8 Tips from St. John Paul II on prayer by Philip Kostoski

8 Tips from St. John Paul II on prayer

 Philip Kosloski

Vittoriano Rastelli/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Though our hearts are made for prayer, it is a true art that requires practice and patience. The good news is that the saints have gone before us and learned how to pray in the midst of many trials and tribulations. Their spiritual wisdom is invaluable and can help us in our own spiritual journeys, giving us encouragement in the daily struggle of prayer.If you want to draw closer to God, follow the Polish Pontiff’s prayerful advice. 

St. John Paul II was a master of prayer. He prayed for hours each day, interceding for the world and drawing closer and closer in his relationship with God. This is what sustained him during his early life in Nazi-occupied Poland, and it remained the central part of his life while pope.

He wrote much about prayer, often giving practical tips to young people. Here are eight such tips that address various difficulties in prayer and give hope to the soul tempted to abandon prayer.

Read more: Why pray when praying doesn’t work?

“Remember that you are never alone, Christ is with you on your journey every day of your lives! He has called you and chosen you to live in the freedom of the children of God. Turn to Him in prayer and in love. Ask Him to grant you the courage and strength to live in this freedom always. Walk with Him who is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life.’”

“The Rosary is my favorite prayer. A marvelous prayer! Marvelous in its simplicity and its depth. In the prayer we repeat many times the words that the Virgin Mary heard from the Archangel, and from her kinswoman Elizabeth.”

“Prayer, intimate dialogue with the One who is calling you to be His disciples, must come first. Be generous in your active life … and be deeply immersed in the contemplation of God’s mystery. Make the Eucharist the heart of your day.”

“Prayer joined to sacrifice constitutes the most powerful force in human history.”

“If you really wish to follow Christ, if you want your love for him to grow and last, then you must be faithful to prayer. It is the key to the vitality of your life in Christ. Without prayer, your faith and love will die. If you are constant in daily prayer and in the Sunday celebration of Mass, your love for Jesus will increase. And your heart will know deep joy and peace, such as the world could never give.”

“How did Jesus himself pray? … we know that his prayer is marked by a spirit of joy and praise.”

 “When it is difficult … to pray, the most important thing is not to stop praying, not to give up the effort. At these times, turn to the Bible and to the Church’s liturgy. Meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. Ponder the wisdom and counsel of the apostles and the challenging messages of the prophets. Try to make your own the beautiful prayers of the Psalms.”

“When you pray, you must realize that prayer is not just asking God for something or seeking special help, even though prayers of petition are true ways of praying. But prayer should also be characterized by thanksgiving and praise, by adoration and attentive listening, by asking God’s pardon and forgiveness. If you follow Jesus’ advice, and pray to God constantly, then you will learn to pray well. God himself will teach you.” END QUOTES


Prayer for Deliverance from Evil by St. John Paul II

 Philip Kosloski |



Prayer for Deliverance from Evil by St. John Paul II

The year was 1984 and St. John Paul II was presiding at a Mass for Families during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Redemption. He was faced with a world in turmoil (nearing the end of the Cold War), and recognized the need to beseech God’s help in delivering the world from evil.

The occasion was highlighted by the presence of the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima in Rome, standing prominently next to the main altar. During the Mass John Paul II led those present in a “Consecration of All Individuals and Peoples of the World to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” He said, “I will today entrust to her Immaculate Heart—in spiritual union with all the bishops of the world—all individuals and peoples, repeating in substance the act that I made at Fátima on May 13, 1982.”

At the end of the consecration John Paul II said a powerful prayer that asks God to deliver us from the many faces of evil. It is a prayer that retains its relevance as evil continues to plague our world.

Immaculate Heart! Help us to conquer the menace of evil, which so easily takes root in the hearts of the people of today, and whose immeasurable effects already weigh down upon our modern world and seem to block the paths towards the future!

From famine and war, deliver us.

From nuclear war, from incalculable self-destruction, from every kind of war, deliver us.

From sins against the life of man from its very beginning, deliver us.

From hatred and from the demeaning of the dignity of the children of God, deliver us.

From every kind of injustice in the life of society, both national and international, deliver us.

From readiness to trample on the commandments of God, deliver us.

From attempts to stifle in human hearts the very truth of God, deliver us.

From the loss of awareness of good and evil, deliver us.

From sins against the Holy Spirit, deliver us, deliver us.

Accept, O Mother of Christ, this cry laden with the sufferings of all individual human beings, laden with the sufferings of whole societies.

Help us with the power of the Holy Spirit to conquer all sin: individual sin and the “sin of the world,” sin in all its manifestations.

Let there be revealed, once more, in the history of the world the infinite saving power of the Redemption: the power of merciful Love! May it put a stop to evil! May it transform consciences! May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light of Hope! END QUOTES




“What is Happening at Mass” re-blogged by Bishop Barron

Bishop Barron: What is happening at Mass?

 Bishop Robert Barron | Oct 14, 2017

It is an encounter with the real flesh and blood person of Christ Jesus, and it’s also a dialogue, a prayer and a play.

As many Catholics know, the Second Vatican Council famously referred to the liturgy as the “source and summit of the Christian life.” And following the prompts of the great figures of the liturgical movement in the first half of the 20th century, the Council Fathers called for a fuller, more conscious, and more active participation in the liturgy on the part of Catholics.

That the Vatican II dream of a revived liturgical awareness and practice has, at least in the West, largely remained unrealized goes without saying. In the years following the Council, Mass attendance in Europe, North America, and Australia has plummeted. The numbers of Catholics who regularly attend Mass in those parts of the world hover between 10 and 25 percent. Therefore, it is not surprising that an extraordinary number of those who self-identify as Catholics in the West have very little idea what the Mass actually is. My 31 years of priestly ministry convince me that, even for a great number of those who attend Mass, the liturgy is a kind of religiously-themed jamboree.

So what is the Mass? What happens during this paradigmatic prayer? Why is it the beginning and culmination of what it means to be a Christian? In the course of this brief article, I will share just a couple of basic insights.

First, the Mass is a privileged encounter with the living Christ. Christianity is not a philosophy, ideology, or religious program; it is a friendship with the Son of God, risen from the dead. There is simply no more intense union with Jesus than the Mass. Consider for a moment the two major divisions of the Mass: the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. When we meet with another person in a formal setting, we typically do two things. We get together and talk, and then we eat. Think of the first part of Mass as an exchange, a conversation, between the Son of God and members of his mystical Body. In the prayers and interventions of the priest, and especially in the words of the Scriptures, Jesus speaks to his people, and in the songs, responses, and psalms, the people talk back. There is, if you will, a lovely call and response between the Lord and those who have been grafted onto him through Baptism. In the course of this spirited conversation, the union between head and members is intensified, strengthened, confirmed. Having talked, we then sit down to eat, not an ordinary meal, but the banquet of the Lord’s Body and Blood, hosted by Jesus himself. The communion that commenced with the call and response during the first part of Mass is now brought to a point of unsurpassed intensity (at least this side of heaven), as the faithful come to eat the body and drink the lifeblood of Jesus.

A second rubric under which to consider the Mass is that of play. We tend quite naturally to think of play as something less than serious, something frivolous and far less important than work. But nothing could be further from the truth. Work is always subordinated to an end beyond itself; it is for the sake of a higher good. So I work on my car that I might drive it; I work at my place of employment that I might make money; I work around the house so that it might be a more pleasant place to live, etc. But play has no ulterior motive, no end to which it is subordinated. Hence, I play baseball or watch golf or attend a symphony or engage in philosophical speculation or get lost in a sprawling novel simply because it is good so to do. These activities are referred to in the classical tradition as “liberal,” precisely because they are free (liber) from utility. When I was teaching philosophy years ago in the seminary, I would gleefully tell my students that they were engaging in the most useless study of all. Invariably they laughed—revealing the utilitarian prejudice of our culture—but I always reminded them that this meant the highest and most noble kind of study.

The Mass, as an act of union with the highest good, is therefore the supreme instance of play. It is the most useless and hence sublimest activity in which one could possibly engage. Recently, I had the privilege of attending the Mass for the installation of new members of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher. For the solemn liturgy, the Knights wore dashing capes emblazoned with the Jerusalem cross and jaunty black berets, while the ladies donned elegant black gowns, gloves, and lace mantillas. Two bishops, in full Mass vestments and tall miters, welcomed the new members into the order by dubbing them on both shoulders with impressively large swords. As I watched the proceedings, I couldn’t help but think of G.K. Chesterton’s remark that children often dress up when they engage in their “serious play.” Capes, hats, ceremonial gloves, vestments, and swords for dubbing are all perfectly useless, which is precisely their point. So all of the colorful accouterments and stately actions of the Mass are part of the sublime play.

Why is the Mass so important? Why is it the “source and summit” of the Christian life? I could say many more things in answer to these questions, but suffice it to say for the moment that it is the most beautiful encounter between friends and that it is an anticipation of the play that will be our permanent preoccupation in heaven. END QUOTES




One of the central messages that Our Lady of Fatima communicated to the three shepherd children was very simple: pray for the world. The Virgin Mary reiterated this theme during her August apparition when she said, “Pray, pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners.”Praying for the world on the 100th anniversary of the “Miracle of the Sun.”

When the world is in turmoil, prayer is always the answer. It is what Our Lady prescribed in the midst of World War I, and the same message rings true today.

Prayer is a hidden treasure that has the potential to change everything and is the only way to bring about lasting peace on this earth. So on this 100th anniversary of the “Miracle of the Sun,” let us join together in prayer, responding to Our Lady’s call to pray for the world and the conversion of hearts.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for our dear country.
Our Lady of Fatima, sanctify our clergy.
Our Lady of Fatima, make our Catholics more fervent.
Our Lady of Fatima, guide and inspire those who govern us.
Our Lady of Fatima, cure the sick who confide in thee.
Our Lady of Fatima, console the sorrowful who trust in thee.
Our Lady of Fatima, help those who invoke your aid.
Our Lady of Fatima, deliver us from all dangers.
Our Lady of Fatima, help us to resist temptation.
Our Lady of Fatima, obtain for us all that we lovingly ask of thee.
Our Lady of Fatima, help those who are dear to us.
Our Lady of Fatima, bring back to the right road our erring brothers.
Our Lady of Fatima, give us back our ancient fervor.
Our Lady of Fatima, obtain for us pardon of our manifold sins and offenses.
Our Lady of Fatima, bring all men to the feet of thy Divine Child.
Our Lady of Fatima, obtain peace for the world.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Let Us Pray:
O God of infinite goodness and mercy, fill our hearts with a great confidence in Thy dear Mother, whom we invoke under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary and our Lady of Fatima, and grant us by her powerful intercession all the graces, spiritual and temporal, which we need.
Through Christ our Lord.

How “Theotokos” became the perfect title of the Virgin Mary… re-blogged

How “Theotokos” became the perfect title of the Virgin Mary

 Philip Kosloski
Two different arguments were presented, one by Bishop Nestorius of Constantinople and the other by St. Cyril of Alexandria.
In the year 431 there was a fierce debate raging in the Catholic Church regarding a specific title of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The debate required a rare Ecumenical Council at the city of Ephesus to resolve the issue.

Nestorius firmly believed that Mary should be called Christotokos, “Birth-giver of Christ” (also translated as “Christ-bearer”). Fr. Dwight Longnecker explains that “Nestorius used language that was perceived as asserting that there were two separate persons conjoined in Jesus Christ. Thus the Blessed Virgin Mary in giving Jesus human flesh could be the ‘Christ-bearer’ but not ‘God-bearer.’”

On the other hand, St. Cyril and a great number of bishops believed that Mary should be called Theotokos, “Birth-giver to God” (also translated as “God-bearer” or “Mother of God”). This terminology affirmed that Jesus is “one person in two natures which are united.”

It was determined by an overwhelming majority that Theotokos was the correct title for Mary, and Nestorius was subsequently removed from his position as bishop of Constantinople.

The title “Mother of God” does not mean Mary somehow existed before God or created God, but that Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is fully God and fully human.

The Catechism puts it like this, “In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly ‘Mother of God’ (Theotokos)” (CCC 495).

The Orthodox and Byzantine tradition of Christianity continue to use this title of Mary, preferring it to any other of her titles. An ancient hymn in their liturgy poetically summarizes this complex truth, “He whom the entire universe could not contain was contained within your womb, O Theotokos.”

The decision to name Mary Theotokos was a pivotal point in the Church’s history. It clarified the Church’s belief in Jesus Christ and gave further confirmation regarding the nature of Christ’s incarnation. What the Church believed about Jesus since apostolic times was ratified at the Council of Ephesus.

Furthermore, the granting of this title confirmed Mary’s privileged role in salvation history and deepened understanding of the great mystery that occurred in her womb.

To honor the memory of this council, Pope Pius XI in 1931 established the feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary on October 11, which after the Second Vatican Council was transferred to January 1 and renamed the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. END QUOTES


“Does GOD Harden Human Hearts?” … re-blogged

Does GOD Harden Human Hearts?

Msgr. Charles Pope

One of the more difficult biblical themes to understand is that of God hardening the hearts and minds of certain people. The most memorable case is that of Pharaoh. Before sending Moses to him, God said that He would “harden Pharaoh’s heart” (Ex 4:21). There are other instances in which biblical texts speak of God hardening the hearts of sinners, even from among His own people.

Jesus hinted at such a theme in Matthew 13, when He said that He spoke in parables (here understood more as riddles) so as to affirm that the hearts of most people “outside the house” were hardened. He quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 as He does so. Jesus’ own apostles wondered why He spoke plainly only to them and a close company of disciples, but in riddle-like parables to the crowds outside. In His answer we are left to wonder if Jesus has not perchance written off the crowds and left them in the hardness of their hearts. To be fair, Jesus’ remark is ambiguous and open to interpretation.

What are we to make of texts like these which explicitly or implicitly speak of God hardening the hearts of people? How can God, who does no evil, be the source of a sinful mind or hard heart? Why would God do such a thing when Scripture also says this:

  • As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?(Ez 33:11)
  • God our Savior … wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth(1 Tim 2:4).

To be sure, these questions involve very deep mysteries, about the interaction between God’s sovereignty and our freedom, about time, and about causality. The question of God hardening hearts cannot be resolved simply. Greater minds than mine have pondered these things and it would be foolish to think that an easy resolution will be found in a blog post.

Some distinctions can and should be made and some context supplied. We do not want to understand the “hardening texts” simplistically or in ways that use one truth to cancel out others that balance it.

I propose that we examine these texts along four lines:

  1. The Context of Connivance
  2. The Mystery of Time
  3. The Mystery of Primary Causality
  4. The Necessity of Humility

To begin, it is important simply to list some of the hardening texts. These will be referred to as we examine each of the four points above. The following are not the only hardening texts, but they provide a wide enough sample to use in our discussion:

  • The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go”(Ex 4:21).
  • Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country(Ex 11:10).
  • Why, O LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance(Is 63:17).
  • He [God] has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them(Jesus quoting Isaiah 6:9-10, in John 12:40).
  • They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason, God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie, so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness(2 Thess 2:10-12).
  • Therefore, God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. … Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done(Rom 1:24, 28).

Point I: The Context of Connivance – In properly assessing texts like these we should first consider the contexts in which they were made and written. Generally speaking, most of these declarations that God hardens the heart come after a significant period of disobedience on the part of those whose hearts were hardened. In a way, God “cements the deal” and gives them what they really want. Seeing that they have hardened their own hearts to Him, God determines that their disposition is to be a permanent one. In a sovereign exercise of His will (for nothing can happen without God’s allowance), He declares and permits their hearts to be hardened in a definitive kind of way. In this sense there is a judgment of God upon the individual that recognizes the person’s definitive decision against Him. Hence this hardening can be understood as voluntary on the part of the one hardened, for God hardens in such a way that He uses the person’s own will for the executing of His judgment. God accepts that the individual’s will against Him is definitive.

In the case of Pharaoh, although God indicated to Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart, the actual working out of this is a bit more complicated. We see in the first five plagues that it is Pharaoh who hardens his own heart (Ex 7:13; 7:22; 8:11; 8:28; 9:7). It is only after this repeated hardening by Pharaoh of his own heart that the Exodus text speaks of God as the one who hardens (Ex 9:12; 9:34; 10:1; 10:20; 10:27). Hence the hardening here is not without Pharaoh’s repeated demonstration of his own hardness. God does this as a kind of sovereign judgment on Pharaoh.

The Isaiah texts (many in number) that speak of a hardening being visited upon Israel by God (e.g., #3 and #4 above) are also the culmination of a long testimony by Isaiah of Israel’s hardness. At the beginning of Isaiah’s ministry, God describes (through Isaiah) Israel’s hardness as being of their own doingFor the LORD has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him (Is 1:2-4). There follows a long list of their crimes, their hardness, and their refusal to repent.

St. John Chrysostom: Of the numerous texts later in Isaiah (and also referenced by Jesus (e.g., Jn 12:40)) that speak of Israel as being hardened by God (and having their eyes shut by Him), St. John Chrysostom wrote, That the saying of Isaiah might be fulfilled: that here is expressive not of the cause, but of the event. They did not disbelieve because Isaiah said they would; but because they would disbelieve, Isaiah said they would … For He does not leave us, except we wish Him … Whereby it is plain that we begin to forsake first, and are the cause of our own perdition. For as it is not the fault of the sun, that it hurts weak eyes, so neither is God to blame for punishing those who do not attend to His words (on a gloss of Is. 6:9-10 at Jn 12:40, quoted in the Catena Aurea).

St Augustine: This is not said to be the devil’s doing, but God’s. Yet if any ask why they could not believe, I answer, because they would not … But the Prophet, you say, mentions another cause, not their will; but that God had blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart. But I answer, that they well deserved this. For God hardens and blinds a man, by forsaking and not supporting him; and this He makes by a secret sentence, for by an unjust one He cannot (quoted in the Catena Aurea at Jn 12:40).

{Inserted by PJM…This is an apt explanation of Protestant unbelief and inability to rightly understand GOD’s Truths, as they are more into self-made religions than God’s singular per defined issue, TRUTHS}

In the passage from 2 Thessalonians, while the text speaks of God as having sent the delusion, the verses before and after make clear the sinful role of the punished.

Of this text St. Augustine wrote, From a hidden judgment of God comes perversity of heart, so that the refusal to hear the truth leads to the commission of sin, and this sin is itself a punishment for the preceding sin [of refusing to hear the truth] (Against Julian 5.3.12).

St. John Damascus: [God does this] so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness (The Orthodox Faith 4.26).

The passages from Romans speak of God handing them over only after they have suppressed the truth (1:18), persevered in their wickedness (1:18), and preferred idolatry (1:23). Hence, as a just judgment, God hands them over to sexual confusion (homosexuality) and countless other destructive drives. So although it is said that God hands them over, it is really not that simple. They do not want to serve Him and so He, knowing their definitive decision, gives them what they want.

Thus our first point of distinction in understanding the hardening texts is that the context of connivance is important in assessing them. Scripture does not assert that God takes a reasonably righteous man and, out of the blue, hardens his heart, confuses his mind, or causes him (against his will) to become obstinate. The texts are usually presented as a kind of prevenient judgment by God, that the state of the person’s hardness has now become permanent. They refuse and so God “causes” them to walk in their own sinful ways since they have insisted on doing so.

Point II: The Mystery of Time – In understanding these hardening texts (which we have seen are akin to judgment texts) we must recall that God does not live in time in the same way that we do. Scripture speaks often of God’s knowledge and vision of time as being comprehensive rather than speculative or serial (e.g., Ex 3:14; Ps 90:2-4; Ps 93:2; Is 43:13; Ps 139; 2 Peter 3:8; James 1:17).

To say that God is eternal and lives in eternity is to say that He lives in the fullness of time. For God, past, present, and future are all the same. God is not wondering what I will do tomorrow; neither is He waiting for it to happen. For Him, my tomorrow has always been present. All of my days were written in His book before one of them ever came to be (Ps 139:16). Whether and how long I live has always been known to Him. Before He ever formed me in my mother’s womb He knew me (Jer 1:4). My final destiny is already known and present to Him.

Hence, when we strive to understand God’s judgments in the form of hardening the hearts of certain people, we must be careful not to think He lives in time the way we do. It is not as though God is watching my life like a movie. He already knows the choices I will make. Thus, when God hardens the hearts of some, it is not as though He is trying to negatively influence the outcome and trip certain people up. He already knows the outcome and has always known it; He knows the destiny that they have chosen.

Be very careful with this insight, for it is a mystery to us. We cannot really know what it is like to live in eternity, in the fullness of time, where the future is just as present as the past. Even if you think you know, you really don’t. What is essential for us to realize is that God does not live in time the way we do. If we try too hard to solve the mystery (rather than merely accepting and respecting it) we risk falling into the denial of human freedom, double predestination, or other misguided notions that sacrifice one truth for another rather than holding them in balance. That God knows what I will do tomorrow does not destroy my freedom to actually do it. How this all works out is mysterious, but we are free and God holds us accountable for our choices. Further, even though God knows our destiny already, this does not mean that He is revealing anything about that to us, so that we should look for signs and seek to call ourselves saved or lost. We ought to work out our salvation in reverential fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).

The key point here is mystery. How, why, and when God hardens the heart of anyone is caught up in the mysterious fact that He lives outside of time and knows all things before they happen. Thus He acts with comprehensive knowledge of all outcomes.

Point III: The Mystery of Causality – One of the major differences between the ancient and the modern world is that the ancient world was much more comfortable dealing with something known as primary causality.

Up until the Renaissance, God was at the center of all things and people instinctively saw the hand of God in everything, even terrible things. Job said, The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised … if we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil? (Job 1:21; 2:10) The ancients would commonly attribute everything as coming from the hand of God, for He was the first cause of everything that happened. This is what is meant by primary causality. The ancients were thus much more comfortable attributing things to God, even things that we are not. In speaking like this, they were not engaging in superstitious or primitive thinking; rather, they were emphasizing that God was sovereign, omnipotent, and omnipresent, and that nothing happened apart from His sovereign will. God is the primary cause of all that is.

Of this ancient and scriptural way of thinking the Catechism saysAnd so we see the Holy Spirit, the principal author of Sacred Scripture, often attributing actions to God without mentioning any secondary causes [e.g., human or natural]. This is not a “primitive mode of speech,” but a profound way of recalling God’s primacy and absolute Lordship over history and the world, and so of educating his people to trust in him (CCC # 304).

The key point here is understanding that the ancient biblical texts, while often speaking of God as hardening the hearts of sinners, did not mean to say that man had no role, no responsibility. Neither did the texts mean to say that God acted in a merely arbitrary way. Rather, the emphasis was on God’s sovereign power as the first cause of all that is. Hence, He is often called the cause of all things and His hand is seen in everything. We moderns are uncomfortable speaking in this way.

After the Renaissance, man moved himself to the center and God was gradually relegated to the periphery. Man’s manner of thinking and speaking began to shift to secondary causes (causes related to man and nature). If something happens we look to natural causes, or in human situations, to the humans who caused it. These are secondary causes because I cannot cause something to happen unless God causes me. Yet increasingly the modern mind struggles to maintain a balance between the two mysteries: our freedom and responsibility, and God’s sovereignty and omnipotence.

In effect primary causality has largely been thrown overboard as a category. Even modern believers unconsciously do this and thus exhibit three related issues:

  1. We fail to maintain the proper balance between two mysteries: God’s sovereignty and our freedom.
  2. We exhibit shockat things like the “hardening texts” of the Bible because we understand them poorly.
  3. We try to resolve the shock by favoring one truth over the other. Maybe we just brush aside the ancient biblical texts as a “primitive mode of speech,” inappropriately concluding that God didn’t have anything to do with this or that. Or we go to the other extreme and become fatalistic, denying human freedom, denying secondary causality (our part), and accusing God of everything (as if He were the only cause and shouldered the sole blame for everything). We either read the hardening texts with a clumsy literalism or we dismiss them as misguided notions from an immature, primitive, pre-scientific age.

The point here is that we have to balance the mysteries of primary and secondary causality. We cannot fully understand how they interrelate, but they do. Both mysteries need to be held. The ancients were more sophisticated than we are in holding these mysteries in the proper balance. We handle causality very clumsily and do not appreciate the distinctions between primary causality (God’s part) and secondary causality (our own and nature’s part). We try to resolve the mystery rather than holding it in balance and speaking to both realities. In doing so, we become poor interpreters of the hardening texts.

Point IV: The Necessity of Humility – By now it is clear that we are dealing with the mysterious interrelationship between God and Man, between God’s sovereignty and our freedom, between primary and secondary causality. In the face of such mysteries we have to be very humble. We ought not to think more of the details than is proper, because they are largely hidden from us. Too many moderns either dismiss the hardening texts or accept them and then sit in harsh judgment over God (as if we could do such a thing). Neither approach bespeaks humility. Consider a shocking but very humbling text in which Paul warns us in this very matter:

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore, God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” (Romans 9:14-20)

None of us can demand an absolute account from God for what He does. Even if He were to tell us, could our small and worldly minds ever really comprehend it? My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways, says the Lord (Is 55:8).

SUMMARY – In this (rather too long) post, we have considered the “hardening texts,” in which it seems that God hardens the hearts of certain people and groups—and so He does. But texts like these must be approached carefully, humbly, and with proper understanding of the scriptural and historical context. At work here are profound mysteries: God’s sovereignty, our freedom, His mercy, and His justice.

We should be careful to admit the limits of our knowledge when it comes to such texts. As the Catechism so beautifully states, when it comes to texts like these they are to be appreciated as a profound way of recalling God’s primacy and absolute Lordship over history and the world, and so of educating his people to trust in him (CCC # 304).
This song says, “Be not angry any longer Lord and no more remember our iniquities. Behold and regard us; we are all your people! END QUOTES




“The Persecution of Orthodoxy” by Josef Seifert

“The Persecution of Orthodoxy”….

RE: Intrinsic Evils


By Josef Seifert

If one considers the transformation of Plato’s Academy, champion of eternal truth, into a center of radical skepticism against which St. Augustine wrote his Contra Academicos, or contemplates the splits and changes that have occurred in all other philosophical schools, one will see that the preservation of Catholic doctrine over two millennia is a miracle. Considering likewise the countless divisions between and within the different Protestant confessions, as well as in other religions, it is evident that the way Catholic teaching has survived intact, becoming increasingly clear with each confrontation with error, is a wonder far greater than healing the sick or making the blind see.

Add to this the fact that many priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes not only lived very bad lives opposed to Catholic teaching, but rejected many Catholic doctrines, or simply did not believe them. Any purely human institution would long since have been dissolved, or suffered inner divisions and contradictions that would have been reflected in its creeds and official teachings.

In the Acts of the ApostlesGamaliel declared the Church’s survival impossible unless it were established and preserved by GodThe same line of thought underlies Boccaccio’s famous story in the Decameron, of the Christian merchant and the Jew, who converts precisely because the many unworthy and worldly men whom he met in the Vatican did not destroy the Church, which therefore must be of God. When one observes that “the Church” gloriously overcame the many crises it suffered, one can only mean the true voice and official teachings of the Church. One cannot deny that these same errors have lingered until the present day, and even gained force in many circles despite having been recognized and condemned.

In the last fifty years, the crisis that threatened the Church most gravely is one of moral theology and of the understanding of “natural law.” This crisis became dramatically clear after the publication of Humanae Vitae. At first, theologians who opposed the document sought refuge in the sanctuary of moral conscience, the supreme subjective norm of morality. Instead of seeing conscience as founded upon the objective truth about good and evil, upon the infinite dignity of God, and the towering dignity of man, instead of recognizing that conscience is called to form itself through the truth, these men saw it as a subjective generator of what is good and evil—for me. As if it were not necessary that conscience correspond to objective moral norms that are inscribed in the essence of things and of human acts, and in the eternal holiness of God.

Yet the moral-theological phalanx that turned against Humanae Vitaewas not content with saying that the ethical errors and gravely disordered acts of those who practice contraception are purely subjectively justified by their erring conscience. Instead, these opponents suddenly wanted to claim the full objectivity of their opposition to Humanae Vitae, saying that we do not deal here only with erring consciences (tirelessly invoked by Rocco Buttiglione in his defense of Amoris Laetitia).

Defenses of the subjectivity of conscience still implied that the sinner, who found himself entangled in errors of conscience, should be better taught and humbly submit his judgment to the objective truth about the intrinsic wrongness of his acts. Rejecting this, the new proportionalist and consequentialist ethical theory (really a rehash of old ideas) allowed theologians to claim: Under many circumstances the acts Humanae Vitaecalled intrinsically wrong are, objectively speaking, not wrong at all. Those who disobeyed Humanae Vitae not only had every right to follow their own conscience, even against the Church, they were objectively right when they chose to do so.

Whether this position was called “proportionalism,” “consequentialism,” “purely teleological ethics,” “situation ethics,” etc., the point was the same: It threw overboard the central teaching of all ethics since Socrates, Plato, and Cicero, and throughout the history of the Church—namely, the teaching that there are intrinsically wrong acts. Acts such as lying, raping a woman, abortion, murder, euthanasia, using false judgments to fulfill one’s own lust—as did the old judges who accused Susanna of adultery because she had refused their evil wishes—are always wrong and gravely disordered. The young Daniel’s glorious act of uncovering their lie and injustice, and his just judgment against these evil old men, brings home with gripping force the existence of acts of injustice, lies, calumnies, killing the innocents, etc., that are absolutely and under all circumstances wrong; they are what is called an intrinsece malum.

Now this new moral theology, advocated by Fuchs, Demmer, Böckle, Schüller, and many others, denied that any act could be judged morally, except in terms of its good and bad consequences. Hence, there does not exist an intrinsically and always wrong human action. If an action, whatever its inner nature may be, promises to lead to a lessening of evils in the world, it can be justified. We can easily see that with this ethics nothing in Catholic moral teaching would remain intact. Because no act would be bad by its nature, but good or bad only with reference to the concrete complexity of life and the web of causes and effects.

One can always find cases in which committing murder, betraying the innocent, or many other abominable acts can have a greater number of good consequences than an alternative action. For example, betraying one Jew and sending him to his cremation, considered in isolation, is certainly a most horrible act, these authors admit. However, this same act, under some circumstances, may mean the death of just one man, instead of risking that the Nazis, because of my unwillingness to deliver this one Jew to them, are murdering my own family of eight. Therefore, under such circumstances, we would be permitted, or even obliged, to deliver this one Jew to be killed by the Nazis.

It is not solely a clear teaching of the Church, however, but it is also evident to human reason, that certain abominable crimes cannot at all be justified through pointing out their good consequences. Consider the abominable act the prophet Daniel would have committed, if he had himself condemned the innocent woman, in order not to put his career as young judge into peril.

It is hardly possible to exaggerate the immense proportions of the crisis in the Church produced by such a false and vicious ethical theory. It is able to find an excuse for any kind of sinful act. If mere consequences could make human acts morally good or evil, there would remain no injustice, no cruel abortion, nor any abomination that could not be justified under some circumstances.

To this crisis, Pope St. John Paul II reacted most forcefully. In his Familiaris Consortio, he reconfirmed the teaching of the intrinsic evil of adultery, and of contraception, by which the unitive meaning of the conjugal act is actively and deliberately severed from the procreative one. In Evangelium Vitae, he insisted on the dignity of each human being, who is simultaneously a human person. Hence, any attack against human life, from its very beginning in conception until true death (not merely so-called “brain death”), is intrinsically evil and cannot be justified by any good consequence that such an act might have (such as saving a life or a marriage, or preventing that the husband leaves his children, etc.). No, invoking the authority of St. Peter, and thus (in my view), declaring this teaching a dogma, John Paul formulated in Ch. 68 of Evangelium Vitaethat in each and every living human being we must respect the full dignity of the person. Thus, any antilife act is intrinsically wrong and can never be justified in view of any external or posterior consequences.

Finally, in Veritatis Splendor, the pope put an end to this proportionalist ethics, affirming with utmost force that there are acts that are by their nature evil and morally wrong. Their very end and essential intention (finis operis) make them morally wrong regardless of the consequences.Veritatis Splendor condemned lock, stock, and barrel the moral-theological errors that denied intrinsically wrong acts. It thus gave Humanae Vitae its ultimate foundation in the unambiguous teaching that there are acts that are intrinsically wrong and cannot be justified in any situation.

Today the ethics rejected by Veritatis Splendor has raised its ugly head once again. It threatens to bring about the climax of the moral-theological crisis in the Church, because now it is not just a mob of some rebellious theologians and bishops who deny intrinsically evil acts. No, there are some formulations in Amoris Laetitia that have caused a deep shock in those of us who have fought, alongside St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, for decades against the immense evil of this false ethics. These formulations are what have provoked our “dubia,” questions posed at the highest level by four cardinals but expressed in various forms by bishops, priests, theologians, and journalists.

Could it be that Pope Francis threw away in Amoris Laetitia the moral-theological teachings that have been declared most solemnly to be the perpetual teaching of the Church and eternal truths about morality? It is against this background that the five dubia of the four cardinals must be seen. They are in no way anti-pope or damaging to the community of the Church, but represent a supreme service to the Church and to the pope, by pointing out a threat of destruction of Catholic moral teaching if Pope Francis does not clarify things or correct some assertions he made.

The dubia are a church-historical necessity. They are questions that should be asked by all cardinals and bishops, and by all laymen across the world. Yet the four cardinals who asked these questions in the most refined, polite, and fraternal way, were insulted, maligned, made to seem like heretics and schismatics. Cardinal Müller was forbidden by the archbishop of Madrid to present a book that interpreted Amoris Laetitia exactly along the lines of Familiaris Consortio 84 and in the same way the Polish episcopate did, whose position was approved by Pope Francis (“for Poland”). No, these four cardinals, two of whom have died, are heroes, servants, and brothers of the pope, who ask him whether the shocking impression given by some of his assertions corresponds to his will, or not.

The same kind of name-calling and persecution of those who defend the solemn teachings of the Church directs itself against many others. A topsy-turvy inquisition has been launched against orthodoxy, and truth is persecuted by those called to uphold it. I have become one of the victims of this reverse inquisition. Asking the pope, in a paper in total agreement with Veritatis Splendor, a question that coincided with one or two of the five dubia of the four cardinals was enough to get me fired by my archbishop whom I served faithfully during the past six years in Granada, Spain.

I only asked whether or not an iron logic must draw the conclusion that there are no intrinsically wrong acts from the thesis that conscience can know in some cases that God Himself wills us to commit acts of adultery and homosexual acts. I explicitly left the answer to the pope. If he answered this question in the affirmative, I wrote, I would beg him to revoke this affirmation.

For asking this question, and for saying that if the pope answers my question in the affirmative, he should please revoke at least this one sentence, I was charged by the archbishop of Granada in an extremely sharp way. He forced my retirement from the Dietrich von Hildebrand Chair for Realist Phenomenology in the IAP-IFES (the International Academy of Philosophy-Instituto de Filosofía Edith Stein). This chair had been created for me by Don Javier Martínez in 2015, nine months after my seventieth birthday. It was especially absurd, then, that my dismissal was later attributed to the application of a collective law of retirement of professors at age seventy.

One year before, I had already been removed from seminary teaching for another article: “Amoris Laetitia. Joy, Sadness and Hopes.” The second article was punished with my immediate forced retirement, which was never communicated to me directly, in a signed letter, but only indirectly by some hints in emails and telephone conversations, and by a salary receipt. This receipt bears the same date, August 31, 2017, of the press notice in which, next to expressing “the immense sadness of the diocese over my article,” the whole world was informed, without any reason offered, that through “my article” (that was not even cited), I had “damaged the community of the Catholic Church,” “confounded the faith of the faithful,” “undermined the authority of the Pope, and served more the world than the Church.”

The fact that publishing an article, which many voices, including cardinals, archbishops, and bishops called a great service to Church and pope, which is completely faithful to the whole body of magisterial moral teachings of Pope John Paul II, and to a 2,000-year tradition of Catholic moral doctrine, can cause one to be fired by a Catholic archbishop, is shocking, as Robert Spaemann said.

My case is only one of many examples in the present Church. Was not the removal of Cardinal Burke from the second part of the Synod on the family and from all his high posts in the Curia a kind of inquisition in response to his questions, which have not been answered but punished? Is not the same assumption necessary to explain Cardinal Müller’s abrupt removal as Prefect of the Congregation of Faith? Is not the continuous and complete silence of the pope to the four cardinals’ questions a kind of “silent inquisition” and a victory of power and will over reason, a “papal positivism,” as Father Harrison points out in an excellent article? There are countless other examples. Is all of this not a sign that a longstanding deep crisis of Catholic moral teaching in the Church has reached a new and disquieting climax, being not only linked to the supreme authorities of the Church, but espousing a new style in the Church? Not answering questions or doubts at all, not giving reasons, but remaining silent and acting by sheer power! The moral-theological crisis has moved from the bottom to the top of the Church. The victims of judgments or actions against them are denied the opportunity to defend themselves against unjust charges, a natural human right that is explicitly recognized in canon law.

There is a strong dose of “papolatry” in all of this. As the pope is by no means infallible in every statement he makes, none of the fierce charges against my article and the dubia of the four cardinals, which are in perfect harmony with Familiaris Consortio and Veritatis Splendor, and with 2,000 years of moral teaching, can be justified. Moreover, the pope himself told the SSPX that they did not—and Pope Francis acted quite rightly in thishave to subscribe to all non-dogmatic documents of the Second Vatican Council in order to be fully reintegrated in the Church. In sharp contrast, Archbishop Martínez turned any doubt regarding even just one sentence of the non-dogmatic assertion of the pope in a document of incomparably lesser weight than Council documents into a sort of heresy or crime against the Church, sufficient to fire me instantly. According to chapter 3 of Amoris Laetitia, the pope’s admitting divorced and remarried and homosexual couples to the sacraments is, according to his own assertion, not a magisterial teaching. The fact that the pope’s own, and the Buenos Aires Bishops’, interpretation of Amoris Laetitia is not an act of the magisterium, is already clear from the fact that the pope explicitly accepted the contrary interpretation that nothing has been changed through Amoris Laetitia, for the Polish Church.

How is it, then, that the archbishop of Granada is more papal than the pope, and turns the Buenos Aires interpretation, which he accepted and demands to be accepted by his clergy, into a kind of dogma that justifies my suspension from the seminary teaching for asking critical questions about it, and seeking the clarification or revocation of some assertions in it, pointing out that the sense in which they are being read by many contradicts revealed truth? And how can it be that now, in response to the second article, a Church authority regards a mere question, similar to some of the four cardinals’ dubia, put to the pope, as sufficient ground for my expulsion from a chair? Is asking a question now harmful to the Church, regardless of whether it is asked for good reasons or not? Does it not have to be answered (for neither the pope nor the archbishop answered the question), so long as the questioner can be sent home?

Ilove Archbishop Martínez and admire him for founding an excellent cultural institute, a new publishing house, a school of sacred music, an institute for women, and other good works. I have never seen an archbishop who initiated so many good activities and entities. I admire him especially for having created the Instituto de Filosofía Edith Stein and the Lumen Gentium Institute, which keep seminarians from being educated in all kinds of philosophical and theological errors taught in the Jesuit faculty of theology inside the Universidad de Granada. Because of this admiration, I wanted to remain in Granada for the rest of my life, and donated many books and unedited writings, including my own, to IFES.

That the archbishop does not remove Catholic theologians who spread errors and heresies while teaching in the name of the Catholic Church, but instead expels me from a chair he had created in a non-Church-affiliated school of philosophy, is beyond my comprehension. Such a persecution of someone who defends teachings that are entirely compatible with the Catholic Church is harmful not only for me, but for the archbishop himself and for the Church itself.

For this reason, I have found it appropriate—on the advice of a very saintly and brilliant cardinal of the Catholic Church—not to accept humbly and silently episcopal slaps in the face for telling the truth and asking questions of the greatest importance to the Church. Instead, I have resolved to fight against misrepresentations of truth and against injustice, both by an ecclesiastic and a civil legal action. Power must not be allowed to dominate over reason in the Church. Gravely damaging and false accusations are not to be simply accepted, not just in my case, but also in many other cases of a persecution of Catholic believers in the name of a pseudo-inquisition.

I have tried, and will continue to try, to propose a conciliatory and peaceful settlement before the peace Court in Granada, but not at the price of truth and of justice. For if I did forego truth and justice or duck down upon being illegitimately castigated, I would indeed damage the ecclesiastic community, confound the faith of the faithful, and undermine the true authority and reputation the pope, who is the visible head of the Catholic Church and the true representative of Christ on Earth.

May God give us a glorious resurrection of truth, of reason and of faith, in the Catholic Church, and may He prevent a new climax of the moral theological crisis in the Church from tearing down the most solemn Church teachings on the divine commandments and natural law! The light of true morality, together with the higher light of the supernatural morality of the Sermon on the Mountis entrusted to the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church under the authority of the pope, who is called to be the Rock on whom Jesus built His Church, a truth I profess. And precisely because I profess it, I feel the obligation to accept the invitation Pope Francis addressed to all of us: to challenge him wherever we think that his words deviate from the truth of Jesus Christ, whom the pope is called to represent, but not to replace by proposing a new teaching. If this new teaching, or even just one phrase contained in Amoris Laetitia, clearly seems to shake the foundations of the moral order, I am not just permitted but obliged to speak out. In doing so, the philosopher follows the example of St. Paul, who criticized the first pope publicly and sharply, as he tells us in the Letter to the Galatians and as St. Thomas Aquinas beautifully defends. I would not deserve the name of a philosopher and would betray Socrates and Christ (who addressed the first pope with the words “Get behind me, Satan,” when Peter spoke against the will of God) if I acted otherwise and, for base fear of the consequences, failed to speak the truth and to ask necessary questions.

Thus, I repeat again my plea to Pope Francis to answer the question put to him, and to answer unambiguously, with a simple Yes or No. If he answers that one of his affirmations has the logical consequence of denying intrinsically wrong acts and runs counter to the constant teaching of the Church, I implore him, in the name of God, Who Is THE TRUTH, to retract any affirmation that is counter to the truth and Church Teaching.

I do not act this way because I believe myself, in insane pride, to be more infallible than the pope. Rather, I do this because I profess a faith whose Scriptures teach us that sometimes a donkey can see something the prophet fails to see. If the prophet in such a case slaps the donkey, whom God sent him, he will receive the stern reprimand God gave the prophet through his angel.

Josef Seifert is former Dietrich von Hildebrand Chair of Realist Phenomenology at the International Academy of Philosophy.

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Photo by Alfreda Borba via Creative Commons. Image cropped.


“Luther 500 Years Later” re-blogged

Luther: 500 Years After

Russell Shaw


Anyone familiar with Martin Luther is aware that his religious ideas often reflect his inner turmoil – the agonized awareness that he was a sinner, the consuming fear that he was damned, a pressing need for reassurance that he was saved by faith in the salvific action of Christ.

Out of this tangle came Luther’s distinctive view of faith as a “reflexive” or “apprehensive” entity – the believer’s reaching out to salvation in Christ, seizing it (or Him), and directing it (or Him) back upon himself in order to possess the assurance of salvation and a place among the elect.

This circular trajectory is traced by Paul Hacker in his book Faith in LutherHacker was a controversial German Catholic religious scholar, a convert from Lutheranism, who died in 1979. Faith in Luther first appeared in 1966, with a preface by a then-youngish theologian, a star at the recently concluded Vatican Council II, Joseph Ratzinger, now better known as Pope Benedict XVI.

The Ratzinger preface is included in the new edition, along with an informative foreword by Reinhard Hutter, another former Lutheran, who now teaches at the Catholic University of America.

The republication is a timely contribution as the fifth centennial observance of Luther’s posting of the famous 95 theses, supposed to have occurred on October 31, 1517, draws to a close. Historians say that event may or may not have happened, but the theses certainly were real, as were the break with Rome and the fracturing of European Christendom that followed.

As is the lasting significance of Luther’s thinking about faith. The subtitle of Hacker’s book – Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion – points to why that is so:

Luther’s “temptations” were the outcome of the deadly stress produced by the first effort of a man-oriented trend to assert itself within the uncontested framework of a decidedly theocentric and Christocentric religion. Since Luther’s time the same trend has forced faith to withdraw to the position of a “religionless Christianity.” Anthropocentrism has reached its last stage before coinciding with professed atheism. This situation causes a new kind of interior convulsion, and this is the contemporary form of faith’s essential experience of temptation.

The whole nightmare of “tempted faith” vanishes once the reflexivity of faith is renounced. But for many, it seems arduous to get rid of an inveterate evil.

If true, this constitutes stern criticism of Luther. But is it true? To answer that, it’s necessary to take a close look at Luther’s ideas about faith. With their emergence, Hacker writes, “the potential reformer became the first Protestant.”

Luther as an Augustinian Monk by Lucas Cranach the Elder (workshop), c. 1550 [German National Museum, Nuremberg]

Here Hacker relies heavily on Luther’s immensely popular Small Catechism. Summing it up, he writes that for Luther “the act of reflexive faith is directed to the Divine Person of Christ, but it is intended to recoil on the believer’s ego in order to evoke in him a consciousness of his own relation with God, a consciousness of consolation and salvation.”

As Luther put it in a sermon of 1519: “Nobody can possibly know that he is in God’s grace and that God is propitious to him except through faith. If he believes it, he is blessed; if not, he is condemned.” This is what Luther meant by calling such faith “apprehensive” (fides apprehensiva) – it grasps salvation, indeed grasps Christ Himself.

Hacker finds this concept of faith pervasive in Luther’s religious thinking. As such, it strongly influences his view of the sacraments. For example, although he eventually rejected Penance as a true sacrament, he paradoxically took an appreciative view of auricular confession (“it pleases me wonderfully”), since the forgiveness spoken by the minister brought “a unique remedy for afflicted consciences. . . .We give peace to ourselves in the mercy of God, who speaks to us through our brother.”

Of the two sacraments that Luther recognized – baptism and the Eucharist (“the Lord’s Supper”) – his treatment of the latter is particularly interesting from the standpoint of reflexive faith.

The Mass is essentially for Luther “a promise of remission of sins,” and that’s why he insists emphatically on the Real Presence. For if the meaning of the Mass is Christ’s promise to pardon sins, then, in Hacker’s words, “the bodily presence of the one promising at the time of the proclamation of his promise surely guarantees the validity of the promise and the actuality of its accomplishment.”

The effects of Luther’s thinking, of course, didn’t end with him. On the contrary, Hacker says, “The new concept of faith inescapably initiated a development in which religion became at first man-oriented and eventually man-centered.” Here was “the seed of anthropocentrism in religion and of idealism in philosophy.”

No Catholic of even minimal sensitivity can fail to appreciate the dramatic improvement in Lutheran-Catholic relations since Vatican II, especially the joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed in Augsburg in 1999.

Two years ago a dialogue group representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops concluded that the number of “church-dividing issues” remaining between them is not large. But the remaining issues are of no little importance, since they include the authority of the pope, abortion, same-sex marriage, and ministry (ELCA accepts women as ministers along with gays and lesbians in same-sex unions).

If Paul Hacker is correct, add faith to that list, and put it first. In his foreword, Reinhard Hutter calls the book “an urgent invitation for future bilateral ecumenical dialogues to tackle explicitly the questions, What is faith? What is saving faith? What does saving faith presuppose and entail?”

Leaving these questions unexamined, he warns, would mean that “the partners in the ecumenical dialogue would most likely talk past each other on many other theological topics.” As then-Father Joseph Ratzinger put it in 1966, an ecumenism based on “a surrender of truth would be the equivalent of burying the faith. . . .[Hacker] has the right, therefore, to expect his work to be evaluated by the single norm he has in mind: the quest of the truth of the Gospel, whether it is pleasant or not, whether it coincides with one’s ideas or makes them questionable.”


© 2017 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

“The 1 Reason Hell is so terrifying” : re-blogged

An eternal fire is nothing compared to this haunting feature.

A common image of Hell presents us with a vision of souls burning alive for all eternity. However, this image is only the beginning of why our souls should fear eternal damnation.

One of the most popular descriptions of Hell comes from the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent. In it Hell is described as a “most loathsome and dark prison in which the souls of the damned are tormented with the unclean spirits in eternal and inextinguishable fire. This place is called gehenna, the bottomless pit, and is hell strictly so­-called.”

This particular image of Hell is likely derived from the words of Jesus in the Gospel, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43).

In biblical terms, Gehenna is the Greek name for a valley southwest of Jerusalem. It was a place where pagan sacrifice occurred, including the burning sacrifice of children. During Jesus’ time it was a garbage dump where refuse was continually burned. Thus, Hell is associated with a place of perpetual fire and pain.

However, while the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms Hell as a place of “eternal fire,” it also highlights the greatest punishment of all.

The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs. (CCC 1035)

When Sister Lucia of Fatima saw a vision of Hell, she noted how the souls there were not only suffering great pain, but immense “despair.” Hell is a place of utter desolation, a lonely place that is anything but a “party of sinners.”

Dante wrote about this aspect of Hell in his Inferno. In contrast to a place of pure fire, he describes it as a lake of ice. In particular, Satan is waist-deep in ice and is seen crying.

The Emperor of the kingdom dolorous
From his mid-breast forth issued from the ice;

With six eyes did he weep, and down three chins
Trickled the tear-drops and the bloody drivel (Canto XXXIV).

Instead of a place of burning, it is seen as a place of darkness, cold and despair. These images from Dante display the reality of eternal separation from God and the resulting extreme loneliness.

Separation from the source of all light and love should be terrifying. It means an eternity of being alone, away from humanity and away from all that is true, good and beautiful. Hell is the opposite of Heaven, where the blessed experience eternal communion, joy, love and friendship. The “flames” of Hell are nothing when confronted with this stark reality END QUOTES

The TASK & the Cross of perseverance by Patrick Miron


   The Task & the Cross of Perseverance

A reflection by Patrick Miron

 Rom.2: 13 “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”

I suspect that all who receive this Lesson has been a true “saint” at least once. Perhaps for many, very much more. But is that sufficient to get me and you into heaven? No!

Matt.19:21 “Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Mark.10: 2]” And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Luke.18: 22 “And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

So the questions seems to be: What does “Come and follow Me” mandate and command?  …

Have you ever reflected on what this teaching means to us in the times and world in which GOD places us?

At the time, place and circumstances of that teaching, Christ was being quite literal. He was speaking to a rich by inheritance, one presumes, young SINGLE man, All though it is possible that he may have been married? In effect God was offering this guy an opportunity to become another apostle

To the best of my personal knowledge, only Peter was actually known biblically evidenced to have been married, and there is no mention of him having children. Though it is thought that because of Jewish Tradition that many; perhaps all but John, were also married and may even have had children. It was not Jewish Tradition of the time for men to remain single and celebrant. But that was a different time, place and conditions when the community would normally have stepped in to fill the needs of their families.

That so many would give up so very much to Answer God’s call is telling just how compelling, how urgent, that Godly call was. And it is not to be overlooked that Jesus, through Divine Providence would certainly have assured the Apostles that their families would be taken care of, if for no other reason than it permitted the Apostles to focus on the task at hand. … Just as compelling though is that Jesus came to share a lesson of love and servitude, and Divine Justice would have demanded such a response from our Just and Loving God.  Below is a brief EWTN article you can read if interested.


… I don’t think in its application to our lives that Christ is asking, and certainly not commanding us to leave our spouses, kids and break up our families to serve Him; nor is that even necessary in our personal efforts to persevere until the end, and thus merit our reward.

Each of us will Judged in the end based on what GOD has made possible for us individually to know, to in humility accept and with enthusiasm to live and share. So Gods grading of our own degree “followship” and perseverance will be on a sort of sliding scale, depending on the Crosses that he has built for each of us, and then to the degree that we accept those crosses without [excessive] complaint. No complaint being the ideal goal.

What we all can know, and all of should do is pray daily for the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. … These Holy Spirit granted Gifts, are the unfailing prescription for what ails us.

They grow our humility, and meekness, and prevent us from falling spiritually ill from despair. … Further they actually strengthen us, and aid our perseverance       in times of trouble.

Our God ask and expects many things from each of us, and what He ask varies greatly dependent upon our gifts, talents, abilities, and of course, our personal situations. But the girding; the very foundation of all of God’s Just Expectations is perseverance.

Sir.2: 10Consider the ancient generations and see: who ever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame? Or whoever persevered in the fear of the Lord and was forsaken?
Or whoever called upon him and was overlooked”

Jas.1: 25 “But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing”

Matt.10: 22 “and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who perseveres to the end will be saved.”

Matt.19: 17   …. “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

Matt.24: 13 “But he who endures to the end will be saved.”

Heb.12: 7 “It is for discipline that you have to persevere. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

John.14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John.14: 23 “Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him”

Dear friends, Jesus became a “man” like us for a number of reasons; among them enabling humanity too actually [without undue fear; in Awe] know God, who choose not to reveal himself except in hidden ways in the Old Testament. … Devout Jews to this day would not even say or write the name of G__d.  … Jesus came to, in Love, demonstrate, the other face of GOD; a God of Love, kindness and Mercy, a God of concern and goodwill; Jesus came as a guide, but even more as a role-model. Not only does Jesus teach us how we can conditionally attain heaven; he actually demonstrated it for us by his lives example. And as our role-model, He Personally tells us, commands us and directs each of us to “COME FOLLOW ME.”

I began this reflection with Jesus advising the young, man to sell everything and to come and “follow me if you would be perfect” …. What is the relevance of this for us in our time, condition and place?

In a WORD; what Christ expected then and now is SACRIFICE. … We live in an age of MEISM, and few of us [myself notably include], are excluded from this experience. We have become so attuned to “THE ME”, that it very often is the first [and often defining issue for our personal decision making] that the “HOW” will such and such effect ME, is often the primary concern; even a “natural” response. And such a reality is a 100% different and opposite reflection of what Jesus modeled for each of us.

Christ always, ALWAYS, placed others needs and wants before His Own. To the degree that we are able to do likewise is the measurement of our Love and Loyalty to Christ message of our personal salvation.

I suspect that each of us have met at least one or more priest who Do model and emulate Christ in His self-giving. A GREAT many Pastors are such role models for us. So that we CAN know, that such a life is possible.

Isa.43: 7Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.” & [21] “the people whom I formed for myself
that THEY MIGHT declare my praise

To attain heaven we are to LOVE. We are to forgive everyone for everything. We are to share our time, talents and resources with others in greater need. We are to spread HOPE and teach, eve n if it’s [dare I say] “only” by our lives public-example, our Catholic Faith. Not only are we expected to carry our own Christ designer-crosses; we ARE expected to help others in their efforts to carry theirs.

In effect, we are to take Christ WORDS: “I AM the way, the Truth and the Life” as a instruction of how we are to live our lives. By our examples of SELF-GIVING for others we can give evidence and are expected to share “The Good News.”

The question before us, and not too many years ago expressed in a popular slogan is relevant today: WWJD” ….”WHAT WOULD JESUS DO/” … come FOLLOW Me.

We need to get used to asking ourselves this question so often that it effects the way we liv e and the way we LOVE.

So dear friends, what is IT that Jesus would have YOU do?

 Pray very much! Life is SHORT; Eternity is FOREVER. PERSEVERE!

God’s continued Blessings,


“Did you Pray for your Pastor today?”

Did You Pray for Your Pastor Today?

Do you pray for your pastor each morning? After all, he is not like the manager of the supermarket, whom you only see when there is a problem. The pastor is the spiritual leader of the community and we are joined together as the family of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

According to St. John Paul II, “the priest is called to express in his life the authority and service of Jesus Christ the head and priest of the Church by encouraging and leading the ecclesial community, that is, by gathering together ‘the family of God as a fellowship endowed with the spirit of unity’ and by leading it ‘in Christ through the Spirit to God the Father.’” All of the collective terms are there for a reason. We are a communion in the Spirit of God. This is not a concept that is supported by our culture, but then, the culture is not the yardstick by which we should be measuring ourselves.

Spiritual realities are difficult to describe because we are aware of so few of them and how they are woven into events in us and around us. Scripturally, the Church is called the Body of Christ, and that word “body,” with all its concreteness and integrity, “calls for a multiplicity of members, which are linked together in such a way as to help one another. And as in the body when one member suffers, all the other members share its pain, and the healthy members come to the assistance of the ailing, so in the Church the individual members do not live for themselves alone, but also help their fellows, and all work in mutual collaboration for the common comfort and for the more perfect building up of the whole Body.” (Pius XII)

That is on the level of the everyday activities of Church members. Then, spiritually, the power to do these activities – worshipping together, building a family, helping one’s neighbors and so on – sincerely and completely, comes from participating in the celebration of the Eucharist because, Pius XII continued, “in the Holy Eucharist the faithful are nourished and strengthened at the same banquet and by a divine, ineffable bond are united with each other and with the Divine Head of the whole Body.” Spiritual communion, again.

Pius XII also spoke about the priest himself: “Through Holy Orders men are set aside and consecrated to God, to offer the Sacrifice of the Eucharistic Victim, to nourish the flock of the faithful with the Bread of Angels and the food of doctrine, to guide them in the way of God’s commandments and counsels and to strengthen them with all other supernatural helps.” This is just one part, however, of the communion of the priest and his people.

Sermon of St. Martin (artist unknown), c. 1490 [Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest]

There’s more. There exists a wide-ranging personal encounter between parishioners and the priest: “The truth is that the Christian experience of persons who are simple and humble, the spiritual enthusiasm of people who truly love God, the courageous application of the faith to practical life by Christians involved in all kinds of social and civil tasks – all these things are embraced by the priest who, while illuminating them with his priestly service, at the same time draws from them a precious spiritual nourishment.” (St. JP II)

The pastor and the people are in a symbiotic relationship. This is wholly different, to say the least, from the Enlightenment take on the Church and the Faith. In Enlightenment culture, the people are supposed to be nourished by the secular elite. The substantial and multilayered breadth of the relationship between the priest and the people, however, is becoming more apparent as clergy and laity get out of the lord-of-the-manor view of the priesthood.

There are all kinds of spiritual nuggets being passed back and forth .“Nice homily today, Father,” may encourage your pastor, but the relationship is – and ought to be acknowledged – to be nothing less than cosmic. Each day, the celebration of Mass means that we have shared in the eternal Liturgy of Heaven. How about putting some of that into words next time you meet your pastor? Then, of course, there are the saints, the martyrs, the doctors, and the sainted pastors whose feasts we celebrate. Did anything in their lives catch fire with you?

Hurrying back to the secular world as soon as possible after Mass is not a virtue, and most times it’s far from necessary. There really is time to say a few words to God after Mass in thanksgiving and a few words to the pastor as well.

Summing up, the spiritual communion should be of more importance to us than the Sunday afternoon football games or binge-watching “Breaking Bad.” It is the entryway to eternal life. We should be reminded of that each time the pastor prays about the communion with the saints and the way that they are constantly interceding for us (Eucharistic Prayer) to get us through the day.

Your pastor is included in that communion – and needs your prayers.

Bevil Bramwell, OMI

Bevil Bramwell, OMI

Fr. Bevil Bramwell, OMI, PhD is the former Undergraduate Dean at Catholic Distance University. His books are: Laity: Beautiful, Good and TrueThe World of the SacramentsCatholics Read the Scriptures: Commentary on Benedict XVI’s Verbum Domini, and, most recently, John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae: The Gift of Catholic Universities to the World.