Author Archives: patrickfigo

Consolation

popeb16Bernard of Clairvaux coined the marvellous expression: Impassibilis est Deus, sed non incompassibilis—God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with. Man is worth so much to God that he himself became man in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way—in flesh and blood—as is revealed to us in the account of Jesus’s Passion.

Hence in all human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence con-solatio is present in all suffering, the consolation of God’s compassionate love—and so the star of hope rises.

— Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, para. 39.

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Success?

People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.

Thomas Merton

Unpacking the Rhineland Mystics

Stairs

Books on spirituality and “self help” line the shelves of bookstores, stories on the same topics call at people from the magazine racks.  The millions of readers of these books and articles seem to end up fluttering from one theory, one cure, even one culture, to the next like moths off to the next bright light.   Many seem to get some peace of mind from the busyness of the chase but, given all the activity, the background anxiety must never go away.  Perhaps because they are looking in all the wrong places.

Much of this, of course, is that recent generations have been trained to have almost no attention span, but another important component is the simple fact that spirituality without religion is an empty vessel.  It is a bright, festively wrapped box with a large bow and nothing inside.

So they flutter on.

Deep down, though, the whole culture sometimes seems to be begging for connection to its soul, a way to understand its spiritual side.  It wants meaning from its own culture, a connection to its own past.  The modern culture teaches, through scientism, to disconnect from prior beliefs, and through modernism, to aspire to a future which promises the most glittering, colorful and exciting line of empty boxes, stretching toward the horizon as far as the eye can see.

Meanwhile, the Church, with over two millenia of experience of providing meaning, is trying in frustration to evangelize that culture. Despite the questions of one side, and the rich history of answers on the other, the chasm between the culture and the Church seems to be ever widening, and altogether perplexing.

At this moment there is hope that a new pope will be able to bring these sides together. He seems to have a connection to the people, a charisma, an ability to inspire.  But has the culture given him its attention because he is the next big thing, and already hinted that they will flutter away from when the next bright light appears?

If this Pope does not bring the precise style of change that people’s personal politics desire, then they will certainly press on to the next sensation that appears in the spotlight, as if they are not running all the while from themselves.

But within the great traditions of this very culture are the truths that can nourish and sustain.  The frenzied desperation of believing in self alone offers no peace, and each individual, should they consider it, knows this in their heart.  While they keep following from one bright light to the next, they all, deep in their souls, want to stop the chase, embrace peace and stay in the light.

But how?

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Assumptions

Let me see if I can follow.

Everything we can see was created in a Big Bang explosion with no cause of its own.  The resulting universe operates under intelligible laws we can determine over time, which came from nowhere.  Our species evolved from animals with no first moment of creation.  We ourselves are born randomly and without purpose despite every ounce of our being telling us that we are more than that.  We live in a lively and beautiful world, filled with wonders, but are meant to consider ourselves separate and, in the end, alone.  We feel a thousand things a day—love, community, admiration, sadness, joy–but none are measurable so they are not important.  Despite every civilization from the dawn of time trying to pursue truth, there is no such thing because we can’t prove it in a lab or classroom.  And, to be modern and enlightened, we must believe in precisely nothing.

Alternatively, we could turn to our great traditions and live in faith.  We could step back from the assumptions the world forces upon us and take a look at the bigger picture for ourselves.  We could bow to science in respect and thanks without ageeing that it is the only path to truth. It is difficult to say which of the two views is more enlightened, but it is quite clear which makes more sense.

Things Lost?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
 

— T.S. Eliot
Who?

A Few Words From St. Augustine

For Your Word, the Eternal Truth, pre-eminent above the higher parts of Your creation, raises up those who are subject to it; but in this lower world, our humble habitation of clay, He came intending to . . . bring us over unto Himself, allaying our swelling, and fostering our love; such that we might go no further in self-confidence, but rather should become weak, seeing before our feet the Divinity, itself weak by taking on our coat of skin, and wearied, we might cast ourselves down upon it, and the Word rising, might then lift us up.

 

— St. Augustine of Hippo

 

Confessions, Augustine, 398 A.D.

See Book 7, Chapter 18 at New Advent.

 

Unraveling Saint Buddha

Cross of St. Thomas the Apostle.

Cross of St. Thomas the Apostle

History and tradition are filled with twists and turns, highs and lows, glories and embarrassments.   Sometimes, though, sorting through it all is the path to truth.

When the apostles were sent into the world to convert it, many went beyond the boundaries of the Roman Empire. See generally, The Founding of Christendom, by Carroll. One of these was St. Thomas, who famously had to touch Jesus’ wounds to declare him “My Lord My God” thus fully realizing who He was. See John 20:28.

Thomas went to India. See here. While he was not successful in converting India to Christianity, there is evidence that he went, and evidence of ancient Christian areas in India. He is said to have come to Taxila in Western Punjab (currently in Pakistan) and evangelized. His efforts to convert the region may have been largely wiped out in later years by Kushan attacks, perhaps around 120 A.D.. See Carroll.

Still, stories persist through history of Christianity in India, a Christianity spread by Thomas, in the centuries after Christ. Indeed, there have even been stories of saints.

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St. Matthew

St. Matthew

St. Matthew

It was traditional in illuminated manuscripts of the Bible to draw a picture of the author of each of the Gospels.  This depiction of St. Matthew was created around 830 A.D. probably in Reims, France.

Other, more realistic, images were certainly being painted at that time, but here the unknown artist chose to infuse his depiction of St. Matthew the Evangelist with unmistakable energy.

Not only can you feel the emotion as he writes, but the scenery behind him, to me at least, seems to be being pulled down and into what he’s writing.  As if to say, this is real, and all of creation is a part of it.

While little can be said of the artist and his great work, St. Matthew can be learned of from online sources such as WikipediaAbout.com and of course, he is ever present in his work, the Gospel of Matthew.

Defined Terms: Humility

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
 
— Jesus Christ, Matthew 14:11.
 
 
What the world needs is more geniuses with humility–there are so few of us left.
 
— Oscar Levant
 
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The Ancient

Modern formulations are necessary even in defense of very ancient truths.

 

— William F. Buckley
Who?

Heresy

I did try to found a little heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.

 

— G.K. Chesterton
Who?

Wisdom

Wisdom is the view from the hilltop.
 
— St. Thomas Aquinas
 

Who?
 

Terms Defined: Worry


Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.

— Jesus Christ, Matthew 6:34
 


I have known a great many worries, but most of them have never happened.

— Mark Twain
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Science

[T]rue science discovers God in an ever-increasing degree—as though God were waiting behind every door opened by science.
 
— Pope Pius XII
Who? When?