Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Parousian Leadership and Expansion

Many of you may be aware of groups at University of Florida and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette joining the original Parousians of LSU. Indiana University has a Parousians group in the works. We are constantly pushing to network like minded Catholic scholars with a sacramental vision. The Parousians are growing, and that means taking on formal structure to ensure stability and continuity as we grow. Be certain that it does not mean we will ever quit being what brought us together in the first place: a community of friends united in militant charity and fidelity to Truth.

The Parousians see an importance in having local groups at different schools manage their own affairs while having a central leadership structure maintain the original vision of the group, pool resources for intercampus events, promote expansion onto other campuses, and seek new opportunities to evangelize the academy at large.

The Parousian Leadership Council will serve the big picture needs of our growing group. The Parousian Leadership Council is Toby Danna, Ryan Hallford, Caleb Bernacchio, Emily Byers, Angela Miceli, Will Newman, and Paul Catalanatto.

The Parousian Guard will continue to manage all the details of the LSU chapter, as will emerging Parousian Guards at other campuses. The LSU Parousians, having a small abundance of resources, realizes its incredible responsibility to help the new Parousians as they form their chapters.

If you do not know these people, you will learn more about them in the coming year. Please pray for all of the Parousians as we continue this work.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Does a JPII Statue Violate Separation of Church and State?

Following a link from the New Oxford Review, we learn of this debacle in France over a statue of John Paul II and whether or not it violates separation of church and state. Since the Parousians are not stereotypical ugly Americans and because we would never seek to impose our will on the French, we simply ask, have the American people violated our own Constitution by creating a national holiday to recognize the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., another religious leader who made an outstanding political contribution to the world through his advocacy of human rights? Is there a difference between the separation of church and state and the exclusion of people of faith from public discourse and civic recognition? Doesn't this exclusion indicate a hostile position taken by the state towards those who profess religion? Does the current secular concept of freedom of religion reduce those who exercise that freedom to the status of a second class citizen in everything else, especially if their faith informs all their public actions? The Parousians await a French response.

Maclin Horton on the Liberal Conservative

Maclin Horton has an interesting discussion happening on his blog Light on Dark Water. The topic is the liberal conservative. Why a Christian can be a "liberal conservative" but not a "conservative liberal", the difference between the "liberal conservative" and the Catholic neoconservative, and Alasdair MacIntyre's call for a new Benedictine revival all get some treatment in the discussion. So far, he has two posts on the topic, and they are linked below:

The Liberal Conservative (1)

The Liberal Conservative (1a)

Bill Cork on Apocalypto: "A Catholic Masterpiece"

Bill Cork, a friend of the Parousians and thr Director of Young Adults and Campus Ministry for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston offers this insightful review of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. Several Parousians were overwhelmed by the stunning visual storytelling in the film, and many of Cork's points found their way into our dinner conversation.

Mad Mel's Magnificent Catholic Masterpiece

Notre Dame Professor on Academic Freedom

Founding Parousian Paul Catalanatto offers us this piece from Gary Anderson, a professor of theology at Notre Dame.

Academic Freedom: Is It Really Free, and Is It Really Academic?

Paul Cat on Stephen Colbert's "Truthiness" as Word of the Year

Founding Parousian Paul Catalanatto comments on the reason Merriam-Webster chose "truthiness."

Monday, December 11, 2006

Tobias Danna on Our Lady of Guadalupe and Catholic Evangelism

Since tomorrow is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we offer a piece from the Daily Reveille archives done by founding Parousian Tobias Danna. All of us look forward to seeing Toby in his Our Lady of Guadalupe trucker cap on the feast day of the Patroness of the Americas and the unborn.

What I Saw in Old Catholic Mexico: The Eucharist, the Virgin and Faith

Pope Benedict is Smoking!

Something About the Pope Reminds Us of Elijah

Archbishop Jose Gomez on Prayer

We Live as We Pray

"Saint Gregory of Nazianzus had an expression that should make us think: 'We must remember God more often than we draw breath.'

This sentence may seem radical, but it reflects Jesus’ example and teaching regarding prayer: praying is not a 'duty' that we have to 'fulfill,' it is above all a need of the human spirit, which needs prayer just as the body needs food: without it, the soul dies of starvation."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Emily Byers to Continue Work as Columnist at the Daily Reveille

We have some excellent news to announce. The Daily Reveille has decided to keep on our very own Emily Byers. Her columns have been incredible and eloquent testimonies to the truth and it is a great joy to know that she has the oppurtunity to continue to write. So be sure to take a moment in your prayers to say a prayer of thanksgiving and a prayer for Emily as she continues her good work.

Coming to the Checkers on Sunday

The white flag is waving as we speed almost as fast as Dale Earnhardt Jr. towards the end of the semester. But before the checkered flag drops we will take one more turn around the track with each other as we watch the movie "Shadowlands" which stars Anthony Hopkins as C.S. "Jack" Lewis as he goes through his relationship with Joy Gresham. This movie provides a wonderful finale for the semester as it addresses many of the themes we have discussed this semester, so if you want to take a pit stop from finals, come to Ryan Hallford's residence at 8 o'clock this Sunday. Ryan lives at 4463 Tupello St and directions can be obtained by calling (504)-952-0247.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Paul Cat's "Be a Catholic" and His Review of Thrill of the Chaste

A funny yet saddening satire from founding Parousian Paul Catalanatto on his blog. You'll have to scroll down a little bit to find it.

Let Us Be Catholic

Paul has also done a review on Dawn Eden's Thrill of the Chaste so check that out as well.

Paul on Dawn Eden's Thrill of the Chaste

St. Nicholas

On the feast of St. Nicholas, Warren Throckmorton reflects on one of the stories of St. Nicholas and how we have not grown far from the same problems that St. Nicholas fought. This was found following a link from the New Oxford Review

St. Nicholas Fought Prostitution

Pregnancy Problem Center needs help

From Julie Orr, Baton Rouge's Respect Life Coordinator:

Dear Friends of Life,

The Pregnancy Problem Center needs help. The PPC assists over 200 women a month. One of their staff members who worked two full days a week is out due to her husband's illness (cancer). They are having a difficult time filling in for her, especially at this busy time of year. They could really use more volunteers. Please consider giving ½ day a week to this ministry or whatever time you can give. Anyone can volunteer. They provide the training. Their hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Please call 924-1400 for more information.

Please pass this message on to family and friends who may be able to help.

Thank you for all you do to support respect for all human life from conception to natural death.

God bless,

Julie M. Orr
Respect Life Coordinator
Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge

Emily Byers on the Fetal Pain Bill

I'm having a hard time writing this post. I can't decide whether to describe Parousian Emily Byers' latest column as being chiefly "incredible," "amazing," or "unbelievably awesome." This is Emily's last column of the semester, and she ended the semester by turning in one of her best columns (and if you've been reading her columns all semester, you know how high that praise is). So defintely take the time to read it, and make sure to check back in on it to see if the discussion gets lively again. If you've enjoyed reading Emily's columns, be sure to pray for her so that she may continue to be allowed to proclaim the faith in the Daily Reveille next semester.

Emily Byers on the Fetal Pain Abortion Legislation

If you've missed any of Emily's columns, this is the page that contains links to all of her columns during this semester.

Emily Byers writing for the Daily Reveille

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dawn Eden's "Thrill of the Chaste"

If you're looking for Christmas presents, for someone else or just yourself, consider Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On from noted Catholic blogger Dawn Eden. She has plugged Parousian Emily Byers and linked to our blog, so we're glad for this opportunity to recognize her as well. So take a look at this book if you need to scratch off another name on the Christmas list.

Thrill of the Chaste from amazon.com

Dawn Eden's blog

Monday, December 04, 2006

University of Florida Parousians

Apparently the University of Florida had a tremendous night last night. Not only was the football team invited to the BCS Title game, more importantly the first meeting of the University of Florida branch of the Parousians was held! Congratulations to the Gators for starting the group, and we will certainly be keeping them in our prayers. If anyone is interested in starting a Parousians group at another university, we'd love to help you out. Simply contact parousians@gmail.com for information and the like. The UL branch should be up and running soon under the directorship of Sarah Metz, so we're looking forward to that. So if everyone could keep the Parousians and its expansion in their prayers, we'd appreciate it.

Advent & Life as Waiting

Father Raneiro Cantalamessa, the Pontifical Household preacher, had this to say about how Advent shows to us how life is very much about waiting.

Father Cantalamessa on Advent & Life As Waiting

Starting the New Year with Laughter

Think of it as a early Christmas present or as a great way to start off the new year. Either way, this stuff is hilarious. Enjoy.

Evangelism Linebacker

Baby Got Book

Shadowlands on Sunday

As we get further up and further in to this semester, the Parousians will take a break from the normal format and have a informal meeting in which we will watch the movie "Shadowlands." Starring Anthony Hopkins, it depicts the relationship between C.S. "Jack" Lewis and Joy Gresham and Lewis's deepening of understanding as a result. If you've read a Grief Observed, this movie gives excellent background about the woman and relationship that Lewis would eventually lose and contemplate on in that book. If you haven't read a Grief Observed....well, you really need to read it. This movie also plays on a lot of the themes we have discussed this semester and so will be a great way to conclude the semester. So hail the Dawn Treader if you must so that we can sail away into the new semester together. The movie will be shown in the usual meeting place, which is Ryan Hallford's resident at 4463 Tupello St at 8 o'clock. Directions as always may be obtained by contacting. Those not planning to attend should be warned that Reepicheep will be informed of your Tash-loving decision and so deuling may be inevitable (If that sentence doesn't make any sense to you, you have some reading to do over the holidays).

The Importance of Christ in Time

As we ring in the Catholic New Year (Happy New Year by the way), Archbishop Charles Caput of Denver discusses the prominence Christ should play in our conception of time.

Archbishop Charles Caput on Christ in Time

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Emily Byers defends Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Turkey

In her latest column Emily Byers praises the heroism demonstrated by Pope Benedict XVI while asking the Muslims of the world for a response to Benedict's call for dialogue.

Emily Byers on the Courage of Pope Benedict XVI

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Emily Byers on the Virtue of Poverty

On November 19, 2006 Emily Byers presented to the Parousians about the virtue of poverty and how we as laity can live it out. The following is the presentation as transcribed by Emily Byers and Michael R. Denton

Fr. Thomas Dubay’s Happy Are You Poor: The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom is a unique book which manages to be simple, challenging, and profoundly orthodox at the same time. To hear and fully grasp its message, the reader has to be open to change and ready to consciously exercise humility.

Part of the reason this book is unique is that poverty is not popular. People scoff at the idea of choosing poverty, arguing that only the most naïve would think that the poor can be truly happy.

Sometimes people preach about poverty, but not in a meaningful way. As Fr. Dubay writes, “It is popular to speak about the third and fourth worlds and to assail the injustices of nations, but this sort of oration leaves both the speaker and the listeners in their comfortable modes of life. Hence no one much objects. It is fashionable in religious circles to speak and write about joy and celebration and resurrection, and for this there are many ready ears. But it is quite another matter when it comes to penance, mortification, sorrow, suffering, and asceticism.” As a result many preachers have watered down the Gospel’s message on poverty to something bland and meaningless, as Fr. Dubay continues: “Rather than have it [poverty] mean what the Gospel says it means, namely, a materially sparing life, it is now said to be a ‘respectful use of creation’ or a ‘sharing of one’s time, person, and talent.’ These new definitions are convenient, for they exact next to nothing.” It would seem then that only lunatics could embrace poverty as a good and be happy in a state of poverty.

And yet we know that Jesus, who first said “Happy are you poor,” knew what he was talking about. Jesus himself was born into poverty when he arrived in a manger and labored as a carpenter until His ministry began. As Fr. Dubay explains, “We are too dull to utter a thought so brilliant [as ‘Happy are you poor’]. He who spoke it did know poverty from the inside. He was born into dire circumstances, and he died with absolutely nothing. In between times he chose to have no place to lay his head. He loved the poor, and he gravitated toward them. He was one of them. He was romanticizing nothing.”

So Jesus knew what he was saying, but what precisely did he say? Common misconceptions about the meaning of “Gospel poverty” abound. Gospel poverty is not carelessness, disorder, laziness, or dirt. Gospel poverty is not destitution, nor is it miserliness, or an excuse to not part with our wealth. It is not mere detachment from goods, for “poverty of spirit” will only come with factual frugality. It is not merely an “availability of person, talent, and time for others.” (This position in particular is a rather blatant attempt to rewrite the Gospel.) Gospel poverty is not insensitivity to beauty or health, instead Gospel poverty entails sensitivity to beauty and the preservation of good health. Gospel poverty is not merely a “respectful use of creation,” since this definition can easily be used to justify whatever behavior one is already practicing. Finally, Gospel poverty is not sentimentalism or merely “feeling the pain of the poor.” The Gospel is always meant to be lived as hard fact, not empty rhetoric.

Having defined what Gospel poverty is not, we can now say precisely what Gospel poverty is. First, we remember 1 Corinthians 2:9: Nothing compares to our God, and to what awaits those who love Him. That is, God ought to be our focus and nothing else. As Fr. Dubay writes, “Happiness is found not in things but in persons and especially in the Divine Persons…We are to be head over heels in love with God… People in love are not much concerned with things. They are person oriented, not thing centered. A consumerist is not in love.” Since love for people and for God particularly ought to be our focus, a desire for things can only hinder us in the pursuit of relationships with people and God.

Jesus reiterates this in Luke 16:33, when He said, “No one can serve God and mammon.” Note that there is no compromise here; Jesus is not asking that you serve God mainly while serving mammon sometimes. He is asking instead for a “totality of pursuit,” that is, He is asking that we give him everything at all times. To do this we need to be detached from all we possess just as we need to love with our entire selves.

To be detached, we need to view possessions in their proper place. Too often we see them as ends in and of themselves when in fact they are merely means to greater ends. John 4:34 and Colossians 3:1-2 indicate that those focused on the kingdom see all things as means only, because Earth is not our home. We are strangers, nomads, and as Hebrews 11:13-16 says, “pilgrims in search of our real fatherland in heaven.” This is a radical teaching in the society we live in. Fr. Dubay recognizes this, yet does not shirk the call to poverty. He writes: “Understanding Gospel poverty perfectly requires a perfect conversion, a 180-degree switch from worldliness.” In this there is no compromise. If we cannot accept the ideas of the Gospel, we cannot hope to live a lifestyle of factual frugality.

It seems then that we are called to poverty, but why should we be happy about it? The world associates poverty with unhappiness and wealth with happiness, and so many feel that in order to achieve happiness some type of compromise is necessary. As Fr. Dubay says, “By all standards of this world these four words [‘Happy are you poor’] are intolerably false. They seem to be an insult to the billions of human beings at this moment enduring the slow, grinding torture of empty stomachs, cold nights, crawling vermin, lingering insecurity, gnawing idleness, premature death.” Despite the fear such images invoke in us, we must learn to be poor in spirit and in fact.

Material wealth and the pleasures of the world only leave us more dissatisfied. The Gospel is not easy, for it calls us to a paradox: we must embrace a certain asceticism but also a rich, abundant life in Christ. To do this we must make Gospel poverty concrete in our daily lives so that to others Gospel poverty translates factually as well as spiritually. So the question, especially for the laity and those who must support a family, is how to do this practically? If factual poverty is not hunger or destitution, what is it?

It seems too hard for us to embrace the poverty of St. Francis of Assisi, but Scripture about poverty (as does all Scripture) applies to every person in every vocation, including the married or single as well as priests and religious. This seems “outrageous” to today’s world, Fr. Dubay admits… and yet, “frugal living is a religious ideal,” one we must all desire.

So what can the laity do? Fr. Dubay lays out several guidelines for the laity to achieve what is required by Gospel poverty. The first is to have “Value Motivation,” which means that we must pursue poverty for the right reasons, namely for what poverty makes possible: a “radical readiness for the divine word,” the “freedom to live a sharing-sparing lifestyle” and “apostolic credibility.”

The second is to maintain one’s state, that is, to avoid superfluities without neglecting one’s duty to one’s family. To do this, it is very helpful to look to the lives of the lay saints. St. Thomas More and Elizabeth of Hungary provide great examples. St. Thomas More was known to spend lavishly only on two things: the education of his children, and a zoo that he kept both for study and because he knew that his children and visitors were greatly entertained by the animals. St. Elizabeth of Hungary spent money on dresses, but only because she saw that seeing her wearing them greatly pleased the husband to whom she was devoted. She still managed to use much of her time and money helping the poor and so managed to be a sign of Gospel poverty to the world.

It is very important that as we live the Gospel poverty, we serve a sign of poverty to the world and challenge its preoccupation with possessions. To do this our poverty must be visible through a simple lifestyle that contrasts, even clashes with the status quo of the world. As Dubay writes, “The deeply converted layman is different from the large majority of his counterparts. He is a challenge in the flesh. Not that he preaches daily homilies in shop or office. But he must be different—and not all will like the difference. Though he is living in this world, his center of gravity is not on earth; it is in the bosom of the trinity.” This sort of life is what Dubay refers to as “Saintly Radicalism,” which means offering countless small sacrifices each day. That might mean skipping your customary cup of coffee, or taking a cold shower or giving up anything which, offered as a sacrifice, could help you focus on God. The best way to see how to do this is to examine the lives of the saints, especially the lay saints, and to practice serious self-examination.

Self-examination is neither popular nor easy, but it is essential to spiritual growth. One of the best ways to examine our lives is to learn to identify things as either necessities or superfluities. The things we buy and own may or may not be necessary depending on what our goal is and where our center lies. If our goal is with God, then things are necessary if and only if they help us to grow closer with God. That which is necessary can be divided into two categories: ends and means. Ends are things sought for because they are good in themselves and nothing can justify being without them. Examples include God, knowing, and loving. Means are necessary only when we must have them to reach one of the aforementioned ends.

A superfluity, on the other hand, is needed neither for itself nor as a means to an indispensable end. As Fr. Dubay puts it, “Pursuing a superfluity is pursuing a dead end.” To live Gospel poverty we must then rid ourselves of superfluities and concentrate on those things which are necessary for union with God. To do this we must ask ourselves a few questions. Fr. Dubay offers sixteen of them, but a few really stand out:

“Am I happy when at times circumstances require me to go without a necessity?” For example, when things break, like the hot water heater or our computer, do we curse about the burden or do we thank God for the opportunity to live more simply?

“Do I give to the poor not only from my superfluities but also from my need?” Jesus said that the woman who gave her last penny away was the most blessed. We need to ask ourselves if we are following that example, or if we only give what we can spare.

“Have I practically [in practice] embraced the consumerist philosophy of ‘the good life’? Do I consider myself as called to witness against this philosophy by a sparing-sharing manner of life?”

“Am I vain in my dress…my home…my other possessions?”

“Can I conclude from my manner of life that my center of gravity is not in this world? Does my use of creation speak of God to them?”

In closing, the exercise of the virtue of poverty, as outlined in the Gospel and evidenced in the lives of the saints, naturally flows from all we have come to know and understand in our faith. We cannot, in good conscience, ignore this crucial element of the Christian life, because we cannot achieve true holiness without it.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

This Sunday Night: Moral Imagination, Sacramental Vision, Beauty, and Marriage

This Sunday, founding Parousian Tobias Danna will be presenting on "Moral Imagination, Sacramental Vision, Beauty, and Marriage." Toby will be drawing on the works of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Viguen Guorian, and Louise Cowan's "Marriage is a Creative Act," which has been posted onto the blog. The meeting will begin at 8 o'clock this Sunday at Ryan Hallford's residence at 4463 Tupello St. Directions can be obtained by calling (504) 952-0247.

A preview from Toby's talk:

“Fred Hutchinson in a column from Renew America (Alan Keyes’ grassroots group) defines moral imagination as that faculty which ties together wisdom and moral virtue. I find that definition lacking in depth of explanation. I insist imagination doubly has a creative element to it, both in the image being implanted in the mind, and in the mind’s capacity to create a vision by which he or she should live. Vigen Guorian is the eminent modern proponent of its renewal, the heir to G. K. Chesterton, T. S. Eliot, Flannery O’Connor and Russell Kirk. Guorian himself frequently deals with the subject in relation to the images children receive in fairy tales (remember Chesterton’s ethics of elfland.)

Guorian defines the moral imagination using a Chesterton quote, writing: “Musing on the wisdom and ethics of the fairy tale, G. K. Chesterton observes that the genre sparks a special way of seeing that is indispensable to morality. Chesterton writes: ‘I am concerned with a certain way of looking at life, which was created in me by the fairy tales, but has since been meekly ratified by mere facts.’ I am calling this way of looking at life the moral imagination. For Chesterton is suggesting what the moral imagination is when he remarks: ‘We can say why we take liberty from a man who takes liberties. But we cannot say why an egg can turn into a chicken any more than we can say why a bear could turn into a fairy prince. As ideas, the egg and the chicken are further from each other than the bear and the prince; for no egg itself suggests a chicken, whereas some princes do suggest bears.’"

Guorian and others campaign for a revival of moral imagination in creative works (as in literature) by men and women of letters. The effects of a move away from the diabolical, idyllic, and idolatrous imaginations to the moral imagination is a revitalization of the humane society. In our thought, this would be a uniquely Catholic vision of life seen sacramentally.

Guorian quotes Eliot: “The author of a work of imagination is trying to affect us wholly, as human beings, whether he knows it or not, and we are affected by it, as human beings, whether we intend to be or not. I suppose that everything we eat has some effect upon us other than merely the pleasure of taste and mastication; it affects us during the process of assimilation and digestion; and I believe that exactly the same is true of anything we read.”

Here is my cross application. Marriage is a creative work. It has procreation as its primary end, yet the marriage should produce more fruit than mere biological fruitfulness. It is a means of sanctification for the parties involved, which means the creation of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the life of the family. Furthermore, marriage is a sign (by no stretch of the imagination, a drama) being seen by the world, reflecting the love between Christ and his Church. Just as Christ and his Church in unitive love and united effort redeem the world, sparking a revitalization of the truly human according to the divine intention, married life in a localized way carries this same redemptive quality, primarily in the family life but also as a witness to those who view the family.

The view of our lives as living letters of faith is Saint Paul’s. The view of our lives as narratives pointing to the divine is reflected from Saint Augustine’s Confessions to Saint Therese’s Story of the Soul (many thanks to Caleb for the Augustine/Buffet talk reminding me of this.) If our lives can be viewed by the saints as creative works (surely authored by God in collaboration with our own free wills), there is certainly this quality in sacramental marriage.

Kirk says, “Nothing is, but thinking makes it so.” I contend we go into marriage with a vision that will dictate the success or failure of the marriage. I contend that a moral (or some other) imagination of marriage is imprinted on us with greater and lesser degrees of quality, hopefully by our parents and the Church, and we know what good and bad attitudes toward marriage are. We should look for those attributes of God in the state of marriage and in a theoretical spouse, that they will reflect what is just and beautiful and true (and of course, ideally our concepts of these things should not be askew.)

The moral imagination of particular persons as potential spouse, and ultimately, one particular person as spouse, depends on imagining the particulars of both parties and how they in union might contribute to this great mystery of God’s love being revealed both to each other and the world so that the kingdom of God might advance. It is animated by a hope that is not blindly placed in marriage being good or the beloved being wonderful, but oriented towards the particularities of the individuals. And in understanding the principles of sacrificial death and resurrection, the individual must be captivated so greatly by the particular possibilities of new life that exists in marriage to the beloved, and in the process die to both the freedom to choose another and to the selfish desires and vain imaginations of the individual. There should be a mutual awareness of mutual co-redemption, and the shared aspiration towards a particular way of living according to the beatific vision with one another.

This is where we meet the subjective element, why the willingness to choose a particular field to die in above others (both known and unknown.) There is a mystical element to it, after all any communication between persons with souls is mystical, but I think the mark of most modern marriages is a denial of a true and reasonable mysticism in favor of a pseudo-mystical interpretation of biochemical impulses and poorly formed notions of goodness, beauty, and truth. Yet graces work in these marriages too, even the failed ones, only in a lesser quantity with a great number of obstacles placed in the way of missing the fewer graces offered. It is reminiscent of the grace at work in the midst of rape, murder, and grotesque violence in a Flannery O’Connor story, certainly true grace pointing to God obtained in undesirable ways. The graces at work in an O’Connor story were never nearly as graceful as the devout Catholic Flannery O’Connor.

I don’t think it a coincidence that the Pope of the New Evangelization is the Pope of the Theology of the Body, a poet and playwright whose life was the unfolding of a superior moral imagination.”

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Emily Byers Gives Thanks

In this week's column Parousian Emily Byers points to some things that we can all be thankful for.

Emily Byers on Giving Thanks

Update: the link didn't work before, but now it's fixed and should link you right to Emily's column.

Pictures from the Renaissance Fair

Some albums have been posted of the adventures at the Renaissance Festival, and there are a great source of entertainment.

Michael Denton's Photo Album

Mary-Grace Westphal's Photo Album

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mass at Our Lady of Walsingham

As described by Parousian Michael R. Denton:

Sunday morning we drove a little under an hour from our hotel to Our Lady of Walsingham for 10:30 Mass. However this Mass is a unique one in the Catholic Church in America. Our Lady of Walsingham is one of a total of six churches in the United States that is an “Anglican Use” parish. What this means is that the church used to be an Episcopalian Church and decided to convert to Catholicism. As part of this conversion, these churches received a special dispensation from the pope ( in Our Lady of Walsingham’s case Pope John Paul II) to adapt the Anglican liturgy to the Roman rite. What this results in is an English-translation of the Latin Mass, so if you’ve ever been to a Latin Mass you have a general idea of the peculiar feel of that type of Mass. One of the items that those of us accustomed to the usual Masses found interesting was the way in which communion was received. Communion was received in the old traditional way; that is there was a rail at the altar at which the communicant must kneel and await for the priest or deacon to come by to give the sacrament. It was also received in a way that is called “tincture,” which means that body is dipped into the blood before being placed on the tongue of the communicant. This should not have surprised us, as the Eucharist itself was performed in a very different manner. The altar at Our Lady of Walsingham is fixed to the back of the altar and the tabernacle so that the priest must celebrate the Eucharist facing the tabernacle rather than the congregation. Being so different from the current Mass in which the priest turns away from the tabernacle towards the congregation it did take some getting used to.

Another remarkable thing about the church was the amazing ability of the choir. These hymns were difficult for some of us in college to follow, and yet the choir was composed almost exclusively of young people. Having gone to the Latin Mass at St. Patrick’s in New Orleans, I was surprised because I had assumed that like St. Patrick’s this choir too would be composed of older individuals who would seemingly be better capable of understanding the complexities of the hymns. Yet here was a full choir full of girls and boys at junior high school age or younger able to sing. It must have taken a lot of dedication and work for those people to be able to accomplish such a feat with regularity, and to see that type of dedication in people so young devoted to the worship of the Lord is very uplifting and encouraging.

Although I’ve endeavored to explain some of the technicalities of the Anglican Use, this Mass as a unique experience in the American Catholic Church is incredibly uplifting and engaging. It is so beautiful that I can really do little more than to tell you to go for yourselves if you are ever near Houston so you can experience it for yourself. I’m posting the link to Our Lady of Walsingham’s main website which has some of the actual liturgy posted on it as well as a number of other interesting features. I also highly recommend that you take a look at the photos page which I'm also linking as the photos best capture the stunning beauty of this unique church.

Our Lady of Walsingham Main Page

Our Lady of Walsingham Photos

Monday, November 20, 2006

Marriage As a Creative Work by Louise Cowan

This is the article by Louise Cowan that Toby recommends to be read in advance of the meeting on Sunday night. It is not essential to listening the talk so if you can't read it don't worry you will still be able to follow his talk. Just to cover citation rules, this is taken from the Newsletter of the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts Volume 21, Number 1 on November 2003.

Marriage as a Creative Work
by Louise Cowan

I want to talk about marriage in all its senses this evening: first, to see it as a metaphor for the proper relationship with the universe; second, to look at its implications as myth; third, to consider its metaphysical significance and, fourth, its Christian meaning as sacrament; and, finally, to come to see it as the major work of a person’s life. You realize that I speak from the discipline of literature and not as a theologian or a philosopher. Marriage, of course, is one of the central concerns of literature; and if, as I maintain, literature is a mode of knowledge, then surely it must shed some genuine light on this important sacrament. As a metaphor, it represents the union of different aspects of being: the individual soul and the soul of the world. This is the sense in which Zora Neale Hurston presents it in her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God:

She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees,
the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze, when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister calyxes arching to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight.
So this was a marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation.

There is something of the mystical marriage here, a yearning of the soul for union, a desire to
give one’s inner being in ecstasy to the divine presence that is to be sensed in both inner and outer reaches of the universe. This kind of eros may be consummated either in marriage or in the committed single life. The person who chooses celibacy, then, may live life as fully as those in marriage; and this is the profound spiritual aspect of the concept that applies to all of us. Our souls must have erotic communion with the divine as it manifests itself in the world. Shakespeare’s sonnets, Donne’s love poems, Marvell's apparent poems of seduction—the carpe diem theme—all of these urge us to a giving of self, to a generous bestowal for which the paradigm is marriage and the opposite is coldness,
self-centeredness—what might be called “the economy of the closed heart.” We need in our time to redeem the concept of celibacy by refusing to consider it a narrowly restricted life, recognizing in it not a denial of love but a marriage to a reality sought and found in a spiritual ideal— for Christians, in a union with Christ himself.

Mythically, we need to awaken in ourselves the sense of a marriage between earth and sky. Nearly all ancient myths express a sense of this dynamism in existence: pre-Scriptural accounts of creation depict the original source of being as not a single entity, but a conjunction. Two things came together to produce the vitality that is life, the living organism that is the universe our home. The Greek myth, of course, posited Gaia and Uranos in the first hieros gamos; and their offsprings were the Titans, the natural forces that control our physical existence. The access of Zeus and Hera to the throne of Olympus perpetuated the hieros gamos on another level: it represented the coming into being of intellect and emotion. One stunningly beautiful passage in the Iliad portrays something of the splendor and mystery of the hieros gamos. The lyrical celebration between Zeus and Hera on Mt. Ida, even though Hera has contrived by means of it to seduce her husband away from his watchfulness of the battle, is a high point of the poem. It establishes the generative effect of their union on all the vegetative life of the cosmos. Hera has borrowed Aphrodite’s loveliness and desirability (these aphroditic qualities no doubt symbolizing a distinct change from Hera’s usual regal pride) for
the purpose of enticing Zeus, who when he looks upon her feels desire as “a mist about his close heart as much as on that time they first went to bed together and lay in love, and their dear parents knew nothing of it.” (This is a reference to one version of the story in which the two, from the beginning, are lovers.) Zeus feels a resurgence of that early love and entreats her, “Hera, . . let us go to bed and turn to lovemaking/ For never before has love for any goddess or woman so melted the heart inside me, broken it to submission /as now”—and then he proceeds, rather ingenuously, to enumerate his many loves, including, finally, Hera herself: “not [even] yourself,” he says, “have I loved so much as now I love you, and the sweet passion has taken hold of me.” Then,

. . . the son of Kronos caught his wife in his
arms. There underneath them the divine earth
broke into young, fresh grass, and into dewy clover,
crocus and hyacinth so thick and soft it held
the hard ground deep away from them. There
they lay down together and drew about them a
golden wonderful cloud, and from it the glimmering
dew descended.

Here Homer has allowed himself to portray the generative power of the marriage bond Between Zeus and Hera, showing it as an analogue to the original hieros gamos, in which, as the Theogony tells us, “great Uranus came, bringing on night and longing for love, and he lay about Gaia, spreading himself full upon her.” The union of Zeus and Hera, despite their quarrels, is a genuine Incarnation of the original holy marriage, and it is through this Olympian pair that the very face of the earth is renewed.

In the Old Testament, the paradigmatic marriage, of course, is that of Adam and Eve.
Karol Wotyla, Pope John Paul II, describes their creation in his Original Unity of Man and Woman,
where he speaks of the original “solitude” of adam (mankind), as being pertinent to the original unity of male and female, who, unlike the other creatures, have a self-consciousness and so become “Partners of the absolute.” This original solitude, in which man, adam, is both male and female, is a solitude before all the other things of the universe and before God. But this original solitude is not destroyed when the separation of the sexes occurs. “In the second account, the man (adam) falls into that deep sleep in order to wake up male and female.” The word for this sleep, tardemah, Wotyla points out, is used only one other time in the Pentateuch (when God passes mysteriously over the fire with Abraham, and the full revelation of the covenant is given). The tardemah, the deep sleep into which Adam fell in his longing for a companion in the action of love is translated in the Septuagint as ekstasis, ecstasy, standing outside the body. And this ecstasy is the realm accessible to human beings in marriage. Jesus spoke (Mt 19:3ff) joined to his wife, and “the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.” When Christ speaks of marriage in this way as “forsaking all others” (marriage is the only tie that he seems to consider absolutely binding; the biological ties are not), they achieve this mysterious henosis, this state of being one flesh, by returning to that original unity. According to Wotyla, “Man and woman, uniting with each other (in the conjugal act) so closely as to become ‘one flesh’ rediscover every time and in a special way the mystery of creation.”

I am maintaining that this mysterious phenomenon of becoming “one flesh” occurs only
in marriage, not in any relation outside marriage. It is not a property of sexual love, then, but of
marriage. Marriage is an actual, very real vocation: its task, primarily, is not just the happiness
of two people, or the establishment of a family, or even the salvation of two souls; but the construction
of an entity, which constitutes a sacred area within society, a territory within which the divine may pitch its tent. (Recall Abraham and Sarah; the Holy Family.)

Now marriages can be characterized in no other way except to say that they have been made by the decision to “cleave to one another” as long as life lasts. Each marriage is a unit, having its own character; there can hardly be any standardized measurement for quality, nor any prescribed roles that either partner must invariably play (Men may do the housework; women may earn the living.) Its single requirement is the shared intention of mutual bestowal of self to the end, through whatever pleasures or ordeals circumstances may bring. Each marriage has its own arcane discipline, its secret wellsprings. Yet each shares in being an alliance recognized by legal, political, social, and religious institutions. Matrimony as legal contract, as social custom, and as sacred ceremony are institutional ways of dealing with a fundamental and private joining that Church and state acknowledge as occurring—in whatever circumstances—when a man and woman pledge themselves to each other, body and soul, with a lasting commitment. Customs and mores change; but the reality represented by
marriage, from as far back as human investigation can determine, is unchanging.

In considering this fundamental conjunction into which a man and a woman enter with the aim of permanence, we are speaking not simply of a relationship but of a union. Outside marriage there can be, of course, and are quite profound relationships, according to the disposition of the persons involved: some may be deep and lasting friendships; some, bonds of piety, or romantic passions; others may be based on a connaturality—not necessarily eros or philia—but a special agape—a bestowing love in which the two partners “recognize” each other and discover an intimacy in which they feel they know each other's total being, so that they seem to be two halves of one whole: “soul mates.” (Faulkner depicts this relationship in Gavin Stevens and Linda Snopes, who appear in The Town and the The Mansion.) Theirs may be a truly I-Thou relationship, in which the beloved is known from within. And though, according to the ways of the world, one would expect this relationship to result in a sexual consummation—and though it would seems, ideally, that it should issue in marriage—still it need not necessarily do so. (We oversimplify the human heart in our day. Human beings are capable of all sorts of loving relations.)

Marriage does not require as its basis this sort of affinity, though ideally the union should be founded on a genuine empathy. This truly mutual love of the soul is a gift—and, when it occurs in marriage, a very great blessing to a wedded union. But fundamentally marriage should be founded on something else: on one’s sober estimate of the other person as a life partner, on his or her character, on his ability to grow, his willingness to enter fully into a life adventure. And the marriage is initiated by a decision: a vow, a pledge. For the promise creates the reality, or at least opens the way for its creation. Married love will be given as the result of the pledge.

Love is a gift: marriage is a work. The feeling of belonging to another person comes of its own accord; marriage, in contrast, is a free act like any act of choice. It marks the beginning of a new status. Once established, marriage creates a metaphysical reality shared by two people; the two partners give themselves to each other, fully sanctioning this new conjunction for an entire lifetime. Their bodily union consummates this pledge. In this manner a freely willed act can bring into being an objective status which, once founded, is no longer limited to or dependent upon the will of either person. (It is something like having a child; one cannot undo its existence.) For a marriage to exist at all (in the ontological sense), it must be entered into as something that cannot be revoked—and herein lies the reason for the failure of so many matrimonial ventures launched with such high hopes in
our day. In the inevitable disappointments that follow—the disagreements, the hardships and disappointments—the sins, possible infidelities, psychological aberrations—both partners at times, no doubt in most marriages, look for a way out. And for many, the desire to start over, to rid oneself of the painful imperfections of the past, takes on the semblance of a high moral cause—divorce becomes almost an obligatory rite of purification.

For how can one go on with something so marred as most human lives turn out to be? How can we bear having a witness to the mistakes and failures in our lives, the vanity and littleness uncovered—
our own and our spouse’s? Only by holding to the belief that matrimony seriously entered into is irrevocable can marriage partners grow beyond the natural repugnance that any two people at times feel for each other—the sense of being trapped by something alien, the wild desire that comes intermittently to be absolutely free to choose one’s own path, completely alone. Only by encountering, sometimes in violence, the permanence—and the sacredness—of the union and its enduring ability to heal and be healed can conjugal partners surmount their sense of injury—to go beyond even the sense of their own virtue. And in doing so they consent to enter by stages into a realm that has little to do with virtues or vices, but more to do with giving and forgiving; a realm governed by a deep and pervasive presence that is not simply love of each other, but a love far superior to that of either partner—a love that instructs.

Now let me make clear that I am not speaking of an ideal state, or of a lyrically happy situation. I mean to be describing what has heretofore been taken as actuality: for in every century before this one and, as far as we can tell in every society, marriage has been considered not simply as a contract between two separate parties, nor a fulfilling romantic relationship in love, but a solemn union, celebrated by a joining, that is always recognized as sacred and connected to the primordial. The new life of marriage is a being in itself; and it need not necessarily be a happy one. For just as not every individual in him or herself is happy or fortunate, so too with matrimony. Many marriages are, one recognizes, quite miserable; most are neutral, neither happy nor unhappy; but if they have been genuinely entered into with the intention of permanence, they all become a source of grace to the participants. Happiness is not the goal of marriage: the work of creation and redemption is.

In the unity of marriage, there are still two separate minds, two hearts, two imaginations, two proclivities; there is no mystical transformation into one substance. It is not, as Catherine declares in Wuthering Heights: “I am Heathcliff!” The union does not produce sameness in its two halves; it is more as the myths would have it: Earth and sky, yin and yang, etc. These make an ontological unity—a whole—that is not composed of similitudes but contrasts. Indeed, if we look back at ancient myths, we shall see that this diversity—the difference in the two sexes—is the precise reason for their existence. For ancient myths speak of one originary sex: split into two for punishment, as some accounts have it; for joy, as the Genesis myth tells it—divided in order that the creature ha-adam, man (both male, ish, and female, ish-shah) could be provided with a companion: in order, as I would put it, that the dynamic of love might be exercised in action, over and over again. “Bone of my bone, flesh of
my flesh,” Adam exclaims joyously on awakening from his creative sleep.

Few poets have written of marriage per se: epithalamia, prothalamia, peripheral lyrics commemorate
events in the wedding or the married life, but very little in the poetic tradition expresses its inner content. Most love poems in the ancient and medieval world celebrate extra-marital amours, particularly courtly love and medieval romance, both of which glorified a passion outside of wedlock. It was not until the Renaissance that an attempt was made to unite romantic love and matrimony. Shakespeare might be said to devote his entire body of work to the establishment of the priority of love in marriage and the right of a young woman to choose her mate. The tragedies Hamlet, Othello, and Romeo and Juliet depict the death of the daughter because of the father’s interference with this choice. A Midsummer Night’s Dream portrays the way in which the tyrannical father may be outwitted by fantasy and imagination; The Merchant of Venice shows marriage to be a sacrament of sacrifice—“Give and hazard all” is the inscription contained with the leaden casket. In his problem comedies Shakespeare testifies to the indissolubility of marriage; Measure for Measure and All’s Well That Ends Well show its perdurance even when it is repugnant to the husband (the bed trick); and in Much
Ado About Nothing Shakespeare works to separate wedlock from the romantic love tradition that both Beatrice and Benedick find so demeaning. Only in the Tempest does Shakespeare firmly unite love and marriage; and in this final play he distinguishes between amor and married love, calling up Juno, Ceres, and Iris for Ferdinand and Miranda's nuptial pageant, omitting Venus and her unruly son, Cupid. Prospero delivers a serious speech to the young lovers that is an injunction not to consummate their love before the ceremony, with the implication that marital love is something that, ideally, ought not begin in dalliance.

The supreme poet of the existential reality of marital love, I would suggest, is John Donne, who, a little after Shakespeare, writes boldly and directly of this sacrament—though his fundamental fiction as poet, his “cover,” so to say, is the illicit union of the sexes. We know of his own marriage to Ann More and the stint he served in prison for marrying her in secret. (“John Donne, Ann Donne, Undone,” as he ruefully wrote in one of his letters.) We have the biography by Isaac Walton, which pictures an extraordinarily happy marriage, though one much plagued by poverty and illness: the couple produced twelve children, of which only three survived into adulthood. After Ann’s death, we know that Donne almost immediately entered the Anglican clergy, to become the great Dean of St. Paul’s, the most famous preacher England has ever known. We can read his sermons and meditations; we have evidence of his profound religious thought. There is no corresponding evidence of any extra-marital affairs; the legend of John Donne the Rake, a biographical fallacy, had to be invented, deriving
from the intense and sensual nature of his love poems, which were not ostensibly directed toward his wife.

What I am saying, I suppose, is that the actual connubial intimacy cannot be expressed overtly: one has to write of it under another guise. It is not a “sex life” that a married couple have: the marital act probably ought not even be called “sex” if what we see and hear in movies and television and which many people apparently enjoy as a fairly exhausting but addictive sport is to be designated by that name. What happens in the bodily communion within marriage is a physical and spiritual joining that is part of a primordial integrity; it is not just that the two halves of one whole are rejoined but that in the joining, to speak in theological terms, the union becomes the human “image of God.” To borrow Coleridge’s phrase—there occurs in this conjugal act “a repetition in the finite [person] of the infinite I AM.” As William Faulkner has Isaac McCaslin say, in Go Down Moses, “every man and woman, at the instant when it dont even matter whether they marry or not . . . at that instant the two of them together are God.”

Donne’s superb love poems of consummation—“The Canonization,” “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” and “The Ecstasy,” among others—express the metaphysical mystery of faithful love, in which the two lovers become one flesh. In a poem that we know was written to his wife just before he undertook a journey, “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” Donne designates the permanence and indissolubility of their union by means of his characteristic “metaphysical conceits.” He speaks of “a love so much refined/ That our selves know not what it is,” and goes on to say that “our two souls, which are one/ . . . endure not yet/ A breach, but an expansion/ Like gold to airy thinness beat.” And then in the very process of poiesis, his thought moves on: “if they be two, they are two so/ As stiff twin compasses are two;/ Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show/ To move, but doth, if th’other do.”

In “The Canonization” he speaks of the absolute withdrawal from the world that a couple must make if they are to enter into the task of their love (which, ultimately, is to redeem the world—that world that urges him to take up something practical). “Call us what you will,” he says, “we’are made such by love;”

Call her one, me another fly,
We’are Tapers too, and at our own cost die,
And we in us find the’Eagle and the Dove;
The Phoenix riddle hath more wit
By us, we two being one, are it,
So, to one neutral thing both sexes fit.
We die and rise the same, and prove
Mysterious by our love.

After we are dead, he tells us, the world will recognize our value as ones who have loved truly: they will invoke us, he says, as the saints of love:

. . . . You whom reverend love
Made one another’s hermitage;
You, to whom love was peace, that now is rage;
Who did the whole world’s soul contract, and drove
Into the glasses of your eyes,
So made such mirrors, and such spies,
That they did all to you epitomize,
Countries, Towns, Courts: Beg from above
A pattern of your love!

This is the portrait of a marriage: something pointed beyond itself—toward the redemption of the world; something that supplies a “pattern” for love. Donne’s chief fiction is that of an impassioned
lover persuading his mistress to yield—and usually succeeding in his persuasion. (This fundamental fiction, I would maintain, is the archetypically proper diagram for the intimacies of marriage: the male partner continually seeks out the female: she remains perpetually virgin though nonetheless mother, mistress, nurse, coworker, counsellor.)

It seems a hardy undertaking: this bringing together of love and marriage. It is a task still going on in our own day. In its deepest sense it is a prophetic work, based on a vision of the future rather than the past. It is something to come, perhaps only at the end of time, when the whole of creation will be united to God in a marriage feast. And it is of this that Dostoevsky writes in The Brothers Karamazov, when Alyosha has his vision of his blessed elder Father Zossima at the marriage feast of the Lamb.

Marriage is the community in which love can grow beyond personal feelings to reach its full dimension. But that love is not turned inward to each other, though the nuptial gaze is face to face. Instead, this contemplation, in a mysterious way, yearns outward—to the world— and upward—to the numinous reaches of the divine life. An early twentieth-century edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia has something rather daring to say about the task of marriage: “The original marriage, and consequently marriage as it was conceived in the plan of God before sin, was to be the means not only of the natural propagation of the human race, but also the means by which personal . . . sanctity should be transmitted to the individual descendants of our first parents.” It was, therefore, a great mystery, intended not for the sanctification of those united by the marriage tie but for the sanctification of others.

This can be so because the two souls of the married couple enter into the same metaphysical space: the intimacy of marriage comes from a shared interior habitation. And it is not just that one knows the other from within, having exchanged one limitation for the other: it is that between the two a space, a sanctuary, is dedicated which both can inhabit. Hence the two may be quite distinct personalities, with separate and differently directed careers; they may be physically apart, if need be, a great deal of the time; but the sanctuary of marriage is large enough and high enough and expansive enough to contain them both, with all their noblest aspirations and all their most unlovely faults, their sins, and it may be even their betrayals. It is a house not built with hands, a house in which the two may dwell and within which they dwell with an awareness of eternity. The pledge for eternity brings into view the entire life cycle of the partners—their complete myth, its orientation toward the end, the telos, of their union. And this presence of final things remains and deepens over the years, strengthening two perhaps quite ordinary people, gradually transforming them into heroes (or, we might put it, saints). The work of art that is the conjugal union takes on a form far superior to the mere cooperation of two selves, or even their mutual love. It is this art form that provides the free field for the great abundance of the nuptial state, far beyond the imaginings of either member of the partnership.

From within this microcosm, the two reenact the progress from Eden to the New Jerusalem: all the myths are present; the darkness of the underworld is a very real part of the topology, as is the region of light into which Dante enters in the “Paradiso.” (As the mark of the underworld is a heavy darkness through which one must make one's way alone, so the paradisal regions manifest themselves in mutual laughter and delight.) From within this cosmos, the two may look out upon the world and share a commonality of feeling— about art, music, poetry, education, life, death, God; their cosmos extends, “like gold to airy thinness beat,” so that they are free to do whatever individual work they are called to do. Within the center of the structure, there are moments of sacramental union, of conversation, celebration, joy, suffering; sometimes a probing of each other’s minds and imaginations. Each comes to understand, so to say, the divine plan for the creation of this particular “team”; and each participates in the working out of this plan: it becomes the most serious work of both. On its most basic level, marriage is a work; on a little higher level it is a mission. But on its highest level, marriage is a metaphysical creation: its task, ultimately, is to make a dwelling place for grace in the midst of human culture. The presence of a third thing, a brooding presence that seems intimately involved with the well-being of this union, makes itself manifest in the dark times as in the light.

The intimacy of marriage consists, then, not in the constant baring of souls or the sharing of every thought and feeling, but in dwelling within this sacramental cosmos that the two partly build and partly simply enter into—a structure that the two recognize as a channel of grace not so much for themselves as for the world. When we speak of healing the wounds of society—the crime among youngsters, the violence on all sides of our lives, the inadequacies of our schools—we tend to turn to the decline of the family as their causes. Families change as cultures change, and we can do little from the outside to restore the coherence of the family. But marriage is an eternal resource, and every new marriage undertaken with the intention of making an indissoluble union recovers the primordial freshness of a world lost in callousness and self-centeredness. We need to bring up our young with a renewed understanding of what William Faulkner has called the “fire on the hearth”—that fire of the creator’s love for humanity that is rekindled among us by good marriages, even in the midst of injustice and suffering, in hidden places all over the world.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mark Duggan in the Reveille

Mark Duggan, a member of the Parousians, writes in the letters to the editor about the need for Americans to become more educated about foreign cultures. A note on the link; you will have to scroll down for Mark's letter to appear and then click to the next page to get the rest of the letter.

Mark Duggan on the Need for Greater Cultural Awareness

Emily Byers Discusses Immigration

In this week's edition of her column in the Daily Reveille, Parousian Emily Byers discusses immigration reform.

Emily Byers on Immigration Reform

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Importance of Praying for the Dead

In this month that we Catholics mark as a special time for thinking of the deceased, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis discusses the role and blessing of Purgatory and the importance of our continued prayers for the deceased.

Archbishop Raymond L. Burke on Praying for the Dead

Archbishop Hughes on Cohabitation

Archbishop Alfred Hughes in his weekly column in the New Orleans Clarion Herald discusses the effects of cohabitation and the Church's teachings about it.

New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes on Cohabitation

Saying The Rosary

We have set the time for saying the rosary on campus at 9 o'clock. The plan is to meet every day at Christ the King at 9 o'clock and from then go to where we will say the rosary. Hope to see you there.

The Gospel of Poverty on Sunday

This Sunday we will have Parousian Emily Byers presenting on the gospel of poverty. She will be drawing on Fr. Thomas Dubay's "Happy Are You Poor: The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom." The talk will be focused on the virtue of poverty and its application to the lives of the laity and why the cultivation of this virtue is essential to growth in holiness. The meeting will begin at 8 o'clock Sunday evening at Ryan Hallford's house at 4463 Tupello St. As always, directions can be obtained by calling (504) 952-0247.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bishop Thomas Wenski on the Body

Orlando's Bishop Thomas Wenski writes on the importance of the body in Catholic theology.

Bishop Thomas Wenski on the Importance of the Body

Conscience Presentation This Sunday by Father Bryce Sibley

This Sunday the Parousians will be honored by guest speaker Father Bryce Sibley, who will discuss the contemporary view of conscience in reference to the thought of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The meeting will be held at 8 o'clock at Ryan Hallford's house at 4463 Tupello St. If you need directions to Ryan's house, feel free to call (504) 952-0247

Friday, November 10, 2006

Synopsis of Will Newman's Presentation on the Problems of Evolution and the Possible Catholic Solutions

As presented to the Parousians by Will Newman on Sunday November 5. Transcribed by Will Newman and Michael R. Denton.

The Problems Associated with evolution and the possible Catholic solutions

The problems of evolution can be classified into two broad categories: the exegetical and the theological. The exegetical problems are those seeming conflicts between the facts of evolution and the text of scripture, such as the order of creation, man’s descent from living creatures, and the age of the earth. The theological problems are those concerned more with doctrines of the Church, such as the Fall, Original Sin, Providence, etc.

Throughout the Bible, there are several revelations concerning creation. We are all familiar with the account in Genesis, but they also exist in Job and the Psalms. As Pope Benedict XVI reminds us in his book In the Beginning the normative Creation account for Christians is to be the one found in the Prologue to John’s Gospel. (In the beginning was the Word…) While this does not mean that Genesis or the other texts are dispensable to the debate (for no text of Sacred Scripture is dispensable), it means we must look at Genesis with John’s account in mind.

Also in reading Genesis we have to be careful that we are reading according to the proper literary genre in which Genesis was written and meant to be interpreted. Too often there is a division between the literal and spiritual interpretation of Sacred Scripture which suggests that spiritual interpretations undermine literal ones. This is only true under a misunderstanding of literal. A Literal sense ought not be confused with literalistic sense, which holds that Genesis is a scientific explanation of creation. Literal instead in the ancient sense means the message that the text is trying to convey, not a scientific account. So to discover the literal sense of a passage in Scripture we must first understand the genre in which it was written. There are many genres found in the Bible, including historical records, legal codes, poetry, prophetic visions, biographies, parables, and myth. Myth is not a fairy tale, or even legend or allegory. Myth might use allegorical, poetic, and symbolic elements but that does not make it only allegory, poetry, or symbolism. Instead, myth utilizes these elements in order to better convey theological, moral, prophetic, and even historical truths. It is with this in mind that both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI have at times used the word “myth” to describe the primeval history found in Genesis.

Furthermore it is myth which draws on and transforms the myths of the surrounding cultures, as suggested in Humani Generis. However, Pope Pius XII points out while there are similarities the ancient Hebrew authors, guided by the Holy Spirit, transformed the work in order to expound on the theological and historical truth. Benedict picks up this theme in In the Beginning. For instance, in the Babylonian Enuma Elish, which the sacred authors were familiar with, the universe is born out of the cosmic battle between Marduk and Tiamat. In Enuma Elish everything is created out of the body of a defeated evil dragon Tiamat, whereas in Genesis everything is created ex nihilo, or out of nothingness not from something else. In the Babylonian myth humans are created from the blood of the dragon Tiamat, suggesting an element of evil in human nature whereas in Genesis humans are created from dust.

It should be pointed out that this is not a simply a modern interpretation of Genesis necessitated by scientific discovery. Pope Leo XIII in his 1893 encyclical, Providentissimus Deus, points us to St. Augustine, who “warns us ‘not to make rash assertions, or to assert what is not known as known.’ If dissension should arise between them here is the rule laid down by St. Augustine, for the theologians: ‘Whatever they can really demonstrate to be true of physical nature, we must show to be capable of reconciliation with our Scriptures; and whatever they assert in their treatises which is contrary to these Scriptures of ours, that is to Catholic faith, we must either prove it as well as we can to be entirely false, or at all events we must, without the smallest hesitation, believe it to be so.” St. Augustine did in fact write a tract called “On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis,” which to our modern ears sounds like it could be a primer on creation science. Rather, St. Augustine differs from the literalistic interpretation in favor of the literal one. St. Augustine believes for instance that creation was an instantaneous event, not the 7 days, so that the seven days was not a chronological series of events but a topical rendering of the elements of creation in order of importance. While St. Augustine’s belief here does not mesh well with evolution, his method serves us well in that we prefer literal and not literalistic interpretations of the Bible and of Genesis specifically.

Having established that the Genesis as a myth relates historical and theological truths, we should note what those truths are. There are many, among the most important are that God created the world ex nihilo, that man in an original state of grace which he lost through disobedience. What is not taught is the “how” of creation, the timeframe of creation, the age of the universe, or the age of humanity. If the Church Fathers were unanimous on these issues, perhaps we could say that there is an Apostolic Tradition. However, they disagreed. On the issue of the length of creation, interpretations vary from St. Augustine’s instantaneous creation to Cyprian’s belief in 7,000 years to a seeming standard week for Basil the Great. Now, a number of Early Church Fathers believed the Human race to be 6,000 years old, but they came to this conclusion from calculations from genealogies not from Tradition. This belief was also not expressed in any council. It is worth noting that many who held this timetable used it as part of the larger framework of millenarianism which has been condemned by the church.

So while fundamentalists might raise exegetical objections to evolution, thanks to the methods of interpreting scripture laid down by thinkers like Origin and St. Augustine Catholics do not find evolution to pose insurmountable exegetical problems. Theological problems on the other hand are common to everyone who confronts this issue. There are four main problems: Providence v. natural Selection, the origin of the soul, monogenism v polygenism, and the fall & original sin (which includes problems like animal death before the fall, man’s original state, and the nature of original sin).

Before delving into the problems directly, it is useful to look at the guide provided by the encyclical Humani Genesis. Pope Pius XII in responding to many of the ideas of modernism wrote Humani Genesis. It said that the body may have its origin in preexisting & living matter, though it developed through the guidance of providence. He wrote that the Sacred authors may have used myth, but they elevated it. He wrote that there is “no apparent way” of reconciling Adam with a “group Adam” that is to say no polygenism. The encyclical also says that the soul is specially created and does simply arise out of matter, for the spirit and matter are different.

The first problem is that of Providence and Natural Selection. The engine of evolution seems to be chaotic and unguided. However if evolution is the process through which God created the world & man, it must be seen as purposeful and willful. St. Thomas Aquinas & his principle of Secondary causation might help to explain this; namely God acts through the free actions of His Creation. It is important to separate the Catholic conception from the deist belief, who takes God out of the process of creation, nor are we like some theists who emphasize the role of Providence to the exclusion of the freedom of creation, including free will. In this sense the debate over Providence versus Natural Selection is comparable to the debate over the role of Free Will.

The second problem is the origin of the soul. After the theory of evolution came out, many began to theorize that the soul arose from matter itself. However, Adam’s soul and each of our souls is specifically created by God. This debate usually arises more in regards to neuroscience than evolution, but as Pope Pius XII linked it with evolution it is worth taking a look at in this context.

The third problem is monogenism v. Polygenism. In Romans, Paul tells us that through one man (Adam) sin and death came into the world. Furthermore, our redemption in Christ, who is the New Adam, is the flipside of the fall in the first Adam. Therefore, a singly historical Adam seems necessary. However, evolution seems to suggest that polygenism is more likely, since species evolve as groups, not individuals. Therefore evolution suggests that at the time of Adam he would have had a number of relatives who were for the most part genetically identical. There are a number of possible solutions. First, there is a “No apparent” clause in Pope Pius’s encyclical. At his time, this would have been true, but since the discovery of DNA we are able to see that there is a blood unity of mankind. So now we can prove scientifically that we are one equal race, whereas back then it was not able to be proven. This was a special problem for the time of Pope Pius XII when racism based on different genealogies was prevalent, but now is no longer a problem. Second, there is the “bottleneck” theory. Adam Eve were the first ensouled hominids, the first true humans, and their offspring were the only true humans. Third, there is the Dimensional Paradise idea, which is supported by some of the mystics and was suggested by Teilhard. This argues that Adam and Eve fell in a spiritual dimension and then were brought down into the flow of evolution. Finally, there is what we may call “special pleading”, which argues that you can’t prove or disprove either the monogenism or polygenism way of evolution. Man’s evolution could have been guided in a special monogenist way unlike other species because of the special nature of man.

Fourth, there is the issue of the Fall & Original Sin. We know that through our first parents’ disobedience mankind fell from his original State of Grace. It is a point of dogma that Adam and Eve were originally immortal and lost that because of the fall. It seems difficult to reconcile this with millions of years of evolution that were propelled by a cycle of life and death. However, according to the teachings of the Church man is mortal by nature and was only preternaturally immortal through the grace of God. This is the way St. Athanasius and St. Augustine viewed the problem, and the theologian Baius was condemned for teaching the opposite, namely that man is by nature immortal. Evolution also seems to have implications for sin. Our sinful nature is a byproduct of the fall, but lust, greed, & violence are natural attributes found in the process of evolution before the existence of man as natural survival instincts. Here again the condemned teachings of Baius can be an aid to the Church’s teaching. Baius held that moral integrity is the natural state of man and not an elevation of grace. This proposition was also condemned.
A better understanding of Original Sin may resolve some of these issues. The common view is that original sin is like stain, some amorphous black mass of evil that eats away at our soul like a cancer. It is not a stain, but the opposite. It is more like a hole, a hole in soul where grace used to be. Through grace our original parents were immortal and morally upright, not by nature. Take Mary for example. She is what she is because she’s “full of grace.” Mankind was deprived of its original grace because of the Fall, which undermined our preternatural immortality and moral integrity.

Finally, there is some question of why animals would have died if our fall brought death into the world. Indeed, St. Paul tells us in Romans that Death entered the world through Adams fall (5:12) and that creation is subject to futility through Adam (8:20). A possible solution to this is that Death only refers to man. No council has declared the animal world to be originally immortal. Some, including St. Augustine, believed that animal death and predation part of the natural cycle of life. A more profound way of understanding this comes from the Church’s teaching that the world and creation is on a “journey towards perfection,” and that man’s fall hindered or interrupted that journey from its eventual Parousia or arrival at completion.

So this was an extremely brief overview of several of the problems Christians confront when engaging evolution. It is mainly defensive, and a “theology of evolution” is beyond the scope of this presentation, although a number of theologians, like Teilhard, have made some interesting moves in that direction.

A list of helpful books was requested during the presentation, so here’s a brief list:
“In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall” by Pope Benedict XVI (published while Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger)
“On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis” by St. Augustine
“Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution” by Kenneth Miller
“The God of Evolution: A Trinitarian Theology” by Denis Edwards
“Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution” by John F. Haught
“Christianity and Evolution” by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Relevant Church Documents:
Humani Generis - Pope Pius XII
Dei Verbum – Vatican II
Providentissimus Deus – Pope Leo XIII
The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church – Pontifical Biblical Commission
Fides et Ratio – Pope John Paul II

Responses to Emily Byers' column

The Daily Reveille has printed three letters to the editor today, all of which condemn Parousian Emily Byers' article about private morality in the public sphere and all of which miss the essential point of her column, namely that even private actions affect the community and thus cannot be considered entirely private. So if you have time to respond on the website or write a letter to the editor defending Emily's column, it would be appreciated.

Letters to the Editor in Response to Emily Byers

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Another Strong Dose from the Dominicans

We are adding a link to the blog Domine, da mihi hanc aquam!, a product of Father Philip Powell, OP. This Dominican is a campus minister and theology professor at the University of Dallas,, one of the finest schools in the country that happens to be deeply committed to Catholicism and the humanities.

Please check out his "Exhortation on Vocations, or No Time for Fear!", and "How do we fail to love?"

Matthew Fish on Catholicism, Liberalism, and Conservatism

Young Republicans: meet the new boss, same as the old boss...

This interesting piece on contemporary conservatism as closeted liberalism and Catholicism as true liberation comes from Matthew Fish, whose blog "Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita" will now have a link at the Parousian Post. He is an English teacher at Jesuit High School in Dallas who has completed graduate studies in theology. Be sure to check out his defense of the Society of Jesus as well.

From Fish's post:

"In other words, there is no liberation, political or any other kind, none at all, than the liberation brought by the grace of Christ in the Church his Body. Liberalism in a nutshell consists in replacing this unequivocal Gospel vision of liberation with secular varities (and imitations), and consequently vanquishing the theological (that is, the explicit Gospel) to a "private sphere" where it eventually dies, having become entirely subordinate to the secular political order. And what I thought would escape this, American conservatism, I found was in fact just another version of this liberalism, particularly in its enthusiastic embrace of the free market and the separation of Church and state.

In no time I began to hear typical conservative rhetoric differently. Reading magazines like National Review took on a whole new character. The more I studied the culture-changing imperative of the Magisterium in the last fifty years, the more I undestood how inimical the two approaches are. And in reading the work at the root of modernity--Machiavelli, Hobbes, Bacon, Descartes, Locke, Kant, and even Whigs like Burke--I saw how neatly they all fit together, moving from a common lot of shared principles, wholly different and antagonistic to the ones that inspired the Medieval order which they sought to replace. And in reading authors like Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, G.K. Chesteron, Hilaire Belloc, and Alasdair MacIntyre, I saw for the first time a different approach, an approach beyond the categories of liberal-conservative, and in studying Aristotle, Augustine, St. Thomas, and the modern Popes in their social teaching, I grasped the principles of such an approach, principles that indeed make a quasi-comfortable alliance with modern liberals and conservatives (i.e. both liberals at root) difficult if not impossible. For in the end, we are working and fighting for different things."

Father Bryce Sibley on Conscience this Sunday

This Sunday the Parousians will have guest speaker Father Bryce Sibley in to discuss the contemporary view of conscience in reference to the thought of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The meeting will be held at 8 o'clock at Ryan Hallford's house at 4463 Tupello St. If you need directions to Ryan's house, feel free to call (504) 952-0247.

Emily Byers on "Private" virtue in the Public Sphere

Parousian Emily Byers in today's column in the Daily Reveille takes up the issue of whether or not it is permissible to "legislate morality." If you have time to comment on her article, please do so.

“Emily Byers on Private Virtue's Role in Public Debate"

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Update on Beth Reed

Joey Reed came to the Parousians meeting Sunday night. He tells us Beth has begun walking with a walker since being moved to New Orleans for rehabilitation after her last brain surgery. She is still a couple of months away from another operation to remove a brain tumor. Please continue to pray for Beth and Joey through the intercession of John Paul II.

Invitation to Lunch with C. S. Lewis

From Drew Rollins, chaplain of St. Alban's Episcopal Chapel:

"We will have "Lunch with C. S. Lewis" tomorrow at 11:30! In response to an impassioned request, we are having fried chicken.

Make sure that you check out the reading for tomorrow (November 8) on "Time and Beyond Time" from Mere Christianity. I'd like to start there. Another way to come at that same issue would be to ask,"Is time created by God?" How we answer that question has all sorts of implications for how we live.

Our LAST session of the semester will be next week (November 15). We'll resume again in the new semester with the same schedule. I look forward to continuing the group with you.

I hope to see you tomorrow for lunch."

LSU Medical Student Quoted in Boston Pilot

The Pilot, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, has a story on a Catholic medical conference, titled “The Natural Moral Law: God’s Gift to Humanity." In the second to last paragraph, commments from Ashley Sittig, a second-year medical student at Louisiana State University, are presented.

Today is Election Day

Today is the day of the federal elections and as such the bishops have a few things to say about the nature of the Catholic voter and what defines a Catholic voter as opposed to a Catholic who votes.

San Antonio's Archbishop Jose Gomez's "Voting is a Moral Act"

Orlando's Bishop Thomas Wenski on the Role of the Church in making Voting decisions

St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke against the Missouri Stem Cell Amendment

Archishop Burke has had a number of letters put out regarding the issue of Stem Cell research and why it needs to be banned. This link takes you to the page that holds them all.

Archbishop Raymond Burke's Columns on Stem Cell Amendment

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bishop Sam Jacobs on Cohabitation

Bishop Sam Jacobs of Houma-Thibodaux on Cohabitation

"What does the church teach concerning cohabitation? Basically, the church reflects the teaching found at the beginning of Genesis, which Jesus himself reaffirmed when questioned about divorce. Namely, a man and a woman should leave his/her father and mother and cling to one another. The two shall become one flesh not just for a few months or years but for life in a permanent, exclusive, sacramental union. This oneness was seen in the context of married love and commitment with openness to procreation."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Paul Cat Rebuts Shanelle Matthews's Pro-Abortion Column

Founding Parousian Paul Catalanatto's reply was in Wednesday's Reveille. we apologize for picking up on it so late.

You Don't Own Me. I Do What I Want: Abortion, Freedom, and Relativism

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ryan Hallford refutes Shanelle Matthews' Pro-Abortion Column

The Daily Reveille has published founding Parousian Ryan Hallford's response to Shannelle Matthews' column of last week that attacked Emily Byers and the pro-life position. As always, if you can spare a moment to post on the comment board to defend the pro-life position it would be appreciated. Be sure to click on the link, as Ryan has posted the full text of his letter as the full text had to be cut down due to the 400 word limit the Reveille sets on Letters to the Editor.

Ryan Hallford's "Some Things Just Are My Buisness"

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Emily Byers Writes on the Importance of All Saints Day

Emily Byers' column this week discusses the need for the saints in the modern world. Have a happy All Saints Day.

Emily Byers' "Reasons to Celebrate All Saints Day"

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Stephen Caruso Joins Air Force Reserve

Best wishes to founding Parousian Stephen Caruso as he begins basic training.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Synopsis of Michael Denton's Presentation on Suffering

A Synopsis of Michael R. Denton's Presentation to the Parousians on the Role of Suffering in Our Lives and in the Life of Christ as shown in Bishop Fulton J. Sheen's "Life of Christ."

Sheen believes that all of the world’s political and spiritual problems really come down to one fallacy: the divorce of Christ and His Cross. On one side, there are those who Sheen terms the “Christ-less Cross.” In Sheen’s day this was primarily the communists, but it also applies to many atheists. Those who view the world in this way see suffering. They see the hunger, the disease, the war, but that’s all they see. They see no redemption in it, no greater good or glory that can be achieved from suffering. On the other hand, there are those who favor the “Cross-less Christ.” These are the ones who view Jesus as merely a teacher similar to Confucius or Buddha, and believe that the Church ought to focus primarily on his teachings of love and forgiveness and forgo the “unnecessary” criticisms of the world’s morality. Even some of those who accept Jesus as Divine fall into this category, arguing that while the Crucifixion and Resurrection were necessary for our entrance into eternal life, they have no real impact on the way we should live our lives. Sheen argues that both of these views, which are united by their common disregard for the value of suffering in our lives, misinterpret Christ’s life. Every time Christ had the opportunity to choose between suffering and not suffering, Sheen argues, Christ chooses suffering. Christ however not only chooses this for Himself, through His teaching and His actions Sheen shows that He is also calling us to seek suffering, persecution, and humiliation as a necessary and the most important aspect of our discipleship.

Even before Christ was born, there were indications that He would be different from any other teacher in history. Jesus was the only person ever pre-announced. Sheen argues that this is significant, because if God really was going to send somebody who would come to us and unlock the secrets of truth, he would send out notification ahead of time. God did this not only through the many prophesies in the Judaic Scriptures that Jesus fulfilled throughout His life, he also gave inclinations of belief in the Gentiles. Sheen shows that the Romans, Greeks, and even some Eastern Asian cultures had at the time of Christ the sense that a Messiah was imminent. Jesus also differed from other teachers in His attitude to death. Most teachers, like Confucius or Buddha, were defeated in their teaching by death; that is they could no longer teach when they were dead so they sought to avoid death in order to prolong their teaching. Jesus on the other hand had His teaching fulfilled by His death. As Sheen says “every other person who ever came into this world came into it to live. He came into it to die.” Finally Sheen echoes an argument given by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, namely that it is ridiculous to try to maintain the position that Jesus was simply a “good man.” Jesus proclaimed Himself to be divine and demanded that His Apostles die for Him. To make such requests if Jesus was simply a man and not Divine would make Jesus far less than a “good man;” rather they would make at best a lunatic and at worst a horrible fraud.

When Jesus was first born, He immediately set Himself up as a model for humiliation. Sheen points out that the very act of a Divine being becoming human is humiliating. Sheen asks us to imagine what it would be like to become a snail: to reduce ourselves to its size, it intelligence, not to mention the slime and other things that to us would be disgusting. How humiliating it would be for us to become a snail. How much more humiliating, Sheen says, must it be for a God to become man. So they very act of coming into this world as a man shows Jesus’ willingness to accept humiliation. When he finally arrived into the world, he found more humiliation. He was born into poverty, and was denied any room at an inn and was forced into a dirty manager. While Jesus remained in that manager, Sheen says that we see evidence of Jesus’ call for us to humble ourselves as well as the first reminder of the Cross. While in this manager, which was really a sort of cave, Sheen believes that the Wise Men when they came to visit Christ had to stoop low simply to enter the cave and approach Christ. Already we see the teaching: we must ourselves stoop down by humility in order that we may approach and come closer to Christ. The Wise Men, having stooped low, then give Jesus three gifts, one of which is myrrh. Myrrh, Sheen points out, is also used in the anointment of corpses. Already we see Calvary shadowing Christ.

When Jesus gets closer to His Ministry we see both the Miracle at Cana and the Temptations of Satan as ways in which Christ identifies His coming with suffering. When Mary at the wedding feast asks Jesus to help out the host for they have run short on wine. His response is “My Hour has not yet come.” When we usually hear this we think Jesus is here talking about His ministry. Sheen tells us however that all seven times the word for “hour” is used in the Gospel it is used in reference to His death. What Jesus then means when He tells Mary this is that if He does this miracle, His ministry has to begin and that that will mean His death. Here Jesus has made His ministry inextricable from His death; if He is to minister He is also to suffer and die. Mary is then given a choice: to keep Jesus and His glory all to herself or to allow Jesus to suffer and die as well as suffer herself so that Jesus might be shared amongst all of mankind. Mary chooses suffering by telling the servants “do whatever he tells you to” and becomes for us a model of suffering. Jesus then goes out into the desert and fasts for forty days, after which he is tempted by Satan. The first temptation of Satan is to turn the stones into bread. Satan is now tempting Jesus to eliminate suffering not only in Jesus’ stomach but also in the world. Here Satan is advancing the argument “Jesus, you have the power to eliminate suffering both in yourself and in all the world. Get rid of hunger, disease, and all other afflictions that cause suffering. In this you will be an economic savior to the world.” Instead, Jesus refuses and allows the pangs of hunger to continue to gnaw at Him. Then Satan invites Jesus to throw Himself down from the Temple and be caught by angels in a wild spectacle that will surely make men believe. Jesus however refuses. He does not want some wild stunt or even one of His miracles to be the standard of Christianity. Instead He wants the Cross, he wants His suffering and our willingness to suffer to be the standard by which we either believe or disbelieve. Finally, Satan tempts Christ to become a political savior like the Jews at the time largely believed the Messiah to be. Satan invites Jesus to have control over all the world if only He will worship Satan, that is Jesus can have his control and power as long as He tolerates evil. Jesus refuses, and He refuses knowing that to strike against evil will necessitate His own suffering.

The Beatitudes are usually the event pointed to most by those who would like something other than suffering to be the defining aspect of Jesus’ life. Sheen argues however that to interpret the Beatitudes as anything other than primarily to suffering is to miss the heart of the Beatitudes. Sheen has this to say about the Beatitudes:

“Let Him come into a world which tries to interpret man in terms of sex; which regards purity as coldness, chastity as frustrated sex, self-containment as abnormality, and the union of husband and wife until death as boredom; which says that a marriage endures only so long as the glands endure, that one may unbind what God binds and unseals what God seals. Say to them “Blessed are the pure;” and He will find Himself hanging naked on a Cross, made spectacle to men and angels in a last wild crazy affirmation that purity is abnormal, that the virgins are neurotics, and that carnality is right.”… “The Beatitudes cannot be taken alone: they are not ideals; they are hard facts and realities inseparable from the Cross of Calvary. What he taught was self-crucifixion: to love those who hate us; to pluck out eyes and cut off arms to prevent sinning; to be clean on the inside when the passions clamor for satisfaction on the outside; to forgive those who would put us to death; to overcome evil with good; to bless those who would curse us; to stop mouthing freedom until we have justice, truth, and love of God in our hearts as the condition of freedom; to live in the world and still keep oneself unpolluted from it; to deny ourselves sometimes legitimate pleasures in order to better crucify our egotism-all this is to sentence the old man in us to death.”

There are two things we can take from this. The first is that just living the Beatitudes is a call to persecution. Whether one preaches to the world about the need for chastity or simply lives it in his or her own life that disciple is standing against what the world holds dear, and the world does not like any opposition for that reminds the world of its sin. So to choose to live the life prescribed by the Beatitudes is to choose to live a life of suffering. Second, when Jesus is calling us to help the poor and love our enemies He is calling us to endure suffering. It is a sacrifice to give our time to the poor and it might be humiliating to have to wear a mask while ripping out the rotten walls of flooded homes in New Orleans. So in the Beatitudes Jesus is calling us to a life of service, and that service is summarized as choosing suffering, persecution, and humiliation for His glory.

The idea of the suffering Messiah is foreign to the world now, but it was also foreign to Peter. At the Transfiguration, Peter sees Jesus clothed in brilliant white surrounded by the great figures of the Old Testament and in this he sees the great glory of Christ. He is so impressed by this that he wants to set up camp, or really to shelter the group away from the world so that Peter can only bask in the glory. Jesus instead refuses this. Elijah and Moses disappear, Jesus’ vestments return to being dirty, and Jesus becomes once again the weary traveler. Jesus had the opportunity to choose glory or suffering, since by setting out again Jesus was setting out towards the Cross. Jesus at every opportunity chose suffering over glory. Eventually this would be manifested in the Cross itself, and I need not go into detail of the extreme suffering and humiliation he suffered there. However, once He is one the Cross He does two things to show us that this was the greatest thing He had done and as such was what we as disciples need to most emulate. He said “It is accomplished.” He did not say that after the wonderful teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, when the crowds around him swelled on a grassy hill and were in awe of His wisdom. He said it while he was bloody, naked, and dying on a wooden cross with the people taunting and mocking Him below. Jesus only fulfilled His mission when He had fully shown people to accept persecution, suffering, and humiliation when He Himself had accepted. Then He does the second thing to show the importance of suffering and humiliation: He dies. Sheen points out that as an omnipotent being, Jesus would have to will Himself to die in order to die. Jesus here is choosing once more to undergo the worst humiliation and suffering: death. By doing so we too are called to be willing to die for Him.

If anything, Sheen’s “Life of Christ” points out to us that in everything Jesus said, taught, or did there is a call to be willing to be persecuted, to be humiliated, and to suffer so that His work may be furthered. We can take comfort in knowing that He suffered too and that He will be with us every moment. I’d like to close with this from John 15:18-19

“If the world hates you, it hated me first, as you know well. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because I have chosen you out of the world, for that reason the world hates you.”