Tag: God’s Grandeur

Francis Godless

Francis Godless posted in Eleison Comments on October 19, 2013

Catholics who retain any real sense of their faith are being scandalized by the words and deeds of the man presently seated on the Chair of Peter. One almost wonders if he was put there to destroy what remains of the Catholic Church. Like a true child of Vatican II, he is turning away from God towards man. Here for example are the first nine of eleven key quotes extracted (not by me) from an interview given by Francis on September 24 to the atheist editor of an Italian newspaper.

Quotes 2 to 5 concern the Church (I summarize): 2 The Church administration must be more horizontal, less vertical. 3 The Roman Curia is too self-serving. It must go out to the people. 4 The Pope must no longer be a king surrounded by flattering courtiers. 5 Too many priests are self-serving, and obstacles to Christianity. Now quotes like these will obviously please a modern democratic public that has never liked being told by the official Church what to do, but are these quotes fair or just towards the countless Popes, Curias, Administrations and Priests that went before Francis for 1900 years to maintain the structure of the Church for the salvation of souls? Will Francis on the contrary leave any structure still standing, any souls saved, behind him?

Quotes 1 and 6 concern the world: 1 On my watch the Church will stay out of politics. To leave democratic men to throw themselves into Hell? 6 The world’s two worst problems today are the unemployment of the young and the loneliness of the old. Now these are two real human problems of today, but why? Is it not because churchmen like Francis leave, precisely, politics to the politicians, putting money in front of young people? And because churchmen like him refuse to enforce those Church laws which, by holding the family together, help it to look after old people?

Quotes 7 to 9 concern religion: 9 Jesus gave us only one way of salvation, love of one another. But love of neighbour without love of God coming first turns into hatred of neighbour, for example Communism. 7a Converting people makes no sense. It makes the greatest of sense, if, as is the case, nobody can get to Heaven without believing in God and in his Divine Son, Jesus Christ! 7b We must all mix together and move one another to the Good. But we must all move one another towards God. What else is the Good? If Francis will not mention God, who will believe in God?

Quote 8 is the gravest of all: 8a “I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God.” This is gravely misleading. True, God is the God of all men, but he instituted for all men one religion, and one religion only, and that is the Catholic religion. Thus the God of Catholicism is the one and only true God. 8b “Jesus is his incarnation, my teacher and my pastor, but God the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator.” Also gravely misleading. Does not that “but” suggest that Jesus is not the Creator? Does Francis believe that Jesus is anything more than just a man? 8c “Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them.” This is not misleading at all. This is the denial of all objective morality, the denial of all principles of Catholic morality. This is an invitation to all men to do as they like. Coming from the man who is to all appearances the Catholic Pope, it is sheer insanity.

Pope Francis may plead that he is trying to get through to modern man, but to get through to him without God is just like jumping into a dangerous river to help a drowning man without a rope tied to the bank. One will only drown with him. Your Holiness, you are not helping but drowning!

Kyrie eleison.

N.B. Error in the American address last week – not 6051 Watson Street, but 9051. Apologies.

Eternal Damnation? – I

Eternal Damnation? – I posted in Eleison Comments on May 18, 2013

A reader has raised once more a classic problem that has arisen a few times, directly or indirectly, in these “Comments,” but it is so serious that it deserves to be treated again on its own. He writes: “I find it difficult to be the Catholic I want to be because of the doctrine of eternal damnation. I cannot seem to accept the idea that a soul could be tormented ceaselessly for all eternity. It’s just too horrible. There has to be some Catholic doctrine that it’s not so cut and dried.” In brief, how can even one soul be justly condemned to an eternity of frightful torment?

Notice that in a cave one can still visit in Segovia in Spain, a great Saint like St Dominic spent a night agonising in prayer over this question. But let us lay down immediately that there can be no question of putting Almighty God in the dock, as though he either deserves to be condemned or needs to be acquitted. If his Church teaches, as it does, that one mortal sin can condemn a soul to eternal hellfire, and if I disagree, then it is I that am wrong, and not his Church. Why am I wrong?

For either or both of two connected reasons. Either I do not grasp the greatness and goodness of God, which it is easy to do, because my little mind is finite and God is infinite. Or I do not grasp the seriousness of sin, which it is also easy to do, because sin primarily offends God, only secondarily myself and only in third place my neighbour. So if I fail to grasp the greatness of the God offended by sin, naturally I will not grasp the seriousness of sin.

The question then becomes, has the great and good God given to every human being that ever lived sufficient means during its short life on earth of knowing that he exists, that he can be offended, what basically offends him and how serious it is to offend him? The answer can only be affirmative on all four headings.

* I do not need supernatural faith to know the existence of God. Upright reason alone tells that behind all the good things in a man’s life is a Supremely Good Being. Reason twisted out of true by pride or darkened by sin may not tell of this Being, but any twisting and darkening are my fault, not God’s, and they deserve a punishment proportionate to all of the goodness which I have experienced in this life and which it was “inexcusable” of me (Rom. I, 20) not to ascribe to God. * The reality of free-will is an everyday experience, and every one of us has the natural light of conscience to tell us that we owe worship to the Supreme Being, and that to refuse that worship is to offend him. Such is the First Commandment, and it does not need faith to be known. * Natural conscience also tells me of the other nine Commandments, which merely spell out the natural law, and it also tells me that to break them offends not only my neighbour but also, and even primarily, the Supreme Being. * And lastly, the cleaner my conscience is, the more clearly it tells me how serious it is to offend Him. The problem is that we are all sinners, and any sin helps to darken our conscience. But our sin is our own fault, not God’s, and he is entirely just to punish us for how we darken our minds.

Alright, one may object, then all men are given in this life to know enough of God to deserve punishment after this life in proportion to how much they have offended him. But how can any mere man offend him so seriously that a punishment eternal and unimaginable is just? Let next week’s “Comments” attempt to approach a mystery which is as deep in a way as God is deep.

Kyrie eleison.

God’s Grandeur

God’s Grandeur posted in Eleison Comments on February 21, 2009

To celebrate the return of a native to his English homeland after 35 years of wandering abroad, let us take a brief look at a famous sonnet of the 19th century English Jesuit priest and poet, Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins. Most suitably the sonnet commemorates the greatness of God. Let anyone who has never met with Hopkins prepare for a bumpy ride, but let him stay with it, because the ride is worth it. Here is “God’s Grandeur”:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Hopkins was born in 1844, the first of nine children of a High Anglican couple. A bright schoolboy, he obtained a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, where he became the star scholar in classical studies. Coming under the influence of John Henry Newman, famous Oxford convert to Catholicism 20 years earlier, Hopkins became Catholic one year before leaving Oxford, and at the age of 23 entered the Society of Jesus. In the course of his studies he came across the theology and philosophy of Duns Scotus which revived his interest in writing, and there rose up from within him a wholly personal vision of unchanging nature and English poetry. In 1877 he was ordained priest and did parish work in England. In 1884 he was moved to Dublin, where in 1889 he died of typhus, saying, “I am so happy.”

Therefore Hopkins’ life was wholly framed within the 19th century, hey-day of English Liberalism and Romanticism. However, that within him which made him convert to Catholicism and become a priest made his Romanticism quite different from that of his contemporaries, who could mostly hear only “the melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” of faith, of God, of hope. “God’s Grandeur” is full of God, and full of hope.

Cast in classic sonnet form, the poem’s first four lines tell of God’s greatness flashing and oozing forth from all Creation. Then how (line 4) can modern man be paying him so little attention? The answer (l.5–8) is that centuries of living for money (“trade”) have cut man off from nature (“nor can foot feel”), and stripped both man and nature (“soil is bare”) of God. Yet (l.9–14) God is still there, deep within natural things, as ever. Man may be putting out the lights of Western civilisation, still God is constantly recreating the world with brightness and warmth.

On a first reading, the originality of Hopkins’ language and imagery may be off-putting. Who ever heard for instance of the Lord God being compared to tin-foil or to oil? But inside Hopkins is a new wine which will not go into old bottles. To get his message across, the lifelessness of modern man, he resorts to repetitions (“trod . . .trod . . .trod”: “seared . . . bleared . . .smeared”), and in 12 of the 14 lines he uses old-fashioned alliterations (“smudge,smell,”“foot, feel,”etc.).

As for the rhythm, instead of the classic English iambic pentameter (te-tum,te-tum,te-tum,te-tum,te-tum), we have a variety of feet and a varying number of beats to a line, from three (L9,13), to five (l.10), mostly four (e.g. the first line).

However, let nobody think Hopkins is indisciplined. He has chosen the Petrarchan sonnet form which allows of only four different rhymes for the 14 lines (here:— od, – oil, – ent and – ings), which for an English poet is quite demanding. And notice how carefully crafted is the last line of the sonnet, its climax:— “World broods” matches “warm breast” and balances “bright wings” (wb, wb, bw), while the spondees (tum, tum) “World broods” and “bright wings” at each end frame two anapaests (te-te-tum) “with warm breast” and “and with ah!.” Read the line slowly aloud, and see if you do not get a kick out of Fr. Hopkins!

Clearly he has no interest in being original for its own sake. Rather from within the liberal 19th century, decadent and growing tired, the convert-priest has a fresh vision of Creation and its Creator which calls for fresh language and rhythms. In truth, whoever recovers God will recover originality!

Could weary men but once more find their way

To God, how light and fresh would dawn the day!

Kyrie eleison.