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Dorothy Day on the Renewal of the Church: “It is the saints…who keep things going.”

However, Dorothy Day’s realistic attitude to the clergy isn’t the main insight of the quote at the beginning. I think this is: “It is the saints that keep appearing all through history who keep things going.” Many of them are priests and bishops.

Something as old, as big, as complex as the Catholic Church, and with its history, is going always to be compromised. Its leadership will disappoint and sometimes scandalize us. Sociology and theology both tell us that. What Day saw was something sociology doesn’t explain: all those eruptions of holiness and heroism that suggest something Big is behind it, something that keeps it from being its natural self.

“Of course the church is corrupt!” Day wrote in her diaries. “‘But this corruption must put on incorruption,’ St. Paul says, so I rejoice as I have in my short lifetime seen renewals going on, or read of them, and the excitement, the joy of this sense of renewal. … I read the lives of the saints, and knew that the renewal they brought — over and over, the St. Benedicts, St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Isaac Jogues, etc., etc., etc. — was not just a thing of the past but was going on, over and over.”

—from the article Dorothy Day, Bishops, and the Church by David Mills

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On Holy Communion

…we glimpse the mercy which led Our Lord to so entrust Himself to us and are moved to reflect on how we must be ready to receive Him and prepared in our own hearts “for so great and so holy a moment”. We may face the danger today of seeing the reception of Holy Communion in terms of secular inclusiveness. It would then become a token of our hospitality, rather than as the gift of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ which constitutes the most radical call to holiness and the means to becoming the saint we are each called to be.

At the end of his life, Saint John Vianney reflected, if only all his parishioners had accepted his call to frequent Holy Communion “they would all now be saints”. Holy Communion offers such an immediate path to holiness, to complete union with Christ Himself that He Himself told us: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him”.

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We see why we can never approach Holy Communion casually, still less if we have not confessed and repented of any mortal sin or of a lifestyle in contradiction with our Christian calling. The Apostle Paul urged the first Christians to examine themselves carefully before receiving Holy Communion because anyone who did so in an unworthy state would, he said, be “guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord”. The Church calls us to frequent Holy Communion, prepared by the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation so that we might become holy, might become saints.

—from the Bishop of Shrewsbury, Mark Davies’ Pastoral letter ‘On Holy Communion’

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The Difference Between Redundancy and Repetition in the Liturgy

“The importance of Christ-centered and shared repetition in our collaborative mission as the Church requires that we avoid the addition of words or gestures that are alien to the rites and liturgical texts provided us by the Church,” said Bishop Michael Olson of Ft. Worth, Texas.

“Even though such liturgical abuses might at first glance appear to begin as good willed efforts to avoid redundancy and tedium for a people with attention spans made numb by contemporary modes of communication, such efforts remain destructive because they take us away from the repetition that bears fruit in Catholic unity,” he continued.

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“Redundancy has to do with vicious circularity (doing the same thing again and again without making progress or accomplishing anything except narcissistic absorption);” he explained. “Repetition has to do with the spiral: there is always forward growth and momentum in a spiral even as it circles again and again over similar words, patterns, ideas, and themes.”

“The bitter fruits of redundancy are isolation, complacency, and entitlement; the sweet fruits of repetition are gratitude, humility, and joy,” Olson continued.

The practice of faithful repetition in the liturgy is crucial to the integrity of all Masses since it unifies the universal church, Olson said.

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“The essential difference in the life of the baptized Catholic between redundancy and repetition is the centrality of Jesus Christ, true God and true man,” he added.

Liturgical repetition, he said, is an antidote to the danger of redundancy.

The full article with commentary from Fr. Z can be found HERE.

 

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The Benedictine Vow of Stability as an Antidote to Liquid Modernity

According to [Senator Ben] Sasse, social science data show that a human being needs four basic things to be happy:

  • A theological or philosophical view that explains death and suffering
  • A family
  • Close friends
  • Meaningful work (Defined as work in which people think that they’re needed. “Not, ‘Do I make a lot of money?’ but ‘When I go to work, are there actually people in the world who need what I do?”)

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In the years to come, he said, we will see lots of confusion as fragmented, atomized people scramble to find a “new tribe.” The senator said that Christians will have to “figure out how to revalue place and the local at a time when place and the local is evaporating for most people.”

He ended by urging the philanthropist to “invest time and treasure” figuring out how to teach people to do this, and to make it possible.

Whether the senator realized it or not, he’s talking about sociologist Zygmunt Bauman’s concept of “liquid modernity,” in which nothing is solid. The world Sen. Sasse describes is Bauman’s world. In the Benedict Option chapter on the Monks of Norcia, I wrote about the Benedictine vow of “stability” as an antidote to liquid modernity:

Along those lines, a tree that is repeatedly uprooted and transplanted will be hard pressed to produce healthy fruit. So it is with people and their spiritual lives. Rootlessness is not a new problem. In the first chapter of the Rule, Saint Benedict denounced the kind of monk he called a “gyrovague.”

“They spend their whole lives tramping from province to province,” he wrote, adding that “they are always on the move, with no stability, they indulge their own wills”—and are even worse, the saint said, than the hedonistic monks whose only law is desire.

If you are going to put down spiritual roots, taught Benedict, you need to stay in one place long enough for them to go deep. The Rule requires monks to take a vow of “stability”—meaning that barring unusual circumstances, including being sent out as a missionary, the monk will remain for the rest of his life in the monastery where he took his vows.

“This is where the Benedictine life is probably the most countercultural,” said Father Benedict [of Norcia]. “It’s the life of Mary, not Martha: to stay put at the foot of Christ no matter what they say you’re not doing.”

The Bible shows us that God calls some people to pick up and move to achieve His purposes, Father Benedict acknowledged. “Still, in a culture like ours, where everyone is always on the move, the Benedictine calling to stay put no matter what can call forth new and important ways of serving God.”

—from the article Ben Sasse On The World To Come by Rod Dreher

Book quoted in this post:

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The Emptiness of Materialism, the Lives of the Saints, and Eternity

In the recent book, God or Nothing, Robert Cardinal Sarah makes a comment… “A Godless society, which considers any spiritual questions a dead letter, masks the emptiness of its materialism by killing time so as better to forget eternity.”

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…it’s worth considering something that Frank Sheed wrote in Theology for Beginners: “Infinity, omnipresence, eternity—these are rich and rewarding concepts, but we should not stay with them too long at a time without returning to the Gospels to meet the living God.”  In other words, the concept of eternity cannot be separated from the consideration of God’s love for us.  Eternity is not about time, nor the lack of it.  Eternity is about God, and about sharing in His love and in His happiness.

The saints knew this quite well.  In their earthly lives, the greatest saints had a deep concept of God, a deep relationship with Him, and a deep understanding and appreciation of what is meant by eternity.  And if there is one group of people in history who was unfearful about eternity, it is the saints.

—from the article Stephen Hawking, John Lennon and Atheism’s Fear of Eternity by John Clark

Books quoted from in this post:

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True Freedom vs. The Slavery of Sin

The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to ‘”the slavery of sin.”

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For I Have Loved You From the Start Or: In the Beginning Was the Song of Songs

—from Three Philosophies of Life by Peter Kreeft (pp. 102-103)

The first and most obvious thing Song of Songs says about love it says in its very title: that love is a song. Now this is an image or symbol, of course. Love is not literal, physical song, though it naturally expresses itself in that form. What is suggested by this image?

God is love, and music is the language of love; therefore, music is the language of God. Music is a language more profound than words. How often have you heard a great piece of music and felt that? Great music does not just make you feel good; great music suggests some profound truth or mysterious meaning that is objectively true but not translatable into words. Attempts to translate music’s meaning into words always fail. It is like trying to allegorize a symbol, trying to reduce to one literal, verbal meaning something that has many nonliteral, nonverbal meanings. Love fits this pattern: (1) it is not only subjective feeling but objective truth, (2) it is both mysterious and meaningful, and (3) its meaning is never reducible to words. The wooden trap of words can never capture the lobster of love, any more than a wooden “interpretation” of the meaning of a piece of music can capture the music itself.

I think music was the language in which God created the world. Both C.S. Lewis (in The Magician’s Nephew) and J.R.R. Tolkien (in The Silmarillion) tell this story, and it goes back to a very old tradition, probably older than Pythagoras and his “music of the spheres”. We moderns usually think of music as a later ornament added onto speech, but I suspect it is the opposite: speech is a later development from music. Song is not fancified poetry and poetry fancified prose; prose is ossified poetry and poetry ossified song. The reason I think this is because (1) “In the beginning, God”, (2) “God is love”, and (3) love is not a speech. We do not ever speak of “love speeches”, only of “love songs”.

Therefore, in the beginning was the Song of Songs. This book goes even further back than Genesis, into the eternal heart of the Trinity.

Song For You by Jenny and Tyler from the album Faint Not

Song For You lyrics:

My voice you didn’t know, didn’t know
I called you had to go, had to go
Back to your little world
Where nothing is strange

You set out on your own, on your own
You said, I’m heading home, heading home
Back to the life you know
Neatly arranged

I have done for you
Everything my love
Hear my song for you
I will not hold my tongue

It’s late, your getting cold, getting cold
You try to keep warm, but you’re alone, you’re alone
The dark streets are empty now
And the wind starts to blow

I have done for you
Everything my love
Hear My song for you
I will not hold my tongue
Open your heart, open your heart
For I have loved you from the start

I will never harm you, come my love
So come
So come

I have done for you
Everything my love
Hear My song for you
I will not hold my tongue
Open your heart, open your heart
For I have loved you
Open your heart, open your heart
For I have loved you from the start