dimanche, janvier 21, 2007

Week of prayer for Chirstian unity

Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia !
Ubi caritas, Deus ibi est !
We pray during this week for the unity of all Christians, this, being a most desirable goal of Holy Mother Church. From the very beginning, the Church of Jesus Christ has been weaken by the threat of division. The Apostles themselves had to face the first rebellions within the Church. We know from Saint John that Our Lord has a great concern for the unity of his disciples. During the Last Supper, he opened His Heart to His Father and His disciples: "Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou has given me; that they may be one, as we also are."

Unam Ecclesiam! One Church! There is only one Church founded by Jesus Christ according to the teaching of Saint Paul to the Ephesians: "One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism." This is from the epistle for the votive Mass for the unity of the Church.

We know and we confess, in our Creed, that the Church is one. But what is the unity of the Church? If we consider the word ‘unity’ in its concrete meaning, that there is only one Church, and if we consider the unity according to its abstract meaning, it signifies that the Church is an organic entity which makes an indivisible whole. Its nature would change if we could suppress one of the parts of which She is composed. In other words, Our Lord founded His Church 2000 years ago and He has endowed Her with substantial elements which cannot be removed by any human authority. They are essential parts of the Church which allow us to know precisely which Church is the One founded by Jesus. If one Church lacks of one or more of these elements, we can know with certitude that it is not the true Church.

You already know the four traditional marks which permit us to recognize the Church of Jesus Christ: Unity, Apostolicity, Sanctity and Catholicity. Many books do a very good job of explaining the four marks very well and you can study this in our Apologetic class.

Now, I would like to focus on another mark of the Church, which can be really a part of Her definition. We can take this mark from Saint Therese of Lisieux who is now a Doctor of the Church. Her teaching is certainly not a systematic one as it that of Saint Thomas Aquinas or Saint Bonaventure or any other great theologian, but there is, unmistakably, a deep penetrating gaze on the Church that we can share with her. With Saint Therese of Lisieux, we can include in the definition of the Church the element of charity. Charity would be the created soul of the Church and her interior spirit which invigorates her.

Taking the thought of Saint Therese, the theologians make it clear. It is the Charity of Our Lord Jesus Christ which focuses on the cult inaugurated by Him and continued by the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the dispensation of the Sacraments and enlightened by the voice of Jesus and of His Vicar on earth. With Charles Cardinal Journet, we can summarize and say that the soul of the Church is Charity as it is sacramental or in relation to the cult. If you like the Aristotelian vocabulary, we can say that Charity is the formal cause of the Church, the other causes being the community of the faithful for the material cause, the Holy Ghost for the efficient cause and eternal life for final cause.

Of course we can argue about this definition of the Church. As such, it is not perfect. Some would say that this definition doesn’t take into consideration Faith which is nevertheless an essential part of the reality of the Church. We can answer that Faith is implicitly included with the “community of the faithful”. And a definition is just the expression in human language of a reality. The same reality can have many definitions, each one shedding a light on a particular side of the matter.

If we accept this definition of Charity as the soul of the Church and if we accept the principle of unity given above, that means that there is no Church without Charity. In fact, we can also say that Charity is included in the theological mark of holiness.

At this point, there is another difficulty. What about the sinners who have lost Charity? We know that a mortal sin doesn’t exclude a sinner from the Church, except by sins against the unity of the Church: apostasy, heresy or schism. The fact is that it is not necessary to have Charity in order to be a member of the Church. Saint Robert Bellarmine is right when he says that “the Church is the community of the faithful united by the profession of the true Christian Faith and the communion of the same Sacraments, under the government of the legitimate pastors, especially the only Vicar of Christ on earth, the Roman Pontiff.” We must hold this definition in order to refute the Protestant theses of the invisible Church. The purpose of Saint Robert Bellarmine was to give a definition of the Church which makes her as visible as “the Kingdom of France or the Republic of Venice” are.

We have here the definition of the Church given by Robert Bellarmine the theologian. There would be another definition of the Church lived by Robert Bellarmine the Saint. Those two definitions don’t oppose each other, but the second one is more a matter of the heart. It is more crucial that we actually practice it in our lives than to be described in books. In fact you have to be a Saint to write it in a book. Saint Therese of Lisieux did it:

Considering the mystical Body of the Church, I couldn’t recognize myself in any members described by Saint Paul, or rather I wanted to recognize myself in all. I understood that if the Church had a body composed of different members, the most necessary, the noblest of all couldn’t miss her. I understood that the Church has a Heart and that this heart is burning of Love. I understood that only Love makes the members of the Church act. If this Love comes to die, the Apostles will not announce the Gospel, the Martyrs will refuse to shed their blood. I understood that Love includes all the vocations, that Love was everything and embraces all the times and all the places, in one word that Love is eternal. Then in the excess of my delirious joy I cried out: O Jesus, my Love: my vocation, at last I have found it...My vocation is Love! Yes I found my place in the Church, and you gave me this place, O my God; in the Heart of the Church my Mother, I will be Love. Then I will be all and my dream will be achieved."

Dear Brethren, we pray during this week – and I hope not only during this week – for the unity of the Church, so that the members of all the other Churches will return into the only Church of Jesus-Christ which is the Catholic Church. But don’t forget also the members of the Church who have lost Charity. They need it and they will regain Charity through the intercession of the Saints. They are still members of the Mystical Body and can benefit from the Charity of the members in state of grace. Let us pray for ourselves so that our Charity may be greatly improved and we can be signs of the Love of God in the world.
May Our Blessed Mother grant us the grace to share her love with all the Saints, united around Our Lord Jesus Christ principle and end of all Love.

jeudi, janvier 18, 2007

dimanche, janvier 14, 2007

When the Saints go marching!

Bravo !

Domino servientes!

Saint Catherine of Siena dictating The Dialogue

Domino servientes! Serving the Lord!

Saint Paul summarizes the entire gospel and Christian life in two words: Domino servientes! We serve the Lord! We serve the Lord and there is nothing less to do in this life, nor nothing more. It is our duty and it is our honor. It is our cross and it is our joy. The Saints have spent their lives serving Him with their whole heart. And they had great heart with the measure of love infused by God. Speaking to ‘Philothea’, who is every soul desiring to serve the Lord, Saint Francis de Sales says: “ Bear in mind, that it is certain that the heart of our dear Jesus saw yours from the tree of the Cross and loved it; and by this love obtained for it all the good things that you have ever had or will ever have.

Here is the secret of our Christian life: a communication from heart to heart between ourselves and Jesus. In itself, it seems easy. It is a matter of love, which is something that comes natural to us. But the problem is that we don’t love as we should. Our love can fix on the wrong object or be in wrong proportion; it can be inordinate. A disorder can appear in our love, which prevents us from loving as Jesus Christ loves. Our love can be with dissimulation, which Saint Paul identifies in today’s epistle.

We need to be purified so that the perfect love can bloom in our souls. We have to go through the three conversions described by the spiritual authors. These conversions will lead us from the purgative way to the pure union with God. It will conduct us to the most perfect state of love. And purification is most necessary. It is necessary now or later in purgatory, because we have to be perfect in order to see God. Our love is still a “mercenary love” as Saint Catherine of Siena would say. “The imperfect soul, who still loves God of a mercenary love must do what Peter did after he denied Christ.

Peter was still a mercenary when he denied Jesus. A mercenary works for himself but doesn’t serve a cause with his whole heart. He needed to be purified and that happened right after his fall: “And the Lord turning looked on Peter.” Peter was purified by the look of Jesus, which was his true conversion. “And Peter going out, wept bitterly.” As for Mary Magdelene, many sins are forgiven him, because he has loved much.

What should be the motive of our conversion? Father Garrigou-Lagrange answers that this motive is expressed by the supreme precept which has no limits: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind: and thy neighbor as thyself.” And Father Garrigou-Lagrange adds: “This precept asks for the love of God itself. It is not for our interest or our personal satisfaction. It says that we must love with all our strength, when the time of trial comes to us, so that we can love Him with all our mind when we will be fixed above the variations of sensibility and when we will become worshipers in truth and spirit.

The object and the principle of charity is God. And because of our human nature which requires signs in order to understand, God became a man, the greatest sign of his love for us. Now Jesus Christ looks at us, as he did with Peter. At Cana, He performed his first miracle. It was during a weeding, the sign of the union between the Divine and human natures. Our Lady was there. She is now here with us, praying for that we can face the look of Jesus and open our hearts to his love. Only when we do this, we will be true servants of the Lord. May our blessed Mother obtain this grace for us.

dimanche, janvier 07, 2007

Holy Family

As you know, the family is in serious danger in modern society. Family is the cornerstone of the foundation of any society because of a predisposition in the natural order desired by the Creator. Destroying family is consequently destroying society. On a practical level, almost nobody would blatantly attack the idea of family. It is a value shared by the great majority of humanity. Openly attacking the concept of family would be a great strategic error because it is repugnant to our nature. And it would create a strong public reaction, which is not good if one wants to win the elections. So, the concept of family is certainly not directly attacked, but family in its concrete reality is seriously threatened. Beyond the family, it is in fact the natural order established by God which is locked on the crosshairs. Once again, we are in the middle of the great battle between God and His old enemy: Satan.

This battle began a long time ago with the first domestic scene, which probably issued immediately after the original sin. The reaction of Adam when he tried to justify himself, makes me certain on this point: The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree. I will let you imagine the rest of the scenario. Married people probably know better than I do what this is all about. Then, you know the story. Cain killed Abel and this was the first fratricide of History. Men are so ingenious at finding different ways to harm each other, even within the same family. The root is undeniably pride. God always asks us as He did Cain: “Where is your brother?” And most of the time we have no other answers than: “ I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper? ” We don’t know where our brother is because pride causes us to be concerned only for ourselves. Is not pride the preferred vice of Satan?

With the spread of sin throughout the world, the original beauty of the Creation dissolved. Even matrimony, one of the greatest institution desired by God from the very beginning for humanity had lost its primitive radiance. Moses gave a dispensation to the Jews that allowed them to repudiate their wives. Jesus would explain the reason later: “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” What a terrible statement, dear brethren! Because of the hardness of heart, God in a certain way had to change his plans. We can be glad that God is extremely patient towards us, but let it not be a pretext for us to leave our heart hardened and not try to make our hearts sweet. Hardness of heart can touch every one of us.

God’s patience and tenderness for us is now revealed by the Incarnation. We have had the occasion to meditate during the last two weeks on the love of God which shows itself in the person of the Baby Jesus.

And the Incarnation took place within a family. God has chosen a woman to be His mother. And since this woman was married to a man, this one was chosen to be the Father of Jesus. Saint Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, but he was a true father. Saint Joseph and his mission belong to the order of the Incarnation, which makes him different of any of the other saints, the same is true for Our lady, of course. God has a great concern for family. We should have the same concern.

I would say that in a certain way God Himself is a family. There is the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, three distinct Persons. Since we have been created in the image of God, it is not surprising that our natural community of life is a family. Every family is a representation of the Holy Trinity on earth. For that reason, the attacks against family are attacks against God. The Catholic Church raises her voice in order to defend and protect family. For us, it is our duty and our honor to be Her knights in this battle.

Yes dear Brethren, we have to fight. We have to fight a battle for love, truth, beauty and purity. Our weapons are our intelligences and our wills. We must know what is good for families, which presupposes that we have read the teaching of the Church on the matter of familial politic and then apply this doctrine on a practical level. And we have to love. Love! It doesn’t need words but only requires actions. Acts like the Incarnation and the Passion. Love begins first in families, at home. If you are not able to love each other at home, then, I am afraid that all the rest is an illusion and in vain. I don’t need to remind you of the words of Saint Paul. You already know them. Charity is patient, is kind: charity envies not, deals not perversely; is not puffed up; Is not ambitious, seeks not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinks no evil; Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices with the truth; Bears all things, believeth all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Charity never falls away!

May Our Lady help us to examine ourselves so that we may know the truth and find out if we are not patient or kind. May she help us to discover what truly are our thoughts and if there be any hint of anger or iniquity in them. May she help us to open the eyes of our souls and finally our hearts, so that we can be full of charity and full of God.

mardi, janvier 02, 2007

Laicite et religion ( seconde partie )

lundi, janvier 01, 2007

Midnight Mass (Octave Day of the Nativity)

Today’s liturgy shows again the humanity of Our Savior. The introit is the same as for Christmas: Puer natus est: a Child is born to us. This child is submitted to the mosaic Law, as every other Jewish infant. On the eighth day, He must be circumcised. His human nature is not an appearance but a reality. This is very important. We share the same nature with Jesus who is the new Adam. As Saint Leo the Great explains, “if the divinity of the Word did not accept our nature in the unity of His person, there would not be regeneration in the water of Baptism, nor Redemption in the blood of the Passion. But since we admit nothing to be false in the Sacrament of the Incarnation of Christ, we do not believe in vain that we are dead with the One who dies and resurrected with the One who rises from the dead; He who dwells in us and who, being God, lives with the Father and the Son for ever and ever.”

The Baby Jesus is also God. God and man, He is our Savior. This fact is signified by His Holy name: Jesus. This Holy name expresses in human language the mystery of the Incarnation, as much as a mystery can be expressed.

So dear Brethren, instead of a long sermon, I would like just to encourage you to meditate on the Holy name of Jesus and on the mystery of the Incarnation. There are so many things to discover about it that human words cannot express but that a soul can enjoy.

May Our Lord Jesus Christ take possession of our souls for His glory and for our greatest happiness. His Mother will help us to accept Him in our lives and to remain with Him forever.

Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity

Dom Paul Delatte, in unison with the entire tradition of the Church, says that when “God created the world, He was thinking of His only Son, the One of whom it would once be said: ‘Ecce homo’. He was thinking toward the alliance He would make with nature which was the fruit of his hands and was so beautiful.” It was indeed a beautiful creation, but, you already know the story too well. Creation, especially human nature, did not remain long in this beautiful condition. Nevertheless God didn’t want to let us the last word.

Sin has turned us into slaves. God would come to restore us and to save us. How? The answer is right there, in the crèche. A little Baby! He is “beautiful above the sons of men and grace is poured abroad in His lips”, as Psalm 44 says. And the prophet Simeon says that “He is light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” But this is not all. He also will be a sign of contradiction.

He is a sign of contradiction to the spirit of the world which seeks first its comforts and its well-being. What is wrong with this? Everybody likes comfort. There is nothing bad. Nothing bad? As long as you consider that is not a due and you enjoy it as a means, there is nothing bad, that’s true. But the fact is that pleasures call for more pleasures and if you don’t counterbalance your comfort with the spirit of mortification, you will easily slip toward dullness and laziness. There are the first steps before more serious sins. In the poverty of the manger, Jesus is already a sign of contradiction to the spirit of the world.

He is also a sign of contradiction to human reason. The Incarnation? How can our reason accept it? The Athenians was right when they told Saint Paul they would hear him again later. They were right if one keeps human reason enclosed in the small quiver which rationalists have relegated it to. The existence of a God-man contradicts all the pre-conceived ideas of reason. Then, if you add the fact that this God-man died on a cross, it is truly a stumbling block, and utter foolishness. Does every man on earth have to bow in front of the Baby of Bethlehem? In the nudity of His human nature, He was already a sign of contradiction to human reason.

Finally, He is a sign of contradiction to each one of us. He is a sign of contradiction because He reveals to us our true nature, still good and beautiful, but stained by sins. As long as we approach Jesus and let Him restore our nature by His grace, we can recover our original condition. Then we can truly be called children of God. As Saint Paul says in the epistle, we are no longer slaves but sons and consequently heirs. For this reason, we have to know God. Today’s epistle is from Galatians, chapter 4 verses 1 to 7. But the following verses are also interesting: "But then indeed, not knowing God, you served them, who, by nature, are not gods. But now, after you have known God, or rather are known by God: how turn you again to the weak and needy elements, which you desire to serve again? You observe days, and months, and times, and years. "

We have known God through His Son. This knowledge is precisely our sign of contradiction, because knowing Him, we return again and again to the slavery of sin. In a certain way, our sins are more grave than the sins of those who don’t know God. We don’t live under the Law, neither under the regime of nature but under the new regime of the grace. We are of the race of Jesus Christ, heirs with Him of the celestial good. But if we are not found just at the day of the visitation, our inheritance will be lost forever.

Now we have a choice. We can accept Jesus Christ and be united to Him by the link of charity, or we can reject Him and be contradicted by Him. And this choice comes at every moment of our lives. He is never definitive. In fact, it will be at the time of our death. But do you know when it will come? Because we cannot know, it is now that you have to make the good choice and to renew it every day, every hour, every minute of your life.

May Our Lady help us to make the good choice. We should always listen to her. We cannot find a better adviser.