How the Wicked Praise God

“Whether the world wills it or no,” God explains to St. Catherine, “it offers me glory.”

True, the intent of the wicked is to insult God. But the ways of the wicked are not wise, and the fruits of their wickedness are not as anticipated.

From day to day, the “people of the world” may observe that the earth does not open to swallow them up for their sins. Instead, it gives them food to eat, even as the sun warms them, and the sky encompasses them with its beauty.

In the conceit of their hearts, they may take this as evidence that there is no God, or that he approves of their crimes. When in truth, these gifts are signs of God’s mercy and charity.

In this life, God often bestows a greater abundance of created things on sinners than on the just, but only because he reserves for the latter a greater abundance of “the goods of heaven.”

As for the just, God sometimes shows mercy to them in a strange way: by permitting “the persecutions the world’s servants inflict on them, proving in them the virtues of patience and charity.”

When we suffer such persecutions “by offering constant humble prayer,” the virtues fostered within us by grace turn oppression “into glory and praise” for God’s name.

In this way, “whether the wicked will it or not,” they glorify God.

Let us humbly pray that those now praising God in this wicked fashion will have mercy on themselves, and learn to glorify their loving Father in a more just and profitable manner.

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Loving the Unneighborly

Not every neighbor is lovable. When our Lord commanded us, “love thy neighbor as thyself,” he was himself addressing a gathering of neighbors—the Pharisees—who regarded him as an enemy (Mt. 22:34-46).

“Hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees,” they might have paused to give thanks, but instead they took it as an opportunity to expose his deficiencies in an area they believed to be under their own masterful control: the Mosaic law.

Christ’s verbal answer to their question, “which is the great commandment in the law,” is unimpeachable: to love God first, and in like manner one’s neighbor as oneself.

Implicit in loving one’s neighbor as oneself, when one loves God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind, is the desire to see one’s neighbor love God in a similar fashion.

It follows that, if one finds one’s neighbor in a state of rebellion against God—and who has not been in such a state, at least occasionally, if not habitually?—one will seek to rescue him from that damnable predicament, if at all possible.

Our Lord is therefore demonstrating love of neighbor when he proceeds to expose the ignorance of the Pharisees, about the very identity of the God they pretend to serve.

“What think you of Christ? Whose son is he?” Easy enough, they believe: “David’s.”

“How then does David in spirit call him Lord, saying: The Lord said to my Lord, sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool?”

Why would David call his son Lord?

“No man,” the Pharisees included, “was able to answer him a word; neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.”

In the first instance, our Lord stumps the Pharisees by demonstrating that his claim to be the Son of God is not contrary to, but a fulfillment of the law they wrongly pride themselves in teaching.

Even more, however, Christ is reminding them what awaits those who, like these envious neighbors, make themselves his enemies. They who think to silence him by handing him over to crucifixion, will soon find themselves in the painful position of propping up his lower extremities.

The love our Lord is modelling for us here is a tough love, indeed. As Christians, we ought not to fear admonishing our brothers, for the alternative—abandoning them to a fate no one ought to wish on his worst enemy—is the opposite of charity.

At the same time, let us not forget that charity—including tough love—begins at home. Before we can assist the unneighborly neighbor staring us down, we need to examine another neighbor whose face is harder to see, but whose attitude may be even more hostile to our wellbeing: the neighbor within.

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Keeping the Constitution Alive

Among the “long train of abuses and usurpations” perpetrated under color of British authority, the Declaration of Independence lists one whose phrasing is downright curious: “the present King of Great-Britain” has “combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws.”

To what constitution are the colonials referring? Certainly not the one drafted eleven years later, under the color of which we are once again being subject to a long train of execrable abuses.

No. The constitution they here invoke is not the one whose opening lines are “We the People.” In fact, it is not a written document at all. It is instead the “unwritten constitution” of the English People.

Despite their textual invisibility, these men were willing to stake their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor on the proposition that the principles of that constitution, rooted in “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” constrained their government to secure the rights of its members.

Any governor refusing to comply with these standards, they concluded, is “unfit to be the Ruler of a free People,” who therefore, following the dictates of prudence, are authorized to “dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with” such a fraudulent figure.

Fast forward a few years, to 1795. The Supreme Court of the United States, in Chisholm v. Georgia, had erroneously declared that Article III of the People’s new Constitution stripped their state governments of the “sovereign immunity” granted under common law to all legitimate governments, protecting them from nuisance lawsuits.

In the Eleventh Amendment to said Constitution, the People do not demean themselves by reinstituting a rule their highest Court had pretended to rescind. No. They simply clarify that “The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity” in violation of that inviolable principle.

In other words, they say to the Supreme Court: “Hands off our Constitution!” Sovereign immunity need not be reinstituted, since it was never abolished, the Court’s incompetent act notwithstanding.

What conclusion do I draw from these more than merely historical anecdotes?

Written or unwritten, a Constitution lives nowhere unless it lives in the hearts of its People. That life will never survive the delicate ministrations of society’s elites, unless the latter are held in check by the people themselves. And the people will not succeed at holding their leaders in check, unless they know and love their Constitution—enough to die for it if necessary.

On this Constitution Day, I ask Dear Reader: It’s September 17th, 2021—do you know where your Constitution is?

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Wreaking Holy Havoc

A certain minor celebrity, alternately smiling and scowling at us from his awkward perch atop Holy Mother Church, has repeatedly instructed us as follows, in his native Spanish: Hagan lo!

Given the tenacity with which this man has steered from one scandal into another, it’s hard to shake the impression that the kind of mess he wants the faithful to make bears a distinct resemblance to that produced by an untrained puppy.

But as our Lord said of the Pharisees (Mt. 23:1-3), Jorge Bergoglio has “sitten on the chair” of Peter, and therefore we ought (insofar as reason permits) to “observe and do” whatsoever he says—so long as we use caution before acting according to his works.

All this is to suggest that we look into a vastly underappreciated phenomenon that the Holy Father, in his curious way, may be bringing to our attention for Providential purposes: the propensity of saintly Christians, when faced with tyranny and terror, to respond by wreaking holy havoc.

Take, for instance, St. Richard Gwyn. This middle class scholar, who found Oxford not worth his while, and was booted from Cambridge for refusing to acknowledge Queen Elizabeth as Supreme Governor of the Church, was content to spend the rest of his life as “a teacher of Welsh children.”

Teaching is considered a quiet life, but Gwyn was not a bashful soul. His contempt for Anglican services, in which “in place of an altar there is a miserable table,” and “in place of Christ there is bread,” caught the attention of his local bishop, who leaned on him to go along with the crowd, despite his convictions.

After once caving in, Richard was attacked by crows and fell terribly sick. He got the memo, and never willingly offended his Lord again.

Initially, Gwyn sought to escape persecution by fleeing (with his family) from one city to another (Mt. 10:23). His first imprisonment ended with his escape, and he evaded recapture for over a year. From June of 1580 to his torturous execution in October of 1584, however, our saint was at the mercy of merciless captors.

Dragged in shackles to sacrilegious ceremonies, Gwyn made his inner convictions known by “clanking and banging his chains the entire time.” Subjected to heretical preaching, he accused the offending priest of exchanging the keys of St. Peter for keys to the wine cellar.

Repeatedly refusing to rat on his Catholic confreres, Gwyn was brutally (and illegally) tortured. He never ceased begging God to release him from his enemies, but also prayed emphatically for their forgiveness. Their cruelty only intensified.

As with many English martyrs, Richard was partially strangulated before witnessing his own disembowelment. This holy troublemaker died on October 15th, calling upon Jesus for mercy.

Dear friends, if we must make some sort of mess, my suggestion would be to study the works of St. Richard Gwyn, and like him to make the kind recommended to us by the highest of authorities (Mt. 5:10).

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Self-Evident Eloquence

In an 1852 speech celebrating the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Frederick Douglass finds himself in the awkward position of having to persuade his fellow countrymen to accept the manifest consequences of the self-evident truths proclaimed in our founding document, and so to abolish slavery.

How does one demonstrate the self-evident? “Where all is plain there is nothing to be argued,” he protests.

But his complaint is rhetorical, serving as the springboard for an eloquent exposition of the humanity of the slave, and the liberties that flow from it.

The term self-evident is not quite synonymous with the obvious. It is not only possible, but very common, for fallen men to deny principles that, when properly examined, prove themselves.

As Aristotle explained ages ago, the human mind functions according to certain basic rules, which constitute the substance of reason itself. It is only by the application of these basic principles—such as that one thing is not another thing, or that contradictory statements cannot equally be affirmed—that the mind is able to shed light on more complex particular questions.

Quite literally, we cannot think straight without resorting to self-evident truths. Conversely, whenever our thinking is crooked, it is because we have contravened one or more of these essential points.

As Socrates taught, and as Douglass well understood, it is often necessary to prove fundamental truths, not because they don’t prove themselves, but because the influence of money, pleasure, or other distracting forces has caused that proof to be overlooked.

The simplest and most powerful form such demonstration takes is the exposure of a contradiction in an opponent’s beliefs or behavior.

To those who deny the humanity of slaves, Douglass responds by citing the “seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia, which, if committed by a black man, (no matter how ignorant he be,) subject him to the punishment of death.”

“When you can point to any such laws, in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave,” he wryly concludes.

As for those who would deny that manhood confers inalienable rights, Douglass meekly inquires: what then is there to celebrate on the Fourth of July?

Where does one find such self-contradictions today? One example that comes to mind would be those decrying the loss of life they falsely assert will ensue, if laws are adjusted to discourage the murder of innocents in the womb.

Do such as these believe human life has value, or not?

For another present-day application, consider this cartoon, which explains what should be obvious more eloquently than this blogger ever could:

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Free Men and Slaves

According to Plato’s Athenian Stranger, there are two sorts of doctors, corresponding to two sorts of patients. On each side, there are “slaves and free.”

Slave doctors “acquire the art by following their master’s command,” “but not by following nature.” Generally, they are permitted to treat their fellow slaves. In doing so, the slave doctor neither “gives nor receives any account of each malady afflicting” his charges. Rather, “he gives his commands just like a headstrong tyrant and hurries off to some other sick slave.”

The results are not hard to imagine.

The free doctor, caring for “free men,” of course acts differently. Before seeing a patient, he “investigates maladies from their beginning and according to nature.” Next, “communing with the patient himself,” he “learns something . . . from the invalid” as well as from himself. “He doesn’t give orders until he has in some sense persuaded” his fellow that the measures to be taken are apt “to succeed in leading him back to health.”

Socialist societies often boast of their systems of “free” medicine. In such societies, however, neither doctors nor patients are free men. Unsurprisingly, healthcare falsely labeled as free tends to resemble that Plato calls fit for slaves.

Although medicine has not been without its problems in the United States, hitherto we have been blessed with sufficient freedom in general, and in this particular department, to make it possible for most citizens to seek and find medical advice resembling that of free practitioners advising free patients.

As with so many other elements of our former social contract, this blessing seems to be disappearing fast, as a coalition of government and corporate actors places health freedom in its crosshairs, and fires the ammo it has been quietly hoarding for many years.

Take Emily Jo, for example. “With an undergraduate degree in microbiology and biochemistry, Jo thought she had done her research” regarding certain experimental procedures being foisted on the public in response to a mostly manufactured “public health” crisis.

Mary Jo’s mistake, one echoed by many highly (or over) educated Americans, was to trust the judgment of certain regulatory agencies, professional organizations, and those under their influence.

As a result, she eagerly signed up her fourteen year old son for an injection she now realizes was wholly unnecessary. In consequence, her once vivacious boy was hospitalized for acute heart inflammation, and remains unable to engage in physical activity without instant exhaustion.

All this, to ward off what for virtually everyone of his age would amount to a case of the sniffles.

Meanwhile, the evil geniuses behind such criminal stupidities are threatening to bar children from school unless they receive similar injections. And millions of healthy Americans, for whom such shots are similarly not worth the risk, are being threatened with loss of employment, and other forms of social ostracism, unless they submit to a medical intervention whose benefits are at best debatable, and in many cases clearly outweighed by potential harms.

It is not my intention to fault anyone who, doing his best to consult sound medical sources, has decided that a particular procedure is right for him, or his loved ones.

Whether I would agree or disagree with that decision, the point is more fundamental: in a free society, medicine is administered by those who are able to reason freely about its merits, to those who are free to be persuaded one way or the other.

Once we establish that our population is to be treated as slaves, by professionals acting like slaves, it is but a tiny step to a world in which America is, quite simply, a society of slaves.

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Lusting Against the Flesh

Lust is an ugly thing.

The “works of the flesh,” which “lusts against the spirit,” include such miserable misbehaviors as “fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcraft, enmities, contentions, emulations, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, reveling,” and others of a like nature (Gal. 5:17-21).

All of which, we might note, have been exceptionally popular from time immemorial, and continue to gain ground with each passing generation.

Still, despite the protests of a thousand flatterers, echoed by our own compromised consciences, when we stop and take a deep (spiritual) breath, it is not hard to grasp what St. Paul means when he teaches that “they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21).

What, then, is the alternative?

Interestingly, St. Paul’s list of sinful deeds is offset, not by a list of virtuous practices per se, but rather by a manifold description of the (singular) “fruit of the Spirit”: “charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity” (Gal. 5:22-23).

How do we acquire fruit like this? Paradoxically, the Apostle traces the fruit of the Spirit to another kind of lust: that of “the spirit against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17).

Lust (concupiscentia), it turns out, is not an inherently wicked thing. As St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, for example, one of the joys of heaven will be the attainment by our desiring power (potentia concupiscibilis) of “what is truly desirable.”

From all too common experience, we may wrongly deduce that it is the presence, or the intensity of desire that leads us into temptation. In fact, the goodness or badness of a given passion is determined by its origins, and ends.

When our “lust” is from the Spirit, and directed toward the genuine happiness of ourselves and others, then the more intensely we feel and follow it, the better!

It may sound odd that we are to lust after modesty, and contend for continency. But given the violence with which the misguided longings of the flesh rage within us, it requires nothing less than a mightier force in the opposite direction to enable us to enjoy genuine peace.

Thankfully for us, Christ’s sacrifice of the human flesh he took upon himself has made the conquest of our own a reality, if we agree to let him enter our hearts, where he can give us the spirit to crucify our flesh with its “vices and concupiscences” (Gal. 5:24).

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The Jealousy of God

Seeking to put to rest certain heretical claims concerning the law of Moses, St. Paul draws a sharp distinction between that law and the promise of the Gospel.

The ordinances of the old covenant were given “by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not of one: but God is one” (Gal. 3:19-20)—and it is God who saves!

Lest he be misunderstood, the Apostle hastens to deny that the law was ever “against the promises of God.” Rather, it was sent by God as a “pedagogue in Christ”—that is, a tutor charged with preparing God’s children for the coming of their true teacher (Gal. 22, 24).

Once that teacher arrives, the law has served its purpose. Under no circumstances can the mediator be allowed to “disannul” the promise of God (Gal. 3:17). Moses himself, who gave the law when commanded to do so, pays tribute to the one who fulfills that law (Mt. 17:4).

Though our God is a “jealous God” (Ex. 34:14), the purpose of his jealousy is not to deny us a share in his glory, but rather to make that share as great as possible, by uniting us more closely to himself.

God is happy to work through intermediaries, so long as those mediators—and those who have recourse to them—recognize that the glory in which they share is his alone to give.

When Christ cures the band of lepers, he does not forbid them to do as instructed in the law of Moses, but even commands them to show themselves to the priests. In their obedience to him, they honor his mediators, and are “made clean” (Lk. 17:14).

As we know, however, only one of these men, after consulting the priests, returns to give thanks to his divine healer. To this Samaritan, Christ adds a further blessing: “thy faith has made thee whole” (Lk. 17:19).

After his Ascension, Christ continues to work through mediators. As with Moses, their mediation is a divine gift, so long as it remains directed to the glory of God.

A true mediator, like St. Paul, is jealous for his charges “with the jealousy of God.” This jealousy aims at nothing less than presenting each soul to God “as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2).

When a mediator seeks instead his own glory, or that of his ideological faction, we know that his jealousy is not of God, and the unity he seeks is not one that unites us to God and his glory.

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Who Killed the Constitution?

As we watch what was left of our constitutional republic crumble before our eyes, it’s natural to wonder when and by whom the wrecking ball was first swung.

For anyone more awake than woke, it is clear that the “new left,” whose takeover of the Democratic party and the majority of our public institutions is nearly complete, is a strain of Marxism, bent on the eradication of our empire of liberty and its replacement with a dictatorship of their own enlightened selves.

Before there was Marx, however, there was Hegel; and before the ideas of the “materialist” madman took hold of our elites, those of his “idealist” predecessor were already doing yeoman’s work in the multigenerational project of dismantling the United States of America.

In Claremont Review of Books, Myron Magnet reviews Ronald Pestritto’s study of the Rise and Legacy of American Progressivism, which details the influence of German philosophy on Woodrow Wilson, whose scholarship and presidency galvanized a movement that succeeded in radically transforming the theory and practice of American government.

Though our founders were undoubtedly influenced by modern philosophy, the central feature of the political order they crafted—checks and balances—is rooted in a fundamentally classical point of view.

According to that (sane) view of the world, human affairs ought to be governed by reason, which is capable of discerning the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Since, within each human breast, reason is beset by passions of a fallen nature, the rule of reason cannot be secured by entrusting any one man, or like-minded group, with absolute power.

Instead, public policy must be specified in laws written and executed by officials representing different coalitions in different ways, placing each in a position to confirm the merits and correct the faults of the others’ contributions.

As yet another fancily dressed disciple of Machiavelli, Hegel also espouses the rule of reason. For those of his school, however, reason is not a means of discerning and conforming to objective truth, but rather a tool by which human beings subject an inherently chaotic world to their own essentially subjective desires.

“Progress,” in this view, is not closer conformity to objective principles, now dismissed as “a priori speculations” with “no historical foundations.” Rather, it is the consolidation of absolute power by man over nature.

To achieve this goal, all the energies of all men must be directed into the same channel, and so there must be a “unity of the public mind.” As a result, liberty of conscience, and all related freedoms, are demoted from their prior position as inalienable endowments, and come to be regarded as nuisances to be eliminated, or, when that idea is too shocking, “redefined” as needed.

In a nutshell, the result is a regime governed by unelected and uncontrolled “experts,” who claim to speak for the people, so long as the people they pretend to speak for are agree to think only what their enlightened despots tell them they ought to think.

If these same people have the audacity to think otherwise, they will soon learn that, despite what they may have been told on TV, “progressivism means the death of self-government.”

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The Times Ahead

Robert Hugh Benson is most famous for his 1907 novel Lord of the World.

Set in the early 21st century, it describes the ascent of Antichrist, whose kingdom—much more familiar in style and substance than we would care to think—emerges both naturally and preternaturally from the technological and technocratic tendencies of modern society.

As the overwhelming majority of souls swooningly surrender to the enemy of their salvation, the few who remain recalcitrant are increasingly marginalized.

A regime whose ideology is one of peace and tolerance cannot admit that a handful of stubborn throwbacks pose a mortal threat to its insatiable craving for power. So instead, it labels them as objects of pity, suffering from a mental illness harmful to themselves and society.

In a penultimate phase of this asymmetrical conflict, a new law requires each citizen to be asked one fateful question: Do you believe in God?

Anyone who answers in the affirmative will be eliminated, but not as an act of aggression. Instead, he will be “euthanized,” to relieve him of his own misery, and secure the happiness of mankind.

The reasoning is simple: if human flourishing is achieved exclusively by human agency, anyone willing to bow to divine agency undermines his own welfare, and endangers that of his fellows. Better for him to disappear quietly, if he cannot be convinced even by totalitarian tools of persuasion.

Prior to the year our vision became perfect—I mean 2020—many had remarked on the uncanny prescience of Benson’s dystopian vision. Now, unfortunately, the parallels are harder to miss than ever before.

How so? I invite the reader to make his own suggestions, and may follow up soon with some of my own.

In closing, let us consider the fate of this faithful remnant in Benson’s tale. Their prospects seem hopeless, and indeed humanly speaking they stand no chance of surviving.

On the basis of revelation, however, we know who wins the war. As for how Benson’s inspired imagination supplies the details of this victory, I will not spoil things for anyone who has not yet read this essential guide to the times ahead.

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