I direct your attention to two rather provocative essays. The first is by Sam Rocha: “Francis’s Radical Realism: Performance v. Ideology,” which attempts to interpret Pope Francis’ statement in Evangelii Gaudium “realities are more important than ideas.” It is a challenging read and a controversial one, but no less than the statement of Pope Francis.
As a Franciscan and a Scotist any attempt within Catholic orthodoxy to give adequate accounting for the concrete and personal is of interest to me. I also find it interesting that in the essay the concrete is set against ideology, not philosophy or theology per se, but the subordination of realities and especially persons to ideas. I do believe that this is exactly what is happening today, especially on the fringes, where progressivist dogmas and appeals to supossed doctrinal purity seem to narrow the gospel to obsessions over only part of the message. This sectarian reduction of the gospel ends by instrumentalizing persons. Continue reading →
The life of St. Francis is subject to much sentimental hype because of his love for creation and his identification with the poor. The saccharine images on holy cards and sculptures in gardens don’t help the matter. And Zeffirelli’s hippie-revolutionary film version of the saint is positively infuriating. Pope Francis seems be subject to the same kind of misinterpretaion.
The media and the Catholic propagandists on the left and the right will continue to mythologize about St. Francis and Pope Francis’ selection of the name. The pope himself has said the reason for the choice of name has to do with “peace” and “poverty.” Oh, those two words: two little threads out of which the propagandists will weave a rope to hang us all with. Sandro Magister puts it well:
In the pseudo-Franciscan and pauperist mythology that in these days so many are applying to the new pope, imagination runs to a Church that would renounce power, structures, and wealth and make itself purely spiritual.
But it is not for this that the saint of Assisi lived. In the dream of Pope Innocent III painted by Giotto, Francis is not demolishing the Church, but carrying it on his shoulders. And it is the Church of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, at that time recently restored and decorated lavishly, but made ugly by the sins of its men, who had to be purified. It was a few followers of Francis who fell into spiritualism and heresy. Continue reading →
Most Catholics around the world are giving thanks to God for a new pope. A few of us are already pontificating about the future. This is my own little reflection on the relationship between the pontificates of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.
I believe that in order to fully appreciate the events of the last month or so, one must consider that we have a new Holy Father because, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Pope Benedict carefully formulated a plan. The evidence shows that he did not just wake up one morning and say: “I have had it. I just can’t do it anymore.” The historical facts indicate that he was considering a potential abdication through most of his pontificate. I think it is also fair to say that he was aware of all the potential outcomes. The man, before anything else is a thinker. I don’t believe he was surprised by any of the reactions or criticisms. He had prayed for a long time and had thought the whole thing through. When he made his decision he was definitive. Continue reading →
In fact, the Franciscan way of life offered a corrective to excesses of military life. The ideal of chivalry promoted not only courage, honor and generosity, but also fidelity and courtesy. Unfortunately, knights often used their prowess and largesse in their own interests, abusing the poor and defenseless, whom they were duty bound to protect. Father Mark Elvins, writing in Second Spring, speaks eloquently on the way in which the charism of St. Francis purified the spirit of chivalry, indeed as Father Elvins puts it, that charism “inverted” or “reversed,” the values of chivalry:
By reversing the status of the knight, Francis found his new and spiritual knighthood, a chivalry suffused with the Gospel to replace the aristocratic propaganda of his age. This spiritual knighthood was not so much a system as a gradual discernment, as he viewed his hitherto privileged life in the light of faith, and sought to integrate it into the life of Christ, Celano describes how Francis consciously sought to exchange carnal weapons for spiritual ones, and worldly prowess for humbles service, making homage and fealty to the poor Christ, the King of Heaven (II Celano, 6) (“St. Francis and the Reversal of Chivalry,” Issue 2 – 2002. 22, 23).
This is the title of the reatreat I am giving our sisters here in Bloomington, Indiana who are preparing to renew their vows on the Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel. The line comes from a prayer composed spontaneously be Blessed John Duns Scotus, and which has entered into the language of the liturgy as an antiphon from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The full text is Allow me to praise Thee O Holy Virgin, give me strength against Thine enemies.
The story goes that Scotus was on his way by foot to Paris where he was to defend the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception during a disputation conducted at the great University of Paris. Along the way he passed by a wayside shrine of Our Blessed Lady, and was inspired to kneel down and say this prayer. Our Blessed Lady was pleased to acknowledge the humility and devotion of her servant by miraculously manifesting that the prayer had been heard and answered.
The statue animated and bowed to the Blessed John, and he went on to Paris to brilliantly defend Our Lady’s prerogative of Her Immaculate Conception. The Franciscan Order has generally been recognized as one of the principle instruments for the defense and articulation of the dogma. Blessed Pope Pius IX, in fact, used the argumentation of Blessed John Duns Scotus as the basis for the papal bull defining the dogma in 1854. That defining moment is know affectionately within the Order as the Franciscan Triumph.
St. Maximilian Kolbe believed that the dogma was a blueprint for Catholic life, a battle plan for the crushing of the serpent’s head in our godless age. His act of consecration is a chivalric commitment, in our order a vow of blood to fight under Our Lady’s banner for the extension of the kingdom of Christ. Allow me to praise Thee O Holy Virgin, give me strength against Thine enemies.