On Pope Francis’s Apparent Reversal of Catholic Teaching

Pope Francis seems to want to reverse the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church on capital punishment.  I’m sure that plenty of my dear readers have heard about how he intends to change the current passage in the Catholic catechism.  It is important to discuss this change, because it has the chance to undermine all Catholic dogma.  If the Church was wrong about whether capital punishment is an intrinsic evil, can we ever trust the Church about anything?  Moreover, God Himself seems to strongly encourage capital punishments at certain times during the Old Testament.  Is Pope Francis then saying that God commands people to do moral wrongs or that God is completely arbitrary?  These are very troubling notions which really can completely undermine the authority of the Catholic Church.

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Elijah slays a Prophet of Baal

 

Before I comment on the new one, let’s take a look at the old passage:

2266 The State’s effort to contain the spread of behaviors injurious to human rights and the fundamental rules of civil coexistence corresponds to the requirement of watching over the common good.  Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime.  The primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused by the offense.  When his punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation.  Moreover, punishment, in addition to preserving public order and the safety of persons, has a medicinal scope: as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender.

2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.

If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, given the means at the State’s disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender ‘today … are very rare, if not practically non-existent.’

So, the old statement says that the State has the right to use capital punishment in defense of society.  At the same time, it offers the opinion that First World systems of penal correction are sophisticated enough to protect society from even very violent people; hence, there is no need for Canada, the United States, Europe, and certain other countries to have recourse to the death penalty.  There are many developing countries where the prison systems are not so perfect, so that line of argument does not fit there.

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The Low Down on Peter Kreeft’s Practical Theology

Having read through one hundred and twelve of the topics in Peter Kreeft’s Practical Theology: Spiritual Direction from St. Thomas Aquinas, an accurate enough opinion of it has formed in my mind.  The book–as anything written on St. Thomas’s theology–is quite dense, so I abandoned my hope of reading through its 366 pages in a month.  I cannot help but admire how Kreeft either draws passages from the Summa Theologica easily applicable to everyday life or shows the relevance of more esoteric theology to living a good life.  The prose and philosophy are both clear and direct, as may be expected from a Thomist.  Besides St. Thomas, Kreeft quotes a wide variety of other Christian thinkers on these topics, especially C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, and George MacDonald.  He also seems most at home with the ancient philosophers Plato and Aristotle.

Kreeft's Prac-Theo

Though, in regard to Plato, Kreeft often harps on a fallacy in Platonic philosophy: the idea that sin is only caused by ignorance.  Plato believed that if ignorance were removed from a human being completely, he would not sin.  We even see this idea a little in medieval philosophy when St. Bonaventure writes that Christ was like us in everything “except sin and ignorance” (See St. Bonaventure’s Tree of Life).  However, Kreeft remarks that people sin despite knowing that it will make them miserable.  Ignorance of goodness is not the only cause of sin.  As Kreeft points out, we are all a little insane in cleaving to those things which cause us misery.  Eliminating ignorance by doing things like reading philosophy and theology only goes so far: we need grace and the practice of virtue.

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Off on Pilgrimage

My first day of vacation starts tomorrow.  I put pilgrimage in the title because Montreal includes part of this vacation, and I cannot imagine that we shall visit that fascinating city without stopping by St. Joseph’s Oratory.  This oratory was made famous by the miracles produced there and its association with St. Andre Bessette, who might have called himself St. Joseph’s doorkeeper.  He was famous for thousands of miraculous cures, which he attributed to the intercession of St. Joseph.

Since it is late, and I do not want to spend too much time writing (I wake at 3 AM on the morrow–four hours from now!), I decided to briefly list some highlights of my anime hobby and spiritual life.  I hope you find some of them interesting.

  • Watched Girls und Panzer: This is the Real Anzio Battle.  I greatly enjoyed it.  It felt like a longer TV episode but still had a great tank battle.  The following is my favorite quote from the OVA:
Only in a perfect world!

Only in a perfect world!

  • Akame ga Kiru stands as a faithful adaptation of the manga.  Things will really pick up once Esdese appears.  (I prefer the fan naming system and will stubbornly stick to that until the official naming system becomes more universal.)  The great thing about Akame ga Kiru is that it essentially turns shonen on its head: we have the same kinds of happy-go-lucky and quirky characters, but they’re thrown into a really corrupt, dark, and bloody world.  This is why so many people like myself enjoy the show.
  • The first three episodes of Aldnoah.Zero really took the cake in terms of the setting and action.  I hope that the quality of the characters catches up soon.
  • I’m somehow still finding the motivation to fit in an episode of El Cazador de la Bruja here and there.  It’s a rather mediocre show, but the characters are enjoyable enough that I find myself continually drawn back to it.  It will probably take me as much time as I took for Bodacious Space Pirates for me to complete.
  • Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is one of the best comedies this season.  The oddball characters are splendidly amusing to watch, and I like the fact that the hero is a shoujo manga artist, which makes many of the episodes’ plots revolve around him finding material for his comics.

No law Breaking

  • Gintama is one of those shows which I can put down for a while and then pick up again.  The quest to capture the aliens who were running amok turning people’s bodies and body parts into screwdrivers didn’t grab me, but the arch where Shinpachi gains a pen pal was more hilarious.  This show goes everywhere from toilet humor to maudlin to boring to hilarious to epic.  One just needs to wait for the best stories.
  • Many bloggers loved the first season of Hamatora, and I’m enjoying the show thus far.  Episode four, where the desire to own a gun was portrayed as rooted to evil desires, irked me to no end.  Cannot people get that some people love tools?  Especially men?  Guns are tools and a lot of fun to shoot.  People enjoy shooting at paper targets, cans, bottles, abandoned houses, cardboard boxes, etc.  Wishing to have a gun by itself in no way means a person is inclined to violence.  Just watch this video if you don’t believe me.
  • For some reason, I’m really enjoying Hanamayata.  I suppose my identification with Hana (she’s also from NJ) goes a long way, but somehow I find this slice of life comedy still a lot of fun.  I have a an article in the works for it.
  • Did you know that Mushibugyo has an anime adaptation?  I didn’t, and this decently animated adaptation is a lot of fun to watch.  Perfect for a lover of samurai shows.

Jinbee strikes

  • I’ve kind of stalled Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water.  At this point, Nadia, Jean, and Marie have met back up with Senora Grandis and company, which means the action should improve.  Man, the Island arc was exhausting!
  • I don’t exactly know how, but a friend of mine finagled me into watching Nisemonogatari.  I couldn’t even finish episode one of Nisemonogatari the first time around, despite being a fan of Bakemonogatari.  But, I find myself at episode four and wanting to know more.  (By the way, Nisemonogatari essentially decided to put Holo in its story via Shinobu.)
  • Many bloggers like despising Rail Wars!  But, I’m enjoying how the characters deal with the obstacles each episode.  It reminds me a lot of You’re Under Arrest, and even if it doesn’t hold a candle to season one of You’re Under Arrest, it’s certainly better than season two thus far.
Aoi losing her gun has to count as one of the saddest moments in the show thus far.

Aoi losing her gun has to count as one of the saddest moments in the show thus far.

  • Sabagebu! stands as one of my favorite shows this season.  This is pure comedy gold.  The action can get rather nuts; but if you liked Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu, Azumanga Daioh, Excel Saga, or Pani Poni Dash, I can practically guarantee you’ll love this show.
  • Concerning ARGEVOLLEN, the show is nothing special, but I’m enjoying it, and there always exists the chance that it will get better.  Basically, if I drop anything this season, it will be this show.
  • Tokyo ESP‘s not bad.  It’s doing everything well so far, and it feels a little similar to Samurai Flamenco‘s first half so far in that we have ordinary people who suddenly conceive that they have a duty to repress the darker elements of society.  However, it still has a long way to go in order to surpass Ga-Rei Zero, in which series’ world Tokyo ESP exists.  And I love how Leonidas has a cameo role. xD

Tokyo_ESP_Manga_01

  • Somehow, I haven’t been able to get into Zankyou no Terror.  I loved how they referenced the Sphinx and the fact that there are two riddles according to mythology.  (Actually, I’m pretty sure “What walks on two legs, then four, then three?” was an invention of later writers.  Classical authors loved to mess around with mythology and add their own improvements on the canonical version.)  Yet, somehow, the story doesn’t grab me.  Like Sky Crawlers, it’s probably too intellectual for my tastes.

That sums it up for my anime watching.  I still owe you guys some manga reviews, so expect that around St. Edith Stein’s feastday (Aug. 9th).  Speaking of saints, I find St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea a constant source of inspiration.  There are almost four hundred pages of commentary on Matthew before I can move to the Gospel of Mark, but St. Thomas Aquinas’ ability to draw so many relevant Church Fathers on each passage of Scripture is nothing short of amazing.  Also, I’m reading George MacDonald’s The Seaside Parish.  George MacDonald is a genius of the spiritual life and every page contains something quotable.  Why don’t people read him anymore!!?  I’ll be right alongside C. S. Lewis in thanking George MacDonald for his works when I get to paradise.

Until August 9th, you’ll be seeing no more articles unless I am so lucky as to find a wi-fi hotspot.  But, I should be able to respond to commentary.

Valkyria’s Limited Experience of Goodness & Invicible Ignorance

St. Thomas Aquinas’ fourth proof for the existence of God has always struck me as his weakest.  The fourth way of the Quinque Via states that we see various degrees of perfection in created beings.  These perfections must have a highest exemplar from which they gain all their perfections, and this highest exemplar with every perfection must be God.  However, the argument already assumes the existence of God: because we know that God is the greatest thing which can be thought, he must also be the highest exemplar of every perfection we find in creatures.  But, one cannot reason for the existence of God from such an argument.  You’re free to dispute this point if you like.

It's hard to tell who was the greater genius, St. Thomas Aquinas or Aristotle.

To use an example from Gokukoku no Brynhildr, Valkyria cannot reason from the beauty of the sunset, the tender kindness of Kuroneko, or the courageous rescue by Chisato to the infinitely beautiful, infinitely loving, and saving God.  Part of the reason Valkyria cannot reason thus lies in her being trapped in a world of evil: Vingulf’s laboratory which experiments on and tortures human beings until they expire or displease their superiors.  The belief that human beings hold intrinsic value stands as a moot point.  Chisato even frankly admits that all lives are not equal.

Valkyria intro

This causes a big problem for Valkyria.  Valkyria’s experience of goodness seems limited to Chisato and Kuroneko for the most part.  She loves Kuroneko because Kuroneko’s almost an exact clone of her, and she looks at Chisato as her god.  Instead of a God who calls every creature good and created human beings as the very image of himself, Valkyria believes in Chisato, who sees everyone and everything as either useless or potentially useless–except for his dead sister anyway.  Valkyria believes Chisato can do no wrong and follows him blindly.

A happy Valkyria

Her obedience even extends to killing Kuroneko, her other self.  She does attempt several times to dissuade Chisato from demanding Kuroneko’s death; but, when push comes to shove, she’s willing even to kill her twin for Chisato’s sake.  Thus, her limited perception of the good constricts to a solitary and morally corrupt individual.  Though, Kuroneko escapes death, Kuroneko might as well be an infidel with a fatwa on her head at that point.

Kuroneko vs Valkyria

However, a pivotal moment occurs when Chisato dies while saving Valkyria one more time.  (The spark of divine goodness reignited in him at the end.)  Valkyria decides to annihilate the entire city and everyone in it at that point.  In her mind, the present situation is none other than Nietzsche’s proclamation on the theological state of the world–though with a slight twist: “God is dead…And you have killed him!”  Valkyria believes that Chisato was the sole good in her life.  Without him, she wants to destroy the entire worthless world.  Fortunately, Kuroneko defeats her, which leads to one of the most perplexing scenes in the manga.

Destroy the World

Upon her death, Valkyria sees Chisato one more time and pronounces his name before disappearing.   Are we to understand this as Valkyria’s salvation at the end?  (Elfen Lied, Okamoto’s prior manga, is patently Christian, and the same ethos is present in Gokukoku no Brynhildr, though more hidden.)  One wonders if it is really Chisato she sees–having been granted salvation though doing the greatest good one friend can do for another–or is it in fact Jesus Christ?  When we think of the genus savior, Jesus Christ stands at the pinnacle.  But, the only example of salvation Valkyria knew was of Chisato; hence, at the brink of eternal damnation, she could only recognize the Savior, who desires to rescue all souls from eternal death, as Chisato.  In light of the ultimate Goodness, the last movement of her soul is toward repentance for her evils–which must appear truly detestable in the full light of God–and toward love of God.  Thus, she is saved.

Salvation perhaps

Would this movement of soul would be enough for salvation?  Love of the good which God placed in Chisato and which Valkyria could only recognize as Chisato?  As a Catholic, even if this were enough, I cannot but believe that her crimes would keep Valkyria in purgatory until the end of the world.  Though, the abyss of ignorance Valkyria has concerning God and goodness might indeed be invincible enough for Valkyria to escape the full penalty for her crimes.  May we all be so excused from our sins!

Medieval Otaku Takes a Holiday

Well, dear readers, as you can see from the title, I have decided to place this blog on hiatus until the 151st anniversary of the start of the Battle of Gettysburg.  (To write more succinctly, July 1, 2014)  My posts feel belabored of late.  This means I need to perfect my hurricane before I can serve some refreshing articles to you.  After all, my best articles require me to make connections between anime, literature, and religion.  This leads me to the conclusion that I must use my leisure to study these things more; but, I want to leave you all with a final ramble.

Medieval Feast

While reading St. Thomas Aquinas’ On Prayer and the Contemplative Life, I discovered the three etymologies he offered for religion.  He draws the first from Cicero, who gives relegere, “to read again,” as the basis for the word religion, since the religious man reads things pertaining to worship repeatedly.  The next two come from the hand of St. Augustine, who claims that religion either derives from religere, “to choose again,” orthe most famous derivation–religandum, “binding again.”  The religious man chooses again those things which he has lost by his negligence–prayer, charity, virtue, holiness, etc.–and binds himself once more to the divine.  The three words above recall that religion is about perseverance.  If someone could be virtuous and follow all the precepts of the Church without effort, would we call them religious?  Maybe, but the man who falls and continues to turn back to Christ and metanoiein–to have a change of heart–every day strikes me as more religious.  Even Our Lord and Lady struggled in the maintenance of their spotless characters.

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People mess up, but God is always ready for our repentance–yet another important religious concept beginning with the prefix re-.  Let us use the month of June, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, to once again study His life, choose again the virtue, wisdom, knowledge, and grace contained therein, and bind ourselves yet again to the Fire of Divine Love emanating from this Heart.  We have already celebrated the feasts of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday.  Let us now prepare ourselves to remember Corpus Christi (June 22) and the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24).  Then, this month will end with the feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (June 27), Immaculate Heart of Mary (June 28), and Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29).  Let us remember the two hearts which love us best and the Church through which the fruits of Christ’s Sacred Passion purify and make fervent the hearts of believers daily.

WolfwoodVash

Besides my wish to study more some literature and religion, I hope to do away with my need for watching anime with subtitles by the end of the month.  In my last experiment, I found Manga-san to Assistant-san to easy to understand, Nisemonogatari ranging from average to impossible, and, at the beginning of Soredemo Sekai ga Utsukushii episode 9, I just caught the word tabi, “journey,” and realized that it was too hard.  May that give you an idea of my present listening skills!  To the end of improving them, I’ll study my kanji learner’s dictionary and read Busou Renkin and Slayers.  (I read only the finest literature, you see. 🙂 )  If I want to add something hard, Kinoko Nasu’s Kara no Kyoukai or Natsume Soseki’s Within My Glass Doors will find their way on my reading list.

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You’ll still see me posting about literature and poetry on Aquila et Infans or American history and politics on Aquilon’s Eyrie.  Hopefully, these efforts will generate more interesting things to read by July 1st.  Should some kind individual claim that my articles are still interesting, I must also confess to wanting a break from this blog–even if just for about a fortnight.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus bless and keep you all!

Lynn Okamoto and Reversing a Trend

Since the early twentieth century, Eastern ideals have flowed into the West as Western technology has flowed into the East.  And so, we have authors like Herman Hesse and Rainer Maria Rilke whose works bear a decidedly Eastern influence.  In particular, the 60’s and 70’s saw an increased interest in Eastern religions, especially Hindu, Zen Buddhism, and Taoism–my personal favorite.  People jaded with the rampant materialism in the West highly regard these traditions.  As for Christianity, that bedrock of Western civilization, it has come to be looked at as the cult of the unsophisticated.  Some people are so convinced of Christianity’s provincialism that they are blind to the spiritual richness of the Church: the writings of the Church Fathers, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Bonaventure (I especially recommend him to curious Buddhists), St. Thomas Aquinas, and so many others.

Gokukoku no Brynhildr 1

The attitude that the Christian faith lacks relevance and that Western culture is vapid makes Lynn Okamoto stand out among mangaka.  The title of his first major work, Elfen Lied, derives from a poem by Eduard Mörike, a Lutheran pastor and writer of the 19th century German Romantic movement.  And Okamoto’s works are imbued with themes found in traditional Western culture, e.g. original sin, free will, spiritual warfare, salvation by grace, and distrust of the government.  Might I also add that themes of alienation, initiated by Karl Marx and expanded on by writers like Camus and Kafka, are boldly painted in both Elfen Lied and Gokukoku no Brynhildr.

Nana Kowai Me

Someone has obviously just threatened Papa’s life a moment ago. The only thing which can make Nana go berserk!

So, I just wished to mention one Japanese author whom I think is very much in tune with Western values and culture.  This is interesting because of that trend I noted before of many–perhaps the majority–of Westerners believing that the East has more to offer to men’s hearts and souls.  Have you noticed any other Japanese mangaka, novelists, or even screenwriters who display a similar interest in the West?  Especially in showing that they think Christianity contains enough vitality to be relevant to modern man?

The Catena Aurea and the Importance of Authority in Biblical Interpretation

Having read five chapters of commentary on the Gospel of Matthew,  I would like to recommend St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea to my dear readers.  This work was perhaps the best present I received around Christmas, especially since Scripture somehow seems less enlightening of late.  (The fault lies with my own pride.)  The Catena Aurea parses passages of the Gospels with passages from the Church Fathers on the Gospels and doctrine.  The doctors St. Thomas Aquinas draws from most frequently are St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, St. Hilary of Poitiers, St. Remigius, and St. Leo the Great–my Confirmation patron.

776px-KellsFol027v4Evang

I mentioned that my perusing of Scripture has not been as penetrating as formerly, which reminds me of how the Bible has been called God’s “Closed Book” while nature is God’s “Open Book.”  This derives from the fact that the meaning of the Scriptures must be revealed by the Holy Spirit.  One might believe that they can gain a literal understanding of the Scriptures without the Holy Spirit; but how often does one hear things like “I stopped believing when I saw that Scripture passages contradicted themselves” or that someone takes a literalistic view of scriptures and does something that Scripture did not intend–such as when Origen castrated himself so that he might enter the kingdom maimed rather than tossed whole into everlasting flames.  The best thing that a Christian can do in order to perceive the true meaning of the Scriptures is to follow the pronouncements of established authority.

niceea-arie-invins

The Christian faith, unlike philosophy, relies on authority.  The great difficulty of Protestantism is that it acknowledges an authoritative work–the Bible, but has no authoritative interpreters.  Once when I boasted to a Lutheran friend of mine that I should have no trouble passing myself off as a Lutheran by merely agreeing with Luther, he countered that I would be discovered right away: a good Lutheran holds points of contention with the founder, and my friend thought the very name “Lutheran” actually misleading.  But, even among Protestants, there are recognized authorities, even if they might be cast off should they conflict with one’s personal interpretation.

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Never thought you’d see a picture of Martin Luther on this site, did you?

Catholics have it easy: the Church councils, the pope speaking ex cathedra, and the bishops acting in concert and in communion with the Pope have infallible interpretative authority.  They are guided by the Holy Spirit in such a way that they cannot err.  In order of authority, the Doctors of the Church come after this.  These men strove to uphold the truth of Christian doctrine and remain loyal to the Church.  By adhering to authority, they tended to be on the side of the right, though they were occasionally wrong when the Church had not clarified doctrine completely or needed to confess ignorance on certain questions.  Most famously, St. Augustine was unsure whether original sin was placed on newly created souls by God, passed on by the souls of the parents, or derived from the taint of lust during conception.  Now, we know that the first view is correct, but this remained an unsettled question during the time of St. Augustine.  Next in authority come other saints, clergy, theologians, religious teachers, and lastly us ordinary lay people.

carlo-braccesco-four-doctors-of-the-church

That’s right.  If you’re reading this, you’re probably with me on the bottom of the totem pole as the least reliable interpreters of Scripture and doctrine.  For example, I imprecisely held that baptism removed original sin from the soul.  Rather, it removes original guilt from the soul, i.e. we still suffer from the effects of original sin (concupiscence), but are no longer denied entrance into heaven.  Of course, I knew that concupiscence existed, but I thought that this derived from the fact that we have physical bodies in an imperfect state.  Live and learn!  Unless we subscribe to an authority, especially the most perfect authority of the Church, we ought to always keep in mind that our understanding of Scripture and doctrine might be incorrect.  Humility is God’s favorite virtue, and we should quickly become proud should we believe in our own infallibility.

San Francesco

People joke that Catholics do not read the Bible, but Catholics do read works written by people adept at Scripture and have a pastor interpret the readings of the Mass every Sunday.  This priest himself relies on the Office of Readings, other theological works, and a period of education and training typically lasting from 6 to 12 years.  (Priests called “lifers” go to high school seminary, college seminary, and then theological seminary.)  Even more than Newton, Christian teachers must stand on the shoulders of giants, especially the colossal figures of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Angelico_PeterMartyrSM

Then again, there is a second kind of authority important for the ordinary Christian: the lives of the saints and servants of God.  By looking at how they applied Scripture and doctrine to their lives, we can apply the precepts of Scripture more accurately to our own.  The Golden Legends stands as my favorite collection of saints’ lives, but Butler’s Lives of the Saints probably has a wider following and contains fewer passages requiring one to take a grain of salt.  For more modern examples, the lives of Padre Pio, Mother Theresa, St. Guiseppe Moscati, and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati are remarkably edifying.

Feeling the weight of my own ignorance upon me, I shall probably decline from writing spiritual articles for a while.  However, I shall work on expanding my understanding through the clear vision of the Fathers and might write an article with stuff I steal borrow from them.  My the Holy Spirit enlighten the minds of us all!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  Natale Christi Hilare!  Καλα Χριστουγεννα!  Joyeux Noël!  And since this is an anime blog, I cannot forget:

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inuyasha_kagome_holiday-CopyMy father gave me a beautiful Pelikan Fountain Pen this year.  I almost broke the thing before I figured out its unusual design: it does not take cartridges, but uses the end of the pen as an extractor.  Attached to it was some blood red ink, fittingly named after the bloodiest day of the Civil War–Antietam.  I also received a brilliant translation of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Catena Aurea (The Golden Chain), in which he compiled the Church Father’s commentaries on the Gospels.  A beautiful work!  I might also mention the other nice gifts I received, but they are a little less relevant to the blog.

Divine Mercy Vilnius

But, Christmas is more than gifts; though, one might say that God bestowed on us the ultimate gift at Christmas: Himself.  Joy attaches itself into the season, which I found difficult to enter into both this year and last year.  (I think that article marks me as a stick in the mud, but oh well.)   My Christmas felt more red than green, you might say.  This year, I found it easier to get in the spirit of the holiday.  (I hope the introduction of this article makes that clear!)  But, I confess that I rather needed to work myself up for it: cheerfulness is a virtue rather than something which comes naturally.

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Anyway, the life of a believer hardly counts as all rainbows and sunshine.  One must often find joy in carrying the cross, by which we are drawn closer to Christ Jesus.  One might even need to find joy while the horrifying idea that God has abandoned one crushes the soul.

Yet, we must keep in mind that God died for us.  He loved us first and chose us to be in paradise with Him forever.  We did not first choose Him, but He chose us knowing beforehand all our flaws and sins.  And He came down to earth and accepted not only of the ordinary sufferings of human life but also unfathomable suffering and isolation to redeem us.  He suffered all this to free us from slavery to sin so that we might become His friends for all eternity.  This desire of God stands unchangeable as God Himself.  Thinking about God’s Eternal Love cannot but make one cheer: “Merry Christmas!”

The most beautiful picture of the Nativity I ever found. and it hangs over my bed!

The most beautiful picture of the Nativity I ever found. and it hangs over my bed!