John Paul II on Christmas and the Dignity of Humanity

christmas-starAt the dawn of salvation, it is the birth of a child which is proclaimed as joyful news: ‘I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’ (Lk. 2:10-11). The source of this ‘great joy’ is the birth of the Savior; but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth, and the joy which accompanies the birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfillment of joy at every child born into the world (cf. Jn. 16:21).

-St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae

Advertisements

Prepare the Right Way: Advent with Mother Teresa

Teresa-21

As Bishop Barron is quoted in the introduction:

There can never be too much love; there is never a time when love is inappropriate, for love is what God is, and love constitutes the very life of heaven. Mind you, in heaven there is no need for faith, and hope fades away. But in that supremely holy place, love remains in all of its infinite intensity and radicality. Mother Teresa’s way of life, accordingly, is an icon of the love that we will obtain in heaven, when we are drawn utterly into the very life of God.

Sounds like something I want in my Advent. What about you?

This book is made to be used year after year and I’m sure it will take many years to really start to plumb its depths. Unlike the little booklets you’ll find around this time of year in the back of Church, this book has extra days and special feasts added so that it can be used again and again. The concepts covered in the daily reflections are deep and complex and sure to give you a new thing to ponder every year.

You may ask how can a religious sister in Calcutta be applicable to my life here and now. The author, Heidi Hex Saxton, did some of the work for you. Her life couldn’t be any more different from Teresa’s as a working mom in the United States, but she shares with you her personal reflections on Mother Teresa’s words and actions and how they apply to her life and the human condition.

You may also ask how does Mother Teresa relate specifically to the season of Advent. Although through these reflections you will be given many answers to that question, I think the best answer for me was in the way that Mother Teresa dedicated her life to the poor. Just as God Himself comes to us in the season of Advent in the “distressing disguise” of an infant in poverty, Mother Teresa saw God in the “distressing disguise” of those she cared for.

Advent starts this Sunday, so I suggest you get this book now. But even if it doesn’t quite come in time, keep it in mind for the future and start it this year in the middle of the book. In any case, you’re sure to get plenty out of it.

I got the opportunity to read this book through my membership in Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Franciscan Media for the opportunity. It is available at your favorite bookseller now. I even saw it online at Target.com, maybe due to the popularity of this newly canonized saint.

 

St. Basil the Great on the Dignity of Women

armorofgodwoman

“And God made human being according to his image.” “The [masc.] human being,” says the woman, “What does that have to do with me? The man came to be, for it does not say the [fem.] human being,” she says, “but by setting forth the [masc.] human being, it implies the masculine.” But that nobody may ignorantly ascribe the name of human only to the man, it adds, “Male and female he created them” [Gen. 1:27]. The woman also possesses creation according to the image of God, as indeed does the man. The natures are alike in honor, the virtues are equal, the struggles equal, the judgement alike. Let her not say, “I am weak.” The weakness is in the flesh, in the soul is the power. Since indeed that which is according to God’s image is of equal honor, let the virtue be of equal honor, the showing forth of good works. There is no excuse for one who wishes to allege that the body is weak. And why is it simply delicate? But through compassion it is vigorous in patient endurance and earnest in vigils. When has the nature of man been able to match the nature of woman in patiently passing through her own life? When has man been able to imitate the vigor of women in fastings, the love of toil in prayers, the abundance in tears, the readiness for good works?

I have seen a woman secretly committing good thefts, doing good works apart from her husband for the sake of her husband, for the sake of the household’s growth, for the sake of the children’s long life. She gives and hides it from her husband’s knowledge, distributing alms for his sake and concealing it from him. For since the Creator sees the things that are hidden, she does not make public her well-doing.

The good woman has that which is according to the image. Do not cling to the outer human being, it is molded [like clay]. The soul is placed within, under the coverings and the delicate body. Soul indeed is equal in honor to soul; in the coverings is the difference.

Therefore you have become like God through kindness, through the endurance of evil, through communion, through love for one another and love for brethren, being a hater of evil, dominating the passions of sin, that to you may belong the rule.

-St. Basil the Great, part 18, On the origin of humanity, discourse 1

St. John Chrysostom: What is true beauty?

truebeauty

“That He might sanctify it having cleaned it,” he continues, “by washing of water with the word; that He might present the Church to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:26-27)

“By the washing or later,” He washes away her impurities. “By the word,” says he. What word? “In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19) And He has not simply honored her, but He has made her “glorious, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Let us also, then, strive to attain this beauty ourselves, and we shall be able to create it.

Do not look in your wife for those things which she is unable to possess. Do you see that the Church had all things at her Lord’s hands? By Him she was made glorious, by Him she was made pure, by Him she was made without blemish. Do not turn your back on your wife because of her defects. Listen to what the Scripture says, that ” The bee is little among such as fly, but her fruit is the chief of sweet things.” (Eccl. 11:3) She is made by God. You are not condemning her, but rather the One who made her; what can the a woman do? Do not praise her for her beauty. Praise and hatred and love based on personal beauty come from impure souls. Search after the beauty of the soul. Imitate the Bridegroom of the Church.

Outward beauty is full of conceit and licentiousness, and makes men jealous, and it often makes you imagine monstrous things. But does it give any pleasure? For the first or second month, perhaps, or at most for the year: but then no longer. The admiration fades away through familiarity. Meanwhile the ills which arose from the exterior beauty still remain; the pride, the foolishness, the contemptuousness. However, in one who is not beautiful, none of this is to be found. The love that began on honest grounds still continues ardently, since its object is beauty of the soul and not the body.

What better, tell me, is there than heaven? What better is there than the stars? Describe any body you choose, yet there is none so fair. Tell me of any eyes you want, yet there is none so sparkling. When these were created, the very angels gazed in amazement, and we gaze with wonder now; but not with the same amazement as we did at first. Such familiarity; things do not strike us in the same degree. How much more in the case of the wife! And if by some chance disease comes, too, all is immediately lost.

Look for affection, humility, and gentleness in a wife; these are the signs of beauty. But loveliness of physical features let us not seek, not chastise her for lack of these points over which she has no control. No, rather let us not chastise her at all nor be impatient, nor morose. Don’t you see how many men, often living with beautiful wives, have ended their lives despicably, and how many, who have lived with those of no great beauty, have lived on to extreme old age with great enjoyment? Let us wipe off the “spot” that is written, let us smooth the “wrinkles” that are within, let us do away with the “blemishes” that are on the soul. Such is the beauty God requires. Let us make her fair in God’s sight not in our own.

– St. John Chrysostom

Thérèse by Dorothy Day: One Saint Writes about Another

therese

I adore Dorothy Day. That’s the reason why I picked up this book. Like Dorothy Day, when I first met Thérèse of Lisieux, I wasn’t very impressed. Day describes Thérèse of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul as “pious pap” the first time she read it. But as life goes on and wisdom is gained, opinions change. Dorothy Day, as one reviewer states, may not be a Thérèse of Lisieux scholar, but she may be the Little Flower’s most “adept and significant student.” Before this book, the only book I had read by or about Thérèse was Story of a Soul. Now, with Day’s influence, I’m interested in learning more, particularly about her and her sisters.

This short biography breathes life into this saint and applies her life and teachings to the modern world. It is well-addressed to other people who like Day had trouble relating to Thérèse at first. It breathes life into the saint. The reader gets to see Day really in a kind of dialogue with Thérèse’s life and teachings.

So, what does this saint have to say about the world today? As Dorothy Day says in the book:

With governments becoming stronger and more centralized, the common man feels his ineffectiveness. When the whole world seems given over to preparedness for war and the show of force, the message of Thérèse is quite a different one.

Day was writing this book in 1960, but her insights in this book are just as true, if not more so, 56 years later. With the advent of the internet and social media, we’re now bombarded with rage porn and we’re all screaming into the void. Everyone wants to be internet famous. From the richest billionaire in the board room to the poorest homeless teenager on the streets, everyone is looking for attention, everyone wants the biggest, loudest, fanciest thing.

In this world, Thérèse says the same thing she’s said for over a hundred years, “be little, be small, be like a child, be like putty in God’s hands.” This isn’t to say you can’t stand up against injustice. Dorothy Day, one of her spiritual children, is a good example of that. But imitating Christ isn’t just for big, flashy things. It’s the small acts of everyday life that we will all ultimately have to answer for. And, at the end of the day, God is the only Person you have to please. Forget all the anger, all the fame, all the noise. Forget all the stuff, all the media, all the busyness. Be who God wants you to be right now. Do what God wants you to do right now. Act with God’s love right now. Thérèse’s message is truly counter-cultural. That’s what makes her relevant and needed even now.

Dorothy Day’s book Thérèse is going to be back in print on December 16th. It can be pre-ordered through the publisher here or through Amazon here. I got the opportunity to read it through my membership in NetGalley. Thank you Ave Maria Press for the privilege.

Why John Paul II Loved Mary?

jpiiguadalupe

Mooched off this travel blog. Best picture I’ve seen of this awesome statue!

This filial relationship, this self-entrusting of a child to its mother, not only has its beginning in Christ, but can also be said to be definitively directed toward him. Mary is said to continue to say to each individual the words she spoke at Cana in Galilee: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). For he, Christ, is the one mediator between God and mankind; he is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6); It is he whom the Father has given the world, so that man “should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The Virgin of Nazareth became the first “witness” of this saving love of the Father, and she also wishes to remain its humble handmaid always and everywhere. For every Christian, for every human being, Mary is the one who first “believed” and precisely with her faith as spouse and mother she wishes to act upon all those who entrust themselves to her as her children. And it is well known that the more her children persevere and progress in this attitude, the nearer Mary leads them to the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8). And to the same degree they recognize more and more clearly the dignity of man in all its fullness and the definitive meaning of his vocation, for (as is stated in Gaudium et Spes) “Christ…fully reveals man to man himself.”

– St. John Paul II, Encylical Redeptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer), March 25, 1987

Mothers of the Church: A Book Review

Mothers of the Church

I ❤️ this book. It was over far too soon, but it will encourage you to read more about these awesome women.

You hear about the Fathers of the Church, the early leaders and scholars who contributed so much to our understanding of God and His Son. But you don’t hear much about the Mothers of the Church. These are the women who were scholars also in their own right who lived the faith in their actions. They often inspired and supported the Fathers and the early Church. 

In today’s environment where you hear people frequently complain about the role of women in the Church, it is ever more important to hear these women’s stories and to understand that in the pagan Roman Empire, Christianity was truly a liberating force for all women. In a society where baby girls were left to die and women were the property of their husbands, Christianity brought with it the radical idea that women and children were people, too. This is still a radical idea needed in the world today.

This book is a reader and would definitely be a great addition for a Church history class. By “reader” I mean that it principally contains samples of early writings by and about the women featured. These writings have been cleaned up to be easily read by modern readers. 

It definitely is not limited to an academic audience, however. With short, easily digestible historical bites and entertaining background information, this book is really for anyone wanting to learn more about the Mothers of the Christian faith.

It is available at your favorite booksellers now. I got mine a year ago at Catholic Supply of St. Louis. It is among my favorite purchases there and it now has a well-earned place on my reference bookshelf.