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Archive for November, 2012

When we have achieved a certain level of progress in our spiritual journey, not rarely we may experience a sense of sadness and even discouragement after committing a sin, after offending God. This sadness may lead us to feel like a failure and can cause us to focus not on our progress but on our failures, which we know is not a positive thing.

Obviously, Scripture tells us in Romans 6 that, as Christians, we have been buried with Christ and thus, we died to sin. We are a new creation and live by the hope of the Resurrection, and so we must always strive to overcome sin and live in accordance to the will of God. However, as good a thing as the feeling of sadness or disappointment after committing a sin may seem at a first glance, we should be cautious and aware of the dangers of such seemly positive emotions. We have, at all times, to remember the words of St Paul in Ephesian 6 and bear in mind that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but principalities and spiritual forces of evil. The Devil will explore our weaknesses and bad tendencies and do all that he can to divert us from our trust in God. Therefore those feelings which may present themselves as innocent, if not as a sign of spiritual zeal, may in fact be the result of our failure to put our trust in God, trusting instead, ourselves.

In order to be sure that the pain we feel after committing a sin results from a pure sadness for offending God – which comes from the Holy Spirit acting in us – and is not the result of our own week flesh, our pride for not living up to the standard that we set up for ourselves, we have to be mindful of a few hidden clues. Those who love God and genuinely regret offending the Lord because of their love for God – not for themselves – will not despair at their own faults. They may not be surprised at all that they have fallen, because they acknowledge that they are weak and in doing so, they are more aware of the fact that sinning is not something they can prevent in their own power and so they surrender they faults to God. This attitude comes exactly from an opposite movement of the soul that, rather than making us feel hurt because we are too proud to recognize our many flaws and brokenness, make us  humble enough to accept it and trust in the work that God is doing in us. To this effect the words of St Paul in Romans 8,28 come in hand: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” The saints understood this very well and have left us their example in their lives and their writings. St. Augustine added, when quoting Rom 8,28, that God can use even our sins for our good.

Therefore, whenever we are faced with our own faults and imperfections, let us not be discouraged and become despondent, but rather, set our eyes in Jesus and His Mercy and trust that He will bring to completion the work that he has begun in us.

Finally, I should like to share this prayer that I found in this little book by Fr Jacques Philippe which I have been reading – ‘ Searching for and Maintaining Peace’ – a book which  in fact was not only the inspiration for this post but a major reference while writing it.

“Lord, I ask your pardon, I have sinned again. This is, alas, what I am capable of doing on my own! But I abandon myself with confidence to Your mercy and Your pardon, and I thank you for not allowing me to sin more grievously. I abandon myself to You with confidence because I know that one day You will heal me completely, and in the meantime, I ask you that the experience of my misery would cause me to be more humble, more considerate of others, more conscious that I can do nothing by myself, but that I must rely solely on Your love and Your mercy.”

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According to the definition given by the Catholic Encyclopedia, temperance is one of those virtues that many want to posses, but few understand what it really is. As I was meditating on my own spiritual journey, I made a conscious decision to find out what are the virtues I lack the most and how to master them. As it turned out, I lack all of them to a greater or lesser extend and should get to work pretty hard if I want to became a “saint” before I leave this world… So, on to the definition and thoughts on temperance:

(Latin temperare, to mingle in due proportions; to qualify).

Temperance is here considered as one of the four cardinal virtues. It may be defined as the righteous habit which makes a man govern his natural appetite for pleasures of the senses in accordance with the norm prescribed by reason. In one sense temperance may be regarded as a characteristic of all the moral virtues; the moderation it enjoins is central to each of them. It is also according to St. Thomas (II-II:141:2) a special virtue. Thus, it is the virtue which bridles concupiscence or which controls the yearning for pleasures and delights which most powerfully attract the human heart. These fall mainly into three classes: some are associated with the preservation of the human individual; others with the perpetuation of the race, and others still with the well-being and comfort of human life. Under this aspect temperance has for subordinate virtues, abstinence, chastity, and modesty.

Abstinence

Abstinence prescribes the restraint to be employed in the partaking of food and drink. Obviously the measure of this self-restraint is not constant and invariable. It is different for different persons as well as for different ends in view. The diet of an anchorite would not do for a farm labourer. Abstinence is opposed to the vices of gluttony and drunkenness. The disorder of these is that food and drink are made use of in such wise as to damage instead of benefit the bodily health. Hence gluttony and drunkenness are said to be intrinsically wrong. That does not mean, however, that they are always grievous sins. Gluttony is seldom such; drunkenness is so when it is complete, that is when it destroys the use of reason for the time being.

Chastity

Chastity as a part of temperance regulates the sensual satisfactions connected with the propagation of the human species. The contrary vice is lust. As these pleasures appeal with the special vehemence to human nature, it is the function of chastity to impose the norm of reason. Thus it will decide that they are altogether to be refrained from in obedience to a higher vocation or at any rate only availed of with reference to the purposes of marriage. Chastity is not fanaticism; much less is it insensibility. It is the carrying out of the mandate of temperance in a particular department where such a steadying power is acutely needed.

Modesty

The virtue of modesty, as ranged under temperance, has as its task the holding in reasonable leash of the less violent human passions. It brings into service humility to set in order a man’s interior. By transfusing his estimates with truth, and increasing his self-knowledge it guards him against the radical malice of pride. It is averse to pusillanimity, the product of low views and a mean-spirited will. In the government of the exterior of a man modesty aims to make it conform to the demands of decency and decorousness (honestas). In this way his whole outward tenor of conduct and method of life fall under its sway. Such things as his attire, manner of speech, habitual bearing, style of living, have to be made to square with its injunctions. To be sure they cannot always be settled by hard and fast rules. Convention will often have a good deal to say in the case, but in turn will have its propriety determined by modesty.

Other virtues are enumerated by St. Thomas as subordinate to temperance inasmuch as they imply moderation in the management of some passion. It ought to be noted, however, that in its primary and generally understood sense temperance is concerned with what is difficult for a man, not in so far as he is a rational being precisely, but rather in so far as he is an animal. The hardest duties for flesh and blood are self-restraint in the use of food and drink and of the venereal pleasures that go with the propagation of the race. That is why abstinence and chastity may be reckoned the chief and ordinary phases of this virtue. All that has been said receives additional force of we suppose that the self-control commanded by temperance is measured not only by the rule of reason but by the revealed law of God as well. It is called a cardinal virtue because the moderation required for every righteous habit has in the practice of temperance a specially trying arena. The satisfactions upon which it imposes a check are at once supremely natural and necessary in the present order of human existence. It is not, however, the greatest of moral virtues. That rank is held by prudence; then come justice, fortitude, and finally temperance.

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“And He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ; that henceforth we be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive. But doing the Truth in charity, we may in all things grow up in Him who is the head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-15)
What kind of church did Jesus intend to establish?

A church that would be universal, united and holy, one that could not teach error and that could not be destroyed.
Which is the only church that has these qualities?

Only the Catholic Church.
What does the word “Catholic” mean?

It means “universal”, embracing all.
Why is the Church of Jesus called “Catholic”?

Because it is:
for all people
of all nations
of all times
it teaches all the doctrines of Jesus.
“Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
When was the name “Catholic” first used of the Church of Jesus?

In the year 110, by St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, who wrote:
“Where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” (Ad Smyrn. 8:2)

“The Church is called Catholic by all Her enemies, as well as by Her own children. Heretics and schismatics can call the Church by no other name than Catholic, for they would not be understood, unless they used the name by which the Church is known to the whole world.” (St. Augustine, 4th-5th Centuries, in De Vera Religione-“Concerning True Religion”)
Is the Catholic Church spread all over the world?

Yes, its approximately 1,000,000,000 members are from all races and all colors and all sections of the world.
The marvelous growth of the Church in spite of great obstacles and fierce persecution, is certainly a sign that it is the Church of Jesus Christ.
What is meant by the unity of the Catholic Church?

This unity means that all Catholics worldwide–
Believe the same things,
Obey the same laws,
Receive the same Sacraments,
Worship at the same Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,
Are all united under the same authority, that of the Pope in Rome.
“And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in Me; that they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in Me, and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us.” (John 17: 20-21)
Why is the Catholic Church holy?

It is holy because–
Its Founder, Jesus Christ, is holy,
It teaches a holy doctrine.
It gives Its members what is needed to lead a holy life,
Thousands of Its members, from every walk of life, from every race and from every period of history, have become Saints.
Why cannot the Catholic Church ever teach error?

Because Jesus Christ promised to be always with His Church to protect it from error.
“Going therefore, teach ye all nations… Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Has the Catholic Church ever changed its teaching?

No, for some 2,000 years the Catholic Church has taught the same things which Jesus Christ taught.
“The Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the Truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)
Why can the Catholic Church never be destroyed?

Because Jesus promised that…
“The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18)

“The God of Heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed.” (Daniel 2:44)
Has anyone ever tried to destroy the Church?

Yes, as Jesus Christ foretold, many governments have tried without success to destroy the Church, and thousands of Catholics (martyrs) have died for the True Church.
“They will deliver you up in councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. And you shall be brought before governors, and before kings for my sake…and you will be hated by all men for My name’s sake.” (Matthew 10:17-22)
FALSE SLOGANS
“All religions are good.”

Answer: There is only one religion, as far as God is concerned, since He established only one, not three hundred. All other religions were established by men who had no authority from God to start them. A religion is either true or false, just as a dollar bill is either genuine or counterfeit. Although a religion may have some truth, it is a false religion if it was established by a man.
“It does not make any difference what church you belong to.”

Answer: It certainly does make a difference whether you belong to the one established by God or to one established by a man. It makes a difference whether you belong to the church that has everything necessary to lead you to Heaven, or not.
“All religions teach the same thing and believe in the same God.”

Answer: All religions disagree on the important teachings of Jesus Christ. Some teach that He is God; others say He is not. Some teach that you have to be baptized to get into Heaven; others deny the necessity of Baptism. Some teach that Baptism really takes away sin, while others hold that it is only a symbol. If all religions believed in the same God, they would all have to teach the same things, since God cannot contradict Himself. God is not the author of confusion and contradiction, but of clear, unchangeable Truth.
“Jesus Christ, yesterday and today, and the same forever. Be not led away with various and strange doctrines.” (Heb. 13:8-9)
“It doesn’t matter what you believe; it’s how you act that counts.”

Answer: It does matter, because you act according to your belief. It does matter whether you believe killing a person dying of an incurable disease is a sin or not, or whether marriage is to last until death or not. God has given the human race certain, definite truths to believe, and He expects everyone to believe them.
“He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

He told His Apostles: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations… teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20)
PRACTICAL POINTS
You have an obligation to join the Catholic Church; otherwise, you cannot go to Heaven. However, joining the Church is a very serious step, because in so doing, you place yourself completely and forever under the authority of the Church in all things concerning religion. This means that you promise to believe everything the Church teaches, to worship the way the Catholic Church worships, and to obey all the laws of the Church.
It is not unreasonable to place yourself under the authority of the Catholic Church, because its authority is from God.
“He who heareth you, heareth Me; and he who despiseth you, despiseth Me; and he who despiseth Me, despiseth Him Who sent Me.” (Luke 10:16)
By joining the Catholic Church, you can be sure of what you have to believe and do in order to save your soul, and you will be able to lead a good life and attain salvation with the graces flowing from the Sacraments and the countless other sources of spiritual strength provided by God’s Church. Besides, you will have the peace of mind that comes only from knowing that you are doing God’s will.
“For you were as sheep going astray; but you are now converted to the shepherd and bishop of your souls.” (I Peter 2:25)

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