The Saints and the Healing of Memory

Dawn Eden recently published a wonderful book on the topic of healing from the wounds of sexual abuse.  My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints.  This new publication follows her highly successful The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On. Dawn explains the inspiration behind her new book, as flowing from her experiences of speaking to people who had read Thrill of the Chaste.  In that book she wrote of her own journey from a life of promiscuity to discovering the beauty and joy of chastity as opposed to the destructive dead-end that is lust.  Dawn recounts how many who were not convinced by her arguments in Thrill of the Chaste were angry and hurt, feeling that she was judging them. She found that many of them had been a victim of sexual abuse at some time in their life.  Dawn also experienced sexual abuse  as a child and knows how abuse victims tend to blame themselves for what happened to them.

In an interview with AirMaria (21:00-ff) back in 2009, Dawn explained how it was that devotion to the Blessed Mother can be huge factor in bringing about transformation in a life plagued by sexual temptation.  She relates that after she had written Thrill of the Chaste she would get into arguments on her blog with feminist bloggers over the subject Christianity and chastity specifically.  Many times the feminist bloggers manifested a great deal of anger, which they directed at Dawn because they felt that she was judging them, or that Church, because of her doctrine on chastity, was judging them.  Ironically, because Our Lady and purity are so closely identified, she also found that those living and impure life also had an aversion to Marian devotion.  But the purity of Our Lady is not a judgment, but a living fire that is purifying, liberating and welcoming.  If the just father embracing his prodigal son is the image of Divine Mercy, then the Immaculate Virgin Mary is the image of pure love delivering us from selfishness and at the same time showing us unconditional compassion.  This is the Marian message that we need to communicate to the world about chastity.

One of the great attractions of devotion to Our Lady and, in particular the sacramental of the Miraculous Medal, is the compassion of Mary, who as Mother of Jesus is also our Mother, and who is present to Her children not to judge but to nurture, heal and affirm.  This was exactly the attitude of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who knew that the Blessed Mother was the easiest way to God, precisely because She is pure, pleasing to God and does not judge the sinner.  He used to give out the Miraculous Medal to souls in need because he simply wanted to introduce the presence of Mary into their lives.

I often think of this power of Our Lady, resplendent and transformative as the Way of Beauty.  Our Lady is both Icon of all that we hope to be and Mother of our soul, bringing to pass a transformation from sin to grace that we are too broken to accomplish ourselves.

In My Peace I Give You, Dawn points out that although the Immaculate Virgin underwent no purification, sinless as She is, Mary does have a wounded heart through which She is uniquely associated with the suffering of Her Son.  It is an interior wound that lays bare the secret of hearts (cf. Lk 2:35).  Our Lady knows the pain of Her children, and She holds them in the piercing of Her Heart.  This is the realm of mental suffering, where all pain is synthesized and either accepted or rejected, where the human condition is placed in the crucible of God’s love and divine, sacrificial and suffering love is rarefied and separated from the suffering of sin and darkness and fear.  Christ underwent both a physical and mental suffering in the agony of his Passion.  Blessed John Henry Newman called this the “double agony” of Christ.  But it was the mental suffering of Our Lord that gave form and purpose to the rest.  Our Lady is particularly iconic of this mental suffering, because Hers is a suffering of “compassion.”  She suffers with the One who suffers because She loves Him and is present in His sufferings.

In a particular way Dawn points to the faith Our Lady exercised after Our Lord’s Ascension—a time in which She had only the memories, the mental images of Her Son’s death and resurrection, but continued with the rest of the Church to participate in these mysteries though the veiled but transformative presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist.  In the Heart of Mary, especially in that Heart which is a tabernacle for the Eucharistic presence of the Sacred Heart of Her Son, all memory is recapitulated and recirculated.  Everything that hurts is given a meaning beyond itself and all who suffer experience both the Passion and Resurrection of Christ as the purpose of their lives and the means of their own healing.

With Her new book, Dawn has taken these ideas to the next step, as a kind of bridge between our own brokenness and the immaculate integrity of the Blessed Virgin.  The saints underwent the transformation from the brokenness of original sin, the history of sin within their families and their own lives, to healing and re-creation in Christ Jesus.  As Dawn points out, some of them experienced even the wound of sexual abuse, and subsequently had to struggle against great odds to live authentic spiritual lives.   The stories of the saints, thus offers us who are broken the encouragement we are looking for and the powerful presence upon which we can rely:

No matter what evil was done to us, if we, like the saints, offer our hearts to God, he will take us as we are, with all our past experiences. Our hearts right now contains all the raw material Jesus needs to mold them so that, with his grace working over the course of time, they may become like His. This is true no matter how damaged we may feel. So long as our hearts long for union with Jesus’ Sacred Heart, our feelings about ourselves will not prevent such union, because God’s love is stronger than feelings. It is a presence.

Reading about the lives of the Saints is not just about seeing their example and figuring out how to imitate them, or how to integrate the teaching of Christ in a practical way.  It is all that, and more.  As we are taught in Lumen Gentium 50:

Nor is it by the title of example only that we cherish the memory of those in heaven, but still more in order that the union of the whole Church may be strengthened in the Spirit by the practice of fraternal charity. For just as Christian communion among wayfarers brings us closer to Christ, so our companionship with the saints joins us to Christ, from Whom as from its Fountain and Head issues every grace and the very life of the people of God.

The saints are living members of our family who are present and who teach from within because we are one with them in prayer, and because they intercede with God on our behalf.  We identify with their brokenness.  We aspire to their victory.  But we also know that they are on our side, fighting on our behalf.  We need a new set of memories in order to overcome the pain of  the past, active memories like the commemoration of the Mass by which we participate in purity itself.  We need also the active memory of Our Lady who ponders in Heart the mysteries of the faith She witnessed with Her own eyes, and the active memory of the saints who have accomplished the transformation we all long for and so desperately need.

In her book, Dawn writes much about memory and its healing, even of the memories of things that have been so painful that we have buried beneath our consciousness.  She quotes Pope Benedict:  “Memory and hope are inseparable. To poison the past does not give hope: it destroys its emotional foundations.”  The parallel between memory and the theological virtue of hope is very Bonaventurian.  St. Bonaventure also aligns memory and hope with the First Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Father.  How much sexual abuse today is somehow related to either the abuse of a father or at least the dereliction of the duty of a father.  Perhaps these are the toughest memories of all.  And that is why we need all the help we can get from the friends of Jesus to get us back to the embrace of our merciful Father, who alone can heal us.

Dawn has done another great service to the Church and to souls who are in need of encouragement and healing.  May God bless her for it.

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Lost in the Archives

Well, not totally lost.  I am just reading most of the time that I don’t have other duties to which I must attend.  I hope to soon have a post on an interesting aspect of the occult pertaining to the difference between Christian mysticism and neopagan, magical consciousness.  The attraction of “alternative religion,” is that it promises “supernatural” or transcendent consciousness, the experience of unity, integration and joy without dogma.  It is a big temptation.

Please pray that I get this book on Harry Potter and the occult done soon.

I am uploading here a very cogent list of 10 non-religious reasons why same-sex marriage should not be legalized for your consideration.  (I am not the author of the list.  I neglected to mention this.  The author is anonymous.) BTW, did you know that 85% of all abortions, according to Planned Parenthood research arm, the Guttmacher Institute, are obtained by unmarried women.  My understanding is that the latest statistic has it up to 87%, but I have not been able to verify that.  Either way, it is a tremendous statistic.  The erosion of marriage is directly related to the incidence of abortion, and the elimination of children from the culture of marriage is obliterating the most fundamental social institution of our race.  If we want to stop abortion we have to address the problem with marriage.

Ditching the Marital Biases

I recently posted a video under the title “Male Buffoonery from the Christian Media.”  The comedic vignette portrayed in the video humorously critiques men’s lack of appreciation for their wives in terms of the amount of work involved in running a household.  As humor operates by way of exaggeration, the husband in the video comes off as a consummate jerk.

I facetiously commented that such things never happen.  What set me off is that the video is just another example of media stereotype against men, and in this case it comes from a Christian source.  I know there are two sides to this.  I was just trying to make a point.

The reason I am posting about it again is that the video generated an interesting discussion in the comments that I think needs to be addressed.  I don’t mean to single anyone out, but to address erroneous ideas that are very commonly held.

Holy Baloney

The first is that somehow the exercise of legitimate authority is contingent on the personal holiness of the one who presumes to wield authority.  So it often happens that one who is subject to authority thinks they are only obliged to obey if their superior is, in their estimation, worthy of exercising authority.  Another way of putting this notion is “only the one who shows himself to be above the average man is worthy of being superior,” or “the one who is worthy to lead is only that one who morally, intellectually, or by way of popular acclaim, rises above the rest.”

The teaching of the Catholic Church on the matter of authority is that anyone who possesses an office of authority, as long as they act within their competence, and not beyond it, and do not command something contrary to the law of God, exercises authority legitimately regardless of their personal merit, talent, intelligence, holiness, etc.  It is not true, for instance, that a superior must be in the state of grace to legitimately command.  Our Lord Himself, while publically correcting the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, defends their right to command.  He tells the apostles: All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not (Mt 23:3).

All of this applies with respect to the obligation of a wife to obey her husband.  So says the Catechism of the Council of Trent:

[L]et wives never forget that next to God they are to love their husbands, to esteem them above all others, yielding to them in all things not inconsistent with Christian piety, a willing and ready obedience (“Holy Matrimony”).

Later on, I will explain the phrase “yielding to them in all things not inconsistent with Christian piety,” but first I want to deal with an issue, about which my silence on the matter has been criticized.

Seeing Scarlet

I have dealt with at length the question of women as the weaker sex and their need to be protected, and have emphasized the singular responsibility of men to perform this task, that is, to make sure that women are treated according to their proper dignity.  My blog is about Marian Chivalry, so my emphasis should be understandable.  Yet, as we all know, it takes two to tango. Unquestionably, those who hold authority have a special obligation to avoid its abuse.  However, each of the sexes within marriage is prone to its own particular vices.  Pride and selfishness have their own specifically masculine and feminine dimensions.  If men must not abuse their authority, women, in a particular way, must not use their weakness as an excuse to cultivate the habit of emotional and sexual blackmail.

One of the problems with feminism and the emasculization of men is that the abuse of authority, especially within the family, has given credence to the idea that only those who are holy can exercise authority legitimately.  In fact, men have been emasculated precisely because they have bought into this lie.  They have willingly abdicated their authority because others, most notably their wives, have convinced them that they are not worthy to command.

Without underestimating the problem of the abuse of authority, one cannot neglect to condemn in the most strident terms this pernicious notion that a man must prove himself to be free of his faults (so obvious to his family) before he can be taken seriously.  This notion, quite frankly, is so bogus and destructive that it defies sufficient condemnation.  It is an excuse for willfulness.  It is the ruin of the unity of the family.

A man’s wife is his most brutal critic.  This almost universally true and not altogether a bad thing.  The principle contribution of women to the tradition of Christian chivalry has been the high standard to which women were expected to hold men.  The ever-present cultural and moral influence of Mary on the development of Christian civilization was in fact Her humanizing influence on the male sex.  But the ladies should not forget that most men who love a woman desire to be her hero, even if they know that, more often than not, they fall short.  Traditional women talk all the time about how much they want to have their husbands lead, but then they subject his every choice to microscopic scrutiny, and nag and complain about all his shortcomings.  Emotional and sexual blackmail become tools of the weaker sex to maintain a safe independence, that is, a way of maintaining control, while indulging all her feminine weaknesses.

Mutual Submission

It seems to me that the comment section of the post to which I referred above tended to be one-sided, either asserting that authority is only legitimate where the husband shows himself worthy, or on the other hand, is virtually always exercised legitimately, regardless of what he commands, or at least that the woman should just shut her mouth and do what she is told without question.  And this is the second error that I must address.  Indeed, the Catechism of the Council of Trent affirms that wives are obliged to

love their husbands, to esteem them above all others, yielding to them in all things not inconsistent with Christian piety, a willing and ready obedience.

That phrase is specific, and does not suggest that a woman, who is the “helpmate,” and not slave, of her husband must yield in a mindless and servile obedience to her husband.  Ancient cultures, and some of them Christian, though not thoroughly Christianized, have regarded women as virtually the property of their husbands to be disposed of in an arbitrary way.  However, the famous passage of St. Paul, invoked by traditionalists to put women in their place does not affirm the wife-as-chattel mentality.  In Ephesians 5, St. Paul does indeed mandate the obedience of a wife to her husband, but he also states that husbands and wives are to be subject one to another, in the fear of Christ (22).  St. Paul goes on to explain this mutual subjection in terms of a wife’s obedience to her husband and the husband’s sacrificial love for his wife.  The next chapter (6) goes on in parallel manner to reaffirm the obligation of children to obey their parents, while at the same time, commanding fathers not to provoke their children to anger (1-4).  This makes it pretty clear that an arbitrary or abusive execution of authority within the family finds no mandate in sacred scripture.  No man may presume that his wife and children must swallow the consequences of his capricious will without question.

In fact, Ephesians 5 compares marriage to the love of Christ and His Bride, the Church, and the paradigm for husbandly love is Christ on the Cross.  The abuse of authority within the family is not going to be solved by feminism.  Emasculated men are a plague upon society and the family.  But neither is the problem of feminism and effeminacy going to be solved by ignoring abuses of authority or by absolutizing the rights of husbands.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church and John Paul II placed a great emphasis on the dignity of the human person and the obligations of those in authority to respect that dignity and to command according to the demands of the common good.  The Church regards as particularly pernicious the abuse of authority, because human authority is never absolute but entrusted to individuals specifically for the care of the persons, created in the image and likeness of God.  For this reason John Paul II placed a particular emphasis on the obligation of men toward women, while not at all dispensing from the obligation of obedience of wives to their husbands.  One would think that the need to address the problem of the abuse of authority, as well as the unwillingness to exercise it with legitimate forcefulness for the common good, would be obvious in the light of various modern forms of totalitarianism, fascism and fanaticism.

The Unspoken Issue

Worthy of particular note is a matter that goes largely unuttered when the topic of authority within marriage is discussed but which certainly underlies much of what is said, namely, the marriage debt.  It is a matter of grave obligation for men and women to yield to the reasonable request of their spouse and offer their bodies freely for the conjugal act.  This request is made legitimately where there is no serious reason to refuse (For particulars ask your confessor, and when in doubt, by all means seek counsel.)  In a particular way, this responsibility lies heavily on the shoulders of the woman for obvious reasons.

Again, it takes two to tango:  the man has the power to physically or emotional intimidate the woman into an unreasonable use of marriage, but the woman has the feminine power of turning her sexuality into a tool or into a weapon.  And we all know exactly what I am talking about.  There can be no one-sidedness here.

All this being said, the position of authority of the man and his superior strength and power places a special obligation on the man to respect and protect his wife from his own lusts.   Only women get pregnant and men generally do not have to worry about being abandoned with a child.  One of the greatest fears of women around the world is abandonment by the father of her children.   Women are vulnerable in this matter in way in which there is no comparison in men.  They are also expected to satisfy their husband, and unfortunately, culture has left many men under the delusion that their masculinity is defined by their libido and specifically by their need to have their sexual desires satisfied whenever they want, on demand.  This is to a large extent what many men mean by their expectation of the unquestioning obedience of their wives.

Here is a special notice to men (if the shoe fits, wear it):  Wake up!  Do you wonder why you wife has lost interest in intimacy with you and why you are less and less satisfied with your relationship with her?  It is because you act like a pig, and you keep justifying it because in reality you are insecure in your own masculinity.  Grow up and stop acting like a teenager.

I am particularly irritated by Christopher West’s ambiguity on the question of imperfect sodomy, precisely because it has certainly become an excuse on the part of “demanding” husbands to subject their wives to behavior that is demeaning and sinful.  One of West’s followers in Poland, a priest, asserts that

Attempts to set limits to the expression of love as well as arbitrary exclusion of some ways of experiencing pleasure inhibit spouses and introduce doubt, fear and moral anxiety into their sexual life. This attitude may result in frigidity and lead to serious marital problems.

In spite of the fact that the writer of these words qualifies his statement by the assertion that mutual consent must be part of the decision making, he is foisting a bill of goods on women, who generally are more passive and are expected to consent without argument.  Needless to say, many men will take words like this as justification for subjecting their wives to sins against nature and other demeaning behavior.

I have always considered the Westian interpretation of Theology of the Body to be the lustful man’s boon, notwithstanding all the exalted views of sexuality and the dignity of women.  If men truly wish to find satisfaction within their intimate relations with their wives and to maintain their moral authority, then they had better learn to behave themselves.  That means not only do they need to have a more exalted view of women and sexuality, it also means that they need to be a good deal less attached to eroticism and more willing to love selflessly, by being satisfied with less.  (A lack of sacrifice and generosity on the part of both men and women in this regard can lead to dire consequences within a marriage.)

While it is true that legitimate authority has nothing to do with whether one is holy or not, it is also true that it is better and more effective to lead by example. Such is the example of Christ, who died for his Bride.

Saving Marriage

It takes two to tango.  One-sided answers will get us nowhere.  I have favored the position of women here, because they belong to the weaker sex, but that is no excuse for the ladies to invoke what I say like a club to wield against their husbands.  I know there are really situations in which men are grossly abusive, but there are also many situations in which women can be little manipulative monsters.  Everyone clean your own house.

Christian marriage is about self-donation and self-forgetfulness.  Husbands and wives must bear each other’s burdens.  There is no way around this.  There are no pat answers.  Finger pointing is useless unless we are willing to point the finger at ourselves first.  My purpose here is not to provide the solutions to individual problems, but to point out that if we do not get the theoretical side of the argument right, then our efforts at providing practical solutions are hopelessly wrecked.

We have the whole two millennia of Christian history as our moral experience and if we find ourselves unable to learn from our mistakes the institution of marriage will continue to erode until it becomes something unrecognizable. Effeminate and homosexual men are a plague upon a structured society.  Self-centered and crabby women only exacerbate the problem.  But neither does the restoration of masculine authority involve the institutionalization of the arbitrary exercise of authority by men or the legitimization of husbands treating their wives like prostitutes.

Free-Range Kids

Time has published an article on the phenomenon of “Helicopter Parents,” which describes the wide-spread practice of over-parenting.  In my opinion, this problem is particularly nefarious as it pertains to boys, as I have mentioned elsewhere.

According to the article there is a new movement called “slow-parenting,” or “free-range parenting,” the latter, an interesting colloquialism that I am not sure I will get used to.  There are all kinds of Phd’s and self-appointed experts who are prepared to convince and train parents to be more laid-back and offer less control and “hovering” over their children.  That is all well and good, except that neither the writer, nor the experts seem to see over-parenting as part of a larger phenomenon of a society that has gone to extremes on so many levels.

The writer notes that parents are recognizing that they are too busy and have too little time to recreate.  It seems to me that such “idle” moments are also the best times to communicate, to open up about things that need to be discussed, to think, to be creative, and of course, to pray.   The Catholic perspective, with the week built around Sunday Mass and the day around the family meal, has much of the practical common sense parents need built right into the philosophy.

Furthermore, larger families and a mom at home, make over-parenting a practical impossibility.  Not even super-mom can over-supervise a large family.  Nor would she want to.  A mom at home with a large brood will be pulling her hair out in no time.   It won’t be long before she chases all the kids out of the house and tells them to go climb a tree.

Time has only printed this article because it is backed up by “research.”  All the writer needed to do was ask his grandmother.

Hat tip to Other Mary.

St Patrick and the Chieftains

Hill of Shane

On the great vigil of Easter in 433, which was also March 25th, Feast of the Annunciation, St. Patrick determined to meet the Celtic chieftains and High King Leoghaire  on their own ground at Tara by and challenge their superstitious and idolatrous druidism.  The pagans were prepared for the messenger of Christ, as their demoniac prophets had divined his presence.au

St. Patrick made his presence known opposite Tara on the summit of the hill of Slane where he kindled the Easter fire.  The druid priests responded by appealing to Leoghaire:  “O King, live for ever. This fire, which has been lighted in defiance of the royal edict, will blaze for ever in this land unless it be this very night extinguished.”  By order of the king the druids were sent to the hill of Slane to put out Patrick’s fire and slay him, but by miraculous intervention, both the fire and the saint were protected from all harm, much to the consternation of the pagans.

In the morning the saint accompanied by his Christian band formed the Easter procession and proceeded from the fire on the hill of Slane to the Tara.  St. Patrick was arrayed in full episcopal attire.  As he approached the stronghold of Satan, the druid priests made use of their black incantations to cover all the land in darkness, but at his prayers this wile was undone and the sun shown gloriously in the Easter Day.  In the light the druid high priest was then raised off the ground into the heights only to be brought down again by divine power and dashed on the rocks below.

In this way St. Patrick defeated paganism in Ireland and proved to all the cheiftans the truth of the Catholic religion.  Through his great faith and his willingness to risk his life before the minions of Satan, the Saint one the admiration of the King and obtained from him permission to spread the true faith throughout the realm.

Life is always a struggle between light and darkness. It is the story of mankind.  It is the story of Ireland and it is the news of the week:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

God bless Dana Rosemary Scallon, a modern day Joan of Arc, who in the past was not afraid of being attacked by the Irish bishops in defense of the right to life.  Read her largely unheeded exhortation to the Irish people:

This is no longer about the politics of right and left, it is about right and wrong. I can no longer stay silent about the wilful betrayal of Ireland’s Constitution.

BTW, the preamble of that constitution reads thus:

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,

We, the people of Éire,

Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,

Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,

And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,

Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.

In effect, the Lisbon Treaty offers no protection to the unborn and largely eliminates Ireland’s judicial sovereignty.

What about “acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ”?

Pray for Ireland.  Ask St. Patrick to bring light into the darkness and exorcise the Great Snake from the Emerald Isle.

Mystics, Martyrs and Rhetoricians

Soap BoxOr the Theology of the Soapbox

What follows in another one of my long expositions on the Theology of the Body.  I have to give a loud content warning at the outset.  There is some frank talk here about sexuality, or rather, my complaints that there is too much frank talk about such matters.  I would have asked Dawn Eden to publish this one, but she has very courageously retired from blogging.  I have to commend her on her decision; however, it is not without regret on my part.

I again want to let those I disagree with know that my intentions are honorable and I do not question their integrity or commitment to the faith.  I can take my lumps if I deserve them.

In a recent apologia for Christopher West, Father Thomas Loya makes grand assertions:

Christopher West is a bit of a mystic—in the best sense of the word. His work, which seems strange to some, is actually that of a pioneer. And like all pioneers, West is taking a lot of arrows for his courage. In the face of much resistance, West is courageous enough to invite all of us to do just what John Paul II invited us to do: to think and talk in spousal categories. Continue reading

First Knights

I here re-post my entry for July 2, 2008 on this the first anniversary of Thom Girard’s passing.  The accident occurred on June 30, but Marc survived into very early in the morning of July 1.  May our good knights rest in peace. I offered Mass for the repose of their souls this morning.

And when the last arrow
Was fitted and was flown,
When the broken shield hung on the breast,
And the hopeless lance was laid in rest,
And the hopeless horn blown,

The King looked up, and what he saw
Was a great light like death,
For Our Lady stood on the standards rent,
As lonely and as innocent
As when between white walls she went
And the lilies of Nazareth.

*******

Thom was one of our finest knights and a first rate example of all I wanted the knights to be: courageous, committed, kind, genuine and loyal.  Mark was his father’s son.

Thom has been the Grand Master of all our encampments, both last year and this year.  He had many years experience as a scout master, but more than that he had really imbibed the Spirit of Lepanto and understood how to communicate it to others.  He really was what I wanted all the knights to be.

Marc was inducted into the Knights at the spring encampment this year, after having been among the squires since we began the Knights several years ago.  When Thom became distressed as he was swimming with his daughter Hanna, Marc, who was swimming with his younger brother Lucas, told his brother to continue to the other side, went to the rescue and saved Hanna’s life and then attempted to save his father also.  Marc died a hero, a true knight.  He was his father’s son.

Please pray for the repose of their souls.  The one consolation I keep returning to is that now we have two knights who, in the words of St. Maximilian, have both hands free.

Thom and  Marc leave behind Carol, wife and mother, Jacqueline, daughter and sister, Adam, son and brother, Lucas, son and brother and little Hanna, daughter and sister.  Please pray for them also.  They are strong, full of faith and hope, but their suffering is hard to imagine.

Thom wrote an elaborate knight’s “ritual” by which we could induct the older boys into the Knights of Lepanto.  We have used it only once, for the induction of Marc back at the Spring Encampment.  I reproduce part of it here.  The words of the “Father” were pronounced by me, but the whole “ritual” was written by Thom.  This was a dialoque between father and son:

The Candidate then kneels before the priest.

Father:  In days gone by, there existed many orders of knighthood which recognized the skill and honor of their members.  In the service of their King, and in the defense of the noble ideals of chivalry, embodied in their Queen, did these orders achieve their exalted ranks. . .You have now been brought face to face with the Order of the Knights of Lepanto and have been adequately impressed with the seriousness of this obligation which you are about to take upon yourself.  As God is our King of Kings and Mary our Queen are you prepared to take the vow of the brotherhood?

Candidate:  In the name of God, I am.

Father:  Guards remove his penance . . .[after the penance is removed]  Will you be loyal to the Catholic Church, the Pope, to the Order of the Knights of Lepanto, and your brother Knights?

Candidate:  In the name of God, I will.

Father:  Good Brother, in our company you must not seek lordship or riches, nor honor, nor bodily ease.  You must seek three things:  to renounce and reject the sins of this world; to do the service of Our Lord and Our Lady; and to be poor and penitent according to your means.  Will you promise to God and Our Lady that henceforth, all the days of your life that you will do these things?

Candidate:  In the name of God, I will.

Father:  That you will live in chastity according to your means in life?

Candidate:  In the name of God, I will.

Father:  That you will uphold the good customs of this house?

Candidate:  In the name of God, I will.

Father:  That you will never leave the Order, neither through strength or weakness, niether in worse time or better?

Candidate:  In the name of God, I will.

Father:  In the name of God, of Our Lady, of St. Francis and St. Maximilian Kolbe and of our father Pope Benedict XVI, from its beginning and until its end, we accord you all the benefits of this house.  We promise you bread and water, hardship, work and the poor robe of this house.  Knight of the Patrocinium, bring forth the Great Sword of our order. . . .

Father: [holding the sword as the cross in front of the candidate] Acknowledge this sword, its brightness stands for faith, its point for hope, and its guard for charity.  Remember well that the sword of Chivalry should be drawn only in defense of God, or of those weaker than yourself. Do you acknowledge the values of this sword?

Candidate:  In the name of God, I do.

Father:  [returning the sword] Let the scroll be read.

Herald:  To all who can hear:  Whereas Marc has dedicated himself to high and noble service to God and the Kingdom of Heaven in war and in peace, we are minded to enroll him into the Knights of Lepanto.  We do hereby elevate and affirm Marc for his unique talents soon to be known throughout the world.  To which we set our hands this 24th day of May, as Christ is our King and Mary our Queen.

Thom gave all the speaking roles to the other knights and to myself during the ritual, but all the words were his, and it was all meant for Marc.

When we performed the induction of Mark, I had only had the time to glance at the ritual very quickly.  I had  complete trust that what Thom had come up with would be appropriate.

But when I read the words out loud to Marc:  “as God is our King of Kings and Mary our Queen are you prepared to take the vow of the brotherhood?” I thought to myself, “I hadn’t planned on anyone taking a vow right now.”  And then when I heard myself saying: “Will you promise to God and Our Lady that henceforth, all the days of your life that you will do these things?”  and Marc said yes both times, I thought, “I will have to revise this for next time.”  In any case, I figured that it was all intended in the right spirit, and expressed the Spirit of Lepanto so perfectly, so I said nothing.

Little did I know that Thom and Mark had providentially entered into the Knightly order together and were to seal their promise in this tragic and yet heroic event.  Thom and Marc used exactly the right words and they meant what they said.

Thom will be buried with the Great Sword of our order.  Similar arrangements are being made for Marc as well.  They promised to be true knights of Our Lady, and,

In the name of God, they were.

St. Augustine and the Theology of the Body

In doing some research in order to answer a question of a commenter I found this article by Monsignor Cormac Burke, whose book on marriage I highly recommend.  It is an article on St. Augustine and his views concerning marriage and sexuality.  St. Augustine is identified by many–but not by Christopher West, to my knowledge–as the bogeyman of Catholic puritanism because of his negative views of sexuality based on his over-emphasis of original sin.  Monsignor Burke shows that this interpretation of great western doctor is not accurate.  This article is also helpful aid to the understanding of TOB in context.  The Church has always emphasized the inherent goodness of human sexuality.

Here is a quote from St. Augustine:

Let these nuptial blessings be the objects of our love: offspring, fidelity, the un­breakable bond. . . . Let these nuptial blessings be praised in marriage by him who wishes to extol the nuptial institution.

Here is part of Monsignor Burke’s conclusion:

It may well be that earlier in the twentieth century Christians needed to shake off a certain Puritanism in sexual matters, although it should be said that this was a particularly Protestant problem. In any case, it is scarcely the problem fac­ing us today.

In this context, it is interesting to recall how Augustine had first to defend marriage and sexuality against the Manichean tendency to treat them with contempt or ha­tred, and later had to continue to defend them against the Pelagian tendency to treat them as if there were nothing deli­cate or problematic about them.

Insofar as Puritanism or Jansenism contained some semi-Manichean elements, we have moved away from them. Augustine’s firmly held, middle-of-the-road position can warn us of the dangers coming from a neo-Pelagianism, with its false suggestion that nothing is wrong with sex, that there is nothing needing control in sex.

To Chris West: Enough Already. How about a Response?

I am just following up on the latest developments of the West controversy in which I have been lately involved (pretty severe content warning).

Christopher West, in the last couple of days has been in the Catholic press–not responding to his critics, mind you.  All he says is public relations as far as I can tell.

In Our Sunday Visitor he is quoted as saying:

“Many good people seem unaware of what the great saints have taught about the mystical dimensions of our sexuality. This is where John Paul II’s theology of the body leads us — into the mystical depths of our creation as male and female, and the call of the two to become ‘one flesh.’

In my latest piece, linked to above, I show how West misconstrues St. Louis de Montfort as supporting some kind of holy fascination with the body of the Blessed Mother.  I do this not by quoting West out of context, but by actually showing from the text of the saint that he says nothing like what West suggests.

Then the National Catholic Register, reports the following:

West’s struggle to stem the confusion reflected a desire to both defend his reputation and to prevent a backlash against the late Pope’s teachings, which have begun to enter the mainstream of Catholic catechetics with the encouragement of Pope Benedict XVI.

It is not clear how accurately this statement reflects the actual views of Christopher West; however, there is no question that West and his supporters claim that he is the authority on TOB and that his assertions are compatible with the views of John Paul II.  The above statement goes so far as to suggest that disagreement with West is tantamount to disagreement with John Paul II.   But from the point of the critics the objections have nothing to do with the Holy Father’s teachings, but with the extrapolations of West.

And this is precisely the point of this post.  West and his supporter are avoiding to deal with the substantive issues raised in the critiques.  They say “The critics should have done it privately.”  “They should quote sources.”  When we quote sources they say  we  “are taking everything out of context.”   They tell us “West has good instincts; trust him.”

Unfortunately, they are making this worse for themselves.  I will do everything in my power to see to it that this remains a gentleman’s disagreement.  But I will not be told I am a prude for disagreeing with Christopher West or that I disagree with him because I have a personal animus.  I find this methodology and “strategic management” tiresome, to put it mildly.

Dawn Eden records some of the wearying methodology employed by West to deal with objections to his presentation in her latest post.  I refer to the incident transcribed by her in my latest contribution on her blog.