Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner: Sanctifying the Intellect


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. Continue reading

Alice von Hildebrand on Moral Courage


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.”

Shades of 50 Shades of Grey


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.

Internet False Prophet

Over the last year or so I have been receiving regular emails from adjuncts of, 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. Continue reading

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

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. Continue reading

Guest Post by Fra José Maria Barbin, FI: The Beautiful Struggle

I am pleased to post here an essay of one of our friars, Fra José Maria Barbin on the subject of the imagination and Marian Chivalry.  I am thoroughly in accord with his insights and am grateful for his contribution.

In conjunction with I can heartily recommend also the teaser videos of Kevin O’Brien and Joseph Pearce on Tolkien. The ETWN production, and the talents of Kevin and Mr. Pearce, make looks the $10 that they are asking look like robbery.

And now. . . 

The Beautiful Struggle: “Sanctifying the Imagination”

All things come from God; and above all, reason and imagination and the great gifts of the mind. They are good in themselves; and we must not altogether forget their origin even in their perversion.

G.K. Chesterton puts these words on the lips of Father Brown in the detective story The Dagger with Wings. Truly, the priest-investigator was on to something. Benedict XVI denounced what he dubbed the “dictatorship of relativism.” Pope Francis warns us not to fall into the pit of “aesthetic relativism” (Evangelii Gaudium 167). We must never allow the abuse of reason and imagination to make us “forget their origin.” Father Brown was truly on to something—perhaps on to something mysteriously deeper than anything we imagine.

It is crucial to examine the indispensable role that the imagination plays in our gradual maturity in Christ (Col 1:28) and how its use in an un-knightly fashion inevitably places a serious impediment to the attainment of our full “manhood in the Gospel,” to borrow an expression from Bl. John Henry Newman. Thus, we should discover the necessity of undertaking the beautiful struggle of sanctifying the imagination.

I believe we have to sharpen our Catholic sensibility to the widespread epidemic of the misuse of the imagination, because the exploitation of this faculty—expressing itself in “apparent beauty”—has a much more seductive charm than its correct use. The winsome and wayward imagination can wean even the bravest of men from the Cross of Christ. There are two extremes of this misuse, which may be illustrated by two contrasting literary figures. Eustace Clarence Scrubb, from Lewis’ Narnia myth, is charged of imaginative deprivation (defect), while Cervantes’ Don Quixote with imaginative presumption (excess).

Eustace Scrubb: The Dragon of the Mournful Countenance

C.S. Lewis, in his volume from the Narnia series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, has marvellously demonstrated a case of imaginative deficiency in the amusing character of Eustace Clarence Scrubb. The Pevensies’ annoying know-it-all cousin is a boy who “liked books [only] if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools” and who neither made things up himself nor enjoyed works of the imagination by others. Indeed, he was “quite incapable of making up anything for himself.” Eustace exemplifies all those who dislike tales, romances or imaginative literature generally. Eustace never dared and was unable to think outside the box because he had a double-layered bubble-wrapped imagination. The result? A rather natural consequence: a cold, dry, arrogant, wooden and boring character. A boy who lived in a rather peculiar “never never land” where boys were only concerned about “matters of consequence” as the Little Prince of Antoine de Saint Exupéry would call it.

Eustace overcomes his aversion to fantasy and his incapacity to properly use the imagination by living what he refused to experience imaginatively: he suddenly becomes a dragon and is enabled to go beyond the restricted, narrow, materialistic and rationalistic world he created for himself. I believe that the “Eustace experience” is but a surreptitious literary personification of the necessity to sanctify the imagination. Authentic imaginative experience possesses an eminently transforming character. The bothersome little boy that nobody likes gradually matures in Narnia; he unlocks his true character because in the engaging imaginative experience he is freed from trite and familiar view of things. He never read of talking animals in his textbooks, but in Narnia he meets them. In regaining a clear view of things, he strengthens his relish for real life.

Lifting the veil of familiarity from ordinary life does not simply consist in seeing what things are (the pre-dragonized Eustace only interested in information) but rather as we were meant to see them (the dragonized boy eventually freed by Aslan.) For certain, Eustace felt morose and glum while he was a dragon. However, putting on the thick rigid scales of a dragon was the only way to soften the heart of this hardheaded rascal. He had to immerse himself in another character in order to draw his real one out. In this way, imaginative engagement was an essential tool in the discovery of his true inner identity. Through the “sanctification of the imagination,” the immature little boy was transformed into a first-class squire, disposed to enrol himself in the knighthood of Aslan.

Don Quixote: The Knight of the Mournful Countenance

In the immortal masterpiece, Don Quixote by the Spanish king of poets, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, we see the complete opposite embodied in the figure of a middle-aged gentleman from the region of La Mancha. Don Quixote befuddles his imagination with the tales of knightly derring-do and fantastic deeds of chivalry. He decides that his world needs such a knight-errant and that he is just the man. Due to his mistreatment of the imagination, Don Quixote too lives in a sort of “never never land,” where he is paradoxically a self-appointed hero who constantly disturbs the peace. We read in chapter 18, that he often saw “in his imagination what he did not see and what did not exist.”

Far from lampooning genuine knighthood, what Cervantes fluently describes and brands with such mordant satire is a degenerated knighthood, stemming from a presumptive use of the imagination—the good old “art for art’s sake.” In consequence, the factor that originally sparks Don Quixote’s wild adventures, namely, an uncontrolled imagination, results in persistent misinterpretations of ordinary events he encounters on the road. The aftermath is only natural. He mistakes the windmills for giants. A funeral procession becomes a troop of devils carrying off a princess. A barber’s basin becomes the miraculous Helmet of Bambrino. We are told of how his unsanctified imagination “immediately conjured all this to him vividly as one of the adventures of his books.” The attempt to live chivalry, while failing to tame the “madman of the house,” only ends in humiliation and suffering.

In all this, the power of the Cervantes’ narrative lies in illustrating the gradual transformation of Don Quixote as he regains the balance of his imagination. In Don Quixote we have an eloquent proof of one thing: reality will always be a salutary kryptonite for those who imagine themselves to be superman.

The Zealotry of the Knight or the Lethargy of the Dragon? That is the question.

Neither. That is the answer.

Genuine knighthood has nothing in common with such aberrations and excrescences. The misuse of the imagination in an un-knightly fashion is but another expression of the modern spiritual tendency of wanting to play God. On the one hand, we have the boundless presumption of giving full reign to the “madman of the house,” to the point of the trampling the dignity of man; on the other hand, the negligence or fear of its legitimate use—the overly bubble-wrapped imagination. Both are a dereliction of duty. In fact, these two phenomena go hand in hand because they both stem from man’s denial of his metaphysical situation and his relation to Christ and the Blessed Virgin, and because man has repressed his awareness of his true nobility as the image and likeness of God.   Indeed, the human soul is God’s image because He gave us the ability to “subcreate,” that is, to “make as we are made” (Tolkien). Thus, we have the right and duty to exercise this gift for His glory.

The Journey of the Imagination to God

When it comes to theories on imagination, there exist several tantalizing fragmentary comments by different authors. In the Stateman’s Manual (1816), I believe Samuel Taylor Coleridge offers one of the clearest and fullest definitions of imagination:

that reconciling and mediatory power, which incorporating the Reason in Images of the Sense . . . gives birth to a system of symbols, harmonious in themselves, and consubstantial with the truths of which they are the conductors.

Likewise, according to C.S. Lewis, imagination can be defined as the mental faculty that puts things into meaningful relationships to form unified wholes.

In terms of theology and spirituality, the Franciscan worldview of exemplarism, or St. Bonaventure’s symbolic theology, affords a framework of beauty for the sanctification of the imagination. Here, the Seraphic Doctor’s primary concern is to explicitly affirm—in contrast with the modern spiritual tendency—the relations of expression between God and creatures. This metaphysical principle is eloquently formulated in Tract. De plantatione paradisi:

It is through mysterious and symbolic figures that the eye of rational intelligence is led to understand the truth of divine wisdom. For the wisdom of God invisible could not have made itself known to us in any other way than by conforming itself through similitude to those forms of visible things which we perceive, and by manifesting to us, in the form of signs, its invisible qualities which we do not perceive (n. 1, v. 575).

God expresses Himself in creation, and so the creature inevitably bears in its ontological structure a certain resemblance to God which is imprinted on it by the very act of creation. In this sense, the journey of the imagination to God, or the “dialectical” use of imagination, is tailored to St. Bonaventure’s exemplaristic end, that is, to discern, beneath the apparent diversity of things, the fine threads of analogy which bind to one another lead to God. “Contuition,” a typically Bonaventurian term, implies exactly this indirect intuition of God through finite realties. This is an ascetical and mystical approach, rather than a purely discursive one.

Eustace preferred not to use his imagination. Don Quixote used it too much. As St. Bonaventure writes in his Collationes in Hexaemeron: Christus tenens medium in omnibus. “Christ holds the central place in all things”—even in the use of our imagination. Christus unus omnium magister. “Christ is the one true Master.”

The inner pattern of the “vestige,” that is, the visible creature, is primarily its relation to God. For St. Bonaventure, as for St. Augustine, beauty is aequalitas numerosa, an ordered proportion of the parts to the whole. Hence, to see a thing as it is truly is—through the sanctification of the imagination—means to see its external beauty in relation to its Exemplar, the Word Incarnate, the fairest of the sons of men (Ps 44:2). In the last analysis, putting things in meaningful relationships, as C.S. Lewis puts it, ultimately consists in bringing the panoramic beauty of the world, in its multiplicity and variety of creatures, together into unity and in relation to the Word, the Eternal Beauty, or what Bonaventure called Eternal Art.

It’s not easy. But it’s a beautiful struggle.

St. Francis of Assisi, “the most valiant knight of Christ,” sanctified the imagination through the inversion of the chivalric culture into which he was born. St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, the “knight of the Immaculate,” sanctified his, by unlimitedly consecrating himself to the Tota Pulchra, the One who is All Fair (Song 4:7). So, let’s ask ourselves: the conversion and sanctification of souls; the building a Catholic culture; Marian Chivalry; what’s the imagination got to do with these? Perhaps, just perhaps, more than we imagine.

My Reality, Your Reality

No not relativism.  Just an update 1.) to apprise the reader of my status, namely, that I did not fall off the face of the earth. and 2.) to disabuse whoever has eyes to see of the unreality of the latest “news” or “reporting” on the status of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.  Just because people say things does not make it true.

First, thanks to all those who have been praying for me. I made it to the end of the semester at the Angelicum still standing.  I have one more final, but most of the stress is now behind me.  I hope to blog at least a couple of times during the break.

Second, Rorate Caeli has posted a video by one of our former friars, which by all accounts is a fairly nice vocation video for the Institute as it stands now, but it has been posted with a predictable interpretation and broadcasted further by others.

Several clarifications: Continue reading