We celebrated Laetare Sunday this week, laetare being the Latin word “to rejoice.” Similar to Gaudete Sunday of Advent, we rejoiced that the Lenten season was coming to a close. We have about three week to go until Easter (March 27). A week afterwards, we shall celebrate the still lesser known Feast of Divine Mercy or Divine Mercy Sunday. In the ancient days of the Church, the newly baptized would wear their white baptismal robes for a week after Easter and finally doff them on the Sunday following Easter. This custom eventually fell into disuse, but, through a series of visions to St. Faustina Kowalska of Poland, Our Lord restored the significance of the day, desiring it to be a feast day dedicated to the Mercy of God. He also gave St. Faustina a new icon to recall His Mercy, which displays the blood and water which poured from Christ’s side as beams of red and white light:
A few days ago, I received a curious protest petition against the upcoming series Lucifer, which will premiere in January on FOX and is based on a character from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. The e-mail highlights how the series would show the devil as a nice guy, solving crimes and being kind and compassionate to all sorts of people. The e-mail stated how important it was to urge FOX not to air the show, for it’s portrayal of the devil would confuse the ill-informed and corrupt the youth.
But, this description of the devil brought an important fact to my mind: the devil never shows himself as the hate-filled and filth-loving monster that he is. If he does take that aspect, it is only toward people who assiduously resist his temptations and refuse to be taken in by the devil’s facade. Fulton Sheen appropriately notes that the devil pretends to be a friend of human freedom before a sin, while God, who actively tries to stop us from doing evil, appears as if He were against human freedom.
May all my dear readers enjoy a happy Thanksgiving! Today, we celebrate a feast established by the Puritans of Plymouth Rock in order to give thanks to Almighty God for his blessings. In their case, they were blessed to see the beginnings of their colony’s prosperity. Like them, we ought to give thanks to God for all the ways that He has caused us to thrive over the course of another year.
Sometimes it is difficult to see graces and blessings among the difficulties of life. Yet, we ought to thank God even for the difficulties, over which He means us to triumph. Even if it seems like they get the best of us, our character still grows from them. Without such trials, you can bet that we’d be less human and even less happy. As the protagonist’s father in Dostoyevsky’s The Adolescent says: “Life would not be worth living without these little annoyances.”
Perhaps that’s one of the points Psycho-Pass 2 wishes to make with its theme of eustress. (I write from the perspective of the first six episodes. Please tell me if the last ones contradict what I’m about to write.) Eustress is the idea that stressful or discomforting situations, when overcome, bring people feelings of accomplishment and purpose. Without any dragons to slay, life can devolve to a meaningless and frightful monotony, leading to the state of those poor depressed individuals we see in episode four. Kamui claims to offer a way of giving life purpose through doing evil deeds which give the appearance of power–sort of like how Raskolnikov kills two people with in ax in Crime and Punishment in order to feel like Napoleon.
But, how greatly do people miss themselves if they need to resort to sin and crime in order to gain an ephemeral sensation of fulfillment! What truly makes us happy lies in our own souls, and fulfilling our dreams provides as many challenges as we could wish for and often more than we’d like. However, rather than an ephemeral and false joy, overcoming these obstacles produces peace of soul. This is similar to how Akane can endure so many reverses and tragedies without her psycho-pass becoming clouded. Bringing criminal masterminds to justice is her virtue. Even if the end looks distant, she can calmly perform her duties as she works toward an eventual triumph.
More than Akane, let us imitate St. Faustina, who not only thanked God for His graces, but even the darkness, spiritual dryness, persecutions, and temptations, knowing that God meant for her happiness and the glorification of His Name through it all.
Well, my dear readers, we have come to the most important time of the year: the time when God’s mercy is celebrated far and wide. Tomorrow, we recall the painful suffering Our Lord endured for our salvation. Holy Saturday recalls His descent into hell so that the fruits of His Passion might be poured upon all the dead including Adam and Eve. How can one neglect the eagerness with which Our Lord must have rushed to Adam’s side to proclaim to him that all was forgiven? The second reading from the Holy Saturday Office of Readings makes for an edifying read. In my own case, I am not sure whether anything more profound has been said of God’s mercy outside of the Scriptures. Indeed, the Magnificence and Magnanimity of God toward us who are burdened by our sins, failings, and the thought that heavy punishment awaits us makes the heart rejoice!
One of the terrible things about this life is that we are constantly tempted to doubt God’s goodness. There is evil in the world; we suffer evil done to ourselves; and we suffer through evil done by ourselves. We barely make the slightest progress to amend our wicked ways and often find ourselves becoming worse. We shout with St. Paul: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) We see our sins reflected in the wounds of Christ. These wounds reflect Our Savior’s undying love for us, but how often does our wickedness crush our souls such that we are tempted to say with St. Peter: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).
But, God does not want to leave us. When Peter first said that to Christ, Christ responded: “Fear not: from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” Then, after Peter could not keep his eyes open to comfort our Lord in His agony in the garden, after Peter denied Him three times, and after Peter avoided Him during His three hours of agony on the cross, Jesus Christ says to St. Peter and the rest of the disciples:
36 …”Peace be to you; it is I, fear not.”
37 But they being troubled and frightened, supposed that they saw a spirit.
38 And He said to them: “Why are you troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
39 “See my hands and feet, that it is I myself; handle and see: for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see me to have.” (Luke 24)
This is as if to Our Lord is saying: “Be at peace and don’t fear to come to me. I have really taken your nature upon myself and endured the agony of the cross to bind you to me forever. Look upon my wounds! Touch these wounds which I boast of because they redeemed you. I did not come to condemn you. I am not angry with you. Do not be slow to believe that God is Love. On that painful cross, mercy triumphed over justice so that I can show mercy to whoever comes to me.”
But, God’s mercy did not stop with forgiving us and saving us from eternal death. He raised humanity above the angels and promised us a glorified body like the one in which He rose on Easter Sunday. And by the indwelling of His grace, we can come to imitate His divine perfections and His most divine life. All the above is accomplished through God’s grace. The sole thing God asks from us is a good will, which He Himself grants and strengthens, to correspond with these graces.
And yet, we are sometimes more willing to suffer for our sins than receive mercy for them. When life turns difficult, we get the impression that God is punishing us for our sins–how do we know that we suffered X, Y, and Z because of our sins? Such thoughts only impress upon us the idea that God is a wrathful judge! Jesus Christ did not undergo the crucifixion so that He can be wrathful, but so that he can show mercy in super-abundance.
Hence, I should like to remind my Catholic readers that, besides our Easter duty to confess if we have committed a mortal sin in the past year and to receive Holy Communion at least once during Lent, we ought to gain a plenary indulgence on Divine Mercy Sunday (April 27). This is how Our Lord’s revelation to St. Faustina describes it:
Ask of my faithful servant [Father Sopocko] that, on this day, he will tell the world of My great mercy; that whoever approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete remission of sins and punishment.
Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to my mercy.
Oh, how much I am hurt by a soul’s distrust! Such a soul professes that I am Holy and Just, but does not believe that I am Mercy and does not trust in My Goodness. Even the devils glorify my Justice but do not believe in My Goodness. My heart rejoices in this title of Mercy. (Divine Mercy in My Soul, paragraph 300)
These are the instructions for the indulgence:
The plenary indulgence is granted (under the usual conditions of a sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and a prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on Divine Mercy Sunday, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, recite the Our Father and the Creed, and also adding a devout prayer (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!).
So, go to confession again on Saturday, April 26th, and follow the rest of the instructions. What do you have to lose? Don’t say to yourself: “It sounds like cheating. I deserve to be punished for my sins.” Such hardness of heart! Do you think that God prefers seeing you suffer for your sins over seeing you as clean as new fallen snow? That He rejoices in your pain? Of course not! Rather, He would much rather bring you straight into heaven without judgment! So, focus on God’s Mercy this Easter and celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy in all its fullness.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.)
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.
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.”
The Life and Revelations of St. Gertrude is a compilation written by St. Gertrude and certain nuns in her abbey about her mystical experiences. Most of them concern conversations with Jesus Christ, who greatly loved this soul. (God loves all of us with an infinite love, but few possess enough purity to have conversations with Our Lord in this life!) St. Gertrude (1256-1302) entered the Benedictine Abbey of Rodersdorf at the age of five years old! That’s one way to ensure that one avoids the dangers of the world! Her mystical experiences began when she turned twenty-six and continued until the end of her life.
What sets this set of revelations apart from other revelations given to mystics? I have read some of The Showings of St. Julian of Norwich, St. Faustina’s Diary (which will be the subject of a later review), and excerpts from St. Bridget (or Birgitta) of Sweden’s revelations. The difference has to lie in that Our Lord Jesus Christ appears most tender and compassionate in these revelations to St. Gertrude. Indeed, the subheading for this book reads: “A Classic from the Middle Ages Revealing the Love and Mercy of Jesus toward Souls.” Passages at the end of the work, even show Our Lord pressing it to His Sacred Heart so that it might be penetrated with His Divine Sweetness and that it profit whoever reads it devoutly. In terms of bringing consolation to the reader, only the Bible supersedes this work.
Of course, some doubt might be expressed by some about the veracity of these revelations, but two things argue in their favor: 1) the perfect humility of both St. Gertrude and the other writers who compiled this work and 2) the fact that nothing in it conflicts with the teaching of the Church. If these revelations were written for their own aggrandizement, their pride would be evident therein. Instead, Christ often has to instruct them because they lack understanding, and they often acknowledge their own unworthiness. Naturally, if these revelations resulted from the authors’ cleverness in crafting stories, we would find instances where they contradict the teaching of the Church. Pride always leads to error. For example, a woman in California claims that St. Joseph is the incarnation of the Holy Ghost and that she is the greatest thing to walk the earth since Jesus Christ. How sad that she has a following!
One of the greatest lessons we learn from St. Gertrude is the height of our pride and the great need we have of humbling herself. She does not express this directly for us. Rather, when we read about one whom Jesus speaks to intimately and about whom Jesus tells others that–after the Blessed Sacrament–His favorite place to dwell on earth is in her heart declare that she is not worthy of these graces and that she is nothing but dust and ashes, how vile must we be! Ah! One can never be properly humble in this life! Also, over what we would consider little acts of negligence or times when we must necessarily give in to human weakness, she heartily repents of and begs Christ’s pardon and grace so that she might not fall thus in the future. How ashamed of ourselves should we be when we console ourselves on certain occasions by saying, “Well, it was only a venial sin.” If we shall have to give an account for our negligence and every idle word, how deeply we should grieve over all sins–no matter how small!
This collection of revelations excels as a treasury of spiritual practices. For example, Jesus Christ advises St. Gertrude for one week of Lent to pray the Our Father thirty-three times in honor of each year of His life and to offer the merits of His most holy life for the salvation of men and His glory. It also provides a great devotional practice of saluting St. Mary by saying: “Hail, White Lily of the Blessed Trinity and Vermillion Rose of Heaven!” (The lily symbolizes her immaculate soul which sin never tainted, and the rose symbolizes that she is the Queen of the Martyrs.) St. Mary has promised to those who frequently greet her thus that they will see how she, the greatest intercessor among the saints, conquers through the Omnipotence of the Father, Wisdom of the Son, and Love of the Holy Spirit, which she approaches more closely than any other created being. This post would never end if I listed all the devotional practices contained herein.
Another important aspect of the work is how it reveals how intimately concerned the Church in Heaven is with the one on earth and how important are our prayers and good works for the souls in purgatory. It reveals how the saints aid those on earth, particularly by obtaining graces for the Church Militant through communions taken in honor of them on their feast days. It also relates how certain saints are honored by God after death by their ability to gain particular graces for those who invoke them, such as St. James the Great being able to obtain conversions for those who visit his tomb. God granted him this grace because of his zeal for souls and the fact that he died before seeing the conversion of people whom he instructed in the faith and for whom he prayed. St. Gertrude devoted herself to praying for the souls in Purgatory and offering Masses for them. So much so, that Christ would show her various souls to pray for, and they would be greatly helped by them. So, if you ever wondered what the “communion of saints” looks like, this is an excellent work.
Are there any reasons why someone would decline to read this work? Yes. I will list a few of them here. The vocabulary and grammar tend to be at a high level, and certain passages require taking some time to understand. I lent this work to one person, who returned it to me for those reasons. Also, having a smattering of Latin, particularly the kind of Latin you would run into at a Latin Mass, is helpful in reading this, because several short Latin phrases go untranslated. Naturally, Protestants will not care for passages about purgatory or the saints, which might indeed make them suspicious about the content of the rest of the work. But as long as one’s Protestantism is not too rigid (rigid as in believing the widespread practice of true Christianity ended sometime before 325 A.D. and began again in the 16th century), a Protestant can still obtain benefit from these revelations.
Yet, the accounts showing the tenderness and greatness of God’s love stand as the foremost reason to read this work. I might as well end this review with how Our Lord blessed the work: “I have placed this book thus upon My Heart, that every word therein may be penetrated with Divine sweetness, even as honey penetrates bread. Therefore, whoever reads this book devoutly will receive great profit for his salvation.”