Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Care of the Home

The care of the home us not unlike the care of the soul in relationship to the body.  The soul houses the body, but the soul is hidden.  It is interior life.  As such, the interior life of the home must be kept in order for the exterior to be well, just as with the human person.  If the home is to be where the kingdom of God dwells, then God’s kingdom should be clean, kept, and well represented.  For just as in the care of the human soul, when one cares for his or her soul, he cares for the body just as much and when he cares for the body, he cares for the soul.  For as St. Bonaventure states, “The soul is not a person, but the soul is joined to the body- is a person” 1.  The neglect of the soul is neglect of the body and vice/versa.  St. Chrysostom states, “For not to the soul alone are the pleasures hurtful, but to the body itself, because from being a strong body it becomes weak, from being healthy, diseased, from being active, slothful, from being beautiful, unshapely, and from youthful, old.” 2.

So, no one wants a home that is sick weak, unshapely, and diseased.  For it can be said that to care for the home itself is to care for the interior life of the home: the life lived daily.  In life, however, there are those who take good care of the body but neglect the soul and also in reverse.  We have all seen the obese nun or priest!  Both must be considered in order to be well.  As Bl. John Paul II the Great states, “ The home is a great good for man!  It is a place of life and love!  It is in a certain sense, our human Lareto…”3.  Because the home is this great good it must be regarded with great good.  Much in the way of formation of spouses and children depend on the proper care of the home.  Proper care of this place of “Life and Love”.  Proper care can lead to the desired outcome of heavenly virtue in a more complete way.  We have all experienced trials with and in the home, but the home is where the seedbed is laid for the souls of childhood to flourish.  “The home, though it suffer want and hardship in this valley of tears, may become for the children in its own way a foretaste of that paradise of delight in which the creator placed the first men of the human race.” 4
So, how then to care for this place which is so crucial to the formation of the Christian man and his Kin and kith?  There are a number of aspects to which our care should be directed, but I will outline them here first and explain each one in more detail in successive articles:
1)  Cleanliness inside and out
2)  Structure
3)  Infrastructure
4)  Maintenance- corrective and preventive
5)  Adornment and decorum

Today I will begin with #1 and will proceed in weeks ahead with the others.

Cleanliness Inside and Out
We are right to know that the liturgical life of the church must be carried out over and into the home and lived everyday within the home.  For as Bl. John Paul II the Great states, “What happens in the liturgy must be carried over into daily life.  It must be lived in the home.  Then the home will become the place where life in Christ grows to maturity.  Such a home is a real expression of the Church” 5.

But what I think  is often forgotten is the external expression of this truth.  Which, is curious since we as Catholics and religious people live by outward expression of our faith; i.e. sign of the cross, genuflection, kneeling, Ad Orientem, etc.  The liturgy is ordered- it carries with it a modus which says “a place for everything and everything in its place”.  It must be clean and ready to be a worthy presentation to and for the Lord and his people who come to worship him there.  If there is chaos and disorder, then the God of order (look to the universe!) is slighted.  Further, there is real symbolism to the placement, positioning, and well keeping of all vessels, art, statues, and items of worship.  Liturgical life lived in the home must also branch into its presentation to its people.

We must turn our home (its cleanliness) toward the Lord- “Ad Orientem” as it’s said- liturgically “East”.  I must face all aspects to Him and order them to the “Cult” so to speak, of the home.  The Culture of a home must be cultivated in order to serve him well, just as it is in the Church.  “Man comes to a true and full humanity only through culture- that is through the cultivation of the goods and values of nature” 6.  Just as a farmer must cultivate his land so that it may bear fruit, so too the home will not bear fruit unless it is “kept” and cultivated.  There is a reason why culture and cultivation find a common root in the Latin word “Cultus”.  It means “Labor, care, husbandry, discipline, care, way of life, refinement, honoring, reverence, adoration, veneration”. 7.  If the home is a place of worship to Christ through the everyday Catholic living of life, the domestic church, the home itself must adore Christ.  This is what you find in the traditionally adorned churches which are spaces made to lead man to worship God.  The current state of church architecture is abysmal and does more harm than good to man’s understanding of worship and the cosmic reality in which the Liturgy finds itself, as so clearly laid out by Pope Benedict XVI in “The Spirit of the Liturgy”.  The outward expression is a manifestation of the unseen inward reality.  When done properly, it can lead man to a more full expression of worship and entering into God’s eternal mystery. 

All through the scriptures, that which is “ugly” is usually depicted as an outward expression of an inward sin or wretchedness. 8.  An unkempt home is just plain “ugly”.  It is poor to the eye and displays a form of wretchedness.  I once heard a protestant woman speaker talking about how great she feels when she goes over to a friend’s house and sees it in a messy state.  She said it relieves her that someone who she admires as a Christian has either a messier home than hers or just as messy.  She referred to it as the “ministry of mediocrity”!  What an oxymoron…what Christian should ever aspire to mediocrity?  What ministry is there to be found in mediocrity?  The words of Bl. John Paul II the Great echo again when he said “Do Not Be Afraid!  Do not be satisfied with mediocrity”.  Mediocrity is nothing more than acceptance of that which is effortless and sub-par.  A common and consistent blandness and satisfaction with the banal.  This is truly dreary!  The ministry that woman should have participated in was that of charity.  To reach out to that friend and offer to help her in her obvious work waiting for her could have edified and uplifted that woman!

To be sure, a home is also useful and is not a museum.  It should be lived in and should serve us- not the other way around.  So what balance is there then?  Think again to the liturgy.  During the liturgy, much is used and brought out- at times even to the fullest extent.  In Solemnities more is brought out than usual.  But in all instances, all is put back and made ready to be used for next time.  The dignity of the space and the liturgy is kept in this way and regard.  Dignity would lack if the finest of all items in the sacristy were not used, especially and good and useful things.  On the flip side, if they are not taken care of, the dignity owed to the space and items is diminished.
To conclude, care ought to be taken to use a home well, but keep it too so that its dignity is maintained and it serves the liturgical life and aspect well.  It ought to be vacuumed, dusted, organized, free from pests, picked up, useful, and not restrictive or pent up.  When a home is warm when it should be warm, and cool when it should be cool, and when a home is washed and put together, it is an outward expression to all of an inward, hidden, reality.  Life!

1)  St. Bonaventure, De Assumptione  B Mariae Virginis, Sermo. 1.
      2)  Catena Aurea- Commentary on Luke 12, St. John Chrysostom
      3)  Bl. John Paul II The Great- Adress to University of Rome, Dec. 12, 1995
      4)  Pope Pius XI- Casti Connubii- preparation for marriage
      5)  Bl John Paul II The Great- Homily given to Pontifical Athenaeum, Feb. 10, 1986
      6)  Gaudium et Spes, Part II, Chptr. II
      7)  Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary
      8)  Rev. 16,2. Sirach 20, 24. Gen. 41, 3&4

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Brotherhood for Today

For those who may not know the history of the Bretheren of the Common Life (namesake of this site) it was a formation of Geert DeGroot in the 14th century to "cultivate the interior life, and they worked for their daily bread...the Brethren of the Common Life had studded all Germany and the Netherlands with schools in which the teaching was given for the love of God alone. Gradually the course, at first elementary, embraced the humanities,philosophy, and theology." (New Advent)  Some of the more noted students and people who were influenced by the following were Pope Adrian VI, Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, Thomas à Kempis, and Erasmus.  
Our current situation needs a kind of radical normal which finds Catholics who are willing to live the life of a martyr through their everyday life- in a sense, to be taken to the cross by the common life and the mundane.  This is where the true calling lies.  Most live lives looking for the extraordinary, when the ordinary is where Christ can be most often found, and frankly, where the true Christian goes to die to self.  This takes "Communio"- a joining of minds and hearts to be of one sense and make this struggle together.  Family- both vocational and cultural.  This is the place where the true "education of happiness" exists.  This happiness is lived out best when wrapped around that which is good and true- the humanities, philosophies, and the love and learning of God through His Church.
Recently, Pope Francis, in his address to the faithful during the Angelus, he emphasized the need for modern day martyrs who are proud to "go against the current".  He mentioned what modern day martyrdom looks like: 
"Today we have more martyrs than in the first centuries! But there is also the daily martyrdom, which doesn't result in death but is also a 'losing of one's life' for Christ: doing one's duty with love, according to the logic of Jesus, the logic of giving and sacrifice. Think how many fathers and mothers put their faith into practice every day, offering their lives for the good of the family! … How many priests, brothers, and sisters generously carry out their service for the Kingdom of God. How many young people give up their own interests to dedicate themselves to children, the disabled, the elderly... These too are martyrs! Everyday martyrs, martyrs of everyday life! And there are many people, Christians and non-Christians, who 'lose their own life' for the truth. Christ said 'I am the truth', so those who serve the truth serve Christ."  
He went on to say,  "Don't be afraid to go against the current, when they want to steal our hope, when they propose rotten values to us, values like food that has gone bad—and when food has gone bad it makes us sick, these values make us sick. We have to go against the current! And you, young people, be the first: Go against the grain and be proud of going against the grain. Go on, be brave and go against the current! And be proud of doing it!"
In a way, this is the most heroic way we can live- to die to ourselves in the everyday inglorious, repetetive motion of the life God has given.  But if we can do this...if we can persevere in this small, diminutive duty on the ship of the Holy Roman Church, as large as the ship may be and as small as our task is, there will be a birth of what is good in those around us- true human happiness and the flourishing of all that is beautiful.
In his conclusion to the prologue in the Rule of Life, St. Benedict best says what kind of a trial a school of life will be and how the journey will look when taken together as a brotherhood:  "And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation, whose entrance cannot but be narrow (Matt. 7:14).For as we advance in the religious life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God's commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love.Thus, never departing from His school, but persevering in the monastery according to His teaching until death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13)and deserve to have a share also in His kingdom."
This ought to hang in our minds as men, women, and families as we set about our work in the vinyard of life.  Remember, a vinyard is nothing but dirt, bugs, mud, and good, hard labor.  But when done in great love, though a small thing (nod to St. Therese), it can not be anything but GRAND!  And Jesus said, "whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Baroque style art was the most important expression of the Counter-Reformation.  A new "Baroque style" is needed!

Below is a small sampling of works that portray the Christian Humanism that was needed at the time, just as it is needed now in the battle against Secularism.  Send links of works that you have found or done that are of the same mode and they will be posted.  See more HERE.



John Ruskin, William Wordsworth, John Donne, George Herbert- these are the names of some of the great poets.  The people who, through written and verbal expression are able to take us into the imaginitive wonder which glorifies the nature of creation.  A re-surgence of this kind of expression is needed in the battle against Secularism.  Send links of works that you have found or done that are of the same mode and they will be posted.

"Suprised by Joy" by William Wordsworth
Surprised by joy -impatient as the wind
I turned to share the transport -Oh! with whom
But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind - 
But how could I forget thee? Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss? -That thought's return
Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart's best treasure was no more;
That neither present time, nor years unborn,
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.

Forthcoming Interview with Mr. Howard Clark

Mr. Howard Clark of St. Gregory's Academy for boys and head chair of the Clairvaux Institute has agreed to an interview with the Brotherhood of the Common Life on the topic of the academy, and education on the whole.  We are very excited for this and grateful for the acceptance.  This interview is now forthcoming and will be posted once complete.  Stay tuned.

The Innocence of Childhood and The Poetic Mode

Today, the VIS (Vatican Information Service) posted an excerpt from Pope Francis' Wednesday Catechesis marking the World Day Against Child Labour.  I'll post their article, then thoughts I have on the topic:  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013
FRANCIS: SERENE CHILDHOOD IS A RIGHT AND OUR DUTYVatican City, 12 June 2013 (VIS) – At the end of his catechesis, the Holy Father launched an appeal for the protection of children, noting that today marks the World Day Against Child Labour, which is focusing particular attention on the exploitation of children in domestic work, a deplorable situation that is constantly increasing, especially in many of the poorest countries. The Pope called upon the international community to take more effective measures against “this real plague”.

“There are millions of children,” Francis said, “mostly girls, who are victims of this hidden form of exploitation that often involves abuse, mistreatment, and discrimination. It is real slavery. … All children should be able to play, study, pray, and grow, in their own families and in an atmosphere of harmony, love, and serenity. It is their right and our duty. A serene childhood allows children to look with confidence towards life and the future. Woe to whomever stifles within them their joyful enthusiasm of hope!”

In his final greetings, the Holy Father addressed members of the International Committee of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul who were present in the Square. They are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of their founder, Blessed Frederic Ozanam. “God is stronger than evil,” Francis told them. “In a world that is difficult at times, be bearers of God's hope and love.”

This I think speaks to a larger issue at the fore that goes beyond just child labor and is captured, in essence, in the title of the article- "Serene Childhood".

In the Poetic Mode of learning and education, children are able to discover nature through wonder.  This "mode" of learning incites wonder about the nature of people, creation, and ideas or concepts.  So much of what "today's child" is taught to need is intrusive, abrasive, disjointed, and confronts the natural senses with an inundation of information, technology, and general white "noise".  This, to me, is an affront to a "Serene Childhood".  

When Pope Francis says, "All children should be able to play, study, pray, and grow, in their own families and in an atmosphere of harmony, love, and serenity" he is getting at a larger idea than just a lowest common denominator of not being sold into slavery or child labor.  He is speaking to what is at the heart of what God created a family to be- a physical reality of an unseen truth- the Trinity.  

Our final end with God is to contemplate Him.  The pre-cursor to contemplation is knowledge, and the pre-cursor to knowledge is wonder.  This gets to the very heart of what it means to engage a child in the Poetic Mode.  It is to star gaze, walk among forests, explore stories and unfold them in the mind through talking about them, hear a sonnet and think about it or learn it by heart, or just sing a song for the love of singing.

This mode cannot be found within a smart phone, laptop, television, or email address.  The only things to be found in these places is constant streams of information, and un-real communication that misses the key element- the other person.

The Poetic Mode requires interaction with everything that is real, true, good, and beautiful.  Nature shows the grandeur of God all on it's own in every form.  Children only need be led to it and then taught to wonder, and carry that wonder in their heart and mind with them all day long.    In short, to "waste time" (so to speak) and give them avenues to get lost in a story, nature walk, nighttime sky, or a poem is to give them what is "pre-moral" and the stage before knowing right from wrong, good from bad, and so on.

Here are a couple fantastic links to read further on this topic:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Re-Birth of St. Gregory's Academy

The re-resurgence of St. Gregory's academy gives me hope.  This is an institution worth considering.  From 1993-2012, it was an "'experiment in tradition' that began when the Fraternity of St. Peter hired Mr. Alan Hicks as the founding headmaster in 1993. In 2003 the leadership of the school passed to Mr. Howard Clark." (from their previous website)  Below is an update that was sent out to all those on the mailing list.  It was encouraging to say the least.  Here is a link to the academy's website:

I will be doing my best to attempt an interview from Mr. Howard Clark in the near future.  Until then, here is the update:

Dear Friends,

By now you have all heard the news that Gregory the Great Academy will open its doors this fall. We stand in humble gratitude to Our Lord for this gift, and to all of you for your wonderful support. As you can imagine, many challenges lay before us to get ready for the school year, and we are beginning to take them on with cheer and faith.

Here is some more information about our situation:

The facility we have secured is the main lodge at a Pocono family resort called Chestnut Grove. The building is about 8,000 square feet and has several large country-style inn rooms that can house 15-20 students and 5 resident dorm fathers and teachers. There is a large industrial kitchen, an airy dining room, and a common area. The lodge stands on the resort’s property of about 20 acres, including a soccer field, tennis and basketball courts, a pond, and other amenities that our students will be able to take advantage of during recreation and study. The resort is about 30 miles from Scranton in Swiftwater, PA.

As Mr. Clark mentioned in an earlier correspondence, this location is not ideal—but it does offer us a suitable place to become established and keep our traditions alive. We are all very excited to undertake this project and thank you for your continued support.

We are beginning to assemble the faculty and staff for the upcoming year. Many familiar faces will be a part of this start-up project, although given the limitations in student numbers and the budget, the staff will be a small, tight-knit team. That being said, it will be a strong team, able to offer substantial academic courses and an organized athletic program. As soon as matters in this area have been ascertained, we will announce the members of our new faculty and staff.

Regarding athletics, we will be coordinating with Coach van Beek to involve our students in several different programs. Track and field is an area that Coach van Beek has expressed enthusiasm for, along with participating with indoor soccer clubs. Every effort will be made to patch a rugby team together, and a possibility exists of entering Division 2 in the local league. Besides these more competitive endeavors, the students will have ample space and opportunity to enjoy intramural sporting activities.

Mr. Clark and I had a very favorable interview this week with Fr. Michael Salnicky, a Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic priest whose parish church of St. Nicholas is only a short drive from the resort. Fr. Michael has agreed to enter into negotiations for his involvement as chaplain for the academy, providing the sacraments on a regular basis and religious instruction. Fr. Michael is a very interesting and engaging individual, with many fascinating experiences and hobbies that include firefighting, scuba diving, caribou hunting, sailing, and flying aircraft. Most importantly, Fr. Michael seems a very devout man, who works hard to do the work of Our Lord and to celebrate his ancient rite with beauty and reverence. We look forward to continuing our conversation with him.

The plan to begin on October 15th remains in place, with a detailed correspondence course for the first six weeks to compensate for this loss of time. An Academic Calendar shall be forthcoming. The possibility also exists that we will gather our students together on October 1st for a 2-week pilgrimage over the Appalachian Trail. Again, as we finalize these plans, we will inform all of you.

Once again, we are very grateful for your prayers and support throughout this year of development. Thanks to you we are now all looking forward to our maiden voyage as an independent institution. Please continue to remember us in your prayers and your charitable giving—we will need both to make this year a success. Also, please spread the word about Gregory the Great Academy among people you know who may be interested in our mission.

You shall hear from us again soon.

In Christ,
Howard Clark and Sean Fitzpatrick
GGA Development Committee