Author: tomlirish

THE AMAZING POWER OF GOD’S PROVIDENCE

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)

A TRUE STORY: FATHER FRANCIS KELLER

“In 1909 Father Francis Keller took a long trip to Gillette, Wyoming. He had sent a letter to the Catholic settlers there telling them he would celebrate Sunday Mass with them. Many settlers hadn’t seen a priest in years.

After Mass, a man said to Father Keller, ‘Your train doesn’t leave until late tonight. After you’ve made your rounds, let’s take a horseback ride into the hills. They’re beautiful this time of the year.”

Later the two men rode into the hills. After an hour they saw a woman waving in the distance. As they rode up and she saw Father Keller’s collar, a remarkable expression came over her face. She said, ‘Father, my brother is dying.’

Her brother was inside a tent. He was about thirty-five years old and extremely thin. Father Keller heard the man’s confession and anointed him. In those days every priest in the West carried a tiny capsule of holy oil for just such an emergency. As soon as the priest finished, the young man closed his eyes in deep peace. He was dead.

Later the woman said to Father Keller, ‘Nobody told me that you were in Gillette today. But all his life my brother has prayed that a priest would be present at his death. This morning we prayed one last time for this grace.’

That incredible story recalls the words of the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘More things are wrought through prayer than the world dreams of ‘ (From: Challenge: A Daily Meditation Program Based on The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, by Father Mark Link, S.J. (RCL), p.210).”

A PROFOUND REFLECTION ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PROVIDENCE AND PRAYER:

The great Dominican and 20th century theologian, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, states the following in his book Providence:

“Prayer is not in opposition to the designs of Providence and does not seek to alter them, but actually co-operates in the divine governance, for when we pray we begin to wish in time what God wills for us from all eternity.

When we pray, it may seem that the divine will submits to our own, whereas in reality it is our will that is uplifted and made to harmonize with the divine will. All prayer, so the Fathers say, is an uplifting of the soul to God, whether it; be prayer of petition, of adoration, of praise, or of thanksgiving, or the prayer of reparation which makes honorable amends.

One who prays properly, with humility, confidence, and perseverance, asking for the things necessary for salvation, does undoubtedly cooperate in the divine governance. Instead of one, there are now two who desire these things.It is God of course who converted the sinner for whom we have so long been praying; nevertheless we have been God’s partners in the conversion. It is God who gave to the soul in tribulation that light and strength for which we have so long with our co-operation and as the result of our intercession.

The consequences of this principle are numerous. First, the more prayer is in conformity with the divine intentions, the more closely does it co-operate in the divine governance. That there may be ever more of this conformity in our prayer, let us every day say the Our Father slowly and with great attention; let us meditate upon it, with love accompanying our faith. This loving meditation will become contemplation, which will ensure for us the hallowing and glorifying of God’s name both in ourselves and in those about us, the coming of His kingdom and the fulfillment of His will here on earth as in heaven. It will obtain for us also the forgiveness of our sins and deliverance from evil, as well as our sanctification and salvation.

From this it follows that our prayer will be the purer and more efficacious when we pray in Christ’s name and offer to God, in compensation for the imperfections of our own love and adoration, those acts of love and adoration that spring from His holy soul.

A Christian who says the Our Father day by day with gradually increasing fervor, who says it from the bottom of his heart, for others as well as for himself, undoubtedly cooperates very much in the divine governance. He co-operates far more than the scientists who have discovered the laws governing the stars in their courses or the great physicians who have found cures for some terrible diseases. The prayer of St. Francis, St. Dominic, or, to come nearer to our own times, St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, had an influence certainly not less powerful than that of a Newton or a Pasteur. One who really prays as the saints have prayed, co-operates in the saving not only of bodies but of souls. Every soul, through its higher faculties, opens upon the infinite, and is, as it were, a universe gravitating toward God.

Close attention to these intimate relations between prayer and providence will show that prayer is undoubtedly a more potent force than either wealth or science. No doubt science accomplishes marvelous things; but it is acquired by human means, and its effects are confined within human limits. Prayer, indeed, is a supernatural energy with an efficacy coming from God and the infinite merits of Christ, and from actual grace that leads us on to pray. It is a spiritual energy more potent than all the forces of nature together. It can obtain for us what God alone can bestow, the grace of contrition and of perfect charity, the grace also of eternal life, the very end and purpose of the divine governance, the final manifestation of its goodness.

At a time when so many perils threaten the whole world, we need more to reflect on the necessity and sublimity of true prayer, especially when it is united with the prayer of our Lord and of our Lady. The present widespread disorder must by contrast stimulate us constantly to reflect that we are subject not only to the often unreasoning, imprudent government of men, but also to God’s infinitely wise governance. God never permits evil except in view of some greater good. He wills that we co-operate in this good by a prayer that becomes daily more sincere, more humble, more profound, more confident, more persevering, by a prayer united with action, in order that each succeeding day shall see more perfectly realized in us and in those about us that petition of the Our Father: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ At a time when [evil forces in the world are] putting forth every effort against God, it behooves us to repeat it again and again with ever deepening sincerity, in action as well as in word, so that as time goes on God’s reign may supersede the reign of greed and pride.

Thus in a concrete, practical way we shall at once see that God permits these present evils only because He has some higher purpose in view, which it will be granted us to see, if not in this world, at any rate after our death” (Providence, pages 210-212, TAN).

Tom Mulcahy (see my personal reflection in the postscript)

 

P.S.  Faith involves trusting in God’s providential care for our lives, while taking positive action to do God’s will. It is a wonderful thought to know that we have always existed or had a “pre-existence” in God’s eternal knowledge. “He has loved us with an everlasting love.” God has willed for us to exist!  And God is Infinite Wisdom.

At the moment of death everything that we shall be for all eternity hangs in the balance. This is the moment that will settle everything. We shudder at the thought of losing God. All our life has been but a preparation for this one final moment. God has even shed His own blood to draw us near to Him. Oh what unthinkable ruin, says Faber, if we are not saved.

We need to pray for the grace of a holy death (that is, to die in a state of sanctifying grace). We need to pray for the grace to receive the last sacrament, and to confess our sins and receive Viaticum (Holy Communion given to a dying person). These are things we should pray for on a regular basis.

Father Faber (from whom I have derived the above considerations) points out in detail that the Blessed Virgin Mary has a special office or jurisdiction to help us die a good and holy death. We must have an immense confidence in her intercession. Saint Joseph is the Patron Saint of the dying, and it thus follows that we should pray to him frequently for the grace to die a happy death (that is, to die in a state of grace). Jesus shed His blood to save us from eternal loss. The Precious Blood comes to us through the sacraments. Immense regard and devotion to the sacraments, as Faber points out, is certainly a tell-tale sign that we are advancing towards Heaven. It is not a good thing to be indifferent towards the sacraments.

Recommended reading: Faber’s essay, “Death,” in Spiritual ConferencesThe Precious Blood (F.W. Faber); and Preparation for Death (Saint Alphonsus de Liguori)

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A SEVERE MERCY: OUR TIME OF VISITATION

(Christ Weeps Over Jerusalem, Ary Scheffer, 1851, Public Domain, U.S.A.)

In the following note, Peter Herbeck, a well known Catholic evangelist and author, offers some important Biblical and prophetic insights regarding the clergy sexual abuse crisis which has sent shock waves throughout the Church.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I’m writing to share with you a few thoughts as a follow up to Ralph Martin’s excellent and courageous letter, Dear Troubled Catholics, regarding the current crisis in the Church.

Ralph wrote that this current crisis, precipitated by the revelation of Cardinal McCarrick’s moral failures and the failure of leadership in the Church to prevent his rise to prominence, could be a “tipping point” for the Church. He sees in it a possibility for genuine repentance and change for the Church.

I perceive in this crisis—both here in the United States and around the world—an opportunity, given us by our Lord. I believe we are experiencing the discipline of the Lord; it is a severe mercy, a judgment upon the Church that is meant to lead to deep, thorough repentance, healing, and reformation. It’s an opportunity that demands a response from all of us, beginning with the leadership of the Church. If we cooperate with Jesus, with obedient and repentant hearts and total honesty and transparency in the fear of the Lord, Jesus will lead us out of this terrible crisis. If we fail to respond to this time of purification, I believe the Church in America will be severely weakened, the decline we’re witnessing in the Church will escalate, and the flock will scatter.

While on mission in Uganda in 2016, the Lord spoke to me about what we are now living through. Our team from Renewal Ministries was leading a week-long retreat for about 350 priests and bishops from five east-African countries. One morning during daily Mass, right after Communion, I sensed the Lord telling me to get out my journal and to write down the following: “The days ahead will be marked by growing chaos and confusion. I am coming to purify my Church. I am about to bring down the idols that hold my people in bondage; I will expose the hypocrisy of the mighty and the strong, both in the Church and in the world.”

Watching the mighty fall in the past few years—Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer, Al Franken, and now former Cardinal McCarrick (now Archbishop McCarrick) and other cardinals and bishops—has been sobering. These revelations are meant to lead all of us to repentance and to instill in us a healthy fear of the Lord. The Captain of the Armies of Heaven, Jesus, the Lord, is purifying His Church and exposing the emptiness and hypocrisy of the world. Scripture tells us that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves.

It’s important for us to understand Jesus’ intent. He doesn’t come to humiliate or destroy; He comes to save. St. Peter tells us that judgment begins with the house of God. Jesus is purifying His Church for the sake of the salvation of the world. The Church is the hope of the world, the sacrament of salvation, the light of the world. When the Church is trapped in sin, her light goes dim and her salt goes flat.

Today, the Church is infected with deep strongholds of sin that are crippling her life and witness. In the period leading up to the Dallas Charter in 2002, Jesus began to expose the horrific corruption of homosexual sins of pedophilia and ephebophilia (sexual attraction to pubescent boys) among the clergy, and the cover up by some of the hierarchy of these crimes. Eighty-one percent of the victims were adolescent males.

Steps were taken at the time to respond to the crisis with the Dallas Charter and the “zero tolerance” policy instituted throughout the Church in the United States. The Charter was a start, but lacked complete honesty and transparency. The efforts by the bishops left the dishonest impression that the primary problem the Church was facing in this crisis was pedophilia and not ephebophilia. This allowed them to deflect attention from the fact that active homosexuality among the clergy was the primary source of the problem.

What’s clear from the revelations about Archbishop McCarrick is that the repentance in 2002 did not go deep enough. There was a cover up, a strategic decision to hide the bigger problem of active homosexuality among the clergy, including some of the hierarchy.

What we are seeing is the means to which Jesus will go to purify His Church. The wound of sin in this area is deeper than most of our brothers in the hierarchy are willing to acknowledge or to confront. But the Lord will not relent.

In the letter to the Church in Ephesus in the Book of Revelation, Jesus tells the leaders of the Church the following:

“I have this against you, that you abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Rv 2:4-5).

Jesus warned the leaders of the Church that even though they had done many things right, they had lost their first love. He then gave them a three-step process to make things right: remember, repent, and act. They were to remember the place from which they had fallen, to repent, and then do the works they had done at first. In this crisis, this is a good guide for all of us, especially our leaders.

Jesus is calling our leaders to remember the purity and holiness to which they have been called, and to make a thorough examination of their lives before Him. They must then act decisively, with zeal and determination, to bring to light all that is hidden in darkness. They must remember that this severe mercy is an act of love that calls for total obedience to the Lord, knowing, “those whom I love I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent” (Rv 3:19).

Just as in Ephesus, so it will be with the Church in America, if we don’t respond wholeheartedly, with complete honesty. If the Church refuses to expose the truth, and in the fear of the Lord to cooperate with Him in this hour of purification, He will “come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

That is what I believe is at stake at this time for the Church in America. To “remove your lampstand” means, in the words of Victorinus of Petovium, to “disperse the congregation.” The Church in many parts of the United States is already in decline. If we as a Church do not cooperate fully with the Lord at this time of visitation, the decline will escalate dramatically.

Cooperation means that policies, good public relations, the advice of lawyers, and the like are not enough. Just looking to the future is not enough. Positive platitudes are not enough. What is needed is action to root out systemic habit patterns of sin, to expose strongholds of sin to the full light of day.

This kind of stronghold of sin will not go away. It will keep producing like a deadly virus in the body or like a festering wound that has only been tended to on the surface. The infection will keep spreading. To date, the words of Jeremiah are a fitting description of the response of the bishops to this serious problem: “They have treated the wound of my people carelessly” (Jer 6:14).

The bishops can no longer continue to treat this wound carelessly; it has to be cut out, to the root. That means having to confront the fear that holds them back. To address this problem head on and to take appropriate action will likely cause serious disruption in the Church for a time, and serious pushback from forces in and outside the Church. There is no easy way forward; it will require great courage.

There is a way out of this: follow Jesus, obey Him. He will give all of us what we need. It’s time to awaken the graces of our confirmation, fortitude that is “prepared to suffer injury and, if need be, death for the truth and for the realization of justice” (Josef Pieper). And a healthy fear of the Lord to overcome the fear of men that so often leads to inaction and weak, foolish responses in the face of serious sin. “The man who fears the Lord will not be fainthearted” (Sir 34:14).

We have nothing to fear if we put all our hope in Him. It’s not our job to secure all the potential consequences that may transpire from a radical response to Jesus at this time. Our job is to obey and to entrust everything to His mercy and love, and to the protection and intercession of Our Lady.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). Even in the greatest darkness, we can walk in the Light.

Peter Herbeck

P.S. One of the best books I have read on the Holy Spirit is Mr. Herbecks’s When the Spirit Comes in Power (Servant).

Biographical note: Peter Herbeck is the vice president and director of missions for Renewal Ministries. For more than thirty years, he has been actively involved in evangelization and Catholic renewal throughout the US, Canada, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Peter is a co-host for the weekly television programs The Choices We Face and Crossing the Goal. He also hosts the daily radio show Fire on the Earth. He is a frequent conference speaker, has authored When the Spirit Comes in Power and When the Spirit Speaks, and has produced CDs and booklets about discipleship and life in the Spirit. Peter is involved with i.d.9:16, an outreach to Catholic young adults sponsored by Renewal Ministries. Peter and his wife Debbie have four children and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Source: This article, used with permission, is in the October 2018 Newsletter of Renewal Ministries available with full citations at renewalministries.net

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THE QUEST FOR ETERNAL LIFE

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3)

The Bible tells us that God has life in Himself (John 5:26). This statement is logically true inasmuch as nothing could exist unless there was an eternal source of Life to begin with. The human mind comprehends quite clearly that something cannot come from nothing. The Eternal source of everything else is God – who has life in Himself. The essential revelation of God in Jesus Christ is God’s desire to share His Eternal Life with his human creatures. Amazing, but true.

In the ancient literature of human civilization we hear a clear echo of the human heart’s desire for life everlasting in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Warren Carroll states: “The most striking characteristic of the Epic of Gilgamesh is its absolute honesty in facing the riddle of death.” For all his feats of heroism, Gilgamesh, the dragon-slayer, cannot slay death. After lamenting the death of his dear comrade-in-arms, Enkidu, Gilgamesh goes in search of eternal life in order to escape the “house of darkness.” When he finds the only man to have cheated death, Utnapishtim, he receives the grim news that Utnapishtim’s gift cannot be shared.  “What shall I do,” says Gilgamesh to Utnapishtim, “Death is dwelling in my bedchamber…wherever I set my feet there is death.”

Father Garrigou-Lagrange states that:

“In the preaching of Jesus, everything is directed immediately toward eternal life.”

The great spiritual writer, Father Lallemant, goes even further in associating Jesus with eternal life. He states:

“Everything in Jesus is a principle of eternal life.”

Jesus himself says, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6), and that “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). This eternal life is given to us initially in baptism (“the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” – see John 4:15; 3:5; CCC 694), and is continually nourished in us through the Holy Eucharist (“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” – John 6:54).

“The term eternal life is a central theme found in the Gospel of John. The very purpose of John’s gospel was that ‘you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’ (Jn 20:31; cf. 1 Jn 5:13), ‘life’ being synonymous with ‘eternal life’. Jesus says that, ‘this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’ (John 17:3). Howard Marshall believes that ‘the most comprehensive term in John for what Jesus gives to people is life or eternal life, which is to be understood as sharing in the life of God [John 1:4]’ ” (from Theopedia).

Are you searching for eternal life? Stay very close to Jesus Christ in faith, hope and love, for he is the principle and source of what you are looking for.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Tom Mulcahy

References: The discussion regarding the quest for eternal life in The Epic of Gilgamesh is derived from Chapter One of The Founding of Christendom by Warren H. Carroll. In The Spiritual Doctrine Father Lallemant says, in a discussion on Holy Communion, that “Everything in Him is a principle of eternal life for Himself and for men; everything in us is a principle of corruption and of death for ourselves and for others.” In The Three Ages of the Interior Life the great Father Garrigou-Lagrange writes:

“In the preaching of Jesus, everything is directed immediately toward eternal life. If we are attentive to His words, we shall see how the life of eternity differs from the future life spoken of by the best philosophers, such as Plato. The future life they spoke of belonged, in their opinion, to the natural order; they though it “a fine risk to run,” without having absolute certltude about it. On the other hand, the Savior speaks with the most absolute assurance not only of a future life, but of eternal life superior to the past, the present, and the future; an entirely supernatural life, measured like the intimate life of God, of which it is the participation, by the single instant of immobile eternity.”

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Planet Earth: God’s Garden in the Midst of Unimaginable Space


“Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made.”

It’s incredible how big the universe is. I mean, wow! The universe is big. Really big. Unbelievably big. The immense size of our universe is simply staggering.

The Milky Way (our galaxy) has over 100 billion stars and is 100,000 light years in diameter! And get this: there are billions of galaxies. Earth is like a small pebble floating in colossal space.

For a moment, we might even despair of earth’s seeming insignificance in the scheme of things. After all, our sun only has about five billion years to go before it burns out and dies of old age (estimates vary).

Despair? I think not. Let us look out into our universe just as far as we can. We see many things, but there is one thing we don’t see: life. Besides our own planet, the universe seems to be barren of life. So our little planet is special, very special. We are teeming with life. Life! Beautiful life.

Now if we think about this interesting set of circumstances – at least from a theological perspective – it is not hard to see that God has blessed Earth with His special providence. In ages past it was though that Earth was the center of the universe, but we now know this is not the case. Rather, if I might be permitted to say, Earth seems to be at the center of God’s heartfelt love for creatures. Just as Mary was blessed among all women, Earth seems to be blessed among all planetary bodies.

Now it is possible that there may be life out there in some distant galaxy a gazillion light years away. God’s prerogative does not preclude such a scenario. Perhaps one day we will be visited by some alien creature who also owes his life to God’s gratuitous love!

But as is stands, it appears that the only “alien” to have ever visited our planet was Jesus Christ; and he came with the most benign intention and wonderful purpose: to save us, and thus to make us children of God.

God’s plan of salvation will one day take us beyond time and space, to “loftier demarcations” of infinite scope and of eternal significance, where we may look upon our Heavenly Father’s face, and upon the universe he made, and say with great awe and love, “How Great Thou Art.”

(Dear Father, I never really understood how omnipotent your omnipotence is! For you are infinite, which means the universe is no bigger than a small bread basket compared to you! To think then, for a moment, who you are and that I am your creature!)

Tom

Inspiration: Studying natural science with Bridget; The Illustrated Atlas of the Universe by Mark A. Garlick; Chapter One of Called to Holiness by Ralph Martin; and F.W. Faber’s fascinating discussion of natural science in The Blessed Sacrament, pages 255-276. Faber refers to planet Earth as “God’s garden.”

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EVER AT YOUR SIDE IS BEING LIVED A GOLDEN, ANGELIC LIFE!

 

 “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.’ Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 336)

“Are they – [the angels] –  not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14)

“Ever at our side is being lived a golden life. A princely Spirit is there who sees God and enjoys the bewildering splendors of His face, even there where he is, nearer than the limits of our outstretched arms. An unseen warfare is waging round our steps, but that beautiful Spirit lets not so much as the sound of it vex our ears. He fights for us and asks no thanks, but hides his silent victories, and continues to gaze upon God. His tenderness for us is above all words. His office will last beyond the grave, until at length it merges into a still sweeter tie of something like heavenly equality, when on the morning of the resurrection we pledge each other, in those first moments, to an endless blessed love. Till then we shall never know from how many dangers he has delivered us, nor how much of our salvation is actually due to him. Meanwhile he merits nothing by the solicitudes of his office. He is beyond the power of meriting, for he has attained the sight of God. His work is a work of love because his sweet presence at our side he knows to be a part of God’s eternal creative love towards our particular soul” (By: Father F.W. Faber).

The deep realization that ever by your side is being lived the powerful spiritual life of your Guardian Angel should be a source of great confidence and courage as you face the trials and hardships of day to day life. The Bible says in this context: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 12:18). “These words distinctly recognize the belief in guardian angels, entrusted each with a definite and special work. That guardianship is asserted in general terms in Psalm 34:7; Psalm 91:11, Hebrews 1:14 and elsewhere. What is added to the general fact here is that those who have the guardianship of the little ones assigned to them are among the most noble of the heavenly host, and are as the angels of the Presence, who, like Gabriel, stand before the face of God, and rejoice in the beatific vision; Luke 1:19,” (Ellicot’s Bible Commentary).

Practical conclusion: the incredible importance of devotion to our guardian angels. Two saints who practiced immense devotion to their guardian angels are: Saint Gemma Galgani and Saint Aloysius Gonzaga. Maintaining an ongoing devotion to our Guardian Angel is one way to practice the presence of God, i,e., to be recollected in God. Knowing that our Guardian Angel sees God in the beatific vision, face to face, so to speak, when we honor or pray to our Guardian Angel we are talking directly to some one – an angelic spirit –  who is in the direct presence of God.  God has given us many gifts – angels included. They do not detract from His glory but rather, like the Virgin Mary, are manifestations of it.

Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

Tom Mulcahy (On the Vigil of the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels)

Image: The Guardian Angel by Pietro da Cortona,,1656 (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

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IN THE BEGINNING (A SHORT REFLECTION ON GENESIS 1:1)

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1)

REFLECTION:

– the Bible starts with the presupposition of God’s existence

– it is not really a beginning, but an “unbeginning,” since God as God has never not existed

– if there was nothing to begin with then there would still be nothing (nothing from nothing leaves nothing)

– nothing is incapable of producing something

– so there clearly was something to begin with or there would still be nothing

– what is it that has been there from the very beginning – from all eternity?

– could unthinking, inert matter be eternal, “running amok” even to the “creation” of the universe and human beings (see postscript)?

– it would appear that inert matter was radically incapable of producing itself – or being the cause of everything else – since it lacked any ability to think and design

– it seems logical that something far greater than inert matter would be needed at the very beginning

– inert matter did not flower into organic life until late in the history of the universe

– the Bible says that God has life in Himself (John 5:26)

– Only God makes sense as the Eternal Unbeginning of everything else since by His Eternal Attributes He has the POWER and KNOWLEDGE to bring forth the unbelievably immense and complex universe we live in.

CONCLUSION: It is beyond all peradventure that something cannot be derived from nothing, so that there has to be an eternal cause or principle of all other things that has always existed. Only God can meet this job description, and in the person of Jesus Christ he manifests his completer dominion over the physical universe, even to the point of rising from the dead.

“In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1).

Tom

P.S.  Michael Corey, in discussing the possibility whether our “wondrous universe could have evolved by blind chance” quotes the distinguished University of Montreal psychiatrist Karl Stern as  labeling such a view of the universe as “crazy.” He further quotes Stern as saying: “And I do not at all mean crazy in the sense of a slangy invective but rather in the technical meaning of psychotic. Indeed such a view has much in common with certain aspects of schizophrenic thinking” (God and the New Cosmology, p.220). Stern is basically maintaining that it is flat out irrational to believe the universe came about by chance or accident.

REFERENCES: Father Faber talks about God’s unbegiining life. I am relying on the article in the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics under the title, “Principle of Causality” beginning at page 120. I do believe the argument is irrefutable.

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FOUR MARKS OF A DEEPLY INTERIOR LIFE

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

Great spiritual writers often talk about the interior life and of its importance. I may add that we all have an interior life, that conversation with self, in which we examine our own life and reflect upon our past, present and future. This is part of the “examined life,” although our conversation with self can sometimes be unproductive and even harmful.

But the Christian interior life involves a deeper and more important conversation: our conversation or converse with God. And so one of the pillars of the interior life is a deep prayer life. Much has been written about the paramount importance of prayer.

Another pillar of the interior life is a profound purity of conscience, which involves an ongoing watchfulness over self, so that, strictly speaking, one is not content with even one evil thought being allowed to fester and grow in one’s soul. Spiritual writers call this the practice of purity of heart, and they advise us that much good comes from practicing this interior custody over one’s heart. See my post

HOLD MY HEART UP TO THE LIGHT: PRACTICING PURITY OF …

Another pillar of the interior life is a great contempt for self. Even though this practice of self-contempt seems almost  degrading it is, nevertheless, constantly mentioned in the great spiritual literature. For example, The Imitation of Christ constantly stresses this principle (“A man who truly knows himself realizes his own worthlessness.”). Faber says that “self-abasement is the genius of a creature,” and he quotes Saint Angela of Foligno as having said, “I tell you with an entire certainty that the soul can have no better science than that of its own nothingness.”  Really, aren’t these words too much for the modern mentality? And yet we must do something with them, as they are a corollary to the great harm pride can do to our spiritual progress. So we must learn to keep self down! “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3).

Our fourth pillar of the spiritual life is a great love for Jesus Christ. Faber asks: “Can there be a pleasure in life so great as loving Jesus and serving him for love.” During “the whole course of our spiritual lives,” says the great Father Lallemant, we “must devote ourselves more and more to the knowledge and love of our Lord without which we can never attain to any solid spirituality.” Thus, a close application of our lives to Jesus is necessary, often entering the “Heart of Jesus” by “recollection to contemplate the Word Himself and His Most Sacred Humanity….” (Father Lallemant). I might add that meditating on the mysteries of Jesus’ life is highly conducive to this purpose. Making acts of virtue with the interior intention of imitating Jesus nurtures the growth of our spiritual life and our love for Jesus..

CONCLUSION: Four important marks of the interior life are:

      1. A great love of prayer,

      2. Great purity of conscience,

      3. Great contempt of self, or at least keeping self down, and,

      4. A great love of and application of our lives to Jesus Christ.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: These four points are mentioned by Father Lallemant in his classic work, The Spiritual Doctrine, pages 82-86, in the specific context of Jesuit spiritual formation for priests in the seminary. It is Father Faber who says, “keep self down,” and Father Garrigou-LaGrange talks about the conversation with self giving way to a deeper conversation with God. I do believe Father Grou talks about the “application” of our lives to Jesus Christ; he also mentions not being content with one evil thought.

P.S. Clearly there are other pillars of the spiritual life, like devotion to Mary and docility to the Holy Spirit, to name two.

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AMORIS LAETITIA IS NOT HELPFUL IN RESOLVING THE CHURCH’S CLERGY SEX ABUSE CRISIS

“An attitude of this sort corrupts the morality of society as a whole, since it encourages doubt about the objectivity of the moral law in general and a rejection of the absoluteness of moral prohibitions regarding specific human acts, and it ends up by confusing all judgments about values.” (Saint Pope John Paul II)

Amoris Laetitia, by calling into question the Church’s fundamental moral teachings in the area of sexual morality, is hardly helpful in resolving the monumental clergy sex abuse crisis that is causing great harm to the Church’s mission.

As one priest has demonstrated in an article linked below, a fundamental aim of Amoris Laetitia was to provide a conscience argument for homosexual relationships. See

Priest explains how Amoris Laetitia was really written to ‘normalize …

Imagine that you are a Catholic seminarian with homosexual tendencies, but nevertheless you are trying to live a chaste life. But then in your class on morality you are introduced to the teachings in Amoris Laetitia, in particular nos. 301-303, which seem to strongly suggest that in certain circumstances God even approves of conduct not in harmony with Catholic teaching. This is a liberating moment for you: you now can claim in good conscience that homosexual acts are not intrinsically evil in your situation (and that God understands that). Before you know it your vow of chastity has vanquished and you are part of the homosexual sub-culture in the Church, and more drastic steps down the slippery slope seem imminent.

In fact, in the controversial Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia Pope Francis states that the type of “mercy” being advocated is not just for the divorced and remarried but for everyone “in whatever situation.” He states:

297. It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community and thus to experience being touched by an “unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous” mercy. No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves. 

Here is the very troubling passage from Amoris Laetitia (no. 301) which clearly suggests that a person can be in a “concrete situation” where he has no choice but to live in mortal sin (and is thus justified in remaining in his objectively sinful condition even though he knows the rule):

301.  For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain “irregular” situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised.  The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.  More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule.  A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values”, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.  

Amoris Laetitia, no. 303, contains another very controversial statement made by Pope Francis, stating that a person can come to the realization that God wills him to stay in his sinful condition. It reads, in pertinent part:

“Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal. In any event, let us recall that this discernment is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.”

In his great encyclical on Catholic morality, Veritatis Splendor, Saint Pope John Paul II specifically foresaw and rejected the type of argument put forth in Amoris Laetia (303) quoted above. He stated very clearly that

“It would be a very serious error … to conclude that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an “ideal” which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man.” (VS 103) 

Still further, Saint John Paul II stated:

“circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act “subjectively” good or defensible as a choice.” (VS 81)

Pope John Paul II explained in Veritatis Splendor the clear Catholic teaching that an intrinsically evil act cannot be creatively transformed into something willed by God under concrete circumstances (the suggestion put forth in AL 303 and 301).

“The negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behavior as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the “creativity” of any contrary determination whatsoever.” (Veritatis Splendor 67)

“The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception.” (VS 52)

By trying to claim that an intrinsically evil act like adultery, fornication or other “irregular situation” may be the most generous response a person can give to God at a certain moment in his life, Pope Francis has embraced situation ethics and has strayed far from the firm and authentic foundations of Catholic morality. Pope John Paul II had already warned that such an argument is clearly erroneous.

CONCLUSIONAmoris Laetitia potentially opens the door to the justification of practically any type of mortal sin, not only because it is arguably for “everyone” in “all situations,” but also because “no area of Christian morality can remain unscathed” if the general statements about moral acts in the document are considered valid, to quote the great Dominican scholar, Father Aidan Nichols. For example, why would a married gay couple not be able to claim under the rationale of Amoris that their union is the best response they can make given their concrete situation. What about a priest with homosexual inclinations? Thus, when Dr. Joseph Seifert referred to Amoris Laetitia as a “theological atomic bomb” which in essence would blow up Catholic morality, making all Catholic morality essentially optional, his opinion was not mere hyperbole.

Amoris Laetitia has created quite a mess for those who teach moral theology, and for the seminarians who study it. One could forcefully argue it is the greatest threat to Catholic morality the Church has ever encountered.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A., J.D.

P.S. See

Madison bishop says homosexuality is at the root of ongoing sexual …

Sex-abuse crisis in US Catholic Church is about homosexuality, not …

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IN ALL THINGS GOD WORKS FOR THE GOOD OF THOSE WHO LOVE HIM

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

The key point in this note is the importance of developing a strong love for God, the result of which is a closer union with Him. One could say that this loving friendship with God is the goal of the entire spiritual life.

What I want to stress in this note, then, is the importance of loving God (and what could be more important than that?). There are many tangents in Romans 8:28 – grace, justification, election, predestination, to put a name on them – but we can, in effect, overcome these theological considerations simply by loving God. Not all the Saints were great theologians, but they all loved God quite intensely. We might say, then, that your love of God is a great sign of your calling and election.

The verse – Romans 8:28 –  is quite clear and very powerful: God works for the good of those who love Him. The New Living Translation puts it this way: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” What does love do for us? Love unites us to the object we desire. Thus, the love of God unites us to God who is the source of all goodness and every blessing. God calls us to this love, gives us the grace to love Him, and indeed shares His life of love with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). It is essential, then, that we nurture intimacy and friendship with the Holy Spirit Who is Love!

The key point, then, is that you must love God, and grow more and more in love with Him. You must love Him more than all things, more than yourself, and you must love yourself and your neighbor in Him. When you do this all is tilted towards your good, and the magnetic power and attraction of God’s omnipotent love draws you inevitably – no matter what happens – towards eternal glory. This powerful bond of love between you and God cannot fail. How cannot it not but work good for you because God is drawing you to Himself?

Dear friend, make the love of God a special object of your prayers. You might simply pray: “Oh Holy Spirit, I pray for the grace to fall deeply in love with God. I beg of you the grace to see how great God is, and how infinitely lovable He is. Oh Holy Spirit, help me to grow in the love of God.”

“We should, therefore, deem as nothing all that we give to obtain the priceless treasure of the love of God, of ardent love. He alone gives to the human heart the interior charity that it lacks. During the journey toward eternity, we must never say that we have sufficient love of God. We should make continual progress in love. The traveler (viator) who advances toward God progresses with steps of love, as St. Gregory the Great says, that is, by ever higher acts of love. God desires that we should thus love Him more each day. The song of the journey toward eternity is a hymn of love….” (Father Garrigou-LaGrange).

“IN ALL THINGS” God works for the good of those who love Him in all things. Are we deeply affected by this Gospel mystery? Does it fill our hearts with confidence, and even holy boldness, that if we “keep in His love” all things, everything, happy things and sad things, trial and afflictions, joys and sufferings, they all work for our good. We see this principle operating in the life of Jesus: because he loved God everything in his life worked for the good, so much so that his crucifixion on Calvary obtained an infinite good for humanity. Our love of God, therefore, gives us the certitude that God is secretly – or even explicitly – accomplishing the good he desires in all that we do and suffer. “The apostle [Paul in Romans 8] speaks as one amazed, and swallowed up in admiration, wondering at the height and depth, and length and breadth, of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. The more we know of other things, the less we wonder; but the further we are led into gospel mysteries, the more we are affected by them. While God is for us, and we keep in his love, we may with holy boldness defy all the powers of darkness” (Matthew Henry Bible Commentary).

By “all things” I conclude that St. Paul means all things, which would include any present difficulties you are undergoing. If you are loving God, these difficulties are all going to work for your good. A great spiritual writer, Father Grou, states: “Everything that happens here to the servants of God…is arranged by Infinite Love and Wisdom for their eternal happiness…. For, as long as they love God with a real, effective, and practical love, it is impossible for anything in the world to keep them back; on the contrary, everything will help to their advancement….” Every trial, then, is for our advantage! And if we are presently suffering through some trial or persecution, we should ask: “What good is God trying to work in my soul with this trial?”

Is Romans 8:28 the most most encouraging verse in the Bible? If it helps you to understand the crucial and critical importance of loving God during all the joys and adversities of life – well then, it certainly is!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

References: My discussion on love is based on and flows from Father Garrigou-LaGrange’s masterpiece, The Three Ages of the Interior Life (see especially Vol. I, Chapter 19). The quote from Father Grou is in Manual For Interior Souls, a book highly recommended.

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SAINT PAUL’S BIBLICAL DOCTRINE ON THE POWER OF REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING

 

(AN ICON PAINTING OF SAINT PAUL)

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17)

“Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering, but before all else he says: “Follow me!”. Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my Cross. Gradually, as the individual takes up his cross, spiritually uniting himself to the Cross of Christ, the salvific meaning of suffering is revealed before him” (Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, 26, by Pope John Paul II)

There is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church a remarkable paragraph that speaks to the amazing power God has given us, by our prayers and good actions, to merit most amazing graces for others. If the paragraph in question is sound theology, as we know it must be, then it would be good for us to take advantage of this spiritual solidarity and use God’s grace to merit good for others!  Here is that paragraph from the Catechism:

2010 “Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.” (See also CCC 307, 618, 953, 956, and 1508)

Now in Saint Paul we see a clear Biblical basis for this Catholic doctrine of meriting good for others with specific reference to the concept or doctrine of redemptive suffering. I am especially going to take a look at two striking passages –  one from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, and the other from his Letter to the Colossians (using the Living Letters translation, which is a simplified/paraphrased  translation recommended by Billy Graham, which can easily be compared to traditional translations).

PHILIPPIANS  
At 2 Philippians 2: 17-18 Saint Paul discusses the possibility of offering his life as an oblation for the community. Here is what he says:

“And if my lifeblood is, so to speak, to be poured out over your faith which I am offering up to God as a sacrifice — that is, if I am to die for you – even then I will be glad, and will share my joy with each of you. For you should be happy about this too and rejoice with me for having this privilege of dying for you.”

COLOSSIANS  And at Colossians 1:24 Saint Paul says to the community there:

“But part of my work is to suffer for you; and I am glad, for I am helping to finish up the remainder of Christ’s sufferings for his body, the church.”

We can see, therefore, from the passages cited above, that at Calvary Christ merited for members of his mystical body the privilege of joining in His super-abundant, all-encompassing suffering for the benefit of others.

Paul’s understanding of redemptive suffering flows from his insight that believers in Christ form one organism, or one body, united to Christ who is the head (“all of us, in union with Christ, form one body” – Romans 12: 5). Paul says elsewhere at 2 Corinthians 1: 5-6 (RSV):

“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation….”

Still further at 2 Corinthians 4:8-12 Paul states:

“In all things we suffer tribulation: but are not distressed. We are straitened: but are not destitute. We suffer persecution: but are not forsaken. We are cast down: but we perish not. Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake: that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us: but life in you.”

So in the Catholic church, following the teaching of Paul on the value of redemptive suffering, we are urged to unite our own suffering to the Cross of Christ for the welfare of others. Pope John Paul II made this point about the value of redemptive suffering in a trip he made to Poland, stating:

“Therefore, uniting myself with all of you who are suffering throughout the land of Poland, in your homes, in the hospitals, the clinics, the dispensaries, the sanatoria—wherever you may be—I beg you to make use of the cross that has become part of each one of you for salvation. I pray for you to have light and spiritual strength in your suffering, that you may not lose courage but may discover for yourselves the meaning of suffering and may be able to relieve others by prayer and sacrifice. And do not forget me and the whole of the Church, and the cause of the Gospel and peace that I am serving by Christ’s will. You who are weak and humanly incapable, be a source of strength for your brother and father who is at your side in prayer and heart.” (quote from Father Hardon)

And in her mystical life Saint Faustina, the “secretary of Divine Mercy,” experienced this revelation from Jesus:

“I saw the Lord Jesus nailed upon the cross amidst great torments. A soft moan issued from His heart. After some time He said “I thirst. I thirst for the salvation of souls. Help Me, My daughter, to save souls. Join your sufferings to My Passion and offer them to the heavenly Father for sinners.” (Diary 1032)

The old Catholic practice of making a “morning offering” of the trials and tribulations one suffers during the day, for one’s own benefit or for the benefit of others is, no doubt, based on strong Biblical foundations. Perhaps tomorrow you are going to find yourself, as someone once said, “nailed to your desk,” doing hours of paperwork that you would love to chuck out the window. In union with Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, and in union with all the masses being said throughout the world, you can offer up your hardships and daily duties for the benefit of some soul who desperately needs grace. Don’t waste your sufferings.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

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