Tag: eternity

Flowers Teach

Flowers Teach posted in Eleison Comments on June 23, 2012

If flowers speak (cf. EC 255), then they can also teach: the value of time, the justice of God, the harmony of grace and nature.

For instance, if God exists and he is not unjust by making a soul’s whole eternity depend upon its choices made during one brief life, even lasting 90 years, then it stands to reason both that every moment of that life counts, and that in every moment (even if not always with the same force) God is appealing to us to join him for eternity. That is why it makes sense that he should be talking through the flowers and through every other gift of his creation, because what soul alive can truthfully say that it has nothing and nobody to love? Even the most rabid “atheist” has, say, his dog or his cigarettes. And Who designed dogs and tobacco plants, and kept them reproducing down to our own day?

So just before he dies the “atheist” may still claim that he at least was never spoken to by God, but in the instant after he dies he will grasp in a flash that for every moment of his waking life God has been appealing to him through some creature or other around him. “Am I now unjust,” God might ask him, “if I condemn you for every remaining moment of my life, when for every moment of your life you have been refusing me? Have what you have chosen. Depart from me into . . .” (Mt. XXV, 41).

Conversely, take a soul that has profited by every moment of its life to love the great and good God behind all the good things it has enjoyed, and that has even recognized the permission of his Providence behind all the bad things it has not enjoyed. Then who needs to be recognized, or famous, who needs to appear in the media, or to fill drawers of vacation photographs, in order to give meaning to his life? Small wonder that in past ages talented souls could bury their talents in a cloister or monastery in order to devote them wholly to the loving of God. For indeed every moment of our time is of measureless value, because upon every moment hangs for good or ill a measureless eternity.

Moreover, that flowers speak can help us to make sense of another well-known problem: how can non-Catholic souls be condemned for not having the Catholic faith when Catholic missionaries never reached them? Whatever mystery is here may at least partly be solved, humanly speaking, if one recalls that it is the selfsame God who creates flowers and instituted the Catholic Church. Thus if God’s Providence never allowed for Catholic truth to reach the ears of a given soul, nevertheless that soul will not be able to plead that it knew nothing of the true God, and it can be judged on what it did know, for instance the beauty of cloudscapes, of sunrises and sunsets. Did it, beholding them, say with the pagan Job (Job XIX, 25), “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” or did it say, “Well, yes, that’s nice, but now let me visit my neighbour’s wife . . .”?

In fact a number of complaints that men have today against their Creator arise even with Catholics, because many Catholics are, like everybody else today, more or less cut off from Nature by their urban or suburban lives, and their “spirituality” becomes correspondingly artificial. “Woe to anybody who has never loved an animal,” somebody has said. Children are close to God. Watch how naturally children love animals.

Great and good God, grant us to see you where you are, deep down everything and everybody, at every moment.

Kyrie eleison.

Flowers Speak

Flowers Speak posted in Eleison Comments on June 2, 2012

God is infinite Being, infinite Truth, infinite Goodness, infinitely just and infinitely merciful. So teaches his Church, and the idea is grand and beautiful, so I have no objection. But then I learn that his Church also teaches that for just one mortal sin the soul can be damned for all eternity to sufferings harsh and cruel beyond all imagination, and that is not so nice. I begin to object.

For instance, I was never consulted before my parents decided to bring me into existence, nor was I consulted on the terms of the contract, so to speak, of my existence. Had I been consulted I might well have objected to such an extreme alternative between unimaginable bliss and unimaginable torment as the Church teaches, both without end. I might have accepted a rather more moderate “contract,” whereby in exchange for a shortened Heaven I would have faced the risk of only an abbreviated Hell, but I was not consulted. An endlessness of either seems to me to be out of all proportion to this brief life of mine on earth: 10, 20, 50 even 90 years are here today, gone tomorrow. All flesh is like grass – “In the morning man shall flourish . . . in the evening he shall fall, grow dry and wither” (Ps. LXXXIX, 6). Along this line of thought God seems so unjust that I seriously wonder if he really exists.

The problem obliges us to reflect. Let us suppose that God does exist; that he is as just as his Church says he is; that it is unjust to impose upon anybody a heavy burden without that person’s consent; that this life is brief, a mere puff of smoke compared with what eternity must be; that nobody can be in justice due for a terrible punishment if he has not been aware of committing a terrible crime. Then how can the supposed God be just? If he is just, then logically every soul reaching the age of reason must live long enough at least to know the choice for eternity that it is making, and the import of that choice. Yet how is that possible for instance in today’s world, where God is so universally neglected and unknown in the life of individuals, families and States?

The answer can only be that God comes before individuals, families and States, and that he “speaks” within every soul, prior to all human beings and independently of them all, so that even a soul whose religious education has been null and void is still aware that it is making a choice each day of its life, that it alone is making that choice for itself, and that the choice has enormous consequences. But once again, how is that possible, given the godlessness of a world all around us like ours today?

Because the “speaking” of God to souls is far deeper, more constant, more present and more appealing than the speaking of any human being or beings can ever be. He alone created our soul. He will continue to be creating it for every moment of its never ending existence. He is therefore closer to it at every single moment than even its parents who merely put together its body – out of material elements being sustained in existence by God alone. And the goodness of God is similarly behind and within and underneath every good thing that the soul will ever enjoy in this life, and the soul is deep down aware that all these good things are mere spin-offs from the infinite goodness of God. “Be quiet,” said St. Ignatius of Loyola to a tiny flower, “I know who you are speaking of.” The smile of a little child, the daily splendor of Nature at all times of day, music, every sky a masterpiece of art and so on – even loved with a deep love, these things tell the soul that there is something much more, or – Someone.

“In thee, O God, have I hoped, let me never be confounded” (Ps. XXX, 2).

Kyrie eleison.

Financial Solutions

Financial Solutions posted in Eleison Comments on November 19, 2011

Numbers of commentators on economic questions are presently writing or saying that the world’s financial system is on the brink of collapse. None of them are sure of the timing, but many of them predict that it will be a major collapse. Yet before the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, few people saw it coming because they were comfortable in a way of life that seemed well established and for ever moving forward. However, if these commentators are right, it is about to come off its hinges.

We should all of us be thinking what went wrong and how it should be put right. Here below are a series of practical proposals, adapted from a recent article on the website Burning Platform. One need not agree with each of them to begin envisaging alternatives to our present broken system. There are political and financial proposals. Let us begin with the latter:—

*Nationalize those banks which by being “Too Big to Fail” can hold the State to ransom. Let any consequent losses fall on the people responsible or involved, not on the taxpayer. *Re-institute (in the USA) the Glass-Steagall Act to stop banks from ever becoming so big again. *Re-institute mark to marketing accounting rules, so that banks can no longer pretend that their assets are worth much more than they are worth in the market-place. *Regulate the derivatives market so that likewise no financial entity can become so big that it can threaten to crash the entire system if it goes under (as happened in the USA with AIG). *Simplify the present highly cumbersome system of income tax, or replace it altogether with a consumer tax, and eliminate corporate tax breaks. Notice how such proposals may be explicitly financial, but they are implicitly political, because to be put into practice they would need a significant change in the political way of thinking of the people and especially of the leaders. Finance depends on politics. Here are the more obviously political proposals, which may be disputed, but they at least point in the right direction:—

*To combat the corruption of too comfortable politicians, impose term limits. To combat the corruption of elections by special interests, cut out all lobbying and lobbyists. *To cut down the power of the central bank, take away its control of the nation’s money supply. *Re-organize the States’ welfare benefits, today so draining the States’ finances that tomorrow they will be able to benefit nobody. *Re-instruct the people to go without, and to accept a lower standard of living, so that instead of spending society into oblivion, they build it by saving. *Do what can be done to replace suburban sprawl by more self-sufficient communities. *Renounce world empire so as to cut down the enormous military spending of the USA, for instance by bringing thousands of troops home from their bases all over the world.

Here again, for such proposals to be put into practice, they require great changes in the people’s way of thinking, especially in that of the leaders. Political decisions depend upon what people value more, or most. Why are we alive? To enjoy on earth, or to be truly happy for eternity? Is that an either-or question? Is there an eternity? Thus politics depend on religion, or on the lack of it. Will today even a financial crash bring anyone to their senses?

Kyrie eleison.

Men’s Limits

Men’s Limits posted in Eleison Comments on June 11, 2011

The discovery in early April, after a two-year hunt, of wreckage from the Air France Airbus which went down in mid-Atlantic on June 1, 2009, and the subsequent recovery of the aircraft’s flight recorders known as “black boxes,” have thrown an eerie light on the disaster, puzzling until now. What a drama! It seems that the Airbus 330–200 stalled at an altitude of 38,000 feet, and then for three and a half minutes tumbled straight down to crash into the ocean, causing everybody on board, 228 souls, to appear instantaneously before the judgment seat of God.

The initial problem for flight AF 447 could well have been nasty night-time weather high over the ocean two hours out from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil on the way to Paris. Conclusions from the evidence provided by the black boxes are not yet final, but the next problem may have been that the aircraft’s air speed indicators, deriving information from pitot tubes, gave false readings to the pilots. When the aircraft began to stall, instead of putting the nose down to gather the speed necessary for the aircraft to start flying again, it seems that the pilots turned up the engines, which is another way of dealing with a stall situation, but they also pulled the nose up. More automatic stall warnings followed until the plane finally stalled, and once it began to fall the pilots seem to have been powerless to prevent the crash.

Were they intent upon climbing above the storm instead of pitching down into it? Were they relying too much on their electronics, apparently more and more dominant in aircraft cockpits? Did they panic? (How understandable if they did!) One awaits the final results of Air France’s inquest as to the cause of the crash, but a few things in connection with it are certain.

We can any of us die at any moment, for a variety of causes. Will we at that moment of death have the time, grace and presence of mind to make an act of contrition sufficient to save our souls? A fear of imminent death can wipe out of the mind everything except the instinctive urge to survive. Now millions of intercontinental passengers are every year whisked safely over oceans by our brilliant flying machines, but these are puny things compared to the forces of nature. “Stop,” said the storm, “you are not such masters of the elements as you think.” And the passengers and crew, called violently back to reality from their in-flight movies and in-seat meals, must all have been gripped by a panic fear for most or all of the 210-second plunge to their death, as nature’s law of gravity took over from man’s ingenuity of flight.

Even after 672 days on the ocean-bed, the black boxes functioned perfectly, and now they are yielding up their secrets of the last minutes of flight AF 447. Clever idea! Clever design! But how many souls aboard that brilliant machine were ready to enter into eternity? And how many more might have been ready if only men devoted to the saving of their souls a small part of the intelligence and effort which they spend on their material machines? Mother of God, pray for us sinners that neither distraction nor panic may prevent us from putting and keeping our souls in order, “now and in the hour of our death.”

Kyrie eleison.

Two Repentances

Two Repentances posted in Eleison Comments on May 21, 2011

A reader of “Eleison Comments” asked me several months ago what made the difference between the repentance of Judas Iscariot flinging his 30 pieces of silver at the feet of the Temple authorities (Mt.XXVII,3), and that of Peter weeping bitterly at the crowing of the cock (Mt. XXVI,75). His question is a good excuse to quote pages from The Poem of the Man-God by Maria Valtorta (1897–1961). Our Lord (if it is indeed him – “In things uncertain, liberty”) here comments on the vision he has just granted her of the last hours of Judas Iscariot. The Italian text is slightly adapted:—

“Yes, the vision is horrendous, but not useless. Too many people think that what Judas did was not all that grave. Some even go so far as to say that it was meritorious, because without him the Redemption would not have happened and so he was justified in the eyes of God. In truth I tell you that if Hell had not already been in existence, perfectly equipped with torments, it would have been created even more horrendous in eternity for Judas, because amongst damned sinners he is the damnedest of them all, nor will his sentence ever be eased through all eternity.

“It is true that he did show remorse for his betrayal, and it could have saved him, had he turned his remorse into repentance. But he did not want to repent, and so in addition to his first crime of betrayal, on which – such is my loving weakness – I could have had mercy, he went on to blaspheme and to resist every impulse of grace which was pleading with him through each trace and memory of me that in his last desperate chase around Jerusalem he ran into, including the encounter with my Mother and her gentle words. He resisted everything. He wanted to resist. Just as he had wanted to betray me. As he wanted to curse me. As he wanted to kill himself. Where a man’s will is set – that is what counts. For good or ill.

“When somebody falls without really wanting to, I forgive him. Take Peter. He denied me. Why? He could not himself tell exactly why. Was he a coward? No. My Peter was no coward. In the Garden of Gethsemane he defied the whole pack of Temple guards to cut off Malchus’ ear in defence of me, at the risk of being killed himself for doing so. Then he fled. With no set will to do so. Then he denied me three times, but again, with no set will to do so. For the rest of his life he succeeded in staying on the blood-stained way of the Cross, my way, until he died on the cross himself. He succeeded in witnessing to me in grand style until he was killed for his unflinching faith. I defend my Peter. His running away and his denials were the last moments of his human weakness. But the set will of his higher nature was not behind those actions. Weighed down by his human weakness, it was asleep. As soon as it awoke, it did not want to remain in sin, it wanted to be perfect. I immediately forgave him. Judas’ will was set in the opposite direction . . .”

At the end of the Poem of the Man-God Our Lord (if it is him – I myself believe it is) dictates to Maria Valtorta the seven reasons for his granting this long series of visions of his life to the modern world. The first reason was to make real again in people’s minds the Church’s basic doctrines, ravaged by modernism. Sounds about right? The seventh reason was – “to make known the mystery of Judas,” how a soul so highly gifted by God could so fall.

Kyrie eleison.

Doctrine Indispensable

Doctrine Indispensable posted in Eleison Comments on October 9, 2010

I can remember Archbishop Lefebvre in 1986 being surprised at how few followers of Catholic Tradition seemed to grasp the enormity of the all-religion love-fest at Assisi, but such is the corruption of our times: ideas and truth are of no consequence, because “All you need is love.” In truth, all of us need, absolutely, both doctrine and love.

Doctrine is not just formulas of words. Those of us that have the inestimable gift of the Faith know that upon our short life in this world hangs an eternity of unimaginable bliss or horror in the next life, and we know that this is the destiny of all men, whether they believe it or not, Limbo for unbaptized innocents being the one exception. It then stands to reason that unless God is cruel – vain wish of many a poor soul seeking to justify its revolt against Him! – He is offering to all souls at all times the light and strength they need to gain Heaven and avoid Hell, if they wish. But when a soul does not have the Faith, what form can that light and strength take?

Let two non-Catholics point towards the answer. Dr. Samuel Johnson, 18th century giant of English common sense, said “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life.” In other words, behind the hurly-burly of daily living in all its daily details, a man is forging day by day a general attitude towards life. And Count Leo Tolstoy in his epic novel, War and Peace, says, “To love life means to love God.” In other words, a man’s general attitude towards life is in fact an attitude towards God.

Of course many a modern soul will deny vigorously that his attitude to life can have anything to do with a “non-existent” God, but God is not the less sustaining in existence both him and all the objects daily surrounding him, and God is giving to him all the time the free-will with which to love or hate God within and behind them all. Thus Communists are meant to be atheists, yet Lenin once said, “God is my personal enemy.” Communists, as such, hate life and hate God.

Then what is the right attitude to life and to God? The First Commandment lays it down: to love Him with all one’s heart and mind and soul. But how can I love anybody without first having some knowledge of him? The right attitude to life and to God presupposes at least some faith or trust in the goodness of life and/or of God. Thus when unlettered souls come to Our Lord in the Gospels to ask for a miracle, frequently he tests their “faith,” or praises it and rewards it, when he grants the miracle. What faith? Faith in him. But who exactly is he?

That is for lettered souls to formulate, in doctrine. This doctrine of God may be polished down the ages, but it cannot be changed, any more than God can be changed. It is the on-going corrector of our attitude to life and to God, for as long as we wish to be unimaginably happy and not unhappy for all eternity. Catholic doctrine is truth. God is Truth. Truth is indispensable.

Kyrie eleison.