30 March 2012

Four Necessary Weapsons for Spiritual Combat

In the spiritual classic, The Spiritual Combat, Dom Lorenzo Scupoli lists four weapons absolutely necessary to earn victory in our spiritual combat. They are,
Distrust of one's self
Confidence in God
Proper use of the faculties of mind and body
The duty of prayer

13 March 2012

Fast and Show Mercy to Make Your Prayer Heard

From a sermon by Saint Peter Chrysologus, bishop
(Sermo 43: PL 52, 320, 322)

Prayer knocks, fasting obtains, mercy receives

There are three things, my brethren, by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Prayer, mercy and fasting: these three are one, and they give life to each other.

Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you open God’s ear to yourself.

When you fast, see the fasting of others. If you want God to know that you are hungry, know that another is hungry. If you hope for mercy, show mercy. If you look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give. If you ask for yourself what you deny to others, your asking is a mockery.

Let this be the pattern for all men when they practice mercy: show mercy to others in the same way, with the same generosity, with the same promptness, as you want others to show mercy to you.

Therefore, let prayer, mercy and fasting be one single plea to God on our behalf, one speech in our defense, a threefold united prayer in our favor.

Let us use fasting to make up for what we have lost by despising others. Let us offer our souls in sacrifice by means of fasting. There is nothing more pleasing that we can offer to God, as the psalmist said in prophecy: A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; God does not despise a bruised and humbled heart.

Offer your soul to God, make him an oblation of your fasting, so that your soul may be a pure offering, a holy sacrifice, a living victim, remaining your own and at the same time made over to God. Whoever fails to give this to God will not be excused, for if you are to give him yourself you are never without the means of giving.

To make these acceptable, mercy must be added. Fasting bears no fruit unless it is watered by mercy. Fasting dries up when mercy dries up. Mercy is to fasting as rain is to the earth. However much you may cultivate your heart, clear the soil of your nature, root out vices, sow virtues, if you do not release the springs of mercy, your fasting will bear no fruit.

When you fast, if your mercy is thin your harvest will be thin; when you fast, what you pour out in mercy overflows into your barn. Therefore, do not lose by saving, but gather in by scattering. Give to the poor, and you give to yourself. You will not be allowed to keep what you have refused to give to others.

03 March 2012

Belloc on Church and State

In 1931 Hilaire Belloc wrote an essay on the Church and State in which he demonstrates that a clash between the these two entities is inevitable and has occurred on numerous occasions throughout its 2000 year history and the likelihood of another great persecution of the Church by the State is growing closer. Here's an excerpt,
I notice, for instance, that certain of our critics are particularly shocked by the admirable statement issued on the part of the English Catholic Bishops just before the late General Election in Britain, where they say that it is no part of the State's duty to teach, and add that authority over the child belongs not to the State, but to the parent. Nothing could be more odious in the ears of modern Nationalism--because nothing is more true. [notice the outrage over the recent comments by Rick Santorum when he stated, "the left uses universities to indoctrinate young people for the purpose of holding and maintaining power." Of course it is not only at the college level but starts with early childhood education] In the face of this tremendous claim of the Modern State, a claim which not even the Roman Empire made, the right to teach wht it wills to every child in the community, that is, to form the whole mind of the nation on its own despotic fiat--our critics cannot maintain that the Modern State does not pretend to be "absolute."  It is in fact more absolute than any Pagan state of the past ever was. What is more, its absoluteness increases daily; that is why its conflict with Catholicism seems to be inevitable.
The issue is very well stated when abhorrence is expressed (by implication) of a recent authoritative Catholic pronouncement, that "if certain laws are declared invalid by the Catholic Church, they are not binding." Here, as we have just seen, is the whole point. Where there is a conflict between civil law and the moral law of the Catholic Church, members of the Catholic Church will resist the civil law and obey the law of the Church. And when this happens you get that active dissension between the Church and the State which history records in all the great persecutions. That was the very crux between the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church before Constantine. In the eyes of the civil power the Christians were rebels; in the eyes of the Christians the civil power was commanding practices which no Catholic could adopt. It was demanding duties which no Catholic could admit.
That the quarrel has not yet broken out into open form (save here and there in the shape of a few riots) is due to the fact that hitherto the bulk of Catholic doctrines have been retained in States of non-Catholic culture. But as the moral distance grows greater between the Catholic and the non-Catholic, as the Modern State reverts more and more to that Paganism which is the natural end of those who abandon Catholicism, the direct contrast cannot fail to pass from the realm of theory to that of practice.
It is inevitable there should appear in any Absolute State, not alone in States which still trust to the machinery of voting, but in all States, Monarchic or Democratic, Plutocratic or Communist, laws which no Catholic will obey. One or two tentative efforts have already been made at such laws. When those laws are presented to Catholics there will at once arise the situation which has arisen successively time and again for nearly two thousand years; the refusal on the part of Catholics, which refusal in the eyes of the State is rebellion. There will follow upon that what the State calls the punishment of disobedience, and what Catholics have always called, and will once again call, persecution. It will be accompanied by considerable apostasy, [no doubt this has already happened] but also considerable heroism; and in the upshot the Faith's power to survive will lie in this: that devotion to the Faith is stronger, more rational, better founded, more tenacious, more lasting in substance, than that hatred which the Faith also, and naturally arouses.


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