Friday, September 27, 2013

Reflection on Spirit of the Liturgy: Theological Virtues as a Paradigm

This new openness is only mediated by the signs of salvation. [… Liturgy] expresses the “between-ness” of the time of images, in which we now find ourselves. The theology of the liturgy is […] a theology of symbols, which connects us to what is present but hidden (Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 60).

Ratzinger elaborates upon two processes that are made up of three elements: the first process describes salvation history through the concepts of “shadow, image, reality” (54); the shadow corresponds to night; the image, to dawn; and the reality, to day. The second process elaborates the semiotic nature of liturgy, connecting past, present, and future through the sacred symbols and actions; hence Ratzinger calls liturgical theology “a theology of symbols” (60). I want to add a third process—the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love—and then I would like simply to sketch some possible consequences of this additional schema.

Just as shadows cannot exist without images, and images without realities; and just as night, dawn, and day are relative to the sun; and just as the past cannot exist without a present that is moving into the future; so too does faith set before us the One in whom we hope and whom we love, for as St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out, “Every act of knowledge is followed by an act of the appetite,” and “of all appetitive acts love is the principle.”[1] Therefore charity follows from the act of faith. Within these processes, notice their interrelations and dependency on a guiding principle: reality is the principle from which we derive images and shadows; the sun is the principle from which we derive day, dawn, and night; the present is the principle from which we derive past and future; and charity is the principle from which faith and hope flow. Faith, by drawing us into the reality of God through participatory grace, gives us “access” to God’s promises and strength, which leads to hope; to God’s goodness and essence, which leads to charity. Yet in this life we know God only obscurely and hence faith takes on the “in-between” quality that Ratzinger speaks of, “a mixture of ‘already and not yet’" (54), which is close to how St. Thomas describes faith as “a habit of mind, whereby eternal life is begun in us,”[2] and grace, which is the principle of faith, is “a beginning of glory in us.”[3]

In the liturgy, we exercise all three virtues, and charity is the key that opens the supernatural realm to us, drawing our hearts up in union with God, to Whom it is right and just that we give thanks and praise. Faith reveals the sins we commit; hope begs for pardon; and charity gives thanks to God. Faith perceives the Real Presence; hope dares to draw near; and charity adores and binds us totally to the One we have received. These interior acts are receptive and responsive to the supernatural and historical realities re-presented in the liturgy through its sacred signs and symbols. Just as we shall arrive at perfect day where night and dawn exist no more, just as the reality shall remain while the shadow and image pass away, just as we shall be drawn into the eternal now of the Beatific Vision while the tears of the past are wiped away (cf. Rev. 21:4) and the future eschaton is achieved, so too faith and hope shall fall away as charity comes to possess perfectly its object, God in His infinite splendor (1 Cor. 13:10-13).

The liturgy reveals to us something fundamental in reality, namely, the relationality of being. Being is simultaneously esse in (being in) and esse ad (being for/towards). The cenoscopic gives rise to the ideoscopic (e.g. eyes, air and light, and objects of perception give rise to the sensation of sight), and grace perfecting nature,[4] our esse in, like the Trinity, leads to esse ad: the Father is for the Son, the Son for the Father, while the Spirit is the relation; so we too witness through “infinitely small signs” of love.[5] In the liturgy, the signs and realities of love converge, which is the essence of true Communion.



1. De rationibus fidei, trans. John Deely, in S. Thomæ Aquinatis Opera Omnia, ed. R. Busa (1980), ch. 4, 509.

2. Aquinas, Summa Th., 2a2æ.4.1.

3. Ibid., 2.

4. Ibid., 2.

5. Cf. Jacques Maritain, “À Propos de la Vocation des Petites Freres de Jesus,” 16-17.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

St. Thomas Aquinas on Faith and Evidentialism

Often secularists make the accusation that faith is "believing without evidence." This statement needs clarification: we believe without evidence that falls under science popularly understood, i.e. empirically-testable evidence, but we do not believe without evidence. Evidence here basically means epistemic justification or warrant. St. Thomas argues that faith gives us the greatest warrant for any belief because its warrant is the authority of God, or Truth itself, which can neither deceive nor be deceived.

But we have to remember the proper content of faith: faith is not in the existence of God but in what God has told us about Himself, namely, the realities contained within the Creed. If a secularist, thinking that faith means believing in the existence of God, accuses us of circular reasoning, then he is right, for we would be arguing that we believe in God because God is the best authority. But if the secularist understands faith as we understand it, namely, believing what God has told us about Himself--already presupposing that we believe that God exists, which is a matter of reason, not faith--, then there is no circular argument but an appeal to the proper, and in fact, most proper, authority, God Himself.

But St. Thomas gives a twist: he doesn't think that we actually lack empirical evidence for faith (but this evidence cannot be evidence in the strict sense but only analogously so).
“The Evidence of Things that Appear Not.”—But someone will say that it is foolish to believe what is not seen, and that one should not believe in things that he cannot see. I answer by saying that the imperfect nature of our intellect takes away the basis of this difficulty. For if man of himself could in a perfect manner know all things visible and invisible, it would indeed be foolish to believe what he does not see. But our manner of knowing is so weak that no philosopher could perfectly investigate the nature of even one little fly. We even read that a certain philosopher spent thirty years in solitude in order to know the nature of the bee. If, therefore, our intellect is so weak, it is foolish to be willing to believe concerning God only that which man can know by himself alone. And against this is the word of Job: “Behold, God is great, exceeding our knowledge” [Job 36:26]. One can also answer this question by supposing that a certain master had said something concerning his own special branch of knowledge, and some uneducated person would contradict him for no other reason than that he could not understand what the master said! Such a person would be considered very foolish. So, the intellect of the Angels as greatly exceeds the intellect of the greatest philosopher as much as that of the greatest philosopher exceeds the intellect of the uneducated man. Therefore, the philosopher is foolish if he refuses to believe what an Angel says, and far greater fool to refuse to believe what God says. Against such are these words: “For many things are shown to you above the understanding of men” [Sir 3:25]. 
Then, again, if one were willing to believe only those things which one knows with certitude, one could not live in this world. How could one live unless one believed others? How could one know that this man is one’s own father? Therefore, it is necessary that one believe others in matters which one cannot know perfectly for oneself. But no one is so worthy of belief as is God, and hence they who do not believe the words of faith are not wise, but foolish and proud. As the Apostle says: “He is proud, knowing nothing” [1 Tim 6:4]. And also: “I know whom I have believed; and I am certain” [2 Tim 1:12]. And it is written: “You who fear the Lord, believe Him and your reward shall not be made void” [Sir 2:8]. Finally, one can say also that God proves the truth of the things which faith teaches. Thus, if a king sends letters signed with his seal, no one would dare to say that those letters did not represent the will of the king. In like manner, everything that the Saints believed and handed down to us concerning the faith of Christ is signed with the seal of God. This seal consists of those works which no mere creature could accomplish; they are the miracles by which Christ confirmed the sayings of the apostles and of the Saints. 
If, however, you would say that no one has witnessed these miracles, I would reply in this manner. It is a fact that the entire world worshipped idols and that the faith of Christ was persecuted, as the histories of the pagans also testify. But now all are turned to Christ—wise men and noble and rich—converted by the words of the poor and simple preachers of Christ. Now, this fact was either miracle or it was not. If it is miraculous, you have what you asked for, a visible fact; if it is not, then there could not be a greater miracle than that the whole world should have been converted without miracles. And we need go no further. We are more certain, therefore, in believing the things of faith than those things which can be seen, because God’s knowledge never deceives us, but the visible sense of man is often in error.
Source: St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Apostles' Creed, trans. Joseph B. Collins, prologue;

St. Thomas Aquinas on Idle Words and Intention

(35) The good man from his good treasure brings forth good. The statement that from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks he explains in particular. The word which proceeds from a thought is as a gift from a treasure. Hence if the thought is good, the word is good; and conversely. The good treasure is knowledge of the truth and fear of the Lord: "Abundance of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is his treasure" (Is 33:6). Likewise, and evil treasure is evil thinking; and from this treasure only evil proceeds: "Treasures of wickedness do not profit" (Pr 10:2). Note: what is said there of words is understood also of deeds. For as the thought is the wellspring of speech, so intention is of action. Therefore, if the intention is good, the action is good. Hence a Gloss: "You do according as you intend." 
This statement seems open to objection in regard to good. Suppose that someone wants to steal in order to give an alms: the act is evil and the intention good. Therefore... I answer that intending and willing are sometimes distinguished, namely, when in one and the same act the willing and the intention differ. Willing bears on the object wanted, but intention on the end. Willing, for example, is when I will to go to a window to see the people passing by; the latter is the intention. Hence it is necessary that willing and intending be one. Hence we can consider intention and willing in a wide sense, as in the assertion that if the willing is evil, the act is evil. Yet if it be excluded and taken in the proper sense, it is not true. 
But granted that intention and the act of willing are one, what then? I answer that the root of merit lies in charity, but consequently in the merit of other virtues. For merit looks at the essential reward, within which charity is considered. Thus, any work whatsoever that is performed with greater charity has more merit. But charity alone has God for object and end. Hence the merit of charity corresponds to the substantial reward, the merit of the other virtues to the accidental reward. Therefore, because charity permeates the intention, to the extent that one does something from greater charity to that extent he achieves; but in regard to accidental reward, this is not so.
(36) I tell you... The Lord rebuked them for the gravity of their sin and their malice; here he warns them about the future judgment, which we hold by faith: "Be afraid of the sword, for anger brings the punishment of the sword; for know that there will be a judgment" (Jb 19:29); "He will make room for every act of mercy; everyone will receive in accordance with his deeds" (Sir 16:14). Again 2 Corinthians (5:10): For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body." Hence there will be an investigation, because each one will render an account of his deeds. 
Therefore, he also adds something about words: I say to you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter. This is said in Wisdom (1:9): "He that speaks unrighteous things will not escape notice" and that the sound of murmuring will not go unheard. Why does he say for every carless [idle] word? A word is called idle in two ways: in one way every evil word is called idle; because that is called idle which does not attain its purpose, as when a person hunts for a man and does not find him, the search is said to have been idle. But if a word is given to instruct, when it succeeds, it is not idle: "Let no evil talk come out of your minds, but only such as is good for edifying, that it may impart grace to those who hear" (Eph 4:29). And according to Chrysostom, it refers to the fact that they said, "by Beelzebub". That word was most pernicious and also idle. According to Jerome the former is a word that inflicts harm[; an] idle one is that which does not afford any benefit. According to Gregory any word lightly spoken is called idle, unless it has a pious use or a pious need. But it is clear that they spoke a pernicious word. Why does he mention only idle? Because he wishes to argue from the lesser; because if one must render an account for an idle word, then more so for a pernicious one.
Source: St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Saint Matthew's Gospel (Super Evangelium S. Matthaei lectura), trans. R.F. Larcher, chapter 12, lecture 2, verses 35-36;

Friday, September 20, 2013

"How to Run a Successful RCIA Program"

As a follow up to my previous post on the horrors that often accompany RCIA programs, I thought I would delve into the positive side of the issue: how to put together and run a successful, educational and faith forming RCIA program, which, believe it or not, can be done. As I said in my prior post, I think the Church should ultimately rethink the entire idea of RCIA. I'm not saying it should be scrapped altogether; teaching the faith in a structured, class setting has certain benefits (of course, the problem is that these days it is seldom a class and seldom structured). What I do think is that RCIA needs to be made but one part of many possible avenues of entry for coming into the Church, so that pastors can respond accordingly to the needs of various individuals. I know several Protestants who I hope will be entering the Church in the next couple of years; while I rejoice at this, I am also deathly afraid that they will have an experience of RCIA like the one I described last time - something which will drive them away from Mater Ecclesia rather than into her bosom.

It is an unjust situation that a Catholic should face this dilemma - wanting their friends to come into the Church but fearful that the very process of making them Catholic will drive them away. This is why RCIA needs to be reevaluated, overhauled and placed as one option among many for people coming into the Church. This is also why I am going to post on how myself and my predecessor and co-blogger Anselm put together a successful RCIA program for out parish.

In the first place, we need to jettison any idea that the RCIA experience is going to be about experience at all; what I mean is that we need to abandon the diocesan-pushed idea of RCIA as a "faith sharing" forum where participants discuss their spiritual journey and their feelings. Rather, RCIA will be academic in nature; a series of classes - lectures. Sure, there will be discussion and interaction, but the sessions will primarily be made up of lecture time in which you (the DRE, director, or whatever) teach and the students listen receptively. This is a very, very important point and is the first step. This step must be taken in your mind before classes ever begin - these are to be truly classes in the traditional, academic sense. Make sure you are prepared to really teach and not just share experiences, and make sure the pastor is on board with this as well.

Now, before classes begin, interview all potential catechumens and candidates. Our classes begin in late August, so usually in July or early August I have private interviews with everybody who has signed up for the classes. They fill out a sheet with all their important info on it, date of baptism if applicable, etc. But the most important reasons for the interview are (1) to assess the potential catechumen/candidate to see if they have good reason for doing what they are doing; i.e., "Why do you want to become Catholic?" (2) to inform them up front of the nature of the classes and, more importantly, of the commitments they will need to make (3) to see if they will require an annulment; if so, the case is referred to the pastor.

A little more elaboration on the second point regarding commitment: when I am interviewing people, I try to make RCIA sound challenging, maybe a little more so than it actually is. They need to commit to coming to class every single Monday night for the next nine months, showing up at various liturgical events, coming to a few extra-curricular activities (like a trip down to Detroit for a TLM on Palm Sunday, so they can get exposure to the Extraordinary Form), coming to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation and (if they are engaged or have a boyfriend/girlfriend) abstaining from all sexual relations. If I get a person who is cohabiting I tell them up front that they will not be received into the Church as long as that state of affairs continues (but I usually refer these cases to the pastor, who makes the final call).

This meeting presents Catholicism as something very challenging - and therefore valuable - and puts them in a disposition to be willing to work and suffer, if need be, for the Faith. It also weeds out people who would not be able to put up with all of the requirements. This is no real loss; it is better to get such people out at the very beginning rather than let them go through the motions and then let them into the Church with sinful habits already formed (like fornication, Mass-skipping, etc.).

Okay, now for the actual curriculum - this is important, and this is where many RCIA classes fail. In the first place, many have no curriculum so to speak of. They have a lot about sharing spiritual experiences, but little concrete in the form of academic instruction/catechesis; this is why, in my previous post, the RCIA director was unable to give the Protestant catechumen any reason why she should become Catholic, saying instead that it was "for her to decide." To avoid this, we will need to come up with a definitive curriculum. Remember, your people are there to receive something from you - what are you going to give them?

Secondly, this curriculum must cover the whole of Catholic faith, morals and spirituality. It must not be narrowly focused on "social justice" issues, heavily bent towards "service projects" or parish involvement. Programs that are weighted down with these elements tend towards the heresy of activism - giving the impression that being Catholic is all about doing a bunch of stuff and making people feel good because they are doing things rather than making them holier by forming their soul. Instead of making your program top-heavy with these sorts of efforts, develop it to be broadly dogmatic; the classes will be about what Catholics believe. Only after understanding what we believe is it proper to discuss how we act on our beliefs.

One other pitfall to avoid - and I can't stress this enough - do not set up your RCIA classes to be based on the liturgical year. I know that a lot of parishes and even diocesan offices recommend this approach, but it is doomed to failure, for two reasons:

(1) While helpful to occasionally discuss liturgical feasts and readings, doing so exclusively gives the impression that the classes are not going anywhere. Remember, the liturgical year is primarily devotional in nature, not catechetical. I've heard many testimonies from disgruntled catechumens who have said, "I didn't get anything out of RCIA at this other parish; all we did was sit around and talk about the readings." Just following the readings and the liturgical year is not pedagogically sufficient for the formation that RCIA requires. 
(2) Furthermore (and this is the flip side of the first point) the Catholic Faith can only be fully grasped when it is presented in its integrity, with regard to the hierarchy of truths, and in an organic fashion. Certain truths need to be taught in a certain order, so that student can apprehend higher, more fundamental truths at the outset in order to see how other truths "interlock" with them to form a composite body of doctrine and morality. Basing classes on the liturgical year, even partially, destroys this essential order and obstructs the instructor from presenting topics hierarchically and organically. It gives the impression that the Faith is a jumble of doctrines with little correlation to each other. Since Catholicism is most certainly the most logically consistent religious system in existence, to deprive catechumens of the knowledge of this logical synthesis borders on sacrilege.

Okay, so I've told you what not to do with your curriculum; so what should you do with it?

In our program we use the model laid out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: first theology, then sacraments, morality, and finally prayer; I've tinkered with this a little bit by adding some apologetics at the outset and some other miscellaneous topics. Here is an outline of what my RCIA year looks like topically (note how they are broken up into larger thematic groupings):

Sept. 14: Proofs for God’s ExistenceSept. 21: The Divinity of Christ 
Sept. 28: Scripture & TraditionOct. 5: The Blessed TrinityOct. 12: Creation, the Fall, Angels & the DevilOct. 19: Incarnation of Christ & CrucifixionOct. 26: The ChurchNov. 9: The Blessed Virgin MaryNov. 16: PurgatoryNov. 23: Heaven, Hell & Second Coming of Christ 
Sacraments I
Nov. 30: Sacraments & LiturgyDec. 7: Baptism & ConfirmationDec. 14: The EucharistDec. 21: Sin & ConfessionJan. 4: Anointing of the Sick 
Jan. 11: Freedom & HappinessJan. 18: Moral VirtuesJan. 25: 1st, 2nd, 3rd CommandmentsFeb. 1: 4th CommandmentFeb. 8: 5th CommandmentFeb. 15: 6th & 9th CommandmentsFeb. 22: 7th & 10th CommandmentsMar. 1: 8th Commandment & Church Precepts 
Miscellaneous Topics
Mar. 8: Church History 33 - 1054 ADMar. 15: Church History 1054 - 2008 ADMar. 22: Saints / Communion of SaintsMar. 29: The Papacy & Hierarchy 
Sacraments II
Apr. 12: The MassApr. 19: Holy OrdersApr. 26: The Matrimony 
Mystagogy (Post-Baptismal Instruction)
May. 3: Introduction to PrayerMay. 10: The Lord’s PrayerMay. 17: Dinner & Reflection (I take them out to a nice restaurant and we just talk about the year) 
Note that by moving topically, sometimes the class topics do line up with liturgical feast days - the class on Purgatory just happens to fall close to All Souls Day and the class on the Second Coming falls during the week prior to Advent when the eschatological readings are done. It's nice when this happens, but it's not so desirable that I rearrange classes to make it happen. For me, preserving this order in the presentation is more important than aligning with the readings.

There is an inner logic to this line-up: Apologetics comes first in order to specifically answer the question "Why am I here in this class?" It is also good because it gets certain objections out of the way that can linger and fester if not dealt with up front. It's not impossible for a man to sit through four months of RCIA but keep questioning whether or not it is all hogwash because he has never had the existence of God sufficiently proven to him; and if he can't even accept God's existence entirely, why would he accept, say, the Church's teaching on contraception? Deal with the big apologetical issues first, which can be summed up in two questions: Why believe in God? Why believe in Christ? Once these are out of the way, you are set to get into theology.

The miscellaneous topics are just important stuff that people need to understand if they are Catholic, and which are greatly misunderstood.

So how are these lessons actually composed? What do they look like? If you click here, you can see a sample of one of my class outlines, in this case, on the papacy and the hierarchy. I will lecture from these notes myself; in addition, I will pass out a copy of this to every person at the beginning of class so they can follow along, take notes, etc. This way, by the time you reach Easter, they have a 200 page booklet of Catholic dogma for future reference.

My lessons all have a few things in common:

They begin with a quote from the Scriptures as well as a quote from a saint for meditation; this gets the tone for the class and grounds the doctrine in the Bible while also cementing it firmly together with Tradition. From the very outset I get them thinking about Divine Revelation in terms of Scripture and Tradition together.

The bulk of the content is based on or quoted from the CCC, which is what my pastor wanted, but which also ensures that you are teaching what the Church considers a "sure norm" for the faith; as much as I love traditionalism, you want to make sure that you are teaching mainstream stuff and not going off onto tangents that might not be immediately relevant to the situation of your catechumens. 
Not to say I don't work in Tradition - the lessons are seasoned with quotations from the saints, Aquinas, Church Councils (all of them) and a list of books for additional reading. Furthermore, every lecture draws on examples from Church history to make various dogmatic or pastoral points - the end result is that the catechumens do not walk away with a skewered view of Catholicism (like, there's the "old" Catholicism and then there's the "new", updated Church); instead, they learn to view the Church in its historical fullness as a single, organic entity and to value Tradition as a lens through which to interpret and understand the teachings of the Faith. This appeal to tradition is solidified when I take them to an Extraordinary Form Mass shortly before Easter. If you get it right, they will pick up on traditional issues as you go. For example, if you teach properly on the majesty and reverence owed to God in justice, they will naturally start to ask, "Then why doesn't this parish have the tabernacle more centrally located? Why doesn't everybody receive in the tongue?" and similar questions about decorum and fittingness. Just teaching the Faith makes them orthodox and traditional without them realizing it. You should never have to stand up and say, "Let me give you five reasons why parishes should never be built in the round"; they can deduce these conclusions from the simple truth of the Faith alone if you just give it to them. That's all an RCIA instructor needs to do.

What about RCIA teams? Do we use an RCIA team? Nope. My pastor's opinion is "I pay you to be the DRE. You teach them." This is good enough reason for me; but from a pedagogical viewpoint, it is disorienting to have a string of teachers instead of only one. Can you think of any other field where this is standard? Does a company want a string of managers coming in one after another? Does any school district think it is a good idea to have two or three different teachers take a class within a single year? What does it say about a professional sports team (Detroit Lions?) when they go through a head coach every year and a half for several years? If these examples are all unanimously agreed to be bad for the team/students/employees, why would we adopt such a model to form our catechumens, whose souls are at stake? Just when you get used to one instructor you have to adjust to the eccentricities of another. It also retards true relationships from building between the instructor and the class; at least that's my opinion. Yet despite all these negatives an RCIA "team" is standard for most parishes. That's because most parishes care more about their programs being inclusive, democratic and representative than they do about actual faith formation.

Finally, it might be objected that this academic approach leaves out too much. Some object that being too academic renders the "evangelical" nature of the Faith weaker - that by focusing too much on converting their minds we fail to convert their spirits; after all, Christ is a Person, and they need to be led into relationship with a Person, not just membership in an organization. Can this academic approach lead to heartfelt conversion as well as intellectual formation?

Absolutely. In fact, more so than other approaches that lay the emphasis squarely on experience. Remember, there is no dichotomy between knowledge and relationship. In fact, before we can adequately live God we must know what we are loving. Basic Thomism comes into play here: the essential vision of God is an intellectual vision that transforms the rest of the person in consequence of the intellectual sight of God. Practically speaking, this means that the truth itself is evangelistic. If we simply teach the truth, and teach it with conviction, then its beauty and splendor are evident and compel the will to act on what the intellect has apprehended. I have found, in five years of teaching RCIA in two different programs, that when you simply teach the truth the interior conversions experienced by the participants in the class are more profound and long-lasting. This is because the truth is transformative, and as they grasp the truths of the Church with docility (as opposed to being put on the spot to "share" their feelings), they find themselves transformed in the will and soul even as they learn the truths with the mind. Ironically, if you focus on experience and conversion as primary ends (as opposed to education), they get neither education not conversion; but if you emphasize education, they become converted as well.

I hope this helps. Please feel free to pass this post along to anyone you know who may be involved in RCIA or contact me with any questions. Oh, and don't forget to pray for your catechumens constantly. Very much depends on this and you are accountable for their souls while they are in your care. If you've done everything right, you'll see your former students around the parish for years to come and get feedback like this: 
"I most enjoyed [Boniface's] enthusiasm and reverence for the subject matter! He was able to relate each separate piece to every other piece, and to the whole, so that both the intellectual and spiritual Truth and Beauty of God and His Church were made obvious and undeniable. It was the most fulfilling and rewarding journey of my life! As the weeks went by I realized how important it is to truly understand the reasons why Catholicism is what it is, why we do what we do, and especially why knowledge is so important for spiritual growth.” 
This from a former atheist of thirty years. 
I don't toot my own horn here; it was Anselm who really got this program rolling - I just polished it up. But I bring it up because I firmly believe the key is not in me, or Anselm, or whoever else presents, but in the fundamental approach taken towards the classes - are they for sharing or for education? Will the instructor teach or will the catechumens blab? Will the curriculum be organic and dogmatic or based on the lectionary? These questions determine the success or failure of the program. Here I've laid out my formula for success - employ it at your parish and I think you'll get good results.Pax.

Source: BONIFACE, "How to run a successful RCIA program," Unam Sanctam Catholicam blog,

Further resources:

"Free RCIA Notes and Outlines," (please donate if you decide to use these)

"RCIA Horror Stories"

When I was coming into the Church almost a decade ago, I loved RCIA. I couldn't wait for every Sunday to come, when after Mass my wife and I along with a few other catechumens and candidates would head out behind the parish to the classroom-trailers up on the hillside to have RCIA. We had a very dedicated and knowledgeable RCIA instructor who knew what he was talking about, loved the Catholic faith and was able to bring in a few other really gifted people to teach (some of them had worked or trained under Fr. Hardon). All in all, it was a great experience. 
Years later, when I began teaching RCIA, I was pleased to find that my classes almost got unanimously positive responses from the people who went through it; actually, not "almost unanimous," but completely unanimous - I never had a real complaint from anyone. 
Thus, my personal experience of RCIA as a student and later as a teacher was very positive and I was never aware that, in most parishes and for many people, RCIA is seen as a waste of time or a downright nightmare. One thing I found very disillusioning about RCIA was that it is presented (at the Rite of Election) as a very ancient process that goes back to the earliest days of the Church. I was made to feel like I was partaking of a very ancient tradition; since I was a baby Catholic, I didn't know any better. But I did notice as I read the lives of other famous converts from even the early 20th century there was no mention of RCIA. Of course, come to find out that RCIA was created basically by committee in 1972 and has very little to do with the ancient Church. When I was told that RCIA was a very ancient tradition, what was meant was that the process of a bishop scrutinizing the candidates for admission into the Church is ancient, but there is of course no direct connection between the modern RCIA rites and anything in the early Church. Perhaps some of the liturgical prayers are modeled after patristic era prayers, but modeling a thing on something of antiquity and the thing actually being from antiquity are different matters altogether.

One horror story I heard from RCIA concerned a young woman who wanted to convert from Protestantism. I knew this woman - she worked at a local Christian bookstore. I used to go in there and try to get her to come to my RCIA classes; she said she was very interested in Catholicism and wanted to look into it but just wasn't sure. She was very sincere and seemed like somebody who was disinterestedly seeking the truth for its own sake. Well, eventually I stopped running into her after she quit the store, but I later found out that she did indeed decide to respond to the grace God had given her and seek entry into the Catholic Church. She went to the nearest Catholic Church and signed up for classes. After a few RCIA sessions, she began to feel like she wasn't getting anything specifically Catholic out of the class; it was a bunch of generic Christian stuff, like God is a loving God, Jesus forgives, etc. Finally, she asked the instructor, "Why should I specifically be Catholic over any other Christian denomination?" The instructor told her, "That's for you to figure out, not me." She got upset and said, "So you can't give me one reason why I should be Catholic and not go back to my Protestant congregation?" The instructor shook his head and said, "You are thinking too much in terms of black and white and right and wrong. That's not how Catholics think." Disgusted, the woman quit the classes and went back to her Protestant church, where I believe she happily remains to this day. 
Now, what are we to make of this? This woman, a devout Christian, may now live and die in the Protestant church. Is it her fault? Will God hold her guilty of the sin of heresy or schism? For heaven's sake, the woman wanted to be Catholic. She went so far as to seek visible, full communion with the Church; then some half-cocked RCIA instructor chastised her for thinking in terms of black and white for asking the very reasonable question, "Why should I be Catholic?" It is my guess that on the day of judgment the woman will fare better than the RCIA director.

I heard another RCIA tale where a older couple, who had basically studied themselves into the Church, were going through the classes because they had to and the nun teaching them said that contraception was a matter of conscience. The catechumens (who knew more about Catholicism than the nun) brought in Humanae Vitae and tried to discuss it, but the nun raged at them and said, "Who are you to judge what other people do?" In this case too the person left the classes, but fortunately they found their way into the Church through some other avenue. 
RCIA is right up there with Youth Groups and Social Justice Ministries as an example of things done poorly in the vast majority of parishes. Why is RCIA so bad almost universally? Well, RCIA itself is not a bad program; as I said, I had a great experience with it and the people that have entered the Church under me have as well. It can be done well. The problem is with the people who wind up running these things, and the pastors who refuse to allow orthodox Catholicism to be taught. In most (but not all) parishes, RCIA is in the hands of women who came of age in the 1960's; if you don't believe me, do a Google image search of the term "RCIA director", or have a look here
I think ultimately the Church ought to reconsider the whole idea of RCIA; it is too bureaucratic, too cookie-cutter to fit the needs of everybody. It often fails to address the core philosophical-spitritual needs of the person (as evidenced by the very low rate of people who remain in or join the parish after completing RCIA - in most parishes about 10%, though happily higher in mine). Prior to Vatican II instruction was more individualized; a person might take three months or three years of instruction depending on his specific level of understanding - and most of the time it was taught by a priest. Most priests these days delegate this to lay volunteers or employees because they are far too busy because there are far too few priests to go around; but those are another set of problems, though not unrelated.

In the meantime, let's get some younger people heading up our RCIA programs - people who know and love Jesus Christ, who were not around for the insanity of the 60's and who want to pass on the truth to others - people who know that the truth itself is transformative and that what the world desperately needs is persons who will boldly stand up and say, "Yes. There is a right and wrong. There is a true and false, and this is the Truth..."

Anything less is building on sand.
Source: BONIFACE, "RCIA Horror Stories," Unam Sanctam Catholicam blog,

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"I'm just human!"

People go around sinning and erring all the time, and they think they are humble when they excuse themselves, saying," Oh, I'm not perfect. I'm just human!" What is this? This is not being human. This is a statement which is referential of the fact that we are NOT fully human. Do you see the way things ought to be understood? Don't excuse yourself. Strive for perfection, seeking His kingdom and His righteousness. Be strong.
And we know we are strong when we admit we are weak, crying out for mercy,"Kyrie Iesou Christi eleison me!" (Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!) Strive to be human. Fix your understanding of what it really means to be human. Wash your heart with prayer and the reading of scripture, by partaking of the sacraments. All the wonderful things you are capable of, called divine, these are what it means to be human. Become human and He will unite your humanity with His divinity.
Source: APPIAN, "Be Human,"

St. Augustine on Becoming Holy Among Wicked Pastors

The necessity of saintly priests:
The defects of the sheep are widespread. There are very few healthy and sound sheep, few that are solidly sustained by the food of truth, and few that enjoy the good pasture God gives them. But the wicked shepherds do not spare such sheep. [...] [The wicked] kill the sheep. "How do they kill them?" you ask. By their wicked lives and by giving bad example. [...]

Even the strong sheep, if he turns his eyes from the Lord's laws and looks at the man set over him, notices when his shepherd is living wickedly and begins to say in his heart: "If my pastor lives like that, why should I not live like him?" The wicked shepherd kills the strong sheep. [...]

Let such a shepherd not deceive himself because the sheep is not dead, for though it still lives, he is a murderer--just as when the lustful man looks on a woman with desire, even though she is chaste, he has committed adultery. [...] He has not entered her bedroom, yet he has ravished her within the bedroom of his heart.
Source: St. Augustine, Sermo 46, 9: CCL 41, 535-536; Liturgy of the Hours, vol. 4, 271-272.

Msgr. Gamber on the Enlightenment's Effects on Liturgy

The Enlightenment introduced the utilitarian and pragmatic assessments that we hold dear today (Reform of the Roman Liturgy 18). It was asked of the Baroque liturgy (as it is asked of beautiful churches today): what is its use in solving the real problems of today? Many bishops even adopted this attitude (ibid.). Finally, the modern State began to enforce its own liturgical norms, especially in Germany and France, which totally erased the traditional liturgical forms.

Msgr. Gamber writes, "During the Age of Enlightenment, the purpose of worship was seen primarily as that of instilling moral behavior in the people --which helps to explain why Latin as the language of liturgy was rejected" (19). Isn't this view solidified by Kant's philosophy of religion? Dr. Wayne Pomerleau, a noted neo-Kantian philosopher, admits that religion as a totality cannot be reduced to ethics or a moral code, yet nevertheless, he agrees with Kant that the other necessary components of a religion (which, aside from moral "code," are community, creed, and ceremonies) are simply meaningful and valuable means to the ultimate end of religion, namely, "moral conduct and virtuous character" (cf. "Comment on Reducing Christianity to Ethics 1). Dr. Pomerleau notes that the English analytic philosopher Richard Braithwaite asserts that religions combine moral code with a distinguishing "propositional element," namely, a story that establishes context to distinguish the religion from any other. Under utilitarianism, one can "regard Jesus of Nazareth as a role-model" without accepting its "story" (2).

To return, however, the State also established that the Church fell under the State's power and authority and in some places forced priests to "explain and admonish people to obey civil laws." This time is marked especially by liturgical experimentation, "disturbingly similar to today's experiments, and they, too, were very much concerned with man and his (social) problems" (Gamber 19).

Msgr. Gamber even says that the "preeminent root cause of today's liturgical distress is to be found in the Age of Enlightenment. Many of the ideas of that period did not come to maturity until today, when we are living through a new period of the Enlightenment" (20).

Society in general reacted to the Enlightenment with Romanticism, while the Church looked to restore aspects of Medieval Christian culture, such as Neo-Romanesque/Gothic/Renaissance/Baroque architecture and art. At this time the Benedictines of Solesmes came into being. Latin liturgy and chant were restored in a liturgical movement that especially took off in the 1920s. Pius Parsch, writing in the 1930s, also sought to popularize people's participation in the liturgy during this renewal although Msgr. Gamber also claims that the beginnings of the vernacular in the liturgy can be traced back to Parsch's influence (21).

By the time 1965 arrived, the bishops had no idea of the "avalanche they had started, crushing under it all traditional forms of liturgical worship, even the new liturgy they themselves had created" (ibid.). For example, the Austrian bishops wrote: "In order to achieve that noble goal, i.e., the spiritual renewal of our parishes, we are sure that all pastors will strive to celebrate the liturgy as beautifully as possible."

But, as Msgr. Gamber concludes, "even the few positive results that have come out of the liturgical reform, which clearly include a greater involvement of the faithful in the liturgy, cannot possibly outweigh the damage that has been done" (22).


Sources:  Klaus Gamber, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, trans. Klaus D. Grimm (San Juan Capistrano, CA: Una Voce Press, 1993), 18-22.

Wayne P. Pomerleau, "Comment on Reducing Christianity to Ethics,"

Msgr. Klaus Gamber on the Causes of Failure for the Modern Liturgy

Instead of a fruitful renewal of the liturgy, what we see is a destruction of the forms of the Mass which had developed organically during the course of many centuries.
Added to this state of affairs is the shocking assimilation of Protestant ideas brought into the Church under the guise of the misunderstood term ecumenism with a resulting growing estrangement from the ancient Churches of the East, that is, a turning away from the common tradition that has been shared by the East and the West up to this point in our history. [...]

What are the root causes of this liturgical debacle? [... They] cannot be traced to the Second Vatican Council alone. [Sacrosanctum Concilium] was but an interim step in a process set in motion long ago [....]

There is no question that the Roman liturgy is the oldest Christian rite. Over time, a number of popes have undertaken revisions. In an early period, Pope Damasus I (366-384) did so; and later, so did Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604), among others. [...]

The Damasian-Gregorian liturgy remained in use throughout the Roman Catholic Church until the liturgical reform of our time. [...] The changes made in the Roman Missal over a period of almost 1,400 years did not involve the rite itself. Rather, they were changes concerned only with the addition and enrichment of new feast days, Mass formulas and certain prayers. [...]
Source: Klaus Gamber, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, trans. Klaus D. Grimm (San Juan Capistrano, CA: Una Voce Press, 1993), 9-11.


Msgr. Gamber goes on to identify three root causes that have culminated in the difficulties and confusions experienced in the celebration of the Missal of Paul VI:

1st Cause: Gradual Disappearance of a Standard, Unified Rite.

Due to the relations between the pope and the king of the Franks, the Damasian-Gregorian liturgy, which originally was intended for Rome, then became the standard liturgical worship for many other parts in Europe. This rite was "grafted onto existing local liturgical traditions" throughout different areas without much success of unity (11-12).

2nd Cause: Gradual Loss of Concepts of liturgical cultus (cosmic liturgy) and drama in the liturgy, which was retained in the East, reducing Western liturgy to "cold realism."

The growing distance between the Roman and Eastern Churches, culminating in 1054, led to a "gradual disintegration of a very important element," namely, "the early Christian concept of liturgical cultus" (12), by which liturgy "is primarily a sacred act before God":
At the hour of Sacrifice, in response to the priest's acclamation, the heavens open up; the choirs of angels are witnessing this Mystery; what is above and what is below unite; heaven and earth are united, matters visible and invisible become united (St. Gregory, Dial. IV, 60).
 This is the cosmic liturgy, a concept that continues in the Eastern liturgies quite strongly. When this concept dissolved in the West, worship degenerated to the degree "absolutely necessary for validity," and thus the origin of phrases applying to the Roman liturgies, such as, "carrying out" rather than "celebrating," or "saying" rather than "praying" or "offering" (12).
In the Eastern Church, however, the liturgy has always remained a dramatic mystery in which drama and reality were uniquely joined. [...] "For a Catholic, there really is no drama. Each morning, Holy Mass is the event that simply occupies him and holds him prisoner" (Hugo Ball). (12-13).
 3rd Cause: The Unhindered Growth of Individual Piety.

Beginning in the Gothic period, active liturgical participation became secondary. The shifting mentality focused on the individual's relationship to God, to receiving grace, especially through personal devotions and private prayer (13). This left liturgical responsibilities solely to the clergy. Meanwhile, devotional services in the vernacular developed "to reflect religio moderna, the new ideal of piety" (13-14). This piety even led to the introduction of the Corpus Christi procession and pilgrimages.

The Renaissance with its humanism introduced the Mass and Divine Office in the vernacular; e.g. the Missale vulgare (c. 1400's in Thuringia, Germany).

Vernacular religious music also developed to be sung between liturgical chant, especially during Christmas. Luther simply took advantage of these developments with his hymnal. Yet even at this time, as today, "popular church song, often of dubious value from a dogmatic and from an artistic point of view, particularly the songs flowing from pietism, tended to submerge the 'classical' Latin chants of the Mass more and more, a process which, in the end, caused these chants to be given up almost entirely" (15).

The Council of Trent reacted to these trends by introducing rigorous rules around liturgy, especially against the use of vernacular.

The Missale Romanum of Pope St. Pius V (1570) restored the Missal, removing foreign elements that had been introduced that were less than 200 years old (cf. Quod Primum). A backlash of this reform was that it highly restricted continued organic development, especially when the liturgy was crystallized in the Baroque period, famous for its opulence and sensuous decoration. Hence we see today the almost-necessary reaction: stark coldness that hardly even permits a corpus on a crucifix (16)! Orchestral Masses, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, numerous candles, wafting incense--these were replaced by the bare altar, the standalone priest, the often-explicit message being, "Get rid of all signs of triumphalism!" (16-17).

Individual piety continued to grow during the Baroque, introducing the 40 hours devotion as well as many Marian devotions. However, Msgr. Gamber notes, the emotionalism of the devotions and especially the Masses began to replace dogmatic content, especially seen from how the sermons were preached as well as their content (18).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

St. Thomas Aquinas on Reason as the Root of Human Flourishing

Faith pertains to the good of human beings, and, says Aquinas, "the good of human beings stems from reason as its root"--that is to say, from human understanding as dependent upon sense and ordered to the understanding of the physical [1] environment surrounding us. And, he adds (my italics),

Since the good of human beings stems from reason as its root, this good will be the more perfect to the extent that it can be derived from consideration of the many things appropriate to human flourishing. Whence no one doubts that it pertains to the perfection of moral good that our outward actions be directed through the rule of reason ... in accordance with what is said in Psalm 83:3: 'My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God': where by 'heart' we are to understand the intellectual appetite, and by 'flesh' the sensitive appetite. [2] [...]

The notion of what constitutes sin itself St. Thomas assimilates to his notion that reason is the root of the good of human beings:

If anyone says that something is sin because it offends God, the thinking falls short. For God has so created human beings that it is impossible for us to offend God except by acting contrary to the human good. [3]

One of the most interesting consequences of Aquinas' doctrine of creation, in which "possible essences" are nothing more nor other than the extrinsic ways in which the infinite divine perfection can be finitely "imitated" or "participated", is to make nonsense of the standard refrain that "God can do anything because He is omnipotent, all powerful". It is true that there are no extrinsic limitations on the divine power, but there are intrinsic limitations in the nature of finite being on ways in which the divine perfection is imitable. Thus, contrary to Descartes, to some earlier Latins before Descartes, and to the late-modern "divine command" theorists of our day, good and evil, for example, are not reversible should God choose "so to will".

On the contrary, good follows from the positive ways in which the divine perfection is extrinsically imitable, just as evil follows from the negative ways in which finite being measures up to its possibility for good. "Right" and "wrong", thus, are not matters of "command", but consequences of being. [4] Just as "as a being is, so does it act", so also "as a being is, so does what is good or bad for it follow". This theme is one of the most difficult and interesting of the themes developed among the late Latins, and Poinsot in particular developed it profoundly. Genovesi, rightly, in my understanding, remarks that "our whole perspective on God and sin would change" if the human good were commonly understood in the perspective that Aquinas presents, inasmuch as "we would understand that nothing is or becomes evil because it is forbidden by God's law", but rather the converse. Just as not even God can restore lost virginity or make a square circle, so not even God can make something "sinful" that is in line with the human good.

Yet this all makes perfectly good sense considering Thomas's contention that, since truth is one, faith goes beyond, but cannot go contrary to, truths demonstrable by reason. Hence the development in the pursuit of truth tends to suggest as true the very ideas that faith properly embraces, truths revealed by God to supplement and elevate and encourage the exercise of reason in the pursuit of truth and spirituality.
Source: John Deely, "Taking Faith Seriously," presentation at Center for Thomistic Studies of the University of St. Thomas, Houston, 12 October 2010; Rev. Roum. Philosophie, 55, 2, p. 391–415, Bucureşti, 2011, 399/9-401/11.



1. Deely 2001: 382: "The reader should take note of the following. The prospectively infinite reach of human understanding is what lay behind the medieval fondness for the formula that 'the intellectual soul is capable of becoming all things' ('anima est quodammodo omnia', to quote exactly). The infinite reach of understanding is also behind the use, little understood today, by some of the best Latin authors of the term 'physical' to apply to whatever exists in the order of being as it exhibits an existence independent of the finite mind. In modern usage, 'physical' tends to be a synonym for 'material', in contrast to 'spiritual'. But in Latin philosophy, 'physical' extends equally to material and spiritual substances and to the esse divinum itself, even to the discussion of grace among the theologians. Modern ignorance on this point means that the student should note that 'physical' among the Latins can be extended also to spiritual being insofar as such being is cognition-independent. An angel would be no less 'physical' than a rock."

2. Aquinas 1266/1273: Summa theologiæ I-II, q. 24, art. 3 corpus (Busa ed. vol. 2 p. 388): "cum enim bonum hominis consistat in ratione sicut in radice, tanto istud bonum erit perfectius, quanto ad plura quae homini conveniunt, derivari potest. unde nullus dubitat quin ad perfectionem moralis boni pertineat quod actus exteriorum membrorum per rationis regulam dirigantur. ... secundum illud quod in Psalmo LXXXIII, dicitur, cor meum et caro mea exultaverunt in Deum vivum, ut cor accipiamus pro appetitu intellectivo, carnem autem pro appetitu sensitivo."

3. Aquinas, 1259/1265: Summa contra gentiles III, cap. 122 (Busa ed. vol. 2 p. 100 n.2): "Non videtur esse responsio sufficiens si quis dicat quod facit iniuriam Deo. Non enim deus a nobis offenditur nisi ex eo quod contra nostrum bonum agimus."

4. There is no question of "dichotomy" here: God can create or not create, but what is good for the being created follows from its being, and no "command", not even an imagined "divine command", can change the "good" for that being into "evil", or conversely. As "agere sequitur esse", so does "bonum sequitur esse".

John Piippo: Prayer & Monotasking (PrayerLife)

Thomas Merton wrote: "Contemplation and sanctity are to be found in a desolation where there is no food and no shelter and no refreshment for their imagination and intellect and for the desires of their nature." (New Seeds of Contemplation)

What does this mean?

When I assign students and pastors in my Spiritual Formation classes to pray for one hour a day, I instruct them to pray in a place away from their homes and offices. Biblically and historically, extended, serious times of prayer were always done in "lonely places." (Luke 5:16) If you spend these times in familiar places, such as your office or home, chances are you will end up multi-tasking, and multi-tasking is the enemy of real relationship. Your office contains too many familiar things. What's needed is some "desolation."

When you regularly pray in a place where nothing is associated with you and your work you will find your prayer experience, in the long run, to be different. You will, for example, begin to feel unneeded, and this is good. It is good because it is true; viz., you are not needed, at least when it comes to God and his purposes. God can then use this lonely, desolate time to purge you of the illusion of your indispensibility. That will be very good. It will be at that point that you become more wieldable to God. (God loves you, and wants you to love him in return. This loving of God is an active thing that leads to discipleship and servanthood. Should we choose not to actively love God this will grieve God's heart. This will be our great loss. But our nonservanthood to God will not stop God's kingdom movement. It is in this sense that you and I are not indispensable to God.)

Praying in a lonely place that is disconnected from the perks of this world breeds trust in God, since all other objects of trust and idolatry have been removed. It was not by accident that the Spirit directed Jesus into the desert, where Satan tempted him. Minus earth's pleasures, the soul will only be able to find its satiation in God.

Get your soul and body out to a lonely place and meet with your God. Monotask with God.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

St. Robert Bellarmine on Human Happiness and the Commandments

"Truly then the recompense is great for those who keep your commandments. That first and greatest commandment helps the man who obeys, not the God who commands. In addition, the other commandments of God perfect the man who obeys them. They provide him with what he needs. They instruct and enlighten him and make him good and blessed. If you are wise, then, know that you have been created for the glory of God and your own eternal salvation. This is your goal; this is the center of your life; this is the treasure of your heart. If you reach this goal, you will find happiness. If you fail to reach it, you will find misery.

"May you consider truly good whatever leads to your goal and truly evil whatever makes you fall away from it. Prosperity and adversity, wealth and poverty, health and sickness, honors and humiliations, life and death, in the mind of the wise man, are not to be sought for their own sake, nor avoided for their own sake. But if they contribute to the glory of God and your eternal happiness, then they are good and should be sought. If they detract from this [goal], they are evil and must be avoided."
Source: Liturgy of the Hours (volume 4; pp. 1411-1413), Office of Readings for St. Robert Bellarmine, Sept. 17, 1412-1413; Grad. 1 [On the Ascent of the Mind to God]: Opera omnia 6, edit. 1862, 214.

Reflection on Spirit of the Liturgy: Sacrifice, Ministerial Priesthood, and Evangelization

The sacrifice of the Logos becomes a full reality only in the Logos incarnatus, the Word who is made flesh and draws “all flesh” into the glorification of God (Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 47).

In analyzing the tension between the Old Testament development from Temple sacrifice to the spiritual worship of contrition, as exemplified in Psalm 50:16-17, and “Hellenistic Logos-mysticism” (47), Ratzinger establishes that the balance between the two is found in the Logos incarnatus—the Word incarnate. The paschal mystery of Christ fulfills the prophecy of Psalm 50 in which the spiritual worship of contrition and prayer leads back to “right sacrifices and burnt offerings” (vv. 18-19). I would like to briefly examine here the implication of Logos incarnatus in liturgy for: 1) the ministerial priesthood; and 2) the evangelizing mission of the Church.

Synagogue worship, being an expectation of the restoration of Temple worship (48) and hence of sacrifice, points beyond itself, from oratio to sacrificium. Christ draws this paradigm into the New Covenant liturgy. Ratzinger notes that the effects of strict opposition between synagogue and Temple as analogates in Christian worship “have been disastrous. Priesthood and sacrifice are no longer intelligible” (49). The synagogue and Hellenistic Logos mysticism correspond to the Liturgy of the Word, which points to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, or Temple worship in its fulfillment. [1] The Council of Trent established that the principal purpose of ministerial priesthood is the offering of the Eucharist (Sessions XXII, XXIII). The Second Vatican Council, however, stated that “since no one can be saved who does not first believe, priests, as co-workers with their bishops, have the primary duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God to all” (Presbyterorum Ordinis 4). Further, “the preaching of the word is needed for the very ministering of the sacraments. They are precisely sacraments of faith, a faith which is born of and nourished by the word.” Is there a dichotomy between the ministries of offering sacrifice and preaching the Word? Although some have tried to assert such a dichotomy and also argue that one ministry is “more important” than the other, such a split can exist only in the concrete order but is, like the Incarnation, truly a unity as Ratzinger points out. Lumen Gentium [LG] (no. 28) states, “[Priests] announce the divine word to all. They exercise their sacred function especially in the Eucharistic worship or the celebration of the Mass.” And in Presbyterorum Ordinis (no. 13), it is stated that priests fulfill “their greatest task” in the mystery of the Eucharistic sacrifice. As Jordan Aumann, O.P., the noted theologian of spirituality, points out, “As St. Paul says, the priest-apostle preaches Christ Crucified; and the Eucharistic liturgy proclaims the death of the Lord until he comes [again]. […] In the order of exercise or activity, ministry of the Word is primary; in the order of dignity and excellence, ministry of the Eucharist is the principal or chief function."[2] The synagogue points to the Temple, faith points to charity, the preacher of the Word points to the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Word points to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

But as Ratzinger points out, “Christian liturgy is liturgy on the way […] toward the transfiguration of the world” (50), which means that as synagogue points to Temple, so the Church, at the same time holy and always in need of purification (LG 8), points to the Church in heaven, where its four marks shall shine in full splendor. The Church’s whole purpose is to lead all men to worship, to partake in Christ’s redemption and union with the Trinity, where God is “all in all” (Apostolicam Actuositatem 2). Hence the liturgy, leading from the proclamation of the Word to the partaking of the Eucharist, informs the apostolate activity of the entire Church and marks the transition from unbelief to belief to participation in true worship. The liturgy as source and summit (Sacrosanctum Concilium 10) is the ecclesial “soul” of the apostolate. As Aquinas said, the goal is first in the order of intention and last in the order of execution (cf. Summa Th., 1a2æ.1, 25), so too Eucharistic worship is first in the order of intention, last in execution.



1. Another application would be how in the theological virtues, the equivalent is faith pointing to charity, which then in turn vivifies faith.

2. Jordan Aumann, “Ministerial Priesthood,” Angelicum 49, no. 1 (1972): 47, 51.

Fr. Dubay and Exciting Wonder in Children

The healthy, unspoiled child is typically full of life--which is why two- or three-year-olds are more inclined to run than to walk, why some are almost constantly in motion. Closely allied with this trait is their readiness to question and wonder, especially if parents and teachers take the trouble to point out the numberless marvels in all of creation. [...] For example, it takes almost no time to explain and discuss the vein system of a single leaf and what is happening in it, and in every other leaf on this tree--right now. [...] There is no end to examples that can excite wonder in normal children, or in any adult who is still intellectually alive.

As a preparation for meditative prayer parents and teachers should also introduce children to the appreciation of beauty. How? Just invite them to gaze quietly at a sunset for a minute or two in silence and then talk with them about it. How big is the sun? How far away is it? How long does it take the sunlight to get to earth? [...] Or ponder together a tree or flower or carrot or radish. Or study together in a science book or encyclopedia the wonder of a bird's wing. Later on marvel with your offspring about atoms, molecules, living cells, the solar system, our galaxy, the entire universe. You and they come alive. Take the time. This enrichment of your children is more important than eating lunch. [...]

Now what does this all have to do with prayer? A great deal. It is a short step from experiencing wonder, amazement and beauty to praising, thanking, and loving the supreme Artist of it all, who is endless Beauty.
Source: Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M., Prayer Primer (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2002), 119-121.

Fr. Dubay and Prayer in Family Life

A happy home has been called "the domestic sanctuary of the Church" [....] A normal family, which is of course a family in a serious pursuit of God, provides the first setting and atmosphere for children to meet their Lord. A refreshing openness to the divine is one of the core traits of youngsters so praised by Jesus himself, traits that we adults must also have as a condition for entering the kingdom (Mt. 18:1-4).

If from their earliest days infants see Mom and Dad praying, they rightly assume that prayer is as normal as having dinner together. If parents hold them on their laps or at their sides as they commune with the Lord before bedtime, the youngsters learn even without explicit words to that effect that prayer is pleasant, perhaps even a fun thing to do. We are thinking here not only of vocal prayer, which the children may simply listen to at first, but also of meditative prayer, which on occasion the parents may verbalize in simple terms. [...]

Just as in a convent or monastery, a prayerful atmosphere is one that is penetrated with love for God and for others, so also in the marriage community. A milieu conducive to prayer happens when Mother and Father are convinced that the two greatest commandments are top priority in their home. All through the nitty gritty of each day, and week after week, they are at pains to be gentle toward each other and toward the children. Firmness with the children on occasion, yes, but a loving and patient firmness. No harsh words, no nagging, no raising of voices, no quarreling--and generous forgiveness when there is a slip.

Why is this gentle tone so important for anyone's prayer life? The reason is basic and simple: Prayer itself is obviously a love matter. [...] If there is conflict or harshness in the routine of daily life, all of us (children included) find incongruity, if not pain, in trying to shift gears into something as sublime as conversing with the Lord. If, on the other hand, genuine harmony and esteem for one another penetrate our habitual interpersonal relationships on the human level, turning to commune with God on the divine level is smooth and normal.
Source: Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M., Prayer Primer (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2002), 118-119.

How to Get Ideas (Cenoscopic Childlikeness)

"If you want to be more creative," wrote the [child] psychologist Jean Piaget, "stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society."
J. Robert Oppenheimer agreed: "There are children playing in the streets who could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago." [This corroborates Nihil est in intellectu quod prius in sensu!] [1]

Thomas Edison agreed too: "The greatest invention in the world is the mind of a child." So did Will Durant: "…the child knows as much of cosmic truth as Einstein did in the ecstasy of his final formula." [Although the former and latter are cœnoscopic and ideoscopic knowledge, respectively]

Which is curiously close to what Albert Einstein himself said: "I sometimes ask myself how it came about that I was the one to develop the theory of relativity. The reason, I think, is that a normal adult never stops to think about problems of time and space. These are things that he has thought of as a child. But my intellectual development was retarded, as a result of which I began to wonder about space and time only when I had already grown up." [...]

"Kids are natural-born scientists," said Carl Sagan. "First of all, they ask the deep scientific questions: Why is the moon round? Why is the sky blue? What's a dream? Why do we have toes? What's the birthday of the world? By the time they get into high school, they hardly ever ask questions like that."

"Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods," agreed Neil Postman.

Become a question mark again. 
Source: Jack Foster, How to Get Ideas (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1996), 27-30;



1. The commentary in brackets (aside from the [1]) is not mine but from the blog Sententiæ Deo, from which I copied this material. 

C.S. Peirce on Cenoscopy and Ideoscopy; Maritain's Three Degrees of Abstraction

§4. The Divisions of Science 

238. [...] All knowledge whatever comes from observation; but different sciences are observational in such radically different ways that the kind of information derived from the observation of one department of science (say natural history) could not possibly afford the information required of observation by another branch (say mathematics). [...]
239. I recognize two branches of science: Theoretical, whose purpose is simply and solely knowledge of God's truth; and Practical, for the uses of life. In Branch I, I recognize two subbranches, of which, at present, I consider only the first, [the sciences of discovery]. Among the theoretical sciences [of discovery], I distinguish three classes, all resting upon observation, but being observational in very different senses.†P1
240. The first is mathematics, which does not undertake to ascertain any matter of fact whatever, but merely posits hypotheses, and traces out their consequences. It is observational, in so far as it makes constructions in the imagination according to abstract precepts,[1] and then observes these imaginary objects, finding in them relations of parts not specified in the precept of construction. This is truly observation, yet certainly in a very peculiar sense; and no other kind of observation would at all answer the purpose of mathematics.†P2
241. Class II is philosophy, which deals with positive truth, indeed, yet contents itself with observations such as come within the range of every man's normal experience, and for the most part in every waking hour of his life. Hence Bentham calls this class, coenoscopic.†1 These observations escape the untrained eye precisely because they permeate our whole lives, just as a man who never takes off his blue spectacles soon ceases to see the blue tinge. Evidently, therefore, no microscope or sensitive film would be of the least use in this class. The observation is observation in a peculiar, yet perfectly legitimate, sense. If philosophy glances now and then at the results of special sciences, it is only as a sort of condiment to excite its own proper observation.
242. Class III is Bentham's idioscopic†2; that is, the special sciences, depending upon special observation, which travel or other exploration, or some assistance to the senses, either instrumental or given by training, together with unusual diligence, has put within the power of its students. This class manifestly divides itself into two subclasses, the physical and the psychical sciences; [...]
†P1 Some catholic writers recognize sciences resting upon authority. No doubt, everybody of good sense believes some things substantially because he has been brought up to do so; but according to my conception of what science is, that is not science. Indeed, belief proper has nothing to do with science. [Baldassare] Lablanca [Dialettica, vol. II, lib. IV, c. 1, 1875] admits a class of documentary sciences. This is more plausible; although, as that author admits, documentary evidence enters into every science, while nothing can have rested wholly on documentary evidence to the original authors of the documents. He reckons as documentary sciences, history, linguistics, political economy, statistics, and geography. But it is quite plain that these do not form a natural group; especially since this geography must include physical geography.
†P2 Many writers of France (as Comte and Ribot), and of Germany (as Schopenhauer and Wundt), and a few in England (as Cave), have given mathematics the first place among the sciences, contrary to the doctrine of Plato and Aristotle, which has caused so many to place it below philosophy in point of abstractness. I mention this to show that I am taking no revolutionary position here: I am open to charges enough of heresy to answer to, to make me desire to avoid those that can be avoided.
†1 "Coenoscopic . . . from two Greek words, one of which signifies common — things belonging to others in common; the other looking to. By coenoscopic ontology, then, is designated that part of the science which takes for its subject those properties which are considered as possessed in common by all the individuals belonging to the class which the name ontology is employed to designate, i.e. by all individuals." The Works of Jeremy Bentham, Edinburgh, 1843, viii, 83, footnote.
†2 "Idioscopic . . . from two Greek words, the first of which signifies peculiar. In Idioscopic ontology, then, we have that branch of art and science which takes for its subject such properties as are considered as peculiar to different classes of beings, some to one such class, some to another." Ibid.
 Source: C.S. Peirce, The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, 1.238–242;



1. Peirce's division of theoretical sciences into three classes--special sciences (ideoscopic), mathematics, and philosophy (cenoscopic)--fits with Jacques Maritain's three degrees of abstractions. They are as follows: the first,
“the mind can consider objects abstracted from, and purified of, matter but only to the extent that matter is the basis of diversity amongst individuals within a species [….] The mind thus considers bodies in their mobile and sensible reality [….] Such an object can neither exist without matter […] nor can it be conceived without matter. It is this great realm that the ancients called Physica.” [Equivalent of Peirce's special sciences.]

[Second,] “the mind can consider objects abstracted from, and purified of, matter insofar as matter is the general basis for the active and passive sensible properties of bodies. In this case, it considers nothing more than a certain property which it isolates within bodies [namely] quantity [….] This is an object of thought which cannot exist without sensible matter, but which can be conceived without it [….] This is the great field of Mathematica.”[Equivalent of Peirce's mathematics.]

[Third,] “the mind can consider objects abstracted from, and purified of, all matter. In this case it considers […] being as such and its laws. These are objects of thought which not only can be conceived without matter, but which can even exist without it, whether they never exist in matter, as in the case of God and pure spirits, or whether they exist in material as well as in immaterial things [e.g. substance, quality, act and potency, beauty, goodness, etc.] This is the wide domain of Metaphysica(Jacques Maritain, The Degrees of Knowledge, trans. Gerald B. Phelan (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009), 38). [Equivalent of Peirce's philosophy.]

John Deely and the Cenoscopic Presupposition of Modern Science

Presuppositions of scientific method can indeed be rationally justified – beginning with the distinction between sensation, as involving physical interaction but nothing of mental representation, on the one hand, and perception and intellection alike, on the other hand, as the levels at which concepts (mental representations, but other-representations, not self-representations) enter as interpretations of the data presented by sensation. But to appreciate this series of distinctions requires one first to recognize that, while modern science is ideoscopic (i.e., the result of knowledge that could not be acquired otherwise than by experimentation and use of instruments extending the senses), at the same time science in general has also and by priority a cenoscopic dimension. For scientific knowledge, as critically controlled objectification of experience, is possible also, and initially, precisely as based on prescissive analysis of human sensation as prior to but making possible experimental science – modern science.[1]
Source: John Deely, "Taking Faith Seriously," presentation at Center for Thomistic Studies of the University of St. Thomas, Houston, 12 October 2010; Rev. Roum. Philosophie, 55, 2, p. 391–415, Bucureşti, 2011, 404/14.



1. On this way of contrasting the scientific dimension of philosophy with science in the modern sense, see Benedict Ashley, The Way toward Wisdom. An interdisciplinary and intercultural introduction to metaphysics (South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press), John Deely, Purely Objective Reality (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter), and Medieval Philosophy Redefined. The Development of Cenoscopic science, AD345–1644 (Scranton, PA: University of Scranton Press)., and Ashley and Deely, How Science Enriches Theology (South Bend, IN: St Augustine’s Press).

Jacques Maritain and the "Aura of Contemplative Love"

That [hidden] apostolic quality or function that is found in every Christian’s life, taken in the large sense (and not the understood meaning [the traditional, macro-sign-sense of “apostolic”], as I have been explaining), is the same as the invisible and nearly invisible witnessing which we have been examining. And the first of these, invisible witness, is an inherent property of infused contemplation; the second, nearly invisible witness, is an overflowing effect of that contemplation. Nothing here of the accepted and received meaning of the word apostolic, in the sense of transmitting the Word of God through human speech, as well as the work done in teaching, preaching, enlightening and converting souls.[1] [...]
Just as the Word remains hidden in God, so the word of faith remains hidden in our heart, the heart of each of us. “For those whose soul is consecrated to the deepest love of the Lord,” Maritain advises,[2] “there is all around them a sort of aura of contemplative love.” This recognition of the order of microsigns, prior to and more pervasive than is even possible for an “establishment” at macro-sign level, opens to our awareness an unanticipated variety of “vocation,” indeed a “subtler version” of the life of faith which does not at all gainsay but at once subtends and transcends faith as manifested primarily in the order of macrosigns. Such is the vocation constitutive of the new apostolicity, a “witnessing through signs,” but “infinitely small signs,” “a look, a gesture, a friendly smile, and even less than that, a certain manner of listening or of paying attention to this or that, what we would call microsigns.”
Source: John Deely, "Taking Faith Seriously," presentation at Center for Thomistic Studies of the University of St. Thomas, Houston, 12 October 2010; Rev. Roum. Philosophie, 55, 2, p. 391–415, Bucureşti, 2011, 408/18, 411/21.



1. “À Propos de la Vocation des Petites Freres de Jesus”, letter included in a “memorial pamphlet”, p. 11–24, published shortly after the 28 April 1973 death of Maritain; subsequently published also in the Cahiers Jacques Maritain nº 1 (avril 1981), 53–69. Quotation from pages 16-17.

2. Ibid., 16.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Machaut's "Douce dame jolie"

Learn about the great composer Guillame de Machaut, priest, canon, composer, and one of his most famous pieces, the "Douce dame jolie."
"He who writes and composes without feeling spoils both his words and music"---Machaut 
The Middle Ages were an incredibly creative period in western Europe. Despite the fact that some earlier scholars saw part of it as “the Dark Ages,” the overall period is one of the most varied in European history. The fact that the period is usually given almost 1000 years is part of the reason it is so mottled, yet a closer look at various segments of the Middle Ages reveals periods of great inspiration and inventiveness. 
Musically, we typically begin the Middle Ages with the earliest notated music. Before that time, we have no real idea of how music sounded. Early depictions of instruments tell us something about earlier music (this study is called iconography), but not a great deal. In the ninth century (the time of Charlemagne), monastic singers at St. Gall in Switzerland began singing a new type of music, which ultimately led to fast developments in music notation. Many new developments notation (most notably the rhythmic modes) are associated now with Notre Dame in Paris. 
Many things happened between the ninth century and the period under investigation here, the fourteenth century. Since the earliest records of notated music are contained in church-related documents or with religious institutions, it should come as no surprise to learn that most notated early medieval music is sacred. That began to change somewhat in later centuries until we get to what I like to refer to as the first century of rock’n’roll in Western classical music: the fourteenth century. 
In her captivating book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century (Ballantine, 1987), historian Barbara Tuchman demonstrates how tumultuous this period really was. Among its events were the really devastating occurrences of the bubonic plague (Black Death) and most of the Hundred Years War (between England and France). The literary feats of this century include Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Boccaccio’s Decameron. Musically, it is the age of the Ars nova—new art. This title actually appeared on a treatise written c. 1320 by the composer Philippe de Vitry. Several new stylistic devices characterize the Ars nova, including the emphasis on secular music, new developments in rhythm (including duple meter—not the sacred triple meter that signified the Trinity), sophisticated approaches to polyphony, national styles (the Italian counterpart to the Ars nova is called the Trecento), and the prominence of musical (compositional) technique. No composer represented the Ars nova better than Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377), the composer of "Douce dame jolie."

Machaut is undoubtedly the most famous composer of the fourteenth century. Not only was he a recognized musical genius, but scholars of French poetry of this period rank his literary works among the best as well. Such is the reputation of the man who helped to solidify secular song as a legitimate interest for “classical” composers. Ordained as a priest, Machaut worked for some of the most notable political figures of his day, including Charles II of Navarre, Jean de Berry, and the famous Charles, Duke of Normandy, who would become King Charles V in 1364. Machaut is one of the first composers about whom a great deal is known concerning his biography, and he was one of the earliest composers whose likeness appears in medieval manuscripts. 
Machaut and the formes fixes 
One of the most influential developments in secular song of the fourteenth century was the adoption of standard forms. These are known collectively as the formes fixes (fixed forms); it is a French term because French culture (or the culture of French-speaking people since France as we know it did not exist as a nation in the fourteenth century) dominated European ideals at this time. That composers of Machaut’s stature gave credence to these secular forms in a world that had hitherto been dominated by sacred music (essentially because only members of The Church were trained to compose and write music) is significant. It demonstrates a sincere recognition of secular song—something that before this time had not seen quite the same emphasis by church composers, at least as far as the manuscript evidence demonstrates. 
There are three formes fixes: the ballade, rondeau, and virelai. (Some authors include more, but these three are the most commonly used.) In each, a specific use of text and musical material defines the form. When we write out these forms, lower-case letters mean that the music repeats (so “a a” means the same music for two different verses of text), and upper-case letters mean that the music and text are repeated. 
The ballade has the shortest form (AaB, four stanzas) but is the most unrestrained of the formes fixes. In his polyphonic ballades, Machaut set highly crafted emotional texts that contained detailed symbolism. (He was also a gifted poet, remember.) Machaut created them for the most important occasions, and they are generally the most serious of his secular songs. Musically they feature a prominent upper voice supported by two lower voices (which may have been performed on instruments). The rondeau has the form ABaAabAB—it’s easy to remember if one thinks of the music coming “round and round” again. (The rondo of the Classical period has a slightly similar form in that the A section comes “round” several times.) 
The virelai, an example of which is the very popular “Douce dame jolie,” has the form AbbaA. In this case, the first and last strains are exactly the same. The music of the second repeats (with a different text), and the fourth strain is the same music as the first, but with different words. A contemporary Italian version of this form was called the ballata
Machaut “Douce dame jolie” 
One of the most famous monophonic melodies ever composed is Machaut’s virelai “Douce dame jolie.” A quick search of YouTube reveals several different versions, and many anthologies of medieval music on CD also include this tune. Its combination of conjunct and disjunct melodic motion, as well as catchy rhythms (first heard on “jolie”), make this melody remarkably singable. “Douce dame jolie” is not a piece that only a professionally trained classical musician can perform, but rather one that singers with style ranges from neo-Celtic to historically-informed classical to heavy metal can readily perform with success.

YouTube videos of "Douce dame jolie":