CULTURA (Culture)

Pope Francis: “Three Desires”: Beauty, Goodness, and Truth.

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday afternoon met with a group of about 500 young people from the Diocese of Piacenza-Bobbio in St. Peter’s Basilica. The youth are on a pilgrimage which is part of their diocesan celebration of the Year of Faith.
The Pope began his greetings by explaining why he agreed to the meeting.
“I did it for selfish reasons, do you know why? Why I like being with you? … Why I like being with young people?” the Pope asked. “ Because you have in your heart a promise of hope. You are bearers of hope. You, in fact, live in the present, but are looking at the future. You are the protagonists of the future, artisans of the future.”
Explaining what he meant, Pope Francis said young people have “three desires”: Beauty, Goodness, and Truth.
“And these three desires that you have in your heart, you have to carry them forward, to the future,” he said. “Make the future with beauty, with goodness and truth. Do you understand? This is the challenge: your challenge…you can do it: you have the power to do so. If you do not, it is because of laziness. … I wanted to tell you: Have courageGo forward. Make noise.”
He said making noise means going “against this civilization that is doing so much harm. Got that? Go against the tide, and that means making noise. Go ahead. But with the values ​​of beauty, goodness and truth.”
The bishop of the Diocese of Piacenza-Bobbio, Gianni Ambrosio, told Vatican Radio what he hoped the youth would get out of the meeting.
“I told the young people that this experience must first light our path: knowing that our path is lit and there are many people who have gone before us, who gave us the light of faith,” Bishop Ambrosio said. “Not only that, but also we are accompanied by the presence of the Risen Christ who is in our midst, and the Church continues the mission of Jesus, which is to give the children of God the possibility of a way that leads to the goal, to salvation.”
"Restoring the Seven-Storied Tower"

A Catholic Cultural Legacy-by Br. Phillip Anderson, Abbot [Part 2]

            The great poet Dante had his own idea of the ideal republic or city that transcends this world.  Like Socrates, he esteemed that that life worth living must include a contemplative gaze in the direction of a better place.  The king or political head of the Catholic Christian state must, he thought, be able to see beyond the limited horizons of this present existence.  Thus Dante spoke in his Purgatorio (XVI, 95-96) of “…a ruler, one that could and should glimpse the true City or at least the tower.”
            Dr. Senior seemed to have glimpsed that tower.  It was in reference to this figure of the tower that he wrote a most memorable description of medieval education through the liberal arts.  Many of you have probably read this passage of The Death of Christian Culture (chapter 6) more than once since the day it was first published. 

There is a famous picture, writes John Senior, coming down to us in different versions from the Middle Ages, illustrating education.  It depicts a several-storied tower into which the schoolboy with his satchel and his tablet enters on the ground floor, greeted by the stern magister, who has merry eyes, a big stick called a baculum, and a book called the Donatus from its author, the fourth-century grammarian.  Next, through the window of the second story, we see the boy progress to Aristotle’s Logic, and at the third window up to Cicero’s Rhetoric.

The point this passage of The Death of Christian Culture makes is that, in contrast to the modern university, this older vision of liberal education is characterized by a true integration of knowledge (thus the Pearson Integrated Humanities Program) and a vertical progression of the liberal arts.

[The] liberal arts, continues Senior, differ from one another vertically.  You rise from one to the other, not by a horizontal extension, but a vertical ascent to a different level of understanding that includes the lower ones, analogous to the relation of part to whole.

A little further along in the chapter he draws the conclusion of this view of education, beginning with a question:

What is the integer? If a student forgets everything he learned at school or college, he had best remember this one question.  It will be on the very final examination that his own conscience will make at the last hour of his life: In the pursuit of horizons—of horizontal things—have you failed to raise your eyes and mind and heart up to the stars, to the reason for things, and beyond, as Dante says at the top of the tower of his poem:

To the love which moves the sun
And all the other stars?

I am sure we will be pondering this very question in the days to come.  In any case, whatever else John Senior may have been, he was first of all, for most of us, an extraordinary university professor, one who, in defiance of the prevailing trends in higher education, proposed to his students thePerennial Philosophy, the doctrine, which, according to Etienne Gilson, “has the unfortunate destiny ever to bury its would-be undertakers”.  Together with Doctors Quinn and Nelick, he brought to the University of Kansas, for a few years at least, that great conversation of the perennial wisdom, shared by a cohort of authors, from Homer to Saint Augustine, from Cicero to Dostoevsky, whose thoughts and deeds are recorded in the Great Books, which were the only curriculum of the IHP.  Thus the tower of the university—at least as described in this integrated vision of education—pointed in some way to the tower of the heavenly Jerusalem, to the City of God and beyond.
So, the story we are retracing began with a special program of studies at a Midwestern state university, the University of Kansas.  But it all led to much more. There is the “tower”, you see—but then there is the rest of the city.  There are the liberal arts, but then there is the panorama of all that constitutes civilization in its noblest sense. The unique educational career of John Senior was destined to introduce him into many other areas of influence. As the Great Books were read and the great ideas discussed, the need to consider this integrated knowledge of the university within the greater context of an integrated culture was felt.  And for John Senior that meant the truly Catholic city, such as it once existed—imperfectly, but really--in Europe.  This line of thought found its way eventually into the two books John Senior is best known for, The Death of Christian Culture and The Restoration of Christian Culture. Although he never referenced it to my knowledge, there is a short text of Pope Saint Pius X that I think Dr. Senior would have readily recognized as a most happy expression of the truth considered in the two books.  In a letter to the French episcopate in 1925 the pontiff wrote these words:

No, civilization is no longer something to be invented, nor is a new city to be built in the clouds.  That city has existed; it still exists; it is Christian civilization, it is the Catholic city.  All that has to be done is to reestablish it and restore it unceasingly on its natural and divine foundations…omnia instaurare in Christo (Lettre on the Sillon, August 25, 1910).

However, rather than pretending to build even this Catholic city mentioned by Pope Pius X, John Senior, in his very humble way, thought merely to start—or, better, to restore a Catholic village somewhere.  In the third chapter of his Restoration of Christian Culture he outlines in this sense some of the main features of what he calls the “Catholic Agenda”, recommending E.F. Schumacher’s book, Small Is Beautiful and Hilaire Belloc’s The Restoration of Property among other possible sources of inspiration.  There appears here the idea of a return to the land and to a saner way of life that might happen in such a village. Today there seems to be, in fact, an ever increasing desire among many Americans to accomplish this return to the land.  Many of the people I meet, who, although they were never students of John Senior, have become interested in his work, fall into this category.  As a matter of fact, in the very neighborhood of Clear Creek Abbey you might be surprised to find the beginnings of such a village.  You might encounter a truly “un-modern” house or two, along with other signs of the reemergence of rural mirth and manners, to quote a line from the poet Goldsmith.

            Now a most important part of this catholic agenda contemplated by John Senior as a bulwark of Christian culture and society was the monastic life.  In preparing a program for this John Senior Colloquium I thought very much about a lecture on “The Spirit of the Rule” and on the monastic adventure that several of the students of the Integrated Humanities Program embarked upon, leading eventually to the establishment of this very monastery.  However, better than any lecture, the very fact of your being at the monastery and, perhaps, participating in some of the Divine Office and Holy Mass, is no doubt the best possible education in the matter.  In the fifth chapter of Restoration Senior describes a visit to Fontgombault Abbey in France, where some of us became monks many years ago.

…[W]e were standing with our suitcases in the dust before a massive stone wall with high towers and roofs exactly as travelers stood a thousand years ago here by the lovely Creuse where the hermit Pierre de l’Etoile prayed, died and was buried…And then, without transition, as in dreams (but this is absolutely not a dream; this is the point, that it is all real) I am in the care, it almost seems the arms, of a zealous, smiling, slightly aging angel, greeting me with such affection, right out of the Rule, so solicitous of me I might have thought, if I didn’t know better, that I was Christ!  The Rule is not a book. It is a fact at Fontgombault.

Except for the stone walls—which we do not have, but which we are beginning to build—the very same scene could take place here at Clear Creek Abbey.  Not a single point of monastic observance, that is to say not a single custom or rule has been changed in our way of life since the time John Senior made that memorable visit to Fontgombault Abbey across the Atlantic.  We still practice exactly the same life as at the abbey that founded us. 
The point is not to brag about the monks of Clear Creek, but rather to underscore the fact that John Senior succeeded—with the help of many others, it is true, but this really came from out of his own heart—he succeeded through the vocations of his former students in bringing a somewhat neglected form of monastic life, as he had experienced it at Fontgombault, to America.  He once said in a lecture before the students of the Integrated Humanities Program, that if the whole program led to nothing else but to a couple of vocations to the monastic life it would have been well worth it.
A little further along in the same chapter five of Restoration cited above, Senior continues his description of his visit to the French abbey, speaking in particular of the Guest-master at Fontgombault:

And there he is like one of Fra Angelico’s angels, with a certain sweet reserve as if he knew some secret I was about to discover to my great good and delight, all exactly as St. Benedict specified and which I had always thought to be some ideal Republic like Plato’s and never, not even in the Middle Ages and certainly not a present, reality.

And so it was that John Senior looked upon the “spirit of the Rule” as the ‘secret soul’ as it were of this great thing he contemplated and referred to as Christian Culture. 

            We must not exaggerate, however, this happy picture; we must not overemphasize the luminous portions of the landscape, failing to recognize the drama that marked this Catholic life and legacy of the great teacher who was John Senior.  He describes in poignant pages—almost as a helpless witness-- the dark onslaught of the perennial heresy against the Christian culture of the Western world and against the Church herself. It seemed that the errors he had escaped upon entering the Catholic fold had chillingly sneaked into the City of God like some diabolical Trojan horse, that the negation of all that is true and good and beautiful had all of a sudden reappeared, “smiling in the sanctuary”.  There is, in fact, a persistent bent of mind that seems to span the intellectual history of modern times.  The founder of our monastic family of Solesmes, Dom Prosper Gueranger, called it (as did churchmen in his time, in the 19th century) “naturalism”.  Saint Pius X, speaking more or less of the same reality, termed it “modernism”.  In more recent times we have heard it named “relativism” and “secularism”.  This is no mere skirmish on the sidelines of history, but is about total warfare. The Church is up against a kind of synthesis of all the heresies and errors of past ages rolled into one. 

Now as we look back upon the whole system in one glance as it were, wrote the saintly Pope Pius X, no one will be surprised when we define it as the synthesis of all heresies. (Pascendi, DZ 2109)

John Senior took stock of what was at stake, and the fight certainly took its toll on him. 
If we once knew the energetic and enthusiastic John Senior of the first years after his conversion, we have also known the worn and somewhat discouraged figure of later years.  In a letter to one of the American monks at Fontgombault in the late seventies he was already speaking—referring to the Integrated Humanities Program and his growing concerns about so many things, quoting Shakespeare as he often did—of the “winter of our discontent”.  The anguish of it all eventually caused his health to decline.
In John Senior’s mind the synthesis of the very best that the Western world ever produced was crystallized in the Latin Mass (Tridentine rite).  The fight for Christian culture centered on restoring this great liturgical rite.  He lived to see a certain vindication in this area, but not the more complete restoration we have seen since the beginning of the pontificate of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.  The dramatic story of what has been called the “crisis of the Church” after the Second Vatican Council, the “Dark Night of the Church” as Senior termed it, is an ongoing saga, one that cannot be documented here.  But this story certainly conditioned much of John Senior’s own spiritual itinerary, as I am sure we will see in some of the lectures to follow.

“The one perfectly divine thing,” quipped the English Catholic jester already cited, “the one glimpse of God’s paradise on earth, is to fight a losing battle—and not lose it.” One of the great—and quite surprising—inspirations of the whole Integrated Humanities Program was the significance attributed to—of all persons—Dom Quixote de la Mancha.  English professors and the man-in-the-street alike tend to see in this character born of the fertile imagination of the Miguel Cervantes, an amusing madman, who, having read too many stories about the chivalrous deeds of yore and lost himself in an ideal past.  On the contrary, John Senior intuited a sort of superior wisdom there.  In the context of the challenge facing the university students of the late-twentieth century, the Knight of the Woeful Countenance came to symbolize the unequal but glorious combat of every human being against the ineluctable hegemony of technology and dehumanizing standardization. I believe that, despite the bitterness of the fight, John Senior never lost that kind of “hope against all hope”, that quixotic valor that I would call wonder unconquered.  As many of you well know, the motto of the Pearson Integrated Humanities Program was Nascantur in admiration, let them be born in wonder.

But I promised merely to open the door.  The rest is up to you.  I would simply like to express the wish that everyone here might find his or her way to the top of the “seven-storied tower” as least for a few moments, during this John Senior Colloquium.  May Our Lady of the Assumption, whose feast we will be celebrating in just a few days, assist you in this noble endeavor, and may Saint Benedict teach us all to “prefer nothing to the love of Christ”.  Of course, we also hope to take something “practical” away from the Colloquium, as life on earth cannot long remain on such heights.  Someone once summed this up remarkably well, I think:

Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till.

May our enduring love and appreciation of John Senior help us all in this humble and exalted task.

"Restoring the Seven-Storied Tower"

Our Lady of the Annunciation
A Catholic Cultural Legacy- by Br. Phillip Anderson, Abbot [Part 1]

From August 11th to 14th, 2011, Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey, in Hulbert, Oklahoma, hosted the John Senior Colloquium.  More than two hundred attended the Colloquium during which a number of conferences and other addresses  were presented.  We have collected in this book the written texts of the principal interventions.  The entire Colloquium was recorded (audio) and can be purchased in MPG3 format from Clear Creek Abbey (

In Plato’s famous—and no doubt greatest—dialogue, the Republic, there is a telling moment, when Glaucon, who is discussing with Socrates the ideal form of government as an image of the just man’s soul, makes a rather shrewd comment, saying:

You mean the city whose establishment we have described, the city whose home is in the ideal, for I think that it can be found nowhere on earth (IX, 592).

This could have been the critique that demolished in an instant the whole thrust of Socrates’ line of reasoning, since a perfect city existing merely in the ideal, but not in reality, would have little importance in the end.  But Socrates, far from being disconcerted by Glaucon’s observation, --on the contrary--makes use of it as a platform from which to raise the dialogue to heights hitherto unattained.  His reply seems almost to anticipate the Christian view of things held by a Saint Augustine, not to mention Saint John in the Apocalypse:

Well…perhaps there is a pattern of it laid up in heaven for him who wishes to contemplate it and so beholding to constitute himself its citizen (ibid.).

            In many ways the Catholic cultural ideal expounded so brilliantly by John Senior after his conversion to the Church, especially during the years of the Pearson Integrated Humanities Program (later simply the Integrated Humanities Program, or “IHP”), was like the Republic described by Socrates: to be found “nowhere on earth”.  How many of his students, having become teachers at some level once they graduated from the University of Kansas, set themselves courageously to implementing the principles of education they had learned from him, without ever quite succeeding in re-creating the enchantment of the IHP?  How many heroic but tragic (or, perhaps, comic) failures occurred as others strove to establish the true Catholic village, in the wilds of Canada or in rural America?  Nor have we monks attained the ideal once set down by John Senior, when he declared with all the seriousness in the world that “real monks should only ride donkeys”.
            However, the very fact of your presence here tonight bears witness to the many fruits that the teaching of John Senior has borne, even if the earthly realization never equaled the “pattern of it laid up in heaven”.  As we look back now, forty years ago exactly, to the official opening of the Pearson Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas, we can, perhaps, make a certain assessment of all that has been accomplished through the work of “Dr. Senior” (as we respectfully and affectionately used to call him), the teacher and the man of profound faith.  The ever-quotable G. K. Chesterton reminds us that “something worth doing is worth doing even badly”.  Thus our poor efforts may have had some purpose after all.
            Of course, to speak of John Senior is to evoke at the same time the other two figures that made up the ineffable triumvirate of the Pearson lectures.  When Mr. Tim McGuire first spoke to me of the possibility of organizing a symposium of some sort centered on John Senior—an idea that corresponded to something I had carried in my heart for some time—Dr. Dennis Quinn was still of this world.  It did not seem appropriate to include in this symposium, or “colloquium” as we finally called it, a man whose waning moments demanded our respectful discretion.  Likewise, the “shade” of Dr. Franklin Nelick might have taken offence somehow (Heaven help us!) should we have dared to include him without his inseparable Dennis.  So we are gathered here for several days to appreciate the legacy of John Senior, but the other two, both united with him now—as we firmly hope—in that “upper pub” we call Heaven, will in no way be left out of the conversation.

If you do not know me, I am Father Abbot Philip Anderson.  On behalf of all the monks of Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey, I welcome you to this John Senior Colloquium, on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the official beginning of the Pearson Integrated Humanities Program, that great educational “adventure in tradition” as it has been called, whose first regular class began in September of 1971 at the University of Kansas.  As you know from the program you received, these days are organized around seven principal lectures, two colloquia (discussion groups: from the Latin cum, loqui, “speak together”) and several other presentations and events that you will discover with joy as we proceed.  It is my hope that many other discussions—outside those planned—will occur as we go forward.

Although I am not here to present anything quite so learned as a lecture, I would like, in all simplicity, to touch upon some of the aspects of John Senior’s legacy that would seem to have a particular importance.  In so doing it is my hope to “open the door” as it were for all that will follow, like the monk who greets the pilgrims and guests at the monastery gate, according to the Rule of Saint Benedict.

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- is carries with is 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

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."

No comments:

Post a Comment