History, Saints

The Murder of Saint Thomas Becket

Saint Thomas Becket QuoteThe Murder of Saint Thomas Becket (emphasis added)


“No more certain is the state of Thomas’s mind. The memorialists believed unanimously, although with varied insistence and consistency, that he was prepared, even anxious, for martyrdom. In such a case he should not flee from city to city, but given an example to his flock. He wished to follow the royal road, that trodden by his Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles. However that may be, he was undoubtedly not prepared either to go tamely into captivity or be pushed around and arrested by soldiers who were of only middling baronial rank. Henry himself had, more realistically, entrusted the task to earl, William de Mandeville. It was sacrilege to touch God’s anointed; and there was Thomas’s pride and dignity. This being so, only the utmost restraint on the part of the barons could spare him from injury or death. And that patience and forbearance were not forthcoming – in the circumstances were out of the question.

Yet it does not seem that their original intention, as they are supposed to have confessed later, was to capture Thomas and use greater force only if he resisted arrest, and that their immediate aim was merely to remove him from the Church. According to Edward Grim, and he should have known, the barons, when they caught up with the archbishop, demanded once more that he abrogate his sentences on the prelates, and, when he refused on the grounds that they had given no satisfaction, threated him with death. Thomas replied that he himself was willing to die, but forbade them to harm any of his men, whether clerks or laymen. They then tried to arrest him. Benedict and fitzStephen believed that one of the assailants, identified by Guernes as Reginald fitzUrse, shouted, ‘Run away: you are a dead man!’ And, when Thomas refused, menaced him with his sword and, with the point, dislodged his cap from his head. Then one of them, this time almost certainly Reginald, grabbed him by the border of his cloak with the help of others, pushing and tugging, tried to hoist him on to William de Tracy’s back. Thomas was outraged. Not only did he lash Reginald with bitter charges of ingratitude and shameful conduct, he even called him, according to Grim, a pimp (leno). He also resisted physically, shaking him off so fiercely that Reginald almost fell to the ground. With Edward Grim holy on tightly, Thomas could not be moved. Herbert of Bosham rhapsodizes over this feat of strength. Thomas was a second Samson, Paul, Jesus Christ in the temple, boy David!

In Grim’s view the barons wanted to get the archbishop out of the church either to kill him in a less sacred place or to carry him off as a prisoner. But the plan failed. Thomas’s resistance and the increasing number of onlookers, including townsfolk coming to evensong, made his rescue possible. The situation had got out of hand. While Hugh de Morville kept the watchers at a distance, the others struck in turn. When Thomas realized that he was close to death, he adopted a submissive pose, his head bent forward, his arms stretched out and his hands joined as in prayer. ‘I commend myself to God, the Blessed Mary, St. Denis and the patron saints of this Church,’ he said. Perhaps he also named St. Aelfheah, the martyred archbishop.

Grim believed that it was the baron whom Thomas had addressed as Reginald who struck the first blow. And he was most likely right. FitzUrse had been the leader all along, had clashed physically with the archbishop and had been called foul names. Grim thrust out his arm to ward off the blow. But the swung sword sliced off the top of the archbishop’s head. And cut through the clerk’s arm to the bone. Later that night at Saltwood William de Tracy is supposed to have claimed that he had cut off John of Salisbury’s arm. If he did say this, it would seem that he was doubly deceived. In the heat of the affray the baron’s could see no more than the onlookers. He was, however, probably the one who felled the archbishop to the ground, either, as fitzStephen and Benedict thought, at his first attempt, or, as Grim, followed by Guernes and Anonymous I, believed, with his second blow. Thomas subsided to his knees and then his hands, and finished flat on his face, with his head to the north and the altar of St. Benedict to his right. Grim alone reports that, as he collapsed, he murmured, ‘For the name of Jesus and the protection of the church I am ready to embrace death.’ While he lay there, a third knight, identified by fitzStephen and Guernes as Richard le Bret, delivered the coup de grace. He struck the archbishop such a fierce blow to the head that he completed the severance of the crown and also broke his sword in two on the pavement. As he struck, he shouted, ‘Take this for love of my lord William, the king’s brother!’ Finally, the subdeacon, Hugh of Horsea, put his foot on the victim’s neck, thrust the point of his sword into the open skull and scattered blood and brains on the floor. ‘Let’s be off, knights,’ he cried. ‘This fellow won’t get up again!’ Some of the biographers note, and it was a disturbing feature, that the only one who tried to help and protect the victim was a complete stranger to them all.”

– Frank Barlow, Thomas Becket – 


 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Saints, Theology

Silence & Sainthood

“At the heart of man there is an innate silence, for God abides in the innermost part of every person. God is silence, and this divine silence dwells in man. In God we are inseparably bound up with silence. The Church can affirm that mankind is the daughter of a silent God; for men are the sons of silence.”

– Cardinal Robert Sarah, The Power of Silence


While reading through Cardinal Robert Sarah’s book, The Power of Silence, I am pushed to ask myself how it is that men in the world might achieve moments of silence with God. When surrounded by calamity, how can those of us living in the midst of unending spiritual attack achieve an inner calmness that patiently waits for the silence from which Benedictine Monk Reading Sacred ScriptureGod works?

Not all are called to be monks secluded from the world in pursuit of mystical ecstasies few ever reach; and yet, we are all called to be Holy in an unholy world. Indeed, all of us are called to be Saints. I cannot accept the idea that we are all called by God to know and love Him through Jesus Christ while only some are meant to do so in a saintly manner. This would mean that mediocrity in pursuit of God is a normative way of life for many in the Church.

To be sure, there are gradations of sainthood within each individual calling.

There is only one Saint Benedict.

There is only one Saint Francis of Assisi.

There is only one Saint Dominic.

There is only one Saint Bonaventure.

There is only one Saint Thomas Aquinas.

There is only one Saint Robert Bellarmine.

There is only one Saint Francis de Sales.

There is only one Little Flower, Saint Therese of Lisieux.

There is only one Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

We are not meant to be another Saint fill-in-the-blank. We are called to be the first and last saint as we are created to be in union with God through Jesus Christ.

My brother, my sister – you are called to know, love, and serve God as a saint.

Holiness must be achieved in the stillness of the inner life while surrounded by the spiritual toxins of a fallen world.

It can be achieved, however, because we have the litany of the saints proving it can be done.

What will this take? How can we remain at peace in our heart and mind while surrounded by the chaos of a culture intentionally created to squander holiness to the distractions of materiality?

The answer is simple, but the path is not easy.

We can achieve union with Christ in a saintly way through the discipline of the narrow way that Christ taught, and the saints relentlessly pursued.

This kind of discipline, as so many saints instructed, is achieved gradually in little steps. Start small. This week go to daily Mass. Take it one day at a time. If you miss a day, don’t skip the rest of the week because of a single failure. Get back on track the next day. The devil relishes in mistakes that are projected into the future as inevitable defeat.

After consistently getting to daily Mass, take another step toward holiness with a new practice. Get to daily Mass and pray the Rosary everyday.

After consistently getting to daily Mass and praying the Rosary everyday, take another step toward holiness with a new practice. Get to daily Mass, pray the Rosary everyday, and read the Sacred Page.

And this continues until the habit of pursuing Christ is formed into holy sainthood.

There is no temporal good that can measure in comparison to Christ.

Discipline will lead to silence, which inexorably leads to God.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

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Saints, Theology, Traditionalism

Pope Saint Pius X, Pray For Us!

Pope Saint Pius X Renew All Thing in Christ

Today we celebrate the feast day of the great warrior saint who stood boldly against the heresy of modernism, Pope Saint Pius X.

Pope Saint Pius X initiated his pontificate with the encyclical letter, E Supremi Apostalatus (On the Restoration of All Things in Christ). In this encyclical Pius X describes the ideological environment of his era,

“We were terrified beyond all else by the disastrous state of human society today. For who can fail to see that society is at the present time, more than in any past age, suffering from a terrible and deep-rooted malady which, developing every day and eating into its inmost being, is dragging it to destruction? You understand, Venerable Brethren, what this disease is – apostasy from God, than which in truth nothing is more allied with ruin, according to the word of the Prophet: ‘For behold they that go far from Thee shall perish’ (Ps. 72:27). We saw therefore that, in virtue of the ministry of the pontificate, which was to be entrusted to Us, We must hasten to find a remedy for this great evil, considering as addressed to Us that Divine command: ‘Lo, I have set thee this day over the nations and over kingdoms, to root up, and to pull down, and to waste, and to destroy, and to build, and to plant’ (Jer. 1:10). But, cognizant of Our weakness, We recoiled in terror from a task as urgent as it is arduous.”[1]

It is worth noting that this description of the dire times surrounding the Church was written in 1903. One can only wonder how Pope Saint Pius X would describe the horrendous state of affairs the Church finds herself in today.

However, in order to combat the situation of his time, and we might apply this mission statement to our own, Pope Saint Pius X provides a lucid description of what would motivate his pontificate,

“Since, however, is has been pleasing to the Divine Will to raise Our lowliness to such sublimity of power, We take courage in Him who strengthens Us; and setting Ourselves to work, relying on the power of God, We proclaim that We have no other program in the Supreme Pontificate but that ‘of restoring all things in Christ’ (Eph. 1:10), so that ‘Christ may be all and in all’ (Col. 3:11). Some will certainly be found who, measuring Divine things by human standards will seek to discover secret aims of Ours, distorting them to an earthly scope and to partisan designs. To eliminate all vain delusions for such, We say to them with emphasis that We do not wish to be, and with the Divine assistance never shall be aught before human society but the Minister of God, of whose authority We are the depository. The interests of God shall be Our interest, and for these We are resolved to spend all Our strength and Our very life. Hence, should anyone ask Us for a symbol as the expression of Our will, We will give this and not other: ‘To renew all things in Christ.’”

In undertaking this this glorious task, We are greatly quickened by the certainty that We shall have all of you, Venerable Brethren, as generous co-operators. Did We doubt it We should have to regard you, unjustly, as either unconscious or heedless of that sacrilegious war which is now, almost everywhere, stirred up and fomented against God. For in truth, ‘The nations have raged and the peoples imagined vain things’ (Ps. 2:1) against their Creator, so frequent is the cry of the enemies of God: ‘Depart from us’ (Job. 21:14). And as might be expected we find extinguished among the majority of men all respect for the Eternal God, and no regard paid in the manifestations of public and private life to the Supreme Will – nay, every effort and every artifice is used to destroy utterly the memory and the knowledge of God.”[2]

After reading this call to arms, is this not the mission of the Church Militant? Did not Pope Saint Pius X simply proclaim the reason for the Church’s existence, which is to renew all things in Christ?

Indeed, for after this call to arms this great saint and leader of Christ’s army on earth identifies with similar clarity the heresy which actualizes aforementioned apostasy in staggering numbers,

“It may, perhaps, seem to some, Venerable Brethren, that We have dealt at too great length on this exposition of the doctrines of the Modernists. But it was necessary that We should do so, both in order to meet their customary charge that We do not understand their ideas, and to show that their system does not consist in scattered and unconnected theories, but, as it were, in a closely connected whole, so that it is not possible to admit one without admitting all. For this reason, too, We have had to give to this exposition a somewhat didactic form, and not to shrink from employing certain unwonted terms which the modernists have brought into use. And now with Our eyes fixed upon the whole system, no one will be surprised that We should define it to be the synthesis of all heresies. Undoubtedly, were anyone to attempt the task of collecting together all the errors that have been broached against the faith and to concentrate into one the sap and substance of them all, he could not succeed in doing so better than the Modernists have done. Nay, they have gone further that this, for, as We have already intimated, their system means the destruction not of the Catholic religion alone, but of all religion. Hence the rationalists are not wanting in their applause, and the most frank and sincere among them congratulate themselves on having found in the Modernists the most valuable of all.”[3]

The precision of Pascendi is relevant for our current era given the amount of confusion modernism brings into the ranks of the Mystical Body of Christ.

There is much more that can be said about Pope Saint Pius X, but for now, let us pray that God might raise up a series of Popes with the apostolic pedigree of Pius X.

Pope Saint Pius X, Pray For Us!

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] E Supremi Apostalatus (On the Restoration of All Things in Christ), Paragraph 3.

[2] E Supremi Apostalatus (On the Restoration of All Things in Christ). Paragraph 4

[3] Pascendi Dominici Gregis (On Modernism), Paragraph 39

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Saints, The Blessed Virgin Mary

We Belong to Jesus and Mary as Their Slaves

Saint Louis de Montfort Praising God

– We belong to Jesus and Mary as Their Slaves –

We must conclude, from what Jesus Christ is with regard to us, that, as the Apostle says (1 Cor. 6:19-20), we do not belong to ourselves but are entirely His, as His members and His slaves, whom He has bought at an infinitely dear price, the price of all His Blood. Before Baptism we belonged to the devil, as his slaves; but Baptism has made us true slaves of Jesus Christ, who have no right to live, to work or to die, except to bring forth fruit for the God-Man (Rom. 7:4); to glorify Him in our bodies and to let Him reign in our souls, because we are His conquest, His acquired people and His inheritance. It is for the same reason that the Holy Ghost compares us: (1) to trees planted along the waters of grace, in the field of the Church, who ought to bring forth their fruit in their seasons; (2) to the branches of a vine of which Jesus Christ is the stock, and which must yield good grapes; (3) to a flock of which Jesus Christ is the Shepherd, and which is to multiply and give milk; (4) to a good land of which God is the Husbandman, in which the seed multiplies itself and brings forth thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold. (Ps. 1:3; Jn. 15:2; 10:11; Matt. 13:8). Jesus Christ cursed the unfruitful fig tree (Matt. 21:19), and pronounced sentence against the useless servant who had not made any profit on this talent. (Matt. 25:24-30). All this proves to us that Jesus Christ wishes to receive some fruits from our wretched selves, namely our good works, because those works belong to Him alone: ‘Created in good works, in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 2:10) – which words of the Holy Ghost show that Jesus Christ is the sole beginning, and ought to be the sole end, of all our good works, and also that we ought to serve Him, not as servants for wages, but as slaves of love. I will explain what I mean.

Here on earth there are two ways of belonging to another and of depending on his authority: namely, simple service and slavery, whence we derive the words ‘servant’ and ‘slave.’

By common service among Christians a man engages himself to serve another during a certain time, at a certain rate of wages or of recompense.

By slavery a man is entirely dependent on another during his whole life, and must serve his master without claiming any wages or reward, just as one of his beasts, over which he has the right of life and death.

There are three sorts of slavery: a slavery of nature, a slavery of constraint and a slavery of will. All creatures are the slaves of God in the first sense: ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof’ (Ps. 23:1); the demons and the damned are slaves in the second sense; the just and the saints in the third. Because by slavery of the will we make choice of God and His service above all things, even though nature did not oblige us to do so, slavery of the will is the most perfect and most glorious to God, who beholds the heart (1 Kg. 16:7), claims the heart (Prov. 23:26), and calls Himself the God of the heart (Ps. 72:26), that is, of the loving will.

There is an entire difference between a servant and a slave:

A servant does not give all he is, all he has and all he can acquire, by himself or by another, to his master; but the slave gives himself whole and entire to his master, all he has and all he can acquire, without any exception.

The servant demands wages for the services which he performs for his master; but the slave can demand nothing, whatever assiduity, whatever industry, whatever energy he may have at his work.

The servant can leave his master when he pleases, or at least when the time of his service expires; but the slave has no right to quit his master at will.

Lastly, the servant is only for a time in his master’s service; the slave, always.

There is nothing among men which makes us belong to another more than slavery. There is nothing among Christians which makes us more absolutely belong to Jesus Christ and His holy Mother than the slavery of the will, according to the example of Jesus Christ Himself, who took on Himself the form of a slave for love of us (Phil. 2:7); and also according to the example of the holy Virgin, who called herself the servant and slave of the Lord. (Lk. 1:38). The Apostle calls himself, as by title of honor, ‘the slave of Christ.’ Christians are often so called in the Holy Scriptures; and the word for the designation, ‘servus,’ as a great man has truly remarked, signified in olden times a slave in the completest sense, because there were no servants then like those of the present day. Masters were served only by slaves or freedmen. This is what the Catechism of the holy Council of Trent, in order to leave no doubt about our being slaves of Jesus Christ, expresses by an unequivocal term, in calling us mancipia Christi, ‘slaves of Jesus Christ.’

Now that I have given these explanations, I say that we ought to belong to Jesus Christ, and to serve Him not only as mercenary servants, but as loving slaves who, as a result of their great love, give themselves up to serve Him in the quality of slaves simply for the honor of belonging to Him. Before Baptism we were the slaves of the devil. Baptism has made us the slaves of Jesus Christ: Christians must needs be either the slaves of the devil or the slaves of Jesus Christ.

What I say absolutely of Jesus Christ, I say relatively of Our Lady. Since Jesus Christ chose her for the inseparable companion of His life, of His death, of His glory and of His power in Heaven and upon earth, He gave her by grace, relatively to His Majesty, all the same rights and privileges which He possesses by nature. ‘All that is fitting to God by nature is fitting to Mary by grace,’ say the saints; so that, according to them, Mary and Jesus having but the same will and the same power, have also the same subjects, servants and slaves.

We may, therefore, following the sentiments of the saints and of many great men, call ourselves and make ourselves the loving slaves of the most holy Virgin, in order to be, by that very means, the more perfectly the slaves of Jesus Christ. Our Blessed Lady is the means Our Lord made use of to come to us. She is also the means which we must make use of to go to Him. For she is not like all other creatures who, if we should attach ourselves to them, might rather draw us away from God than draw us near Him. The strongest inclination of Mary is to unite us to Jesus Christ, her Son; and the strongest inclination of the Son is that we should come to Him through His holy Mother. It is to honor and please Him, just as it would be to do honor and pleasure to a king to become more perfectly his subject and his slave by making ourselves slaves of the queen. It is on this account that the holy Fathers, and St. Bonaventure after them, say that Our Lady is the way to go to Our Lord: ‘The way of coming to Christ is to draw near to her.’

– Saint Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary – 


 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Saints, The Blessed Virgin Mary, Theology

Jesus Christ is the Last End of Our Devotions

Saint Louis de Montfort on Devotion to the Blessed Lady

“Jesus Christ our Savior, true God and true Man, ought to be the last end of all our other devotions, else they are false and delusive. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, of all things. We labor not, as the Apostle says, except to render every man perfect in Jesus Christ; because it is in Him alone that the whole plentitude of the Divinity dwells together with all the other plenitudes of graces, virtues and perfections. It is in Him alone that we have been blessed with all spiritual benediction; and He is our only Master, who has to teach us; our only Lord on whom we ought to depend; our only Head to whom we must be united; our only Model to whom we should conform ourselves; our only Physician who can heal us; our only Shepard who can feed us; our only Way who can lead us; our only Truth whom we must believe; our only Life who can animate us; and our only All in all things who can satisfy us. There has been no other name given under Heaven, except the name of Jesus, by which we can be saved. God has laid no other foundation of our salvation, our perfection or our glory, than Jesus Christ. Every building which is not built on that firm rock is founded upon the moving sand, and sooner or later infallibly will fall. Every one of the faithful who is not united to Him, as a branch to the stock of the vine, shall fall, shall wither, and shall be fit only to be cast into the fire. Outside of Him there exists nothing but error, falsehood, iniquity, futility, death and damnation. But if we are in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ in us, we have no condemnation to fear. Neither the Angels of Heaven nor the men of earth nor the devils of Hell nor any other creature can injure us; because they cannot separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ. By Jesus Christ, with Jesus Christ, in Jesus Christ, we can do all things; we can render all honor and glory to the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost; we can become perfect ourselves, and be to our neighbor a good odor of eternal life.

If, then, we establish solid devotion to our Blessed Lady, it is only to establish more perfectly devotion to Jesus Christ, and to provide an easy and secure means for finding Jesus Christ. If devotion to Our Lady removed us from Jesus Christ, we should have to reject it as an illusion of the devil; but so far from this being the case, devotion to Our Lady is, on the contrary, necessary for us – as I have already shown, and will show still further hereafter – as a means of finding Jesus Christ perfectly, of loving Him tenderly, of serving Him faithfully.”

– Saint Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary – 


 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Saint Bonaventure, Saints, Theology

The Seraphic Doctor

Saint Bonaventure PrayingThe Seraphic Doctor

The title by which St. Bonaventure is most readily known was given him while he was still alive. And it is apt for several reasons. His thought is entwined with love; it quickly springs to seraphic or angelic heights. As a teacher, he gives intellectual expression to the life of the Seraphic Saint, St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis pursued a way of life that kept reaching out to God with the fullness of an ardent nature, the sternness and intensity of a logic that looked at things reduced to ultimate simplicity, and the color of a rich emotion. Everything spoke to St. Francis of God because its very nature is made by Him. Everything pointed to the Sacred Humanity of Christ, and in return the Sacred Humanity shed its glow on everything.

St. Bonaventure saw all created things as flowing in a necessary way from God: not that creation is or was necessary, but creation, once decided upon, had to mirror the perfections of God. Each part of creation according to its dignity is either a shadow, a trace, an image or a similitude of God.

Since in Christ all the stages of creation are contained as in a perfect exemplar, there is no true knowledge, understanding or wisdom if He is left out. “In Christ are contained all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge of the hidden God, and He is the medium for all knowledge.”

To St. Bonaventure Christ is therefore necessary for any full philosophy. There is no such thing as a philosophy based completely on reason. Faith has to enter in and present Christ as the Supreme Exemplar of all creation. If you leave out this centerpiece of creation, then not only would theology be empty, but philosophy would be weakest where it should be strongest. St. Bonaventure’s philosophy rests squarely on faith and on reason.

St. Bonaventure was by no means opposed to the arts. He has, however, said that you cannot judge them rightly unless you look at them in the light of higher values. St. Bonaventure therefore turns to the Incarnate Word “as the touchstone at which to measure the human enterprise.”

The great value of this system is that learning can proceed in the spirit of devotion. In this way, there is less chance for reason to drop into the pitfalls of rationalism, to run to the extremes of empty intellectualism. The proud spirit of man is kept more humble as it learns by tasting “in the darkness of faith” as well as by seeing in the light of reason.

“Taste and see that the Lord is sweet.” This is the invitation of St. Bonaventure to all who would delve into the secrets of the universe. You can taste “in the darkness of faith” and come to a surer knowledge than by seeing in the light of reason. When it comes to ultimate, important truths, you cannot judge by reason any more surely than you can tell whether an object is sweet or bitter by looking at it. You must taste it.

St. Bonaventure “made every truth a prayer to God and a praise of God.” He has been called “the totally religious soul.” “Multifarious, infinitely diverse and subtly shaded, his thought is but an ever-active charity, whose whole movement strives toward objects which escape our view or toward unknown aspects of those things we do in part perceive.”

Sometimes we read in the lives of holy people that they had a knowledge of natural science and of human nature that amazed learned men. The usual assumption is that this knowledge was preternaturally infused. Perhaps this knowledge was not so much infused as naturally developed from using the system of St. Bonaventure, letting faith and reason work together.

It has been said that St. Bonaventure rejected Aristotelianism. It may be more true to say that he used it as part of his eclectic system. He used it as far as he could, and then passed beyond it. He could see no sense in riding in the buggy of pure philosophy when he had the strong chariot of Christian wisdom to carry him faster and further forward – a wisdom already refined through centuries of thought. To St. Bonaventure, philosophy is a good as far as it goes, but it is too obscure on the most important questions.

St. Bonaventure has been placed on an equal footing with St. Thomas Aquinas by two different Popes. Yet he has not found general acceptance even among Catholic philosophers. Compared to St. Thomas, he remains practically unknown as a philosopher. In the future this may be different.

“What the Seraphic Doctor’s ultimate ranking as a Christian philosopher is to be, must be left to a generation which will again experience the speculative and pragmatic necessity of Christ as the center of philosophy.”

“The oft-repeated phrase is well-known: ‘Thomas is the Christian Aristotle; Bonaventure, the second Augustine.’ But this difference must not be stressed, for the two complement each other in an admirable way: Thomas is the angel of the schools, Bonaventure the master of the practical life; Thomas enlightens the intellect, Bonaventure elevates the heart. Sixtus V justly places both side by side, and grants Bonaventure the same ecclesiastical honors as Pius V granted Thomas. ‘They are,’ he says, ‘the two olive trees and the two shining lights in the house of God, who by the plenitude of their love and the light of their erudition illumine the entire Church. By the special providence of God, they are similar to two stars appearing at the same time. During their earthly pilgrimage they were intimately united by the bond of a true friendship and by the intercourse of holy labors. With equal step did both hasten toward their heavenly fatherland, that both might at the same time enter the joys of Heaven.”

– The 35 Doctors of the Church – 


 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Catechism, Saint Robert Bellarmine, Saints, Theology

Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine: Chapter III – Part II

Saint Robert Bellarmine & CrucifixExplanation of the Creed, that is, the twelve articles 

Explanation of the Second Article 

S. Tell me now about the second article, namely, “And in Jesus Christ, His Son, Our Lord.”

T. God Almighty, about Whom the first article treats, has a true and natural Son, Whom we call Jesus Christ. So that you might understand how God begot this Son, take the similitude of a mirror. When someone gazes into a mirror, an image is immediately produced that is so like him that he cannot discover any difference, in as much as it not only reflects his countenance, but even represents individual movements, so that the image moves exactly in the way the man does. Such an image is so like the man without any labor, without time, without instrument yet it is formed suddenly and in a moment in the flash of an eye. Consider in the same arrangement that when God gazes upon the mirror of the God head with the eye of the intellect, immediately He forms an image similar to Himself, and because God directs His whole essence and nature to this image (which we cannot do by gazing), therefore this image is the true Son of God, even if our own image which we behold in the mirror is not our son. For that reason you have to gather how the Son of God is God, in the same way as the Father is God and the same God with God, because He is/has the same substance with the Father. Next, the Son is not younger than the Father, but was always just as the Father always was. Accordingly, He advanced from the only vision of God, and God always saw and regarded Himself at length, the Son of God was not begotten in time from the cooperation of a woman, nor from the vicious lust, or from other related imperfections, but only by God, only, as was said, from his vision and by the most pure eye of the Divine Intellect.

S. Why is the Son of God called Jesus Christ?

T. The name of Jesus means Savior, while Christ, because it is the last name, means High Priest and King of Kings, as we touched upon the explanation of the sign of the Cross, that the Son of God became man to redeem us in His blood and to restore us to eternal salvation. Therefore, after He became man, He took this name of Savior to himself, to show that He came to save man. He was also given the title of High Priest and Supreme King by the Father, all of which this name Christ designates, and by such a name we are called Christians.

S. Why do we remove our hat or genuflect whenever the name of Jesus is said, but we do not do this after we hear the name “God”?

T. The reason is because this name is proper to the Son of God, since all the rest are common; likewise, we are taught by this name how God, by becoming man for our sake, humbled Himself. Furthermore, we genuflect in an Act of Thanksgiving when we hear this name. Not only do we men genuflect, but even the angels of God in heaven, and the demons in hell, on account of this name the former from voluntary love, the latter are compelled by fear. God also willed that all rational creatures should genuflect in the presence of His Son, seeing that He Himself so bent Himself and humbled Himself even to death of the Cross.

S. Why is Jesus Christ called Our Lord?

T. Because He, together with the Father, created us, therefore He is our Patron and Lord just as the Father. More to the point, He freed us from the power and Captivity of the devil by bitter torments and His Passion, which we will speak of in a little while.

The Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine: Chapter I

The Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine: Chapter II

The Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine: Chapter III – Part I

 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Natural Theology, Philosophy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saints, Scholasticism, Theology, Thomism

Natural Theology & the Thomistic Synthesis

RGL on Thomism

Natural Theology

That which is, is more than that which can be, more than that which is on the road to be. This principle led Aristotle and Aquinas to find, at the summit of all reality, pure act, understanding of understanding, sovereign and good. But Aquinas rises above Aristotle and Leibnitz, for whom the world is a necessary consequence of God. St. Thomas shows, on the contrary, the reason why we must say with revelation that God is sovereignly free, to create or not to create, to create in time rather than from eternity. The reason lies in God’s infinite plenitude of being, truth, and goodness, which creatures can do noting to increase. After creation, there are more beings, it is true, but not more being, not more perfection, wisdom, or love. “God is none the greater for having created the universe.” God alone, He who is, can say, not merely “I have being, truth, and life,” but rather “I am being itself, truth itself, life itself.”

Hence the supreme truth of Christian philosophy is this: In God alone is essence identified with existence. The creature is only a capability to exist, it is created and preserved by Him who is. Further, the creature, not being its own existence, is not its own action, and cannot pass from potency to act, either in the order of nature or in that of grace, except by divine causality.

We have thus shown how Thomism is an elevated synthesis, which, while it rejects unfounded denials, assimilates the positive tendencies of current philosophical and theological conceptions. This synthesis recognizes that reality itself is incomparably more rich than our ideas of that reality. In a word, Thomism is characterized by a sense of mystery, which is the source of contemplation. God’s truth, beauty, and holiness are continually recognized as transcending all philosophy, theology, and mysticism, as uncreated richness to be attained only by the beatific vision, and even under that vision, however clearly understood, as something which only God Himself can comprehend in all its infinite fullness. Thomism thus keeps ever awake our natural, conditional, and inefficacious desire to see God as He is. Thus we grow in appreciation of the gifts of grace and charity, which move us, efficaciously, to desire and to merit the divine vision.

This power of assimilation is therefore a genuine criterion whereby to appraise the validity and scope of Thomism, from the lowest material elements up to God’s own inner life. Economy demands that any system have one mother-idea, as radiating center. The mother-idea of Thomism is that of God as pure act, in whom alone is essence identified with existence. This principle, the keystone of Christian philosophy, enables us to explain, as far as can be done here below, what revelation teaches of the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation, the unity of existence in the three divine persons, the unity of existence in Christ. It explains likewise the mystery of grace. All that is good in our free acts comes from God as first cause, just as it comes from us as second causes. And when we freely obey, when we accept rather than resist grace, all that is good in that act comes from the source of all good. Nothing escapes that divine and universal cause, who without violence actualizes human freedom, just as connaturally as He actualizes the tree to bloom and bear fruit.

Let Thomism then be judged by its principles, necessary and universal, all subordinated to one keystone principle, not a restricted principle as is that of human freedom, but by the uncreated principle of Him who is, on whom everything depends, in the order of being and activity, in the order of grace and nature. This is the system which, in the judgment of the Church, most nearly approaches the ideal of theology, the supreme branch of knowledge.

– Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought


 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saints, Scholasticism, Theology, Thomism

Catholic Theology & Philosophical Foundations

Saint Thomas Aquinas the Angelic Doctor Background“As we will see, Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Fides et ratio strenuously upholds the tradition of giving priority to faith in the question of the relationship between faith and reason. To do otherwise, of course, would be to flirt with rationalism. Faith, however, must be understood; it is always, to borrow from St. Anselm, “seeking understanding,” What rational tools will one use to understand one’s Christian faith? Of the many philosophies that human culture knows and has known, which one ought to be chosen to aid in the comprehension of faith? Is every philosophy equal to this task?

As is well-known, St. Thomas chose the philosophy of Aristotle for this task. He found that Aristotle’s thought served the faith well; he found, most precisely, that the metaphysics of Aristotle provided a strong foundation upon with to “think the faith.” In light of this, and in light of Pope Leo XIII’s Thomistic revival, theologians began to ask if Catholic theology must be forever wedded to the philosophy of Aristotle. Many said no and attempted to change the philosophical foundations of Catholic theology – none with great success.

The University of Fribourg’s eminent philosopher, I.M. Bochenski, sets the stage for an answer as to why this was so. He explains that modern philosophy, that is, philosophy during the time between 1600 and 1900,

“came into being with the decline of scholastic philosophy. Characteristic of scholasticism is its pluralism (assuming the plurality of really different beings and levels of being), personalism (acknowledging the preeminent value of the human person), its organic conception of reality, as well as its theocentric attitude – God the Creator as its center of vision. Detailed logical analysis of individual problems is characteristic of scholastic method. Modern philosophy opposes every one of these tenets. Its fundamental principles are mechanism, which eliminates the conception of being as integral and hierarchical, and subjectivism, which diverts man from his previous concentration of God and substitutes the subject as the center. In point of method modern philosophy turned its back on formal logic. With some notable exceptions, it was characterized by the development of great systems and by the neglect of analysis.”

The mechanistic and subjectivist a prioris of modern philosophy, along with a whole set of reductionisms in contemporary philosophy, simply do not provide a solid enough grounding for Christian faith.”

 

– Lucas G. Westman


*Taken From The Sacred Monster of Thomism

 

 

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Apologetics, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saints, Theology, Thomism

Pope Leo XIII on Saint Thomas Aquinas – Aeterni Patris

Taken From the Encyclical – Aeterni Patris:

St Thomas Aquinas Framed and Labeled TSC17. Among the Scholastic Doctors, the chief and master of all towers Thomas Aquinas, who, as Cajetan observes, because “he most venerated the ancient Doctors of the Church, in a certain way seems to have inherited the intellect of all.”[34] The doctrines of those illustrious men, like the scattered members of a body, Thomas collected together and cemented, distributed in wonderful order, and so increased with important additions that he is rightly and deservedly esteemed the special bulwark and glory of the Catholic faith. With his spirit at once humble and swift, his memory ready and tenacious, his life spotless throughout, a lover of truth for its own sake, richly endowed with human and divine science, like the sun he heated the world with the warmth of his virtues and filled it with the splendor of his teaching. Philosophy has no part which he did not touch finely at once and thoroughly; on the laws of reasoning, on God and incorporeal substances, on man and other sensible things, on human actions and their principles, he reasoned in such a manner that in him there is wanting neither a full array of questions, nor an apt disposal of the various parts, nor the best method of proceeding, nor soundness of principles or strength of argument, nor clearness and elegance of style, nor a facility for explaining what is abstruse.

18. Moreover, the Angelic Doctor pushed his philosophic inquiry into the reasons and principles of things, which because they are most comprehensive and contain in their bosom, so to say, the seeds of almost infinite truths, were to be unfolded in good time by later masters and with a goodly yield. And as he also used this philosophic method in the refutation of error, he won this title to distinction for himself: that, single-handed, he victoriously combated the errors of former times, and supplied invincible arms to put those to rout which might in after-times spring up. Again, clearly distinguishing, as is fitting, reason from faith, while happily associating the one with the other, he both preserved the rights and had regard for the dignity of each; so much so, indeed, that reason borne on the wings of Thomas to its human height, can scarcely rise higher, while faith could scarcely expect more or stronger aids from reason than those which she has already obtained through Thomas.

19. For these reasons most learned men, in former ages especially, of the highest repute in theology and philosophy, after mastering with infinite pains the immortal works of Thomas, gave themselves up not so much to be instructed in his angelic wisdom as to be nourished upon it. It is known that nearly all the founders and lawgivers of the religious orders commanded their members to study and religiously adhere to the teachings of St. Thomas, fearful least any of them should swerve even in the slightest degree from the footsteps of so great a man. To say nothing of the family of St. Dominic, which rightly claims this great teacher for its own glory, the statutes of the Benedictines, the Carmelites, the Augustinians, the Society of Jesus, and many others all testify that they are bound by this law.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

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