Tag: grace

Unique Delinquency – I

Unique Delinquency – I posted in Eleison Comments on November 21, 2009

In order to highlight once more the unique delinquency of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), two weeks will not be too many to reply to a reader’s reasonable objection to the argument of “Eleison Comments” of three weeks ago (Oct. 31). That argument maintained that the sacramental Rites of the Newchurch, introduced in the wake of the Council, are of a nature to invalidate the Church’s sacraments in the long run, because they were designed by their ambiguity to erode the Minister’s sacramental Intention, without which there can be no sacrament.

The reader objected with the Church’s classic teaching that personal failings of the sacramental Minister, even his lack of the Faith, can be made up for by the Faith of the Church in whose name he is administering the sacrament (cf. Summa Theologiae, 3a, LXIV, 9 ad 1). Thus – classic example – a Jew who has no Catholic faith at all can nevertheless validly baptize a dying friend so long as the Jew both knows that the Catholic Church does something when it baptizes, and he means to do that thing that the Church does. This Intention to do what the Church does he shows by saying the words and performing the actions laid down in the Church’s Rite of baptism.

Therefore, argued our reader, the Newchurch may have corrupted the Minister’s Catholic faith, but the Eternal Church will make up for any lack of his faith, and the sacraments he administers will still be valid. To which the first part of the reply is that if the Newchurch’s sacramental Rites attacked only the Minister’s faith, the objection would be valid, but if they also undermine his sacramental Intention, then there will be no sacrament at all.

Another classic example should make the point clear. For water to flow down a metal pipe, it does not matter if the pipe is made of gold or lead, but for the water in either case to flow, the pipe must be connected to the tap. The water is sacramental grace. The tap is the main source of that grace, God alone. The pipe is the instrumentalsource, namely the sacramental Minister, through whose action flows from God the grace of the sacrament. The gold or lead is the personal holiness or villainy of the Minister. Thus the validity of the sacrament does not depend on the personal faith or unfaith of the Minister, but it does depend on his connecting himself to the main source of the sacramental grace, God.

This connection he makes precisely by his Intention in performing the sacrament to do what the Church does. For by that Intention he puts himself as an instrument in the hands of God for God to pour the sacramental grace through him. Without that sacramental Intention he and his faith may be of gold or lead, but he is disconnected from the tap. It remains to be shown next week how Vatican II was designed and is liable to corrupt not only the Minister’s faith, but also any sacramental Intention he may have.

Kyrie eleison.

Juvenal Again

Juvenal Again posted in Eleison Comments on November 29, 2008

Last week “Eleison Comments” drew attention to the remarkable (in a pagan) natural wisdom in matters spiritual of the Roman satirist Juvenal, who was in his prime about 100 years after Our Lord was born, but who is not known (as far as I can discover) for any contact with the Catholic religion then rising in Rome.

A first lesson drawn from the passage concluding the Tenth Satire was that grace is in line with that God-given nature of ours from which Juvenal was working. Grace is only out of line with our fallen nature, which fell with Adam and has ever since been flawed with original sin in all of us, making all too easy the succession of our personal sins. On this sinful nature, as sinful, grace does make war, but only to heal and elevate that God-given nature which necessarily underlies the sinful nature, as some apple necessarily underlies the rot of any rotten apple. That Juvenal with no apparent help from grace could write so well not only of human rot but also of the underlying nature refutes the dreadful heresy that there is nothing in human nature which is not rotten.

A second lesson for our own times was that the ancient pagan satirist who promoted natural sanity even without any notion of supernatural grace, was a better man than the mass of apostate post-Christian pagans who are today rotting and rooting out both nature and grace. Similarly, to one who visited a week ago the Washington DC Museum of Modern Art, the current exhibition of ancient artistic pieces from pagan Pompeii offered much more for the human heart and mind than did all the modern exhibits put together.

A third lesson, accentuated by modern times, might be the value of reading the classical Latin authors, such as Juvenal. When it comes to the learning of Latin, some pious souls argue that Catholic youth should be immersed rather in the abundant Latin texts of the grace-filled Church Fathers than in pagans like Juvenal. True, the Church Fathers are stainless where pagan authors are always more or less stained, but precisely because the Fathers are filled with grace, surely they cannot in the same way testify to that God-given nature in us which is prior in being, not in value, to God-given grace. Does not this nature need today all the help it can get?

Kyrie eleison.

Intelligent Paganism

Intelligent Paganism posted in Eleison Comments on November 22, 2008

Of the famous Roman satirist, Juvenal (67–130 A.D?), there are two especially known quotes: “Bread and circuses,” and “A healthy mind in a healthy body.” The context of this second quote is truly interesting. Here is the whole passage from the Tenth Satire, in a free translation:

“Should men then pray for nothing? Take my advice,

And let the gods themselves judge what is nice

For us and our affairs, since they will heed

Not what we like, but what we truly need.

Dearer to them than to himself is man

Who driven by vain desire, blind worry, can

Beg for this kind of child, that kind of wife

When the gods alone can shape a happy life.

“But beg if you must for something at each shrine

Where you feel bound to offer guts of swine,

Pray to the gods for this – a healthy mind

In a healthy body. Pray that death may find

Your spirit unperturbed, not wishing to live

Any more than Mother Nature wants to give,

A spirit ready to bear all kinds of pain,

Forsaking anger, free from desire of gain,

Preferring heavy and noble work to all

The pleasures available at the local mall.

All this lies in your power – your own virtue

Is the only path to a happy life for you.

Whoever has good sense will never be stuck –

‘Tis we who place in Heaven a god of luck.”

What is remarkable here is how the pagan Juvenal says so many things that the Christian writers say. For instance, how we men are loved from above more than we love ourselves, how the powers above know better than we do what we need, and will only give us what we really need. Also how virtue is the only path to happiness, and how it depends upon ourselves to live wisely, and not upon our stars, or whatever.

There are at least two lessons to be drawn by Christians from the Roman satirist’s wisdom. Firstly, grace is in line with the nature that God gave us, and does not come down, like on a parachute with a machine-gun, to get nature into line. When the pagan writer without grace can see so many spiritual truths from nature alone, it proves that nature and grace are aligned, even if grace is infinitely far above nature, and nature has no claim at all upon it. Too many Catholics see the grace of our religion as a kind of policeman with a truncheon to beat us into shape. Similarly law (good law) is a friend and not an enemy of nature!

A second lesson might be that the pre-Christian pagans, like Juvenal, have rather more grip on reality than the post-Christian pagans of our own time. Apostates of today are washing out both grace and nature, in such a way that they would never utter the good sense that Juvenal here utters.

Kyrie eleison.