Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Balaam's ass and bodily mortification, according to St. Francis de Sales

Ash Wednesday
Bodily or exterior mortification is the theme of the twenty-third chapter of the third part of the spiritual classic Introduction to the Devout Life by the Doctor of the Charity, St. Francis de Sales [here]. A book worth reading some two hundred or more times before death, the Introduction is particularly notable for its proper balance in all things while stirring the soul with a true zeal to serve God with the whole heart, mind, and strength.
As we enter the season of Lent – a time particularly dedicated to bodily mortification and fasting – we do well to consider the wisdom and advice of the saintly Bishop of Geneva who will show the true way of devotion for those of us living in the world (rather than in the cloister of a monastery or convent).
St. Francis de Sales gives an important indication regarding the intention of exterior mortification by means of a spiritual commentary on the history of Balaam’s ass, given in Number 22:21-35 [here].

Sunday, February 10, 2013

St. Scholastica: The little sister who wanted to stay up all night, talking with her big brother

February 10th, Feast of St. Scholastica
Whether St. Scholastica was older or younger than her twin St. Benedict, she seems to embody the personality of a darling little sister.
Hardly anything is known of her life, but the story of her final visit with the brother whom she loved offers us a marvelous example of both prayer and fraternal charity in these final days before the season of Lent.

Friday, February 8, 2013

What St. Paul saw on the road to Damascus, and what mystics see

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
[Christ] appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that, Christ appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once […] After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.
As St. Paul was traveling to Damascus in order to persecute the Church of Christ there, he experienced a most unique encounter with the Risen Jesus. As this event changed his own life, so too did it change both the Church and the world forever – since it was through St. Paul that God brought the Gospel to the nations.
However, what exactly was this encounter on the way to Damascus? Is St. Paul’s experience comparable to a vision? Did Jesus appear to St. Paul in the same way that he appeared to St.Faustina, for example? Or in the same way that he has appeared to many of the saints throughout history?
Upon consideration, we will see that St. Paul’s experience was most unique – something which will not be repeated until the end of time. And this is why the Apostle says that he was as one born abnormally, because an event like this apparition will never happen again.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Four Illustrious Virgins: St. Agatha, et aliae

February 5th, Feast of St. Agatha
In the Roman Canon, the Church commemorates four of the most noble and pure virgins of the early Church – Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, and Cecilia. The latter two were the first inserted in the Eucharistic Prayer as they are two of the great virgin martyrs of Rome, while the former were inserted under Pope St. Gregory the Great who promoted the cult of these virgin martyrs of Sicily.
From among the seven women mentioned in the Roman Canon, these four stand out as the illustrious virgins of the early Church. We mention the other three: Felicity was a Roman mother martyred together with her seven children, Perpetua the noble married martyr of Carthage, while Anastasia was the Roman widow and martyr whose memory is especially recalled on Christmas morning.
Focusing on Agatha, we do well briefly to consider the history and cult of these four virgin martyrs.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Is every act in mortal sin another sin? Or, Why I hate Les Miserables

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 1 Corinthians 12:31 – 13:13
If I do not have love, I am nothing.
The thirteenth chapter of the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians contains the often praised “hymn to charity”, in which the Apostle sets forth the supremacy and necessity of theological love.
Charity, which comes to perfection only in heaven, is the greatest of the virtues. Without this theological virtue, a man has no other true virtue. Without love of God (and of neighbor), no man can be saved.
Without charity, man can do nothing good – at least, he can do nothing meritorious unto eternal life. But, we ask, is every act of a man in mortal sin (i.e. a man lacking charity) itself a sin? Without charity, does every act of man become sinful?
Is it a sin for a non-believer to pray? To fast? To make a vow of virginity? Further, is it a sin for a man in mortal sin to plant a vineyard?