to be pastoral as social teaching, i.e. to talk living Christ in metaphysical terms. The quest ion of the Council was not what is the doctrine, but what are we to do? [The Acting Person]:


The category to which we must go in order to do this "building" seems to be that of lived experience. This is a category foreign to Aristotle's metaphysics. The Aristotelian categories that may appear relatively closest to lived experience—those of agere and paticannot be identified with it. These categories serve to describe the dynamism of a being, and they also do a good job of differentiating what merely happens in the human being from what the human being does.3But when the dynamic reality of the human being is interpreted in Aristotelian categories, there is in each case (including in the case of agere and pati) an aspect not directly apprehended by such a metaphysical interpretation or reduction, namely, the aspect of lived experience as the irreducible, as the element that defies reduction. From the point of view of the meta-physical structure of being and acting, and thus also from the point of view of the dynamism of the human being understood meta-physically, the apprehension of this element may seem unnecessary. Even without it, we obtain an adequate under­standing of the human being and of the fact that the human being acts and that things happen in the human being. Such an understanding formed the basis of the entire edifice of anthropology and ethics for many cen­turies.

But as the need increases to understand the human being as a unique and unrepeatable person, especially in terms of the whole dynamism of action and inner happenings proper to the human being—in other words, as the need increases to understand the personal subjectivity of the human being—the category of lived experience takes on greater significance, and, in fact, key significance. For then the issue is not just the metaphysical objectification of the human being as an acting subject, as the agent of acts, but the revelation of the person as a subject experiencing its acts and inner happenings, and with them its own subjectivity(for example, replicating the sentiments of Jesus Christ). From the mo­ment the need to interpret the acting human being(I'homeagissant) is expressed, the category of lived experiencemust have a place in anthropol­ogy and ethics—and even somehow be at the center of their respective interpretations.4

One might immediately ask whether, by giving lived experience such a key function in the interpretation of the human being as a personal subject, we are not inevitably condemned to subjectivism. Without going into a detailed response, I would simply say that, so long as in this in­terpretation we maintain a firm enough connection with the integral ex­perience of the human being, not only are we not doomed to subjectivism, but we will also safeguard the authentic personal subjectivity of the human being in the realistic interpretation of human existence.

4. THE NECESSITY OF PAUSING AT THE IRREDUCIBLE: The “I” [That cannot be reduced to “thing”]

In order to interpret the human being in the context of lived experience, the aspect of consciousness must be introduced into the analysis of human existence. The human being is then given to us not merely as a being defined according to species [Blogger: this would be an abstraction], but as a concrete self, a self-experiencing subject. Our own subjective being and the existence proper to it (that of a suppositum) appear to us in experience precisely as a self-experiencing subject. If we pause here, this being discloses the structures that determine it as a concrete self [Blogger: they will be self-mastery, self-governance, self-gift]. The disclosure of these structures constituting the human self need in no way signify a break with reduction and the species-definition of the human being—rather, it signifies the kind of methodological operation that may be described as pausing at the irreducible. We should pause in the process of reduction, which leads us in the direction of understanding the human being in the world (a cosmological type of understanding), in order to understand the human being inwardly [me: we are in search in search of the meaning of “sense of divine filiation” that will be a consciousness of the action of being “another Christ”]. This latter type of understanding may be called personalistic. The personalistic type of understanding the human being is not the antinomy of the cosmological type but its complement (my underline). As I mentioned earlier, the definition of the person formulated by Boethius only marks out the "metaphysical ter­rain" for interpreting the personal subjectivity of the human being.

The experience of the human being cannot be derived by way of cos­mological reduction; we must pause at the irreducible, at that which is unique and unrepeatable in each human being, by virtue of which he or she is not just a particular human being—an individual of a certain species—but a personal subject [To be a subject is to be the protagonist of action – Helen Keller]. Only then do we get a true and complete picture of the human being. We cannot complete this picture through reduction alone; we also cannot remain within the framework of the ir­reducible alone (for then we would be unable to get beyond the pure self). The one must be cognitively supplemented with the other. Never­theless, given the variety of circumstances of the real existence of human beings, we must always leave the greater space in this cognitive effort for the irreducible; we must, as it were, give the irreducible the upper hand when thinking about the human being, both in theory and in practice (my underline). For the irreducible also refers to everything in the human being that is invisible and wholly internal and whereby each human being, myself in­cluded, is an "eyewitness" of his or her own self—of his or her own humanity and person.

My lived experience discloses not only my actions but also my inner happenings in their profoundest dependence on my own self. It also dis­closes my whole personal structure of self-determination, in which I dis­cover myself as that through which I possess myself[6] and govern myself—or, at any rate, should possess myself and govern myself. The dynamic structure of self-determination reveals to me that I am given to myself and assigned to myself. This is precisely how I appear to myself in my acts and in my inner decisions of conscience: as permanently as­signed to myself, as having continually to affirm and monitor myself, and thus, in a sense, as having continually to "achieve" this dynamic structure of my self, a structure that is given to me as self-possession and self-governance. At the same time, this is a completely internal and totally immanent structure. It is a real endowment of the personal subject; in a sense, it is this subject. In my lived experience of self-possession and self-governance, I experience that I am a person and that I am a subject.

These structures of self-possession and self-governance, which are es­sential to every personal self and shape the personal subjectivity of every human being, are experienced by each of us in the lived experience of moral value—good and evil. And perhaps this reality is often revealed to us more intensely when it is threatened by evil than when—at least for the moment—nothing threatens it. In any case, experience teaches that the morale is very deeply rooted in the humanum, or, more precisely, in what should be defined as the personals. Morality defines the personalistic dimension of the human being in a fundamental way; it is subjectified in this dimension and can also be properly understood only in it. At the same time, however, the morale is a basic expression of the transcendence proper to the personal self. Our decisions of conscience at each step reveal us as persons who fulfill ourselves by going beyond ourselves toward values accepted in truth and realized, therefore, with a deep sense of responsibility.


This topic has been the subject of many penetrating analyses, some already completed and others ongoing. While not continuing those analyses here, I wish only to state that, when it comes to understanding the human being, the whole rich and complex reality of lived experience is not so much an element or aspect as a dimension in its own right. And this is the dimension at which we must necessarily pause if the subjective structure—including the subjective personal structure—of the human being is to be fully delineated.

What does it mean to pause cognitively at lived experience? This "paus­ing" should be understood in relation to the irreducible. The traditions of philosophical anthropology would have us believe that we can, so to speak, pass right over this dimension, that we can cognitively omit it by means of an abstraction that provides us with a species definition of the human being as a being, or, in other words, with a cosmological type of reduction (homo = animal rationale). One might ask, however, whether in so defining the essence of the human being we do not in a sense leave out what is most human, since the humanum expresses and realizes itself as the personale. If so, then the irreducible would suggest that we cannot come to know and understand the human being in a reductive way alone. This is also what the contemporary philosophy of the subject seems to be telling the traditional philosophy of the object.

But that is not all. The irreducible signifies that which is essentially incapable of reduction, that which cannot be reduced but can only be disclosed or revealed. Lived experience essentially defies reduction. This does not mean, however, that it eludes our knowledge; it only means that we must arrive at the knowledge of it differently, namely, by a method or means of analysis that merely reveals and discloses its essence. The method of phenomenological analysis allows us to pause at lived ex­perience as the irreducible. This method is not just a descriptive cataloging of individual phenomena (in the Kantian sense, i.e., phenomena as sense-perceptible contents). When we pause at the lived experience of the ir­reducible, we attempt to permeate cognitively the whole essence of this experience. We thus apprehend both the essentially subjective structure of lived experience and its structural relation to the subjectivity of the human being. Phenomenological analysis thus contributes to trans-phenomenal understanding; it also contributes to a disclosure of the rich­ness proper to human existence in the whole complex compositumhumanum.

Such a disclosure—the deepest possible disclosure—would seem to be an indispensable means for coming to know the human being as a personal subject. At the same time, this personal human subjectivity is a deter­minate reality: it is a reality when we strive to understand it within the objective totality that goes by the name human being. The same applies to the whole character of this method of understanding. After all, lived experience is also—and above all—a reality. A legitimate method of dis­closing this reality can only enrich and deepen the whole realism of the conception of the human being. The personal profile of the human being then enters the sphere of cognitive vision, and the composition of human nature, far from being blurred, is even more distinctly accentuated. The thinker seeking the ultimate philosophical truth about the human being no longer moves in a "purely metaphysical terrain," but finds elements in abundance testifying to both the materiality and the spirituality of the human being, elements that bring both of these aspects into sharper relief. These elements then form the building blocks for further philosophical construction.

But certain questions always remain: Are these two types of understanding the human being—the cosmological and the personalitic—ultimately mutually exclusive? Where, if at all, do reduction and the disclosure of the irreducible in the human being converge? How is the philosophy of the subject to disclose the objectivity of the human being in the personal subjectivity of this being? These seem to be the questions that today determine the perspective for thinking about the human being, the perspective for con­temporary anthropology and ethics. They are essential and burning ques­tions. Anthropology and ethics must be pursued today within this challenging but promising perspective.
1.   One such effort is my book Osobaiczyn [Person and Action] (Krakow: Polskie Tow. Teologiczne, 1969; rev. ed. 1985). [English edition: The Acting Per­son, trans. AndrzejPotocki, ed. Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (Boston: Reidel, 1979).] Another even more relevant work in this regard is my essay "The Person: Subject and Community" 219-261 below.
2.   See the section entitled "Subjectivity and Subjectivism" in The Acting Person 56-59.
3.   My work The Acting Person is in large measure constructed upon this basis.
4.   One can observe this by comparing my book The Acting Person with Mieczyslaw A. Krapiec's book I—Man: An Outline of Philosophical Anthropology, trans. Marie Lescoe, Andrew Woznicki, Theresa Sandok et al. (New Britain: Mariel, 1983).

Karol WoJtyla, "Podmiotowosci I 'to, co nieredukowalne' w eflowieku," Ethos 1.2-3 (1988): 21-28. A paper sent to an international conferencein Paris (13-14 June 1975).

* * * * * * * *

“The Personal Structure of Self-Determination,” Person and Community Lang (1993)188-195.

In phenomenological experience, I appear as someone who possesses myself and who is simultaneously possessed by myself. I also appear as someone who governs myself and who is simultaneously governed by myself. Both the one and the other are revealed by self-determination; they are implied by self-determination and also enrich its content. Through self-possession and self-governance, the personal structure of self-determination comes to light in its whole proper fullness.
In determining myself—and this takes place through an act of will—I become aware and also testify to others that I possess myself and govern myself. In this way, my acts give me a unique insight into myself as a person. By virtue of self-determination, I experience in the relatively most immediate way that I am a person. Of course, the path from this experience to an understanding that would qualify as a complete theory of the person must lead through metaphysical analysis. Still, experience is the indis­pensable beginning of this path, and the lived experience of self-deter­mination seems to be the nucleus of this beginning. In any case, if a full affirmation of the personal value of human acts requires a theory of the person as its basis, the construction of this theory seems impossible without an analytic insight into the dynamic reality of action, and above all into the structure of the self-determination essential for action, a struc­ture that from the very beginning presents itself in some sense as a per­sonal structure (my emphasis).


In Vatican II's Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, we read that "the human being, who is the only creature on earth that God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself or herself except through a disinterested gift of himself or herself" (24). The document of the last Council seems in these words to sum up the age-old traditions and inquiries of Christian anthropology, for which divine revelation became a liberating light. The anthropology of St. Thomas Aquinas is deeply rooted in these traditions, while also being open to all the achievements of human thought that in various ways supplement the Thomistic view of the person and confirm its realistic character. The words of Vatican II cited above seem chiefly to accentuate the axiological aspect, speaking of the person as a being of special intrinsic worth, who is, therefore, specially qualified to make a gift of self. Beneath this axiological aspect, however, we can easily discern a deeper, ontological aspect. The ontology of the person suggested by this text seems again to coincide closely with the experience discussed above. In other words, if we wish to accentuate fully the truth concerning the human person brought out by Gaudium et Spes, we must once again look to the personal structure of self-determination.
As I said earlier, in the experience of self-determination the human person stands revealed before us as a distinctive structure of self-posses­sion and self-governance. Neither the one nor the other, however, implies being closed in on oneself. On the contrary, both self-possession and self-governance imply a special disposition to make a "gift of oneself," and this a "disinterested" gift. Only if one possesses oneself can one give oneself and do this in a disinterested way. And only if one governs oneself can one make a gift of oneself, and this again a disinterested gift. The problematic of disinterestedness certainly deserves a separate analysis, which it is not my intention to present here. An understanding of the person in categories of gift, which the teaching of Vatican II reemphasizes, seems to reach even more deeply into those dimensions brought to light by the foregoing analysis. Such an understanding seems to disclose even more fully the personal structure of self-determination.
Only if one can determine oneself—as I attempted to show earlier—can one also become a gift for others. The Council's statement that "the human being... cannot fully find himself or herself except through a disinterested gift of himself or herself' allows us to conclude that it is precisely when one becomes a gift for others that one most fully becomes oneself. This "law of the gift," if it may be so designated, is inscribed deep within the dynamic structure of the person. The text of Vatican II certainly draws its inspiration from revelation, in the light of which it paints this portrait of the human being as a person. One could say that this is a portrait in which the person is depicted as a being willed by God "for itself' and, at the same time, as a being turned "toward" others. This relational portrait of the person, however, necessarily presupposes the immanent (and in­directly "substantial") portrait that unfolds before us from an analysis of the personal structure of self-determination.

[1] “Inside the Vatican,” March 2015, Robert Moynihan Editorial: “Decisions.”
[2] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 134.
[3]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.”[3]
[4] “Now, if the natural science model is to be followed without hesitation, then the importance of the Heisenberg principle should be applied to the historical method as well. Heisenberg has shown that the outcome of a given experiment is heavily influenced by the point of view of the observer. So much so that both the observer’s questions and the observations continue to change in the natural course of events… Pure objectivity is an absurd abstraction. It is not the uninvolved who comes to knowledge; rather, interest itself is a requirement for the possibility of coming to know;” Biblical Interpretation in Crisis, in The Essential Pope Benedict XVI Harper Collins (2007)  247.
[5] “Consciousness is under stood realistically when it is connect  with the person’s being as its subject, when it is an act of this being. Consciousness divorced from the being of the person and treated as an autonomous subject of activity is consciousness understood idealistically;” K. Wojtyla, “In Search of the Basisof P:erfectionism in Ethics,” in Person and Community op. cit. 54,
[6] By self-determination, one owns oneself because property becomes one’s own by subduing/mastering it. Since “the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground” (Gen 2, 7), man becomes his own private property by subduing himself in order to work and subdue the earth/name the animals. Whatever he subdues belongs to him as his own. But he cannot keep it for himself because as image of the Son, he is not his own. He is to become “for” the Father, and therefore anything he owns must is destined for others. Nothing is so little his own as his very self, and a fortiori the goods he possesses.  Because of this, work has not only an objective sense of making/doing “things” (objects), but a subjective and principal sense of making and becoming  “I” [JPII, “Laborem Exercens,” 6], i.e. “another Christ.” Pope Francis privileges the word “dignity” for one who works. Since the ontological constitution of the human person is to image the “son” as seen on page 1 above, work is the occasion of actualizing that image. That is, one develops into Christ by work. 

As Christ is the Meaning of the Human Person (Gaudium et Spes 22), the Human Person is the Meaning of the World

The World is a Puzzle

There was a man who had a little boy that he loved very much. Everyday after work the man would come home and play with the little boy. He would always spend all of his extra time playing with the little boy.

One night, while the man was at work, he realized that he had extra work to do for the evening, and that he couldn’t be able to play with his little boy. But, he wanted to be able to give the boy something to keep him busy. So, looking around his office, he saw a magazine with a large map of the world on the cover. He got an idea. He removed the map, and then patiently tore it up into small pieces in his coat pocket.

When he got home, the little boy came running to him and was ready to play. The man explained that he had extra work to do and couldn’t play just now, but he led the little boy in to the dining room, and taking out all the pieces of the map, he spread them on the table. He explained that it was a map of the world, and that by the time he could put it back together, his extra work would be finished, and they could both play. Surely this would keep the child busy for hours, he thought.

About half an hour later the boy came to the man and said, ‘Okay, it’s finished. Can we play now?’

The man was surprised, saying, ‘That’s impossible. Let’s go see.’ And sure enough, there was the picture of the world, all put together, every piece in its place.

The man said, ‘That’s amazing! How did you do that?’ The boy said, ‘It was simple. On the back of the page was a picture of a man. When I put the man together the whole world fell into place.’”


The demons Cast out by Christ before He preached the word (Himself)

sent to me by Marie Murray

"Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out" —Luke 8:2.

The first was that I was very busy.

The second — I was different from you: whatever happened to you could
not happen to me, not like that.
The third — I worried.

The fourth — envy, disguised as compassion.

The fifth was that I refused to consider the quality of life of the aphid,

The aphid disgusted me. But I couldn't stop thinking about it.

The mosquito too — its face. And the ant — its bifurcated body.
Ok the first was that I was so busy.

The second that I might make the wrong choice,

because I had decided to take that plane that day,

that flight, before noon, so as to arrive early

and, I shouldn't have wanted that.

The third was that if I walked past the certain place on the street

the house would blow up.

The fourth was that I was made of guts and blood with a thin layer

of skin lightly thrown over the whole thing.
The fifth was that the dead seemed more alive to me than the living
The sixth — if I touched my right arm I had to touch my left arm, and if I

touched the left arm a little harder than I'd first touched the right then I


to retouch the left and then touch the right again so it would be even.
The seventh — I knew I was breathing the expelled breath of everything that

was alive and I couldn't stand it,
I wanted a sieve, a mask, a, I hate this word — cheesecloth —

to breath through that would trap it — whatever was inside everyone else that

entered me when I breathed in
No. That was the first one.
The second was that I was so busy. I had no time. How had this happened?

How had our lives gotten like this?
The third was that I couldn't eat food if I really saw it — distinct, separate

from me in a bowl or on a plate.
Ok. The first was that I could never get to the end of the list.
The second was that the laundry was never finally done.
The third was that no one knew me, although they thought they did.

And that if people thought of me as little as I thought of them then what was

The fourth was I didn't belong to anyone. I wouldn't allow myself to belong

to anyone.
The fifth was that I knew none of us could ever know what we didn't know.
The sixth was that I projected onto others what I myself was feeling.
The seventh was the way my mother looked when she was dying—her mouth wrenched into an O so as to take in as much air…
The sound she made — the gurgling sound — so loud we had to speak louder 
to hear each other over it.
And that I couldn't stop hearing it—years later—

grocery shopping, crossing the street —
No, not the sound — it was her body's hunger

finally evident.
—what our mother had hidden all her life.
For months I dreamt of knucklebones and roots,

the slabs of sidewalk pushed up like crooked teeth by what grew underneath.
The underneath —that was the first devil.
It was always with me.

And that I didn't think you — if I told you — would understand any of this —

* * * * * * * * 

The Gospel of Luke 8, 43-48.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

90 Anniversary of the Ordination to Priesthood of St. Josemaria Escriva on March 28 1925.

 The 50th was Good Friday in 1975.

1)    The received understanding of priesthood is mediation between this and that.
2)    Since Christ is God-man, He mediates between Himself and the Father.  That is, the divine, uncreated “I” of the Son masters and subdues the human will [Jn. 6, 38] he received from the Virgin (the Virgin gives the  body that must have a concomitant human, created soul with faculties of intellect and will), and obeys the Will of the Father to go to the Cross.

3)    Uniquely, then, Christ does not mediate between this and that external thing, but between Himself and the Father in the doing of this and that. He is Priest in His reality as God-man. He enters the presence of the Father not with the blood of bulls and goats, but with His own (Heb. 9).

4)    Since Christ is the revelation and prototype of man (Col. 1, 15; GS
 #22), then the anthropology is Christological, and therefore, priestly.  That is, it is impossible for man to be man, and not be priest. This obviously includes women. It is the grounding of the Christological anthropology of GS #24: “man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself, by the sincere gift of self.”

5)    Therefore, man exercises the priesthood of Jesus Christ in his every secular act.  And besides, man becomes Christ precisely by that very secular act. The secular world, then becomes the occasion of the heights of sanctity.

6)    Generating oneself as Christ in the middle of the world is known as “secularity.” “Secularity is something Christian, a Christian way of being and living. In other words, our divine vocation… cannot be judged from the starting-point of a secularity defined a priori. Rather, secularity should be judged from the starting-point of our vocation, and what the Christian faith reveals to us about man, about the world and about our destiny” (Letter from the Prelate of Opus Dei, November 28, 1995).

7)    Hence, the vocabulary used is “priestly soul” for every one who makes the gift of self in the execution of secular, ordinary work.


On this Palm Sunday, I should like to reflect on a King and an ass. A donkey, an ass, was in Jesus time much what it is today: a humble, simple, unassuming little animal, used by very ordinary people to do their work. The wealthy and powerful might own horses or a team of oxen and a political leader might ride a stately steed, but none of them would have anything to do with donkeys.

All of his public career, Jesus had resisted when people called him the Messiah. He sternly ordered them to be silent. When they came to carry him off and make him King, he slipped away. But he is willing to accept these titles precisely at the moment when he rides into Jerusalem on an ass. The Gospel is clear: this is not only an ass; it is a colt, the foal of an ass, on whom no one had ever previously sat. This is a young, inexperienced, unimpressive donkey. And this is the animal upon whom Jesus rides into town in triumph.

This is no ordinary King; this is not the Messiah that they expected.

Now let us look even more closely at the ass. Jesus tells two of his disciples to go into a neighboring town and to find this beast of burden. "If anyone asks, respond, 'the Master has need of it.'" The humble donkey, pressed into service, is a model of discipleship. Our purpose in life is not to draw attention to ourselves, to have a brilliant career, to aggrandize our egos; rather our purpose is to serve the Master's need, to cooperate, as he sees fit, with his work.

What was the donkey's task? He was a Christopher, a Christ-bearer. He carried the Lord into Jerusalem, paving the way for the passion and the redemption of the world. Would anyone have particularly noticed him? Probably not, except perhaps to laugh at this ludicrous animal.

The task of every disciple is just the same: to be a Christopher, a bearer of Christ to the world. Might we be unnoticed in this? Yes. Might we be laughed at? Of course. But the Master has need of us and so we perform our essential task.