May the Holy Spirit make you creative in charity, persevering in your commitments, and brave in your initiatives, so that you will be able to offer your contribution to the building up of the “civilization of love”. The horizon of love is truly boundless: it is the whole world!--Pope Benedict XVI

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Truth About the Pope—and Why It Matters | An Interview with Dr. Tracey Rowland

Winston Elliott, Tracey Rowland, Barbara Elliott
| Ignatius Insight | October 15, 2010

Tracey Rowland is Dean and Associate Professor of Political Philosophy and Continental Theology at the John Paul II Institute (Melbourne), a member of the Centre for Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham and a member of the editorial board of the English language edition of Communio, founded, among others, by Joseph Ratzinger. She is the author of Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II (2003), Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Benedict XVI (2008), and, most recently, Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed (2010). She recently took time from her busy schedule to discuss the work and thought of Joseph Ratinger/Pope Benedict XVI.

Ignatius Insight: You've now written two books about the theology and thought of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. If you had to describe his theology and thought to someone who knew little or nothing about the topic, what would you say?

Dr. Rowland: I would say that he is interested in the relationship between God and the human person and in particular the role of love and reason in this relationship. He wants people to understand that while there is something called Christian morality, Christianity is not just another option on the menu of ethical codes. It is about a personal relationship with the Trinity, and without that the ethical code can seem incomprehensible and oppressive.

Ignatius Insight: What misunderstandings or misrepresentations of Benedict's thinking do you find most bothersome or in need of correction?

Dr. Rowland: Unfortunately many people, in particular journalists, can only think in dialectical categories like: left-wing, right-wing, progressive, conservative. They never ask questions like: conserve what? or progress toward what? It is very difficult to present Ratzinger's ideas in sound-bites without doing violence to the nuances.

There is, for example, a sense in which it may well be right to classify Ratzinger as a progressive in 1964 and a conservative today but what changed is not the actual theological beliefs held by Ratzinger, but the historical and theological contexts. In 1964 to be progressive meant wanting to introduce some flexibility into a theological framework which had become ossified and dry. It meant being critical of Su‡rezian Thomism. Today, being progressive means being in favour of contraceptives, women priests, homosexual "marriage" and Marty Haugen.

As Cardinal Francis George has often written, it is not a case of being left wing or right wing, but being for Christ. In some social contexts that will look right wing, in others, left-wing, but these terms and labels are not the standard, and nor are they stable.

Ignatius Insight: Who were some of the essential intellectual and theological influences—both ancient and contemporary—on the young Ratzinger?

Dr. Rowland: Among the Patristic theologians, St Augustine was clearly the most influential, among the medieval theologians it was St. Bonaventure, and thereafter there were a number of significant nineteenth century influences associated with the Tübingen School, such as Adam Mšhler, and there was also the influence of Blessed John Henry Newman. Among twentieth scholars, the key influences were: Romano Guardini, Josef Pieper, Martin Buber, Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Karl Rahner was also someone with whom he collaborated at the Council and probably by whom he was to some degree mentored at the Council, but as Avery Dulles observed, Ratzinger grew to understand that he and Rahner lived on different theological planets: whereas Rahner found revelation and salvation primarily in the inward movements of the human spirit, Ratzinger finds them in historical events attested by Scripture and the Fathers.

Ignatius Insight: Rupert Shortt, in a recent review of Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed, wrote that "Professor Ratzinger's volte-face [in the late 1960s] was matched by what struck many observers as a shift in his character. An earlier openness was supplanted by intolerance and gloom. The psychological element, wholly overlooked by Rowland, is revealing." Shortt obviously believes that Ratzinger's theology and perspective changed dramatically and suddenly some forty year ago. Is there evidence for that argument? And why is the debate over this topic so important?

Dr. Rowland: First, let me say that my book was published in the Guide for the Perplexed series which the publishers market as an 'upper level introduction to the thought of those writers readers can find especially challenging'. Concentrating on what it is that makes the subject difficult to grasp, these books explain and explore key themes and ideas. In other words, the book was not written as a biography, nor was there ever any brief from the publisher to delve into the psychological drives of the subject. The brief was to present an account of Ratzinger's thought for theology students trying to get a grip on its essential contours, with special reference to his contributions to the discipline of theology. Accordingly, the dominant theme of the book was how Ratzinger has dealt with what in Principles of Catholic Theology (1982) he called the severest crisis in Catholic theology in the twentieth century, namely, 'understanding the mediation of history in the realm of ontology'. Most of the material presented relates to that problematic.

That said, I think that just as there are at least two fundamentally different approaches to the documents of Vatican II, the 'hermeneutic of rupture' and the 'hermeneutic of reform' or continuity, there is an analogous division of interpretation over Ratzinger himself. What everyone agrees upon is that Ratzinger is an intellectual. No one tries to argue that he has been infected with peasant piety herding cows in the Bavarian alps as some tried to dismiss Wojtyła as a Carpathian peasant. The line becomes, this fellow was one of the most gifted clerics of his generation, open to new ideas and progressively oriented, but then in 1968 he found students demonstrating outside his lecture theatre and claiming that Christ was a sado-masochist. He then, so this narrative goes, had something like a breakdown from which he has never recuperated, and since that time he has been a neurotic conservative. This way one can acknowledge his talent but dismiss his substantive judgments on the grounds that they are the result of emotional fragility rather than intellectual rigour.

Read the rest on Ignatius Insight

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cardinal Ratzinger was no Liberal--Tracey Rowland

Joseph Ratzinger attended the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) when he was in his mid-30s as a peritus,  or expert theological advisor, to Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne. 

He was one of a number of young European theologians present who were frustrated by the rigidity of the pre-Conciliar theological establishment. 

Seminarians were taught with manuals containing summaries of Catholic doctrine dredged largely from 17th century commentaries on the works of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).   In the 1940s, this ‘manualist Thomism’ came under fire for being dry, narrow, ossified and not in all ways consistent with the classical Thomism it claimed to champion. 

Among the leading periti there was an almost universal belief that this theological diet was inadequate for dealing with the problems of the late 20th century. 

There had been two world wars, an economic depression and an unusually large number of psychopaths in positions of authority. 

People were emotionally wounded and in the midst of so much evil they doubted the existence of a personal God who cared about them.  The works of the existentialist philosophers spoke more directly to the grief and anxiety of the post-war generations than a framework built from Aristotelian categories and Latin maxims.  Accordingly, the periti set off on a course of renewing the intellectual life of the Church with reference to the perceived pastoral needs of ‘modern man’. Differences soon emerged, however, over the intellectual material to be put at the service of this renewal. After the Council many of the periti, Ratzinger included, were contributors to the journal Concilium. 

However, by the fifth Concilium Congress held in Brussels in 1970, it was obvious that there were sharp divisions among members of the editorial board and that there was no common line among the former periti on how the Conciliar documents were to be interpreted. 

Some were treating 1965 as a theological Year 0.  Everything that went before, including the papacy, was up for review.

In 1972, Ratzinger, with a group of friends including the French Jesuit Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar, a Swiss blue-blood polymath, founded an alternative journal named Communio. 
Whereas Concilium authors tended to approach the documents of the Council with what Ratzinger called a ‘hermeneutic of rupture’, making every pre-Conciliar belief and practice questionable, the Communio authors offered a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’.  

Friday, October 8, 2010

Gratuity in the Market by Stratford Caldecott

I am taking the liberty of sharing a post by Stratford Caldecott from his excellent site The Economy Project.  Enjoy.


Gratuity in the Market

In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict tells us that “if the market is governed solely by the principle of the equivalence in value of exchanged goods, it cannot produce the social cohesion that it requires in order to function well. Without internal forms of solidarity and mutual trust, the market cannot completely fulfil its proper economic function” (35). That trust has today been severely undermined. He adds that “in commercial relationships the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity can and must find their place within normal economic activity” (36). So what do we make of the market, and of the Pope's warning?

There is a kind of flow, or exchange, making the world go round. This is the flow of self-gift, sometimes called love. It is what creates the world, and keeps it going. But it is reflected or echoed within creation in many different ways, and as far as human organization is concerned it is reflected in two main ways. There are two ways in which to exchange or share tangible goods: it may be done either as a gift, or as a transaction. In a transaction – corresponding to contract-style relationships in law involving commodities – one thing is given in return for another. This may be a kind of barter, where I give you my sheep in return for your goats, or it may involve money. Money was invented for situations where I don’t happen to want your goats, or anything else that you have at the moment, but I might want something later. We establish currency as a medium of exchange. Money is therefore a symbol of the spirit of love within the market: it connects everything together and enables it to flow. That explains why it can so easily become a false god.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Jesus Christ: Revelation of the Trinity--Cardinal Marc Ouellet

The following is an excerpt from Cardinal Marc Ouellet's talk on Jesus Christ: Revelation of the Trinity presented at the May 27 session of Nothing More Beautiful which originally appeared in the Western Catholic Reporter:

What a wonderful idea to place a series of Christian meditations under the theme, "Nothing more beautiful"!

Even if people can have different ideas about what is most beautiful, we are all stirred by beauty. I remember how I admired the beauty of the Rocky Mountains when I was assigned here to Edmonton. What an incredible journey from Jasper to Banff - it rivals Switzerland! Those who visited the area during the Winter Olympics must have delighted in it.

There is natural beauty, the beauty of a landscape and there is also the beauty of a feat of sports, the beauty of a countenance or of a personal relation that is dear to us. An event can be beautiful, as can a love, or even a sacrifice that we admire. In my diocese, an unmarried woman adopted 30 severely handicapped children, quite a unique family, for which she cares with a love and a respect that elicits everyone's admiration.

Our world easily doubts truth, it is tempted, too, to despair in the goodness of being, but it is still sensitive to beauty. How many artists suffer in ways that can at times lead them to the verge of personal shipwreck, but the beauty that fascinates them also saves them from drowning. The beautiful opens the heart to another dimension, like a window onto the infinite.

Christian faith has been taught with passion because its mysteries are true and good for the human being, but have we explored the path of the Beautiful so as to propose it to our contemporaries?

You invite us to take up this challenge once again in this series of conferences inspired by Pope Benedict's inaugural homily: "There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with him."

As I listen to Pope Benedict preach and read his writings, I often catch myself saying, "How beautiful it is! For he knows how to show the beauty of Christ, who is the human face of God, a God who is love and who calls us to love. . . . Is there anything more beautiful?"

Without being pretentious, I would like to speak to you of God's beauty, as this appears in the face of Jesus Christ. God is the Creator, he is the author of all the infinitely variegated forms of beauty. What must be the beauty of the one who, like an inexhaustible poet, scatters so much beauty through the universe: "How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth" (Psalm 8.2).

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Battle of Britain--Will Catholicism or atheism prevail? (CWR)

By George Neumayr | October 2010

In World War II, Great Britain survived an atheistic assault from outside the country. Today’s “Battle of Britain” comes from an atheistic assault inside it. British culture is crumpling under the growing weight of a fervent secularism that appears religious and an exhausted state religion that appears secular. The once-claimed sturdy Anglican bridge between Christianity and the modern world has largely collapsed, leaving those thrashing around down below it to swim from the Thames to the Tiber or drown.

The Catholic Church in the United Kingdom, to be sure, has her own problems, but, as Pope Benedict’s historic September visit to Britain suggested, the country’s future could end up looking like its distant Catholic past. Pope Benedict stepped into the battle for that future not as a triumphant warrior but as a humble witness to the truth and grace contained in Christ’s Church.

The tone of Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain was set even before he got there. Asked by a reporter on the flight over what he could do to make Catholicism appear more “attractive” and “credible” to secularists and atheists in Britain, the Pope responded by challenging the premise of the question. He noted that a Catholicism which thought in those superficial terms would become just one more dangerous ideology and power grab in a world that needs fidelity to Christ:
One might say that a church which seeks above all to be attractive would already  be on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for itself, does not work to increase its numbers so as to have more power. The Church is at the service of Another; it does not serve itself, seeking to be a strong body, but it strives to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths, the great powers of love and of reconciliation that appeared in this figure and that come always from the presence of Jesus Christ. In this sense, the Church does not seek to be attractive, but rather to make herself transparent for Jesus Christ. And in the measure in which the Church is not for herself, as a strong and powerful body in the world, that wishes to have power, but simply is herself the voice of Another, she becomes truly transparent to the great figure of Jesus Christ and the great truths that he has brought to humanity…
Read the rest at Catholic World Report

The Influence of John Henry Newman on Benedict XVI By Tracey Rowland

Later today {9/16/10, ed.}, Pope Benedict XVI begins his Apostolic Journey to the United Kingdom, the main purpose of which is the beatification of John Henry Newman on Sunday, 19 September. But few English speakers seem to realise the extent to which Newman influenced German Catholic thought in the first half of the twentieth century, and particularly the theology of Joseph Ratzinger.

The Munich-based Jesuit, Erich Przywara (1889-1972), editor of the theology journal Stimmen der Zeit, had developed an interest in Newman as early as the 1920s and had encouraged Edith Stein (now St Teresa-Benedicta of the Cross) to translate Newman's pre-conversion letters and his Idea of a University into German.

The cultural critic Theodor Haecker, who had converted to Catholicism in 1921, had also translated works of Newman into German and is one of those specifically cited by Ratzinger as a popular author for seminarians of his time.

Haecker is also credited with introducing Sophie Scholl, martyr of the White Rose movement, and others in her circle to the works of Newman. During the Advent of 1943, Haecker quoted from his translation of Newman's Advent sermon on the Antichrist (Tract 83) to members of the anti-Nazi student group.

We were made for Love

I ask each of you…to look into your own heart. Think of all the love that your heart was made to receive, and all the love it is meant to give. After all, we were made for love. This is what the Bible means when it says that we are made in the image and likeness of God: we were made to know the God of love, the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to find our supreme fulfillment in that divine love that knows no beginning or end.--Pope Benedict XVI

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rights-in-relation: need for an anthropology (from The Economy Project)

I am taking the liberty of sharing a short post by Stratford Caldecott from his excellent site The Economy Project.  Enjoy.

Rights-in-relation: need for an anthropology

Cardinal Angelo Scola, speaking in Venice recently, discussed the phenomenon of the expansion of the notion of 'rights' in the context of modern political discourse without any agreed philosophy underpinning them.
We are faced with a paradox: a hitherto unprecedented circulation and expansion of rights in tandem with a degree of vagueness about their content... Looked at from one side, any catalogue of rights has formidable economic and social implications, but in truth it is itself the product of a certain view of man which is always I-in-relation. To recover the true face of rights it is indispensable to engage with their anthropological and social dimensions: an objective on which the various sciences and disciplines converge, each with its own specificity but in a perspective which increasingly requires a transdisciplinary dimension.
It seems to me that the Cardinal is getting at the following. Human rights can only be based on (a) the inherent or intrinsic value of the person, existing in relation to God, cosmos, environment, and fellow human beings, and (b) the actual needs (rather than wants) of that person in that situation if he is not just to survive but to flourish. This requires that we know at least roughly what a human being is and what causes him to flourish - in other words, we need an adequate anthropology. Without that, we are whistling in the dark.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Through Christ and in Christ

Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from His Gospel, they overwhelm us. Christ has risen, destroying death by His death; He has lavished life upon us so that, as sons in the Son, we can cry out in the Spirit; Abba, Father.--Gaudium Et Spes (22)

Tracey Rowland--Seeking a Christocentric Culture

Winston Elliott, Tracey Rowland, Barbara Elliott
Last evening I had the opportunity to listen to a masterful presentation by Tracey Rowland on culture and the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. She is Dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies in Melbourne, Australia. She is also a member of the editorial board of Communio:  International Catholic Review, North America Edition.  Tracey has focused her scholarship on the interpretation of Vatican II and the theology of culture. She is the author of several books that I highly recommend: Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II, Ratzinger's Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI and Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed.

Dr. Rowland's work, along with that of David Schindler, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Pope Benedict XVI, provides us with the theological and anthropological understanding necessary to transform our culture so as to reflect the perfect love of the perfect community, the Holy Trinity. Thank you Tracey.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Novena to Our Lady of Walsingham

Devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham is always centered on the Mystery of the Annunciation. It was at the Annunciation that Our Lady accepted God's invitation to be the Mother of God, the Theotokos. She gave herself over to God's will and conceived by the Holy Spirit. By this same Holy Spirit Mary always leads us to Jesus, and her prayers help us say "yes" to God's will in our lives even as she did at the Annunciation.

¶ The Veni Creator Spiritus may precede the Novena devotions.

Veni Creator Spiritus
O come, Creator Spirit, come
And make within our souls thy home;
Supply thy grace and heav'nly aid
To fill the hearts which thou hast made.
O Gift of God, most high, thy name
Is Comforter; whom we acclaim
The fount of life, the fire of love,
The soul's anointing from above.
The sev'nfold gift of grace is thine,
Thou finger of the hand divine;
The Father's promise true, to teach
Our earthly tongues thy heav'nly speech.
Thy light to every sense impart;
Pour forth thy love in every heart;
Our weakened flesh do thou restore
To strength and courage evermore.
Drive far away our spirit's foe,
Thine own abiding peace bestow;
If thou dost go before as guide,
No evil can our steps betide.
Through thee may we the Father learn,
And know the Son, and thee discern,
Who art of both; and thus adore
In perfect faith for evermore. Amen.
X In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.

Cardinal Mercier's Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Written by him from the Holy Ghost Chapel in the Slipper Chapel
Walsingham, England
Holy Spirit, soul of my soul I adore you; enlighten, guide, strengthen and console me; tell me what I ought to do and command me to do it. I promise to be submissive in every-thing that you ask of me and to accept all that you permit to happen to me, only show me what is your will. Amen.
Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory be...

Ancient Walsingham Prayer
O alone of all women, Mother and Virgin, Mother most happy, Virgin most pure, now we sinful as we are, come to see thee who are all pure, we salute thee, we honour thee as how we may with our humble offerings; may thy Son grant us, that imitating thy most holy manners, we also, by the grace of the Holy Ghost may deserve spiritually to conceive the Lord Jesus in our inmost soul, and once conceived never to lose him. Amen.
¶ The Litany of Our Lady of Walsingham follows.
Litany of Our Lady of Walsingham

Mary, without sin,
Mary, God's Mother,
Mary the Virgin,
Mary taken to Heaven,

Mary at Bethlehem,
Mary at Nazareth,
Mary at Cana,

Mary at the cross,
Mary in the Upper Room,
Mary model of Womanhood,

Woman of Faith,
Woman of Hope,
Woman of Charity,
Woman of suffering,
Woman of anxiety,
Woman of humility,
Woman of poverty,
Woman of purity,
Woman of obedience,

Woman who wondered,
Woman who listened,
Woman who followed Him,
Woman who longed for Him,
Woman who loves Him,

Mother of God,
Mother of Men,
Mother of the Church,
Mother of the World,
Mother we need,

Mother of the Unborn,

Mother who went on believing,
Mother who never lost hope,
Mother who loved to the end,
Pray to the Lord for us

Pray for all mothers.
Pray for all families.
Pray for all married couples.

Pray for all who suffer.
Pray for all who wait.
Pray for all women.

Remember us.

Remember us to God.

Be our Mother always

Pray for all children

We thank God for you.
Let us Pray.
All Holy and ever-living God, in giving us Jesus Christ to be our Saviour and Brother, You gave us Mary, His Mother, to be our Mother also; grant us, we pray you, to live lives worthy of so great a Brother and so dear a Mother, that we may come at last to you the Father of us all, Who lives and reigns for ever. Amen.
Our Lady of Walsingham, Pray for us.

Prayer to Our Lady of Walsingham
O blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Walsingham, Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother, look down in mercy upon us, our parish, our country, our homes, and our families, and upon all who greatly hope and trust in your prayers, (especially...) By you it was that Jesus, our Savior and hope, was given to the world; and he has given you to us that we may hope still more. Plead for us your children, whom you did receive and accept at the foot of the Cross, O sorrowful Mother. Intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold they may be united to the Chief Shepherd, the Vicar of your Son. Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith fruitful in good works we all may be made worthy to see and praise God, together with you in our heavenly home. Amen.
Our Lady of Walsingham, Pray for us.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Eyes on the prize--Romano Guardini & "The End of the Modern World"

Medieval man centered his faith in Revelation as it had been enshrined in Scripture, in that Revelation which affirmed the existence of a God Who holds His Being separate and beyond the world.--Romano Guardini
Guardini, in The End of the Modern World, reveals the depth of the Christian faith found in medieval Christianity. Do we Christians today center our faith in Revelation as it is enshrined in Scripture? Does our faith shape our lives? Does our faith shape how we spend our time, our talent, and our money? Or do the priorities of the world shape us?

It is a necessity of the Christocentric Life to keep our eyes on the prize. Looking neither to the left or to the right, we followers of Christ run the race to the end. Only then may we hear "well done, good and faithful servant."

"The doctrine of creation most decisively reveals the power of God, the Infinite Sovereign. The world was created out of nothing by the freedom of the Almighty. Whose commanding Word gives to all things being and nature; of itself that world lacks any trace of internal necessity or external possibility.

Christian Faith meant trust in and obedience to God's Revelation to man. It also meant that man must confront and answer His Call, which alone gives meaning to finite personality."

Monday, September 13, 2010

"One great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament"--J.R.R. Tolkien

“Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament . . . . [ellipses in original] There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends, life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained , or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires.” J.R.R. Tolkien to his son, Michael, dated 6-8 March 1941

From Brad Birzer's marvelous book, J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth.

"Threads" interview of David L. Schindler

David L. Schindler is Gagnon professor of fundamental theology at the John Paul II Institute for the Study of Marriage and the Family in Washington, D.C., and editor of the North American edition of Communio, the international theological review. A nationally recognized author, teacher and lecturer, his latest book is "Heart of the World, Center of the Church" (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Mich.). He spoke with "Threads" recently from his Washington office.

THREADS: How would you describe the central themes of 20th-century Catholic theology -- the main accomplishments and reversals over the last 100 years?

SCHINDLER: Let me begin by focusing on one theologian in particular, and then point out some of the themes that revolve around his work. The theologian is Henri de Lubac, and his life, interestingly enough, spanned most of the century: He was born at the turn of the century and died just five years ago. In a certain sense, De Lubac's work was part of all the major controversies from the late 1930s right up until the last decade or so of his life -- both the pre-Vatican II debates and the post-conciliar ones.

The basic theme of the 20th century -- and in a way, it's the theme of every century, but it has a particular urgency in our time -- is our sense of God in light of the problem of atheism. This finds its abstract formulation in the question of nature and grace, which was so controversial from the beginning of De Lubac's career up through the years following the council. The question has to do with the way in which relation to God becomes constitutive of the human being, such that life is fundamentally a drama, an engagement with God.

What De Lubac understood [most profoundly] was this problem of atheism; one of his best known books is "The Drama of Atheist Humanism." The battle before the Church, as she faces the culture in the 19th and 20th centuries, is the question of atheism. In the 19th century, you had an atheism of the style of Nietzsche. In the 20th century, at least in America and in Anglo-American liberal society, the problem of atheism takes the form of Jack Kevorkian or the philosopher Richard Rorty --

I'm curious why you'd pick De Lubac as pivotal, rather than Balthasar or Congar or some of the German theologians.

The quick answer is that, in a way, De Lubac was first. His work became the galvanizing point of debate. His book "The Supernatural," published in 1946, criticized what he saw as too much dualism in the modern Catholic tradition. In other words, he perceived that Catholic theology, by excessively separating the natural and supernatural orders, was actually colluding with a kind of naturalism in the culture. That's putting it abstractly. But the point for De Lubac is: Is the relationship to God constitutive for the human being, does it constitute his being, or doesn't it? Is God something accidental and abstract, or Someone the relation to whom goes very deep in the creature? De Lubac's work became the classical point of reference, and even though Balthasar may one day be seen as the great interpreter of the Second Vatican Council, the one whose writings most profoundly grasp the council's main themes, still the council itself was really shaped by the theology of De Lubac.

The aftermath of the council was marked by the divergence of "Concilium" and "Communio" theologians in interpreting what Vatican II actually intended. What was that split about?

In the opening phase of the council, theologians shared a common view that a certain kind of traditional Catholic theology had to be renewed. That had a lot to do with the sense of God and the relation of the natural and supernatural orders. But, as so often happens when you have a negative unity, a common enemy, you discover that once you're victorious, not much positive unity remains. So as the council went on, theologians seeking renewal bifurcated into one group that wanted to adapt as much as possible to modern culture, post-Enlightenment culture; and another group who insisted that, in order to achieve renewal, we had to go back to the sources and immerse ourselves in the tradition. As Charles Peguy said, one has to go to the bottom of the well to retrieve the freshest water.

This divergence continued into the years after the council and resulted in the creation, first, of a review called "Concilium" --

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

If you see charity, you see the Trinity

“If you see charity, you see the Trinity”, wrote Saint Augustine in De Trinitate. The Trinity is the perfect model of a community of love. A true community (communio) is where love received as a gift from our Creator is poured out in abundance to the broken and the needy. Doesn't this include most of us? Aren't many of us in need of a "Good Samaritan" who offers healing love to hearts that have grown cold?

In "Deus Caritas Est" Pope Benedict XVI writes that those who carry on true works of charity: "must not be inspired by ideologies aimed at improving the world, but should rather be guided by the faith which works through love (cf. Gal 5:6). Consequently, more than anything, they must be persons moved by Christ's love, persons whose hearts Christ has conquered with his love, awakening within them a love of neighbour. The criterion inspiring their activity should be Saint Paul's statement in the Second Letter to the Corinthians: “the love of Christ urges us on” (5:14). The consciousness that, in Christ, God has given himself for us, even unto death, must inspire us to live no longer for ourselves but for him, and, with him, for others. Whoever loves Christ loves the Church, and desires the Church to be increasingly the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ."

Government can provide social services, tax credits, assistance payments, "free" lunches and perhaps even contribute to the "general welfare." But, can it love? No. The national government should stop taking resources from some of us to give to others. This most often has a paralyzing effect on impulses toward true charity and reduces what we have to give.

In gratitude for the tremendous love that has been given to us Christians will share with the broken, the lost and the lonely. Why is it important that we share the love we have been given? As John Paul II wrote: "Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. why Christ the Redeemer 'fully reveals man to himself'".

Man remains the same in primitive conditions as in technologically developed societies

"Man qua man remains the same in primitive conditions as in technologically developed societies and does not advance to a higher level simply by the fact that he has learned to employ more highly developed tools. Human nature starts over from the beginning in every human being. Therefore there cannot be such a thing as a definitively new, advanced, and smooth-running society. Not only was this the hope of the grand ideologies, but it has been becoming more and more the general objective expected by all ever since hope in the hereafter was demolished. A definitively well-run society would presuppose the end of freedom. " -- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What is the object of human life?-Russell Kirk

What is the object of human life? The enlightened conservative does not believe that the end or aim of life is competition; or success; or enjoyment; or longevity; or power; or possessions. He believes instead, that the object of life is Love. He knows that the just and ordered society is that in which Love governs us, so far as Love ever can reign in this world of sorrows; and he knows that the anarchical or the tyrannical society is that in which Love lies corrupt. He has learnt that Love is the source of all being, and that Hell itself is ordained by Love. He understands that Death, when we have finished the part that was assigned to us, is the reward of Love. And he apprehends the truth that the greatest happiness ever granted to a man is the privilege of being happy in the hour of his death.

He has no intention of converting this human society of ours into an efficient machine for efficient machine-operators, dominated by master mechanics. Men are put into this world, he realizes, to struggle, to suffer, to contend against the evil that is in their neighbors and in themselves, and to aspire toward the triumph of Love. They are put into this world to live like men, and to die like men. He seeks to preserve a society which allows men to attain manhood, rather than keeping them within bonds of perpetual childhood. With Dante, he looks upward from this place of slime, this world of gorgons and chimeras, toward the light which gives Love to this poor earth and all the stars. And, with Burke, he knows that "they will never love where they ought to love, who do not hate where they ought to hate."--Russell Kirk

In the paragraphs above, from A Program for Conservatives, Dr. Kirk addresses conservatives. However, I believe he also describes the calling of the Christocentric Life. His words remind us of our pilgrim status in this world of tears. We are not called to material success. We are called to obedience. We are called to love. We are called to love He who is Love Himself. A society where a large number of Christians know and live this calling will be transformed. The True, the Good, and the Beautiful will find their true place in our culture only when many more of us are obedient to Love.

O my God, I love Thee above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because Thou art infinitely worthy of love; I love also my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee. Amen

Monday, January 4, 2010

Let this be the year

"...whoever desires greater action needs better contemplation; whoever wants to play a more formative role must pray and obey more profoundly; whoever wants to achieve additional goals must grasp the uselessness and futility, the uncalculating and incalculable (hence "unprofitable") nature of the eternal love in Christ, as well as of every love along the path of Christian discipleship. --Hans urs von Balthasar

It is the start of a new year, a new decade. Many of us have set goals, made resolutions and prepared action plans. We may want to write a book, read more, earn more, be on time. Perhaps with all of our self improvements and increased efficiency we can be more productive at work and at home.

Do we also have the desire to be disciples of Jesus? Von Balthasar urges us to live lives of greater contemplation so that our actions may further the Kingdom of God. As intentional disciples we know that living the life of eternal love may appear as foolishness to the world. However, our love is not calculated to please the world but is offered in gratitude to our Lord and for all of his children.
Whoever wants to command must have learned to follow in a Christ-like manner; whoever wants to administer the goods of the world must first have freed himself from all desire for possession; whoever wants to show the world Christian love must have practiced the love of Christ (even in marriage) to the point of pure selflessness.--von Balthasar
Here von Balthasar offers us a great challenge for to follow in a Christ-like (love immersed) manner may be to follow on to death. Do we trust the Lord (or anyone) enough to obey when everything we have may be demanded? Are we capable of freeing ourselves of all desire for possession? Only with the grace of God can we even conceive of why this may be desirable. Many of us may ask ourselves if we have ever felt a love so great that we would even consider this level of selflessness.

One might think that what our Lord asks is too much. Maybe to live the beatitudes is beyond human capability. Let's not be radical. After all, moderation in pursuit of supernatural virtue is no vice, is it?

Or perhaps for you this is not just the start of a new year or decade. Maybe now is the beginning of a new life in Christ. A life of radical love and radical commitment. Maybe this is the year when I love more than I have ever loved before. This could be the year when I live a life of gratitude and gift. Gratitude for the love of the Father and the sacrifice of his Son. Gratitude for the Holy Spirit who opens my eyes to the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

And this may be the beginning of my new life of sharing the love of the Lord with everyone I touch. Loving in a new way, with boldness and beauty. Maybe this is the beginning of loving without fear of rejection. Fear rejected and love embraced so that I am in communion with God and all his creation.

Yes Lord, please immerse me in your grace. Thank you Lord for your love. Thank you for your peace. Please Jesus help me to be more like you so that your light shines through me. I love You. Help me to love You more. Amen.

cross posted at "Intentional Disciples"