Lex Orandi. Lex Credendi.

To discuss meditations and insights into our daily, traditional (Tridentine) Roman Catholic readings. Also, this is to discuss the development of the interior life as traditional, Roman Catholics in complete obedience to the Pope, Magesterium and the Apostles of Christ.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Charity, Above All Else


Happy Commemoration of St. Henry II, Emperor of Germany!

Since I do not have my missal on me at the moment, I will instead make some quick comments about some thoughts I have been pondering on charity. This is a subject that seems to be a topic of confusion for many people, and while I don't pretend to have all the answers, I would like to comment on some hypocrisy I have seen in some people, both Catholic and non-Catholics alike:

1.) Charity is a virtue in which we are commanded by God to act. It is not an option. In this day and age, however, charity is misconstrued to such a degree that it has almost taken a full, 180 degree turn from its actual meaning. Charity is love that is ordered, that is, directed first towards God, and simultaneously, and of second importance, to our neighbor. In today's culture, charity is perverted and degraded into meaning the act of empathy towards our neighbor, regardless of the consideration of Divine Law. This is the grey that the coward (the devil) loves so much. He doesn't like to simply lie outright to people who mean well, he will rather take something that is in it of itself (out of context), objectively a good (a good act and/or intention) and poison one part of it to make it against God's Divine Will. (This is not the "Ad hominem" argument; this is an objective truth which stands on its own. Just consider, "The path to hell is paved with good intentions.")

2.) The other extreme of the perversion of the meaning of charity I see a lot with is people going off the deep end by putting all their emphasis on the first principle of charity, that it is directed primarily towards God-- but they 'forget' that that to act in charity out of latria to our suffering Savior, is to remember we must have also in our end of our actions/motivations, love of neighbor.
It saddens me to see people who should know better profess to love the Catholic faith more than most people, when they act as if their love of God is so great, that it eclipses their need to act in charity towards others. Yes, there are objective evils prevalent in this society, we need only to step out the front door of our homes to see that, or turn on the TV (if you still have one). But here's the deal: God gave you your faith, and you don't deserve it. None of us do. Therefore, we don't have the right to pass judgment on the INTERIOR lives of others, which often is the cause for so many traditional rite Catholics for committing sins against the virtue of charity.

Slander, gossip, and detraction are the more common sins against this virtue. People seem to think "it's OK since all the other people I know are doing it, and they go to Church every week." OK, then if that's what you think, you are no better, or actually worse than those you may even be criticizing. Even outside of these more obvious sins of the tongue, there are sins against charity that we often commit when directing our comments or simply our thoughts regarding a weakness/fault/sin we perceive in another. It's a hard pill to take, but to whom God gives more, more is expected from them. So, while the grace of God allows one to see the objective right and wrongs in many cases, pride blinds us to first our own sins, therefore, it is possible to be intellectually and spiritually blinded by our pride, even while we are trying to walk with Christ. The antidote to this is, of course, humility; recognize our place before Christ, but this isn't simply to be intellectualized. In order to grow in humility, we must daily aim to develop and maintain in every waking moment a recollected interior life, so that we do not dissipate the Presence of our Living Savior within us (from having received him in Holy Communion after being so properly disposed through Penance to receive him).

I think highly scholarly people have it most rough. When you think about it, none of the saints boasted of their education or intelligence. Even when St. Thomas Aquinas was asked what natural gift he was most proud of he said it was his ablity to understand everything he read (of the Bible). St. Thomas Aquinas, just before the end of his life, denounced all his writing just because he was comparing them to the knowledge of God. This was a sure sign of his great humility that allowed him to have such clear intellectual vision. Certainly, it was this humility more than anything he learned in his formal education that gave him more knowledge and understanding of Divine Law, rather, it was his simplicity due to his reverence for God that made him holy. Look at so many of the saints that did not have a formal education, even take Doctor of the Church, St. Therese of Avila. However, there are some Catholics that are so puffed up in their pride over their education (forgetting that it was a gift from God that they had the opportunity to have such an education), that if St. Therese were alive today few people would listen to her that was out in the world. They'd think she was nuts. (Actually, look at her life, and that did happen among certain religious, however, had it been today, it would have been likely an even greater persecution.) The one thing all the saints have in common is their simplicity --- NOT their love of being able to respond to an argument, but simplicity of spirit: They worked (prayed) towards directing their souls and minds to God, and proved their love to Him through resulting Charity.

What is the person we are correcting is a priest who showed himself to have a bad temper? Or, what if this person just didn't learn the most basic prayers, or seemed distracted during Mass? What if the person we are correcting seems to be less than pious, and/or has a 'bad reputation' for being (fill in the blank). Does our own acting in prudence pre-suppose our charity towards them? No. As-a-matter-of-fact, I just described some well-known saints whose reputations were bashed about by other well-intended Christians.

Here is an example of something I see a lot of by fellow Traditional Catholics: Bob and Joe are two very pious Christians. Joe decides to not do A. Joe's friend Bob tells Joe that by not doing A it is a sure sign that the devil is prompting him. (NOTE: The doing of A is not a mortal or venial sin.) Bob is not the person's Confessor, nor Spiritual Director, and therefore is out of line by his accusation. Bob doesn't know for a fact that this is true, but his mere speculation to the fact is, in it of itself, a fault of Bob's disordered pride. Usually, such a comment as Bob has made indicating that Joe's influenced by the devil is so salacious, that it has the tendency to gloss over the now more subtle issue, but REAL problem of the judging of Joe's interior by Bob.

OK. If you followed that, you get what I mean. This is sooo common among people who even mean well, but they do not have the ability to discern clearly their thoughts and put them into perspective because they lack the interior disposition to be directed towards Jesus. True devotion consists in putting God first, and others second, and ourselves last. In doing so, we look to see the needs of others first, not what we are trying to get out of a situation, or try to judge the objective and moral right and wrong of other's actions as if we are to correct everyone we can. Yes, as a Church it is our obligation to impose our morality, but on an individual level, when there is no issue of mortal sin, and we have the authority, and knowledge and reasonable cause to believe that the person committing the mortal sin will listen and be changed, then we do not correct that person (---paraphrased from St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologicae). Instead we should simply pray for that person and invoke the Blessed Mother and the saints to intercede for him. If there is an instance in which we must correct, then it must be done with honey, as much as possible without losing any firmness in our correction. All of this is true charity.
Let's not "through the baby out with the bathwater". If we have reason to believe that we may be in Sanctifying Grace, then hold onto it as tightly as you can by making it your first aim to please God through charity.

Here's a newsflash for many of my fellow Traddy's: you can't judge a book by its cover, the same way you should never judge a person's interior by what you perceive. I know that it is a good thing, objectively-speaking, to have been Traditional all one's life, but that doesn't give you the right to compare others to yourself. Certainly, you do not know the thoughts of our Lord, and such vanity of supposing that this is possible is spiritual dangerous. Why do I make such a sweeping claim? Simply put, it is not only wrong to judge someone in this manner (since it is the person and not an action or set of actions we are judging, something Jesus says will call judgment upon ourselves), but because we also lose grace by such thoughts, and we often then lose with it the opportunity to act the grace of charity. Wow. Think of it: for all the times so many of us have committed such atrocities in the heart of Christ by our thoughts, how much closer we could have (and would have surely) been brought to our Lord had we seen with his Most Sacred Heart! This internal piety is sooo important, that it is actually essential for us to grow in grace, yet it is the most common stumbling block.

How great every person should be humiliated at the sight of our Lord's True Presence when held up to the Congregation as a small, piece of unleavened bread, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!" Jesus, God the 2nd Divine Person in the Blessed Trinity takes on the form so easily forsaken by the human eye, that we might receive him truly in the Three Persons, in order that he who is the Living Word, might live within us! This frequented act is the Word of God whole/entire under the appearance of bread and wine. What a lesson for us all! What more is their to contemplate, when he who holds Heaven and earth is contained within himself?

"Fulfil ye my joy, that you may be of one mind, having the same charity, being of one accord, agreeing in sentiment. Let nothing be done through contention, neither by vain glory: but in humility, let each esteem others better than themselves:Each one not considering the things that are his own, but those that are other men's.
For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father."
-- Philippians 2:2-11


Blogger The Decreased said...

Good to see the blog updated, but The Screwtape Letters was written by C.S. Lewis...

July 17, 2006 5:46 PM  
Blogger Ancilla Parva said...

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima... well...
Funny that! I knew that, actually, but my brain was burnt out after writing that article (I'm going through the "...Letters" presently and I don't know why I have Chesterson on the brain!) My apologies to the few choice readers, and especially to Sofia, who's comment I apparently declined by accident. (It would have been funnier if I had at least two postings published noting that mistake.)

Well, at least the readers are sharp!

Sofia, I'm glad you liked the phrase, "Grace Hog". I think I borrowed it from my Confessor.

July 17, 2006 9:15 PM  

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