Friday, August 22, 2014

Liberty, the God That Failed

August 26, 2014-Marian Center 6:30-8:00 PM

Early twenty-first century society is exhibiting all the danger signs of a terminal civilization. Tens of millions of unborn babies have died as the result of legally protected abortions. The West is also ravaged by an epidemic of divorce and the universal practice of contraception. These politically protected social practices have accelerated the depopulation of Western nations as well as the unraveling of the traditional family unit.
Christopher Ferrara, a renowned Catholic intellectual makes the case that the source of our problems can be traced to the European Enlightenment. Specifically, he points to the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke that created the theory of modern Liberty. Modern Liberty is defined as the unrestricted “pursuit of happiness.”Ferrara correctly states that the moral power and influence of the Catholic Church posed a significant threat to this worldview. To neutralize and marginalize the power of the Church, Hobbes and Locke within a generation of one another created the political concept of the separation of Church and state. Ferrara traces our current social, cultural and political chaos to this political theory when he writes “The fundamental problem with Liberty is its manifestation as the state without a soul and thus without a moral compass.”

The class on August 26 will use the political philosophy of Christopher Ferrara to explore the evolution of the modern theory of Liberty. Additionally I will compare and contrast the modern secular model of the “pursuit of happiness” with the traditional political philosophy of the Catholic Church. 

Richard D. Fitzgerald O.P.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mary, the New Eve?

We all know that Paul speaks of Christ as the Last Adam; and "the New Adam" or "the Second Adam" have been used interchageably to indicate the same eternal truth, that in Him in the new foundation for the human race - a human race where mortal man can partake of the sinless divine nature, because the human and divine natures are joined in the Incarnation.

But, in the second century, the term "Second Eve" began to be applied to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why?  Because, just as the First Eve was the Mother of all the physically living, so the Second Eve is the Mother of the spiritually living.  A good analogy, but is it biblical to apply the term, one might ask.

Let us examine a few passages
  • Adam referred to Eve as "Woman" - "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man." (Gen 2:23).  Likewise, Jesus referred to Mary as "Woman" (John 2:4)
  • At the foot of the Cross, we find only one of the Apostles, John.  And, to John, representing the whole Church, Christ says, "behold your Mother" (John 19:27)
  • Mary is present in the Upper Room, praying, awaiting the birth of the Church.  St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort wrote, "... the more [The Holy Spirit] finds Mary his dear and inseparable spouse in a soul the more powerful and effective he becomes in producing Jesus Christ in that soul and that soul in Jesus Christ".  And more so is this true at the very birth of the Church, the Body of Christ.
  • Gen 3:15 says (in some translations) - I will put enmity between you and the woman,    and between your seed and her seed; she shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise her heel." Yes, some translations (and most, but not all, Hebrew Masoretic texts) say "he shall bruise", and "his heel".  And, ultimately, "He", referring to Christ, is true - our salvation, our triumph flow from Him. Nevertheless, the she/her tradition is attested to, not only by early Christian authors, but also by Jewish writers such as Philo of Alexandria, Josephus, and Moses Maimonides.  And it is rightful that it should be a woman who crushes the Serpent's head, since it was a woman whom the Serpent deceived.  
Thus, in crushing the Serpent's head - by offering her body to God (Luke 1:38) that God the Word might become flesh and dwell among us (John 1:14), by sharing in His sufferings (Luke 2:35), by being the Mother of the Spiritually alive - Mary, the Theotokos, becomes the Second Eve.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A simple framework for the Christian Life

Notes for a talk given on March 16, 2014, by  

Mr. Lou Pizzuti, OP. Chapter President

Of course, as Christians, our starting point must be faith in Christ, and as Catholics, we are to follow the precepts of the Church

What are the precepts?
  1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor
  2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
  3. You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
  4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church
  5. You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church
But, the precepts are, in a sense, an outward conformity.  Don't get me wrong, they're good, and they plant the seeds for spiritual growth.  But, they're just a starting place.

How do we grow?

Might I suggest a framework for living?

A.  Live a life in which your actions are informed by the 3 Theological Virtues and the 4 Cardinal Virtues, avoiding the 7 Deadly Sins
B. Aim to live the Beatitudes
C. Let the 7 Corporal Works of Mercy and the 7 Spiritual Acts of Mercy be your playbook.

If you do that, looking to Christ our God for the strength to do it, you will grow.

"All true Christian life, therefore, must begin with a deep yearning to become a new man in Christ, and an inner readiness to 'put off the old man' — a readiness to become something fundamentally different" - Dietrich von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ, chapter 1.  (cf. Eph 4:22-24)

3 Theological Virtues
  1. Faith - Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith "man freely commits his entire self to God." For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God's will. "The righteous shall live by faith." Living faith "work[s] through charity." CCC 1814 
  2. Hope - Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful." "The Holy Spirit . . . he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life." CCC 1817
  3. Love - Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. CCC 1822
4 Cardinal Virtues
  1. Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going." "Keep sane and sober for your prayers." Prudence is "right reason in action," writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid. CCC 1806
  2. Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the "virtue of religion." Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. "You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor." "Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven." CCC 1807
  3. Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. "The Lord is my strength and my song." "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." CCC 1808
  4. Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will's mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: "Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart." Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: "Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites." In the New Testament it is called "moderation" or "sobriety." We ought "to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world." CCC 1809
The Gifts and Fruit of the Holy Spirit
The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  CCC 1830
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations. CCC 1831
Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.
The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity." CCC 1832
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection  (Col 3:12-14) 

7 Deadly Sins (all of our sins are, ultimately, derived from these)
  1.  Lust
  2.  Gluttony
  3.  Greed
  4.  Sloth
  5.  Wrath
  6.  Envy
  7.  Pride

8 Beatitudes
  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
  2. Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted.
  3. Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled.
  5. Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy.
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.
  8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
7 Corporal works of mercy
  1. To feed the hungry.
  2. To give drink to the thirsty.
  3. To clothe the naked.
  4. To harbor the harborless. (also loosely interpreted today as To Shelter the Homeless)
  5. To visit the sick.
  6. To visit the imprisoned (classical term is "To ransom the captive")
  7. To bury the dead.
7 Spiritual works of mercy
  1. To instruct the ignorant.
  2. To counsel the doubtful.
  3. To admonish sinners
  4. To bear wrongs patiently.
  5. To forgive offences willingly.
  6. To comfort the afflicted.
  7. To pray for the living and the dead.