Tag: suffering

Doctrinal Feelings

Doctrinal Feelings posted in Eleison Comments on May 21, 2016

Last week’s “Comments” (EC 461) will not have been to everyone’s taste. Readers may have guessed that the unnamed author of the long quote was of the same sex as the also quoted St Theresa of Avila (“suffer, or die”) and St Mary Magdalene de Pazzi (“suffer and not die”), and the anonymous quote may have seemed excessively emotional. But the contrast with Pope Benedict’s feelings quoted the week before (EC 460) was deliberate. Whereas the man’s text showed feelings governing doctrine, the woman’s text showed doctrine governing feelings. Better, obviously, the woman putting God first, like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane (“Father, let this chalice pass me by, but not my will . . .” ), than the man putting feelings first, and changing the Catholic doctrine and religion into the Conciliar religion.

The surprising contrast highlights that the primacy of God means that doctrine comes first, whereas the primacy of feelings means that man comes first. But life is not about avoiding suffering, it is about getting to Heaven. If then I disbelieve in God and worship Mammon instead (Mt. VI, 24), I will disbelieve in any after-life and I will pay for more and more expensive drugs to avoid suffering in this life, because there is no other life. And so the Western “democracies” create one ruinous welfare State after another, because the surest way for a “democratic” politician to get elected or not is to take a stand for or against free medicine. Care for the body is all that is left in the life of many a man who has no God. Thus godlessness ruins the State: “Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Ps. CXXVI, 1), whereas “Happy is that people whose God is the Lord” (Ps. CXLIII, 15). Religion governs politics and economics alike, any false religion for their ill, the true religion for their true good.

On the basis of his October interview (EC 460), Benedict might reply: “Yes, but what use is a religion that fewer and fewer people believe in? On modern man the Catholic religion of all time has lost its grip. Yesterday’s doctrine may be as true as true can be, but of what use is it if it no longer speaks to man as he is today, where he is today? Doctrine is for souls, but how can I speak to contemporary man of redemptive suffering or of the Redemption, when suffering makes no sense to him at all? The Council was absolutely necessary to recast doctrine in a form intelligible to men as they are today.”

And to this position implicit in Benedict’s interview, here might be an answer: “Your Holiness, doctrine is for souls, yes, but to save them from eternal punishment and not to prepare them for it. Doctrine consists of words, words express concepts, concepts are ultimately of things real being conceived. Your Holiness, are God, man’s immortal soul, death, Judgment, and the inevitability of eternal salvation or damnation realities outside my mind? If they are realities independent of myself, have any of them changed since modern times? And if they have not changed at all, then do not the doctrines expressing them express also, together with the doctrine of original sin, a real danger for every man alive of falling into Hell? In which case however unpleasant the realities may feel, what possible service do I do for my fellow-men by making the doctines feel nicer, so as to disguise the eternal danger instead of warning him about it? Of what importance are his feelings compared with the importance of his grasping, and assimilating, the true doctrines, so as to be blissfully happy and not utterly tormented for all eternity for all eternity?

But in our apostate world the mass of men want only to be told fables (II Tim. IV, 4) to put a cushion under their sins. The result is that to keep the moral world in balance, there must be a number of mystic souls, known to God alone, who are taking upon themselves acute suffering, for Christ and for their fellow-men, and it is a fair bet that most of them are women.

Kyrie eleison.

Christian Feelings

Christian Feelings posted in Eleison Comments on May 14, 2016

How can it even have occurred to Pope Benedict that God the Father was cruel to God the Son by making him pay for the sins of the world (cf. EC of last week)? “I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptised,” says the Son himself, “and how am I straitened until it be accomplished” (Lk. XII, 50). St Theresa of Avila wanted “to suffer or die,” but St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi wanted “to suffer and not to die.” The following quote may present that Christian understanding of suffering which is lacking to modern Benedict:—

Who can I tell what I am suffering? Nobody on this earth, because it is not a suffering of this earth and nobody on earth would understand. The suffering is a sweet kind of pain and a painful kind of sweetness. I wish I could suffer ten times, a hundred times more. For nothing in the world would I want it to stop. Yet that does not mean I am not suffering. I suffer as though I were gripped by the throat, clamped in the jaws of a vice, being burnt in a furnace, pierced to the very heart.

Were I allowed to move, to be on my own, so that I could jump and sing to let loose what I am feeling inside, because the pain is truly felt, it would be a relief. But I am pinned like Jesus on the Cross. I can neither move, nor be on my own, and I have to bite my tongue in order not to satisfy people’s curiosity with my sweet agony. To bite my tongue is putting it mildly. Only with a great effort can I control the impulse to let out the cry of supernatural pain and joy which wells up within and wants to burst out with all the force of a blazing flame or gushing water.

The face of Jesus, clouded over with pain as Pilate shows him to the crowd, attracts me like the spectacle of some disaster. He is in front of me and looks at me, standing on the steps of the Pretorium, his head crowned with thorns, his hands tied in front of the idiot’s dress given him by Herod to ridicule him, but in fact clothing him in a whiteness that befits his perfect Innocence. He says nothing, but everything in him is speaking, calling to me, asking me for something.

For what? He is asking me to love him. I know that that is it, and I give it to him until I feel I am dying with a sword piercing through my chest. But he is still asking me for something that I do not understand. And I wish I understood. Not understanding is torture for me. I wish I could give him everything he wants, even if I had to undergo an agonising death. And still I cannot give it to him.

His face, filled with pain, attracts me and fascinates me. He is beautiful enough when he is the Master or when he is Risen from the dead. But seeing him then fills me merely with joy, whereas seeing him in pain fills me with an unfathomable love, unmatched even by a mother’s care for her suffering creature.

Yes, I do understand. Compassionate love is the crucifixion of the creature that follows its Master all the way to the final torment. It is a tyrannical love, blocking out all thought of anything other than his pain. We no longer belong to ourselves. We live only to console his torture, and his torture is our torment which literally kills us. And yet every tear torn out of us by the pain is dearer than a pearl of great price, and every pain of his we can enter into is more sought after than any treasure.

Father, I have tried to tell you what I am going through, but I try in vain. Amongst all the visions that God has given me it will always be the sight of his suffering that will lift my soul to the seventh heaven. To die of love while gazing on his suffering – what death could be more beautiful?

Kyrie eleison.

Don’t Borrow

Don’t Borrow posted in Eleison Comments on July 2, 2011

The latest financial bailout of Greece, announced last week, has once more put off the day of reckoning for the European Union and maybe for the worldwide financial system, but that day is merely postponed, not cancelled. The problem is systemic. If democratic politicians want to be re-elected, they must borrow to pay for the free lunches on which they themselves have made the peoples insist, but the folly for individuals, families or nations of taking out loans upon loans cannot last for ever, and one day it comes to a crashing halt. Such peoples and politicians have today long been on the wrong road, because the decision to heap up loans is ultimately stupid or criminal.

It is stupid if the basic wisdom has been forgotten of three lines of Shakespeare, worth volumes written by professional “economists”:— “Neither a borrower nor a lender be / For loan oft loses both itself and friend / And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.” In other words a habit of borrowing accustoms one to not “husbanding” or looking after the resources one has. For instance, at least to begin with, money borrowed comes too easily, thus undermining the sense of money’s value and the sense of reality, for instance how hard money can be to earn or eventually to pay back. As for lending, says Polonius (Hamlet, I, 3), not only are loans often not paid back, but also if I have lent to a friend who cannot pay back, he can be too afraid or ashamed to come near me again.

However, not all lenders are stupid. A number of them are criminal, because they know that by lending money at usurious rates of interest they can reduce individuals, families and nations to poverty and slavery – “The borrower is servant” (or slave) “to him that lendeth” (Prov. XXII, 7). Certain credit cards are now paying between 20 and 30% rates of interest, yet the Catholic Church has always severely condemned usury. Usurers are criminals who destroy the fabric of society by impoverishing and enslaving their fellow men, or whole nations.

In modern times usury takes different forms, say the Popes, and this is why the whole world should now be waking up to the fact that it has let itself be enslaved by the cunning money-men, who use their money to master the media and politicians in particular, and thus buy control of an entire society giving itself over to Mammon. The question then arises, how can God have allowed such a state of affairs to come about, and how can he now be meaning to allow the immense suffering that will come with the imminent financial crash and/or World War, both of which will have been engineered by his enemies to give them, as they hope, total world power?

The answer is that he has granted such power to his enemies because their cruelty and inhumanity serve him as a scourge to be laid across the back of a world that has turned away from him, and has preferred to take Mammon for its master – you cannot serve both God and Mammon, says Our Lord (Mt. VI, 24). And God will allow a great deal more suffering in the near future, because “In suffering is learning” (Aeschylus), and in fact only heavy suffering will today be enough to enable any significant number of souls worldwide to learn that their materialism and worship of Mammon are treacherous enemies of their one true interest, the salvation of their eternal souls.

Mother of God, obtain mercy for us poor sinners!

Kyrie eleison.

Reading Pagans

Reading Pagans posted in Eleison Comments on June 4, 2011

Some Catholic eyebrows may have been raised a while ago when “Eleison Comments” (EC 188) recommended the reading of the pagan Greeks to get a handle on the universe’s moral framework. Why not rather read Catholic authors? But the same great realities of life, suffering and death were faced by the Greek tragedians as are faced by the Catholic Doctors: why, as it seems, are we born on this earth, only to suffer and die, and by death be separated from everything we have learned to love? The question is basic, and can be agonizing.

The Catholic answer is clear and complete: an infinitely good God gives to each of us life, free-will and time enough, if we make the right use of the suffering exactly dosed by his Providence (Mt.X, 29–31), for us to choose to spend our eternity rather with him in Heaven than without him in Hell. The Greek answer is incomplete, but not wholly wide of the mark. Instead of God the Father, they have a Father-god, Zeus, and instead of Providence they have Fate (Moira).

Now whereas for Catholics Providence is inseparable from God, the Greeks separate Zeus from Fate so that they sometimes clash. That follows from the Greeks having a too human concept of their gods. Nevertheless they do conceive of Zeus as more or less benignly directing the universe and of Fate as being unchangeable, as is Providence within the true God (Summa Ia, 23, 8; 116,3), so that they are not wholly wrong. Moreover they have more respect for their mythical gods, and for the moral order guarded by them, than do a host of modern writers, who have no respect for any god at all, and who set out to negate any trace of a moral order.

But the Greeks have one advantage even over Catholic writers. When they present great truths, these are drawn from raw life and not just – so to speak – out of the Catechism. The same holds true for any non-Catholic witness to truths taught by the Church. Just as today’s Talmudic Jews, precisely because they reject Jesus Christ, render a special witness to him by guarding jealously in their synagogues the Hebrew text of that Old Testament which speaks of Our Lord from beginning to end, so the ancient Greeks give special witness to God and his Providence when, independently of the Catechism, they demonstrate the world’s moral order in action. In this way they prove that such natural truths are accessible not only to believers, rather they belong to the very fabric of life as lived by everyone, if only it is sanely understood.

Another advantage of the ancient classics in particular is that having preceded Christ, there cannot be in them a trace of that apostasy which mars, more or less, even pious writers coming out of Christendom after the Middle Ages. Natural truths are presented by the ancients with a certain innocence and freshness which can no longer be recovered. The waters are too muddied.

In fact it was the Church’s monasteries which ensured the survival of the manuscripts of the ancient classics in medieval times. Count on the true Catholic Church to save them once more in modern times from the new barbarians, liberals! For wherever the so-called “scholarship” of the liberals prevails today, it turns all classics to dust.

Kyrie eleison.

Why Suffering?

Why Suffering? posted in Eleison Comments on March 19, 2011

The latest dramatic shifting of tectonic plates off the east coast of Japan, causing both inland the biggest earthquake Japan has known for many years and along its eastern coast an absolutely devastating tidal wave, must be raising in many minds the classic question: if God exists, if he is all-powerful and all-good, how can he possibly allow so much human suffering? The classic answer is not too difficult in theory, at any rate when one is not suffering oneself! –

Firstly, suffering is often a punishment for sin. God does exist, sin does offend him. Sin takes souls to Hell whereas God created them for Heaven. If suffering on earth will put a brake on sin and help souls to choose Heaven, then God, who is certainly in command of the tectonic plates, can without difficulty use them to punish sin. Then were the Japanese people especially sinful? Our Lord himself tells us not to ask that question, but rather to think of our own sins and to do penance, otherwise “you will all likewise perish” (Lk. XIII, 4). Would it not be astonishing if there were no Japanese people now wondering whether Western-style materialism and comfort are really what life is all about?

Secondly, human suffering can well be a warning, to turn men away from evil and keep them from pride. Right now the whole godless West should be questioning its own materialism and prosperity. By the steadily increasing rate of earthquakes and other natural disasters all over the world over the last several years, the Lord God is certainly trying to get the attention of all of us, maybe in the hope that he will not have to inflict on us the worldwide “rain of fire” of which his Mother warned us at Akita (in Japan) in 1973. But right now, is there not every likelihood that because they are doing the suffering, the Japanese are profiting more from their disaster than is the distant West? Those countries may in fact be lucky which are getting now a foretaste of the Chastisement threatening to come.

Thirdly, God may use human suffering to highlight the virtue of his servants. That was the case with Job, and with Christian martyrs down all the ages. Few Japanese people may today have supernatural faith, but if the Japanese now humble themselves beneath what they sense to be the mighty hand of God, they will earn natural merit and at least on the natural level give him glory.

Finally, there is God’s own answer to Job, who by Chapter 36 of his Book is still not satisfied with any explanation for his suffering that he or any of his family or friends have been able to come up with. I paraphrase: “Where were you, Job, when I laid down the foundations of the earth? Did you design the tectonic plates? Who do you think keeps the sea normally within its bounds, and stops it from flooding dry land? Can you really think I did not have my own good reasons to let it just now wash over the north-east coast of Japan?” See the Book of Job, Chapters 38 and 39. And Job at last submits. He is satisfied with the answer, and confesses that he was wrong to be calling in question the wisdom and goodness of God (Job 42, 1–7).

Let us ourselves do penance, be warned by Japan’s disaster, hope to give glory to God in our own trials to come, and recognize above all that God alone is God!

Kyrie eleison.

Christ’s Suffering

Christ’s Suffering posted in Eleison Comments on April 4, 2009

The eve of Palm Sunday is surely a good moment to consider with St. Thomas Aquinas (IIIa, Q46, art.5,6) how Christ’s suffering surpassed all other sufferings. Of course Christ could not suffer in his impassible divine nature, but he had chosen his perfect human nature, conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary, to provide him with an incomparably sensitive instrument of suffering, in body and soul, to redeem us all and to save us from Hell if we wish.

As for Christ’s body, every part of it, from thorn-crowned head to nailed feet, was tormented in his Passion, culminating in the excruciating pains of death on the Cross, three hours racked between cramp from pushing up on nailed feet to breathe, and breathlessness or suffocation from slumping down on nailed hands to relieve the cramp. Crucifixion was positively designed to be excruciating – both words derive from the Latin for “cross” (crux, crucis).

As for Christ’s soul with its far greater range of perception than that of mere bodily senses, however perfect, St. Thomas names three heads of suffering. Firstly, by infused knowledge, Christ saw all sins of all men of all time, and chose to pay by his self-sacrifice for all those sins in general. In other words he used his superhuman gifts not to avoid suffering but to suffer the more. Yet at the same time he wished to suffer not just by a divine reckoning according to which a mere pin-prick of the Divine Person would have been payment infinite and more than enough, but by a human reckoning, as though he alone were to undergo umpteen executions to pay for umpteen criminals!

Secondly, by normal human knowledge, Christ suffered in his soul from observing all the kinds of people contributing to his Passion: Jew and Gentile, man and woman (e.g. the serving-girl mocking Peter), leaders and people, friend and foe. In particular, says St. Thomas, Christ suffered in his soul from being hated by his own people, then still God’s Chosen People, and – worst of all – from being abandoned and betrayed by his very own Apostles. Thirdly, like any man, Christ suffered in his soul from having to die, and the more innocent and perfect his life had been, the more keenly he suffered its loss and the injustice of its loss.

Now what other human being, or mass of human beings, have lived a perfect and innocent life; have chosen to lay it down by a death anything like as terrible as crucifixion; have been able to see all sins of all men and wish to pay for them; finally have observed abandonment all around them to the point of feeling deserted even by God (“lama, lama, sabactani”)? Were there six million such men, still they could not claim that their sacrifice was motivated by anything like the charity of Christ, with his overwhelming divine and human love for every one of us poor sinners. So their sacrifice would still not be remotely comparable to His.

Kyrie eleison.