Monastic: July 2008 Archives

Le père humilié

| | Comments (1)

Thérèse 1895.jpg

Saint Thérèse and Her Father

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, reflecting on Isaiah's prophecy of the Servant, related it to the humiliation of her own father's suffering. When Thérèse was seven years old she had a vision of a man in the garden, dressed like her father, but going about with his head veiled. Only later did she realize that this was a mysterious prophecy of her father's mental illness. Profoundly affected by her father's suffering, Thérèse lived it as an opportunity to deepen her understanding of the humiliation of Christ in His Passion. Thérèse made some profound connections: she related her father in his sufferings to the humiliation of Christ in His Passion, and related the humiliation of Christ in His Passion to the Fatherhood of God.

The Holy Face

The violence against the Face of Christ in His Passion was, at the deepest level, an attempt by the Evil One to disfigure the Fatherhood of God. Our Lord says, "He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?" (Jn 14:9-10). From the beginning, the Evil One has sought to discredit the Fatherhood of God by sowing suspicion and doubt in the hearts of His children. The cruel disfiguration of the Face of Christ with blows, bruises, spittle, and thorns was the Evil One's mad attempt to vilify the Father.

War on the Family

The Evil One pursues the same agenda today. He seeks by every means to humiliate the father and to disfigure the face of fatherhood in society. John Saward, in his splendid book, The Way of the Lamb, The Spirit of Childhood and the End of the Age, writes: "The modern western world seems to have declared war on the family in all its members. It is destructive of the child, disparaging of the mother, and derisive of the father. Feminism, now complacently installed as the worldly wisdom of the West, tends to regard fathers as oppressive monsters . . . . All that is male, even the masculine pronoun, offends the feminist rulers of this age. Sometimes it seems as if the head of every father is veiled in shame, un père humilié."

The Father Under Attack

Every attack on the father is an attempt from below to undermine the headship of Christ, "the image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15) in Whom, "all things hold together" (Col 1:17). Just as Christ holds all things in the universe together, so too does the father hold all things together in the family. Abandoned by the father, the family disintegrates. Nothing so damages the wholeness of the family as the absence of the father.

Forty Years After Humanae Vitae

While pursuing the disgrace of the father, the Evil One continues to pursue the degradation of the mother. The widespread rejection in 1968 of Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Humanae Vitae drove a wedge between conjugal union and openness to the gift of life. As a result, the bride was no longer seen as a woman honouring within herself that most radiant of gifts: potential motherhood. The image of the mother was separated from that of the faithful spouse. By disfiguring the woman -- an image of the Church in her dignity of virgin, bride, spouse, and mother -- Satan seeks to discredit the Church, the Spouse of Christ and ever-fruitful Mother of the faithful.

Dissent from the teaching of Humanae Vitae paved the way for the widespread acceptance of artificial birth control, casual sexual relations, abortion, and the militant homosexual agenda that, seeking to parody marriage between one man and one woman, replaces conjugal fruitfulness with a self-indulgent sterility. The acceptance of abortion leads, inexorably, to the acceptance of parricide (the killing of parents) and infanticide. The society that kills its children becomes patricidal and matricidal. The society that discredits fatherhood and motherhood becomes sterile and dies.

The Consecrated Life

The poisonous trends of the culture of death have not spared the consecrated life itself. The crisis around Humanae Vitae corresponded exactly to the moment when religious began to speak naïvely of "openness to the world." The spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil seeped through the cracks in the cloister and, in the most pernicious and subtle ways, infected religious and monastic life with the prejudices of the age against the father, the mother, and the child.

The Abdication of the Fathers

Rejection of the father began to manifest itself in the contestation of all paternal authority, focusing on that of the Pope. This was just another manifestation of what Von Balthasar so aptly calls Der Antirömische Affekt, "The Anti-Roman Complex." The very name of Father, in use from the Apostolic Age and honoured in the monastic deserts of Egypt and Palestine, fell into disaffection. Superiors felt the need to be "a brother among brothers," failing to see that by doing so they were abdicating the very grace of state constitutive of their spiritual authority.

The collapse of the religious or monastic family ensued, just as the collapse of the natural family would follow any father's abdication of his paternal authority. The most extreme manifestation of this disaffection for the Father is the kind of cultural patricide we see in society today. The same patricide holds sway in the religious community bent on eradicating every vestige of fatherhood in the name of liberty, fraternity, and equality.

The Mother Under Suspicion

Rejection of the mother was, if anything, even more vicious. The years immediately following the Second Vatican Council saw a widespread critique of the consecrated woman as sponsa Verbi -- bride of Christ -- and a decline in practices of devotion to the Virgin Mother of God. The anti-motherhood propaganda of radical feminism, based on the lie that motherhood limits a woman's freedom to be herself, combined with the rejection of Humanae Vitae to cast suspicion on every expression of maternal authority and spiritual motherhood.

Virtual Matricide

The failure of a few women religious to live the grace of spiritual motherhood wisely and tenderly became an excuse for the extermination of the mother, setting in motion a matricidal revolution. Immature religious women dealing with unresolved emotional conflicts within themselves found in this trend a justification for the expression of an anti-maternal animosity. Superiors were coerced into abdicating their maternal authority or, deceived by the lies of the age, did so willingly, contributing thereby to the disintegration of the spiritual families entrusted to them and to their inexorable descent into sterility.

The anti-maternal lies perpetrated by the culture of death were received uncritically by many religious. The name of Mother, like that of Father, had to be erased at all costs. Meanwhile, Satan laughed in scorn, knowing full well that the extinction of the mother leads to the extinction of life itself and not just to sterility, but ultimately to death.

The Wasteland of the Fatherless and Motherless

A Church without spiritual fathers and mothers will become like a society without fathers and mothers: a barren wasteland populated by an angry people, strewn with the aborted remains of lives that could have been, and defiled by every manner of abuse and by the triple sin of patricide, matricide, and infanticide.

Nihil Amori Christi Praeponere

| | Comments (1)

StBenedict1.jpg paul.jpg

Saints Benedict and Paul

This Solemnity of Our Father Saint Benedict, falling in the Pauline Year, invites us — I want to say, compels us — to reflect on the relationship between the Apostle of the Nations and the Patriarch of Monks. Saint Benedict was imbued with the Epistles of Saint Paul; he quotes the Apostle 23 times in the Holy Rule.

Saint Benedict’s choice of Pauline texts reveals a knowledge of the Apostle that could only have come from years of assiduous lectio divina: the words of the Apostle heard, repeated, prayed, and held in the heart. One finds a similar knowledge of Saint Paul in the writings of Blessed Columba Marmion. The author of Christ the Life of the Soul, Christ in His Mysteries, Christ the Ideal of the Monk, and Christ the Ideal of the Priest was steeped in the writings of the Apostle.

This Year’s Lectio Continua

The Pauline Year offers each of us a unique opportunity to become, like Saint Benedict, imbued with the message of the Apostle Paul. This is the year to let Saint Paul make a difference in your life. This is the year to hear his message with the ear of the heart as if for the first time. This is the year to undertake a lectio continua of his thirteen Epistles, adding for good measure the Letter to the Hebrews, which by an ancient ecclesiastical and liturgical tradition, was also attributed to the Apostle.

Begin with the Letter to the Romans and make your way through the Apostle’s writings. It is better to read several short passages a day, and one before falling asleep. You may want to read a passage before or after each of the Hours of the Divine Office. Find the system that works best for you, but do not let this Pauline Year pass you by without receiving the grace it offers you.

Saint Paul in the Rule of Saint Benedict

Prologue

1. Romans 13:11 And that knowing the season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. 12 The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.

2. 1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God, I am what I am; and his grace in me hath not been void, but I have laboured more abundantly than all they: yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

3. 2 Corinthians 10:17 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

4. Romans 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and patience, and longsuffering? Knowest thou not, that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance?

Chapter 2: What Kind of Man the Abbot Should Be

5. Romans 8:15 For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father).

6. Romans 2:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

7. 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine.

Chapter 4: The Tools of Good Works

8. 1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written: That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.

Chapter 5: Obedience

9. 2 Corinthians 9:7 Every one as he hath determined in his heart, not with sadness, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

Chapter 7: Humility

10. Philippians 2:8 He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.

11. Romans 8:36 As it is written: For thy sake we are put to death all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

12. 1 Corinthians 4:12 And we labour, working with our own hands: we are reviled, and we bless; we are persecuted, and we suffer it.

Chapter 25: Very Serious Faults

13. 1 Corinthians 5:5 To deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Chapter 27: The Concern the Abbot Must Have for the Excommunicated

14. 2 Corinthians 2:7 So that on the contrary, you should rather forgive him and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.

Chapter 28: The Incorrigible

15. 1 Corinthians 5:13 Put away the evil one from among yourselves.

16. 1 Corinthians 7:15 But if the unbeliever depart, let him depart. For a brother or sister is not under servitude in such cases. But God hath called us in peace.

Chapter 31: What Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery Should Be

17. 1 Timothy 3:13 For they that have ministered well, shall purchase to themselves a good degree, and much confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Chapter 40: The Measure of Drink

18. 1 Corinthians 7:7 For I would that all men were even as myself: but every one hath his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that.

Chapter 49: The Observance of Lent

19. Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Chapter 53: The Reception of Guests

20. Galatians 6:10 Therefore, whilst we have time, let us work good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

Chapter 63: The Order of the Community

21. Romans 12:10 Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another.

Chapter 70: That No May Hit One Another

22. 1 Timothy 5:20 Them that sin reprove before all: that the rest also may have fear.

Chapter 72: On the Good Zeal Which Monks Ought to Have

23. Romans 12:10 Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another.

The Experience of Being Loved by Christ

What exactly do Saint Paul and Saint Benedict have in common? A personal experience of the love of Jesus Christ. The Apostle himself could have counseled his spiritual children to “set nothing before the love of Christ” (RB 4:21). He could have instructed his disciples “to prefer nothing whatever to Christ” (RB 72:11). Saint Benedict, for his part, surely said with Paul, “I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

The apostolic vocation of Saint Paul and the monastic vocation of Saint Benedict spring from the same experience of the love of Christ. Allow me, then, to borrow from the Holy Father’s homily for the opening of the Pauline Year, modifying it to bring home my point:

“In the Letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul gives a very personal profession of faith in which he opens his heart to readers of all times and reveals what was the most intimate drive of his life. "I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2: 20). All Paul's actions and all Benedict’s begin from this centre. Their faith is the experience of being loved by Jesus Christ in a very personal way. It is awareness of the fact that Christ did not face death for something anonymous but rather for love of him - of Paul, and of Benedict - and that, as the Risen One, he still loves Paul and still loves Benedict; in other words, Christ gave himself for each of them. Paul's faith, Benedict’s faith is being struck by the love of Jesus Christ, a love that overwhelms them to their depths and transforms them. The faith of the Apostle, like the faith of our glorious Patriarch, is not a theory, an opinion about God and the world. Their faith is the impact of God's love in their hearts.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at Vespers for the Opening of the Pauline Year, Saturday, 28 June 2008)

The Most Holy Eucharist

Through the adorable Sacrament of Our Lord’s Most Holy Body and Blood, may it be given each of us to participate today in the experience of Saint Paul and of Saint Benedict. It is in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that Jesus Christ loves us still, and gives Himself anew, inviting us, inciting us to set nothing before His love.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory

Categories

Archives