De Admiratione vel De Stupore?

Since I wished to write an article on the necessary virtue of wonder, I thought to be Classical in the choice of my title by using Latin.  To my chagrin, the two Latin words Casull’s Latin Dictionary offered for wonder either go too far (stupor) or fall short (admiratio).  What else am I to do?  I suppose that I could have searched for an Ancient Greek word, since Greek has such philosophical and literal accuracy; but, Greek has never been my strong suit and Latin is much preferred.  So, I am left with two words which might be legitimately translated as admiration or stupefaction rather than wonder.

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The quotation on which my cogitation centered derives from Socrates: “A feeling of wonder is what marks the philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.”  To relate it back to my Latin title, it may indeed begin as admiratio but become stupor when one realizes the vast extent of knowledge which one shall never obtain–not even if one had five lifetimes!  A philosopher is one who loves knowledge, knows that he has very little, and continually searches for it.  In this way one is continually amazed by the new material coming into his mind.

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A certain professor of philosophy named Dr. Graham McAleer exemplified this quality for me this semester.  On one occasion, I corrected him when he said that St. Bonaventure must have written The Journey of the Mind to God long after St. Francis’ death since St. Bonaventure was the seventh General of the Order.  I responded that the distance separating them was not long at all because St. Francis gave St. Bonaventure his name when that person was born  (I think that the original story is slightly different–but, that’s what I said, and it was St. Francis who gave St. Bonaventure that name), predicting a happy life for St. Bonaventure, whose name means “Good Journey.”  To this Dr. McAleer’s eyes widened in amazement.  His astonishment was such that it frightened me!  Here was someone who taught Bonaventure and philosophy for such a long time and he could still experience amazement concerning a short work whose pages he has made opaque with marginalia!  I cannot think of a more perfect example of a man with the quality of wonder.

In this picture, Charlemagne is commending the poor children who studied hard, while rebuking the sons of nobles who made poor progress in their studies through negligence.

In this picture, Charlemagne is commending the poor children who studied hard, while rebuking the sons of nobles who made poor progress in their studies through negligence.

The attitude of wonder leads to openness and humility, which has its opposite in pride, close-mindedness, and being domineering.  Many people pride themselves as thinking that they can control their own lives, that they know all they need to, and can put people into boxes to be manipulated or judged at will.  The last is particularly prevalent.  We know someone for a few months and believe that we know all their idiosyncrasies.  We expect them to act and react in certain way.  Rather, we should refrain from putting people in boxes–even when it seems tempting–so that we might continue to marvel at them.  This produces more charity and better relationships between people.  I wonder whether the cause of so many unhappy marriages is that spouses have placed one another in a box and lack interest in them, because they feel that they already know everything about their spouses.  And boredom equals disinterestedness, which ferments annoyance, which flames anger, which pours out divorce.

The father and mother of St. Therese of Lisieux, who happen to both be beatified!  By that, you can surely discern a happy marriage!

The father and mother of St. Therese of Lisieux, who happen to both be beatified! By that, you can surely discern a happy marriage!

But, perhaps the most common ways in which people box one another are in the realms of politics and religion.  How is it that knowing one or both of these things permits us to neatly package up another person and be done with them?  I suppose the most obvious answer is that these ways of thought have consequences in real life and people of these ideologies act in unison.  If Liberals are in power, gun laws are emplaced or guns taken away, abortion florishes, welfare programs increase, business taxes increase, government spending increases, less money is spent on the military, etc.  With Conservatives, the exact opposite occurs.  However, people are much more complex than the ideologies they belong to–and even the ideologies more complex than we imagine!  I doubt very few people are exact caricatures of the ideologies they serve.  This holds even more true in the realm of religion: the practices of religion and each person’s relationship with God vary so much because of the more personal nature of religion.  As St. Faustina said, people are worlds.  Don’t place people in boxes!

Pappy-plane

I had a vision of this while reading Col. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington’s memoirs of his career in the Pacific theater during World War II, Baa Baa Black Sheep.  First, the man in general is difficult for me to understand.  Then, the people he meets are of the same class.  In particular, this passage when over my head, but will likely be understood by some of my dear readers:

                       Thought of seeing the ground crew, and the few of the staff who had waved farewell as we had taken off, came through my mind.  On most of them I had interpreted this wave to mean: “I hope you get back alive.”  I assumed that a few were thinking: “I hope you never get back.”  But to hell with them.  To hell with them all.

I would have understood this had he been referring to the second class of people, but I cannot understand his vexation with all of them.  This condemnation went well above my head.  No doubt, my acquaintance with Pappy Boyington will prove most fruitful.  May you all have someone rather translucent in your lives!  (I avoid saying opaque because–even though one can certainly marvel at a person one has no understanding of–one cannot really have a relationship with someone unless they understand at least a little about them.)

President Truman Presenting the Medal of Honor

We even go so far as to put our own selves in boxes: either we strive for something we’re not or we make ourselves less than we are.  This is all due to our controlling, know-it-all natures.  We ought to rather imitate Padre Pio, who said: “I am a mystery to myself.”  This does not contradict the dictum to know ourselves; but perhaps that our own efforts to understand ourselves ought to lead us to greater wonder concerning ourselves.  With this kind of openness, i.e. not trying to control our own lives but being open to where our gifts and talents lead us, God can take control of our lives and draw us to situations and places we would never have thought possible for us.

St. John of God led a particularly fascinating and varied life.  A great example of humility.

St. John of God led a particularly fascinating and varied life. A great example of humility.

So, do not judge, do not condemn, and forgive all offenses.  And remember St. Gregory of Nyssa’s famous advice: “Concepts create idols, only wonder understands.”

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Divine Mercy Novena Reminder

Hello, dear readers!  I just want to remind you to say the Novena of the Divine Mercy Chaplet this year.  It starts on Good Friday and includes saying a prayer intention for a different group on each day: All the World especially poor sinners, Priests and Religious, Pagans, Heretics and Schismatics, Faithful Christians, Meek and Humble souls, those who glorify God’s mercy by meditating on the Sacred Passion, the Souls in Purgatory, and those who have become lukewarm.  We are all in need of God’s mercy, and praying for others both increases our charity and obtains mercy for ourselves.

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I was thinking to myself how God’s mercy, love, and our faith are so important.  Unless we show mercy, mercy shall not be shown to us.  Unless we love others, we cannot love God.  Unless we live in both love and mercy, we cannot have faith.  For, faith is trusting that God loves us to death and that His mercy is without limit.  But, if we ourselves don’t show mercy or love others as unconditionally as possible, if we’re selective in who we love or who we’ll forgive, then we may begun to think that God is selective or that limitations are placed on His love.  But, this is false.  God is unconditional love, constantly looking for the least excuse to bring each and every one of us into His kingdom.

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Ultimately, love is unitive: one wishes to be united to all, to suffer when they suffer, to rejoice when they rejoice, to know everything they know, and even to be punished when they are punished.  One would not go wrong if they loved the very worst people imaginable, felt themselves guilty of the sins committed by these people, and did penance for them.  That is the highest state of the Christian vocation.  Love, forgive all offenses, strive to remain pure, honestly admit one’s failings, don’t fear to love, and show mercy to everyone you meet.  Try to imitate the Heart of the Master, and contemplate on the lengths he went to redeem you so that you may take some of His Love with you in order to share it with others.  Then, God will take you up into Heaven and place your head upon the very Heart you strove to imitate.

SHJ

Lest the obstacles which are sure to sprout up thwart you, have recourse to prayer.  Don’t overdo it, but be sure to pray enough for your needs.  In this way, you may feel fatigued, but not discouraged.  Plagued by sins and defects, but not despairing.  Perhaps the greatest prayer for this goal is to meditate on the Passion of Christ while praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  Just pray the Sorrow Mysteries as if doing the rosary or concentrate on one mystery, on certain wounds, on the Stations of the Cross, or on Our Lord’s Sacred Heart.  You might just find your favorite devotion and will certainly please the Divine Master.

Divine Mercy

And here’s a link to information about this chaplet and novena: http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/mercy/dmmap.htm and Divine Mercy Novena.

Still Alive and a Little on the Inferno

Well, it has really been a long time since I’ve posted here.  One of my biggest problems being that I tried to write about The Inferno several times and failed.  Writing about The Inferno carries three problems for me: 1) I don’t really understand some passages; 2) certain references are too abstruse for me–especially in the iPhone edition I was using; and 3) I don’t get any particular enjoyment out of reading about hell.  For me, the strong point about The Inferno is the wonderful relationship between Virgil and the narrator–whom most refer to as Dante himself.  It’s wonderful to see how Virgil protects Dante through so many perils, and how Virgil stands up to demons, knowing that nothing can obstruct the will of God that Dante be permitted to examine hell.  I suppose the work might also be a way to meditate on how the vices present in one’s soul may lead one to hell and how to correct them.  On a final note, William Wordsworth translated the work in a beautifully poetic fashion.  I have no desire to write more than that, but I will give the work a second chance to grow on me later on.

dante's inferno image

In any case, I hope to enjoy The Purgatorio more. A professor I had, Bradley Birzer, told me that this work was the best part of The Divine Comedy, while The Paradiso was the weakest.  I hope that circlecitadel won’t be too disappointed.