Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Hans Urs Von Balthasar on Our Unconditional Yes

When you say Yes to God unconditionally, you have no idea how far this Yes is going to take you.  Certainly farther than you can guess and calculate beforehand… but just how far and in what form? At the same time, this Yes is the sole, non-negotiable prerequisite of all Christian understanding, of all theology and ecclesial wisdom.  

                         Cardinal Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Question for Our Age: “Quo Vadis?”

The following comes from the Catholic World Report:


Secular liberalism is at odds with Catholicism. The point seemed obvious to most people until the postwar period, when the thought took hold that an essentially harmonious relationship could be established that would draw on the American model. America, it seemed, was different from Europe with its long tradition of statism and anti-clericalism. It rejected an established church, but embraced religious freedom, an active and diverse civil society, and a limited and decentralized government that did not try to dominate culture and gave the Church the protection and freedom she needed to thrive.

The attempt to establish a harmonious relation with the liberal state has been less fruitful than hoped, and even in America has run into profound difficulties. Our government and other authoritative institutions have become more centralized and more concerned with remodeling all aspects of life, including the beliefs and attitudes of the people. We are becoming more like Europe, and to make matters worse the outlook of the governing classes on both sides of the Atlantic has moved in a direction radically opposed to both religion and natural law. Throughout the Western world, Catholics and Catholic institutions are increasingly required to conform to anti-Catholic norms, and in much of it you can be punished as a criminal for public assertion of Catholic moral doctrine.

The intolerance is aimed less at Catholicism in particular, although the Church is a highly-visible target, than any form of Christianity that does not reduce without remainder to progressive politics and private therapy. We are increasingly ruled by practical utopians who believe themselves comprehensively responsible for human relations, and their efforts leave no place for an independent and refractory organization like the Church that proposes a contrary vision that now counts as intrinsically antisocial and oppressive.

So where will the present situation lead if—as seems quite possible—our secular authorities continue on their present course? Will the blood of the martyrs once again be the seed of the Church, or will multiplying restrictions and disabilities wear down Catholic life until the Church all but disappears?

Many societies have been anti-Catholic. How effective their anti-Catholicism has been has depended on the nature of the society and its guiding principles. Roman society, for example, had nothing to propose that could fill the needs Christianity satisfied, and the Roman empire was more loosely organized and its activities more limited than modern states. As a result, Roman persecutions, however savage they might be, were mostly local, sporadic, and ineffectual. By the time the Romans saw a need for comprehensive enforcement of religious loyalty the Christians were too strong and the empire too divided for the policy to be effective.

Some of the Church’s more recent opponents have been more organized, focused, steady, and successful. The Muslims eliminated Catholicism from North Africa, the home of Cyprian and Augustine, and the Protestants did much the same over large stretches of Europe. They were able to do so because the governments they established had more comprehensive concerns than the Roman government did, they took the issue of religious unity more seriously, and they stood for principles that had the broad-based appeal and staying power needed to establish themselves at least somewhat durably among the people.

In the last century the most severe attacks were carried on by secular systems that functioned as religions but excluded transcendent truth and authority. The attacks were organized and focused to the point of fanaticism, and they often led to widespread martyrdom of clergy and ordinary believers, as with the radically anticlerical regimes in Mexico and Spain and the totalitarian regimes that ruled Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and their respective empires.

Those attacks were not enduringly effective because the regimes carrying them on were too much at odds with human nature and with the societies they dominated for their vision to endure. Thus, for example, religious belief has bounced back in Russia, and Christianity is making unprecedented advances in China. Both countries had been searching for some sort of guiding principle, and when communism failed Christianity stepped into the gap. (In regions like East Germany and the Czech Republic, where communism was imposed from outside on a society in which religion was already weak, Soviet domination does seem to have accelerated the loss of faith.)

It appears, then, that as a human matter suppression of Catholicism is likely to work if the system that carries it on endures, takes the effort seriously, and offers a reasonably appealing way of life that provides somewhat of a substitute for what is suppressed.

So what does that mean in the case of secular liberalism, assuming it remains as ideological a system as it now seems? It has been enormously successful as a practical matter, and the way of life it offers evidently appeals to a great many people. Further, its opposition to Catholicism has become much more serious and active during the post-60s period. The result is that it has been very successful in changing religious views and weakening Church authority among the laity and even among many clergy and religious.

Given all that, the obvious question as to the future of Catholicism in the West, humanly speaking, is how much staying power secular liberalism will have, and whether it will maintain its appeal to ordinary people. Luckily for Catholics (and for humanity in general), those requirements bring weak points of the liberal system into focus. Secular liberalism makes maximum equal satisfaction its highest good. That principle is what gives it popular appeal, but it means ever-greater demands on public resources, since people require more and more to be satisfied, and it also means ever-less discipline, loyalty, and public spirit to support the system, since it undermines ideals of love and sacrifice.

Secular liberalism lacks a grounded principle of authority, and its aspiration to universal satisfaction makes it adverse to widespread use of threats and force. As a result, its basic method for maintaining control is a system of payoffs, propaganda, and ever-more comprehensive regulation. That method has mostly been rather successful. Material benefits have been funded through the extraordinary productivity of capitalist economies in a technological age, propaganda facilitated by alliance with the mass media and the expertise and training industry (otherwise known as the educational system), and regulation made effective by a comparatively high degree of bureaucratic discipline and efficiency.

None of those resources are infinite or everlasting. Organizational discipline and efficiency don’t sit well with an emphasis on equal satisfaction, so they are unlikely to be maintained. Also, it is becoming harder and harder to fund public programs or provide individuals with satisfactory employment, so much so that public finance has been reduced to an endless series of short-term expedients that everyone knows cannot go on forever. When the money runs out, people start feeling real economic pressure, and the government is unable and seems unwilling to do anything for them, will they keep on believing what they are told? Why should they, when the basis of what they have been told is that they have a right to get what they want?

So it seems that during the coming decades it will be increasingly difficult for secular liberalism to maintain itself among the people as a minimally satisfying system of practice and belief. Still, historical change is generally slow, and liberalism has been very effective at weakening its competitors, so it is likely to be with us in an ever-less appealing and successful form for some time to come. The best analogy to the period we may have before us is therefore the Brezhnev era in the Soviet Union. Catholics can expect any number of petty restraints and stupid oppressions, but no terror, and less and less real belief in the official system. As a result, we can very likely expect a fertile field for Christian witness and for the growth of new forms of Christian life and revival of very old ones.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Chris Stefanick: The Rock of St. Peter

Friday, February 15, 2019

Prayer to the Holy Spirit


This is a beautiful prayer to the Holy Spirit that I found at In God's Company 2. It comes from Fr. Jozo of Medjugorje:

Fr. Jozo's Prayer to the Holy Spirit in Siroki Brijeg October 3, 2000


Come, O Most Holy Spirit, come to us today. We need your love, because we desire to go on the new way to return to the Father, to take the step to the Father. O Come, Holy Spirit, You who makes all things new. Today grant a miracle in us and through us. Change our hearts. Take from us our hearts of stone and give us a new heart, a heart that knows how to love, how to pray, how to forgive. A heart that knows how to embrace the cross and recognize the will of God and carry it to the end. Come, O Most Holy Spirit, You who are our peace, come fill us with peace. You who are love, fill us with love and blessing and salvation. We are not here accidentally. We have been called, that we may be able to recognize our call and our mission. We ask You to come O Most Holy Spirit, that our masks may melt away, that our true face may be revealed before You. Come, O Most Holy Spirit, may a miracle happen today: the beginning of our conversion, the beginning of our true devotion. Come, O Most Holy Spirit pour out Your grace and Your strength on Your Church and convert us. Sanctify us. Change us. Come, O Most Holy Spirit, we are the Church united together in prayer with the Mother. As the disciples at the very beginning, united together with Her in prayer for the gift of Your Spirit, for the gift of love, that we may be freed from selfishness and hatred, that we may be freed from every evil, and that we may start to love, that we may start to forgive and to pray, that we may start to fast. Come, O Most Holy Spirit. Come bless us. Come, change us. You who are prayer, come and anoint us with prayer that we may become the Church that believes in the power of prayer. Come, Most Holy Spirit, renew prayer in us, that we may become the renewers of family prayer.Come, O Most Holy Spirit, come heal us, come bless us, come convert us. O You who anoints with Your Peace, with Your Joy, with Your Love. Come anoint us.


In the last message O Blessed Mother, You say, that the one who prays, lives joy and peace and love. O Blessed Mother, here is the Church in prayer, here is the Church who desires to renew itself in prayer, firm in prayer, come to fall in love with prayer. O grant that these days may be the renewal of our prayer, of our faith through prayer, of our love through prayer, of a Christian life in prayer. Come, O Most Holy Spirit. Come, pour Yourself out upon us. The Church united together with the Mother is praying to you, You who make all things new. Grant that this Church may become new. It may become a Church of prayer, a holy Church, a sign amongst nations, your city on the hillside, your light on the way, Your Self. Come, O Most Holy Spirit. Come and pour Yourself out upon us. Our Father who art in Heaven....Hail Mary, full of grace...Mother and Queen of Peace - pray for us. Mother of the Church - pray for us. Mother and Queen of the family - pray for us. Consolation of the Sorrowful - pray for us, help of Christians - pray for us, help of the sick - pray for us, gate of heaven - pray for us. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

How to Hear God Speaking to You

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The following comes from Fr. Healy at the Catholic Exchange:

Many people never listen to God because they are not aware that He speaks to them. Yet, God does speak. One way to live in His presence is to acquire the habit of recognizing His voice when He speaks. If we do not know that God wishes to communicate with us, or the ways He has chosen, then our passage through life will be devoid of the most perfect of guides.

When does God speak to us? He speaks at all times, especially in prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God. But it is not a monologue. When we pray, then, we should also listen, because a good conversationalist is also a good listener. We do not pray well when we recite ready-made formulas quickly and distractedly. We act as if God has only to listen to us, and that we have no need to listen to the thoughts and desires that He wishes to communicate to us. He has promised, “If thou wilt hear the voice of the Lord thy God, and do what is right before Him, and obey His commandments, and keep all His precepts, none of the evils that I laid upon Egypt will I bring upon thee.”
Unfortunately, many of us have never trained ourselves to listen to His voice. But, if we are to know God’s will, we must listen to Him and obey Him when we recognize His commandments.
But how does God speak to us? God is a pure spirit. Unlike man, He has no voice. If He wishes to speak to us, He must use some means outside of Himself, adapted to our nature, by which He can communicate ideas. He may use things we can see and hear in order to stir our imagination, or He may enter directly into our thoughts.

God speaks to you personally

Does God, then, speak to man? How can we ever doubt it? How foolish it is to read all types of books and neglect the word of God! The Scriptures were not meant only for particular groups of people; they were meant for all men at all times. God is eternal; His words are eternal. Although He speaks to all men, He speaks to us personally.
This does not mean that every person should take the Bible and interpret it according to his own fancy. No, the Church alone is the divinely appointed authority to guide us in the correct interpretation  of the Bible. The Church encourages us to read it, because she knows that the word of God can enter into our minds and that God, in His own mysterious way, can teach the true way of life, the way of love and intimate union with Him.
St. Ignatius of Loyola felt that God was speaking directly to him, when, on his sick bed, he read the words:
“For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?”
But, we ask, is this prayer? It is at least the beginning of prayer. We listen to these words of Christ; we ponder over them; they awaken thoughts and desires within us. We begin to believe, to hope, to love. Our will becomes inspired, and we break forth in ardent affections, calling on Christ to help us, begging forgiveness, expressing gratitude, performing little acts of adoration — and surely this is prayer.
We often read of visions, apparitions, and revelations in which God spoke to the saints. St. Paul on the road to Damascus is a classic example. And we read in the life of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque that, while she was engaged in prayer, Jesus often spoke to her of the devotion to His Sacred Heart.
Such conversations with God are not rare in the lives of the canonized. But must we in our conversation with God await the appearance of Jesus, of some heavenly voice or extraordinary apparition, some heavenly manifestation from God? Absolutely not. It is true that God does single out some chosen souls to whom He speaks directly and who actually experience the divine power working in them, but these are very few; it is not the way that God ordinarily uses. We should not even desire that God speak to us in this extraordinary manner. We should not expect it. Visions and revelations are not necessary for us to grow in deep love for God. We may fall deeply in love with Him and practice faithfully the presence of God, yet never receive any extraordinary manifestations from Him. These are special gifts, and God gives them to whom He wills, and when He wills.

God speaks to your mind and to your heart

Nevertheless, God does speak to all of us without exception in a more direct way than we have yet mentioned. It is a hidden way, by which He enters directly into our thoughts and desires. Our most hidden secrets are not secrets to Him. He comes right into our mind. Our thoughts are not only our thoughts; our desires are not only our desires — they may also be God’s thoughts and desires. We know we can do nothing without God. Even such ordinary things as eating, breathing, and walking cannot be done without the ordinary help that God gives us. But, in this instance, we are presupposing this natural help of God and are referring to a greater and more noble assistance from Him.
Does God help us in a special way to think good thoughts and to desire holy things? He most assuredly does. For we are living in a supernatural order and destined to a supernatural end, the Beatific Vision. To attain this end, God not only gives us the principle of supernatural life, sanctifying grace, but He also gives us actual graces that help us to perform supernatural actions and thus to grow in the grace of God. These actual graces are, especially, the holy thoughts and desires that God creates in us.
God does not have to use external words and signs to attract our attention  and convey ideas to us. He enters our minds directly. He speaks secretly, noiselessly, as befits the Divinity. It is only by faith that we know He is working in us. For example, God once spoke in a special, hidden way to St. Peter, who then confessed Jesus to be the Son of God. “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona,” said our Lord. “For flesh and blood hath not revealed this to thee, but my Father in Heaven.”
St. John tells us that we will know all things from the Holy Spirit: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.”St. Paul says that God enters our very thoughts: “Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.”
God also enters our hearts and inspires us to holy desires. “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening; and the Lord touched her heart to give heed to what was being said by Paul.”
Thus, the Scriptures and the Church tell us that God speaks to us in the silence of our minds and hearts. He speaks to all men, but all men do not hear Him. God speaks to our mind and heart when we kneel to meditate or to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament. He enters our mind when the passing things of time excite our thoughts. It is He who gives us holy thoughts to conquer our temptations. It is He who stirs up within us the desire to persevere against all adversaries.
Perhaps we have never realized that God is illuminating our intellect and inspiring our will. Yet He does just that. That is why we are told not to do all the talking in prayer. For, if we continually recite vocal prayers without pausing now and then to think, we will stifle the thoughts and desires that God wishes to excite in us.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux tells us how she listened to the voice of God. “I know and have experienced that ‘the Kingdom of God is within us,’ that our Master has no need of books or teacher to instruct a soul. The Teacher of teachers instructs without sound of words, and though I have never heard Him speak, yet I know He is within me, always guiding and inspiring me; and just when I need them, lights, hitherto unseen, break in upon me. As a rule, it is not during prayer that this happens, but in the midst of my daily duties.”
But we are not only to listen; it would be folly to remain in a state of mental blankness, waiting for God to speak. No, prayer is a loving conversation, and, when the Holy Spirit moves us, it is time to begin our part of the colloquy.
One way, then, to practice the exercise of the presence of God is to listen to God, to be aware that He speaks to us, to be ever conscious that God can use all things to communicate with us.
The was excreted from Fr. Healy’s Awakening Your Soul to the Presence of God, which is now available from Sophia Institute Press. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Tim Staples on Defending Your Faith