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Fra Josemaria M. Barbin on The Temptation of the Istari

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

Some say that J. R. R. Tolkien is a black-and-white thinker who just pits the force of good against that of evil. However, his characters prove how Tolkien’s writing does not fall readily into such simple categories. The Istari (also known as wizards), for instance, reveal that things are no so black-and-white. Tolkien’s wizards illustrate how one may do evil even with the best of intentions, when one is seduced by the temptation to use an evil means to a good end.

The art of living is not always simple. The circumstances of life do not make it all that easy to live up to noble standards. To do so is a true art, because in moral life, just as in art, one eventually has to formulate a solution where none has existed before. Indeed, this line between good and evil at times can be highly ambiguous, and it is often very difficult to make clear moral choices in complex situations. Our counsels are not always certain.

This is where the temptation of the Istari comes in. The syncretistic meshing of good and evil is precisely the art of cold-hearted wizardry. It is shrewd, cunning, deliberate, foresighted and worst of all: it happens frequently in the real world. The cold-hearted wizard plays not only with fire, but with souls.

In the temptation of the Istari, Tolkien explores the sometime murkiness of the dichotomy between good and evil choices, particularly with regard to the means employed in reaching a specific end. He points out time and again: “You can’t fight the Enemy with his own Ring without turning into an Enemy” (Letter 81). By this he epitomizes the traditional theological maxim: bonum ex integra causa malum ex quocumque defectu [“An action is good when good in every respect; it is wrong when wrong in any respect”], according to which “a morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together” (CCC. 1755). Tinkering with the Ring is always risky business—even, and perhaps especially, for wizards.

All That Glitters is not Gold

In Letter 156, Tolkien wrote that the task of the wizards in Middle-earth was principally to “train, advise, instruct, arouse the hearts and minds of those threatened by Sauron to a resistance with their own strengths; and not just to do the job for them.” Moreover, he also notes how “these ‘wizards’ were incarnated in the life-forms of Middle-earth, and so suffered the pains both of mind and body. They were also, for the same reason, thus involved in the peril of the incarnate: the possibility of ‘fall’, of sin, if you will” (Letter 181).

At this point in the same letter, Tolkien describes the nature of the “temptation of the Wizards”:

The chief form this would take with them would be impatience, leading to the desire to force others to their own good ends, and so inevitably at last to mere desire to make their own wills effective by any means. To this evil Saruman succumbed. Gandalf did not” (emphasis mine).

The wizards were exceedingly wise. They possessed knowledge of the first principles in a supreme degree. However, when it came to particular knowledge concerning ways and means, they had no natural pre-knowledge or expertise. For the ways and means to moderation are infinitely varied according to the affairs, circumstances, and especially where “other wills are concerned” (Letter 156), as Tolkien specifies. Like us, the wizards had to learn this through experience. Tolkien explained that the wizards had no more, if no less “certitudes, or freedoms, than say a living theologian.”

Since prudence, strictly understood, is concerned not with universal principles or the end, but with individual cases and particular means to be employed, it follows that the temptation of the Istari mainly consisted in a tragic flaw in the use of prudence. They knew what to do but not necessarily how to do it.

The Prudence of the Cold-Hearted Wizards 

It is extremely significant how Tolkien depicts the way Saruman tries to persuade Gandalf to join him in his evil scheme:

“We can bide our time, we can keep out thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order; all things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends. There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our design, only in our means” (Book II, chapter 2, “The Council of Elrond”; emphasis mine).

Saruman assures Gandalf that the “high and ultimate purpose” will remain unaltered; only the means employed will have to change. But the end does not justify the means. Tolkien once wrote that wizards “could in various ways become self-seeking” (Letter 212). Here Saruman is so deeply inured in his egotistic plot that he can no longer conceive of any choice other than one of expediency. His wisdom remained deep, but his pride outgrew it. And as Chesterton says, “Pride is a poison so very poisonous that it not only poisons the virtues; it even poisons the other vices.” Pride tainted the correct use of prudence, blinding Saruman even to the possibility of choices that do not involve pragmatism, power or self-interest. In the end, he subordinates the end to the means.

Sheer cold-hearted wizardry exchanges the highest ideals for narrow interests. The constant temptation of the Istari, “to do, or try to do, what is for them wrong (and disastrous): to force lesser wills by power” (Letters, 156), implies the secret employment of evil means with the view to coerce others, and, thus, gain some type of advantage. It is the execution of an astute plan by words calculated to deceive or circumvent the rights of another person. All this is done in the name and under the guise of the true, good and beautiful. “An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention” (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The “prudence” of the cold-hearted wizards is utterly wicked, for it is cold calculation that masquerades as the virtue of prudence.

Tolkien correctly suggests that right motives are not enough: they must be coupled with right means. He also explains how the Ring is a great temptation for anyone because it is so easy to assert that one’s intention is to use it for good. Those who operate in this manner, undoubtedly spurred on by the influence of the Ring, do not take into account the corrupting power of the very evil that is being employed in the service of a “just cause.”

An act can be said to be entirely good only when all its elements—its object, circumstances, purpose and means employed—are in conformity with the standards of morality. True prudence then is wise not only in deliberation, but in decision and in direction as well. It carefully considers the correct methods to be employed for virtuous choice, and draws right conclusions about the means to be chosen for virtuous conduct. It ponders on what to do, and how to properly do it. At times, this might require a good dose of wholesome wizardry.

The Voice of Cold-Hearted Wizards

In chapter ten of The Two Towers, Saruman makes his first real appearance. Here he is characterized chiefly by his voice. Like many contemporary cunning politicians, his main power is in his ability to deceitfully persuade. Tom Shippey calls him “the most contemporary figure of Middle-earth,” precisely because he personifies sly politicians, whose main concern is for themselves, but whose real intentions are cloaked in sweet, but deceptive language. Indeed, Saruman’s voice had the power to beguile and to persuade in unperceivable ways. The sound of his voice alone

was enough to hold them enthralled; but for those whom it conquered the spell endured when they were far away, and ever they heard that soft voice whispering and urging them. But none were unmoved; none rejected its pleas and its commands without an effort of mind and will (Book III, chapter 10, “The Voice of Saruman”; emphasis mine).

As they approached the tower of Orthanc, Gandalf reminded Pippin that “Saruman has powers you do not guess. Beware of his voice!” Here, Tolkien, a man who passionately loved languages, was not unaware of its power and sought to emphasize the snares of sophistry. An explicit effort of mind and will are needed to escape its peril.

Sophists taught the skill to argue for any position, regardless of whether it was right or wrong. This was done through false but appealing arguments, quibbling, the confusion or entrapment of opponents, emotional appeal and slander, the shouting of opponents down, and the use of other rhetoric, such as sound bite slogans used by pundits in the media today. In all this, getting at the truth was surely not part of the Sophists’ agenda. It was in fact, irrelevant to their intentions. They were not interested in the truth, but in the execution of their plan at the expense of the freedom of others. This is a clear mark of cold-hearted wizardry.

“You have become a fool, Saruman, and yet pitiable,” Gandalf would later tell him. This applies to the ancient Sophists as well as to the cold-hearted wizards of today.

The moral framework of the modern world presents becomes even more complicated when we consider the means that technology presently offers. The modern Machine is a bull-horn for the shrill and cold voice of Saruman. It is not difficult to find “Sharkeys” surfing the Internet, who disguise their cause in fair words and present facts selectively to fit their agenda. Packaged in ear-tickling verbiage, cold-hearted wizards of the virtual world attempt to persuade others to actions inconsistent with sound moral principles.

The tools of technology are themselves morally indifferent, but in the hands of the acting person they assume the moral quality of a means to an end. The tools of modern communication, not only facilitate the immediate and constant connectivity of persons around the globe, as well as a newfound information democracy, but also the lowering of the standards of journalistic integrity and of personal responsibility. We do not have more transparency as a result but less, and while the quantity of information has increased exponentially, the quality has not, nor has our ability to discern the difference been aided by the growth in technology. Tolkien was quite deliberate in equating the power to quicken a desired result through magic with the potential evil of the modern Machine.

So the wizards of the virtual world get a free pass. The free market of ideas is held to be more important than accountability. In the end, this facilitates the methods of propagandists: deliberate misrepresentation, half-truths, selective reporting, etc. All this diminishes the legitimate freedom of others. The relative protection the computer monitor provides ought not to be a pretext for minimizing accountability. Man is always personally responsible for his acts, whether off or online.

Just as wizards were prone to “err and stray” as Tolkien emphasized, as Catholics we are also vulnerable to the seductive appeal of the Ring. It is possible for us to begin with a good intention, but then to act according to the logic of the Machine. We can taint a decent motive of choice and action by not attending to the order which supernatural prudence requires.

It should be evident, then, how the voice of truth can be drowned out by subtly deceptive language. One cannot build an ivory tower out of the rubble of Isengard. Universal truth is always sacrificed on the altar of narrow agendas, even if only in the sense that one comes to reject the universal truth that the end does not justify the means. “Proprium virtus moralis est facere electionem rectam” (S. Th., I-II, q. 65, a. 1).  St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that the proper act of virtue consists in right choice, because true virtue does not stop at a good intention, but executes this good intention through morally right choices, namely, with choices that realize the initial virtuous intention. We have to know what to do and how to do it in the right way.

Gandalf as Ring-Lord: A Would-be “Benevolent” Dictator

When Frodo offered him the Ring, Gandalf rejected it and in the process defined clearly the temptation of the Istari:

No!” cried Gandalf, springing to his feet. “With that power I should have power too great      and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly.”[…]          “Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of       the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good”        (Book I, chapter 2, “The Shadow of the Past”; emphasis mine).

Perhaps the most profound examination of the ambiguous treatment of good and evil in Tolkien could be found in Letter 246 where he hypothesizes what would have happened if Gandalf was to become Ring-Lord:

Gandalf as Ring-Lord would have been far worse than Sauron. He would have remained ‘righteous’, but self-righteous. He would have continued to rule and order things for ‘good’, and the benefit of his subjects according to his wisdom (which was and would have remained great)” (emphasis mine).

The same letter ends with this extremely interesting note:

[The draft ends here. In the margin Tolkien wrote: “Thus while Sauron multiplied [illegible word] evil, he left ‘good’ clearly distinguishable from it. Gandalf would have made good detestable and seem evil”] (emphasis mine).

Gandalf’s temptation would have been much more subtle. It is unlikely that he would have been an iconoclast, scandalizing others by flaunting his hypocrisy in public. Nonetheless, he would have been a self-righteous hypocrite as Tolkien points out; for he would have claimed that his knowledge of the universal principles (which would have remained great as Tolkien specifies) allowed him to manipulate things subtly so as to modify their structure without really changing them essentially. This would have been the subtlest form of the prudence of cold-hearted wizards.

Gandalf would have certainly given his subjects what they needed and not exactly what they wanted. But no matter how benevolent his dictatorship it might have seemed to be, it would strip his subjects of the necessary interior condition of liberty to adhere to the good. Gandalf would have overstepped his competence as a moral force, which, based on freedom and responsibility, is meant to guide the energies of all towards the common good.

This is not to say that legitimate authority is without the power to coerce within the limits of law (divine, ecclesial and human), but that the nobility of the end does not bring a proportionate increase the power to coerce. Nor the “benevolence” of the authority, or the evil of the times authorize a power to violate basic human freedom. Gandalf was eminently good, he cause was supremely noble, and he confronted the greatest evil. He still would not touch the Ring.

Had it been otherwise, he would have “benevolently” imposed the good in a subtly despotic manner. In this way, the climate of genuine freedom would have been contaminated by the stench of the Machine. It would have been a very subtle form of coercion of the will inspired by the logic of the Ring. It would have been sheer wizardry—sheer cold-hearted wizardry.

No wonder Tolkien says that Gandalf would have been far worse than Sauron. Gandalf, the Ring-Lord, would have so integrated good with evil means (subtle coercion of the will in the name of good), that the distinction between good and evil have become confused. It would have become a case of beauty in the beast, in which the good becomes detestable. This is the art of sheer cold-hearted wizardry at its worst.

In reality, it is only by authentic freedom that man can turn himself towards what is good. Man’s dignity requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses of the passions nor by the mere constraint of cold-hearted wizards.

Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward towards his goal by freely choosing what is good, and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suites to his end (Gaudium et Spes, 17).

In fact, when uninhibited by disordered passions, human nature, elevated by grace enables us to judge correctly about the universal principles of right and wrong. So also, when judgement is to be made about a particular line of action, as a man is, so he judges. The licentious man judges for pleasure, the cowardly man for neglect of duty, the cold-hearted wizard for apparent good. Thus emerges the necessity to cultivate true virtue. The end does not justify the means (CCC. 1753). Or as Tolkien would say, “You can’t fight the Enemy with his own Ring without turning into an Enemy” (Letters, 81). No good can come from the Ring. Even in the hands of a benevolent master.

All that glitters is not gold. And all that is gold does not glitter.

As Catholics we are “mortals hemmed in a hostile world” as Tolkien would say. Our Lord exhorts us to be as innocent doves and as wise as serpents (Mt. 10, 16), not as calculating as cold-hearted wizards. Evangelical “wizardry” teaches us the logic of the Cross, not that of power and domination. The Cross of Christ does not glitter: it saves. Our Lady’s mediation of divine grace does not glitter: it sanctifies. The untarnished keys of Peter do not glitter: they illumine. The wisdom of the Gospel, “source of all saving truth and moral discipline” (Dei Verbum, 7), has been a stumbling block not only to Jews and foolishness not only to the Gentiles– but it been also a stumbling block and foolishness to the cold-hearted wizards of today.

Filed under: Uncategorized
From MaryVictrix.com

Fr. Fidenzio Volpi, OFM Cap., R.I.P.

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Fr. Fidenzio Volpi generously assumed a position of authority within the Institute at the bequest of the Holy Father which he neither asked for or wanted.  He did so under extraordinarily difficult circumstances and in the process paid the price by being pilloried in the gauntlet of the Catholic Internet, for the most part by people who did not know him and who knew nothing about the situation with which he was dealing apart from what they read from bloggers with an axe to grind.

I am personally grateful for the sacrifices he selflessly made on behalf of the Church and our Institute.  It was a no win situation for him, but he never complained about it.  He just continually asked us to do what the Churched asked of us, and gave us an example to follow.  He was a good man, and much aligned in the manner of a true follower of Christ.

Please pray for the repose of his soul, and for the good of our Institute.  There has already been enough talk and too much sabotage.  Now is the time to believe like Catholics and use supernatural means to achieve what can only be a supernatural end, namely, the restoration of unity within our Institute and its perseverance.

Filed under: Catholicism, Church, Fatherhood, Holy Father, Knights, Men, News, Religion Tagged: Fr. Fidenzio Volpi, Franciscan Friars the Immaculate
From MaryVictrix.com

Fr. Gabriel Maria Polo, RIP

Friday, June 5th, 2015

Over the past week the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate having been in mourning the loss of Fr. Gabriel Maria Polo, who passed away following a heart attack in Cebu, Philippines.  He was forty-three years old, nineteen years in religious vows and twelve years a priest of Jesus Christ.

Fr. Gabriel for a time was a missionary in Anapolis, Brazil and latter was assigned to Stoke On Trent, England.  More recently he was the master of postulants and the superior of the formation house in Naga, Philippines.

I came to know Fr. Gabriel while I was assigned to the friary in Cornwall, England.  He was a fine friar and priest, kind and joyful, and he was particularly good to me.  I am honored to have called him a brother and a friend.

As I understand, he was interred yesterday is Cebu.

Please pray for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of his family.

I include here a video tribute to him, prepared by Fra Didacus as well as some photos from when he was assigned to England provided by Fr. Agnellus.

Now Fr. Gabriel has both hands free.

Fr. Gabriel taking it all in.
Fr. Gabriel and Fr. Agnellus
Fr. Gabriel, Fra Leonardo (his cousin), Fr. Agnellus, Fra Solanus and Fra George
Fra Solanus, Fr. Agnellus and Fr. Gabriel
Fr. Gabriel, priest of Jesus Christ
Fr. Gabriel and Fr. Agnellus
Filed under: Catholicism, Church, Knights, Manliness, Men, News, Religion, Spirituality Tagged: Anapolis, Cebu, Cornwall, Fr. Gabriel Polo, Naga, Philippines, Stoke On Trent
From MaryVictrix.com

Of a Phantom Confirmation and a Double-Barreled Question

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

In my last post, I quoted Fr. Volpi response to the claim that he is no longer able to carry out the function given to him by the Holy See to govern our Institute as the Apostolic Commissioner. He effectively denied it. Since then a further claim has been made that in spite of Fr. Volpi’s attestation to the contrary, “he is unable to carry out, both physically and mentally,” his duties.

The source for this report professes to “confirm” (without providing evidence) that the “Volpi era” is effectively over. So the source pretends to both know and at the same time “respect” Fr. Volpi’s his privacy concerning personal medical status, which certainly is the business of the Capuchins and the Holy See, but not that of a blogger or the general public.

The source is unable and unwilling to prove the assertion, because either 1) it is false, as Fr. Volpi himself claims it is, which is what I believe, or 2) the information was obtained in a way that precisely does not respect Fr. Volpi’s privacy. Thus, the source, driven by his explicit desire to undermine Fr. Vopli’s work, has decided to use information to which he has no right, and still pretends that he is shielding Fr. Volpi’s privacy.

Furthermore, under the circumstances he is compelled to protect his source and assumes that his target audience will give him a pass and believe him, though he provides no evidence and yet proves himself not credible because of his methods.

Still, even if his source has “leaked” to him information to the effect that Fr. Volpi is incapacitated that does not make it true, and there is no reason to believe it is, since runs counter to Fr. Volpi’s own claim and the contrary is asserted gratuitously and discreditably.

But the posts to which I refer are simply addenda to the propaganda campaign waged by the source in question and might as well be attached to this petition to have Fr. Volpi removed. This “breaking story” is not information but manipulation.

I would like to comment directly on one statement made by the source:

But most of all: will the Franciscan Friars and the Sisters of the Immaculate realize that the point of cohesion in a spiritual family, beyond the transient figure of the Founder, can be nothing other than a complex of unrenounceable, theological, spiritual and liturgical principles and that one of the causes of the present crumbling [of the order] is precisely the weakness of their reaction on this point?

Those principles are made clear in our ecclesiastically approved legislation, which we are following, as we have since the beginning. That would include the liturgical. We are observing the liturgical norms the Church has approved for our Institute—again—as we always have. As for the “crumbling” of our Institute, the source, ought not to waste any crocodile tears on the matter because 1) the Institute is not crumbling and 2) because it is disingenuous to complain about a crisis one has intentionally helped to cause.

Why don’t we all attend to our own business, allow the Church to work, and continue to pray.

Comments are closed.

Filed under: Catholicism, Church, Liturgy, Media, News, Religion Tagged: Fr. Fidenzio Volpi, Franciscan Friars the Immaculate, Franciscans of the Immaculate
From MaryVictrix.com

Wishful Blogging

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

I already have reassumed the full excercize of the functions of government and am about to resume normal work.

—Fr. Fidenzio   Volpi, May 15, 2015

Fr. Volpi thanks everyone for their prayers and wishes to confirm that reports of his death  have been greatly exaggerated.

If there ever were a major change in the government of the Institute or any other important news, one should expect to hear it from the Holy See or the Institute itself.

I cannot stress too much what ought by now to be apparent to all, namely, that blogs are not news outlets and bloggers are not disinterested reporters or journalists.  When they do “break stories” their work ought to be checked against how self-serving the stories are, and whether or not they are willing to post alternative positions.

Furthermore, just because a web site aggregates the work of many writers does not mean that it is anything more than an aggregated blog.  One-sidedness is a dead give away that you have a blog and not a serious news source.  Even when scholars and journalist blog, they are, believe it or not, blogging and not performing the work of a scholar or journalist.

All this being said, I still don’t see why so many Catholic bloggers have such a hard time telling the truth, instead of just pushing their agenda.

Comments are closed.

Filed under: Catholicism, Church, News, Religion Tagged: Fr. Fidenzio Volpi, Franciscans of the Immaculate
From MaryVictrix.com

Dawn Eden in L’Osservatore Romano

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Congratulations, Dawn!

A tremendous honor.

See page 4.

Filed under: Catholicism, Church, News, Religion Tagged: Dawn Eden, My Peace I Give You
From MaryVictrix.com

The Good Shepherd

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

My latest essay for Spiritualdirection.com can be found here. It is fourth in the series: “Mysticism and Magisterium.”

Filed under: Catholicism, Church, Holy Father, Religion, Spirituality Tagged: Good Shepherd, Mysticism and Magisterium, Spiritual Direction
From MaryVictrix.com

Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner: Sanctifying the Intellect

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

On June 8th and 9th of this year, Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner, FI, will have his lifetime of theological work honored by a large number of scholars in a symposium, entitled:  Sursum ActioSymposium in Honor of Peter Damian Mary Fehlner, FI.  The event will be conducted at Notre Dame University.  Please click here for more information about the speakers and venue.

Father Peter is a native of Dolgeville, New York. He was ordained in Rome in 1957, and received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Seraphicum in Rome in 1959. For over 40 years he has taught dogmatic theology in various seminaries and university faculties. He has written and lectured extensively, especially on things Marian and Franciscan, in North America and Europe; for five years, he was editor of the magazine Miles Immaculatae founded by Saint Maximilian Kolbe and has been featured on EWTN. He was a past member of the general council of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and was the first rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse, Wisconsin where he continues to reside and work.

Most recently Fr. Peter has been accorded the prestigious Cardinal John J. Wright Award of the Mariological Society of America for his outstanding contributions to Mariology.  Past honorees include, Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., William G. Most, Edward D. O’Connor, C.S.C., and Luigi Gambero.

At the symposium, I will be reading a minor paper entitled: “‘In the Counsels of the Immaculate': Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner’s Contribution to the Renewal of Franciscan Immaculatism.”

In 1985, when I was investigating the possibility of joining our observance of the Franciscan Conventual tradition (in the light of St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Marian consecration), I was given a copy of one of his essays on the contribution of St. Maximilian to the Franciscan tradition and its relation to St. Francis: “Mary in the Franciscan Tradition: ‘The Virgin Made Church.’” That essay and a meeting with him in Rome right before I visited our mother house were determinative for me.  I have always remembered this satement of his:

It is not so much a question of what place Mary has in our lives, as what place we occupy in hers that is the starting point of any discussion. Only when the correct starting point from which to begin any study of the distinctive relations between Mary and our Order has clearly been identified, do we find ourselves in a position to assess the claims and implications of the Militia Movement within the Order.

At the time when our particular observance was in question, Fr. Peter provided the intellectual defense and the Franciscan-Marian metaphysics for St. Maximilian’s establishment of the City of the Immaculate, and the reason why this contribution to the Order was a true and permanently valid gift from the Immaculate.  Fr. Peter’s own personal commitment to this ideal has been an inspiration for many of us.

I can never be grateful enough to Fr. Peter, who through the years has been a source of inspiration, strength and enlightenment to me to persevere in this Franciscan vocation.  I know he has influenced and inspired many other friars, priests, religious and laypeople.  I am very thankful that the importance of his work is being acknowledged in this way.  Hopefully, it will inspire others to learn from this great Marian scholar.

Filed under: Catholicism, Church, Religion, Theology Tagged: Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner, Mariology, Metaphysics, Notre Dame, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Sursum Corda, Symposium, Theology
From MaryVictrix.com

Alice von Hildebrand on Moral Courage

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

This perverse view has been carefully prepared by a so called “education,” aiming at convincing us that there are no absolute moral truths: they are all relative and depend upon the time and the culture that one happens to live it. It was declared to be “high time” to liberate ourselves from paralyzing taboos which have kept us in bondage. This view also justifies “same sex marriage” – a moral abomination that threatens the very fabric of society and that a no- nonsense Italian peasant would condemn on the ground that “no door can be opened if lock and key are identical.” From time immemorial – starting with Genesis – marriage has been declared to be the union of a man and a woman – whose spiritual, intellectual, affective and biological structures are so admirably complementary. Today in our morally decadent world, it is neither prudent nor politically correct to proclaim clearly and loudly that the natural moral law is as valid today as it was when given to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is a risky affair to proclaim the objectivity of truth and of moral values in our society seeped in “dictatorial relativism.”

Filed under: Catholicism, Church, Knights, Manliness, Marian Chivalry Tagged: Alice Von Hildebrand, Moral Courage
From MaryVictrix.com

Shades of 50 Shades of Grey

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Report: outbreak of debilitated judgment, commonly diagnosed as Missing Conclusion Syndrome, frequently occurring in Catholic journalists, but more often in clerics and academics. Also known as the “Do Not Judge” fallacy.  Reduced to its elemental components it looks something like this:
Watching pornography is a mortal sin.
But, 50 Shades of gray is pornography.
Therefore, it depends on stuff; maybe if you have a bad intention; just be careful.
Response: avoid exposure and do the math.

Filed under: Catholicism, Church, Jocular, News Tagged: 50 Shades of Grey
From MaryVictrix.com

The Alleluia Battle Anthem

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

A blessed Easter to all.  I remembered all my readers this evening at the Easter Vigil at St. Mary Majors.

This is a repost from several years ago.

Crucem Sanctam subiit

A military chant from the Knights Templars (the real ones) in honor of the Resurrection and Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem

Latin and English Lyrics

He bore the holy cross
who shattered hell
He was girded with power
He rose on the third day. Alleluia!

This Easter anthem is the work of the Knights Templar who were closely associated with the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  I call it an “anthem” because it truly has a military ring. The “Alleluia” refrain sounds like it could just as likely come from a column of mounted knights as from a choir of monks.  Of course, the Templars were both.

Each one of the verses begins: “Christ is risen . . .” and then identifies the effects of the Resurrection on the Lord as well as on us:  His rejection is His victory; He will die no more; His Blood has bought the fruit of Easter for us.

He who bore the weapon of the Cross and went into battle in order to liberate His people, has destroyed the very gates of death and hell by his sacrificial death.  When the battle is over and the smoke clears there is silence over the whole earth—an apocalyptic silence that might be misconstrued for the end of all things.  But it is exactly the opposite.  After a moment, from the smoke and ashes the One who is called Faithful and True  in a garment sprinkled with His own blood rides forth on a white horse (Rev 19:11).  His word is as a sword that forever separates the light from the darkness and his livery proclaims His identity:  He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (16).

The faith of the Templars led them to face death for the sake of Christ, the Holy Sepulcher and for the People of God who travelled to the holy places.  We talk a great deal about a “Resurrection Faith.”  Sometimes what we mean is too fluffy to be real.  To live in the light of the Resurrection is to face death with one’s face set like flint, and to do so in joy and hope (cf. Is 30:7).

Several years ago, shortly before Easter, I had the blessing of celebrating Mass inside the tomb of Our Lord and then of spending the whole night locked in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher with other pilgrims.  We were able to spend as much time as we wanted praying inside the tomb.  I was kneeling at Ground Zero.  The tomb is dead center in the charola of the Church, the rotunda that marks the center of the world.  All Templar churches were modeled after the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, with round sanctuaries and an altar in the middle, to commemorate the miracle of the Resurrection.  All roads lead to Jerusalem.

Inside the enclosed space of the tomb is another hidden space, like a Holy Grail.  There is an icon of Our Lady on the marble wall of the tomb that just looks like it is hung there.  But it is actually a door that reveals the rock wall of the original tomb.  The stone is worn away polished from the uncounted pilgrims who touched and kissed it.

In the icon, Our Lady holds the Holy Grail.  Actually, what is depicted is a ciborium. Grail means “dish” and the legends regarding the Holy Grail vary as to whether the object was a cup or a dish.  In any case, the Eucharistic and Marian significance remains the same.

These are enclosed spaces within spaces—places of worship, sanctuaries in which we find meaning, refuge, hope and ultimate victory.  Like concentric circles, these spaces lead us deeper within the mystery of faith in order to be liberated and break out from the narrowness the ego.  We go in to get out.

He was girded with power.  And so are we.  This is the Easter proclamation of “Alleluia! Praise the Lord!”  The chant of the Templars sets the cadence to our march forward toward the light of the new dawn and to eternity.  But we do not need to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem in order to benefit from the Resurrection, though I cannot recommend making such a pilgrimage enough.  Our altars and sanctuaries, our sacred vessels, indeed, the very bodies of those who have become temples of the Holy Spirit, all lead us to Jerusalem. Our love for all that is true, good and beautiful, preeminently represented by the Resurrected body of Christ made present in the Eucharist and by the Immaculate and pierced Heart of the Coredemptrix, anchors us to Ground Zero.  The power that singed our Lord’s image onto the shroud at the moment of His resurrection burst outwards like a shock wave that continues to reverberate through time and space.  May we be singed with the image of Christ by the same Easter sunburst.

Christ has risen
and shone upon his people
whom he redeemed
with his blood.  Alleluia!

Filed under: Blessed Virgin Mary, Catholicism, Liturgy, Religion, Spirituality, Templars Tagged: Crucem Sanctum Subiit, Easter, Easter Sunday, Easter Triduum, Knights Templar
From MaryVictrix.com

John Allen on the SSPX

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

John Allen on the SSPX

I think he overlooks a few of the complexities, but agree with him on the three points as to why reunion was not going to happen.  It seems Pope Benedict counted on an outpouring of grace through the lifting of the excommunications and the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum.  As Universal Shepherd he did his job.

Filed under: Catholicism, Church, Holy Father, News, Religion Tagged: Benedict XVI, John Allen, Society of St. Pius X, Summorum Pontificum
From MaryVictrix.com

Internet False Prophet

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Over the last year or so I have been receiving regular emails from adjuncts of thewarningsecondcoming.com, the front for the self-styled seer, Maria Divine Mercy. I assume the messages I am receiving are from robots, since I never get a response to my pleas to stop sending me emails.

I believe the phenomenon of the virtual visionary is another symptom of the sickness of the Catholic Internet. There are always those who will be easily duped by scams. All an unscrupulous chiseler has to do is promise something too good to be true, or propose an arch-villain to explain every woe, or fix a doomsday on the calendar, and those who suffer will empty their pockets to have their empty cup filled with snake oil.

But this. This is almost too much to believe except that I have learned not to be surprised by anything. We are largely blind to the fact the increase in the amount of information we have access to only requires us to have new much larger sewers and leach fields installed to process all the discharge.

Internet Prophetess?

Anyone can play peekaboo gossip on the Internet and win a virtual crown of laurel for their anonymous heroism because this is the new information age in which the downtrodden now have a voice and can hide at the same time from Big Brother. But this? (more…)

Snowboard Tribute

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015


Via Fra Didacus, Maine New York

Filed under: Catholicism, News, Religion, Video Tagged: Fr. Fidenzio Volpi, Fra Didacus, Franciscans of the Immaculate, Snowboard
From MaryVictrix.com

Concerning Recent Reports from the Blogosphere on the State of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

The first point to be made is that the sources for recent the “reports,” are not responsible news outlets but bloggers, all of them, except one, are pseudonymous or anonymous. They have provided no evidence, that is, they have made purely hearsay allegations, or otherwise claimed to have “evidence” from which they have quoted excerpts without producing the document or its context. All the sources for these reports are clearly biased against the Commissioner and the Holy See and the bloggers in question are working in concert (Rorate Caeli and Correspondenza Romana, for example, regularly repeat and support each other’s reports).

Again, no reputable news outlet has taken responsibility for such “reports.” As far as I know—at least in the English-speaking world—no responsible news outlet has even repeated these stories emerging from the blogosphere. Please consider that when real journalists publish information from anonymous sources, the reporter takes personal responsibility with his real name, and the organization attempts to confirm the information by evidential reporting of independent sources. Nothing like this has ever been attempted by these bloggers. On the contrary, as already mentioned, there is an incestuous relationship between the various bloggers and their sources, and there has also been the habitual refusal to accept personal accountability for the damaging information that has been released.

Some Examples

During the recent Advent season one such “report” was made by Rorate Caeli about the Commissioner forbidding a novena of Masses and preventing one of our contemplative communities from providing itself financially. (more…)