CST on Marriage

“The family, in fact, is born of the intimate communion of life and love founded on the marriage between one man and one woman. It possesses its own specific and original social dimension, in that it is the principal place of interpersonal relationships, the first and vital cell of society. The family is a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order.” (no. 211, emphasis original)
“Society, and in particular State institutions, respecting the priority and ‘antecedence’ of the family, is called to guarantee and foster the genuine identity of family life and to avoid and fight all that alters or wounds it.” (no. 252, emphasis original)

(Source; from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church)

Fortnight for Freedom Begins

The USCCB is launching another Fortnight for Religious Freedom:

The U.S. bishops have called for a Fortnight for Freedom, a two-week period of prayer and action, to address many current challenges to religious liberty, including the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate, Supreme Court rulings that could attempt to redefine marriage in June, and religious liberty concerns in areas such as immigration and humanitarian services.

These are real issues that affect Christians of all stripes, people of conscience, the common good, our body politic, and indeed the salvation of souls. The Mandate in particular is set to crush conscience, something at which the current Administration is adept. Here’s more on why and how the HHS Mandate is a problem.

First thing to do is pray. If you’re looking for prayers, here’s one from the USCCB’s prayer resourced for the Fortnight:

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty
O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Something with a little more of an edge:

Hostium nostrorum, quaesumus, Domine, elide superbiam: et eorum contumaciam dexterae tuae virtute prosterne. Per Dominum.
Crush, O Lord, we beseech Thee, the pride of our enemies: and prostrate their arrogance by the might of Thy right hand. Through our Lord.

Finally, a piece I wrote in January that’s apropos as the Forthnight begins: “Bless Those Who Persecute You.”

St Boniface, Bishop and Martyr

Today is the feast day of St. Boniface, martyred 5 June 754 at Dokkum at the hands of my ancestors, the Frisians, dear to me as he is apostle to Frisia (Friesland) and the Germans and patron of Germany and brewers. The picture is a statue of him outside the Mainz Cathedral, where he was bishop; his body is buried in Fulda. A brief orientation from Butler’s Lives of the Saints (1894):

ST. BONIFACE was born at Crediton in Devonshire, England, in the year 680. Some missionaries staying at his father’s house spoke to him of heavenly things, and inspired him with a wish to devote himself, as they did, to God. He entered the monastery of Exminster, and was there trained for his apostolic work. His first attempt to convert the pagans in Holland having failed, he went to Rome to obtain the Pope’s blessing on his mission, and returned with authority to preach to the German tribes. It was a slow and dangerous task; his own life was in constant peril, while his flock was often reduced to abject poverty by the wandering robber bands. Yet his courage never flagged. He began with Bavaria and Thuringia, next visited Friesland, then passed on to Hesse and Saxony, everywhere destroying the idol temples and raising churches on their site. He endeavored, as far as possible, to make every object of idolatry contribute in some way to the glory of God; on one occasion, having cut down on immense oak which was consecrated to Jupiter, he used the tree in building a church, which he dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles. He was now recalled to Rome, consecrated Bishop by the Pope, and returned to extend and organize the rising German Church. With diligent care he reformed abuses among the existing clergy, and established religious houses throughout the land. At length, feeling his infirmities increase, and fearful of losing his martyr’s crown, Boniface appointed a successor to his monastery, and set out to convert a fresh pagan tribe. While St. Boniface was waiting to administer Confirmation to some newly-baptized Christians, a troop of pagans arrived, armed with swords and spears. His attendants would have opposed them, but the Saint said to his followers: “My children, cease your resistance; the long-expected day is come at last. Scripture forbids us to resist evil. Let us put our hope in God: He will save our souls.” Scarcely had he ceased speaking, when the barbarians fell upon him and slew him with all his attendants, to the number of fifty-two.

Pope Benedict offered this reflection on St. Boniface at his general audience of 11 March 2009:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, we shall reflect on a great eighth-century missionary who spread Christianity in Central Europe, indeed also in my own country: St Boniface, who has gone down in history as “the Apostle of the Germans”. We have a fair amount of information on his life, thanks to the diligence of his biographers. He was born into an Anglo-Saxon family in Wessex in about 675 and was baptized with the name of Winfrid. He entered the monastery at a very early age, attracted by the monastic ideal. Since he possessed considerable intellectual ability, he seemed destined for a peaceful and brilliant academic career. He became a teacher of Latin grammar, wrote several treatises and even composed various poems in Latin. He was ordained a priest at the age of about 30 and felt called to an apostolate among the pagans on the continent. His country, Great Britain which had been evangelized barely 100 years earlier by Benedictines led by St Augustine at the time showed such sound faith and ardent charity that it could send missionaries to Central Europe to proclaim the Gospel there. In 716, Winfrid went to Frisia (today Holland) with a few companions, but he encountered the opposition of the local chieftain and his attempt at evangelization failed. Having returned home, he did not lose heart and two years later travelled to Rome to speak to Pope Gregory ii and receive his instructions. One biographer recounts that the Pope welcomed him “with a smile and a look full of kindliness”, and had “important conversations” with him in the following days (Willibaldo, [Willibald of Mainz], Vita S. Bonifatii, ed. Levison, pp. 13-14), and lastly, after conferring upon him the new name of Boniface, assigned to him, in official letters, the mission of preaching the Gospel among the German peoples.
Comforted and sustained by the Pope’s support, Boniface embarked on the preaching of the Gospel in those regions, fighting against pagan worship and reinforcing the foundations of human and Christian morality. With a deep sense of duty he wrote in one of his letters: “We are united in the fight on the Lord’s Day, because days of affliction and wretchedness have come…. We are not mute dogs or taciturn observers or mercenaries fleeing from wolves! On the contrary, we are diligent Pastors who watch over Christ’s flock, who proclaim God’s will to the leaders and ordinary folk, to the rich and the poor… in season and out of season…” (cf. Epistulae, 3,352.354: mgh). With his tireless activity and his gift for organization, Boniface adaptable and friendly yet firm obtained great results. The Pope then “declared that he wished to confer upon him the episcopal dignity so that he might thus with greater determination correct and lead back to the path of truth those who had strayed, feeling supported by the greater authority of the apostolic dignity and being much more readily accepted by all in the office of preacher, the clearer it was that this was why he had been ordained by the Apostolic Bishop” (Othlo, Vita S. Bonifatii, ed. Levison, lib. I, p. 127).
The Supreme Pontiff himself consecrated Boniface “Regional Bishop”, that is, for the whole of Germany. Boniface then resumed his apostolic labours in the territories assigned to him and extended his action also to the Church of the Gauls: with great caution he restored discipline in the Church, convoked various Synods to guarantee the authority of the sacred canons and strengthened the necessary communion with the Roman Pontiff, a point that he had very much at heart. The Successors of Pope Gregory II also held him in the highest esteem. Gregory III appointed him Archbishop of all the Germanic tribes, sent him the pallium and granted him the faculties to organize the ecclesiastical hierarchy in those regions (cf. Epist. 28: S. Bonifatii Epistulae, ed. Tangl, Berolini 1916). Pope Zacchary confirmed him in his office and praised his dedication (cf. Epist. 51, 57, 58, 60, 68, 77, 80, 86, 87, 89: op. cit.); Pope Stephen III, newly elected, received a letter from him in which he expressed his filial respect (cf. Epist. 108: op. cit.).
In addition to this work of evangelization and organization of the Church through the founding of dioceses and the celebration of Synods, this great Bishop did not omit to encourage the foundation of various male and female monasteries so that they would become like beacons, so as to radiate human and Christian culture and the faith in the territory. He summoned monks and nuns from the Benedictine monastic communities in his homeland who gave him a most effective and invaluable help in proclaiming the Gospel and in disseminating the humanities and the arts among the population. Indeed, he rightly considered that work for the Gospel must also be work for a true human culture. Above all the Monastery of Fulda founded in about 743 was the heart and centre of outreach of religious spirituality and culture: there the monks, in prayer, work and penance, strove to achieve holiness; there they trained in the study of the sacred and profane disciplines and prepared themselves for the proclamation of the Gospel in order to be missionaries. Thus it was to the credit of Boniface, of his monks and nuns for women too had a very important role in this work of evangelization that human culture, which is inseparable from faith and reveals its beauty, flourished. Boniface himself has left us an important intellectual corpus. First of all is his copious correspondence, in which pastoral letters alternate with official letters and others private in nature, which record social events but above all reveal his richly human temperament and profound faith.
In addition he composed a treatise on the Ars grammatica in which he explained the declinations, verbs and syntax of the Latin language, but which also became for him a means of spreading culture and the faith. An Ars metrica that is, an introduction on how to write poetry as well as various poetic compositions and, lastly, a collection of 15 sermons are also attributed to him.
Although he was getting on in years (he was almost 80), he prepared himself for a new evangelizing mission: with about 50 monks he returned to Frisia where he had begun his work. Almost as a prediction of his imminent death, in alluding to the journey of life, he wrote to Bishop Lull, his disciple and successor in the see of Mainz: “I wish to bring to a conclusion the purpose of this journey; in no way can I renounce my desire to set out. The day of my end is near and the time of my death is approaching; having shed my mortal body, I shall rise to the eternal reward. May you, my dear son, ceaselessly call the people from the maze of error, complete the building of the Basilica of Fulda that has already been begun, and in it lay my body, worn out by the long years of life” (Willibald, Vita S. Bonifatii, ed. cit., p. 46). While he was beginning the celebration of Mass at Dokkum (in what today is northern Holland) on 5 June 754, he was assaulted by a band of pagans. Advancing with a serene expression he “forbade his followers from fighting saying, “cease, my sons, from fighting, give up warfare, for the witness of Scripture recommends that we do not give an eye for an eye but rather good for evil. Here is the long awaited day, the time of our end has now come; courage in the Lord!'” (ibid., pp. 49-50). These were his last words before he fell under the blows of his aggressors. The mortal remains of the Martyr Bishop were then taken to the Monastery of Fulda where they received a fitting burial. One of his first biographers had already made this judgement of him: “The holy Bishop Boniface can call himself father of all the inhabitants of Germany, for it was he who first brought them forth in Christ with the words of his holy preaching, he strengthened them with his example and lastly, he gave his life for them; no greater love than this can be shown” (Othlo, Vita S. Bonifatii, ed. cit., lib. I, p. 158).
Centuries later, what message can we gather today from the teaching and marvellous activity of this great missionary and martyr? For those who approach Boniface, an initial fact stands out: the centrality of the word of God, lived and interpreted in the faith of the Church, a word that he lived, preached and witnessed to until he gave the supreme gift of himself in martyrdom. He was so passionate about the word of God that he felt the urgent need and duty to communicate it to others, even at his own personal risk. This word was the pillar of the faith which he had committed himself to spreading at the moment of his episcopal ordination: “I profess integrally the purity of the holy Catholic faith and with the help of God I desire to remain in the unity of this faith, in which there is no doubt that the salvation of Christians lies” (Epist. 12, in S. Bonifatii Epistolae, ed. cit., p. 29). The second most important proof that emerges from the life of Boniface is his faithful communion with the Apostolic See, which was a firm and central reference point of his missionary work; he always preserved this communion as a rule of his mission and left it, as it were, as his will. In a letter to Pope Zachary, he said: “I never cease to invite and to submit to obedience to the Apostolic See those who desire to remain in the Catholic faith and in the unity of the Roman Church and all those whom God grants to me as listeners and disciples in my mission” (Epist. 50: in ibid., p. 81). One result of this commitment was the steadfast spirit of cohesion around the Successor of Peter which Boniface transmitted to the Church in his mission territory, uniting England, Germany and France with Rome and thereby effectively contributing to planting those Christian roots of Europe which were to produce abundant fruit in the centuries to come. Boniface also deserves our attention for a third characteristic: he encouraged the encounter between the Christian-Roman culture and the Germanic culture. Indeed, he knew that humanizing and evangelizing culture was an integral part of his mission as Bishop. In passing on the ancient patrimony of Christian values, he grafted on to the Germanic populations a new, more human lifestyle, thanks to which the inalienable rights of the person were more widely respected. As a true son of St Benedict, he was able to combine prayer and labour (manual and intellectual), pen and plough.
Boniface’s courageous witness is an invitation to us all to welcome God’s word into our lives as an essential reference point, to love the Church passionately, to feel co-responsible for her future, to seek her unity around the Successor of Peter. At the same time, he reminds us that Christianity, by encouraging the dissemination of culture, furthers human progress. It is now up to us to be equal to such a prestigious patrimony and to make it fructify for the benefit of the generations to come.
His ardent zeal for the Gospel never fails to impress me. At the age of 41 he left a beautiful and fruitful monastic life, the life of a monk and teacher, in order to proclaim the Gospel to the simple, to barbarians; once again, at the age of 80, he went to a region in which he foresaw his martyrdom.
By comparing his ardent faith, this zeal for the Gospel, with our own often lukewarm and bureaucratized faith, we see what we must do and how to renew our faith, in order to give the precious pearl of the Gospel as a gift to our time.

The Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent has a long entry on St. Boniface, as does EWTN.

Papal Prayer Intentions for June

The Pope’s general prayer intention for June is: “That a culture of dialogue, listening, and mutual respect may prevail among peoples.”

His mission intention is: “That where secularization is strongest, Christian communities may effectively promote a new evangelization.”

(from VIS)

A prayer for evening from St Ambrose

Deus, creator omnium,
Polique rector, vestiens
Diem decoro lumine,
Noctem sopora gratia;
Artus solutos ut quies
Reddat laboris usui
Mentesque fessas allevet,
Luctusque solvat anxios.

O God, Creator of us all,
Guiding the orbs celestial,
Clothing the day with lovely light,
Appointing gracious sleep by night:
Thy grace our wearied limbs restore
To strengthened labor, as before,
And ease the grief of tired minds
From that deep torment which it finds.

(From Augustine’s Confessions, book 9; photo: St. Ambrose 339-97, Matthias Stomer, c. 1633-39)

Your First Summer Read

Your first summer read must be Rod Dreher’s The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, A Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life.

I don’t recommend a lot of books; life is short, our time is limited, and there’s too many books out there. Choose wisely, I say. (This is the deserved fate of those who choose poorly by reading, say, renowned author Dan Brown‘s new Inferno.) But if you choose Dreher’s book, you’ll have chosen wisely. Why? Both the compelling story but also what that story offers by way of critique of modern life and encouragement to live differently in a particular place, by grace, in simplicity.

I’m too tired tonight to give the thing the poetic description it’s earned, so in a nutshell: Rod and his sister Ruthie are part of a family growing up in small-town Louisiana. Rod leaves for the bright lights and big city, but, as those of you who know Rod as the author of Crunchy Cons know, Rod came to value localism in theory. He was able to put it into practice in a big way when his work for The American Conservative allowed him to relocate home to rural Starhill, near St. Francisville, in West Feliciana Parish, LA (the same WF so important to Walker Percy, by the way).

And then Ruthie gets stricken with cancer. Much of the book concerns her illness and how a small community rallies to support her and her family, and also how Ruthie dealt with it. The book’s title evokes the “Little Way” of St. Therese the Little Flower, who committed herself to simplicity in the everyday, to do ordinary things with extraordinary love. Rod sees Ruthie in this way: Living a quiet, real Christian life of simplicity and among her family, her neighbors, her students.

Rod is an internet friend; we “met” when I was wrestling with whether to convert to Catholicism. His Crunchy Cons hit me between the eyes, giving me a new vision for life, effecting a paradigm shift in my thinking. The internet being what it is, he was easy to get hold of, especially as he was at the time blogging furiously at Beliefnet. A convert to Catholicism himself, he helped me frame issues and think clearly as I was contemplating such a drastic change, ironically at the same time, roughly, he was leaving Catholicism for Orthodoxy.

And so I got to read a near-final draft of the book some months before publication as a Word file (see page 271), which as you know, isn’t great for sustained reading. But I couldn’t stop. I got the file, I think, late at night, perhaps ten one evening, and read the thing, as a Word file, on my Macbook Air, straight through, until roughly sunrise.

It’s that good. Maybe good isn’t the word, as that usually has to do with the capacity of a contemporary book to entertain, like John Grisham before he ran out of gas, or Tom Clancy before the USSR broke up. (I miss the Cold War for that reason alone: the decline of Clancy.) Perhaps the two best words are “gripping” and “compelling.”

Rod’s writing here is real, and open without being overly raw and certainly not exploitative. The reader feels he knows these people as Rod brings their lives to the page honestly. The tale tells itself, and Rod need neither lecture, preach, nor editorialize.

I don’t like crying. So sue me: I’m a German/Dutch-American from what my sister calls Baja Saskatchewan, the town of Minot, in frozen northwestern North Dakota, having played hockey and football. I sometimes joke with my students that crying is morally wrong. It’s just not what I do. But reading this book, I just lost it at points. OK, for most of the wee hours. (And like Augustine who in Book 9 of his Confessions also seems to think crying is wrong, I’d pray, dear reader, that if ye be tempted to heap scorn upon my tears, ye would rather weep for me and my sins in my grief [Conf. 9:12/33].)

In short, this book isn’t merely a good read. It’s catharsis, grace, and challenge. It may just inspire you to think, and live, differently, authentically, simply, in the everyday.

Aquinas on the Trinity

While we’re at it, stolen shamelessly from my friends at The Sacred Page:

There is in God, as there is in us, a sort of ‘circulation’ (circulatio) in the operations of mind and will: for the will returns to that which understanding initiated. But with us the ‘circle’ (circulus) closes in that which is outside of us: the external good moving our intellect, our intellect moving the will, and the will returning through its appetite and love to the external good. But in God, the ‘circle’ is completed within himself: for when God understands himself, he conceives his Word which is the ‘rationale’ of everything known by him, since he understands all things by understanding himself; and through this Word, he ‘proceeds’ to the love of all things and of himself . . . And the circle being completed, nothing more can be added to it: so that a third procession within the divine nature is impossible, although there follows a procession toward external nature.
–St. Thomas Aquinas, De potentia, q. 9, a. 9.

St Augustine on the Trinity

From Confessions, book 13:11,12:

Which of us understands the Almighty Trinity? And yet which speaks not of It, if indeed it be It? Rare is that soul which, while it speaks of It, knows what it speaks of. And they contend and strive, but no one without peace sees that vision. I could wish that men would consider these three things that are in themselves. These three are far other than the Trinity; but I speak of things in which they may exercise and prove themselves, and feel how far other they be. But the three things I speak of are, To Be, to Know, and to Will. For I Am, and I Know, and I Will; I Am Knowing and Willing; and I Know myself to Be and to Will; and I Will to Be and to Know. In these three, therefore, let him who can see how inseparable a life there is—even one life, one mind, and one essence; finally, how inseparable is the distinction, and yet a distinction. Surely a man has it before him; let him look into himself, and see, and tell me. But when he discovers and can say anything of these, let him not then think that he has discovered that which is above these Unchangeable, which Is unchangeably, and Knows unchangeably, and Wills unchangeably. And whether on account of these three there is also, where they are, a Trinity; or whether these three be in Each, so that the three belong to Each; or whether both ways at once, wondrously, simply, and vet diversely, in Itself a limit unto Itself, yet illimitable; whereby It is, and is known unto Itself, and suffices to Itself, unchangeably the Self-same, by the abundant magnitude of its Unity,— who can readily conceive? Who in any wise express it? Who in any way rashly pronounce thereon?

Two Pieces on the Trinity

The Creed and the Trinity,” from The Christian Faith, by Henri de Lubac, SJ:

Our God is a living God, a God who, in himself, is sufficient unto himself. In him there is neither solitude nor egoism. In the very depths of Being there is ecstasy, the going out of self. There is, “in the unity of the Holy Spirit”, the perfect circumincession of Love. Thus we can glimpse the depths of truth in St. John’s remark (which is not true vice versa) that “God is love.” If we exist, it is not due to chance(!) or to some blind necessity; nor is it the effect of a brutal and domineering omnipotence; it is in virtue of the omnipotence of Love. If we can recognize the God who speaks to us and wishes to link our destiny to his, this is because within himself he knows himself eternally; within his being a dialogue exists which can overflow without; he is animated by a vital movement with which he can associate us. If, even without philosophical training, we can resist those who tell us that matter is the ground of all being, and if we spontaneously go beyond the overly abstract views of those who tell us that spirit, or the “one”, is the ground of being, it is because this mystery of the Trinity has opened up before us an entirely new perspective: the ground of all being is communion. [more]

From “The Trinity: Three Persons in One Nature,” in turn from Theology and Sanity:

The notion is unfortunately widespread that the mystery of the Blessed Trinity is a mystery of mathematics, that is to say, of how one can equal three. The plain Christian accepts the doctrine of the Trinity; the “advanced” Christian rejects it; but too often what is being accepted by the one and rejected by the other is that one equals three. The believer argues that God has said it, therefore it must be true; the rejecter argues it cannot be true, therefore God has not said it. A learned non-Catholic divine, being asked if he believed in the Trinity, answered, “I must confess that the arithmetical aspect of the Deity does not greatly interest me”; and if the learned can think that there is some question of arithmetic involved, the ordinary person can hardly be expected to know any better. […] How did we reach this curious travesty of the supreme truth about God? The short statement of the doctrine is, as we have heard all our lives, that there are three persons in one nature. But if we attach no meaning to the wordperson, and no meaning to the word nature, then both the nouns have dropped out of our definition, and we are left only with the numbers three and one, and get along as best we can with these. Let us agree that there may be more in the mind of the believer than he manages to get said: but the things that do get said give a pretty strong impression that his notion of the Trinity is simply a travesty. It does him no positive harm provided he does not look at it too closely; but it sheds no light in his own soul: and his statement of it, when he is driven to make a statement, might very well extinguish such flickering as there may be in others. The Catholic whose faith is wavering might well have it blown out altogether by such an explanation of the Trinity as some fellow Catholic of stronger faith might feel moved to give: and no one coming fresh to the study of God would be much encouraged. […] We have seen that the imagination cannot help here. Comparisons drawn from the material universe are a hindrance and no help. Once one has taken hold of this doctrine, it is natural enough to want to utter it in simile and metaphor – like the lovely lumen de lumine, light from light, with which the Nicene Creed phrases the relation of the Son to the Father. But this is for afterward, poetical statement of a truth known, not the way to its knowledge. For that, the intellect must go on alone. And for the intellect, the way into the mystery lies, as we have already suggested, in the meaning of the words “person” and “nature”. There is no question of arithmetic involved. We are not saying three persons in one person, or three natures in one nature; we are saying three persons in one nature. There is not even the appearance of an arithmetical problem. It is for us to see what person is and what nature is, and then to consider what meaning there can be in a nature totally possessed by three distinct persons. [more]

Liturgy Reading List

A former student asked for a reading list on matters liturgical. Off the top of my head, here’s what I came up with. Not exhaustive, no particular order, though I’d start with Driscoll, then Guardini and Ratzinger’s Spirit[s] of the Liturgy, and go from there:

Guardini, Spirit of the Liturgy
Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy
Driscoll, What Happens at Mass
Ratzinger, Feast of Faith
Fortescue, The Mass: A Study in the Roman Liturgy
Mosebach, Heresy of Formlessness
Nichols, Looking at the Liturgy
Alcuin Reid, Organic Development of the Liturgy
Danielou, Bible and the Liturgy