Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A CONTEMPLATIVE THOUGHT (FROM ANOTHER HERMIT)



There are many people who do great things for God and are very successful at what they do. We hear about their stories on the news and read about them. They advance the kingdom of God on earth. What is our vocation as hermits compared to them? What do we have to show for all our efforts and sufferings? Ours is the most foolish of all vocations. We specialize in failure, that is our mark in the world. But we may have the most important job of all. There are always those who will be willing to move mountains for God but very few who are willing to explore the depths of their own poverty. This poverty is shared by all humanity.

We enter this life full of hope of finding the One Great Love. As time passes all we find is our own poverty and through God's mercy we will be ever plunged deeper into this poverty. It is enough for us just to stay alive. Our lives are made up of the most mundane preoccupations and even in these we need God's mercy and constant help to carry them out.

In time all pretenses of prayer slips away and we are left alone with our thoughts which snap at the heels of our consciousness like little dogs. At one point we find that we are just empty tin-cans. This is the starting point. In this state we find that God loves this little empty space that we used to call "me" with an infinite love.

It is as if, in creating us, God took a part of emptiness and gave it the parameters which we call a human being. God looks on this little nothing and loves it dearly. At the center we are empty, nothing and this is the unknowable image of God planted in us. It is only through utter poverty/humility that we come to this blessed place of rest. Here nothing can disturb us for nothing can enter. We rest in this emptiness with the God of love, the God who is our Love.

Even in this state we do not see what is going on. The only thing we have is an unshakeable conviction that God is Love. This Love that purifies. We become a living temple of Love and we do not know it, we cannot know it; it is not for us to know. I cannot speak of what happens next or how God uses us for I do not know.

An open letter from a hermit.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Conversation on the Benedict Option

Mr. Ascik: Rod Dreher in The Benedict Option says that Christendom is over. What do you say?
Mr. Pearce: It obviously depends upon how you’re defining the word Christendom. For me, Christendom is the Church Militant; it’s the Body of Christ in the world. And of course, in this sense, Christendom is never over until the end of time, but that’s how I define Christendom. I think he’s defining it in a different way, and that’s fine, but I will continue to use the word Christendom in a positive sense and a living sense because I think it’s still very much alive.
What about Christendom as a social force, as a force organized in society, as its being the culture or the custom of society?
The first thing we have to clarify is that there’s never been a golden age. The more you understand history, the more you understand, in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, that history is the long defeat with only occasional glimpses of final victory. In that sense, when the Church is being persecuted, she’s also being purified. When she is living in times of comfort, she often becomes corrupt.
In that sense, we have to understand history as an ongoing struggle against the forces of darkness, against the fabric of sin which is woven into the very fabric of the Fallen cosmos in which we live. There’s a certain type of progressive who makes the mistake of thinking that there’s a golden age in the future. There isn’t. But a certain type of traditionalist or conservative sees there being a golden age in the past, which there hasn’t been. Such conservatives are in danger of thinking that everything was better in the past and that things will inexorably get worse in the future. This very easily leads to despair.
One of the things we have to avoid is the sort of thinking that leads to the belief that we’ve lost. The belief that we’ve got to batten down the hatches and try to salvage the remnant that’s left of Christian civilization. We haven’t lost. It’s an ongoing fight, which in terms of the world is a long defeat, but in terms of final victory is assured. For each of us, of course, our part in the fight is our proverbial three score years and ten, and then we’re going to meet our reward. If we fought well, we get a good reward, an eternal one. In this sense, the end of the world, for each of us as individuals, is very near indeed. The world ends when we die. It is this “end time” that we need to keep in mind, not some doom-laden apocalypse, the latter of which is wholly in the hands of God and is, therefore, in the safest hands imaginable.
As recently as the 1950s, wasn’t Christian sexual morality the norm or at least was regarded as the norm in society?
I think we have to differentiate between the norm and the regarded norm. I think that actions outside of the Christian norm of morality were not spoken about in the past or were brushed under the carpet but they were still there. I think that keeping such immoral behaviour out of polite conversation, maintaining the existence, so to speak, of taboos, is healthy for society. I think a healthy society has to preserve and protect the family, the raising of children in healthy environments. Once you lose that sense of the decorum due to virtue, the society begins to decay and unravel which is what we’re seeing now.
Or is it more than the decorum? I mean, if you take in this country the divorce rate for instance, it’s dramatically different today than it was in 1960. The change in the culture’s sexual morality is marked, you’re saying that it’s not really as big as Rod Dreher says?
What I’m saying is that things were not as golden in the past as we might be tempted to believe. I think that such nostalgia is an oversimplification of the past, but I do think there’s a major collapse in an understanding of objective morality. That’s due to the rise of relativism and all the manifestations that arise from that. But one thing we need to get clear here is that relativism, or as St. John Paul II preferred to call it, the culture of death, is non-sustainable. It’s not something that can survive of itself; it’s a parasite and it’s not going to triumph. What’s going to happen is we’re going to see the collapse of it.
Of course, what it’s doing in the process of its collapse is destroying people’s lives, many people’s lives. I’m going to stop short of saying it’s sending people to Hell because I’m not going to judge anybody. But it’s certainly destroying many people’s lives. There’s that element of what might be called a disaster, but it’s not the end because, at the end of the day, what is sustainable is virtue. Sin is self-destructive, and a culture based upon sin is self-destructive.
What we’re seeing is the slow suicide of the death culture, and I think we’ve now got to the stage in the suicide where the acceleration is setting in. I say this from the perspective of its rate of decline, because things are getting worse very quickly. The fact is that the whole thing is in the process of collapse, a fact that should neither surprise us or concern us. The collapse of the culture of death is not our concern, except insofar as we might celebrate its demise while sympathizing for those who are impacted by it.
Where I do agree with Rod Dreher is that we need to make sure that we as Christians are true to the Church Militant, that we are able to fight, that we are able to sustain our own culture, our own sub-culture within the culture of death. And in that, I agree with him. The question that’s being framed will make it sound as if I’m disagreeing with his thesis. I don’t disagree with the Benedict Option, but I do think we need to clarify what we mean by it.
Mr. Dreher tries to focus his book on the need for Christians to make a decision, which he calls the Benedict Option. He says something needs to be done, and he proposes this way of living based on the role of St. Benedict, adapted to laymen. It doesn’t propose that everyone goes into a monastery. I think that’s his question: What needs to be done to preserve the Faith? We want to prevent as many people being corrupted as possible, right?
Yes, we need to try to prevent our own people from becoming corrupt but we also have to evangelize. That’s the challenge. The Church Militant needs to be a fortress, we need to be a fortress, but we also need to go out and engage the culture. We need to engage the culture. It’s not a question of either/or, it’s a question of both/and. How we achieve that both/and is the question we need to be addressing.
Mr. Dreher seems to be saying that it can’t be done in a mass way. He’s absolutely for evangelization and affecting the culture. But he is also saying that the troops need to be better prepared. For instance, he says that Christian politics, the moral majority, is over and that it failed because the Democratic Party is not built on Christian principles, and nor is the Republican Party. I guess his major point is that it has to be done on a smaller scale, one-by-one evangelizing rather than Catholic Masses on the media, evangelical pastors on the media. 
I think we have to differentiate. We can say that on a macro level, the American political system is corrupt, it’s undemocratic, it’s a plutocracy, and that both major parties are a disaster and betray Christianity; I have no problem with that. I completely agree with that. We can also say that we need to begin from the grassroots up. I wrote a book called Small Is Still Beautiful, so I’m very much a believer in grassroots localism as the way that we should be acting economically, politically, evangelically. I’m completely at one with that.
But do I think, for instance, that EWTN is a bad thing? No, I think EWTN is a good thing. I write books, so does Mr. Dreher. When you write a book, you’re not going one-on-one, you’re going on one-to-many people. There’s nothing at all wrong with disseminating, planting seeds as widely as we’re able to do it. Again, it’s both/and; it’s not either/or.
I don’t think Mr. Dreher is addressing his book to people like you and himself. He’s addressing it to the ordinary Christian family and what they do in their parish or their local worship.
Let’s take the family as a very good place to start. In fact, it’s the best place to start. Personally, in my own family, we have chosen to homeschool our children, but it seems to me that a Christian family has to choose the best strategy to ensure that the Faith, authentically understood, is passed on to their children. That is one of the primary jobs that parents have: to ensure that their children are able to take the path to heaven. If they fail in that, and insofar as they are culpable, they fail as parents. Yes, we have to address that.
We personally choose to homeschool, but apart from the rise of the homeschooling movement, which has been phenomenal in both Protestant and Catholic circles in the last thirty to forty years, and which is a great source of encouragement, there’s also the rise of a whole new generation of independent Catholic and Christian schools that are breaking away from those so-called Catholic and Christian schools that have lost touch with the authentic nature of Christian education. These are examples of regeneration which are very encouraging. I would also say that they are examples or manifestations of what we would call the Benedict Option. People are seeing that the mainstream has become polluted and are choosing to swim in different streams.
I’ve had the pleasure and the privilege of speaking at dozens of these new independent schools and colleges in the last fifteen years, and it’s been very encouraging. Years ago, when the mainstream Catholic colleges and universities completely bailed out of any realistic, authentic Catholicism, there was nothing, and seemingly nowhere to go. Then Thomas Aquinas College and Christendom College both started up in the 1970s. They were the only two. Today, we have the Cardinal Newman Society which publishes a Guide to authentic Catholic colleges, and I think there are now twenty-seven schools that pass the criteria necessary to be nominated and acknowledged by the Cardinal Newman Society as being authentically Catholic. So from none to only two, and then, in the last twenty years, a multitude of new and good schools have sprung up. Several of those schools are older institutions that have turned themselves around, returning to authentic Catholic education, but for the most part, they are completely new enterprises. And what is true at the college level is also true at the K-12 level. I agree with the Benedict Option, as I understand it, but I think it’s actually happening.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Litany of Light



V. Lord, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, have mercy on us.
V. Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us.
R. Christ, graciously hear us.
V. God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.

God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Christ, Light of the World, hear us.
Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Mother of the New Dawn, pray for us.

Holy Trinity, source of all light, illuminate the darkness in our world:
To the minds of those dimmed by sin, bring your light.
To the hearts of those gripped by pornography, bring your light.
To those suffering depression or mental illness, bring your light.
To the souls enslaved by substance abuse, bring your light.
To those burdened by same-sex attraction, bring your light.
To those gripped by anxiety and fear, bring your light.
To the hearts of those who mourn, bring your light.
To the souls and bodies of abusers and the abused, bring your light.
To those with no place to call home, bring your light.
To those intent on killing in the name of God, bring your light.
To abortion clinics, bring your light.
To brothels and human-trafficking locations, bring your light.
To hospitals, pharmacies and nursing homes, bring your light.
To classrooms of despair, confusion and falsehood, bring your light.
To violent and drug-infested streets, bring your light.
To war-torn territories, bring your light.
To lands darkened, flooded, or destroyed by natural disasters, bring your light.
Wherever there is confusion, despair, loneliness and anger, bring your light.

St. Joseph, pray for us.
St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.
St. Lucy, pray for us.
St. Augustine, pray for us.
St. Hildegard of Bingen, pray for us.
St. Claire, pray for us.
St. Albert the Great, pray for us.
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.
St. Bonaventure, pray for us.
All the Choirs of Angels, pray for us.
Mary, Light in the Darkness, pray for us.

V. Light of the World, who take away the sins of the world,
R. spare us, O Lord.
V. Light of the World, who take away the sins of the world,
R. graciously hear us, O Lord.
V. Light of the World, who take away the sins of the world,
R. have mercy on us.

Amen.

Imprimatur: The Most Reverend Liam Cary, Bishop of Baker, Oregon

LITANY here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Desert Fathers



A certain man said that there were once three men who loved labours, and they were monks. The first one chose to go about and see where there was strife, which he turned into peace ; the second chose to go about and visit the sick ; but the third departed to the desert that he might dwell in quietness. Finally the first man, who had chosen to still the contentions of men, was unable to make every man to be at peace with his neighbour, and his spirit was sad ; and he went to the man who had chosen to visit the sick, and he found him in affliction because he was not able to fulfil the law which he had laid down for himself. Then the two of them went to. the monk in the desert, and seeing each other they rejoiced, and the two men related to the third the tribulations which had befallen them in the world, and entreated him to tell them how he had lived in the desert. And he was silent, but after a little he said unto them, ' Come, let each of us go and fill a vessel of water '; and after they had filled the vessel, he said to them, ' Pour out some of the water into a basin, and look down to the bottom through it,' and they did so. And he said to them, ' What do you see ? ' and they said, ' We see nothing.' And after the water in the basin had ceased to move, he said to them a second time, ' Look into the water,' and they looked, and he said to them, ' What do you see ? ' And they said to him, ' We see our own faces distinctly '; and he said to them, ' Thus is it with the man who dwells with men, for by reason of the disturbance caused by this affair of the world he cannot see his sins ; but if he live in the peace and quietness of the desert he is able to see God clearly.'

Friday, September 8, 2017

Commentary on Sunday's Roman's reading

<snip> First, we need to remember that sin is a lack of love.  Ultimately, the popular sins of our society, which tend to be sexual in nature, are failures of love, failures to act in others’ best interest and to treat them with their full dignity as persons.  Masturbation, pornography, cohabitation, divorce, homosexual practice, contraception, abortion are acts of non-love, even if we mistakenly think, in the moment, that we are “loving” someone by committing or condoning one of these acts.

There is a common error, widespread in the contemporary Church, that love or mercy override the moral law.  This misunderstanding arises from a misreading of some things that St. Paul says in his epistles, in places where he contrasts "law" and "faith", for example.  The problem is, in most of these cases St. Paul means "the Old Testament Law" or the "Old Covenant" when he speaks of the "Law"; and "faith" means "faith in Christ" or simply "the New Covenant."  Now, the Old Law of the Old Covenant was not always loving.  Because of the "hardness of heart" of Israel, Moses permitted some things that were contrary to love.  For example, he permitted men to divorce their wives, even though this was contrary to love (Deut 24:1-4).  Jesus removed all these concessions that Moses introduced into the law of the covenant people in the Sermon on the Mount.  So Jesus says, "You have heard that it was said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him write her a certificate of divorce,' but I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for porneia, causes her to commit adultery ...."  What happens in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7), then, is that Jesus realigns law with love in the New Covenant, such that the moral teaching of Jesus (and by extension the Church) is never contrary to love.  Thus, for Christians, we can never say, "The right thing to do is X, but the loving thing to do is Y."  Nor can we ever say, "The moral thing to do is X, but the loving thing to do is Y."  Christian morality, or "the moral law", always follows love, and vice-versa.   If we think that there is a conflict between what is right and what is loving, either (1) we have misunderstood the nature of what is right, i.e. morality, or (2) we have misunderstood the nature of love.

Love has an objective aspect.  It has to be based on truth. It’s not just a subjective feeling.  You may really like someone, but if you mistakenly give them poison rather than medicine, your act is not objectively loving.  Society has completely lost sight of this fact.  Love is now confused with “niceness,” with complying with whatever a person wants. And Christians are viewed as unloving when they will not condone or cooperate with or agree to the delusions or falsehoods that some people in society want to insist upon. The Catechism is actually quite good about how the moral law follows love and vice-versa, and in its treatment of offenses against the Ten Commandments, it explains why different sins are actually a failure of love.

Secondly, a rebuke, when made with a correct intention, is also an act of love.  It is not loving to overlook the fact that people are in sin.  Of course, it is also quite possible to rebuke people out of arrogance and self-righteousness.  And, sometimes, we may have a right intention in offering a rebuke, and nonetheless be perceived as arrogant, which is painful.  Sometimes we want to avoid the risk of being perceived as self-righteous, so we avoid confronting others in love.  Sometimes our failure to rebuke is motivated by self-love.  We want to avoid the pain of possibly being rejected.  Truth and authenticity are sacrificed for the sake of social comfort.  If Pope Francis had shrunk from speaking clearly about chastity to young people in his address quoted above, he would have been failed to love them, because love tells the truth and points people toward goodness and beauty, not merely pleasure and physical comfort. <snip>

Dr. John Bergsma


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A CONTEMPLATIVE THOUGHT

If I spend my life in
fracture-wordy-self-descriptions
which colour or define my surroundings,
Then loneliness or isolation
could be my lot.

But if by Grace I can own
and detach from my definitions of externals;

Then I can live in the present
and my soul can be:
like a tranquil lake,
whose waters well up from the purest sources of the spirit and,
untroubled by news coming from the outside,
like a clear mirror reflecting one image only,
that of Christ.