Aquinas’ Reasonable Proof for Angels

“Wait! The Catholic Church actually still believes in angels? That’s ridiculous!” my student bellowed from the back of the class.

Putting aside the fact that he had no qualms with us claiming that God became man and then rose from the dead, I grant that his reaction might even be normal amongst a certain kind of mal-formed Catholic. Angels are plain weird from our perspective, largely because they are the only thing in creation which are purely non-corporeal. Despite scripture’s ample testimony to their existence, most of us have not tangibly communicated with, touched, or seen one of the heavenly hosts.  So, most of us just kind of remain agnostic about whether they exist or are regularly interacting with us. But St. Thomas Aquinas, aptly named the Angelic Doctor, thought that on a purely philosophical level (meaning apart from God revealing it in his word) there were good reasons to assume that angels do exist.  In fact, he went as far as to say that the world’s relation to God made it fitting that God would create purely non-corporeal (spiritual) creatures. Let’s try to unpack that.

Thomas Aquinas spends a significant amount of time thinking about angels in his Summa Theologica. In Question 50 of the Prima Pars, while considering how exactly an angel exists, he gives a proof of their fittingness within God’s plan of creation. I’d like to try my best to explain them in 4 easy steps.

I. God creates with the express intention that all things be good.

God is goodness itself, which means that no matter how hard he tried (and he wouldn’t) he could not act in such a way that was contrary to his nature. We often think of it as a limitation of his nature that he cannot lie or cheat, but that is for either one of two reasons. Either we don’t understand the nature of evil or we do not have a grasp of what the word “God” really means. Evil is what we call a privation of good. That means that evil is not a thing in itself but is a descriptor we use when there is a loss of goodness. For example, darkness isn’t the opposite of light in the sense that darkness doesn’t exist in the same way as light. Quite the opposite. Darkness is the descriptor we give when there is a complete loss of light. So in this sense, darkness owes its complete existence to the corruption or loss of light. Lies and falsehood are not the opposite of truth, they are the descriptor we give when there is a corruption of truth. When someone claims that you are lying what they are claiming is that you are giving them a truth that is either corrupted or that the “facts” you gave them were completely devoid of truth.

To be God is to have the fullest perfection of all attributes. God lacks nothing. To do something immoral would be to act in a way that is less than the fullness of being he is. God cannot lie because he is truth.  For God, to lie would be a corruption of his very being. But he is incorruptible, so that can’t happen. God cannot be unjust because he IS justice. Same problem. When God creates something it is impossible for him to create anything evil because he is goodness itself. That means that all things which God creates are fundamentally good.

II. Something becomes more good the closer to God it comes.

Saint Thomas says that something is more perfect (good) the more it reflects the aspects of the cause that brought it into existence. For example, microwave burritos are more perfect when they are hot because they reflect the heat of the microwave. We have all experienced the tragedy of placing a frozen burrito in the microwave for a couple of minutes only to pull it out and find that certain parts of it are still frozen while other parts are like the lava pits of Mordor. Why do we get disappointed? It’s because we know that by nature, the whole thing should be a reflection of the heating capacities of the microwave to be perfect.

Admittedly, this is a complicated analogy because there may exist various factors in determining what makes a good microwave burrito. There is probably some sociopath out there who enjoys a burritocicle from time to time. But he should seek the sacramental grace of Confession or the Anointing of the Sick. In God’s case, we only have to worry about two important aspects, his intellect and will. As stated above God doesn’t have knowledge. He is perfect knowledge. God doesn’t have love. He is love. When God creates, he creates through these two aspects of his being. So in creation, the closer a being comes to reflecting God’s intelligence and love, the more good it is. Puppies are good. They are not as good as humans because they will not stop and appreciate the beauty of a sunset as it descends behind the horizon. Human beings at least have, in their nature, the capacity to do that. Same with love. Your puppy may love you but it is by nature incapable of the spousal gift of self that the heights of human love require.

III. Intelligence cannot be the sole result of a body or corporeal thing because ideas are by nature non-corporeal and remain well after a person has thought of them.

Ideas are bound by “here” and “now”.  Let’s do a little thought experiment. I want you to think of a cat who has orange fur with black stripes. He hates Mondays and loves Lasagna. He has a caretaker named John and is not a very good friend to John. Do you know who we have in mind? Keep that idea in your mind. Really focus. Now ask yourself, how much does that idea weigh? What does that idea taste like? What does it smell like? What color is the idea? If you’re really perceptive you can see what I am getting at. The idea really does exist both in my mind and in yours, but it does not have a physical existence. There is no physical way to account for or measure the idea of Garfield in your head. Which means that the nature of human intellect is not only physical.

Now, since human beings are a body-soul composite, it is impossible to have a pure intellect in us. This means that your soul is intimately dependent upon your brain and all of its functions for its own intelligence. But the fact that human beings are always bound by their senses brings up a bit of a gap in creation. In other words, if humans could come to a perfect knowledge without having to go through their senses, they would be closer to God and therefore more good because God is pure spirit. For us, this is a limit, an imperfection in our nature. So how do we close that gap? Well implicit in the question is the very answer.

All lower orders of creation find what they lack in the higher orders of creation. Plants have the power of nutrition but not locomotion or sense experience. Your Phicus does have the power of photosynthesis but most plants are not very capable of voluntary locomotion. They may twitch here or bend in this particular direction to catch a little more sun. But they are not actively choosing to do “this” or “that”. Well, where are we to find what they are lacking? We find them in the higher order of creation. Animals do have the nutritive capacities (though the nutrients come from a different source) of plants AND they have the capacities for locomotion and sense experience. But alas, Animals do not have the capacity for rational thought or rational love. One’s puppy may become very familiar with the tree it urinates on every day. But that same puppy will hardly give a thought to the nature of treeness and delve into the efficient causes of its existence. Only human being can do that. One can easily train an elephant to pick up a paintbrush with its trunk and paint the contours of an image it recognizes. But it will not paint with rich symbolic meaning and pass the tradition on to apprenticing elephants. So we see here that even though animals are amazing, they are limited in their thinking by sense experience and cannot go beyond the immediate. They are by nature irrational. Where might we find what animals are lacking? Once again we find them in the higher order.

Humans have capacities for both nutrition and locomotion. Additionally, we have the capacity for sense experience. But the difference is that we make up for what is lacking in the lower order with our capacity for rationality. Human beings can fathom the mystery of the cosmos in a way that goes beyond our basic need for survival. The Basilica of St. Mark in Venice has no immediate bearing on my survival today or tomorrow unless I am the architect or laborer. Sadly that position was filled several hundred years ago. And yet there is something so utterly necessary to humanity about these great works of art because they render us somehow more human. The point here is that our capacity for meaning and love, especially when it is not emotionally satisfying, as in the case of loving a pissy teenager, go beyond what is strictly necessary for our survival. These capacities reflect the image of God in us. Sadly even these capacities have their limits. Although our capacities can go beyond the necessities of survival, they are still bound by the limits of our corporeal nature. Try as you might to listen to an interesting 3-hour night class lecture, your attention span will only last as long as your butt does in the seat. You can try to untangle the inner mystery of the Trinitarian processions with your Orthodox brother, but you’re going to need to stop pretty soon after your stomach starts to grumble. We are worse off when trying to tackle the limitations of our rational capacities. We need to encounter something with our senses. But we may be mistaken in seeing something different than what was actually present. We may mishear someone because they are mumbling. We may have a chemical imbalance that renders our emotional capacities compromised. And worst of all, we can only know a couple of things at a time because we are always bound by “here” and “now”. So, Saint Thomas says, Where do we find what is lacking in humanity? Remember that we are trying to work our way up to the ultimate good (perfect, infinite, never-limited knowledge and love) that God is. You guessed it.

IV. It is fitting that God create a creature that is purely spiritual intellect and will, not bound by space and time, but still limited by the fact that its understanding is not infinite like God’s. These creatures we call angels.

Whereas human knowledge is always bound by space and time, or in the case of faith, by God’s direct revelation, angels have near perfect knowledge of any single thing they choose to focus on. We have to mentally take away the elements of a tree in order to get at its nature or “treeness”. An angel, because it is not bound by space or time, see’s the nature of a tree without having to even work through its physical properties. They are so above space and time that it belongs to them to manipulate them for God’s glory if he asks.  But as great as angels are (and I do mean it when I say that the dumbest angel is 10 times smarter than Einstein and Hawking combined) their knowledge is not infinite. They cannot foresee the future. They cannot know the deepest mysteries of what it means to be God. They cannot create new natures in things. Angels cannot create new animals that come into being. Angels cannot create new souls. Even they have their limitations. Only God who is beyond the orders of creation is capable of that. They are not limitless. Even the angels are afraid to tread too deeply into the mystery of the source of all being.

To summarize, the argument goes as follows. God creates everything to be good. Something is more good the closer it comes to reflecting God’s infinite intellect and will. Human beings are perfectly capable of rational thought. The problem is that our rational thought, even though it comes from an immaterial soul, is ultimately limited by our corporeal nature. The hierarchy of creation tells us that our limitations are accounted for in the higher order of creation. Therefore, it is fitting that God create a higher order of creation than humans which itself has its own limitations in its reflection of God. This order of creation is called angelic.

The next time someone asks you whether or not you actually believe that angels exist, tell them that even on a purely philosophical level it is most fitting that they do exist.

 

Let us pray that our angles who mercifully guard and guide God’s Church would inspire us to strive for holiness, that we would ever give it The Ol’ Catholic Try.

Teresa of Avila and the Litany of Humility

Reading Teresa of Avila for the first time is as distressing and horrifying as it is beautiful. The reason is that Teresa’s advice for how to progress in prayer and perfection goes against many of our natural inclinations to avoid suffering. She never spouts out platitudes about how much God loves us, or whether or not God desires us despite the foulness of our sins.  She assumes that you already know that. Teresa’s introductory advice is clear and concise.

Step 1. Get to know who you are in relation to God. Contemplate his holiness so that you get a very clear picture of your own wickedness. Contemplate the immense faith it takes to allow oneself to be crucified so that you will realize how quick you are to succumb to temptations. Contemplate the humility it takes for God to empty himself and become human, that you would recognize how prideful you are when someone inconveniences you.

Step 2. Do not be afraid to experience suffering. In fact, embrace it is a gift from God. Silence is a difficult thing because silence is pregnant. There are an infinite amount of possibilities that God can bring to our intellects when we are still. It’s one of the reasons we drown out the silence through our Netflix or Hulu accounts, twitter, or with music. The suffering of being silent is usually caused by all of our attachments to day-to-day life. How many times have we tried to remain silent for 2 or 3 minutes only be knocked out of it by some concern that God has probably already got covered? Do not give the Devil a chance to distract you with your own weakness. There is a tendency to think that if you did not “get something out of it”, it was fruitless. This is only Satan trying to discourage you. embrace the feeling of sometimes being lost. The Heavenly Father cast his own Son out into the desert to be tested. What makes his adopted children in Christ any different?

Step 3. Do not presume to tell his Majesty what you should receive in prayer and by what measure it should come to you. If you understand steps one and two, this will make perfect sense to you. If you really understood how gracious God was that he would even allow you to approach him, you would be content with the life you are getting ready to complain about. That is not to say that you should not bring your concerns to God in all things. What it does mean is that when you approach him, you should approach as one already thankful and content with what you have been given.

In that spirit, I thought that it would be great for you to join in on the prayer that we here at The Ol’ Catholic Try pray before every podcast. May it give you guidance and humility as you give it The Ol’ Catholic Try.

 

Litany of Humility

(Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val)

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved… Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I … Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I,
 provided that I may become as holy as I should…

 

Beautiful Vestments Are a Sign of Heavenly Beauty

It is, by now, a cliche to begin every discussion of beauty with the famous Dostoevsky quote “beauty will save the world”. I tend to think that in a world which believes that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Dostoevsky’s quote seems like nothing more than the mad ramblings of a poet in love. But the Catholic Tradition holds that one of the most accurate names of God is beauty. And insomuch as Christ is Beauty Incarnate who has redeemed the world, it only seems fair that we take Dostoevsky seriously. For, beauty according to Hans Urs Von Balthasar is a kind of thing which arrests the whole person and brings us into itself. To stand on the peak of a silent mountain-top is to have been embraced by the transcendent. She who is incapable of falling silent before the beauty of the mountain range is also incapable of approaching the light of God. For, both require us to embrace the transcendent, not in the awesome cosmic fire, but in the stillness of seraphic love.  It is this mystery of beauty, by which I mean a radiation which beckons all back to itself, that the Church enters into when she instructs her priests to put on their vestments as they beg for God to be present on the altar in Mass. It is the very beauty of these liturgical signs which remind us that Chaos becomes beauty when touched by the Crucified Christ. Unfortunately, our polyester and plain vestments with (GRRRRRR) stoles worn on the outside, have a tendency to rob us of an awareness of our encounter with he who is beauty itself.

Last Sunday, I was waiting in line for confession as the Mass started (in traditional parishes you can have both going on so long as you don’t do both at the same time). As much as I would love to say that I was brought to compunction the night before during an examination of conscience, I was staring at my phone reading a Fr. Z’s blog looking for a quick and dirty confession. While I stood there, already moderately aware of the sins that I had committed,  I heard the organ blow as the hymn “Alleluia Sing to Jesus” began. As I looked up from my phone, I was captured by the vestments that Father was wearing. Father was wearing a beautiful neo-gothic chasuble colored in Gold (not unlike this one you should buy). He stood there, biretta on head, and stared at the cross as the crucifer and torches walked toward the altar rail. Something about the way the stained glass reflected off of his chasuble and maniple was radiant. Something about the tender care and beauty that had gone into the chasuble struck me. This man was in the person of Christ and was about to bring Heaven to earth on that altar. That’s when it hit me. I was standing in line because I had willingly chosen to exclude myself from the beauty that was taking place before me. The beauty of his vestments radiated in a way my soul was incapable of doing at that moment. It was as if the very light of Christ had been shown on my deepest imperfections. And as I became very painfully aware of the gravity of my sin, tears began to stream down my face.

The point here is less about my personal sin and more about what caused me to understand its gravity. If instead, father had been wearing something like this, would I have been made aware of the foulness of my sin in comparison to the beauty of God’s purity? To be sure, God could have worked in a thousand different ways to make me aware of what I had unfortunately chosen. But I don’t think that, given the nature of beauty described above,  it was an accident.  You see, Father didn’t just choose that chasuble willy-nilly. At the very least, the color was prescribed to him by the Church because it reflected the opalescent glory that is the Easter Season. If it is true that beauty is arresting, then why would we not commit to only using the most beautiful things for an arresting encounter with the God-man during Mass? Beautiful vestments are part of our ancient traditions because they are a clear sign of the radiant mysteries happening behind the altar-rail.

Why is it uncommon to see beautiful vestments at Mass then? I think that it is primarily because we have lost an understanding of what Mass is for. Mass is not about coming in to “get your Jesus on” (though I think I will start using that phrase). In other words, we do not come to Mass to see what the Lord will do for us? We come to mass to honor and praise God for calling us back to participate in his Crucifixion and Resurrection on the altar.

If you think that the mass is a celebration of the People of God and that the priesthood is just about leading the Mass and hearing confessions from time to time, then, of course, you wouldn’t need the priest to be draped in beautiful and embroidered silk and linen. But if you understand the priest to be standing in as Christ who brings us into his sacrifice on Calvary as Heaven and Earth touch, then you should find it insane that if they can afford it,  parishes are still willingly choosing the polyester blends. For how could a polyester chasuble reflect the splendor of that truth as well as beautifully embroidered vestments? If beauty does indeed have the power to arrest us, then why would we not allow it to arrest us in the place where beauty himself comes to us in the form of bread and wine? Buy your priests beautiful vestments. You and God deserve it.

Let us beg God that he would give our elders the grace to beautify the mass anew. Let us also pray that we would allow ourselves to be captured by he who is beauty, that we may continue to give it The Ol’ Catholic Try.

The Holiness of the Passover Gloss-over

This week His Holiness Pope Francis published an apostolic exhortation entitled Gaudete et Exsultate: On the Call to Holiness in Today’s world. While I have only made it about a quarter of the way through, I am struck by the use of what he calls “the middle-class of Holiness” He says in article 7:

7. I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them “the middle class of holiness”.

When Joseph Scott and I spoke about the virtue of hope (A virtue I came to realize I’m not naturally inclined to) I began to look for areas where I could trust in what God has already accomplished and ordained for my life. Too often, it is the case that we become discouraged by the mind-blowing example of heroic saints that we lose a sense of how holiness is attained in our own lives. Holiness is achieved by sticking to two major ideas.

The first is that Christ calls each of us to conquer our major faults because he is preparing us for the wedding feast of Heaven. If we have been washed in the blood of the lamb, as with any stained garment, you are sometimes going to have to be rough with the material in order to remove the grime. In order to purge ourselves of our imperfections, we are going to have to cause ourselves a little bit of suffering. This is why it is necessary to fast and offer penance on our journey towards Heaven. They teach us to regard our feelings as less important or good than the good that God is.

The second is that holiness consists of nothing more than obeying the will of God at each moment. Not everyone is called to fly to Mozambique and live their lives in service. Most of us are called to figure out how to be obedient and have patience when there’s traffic on the 405 freeway. Most of us will not have our arms stretched out on a crucifix, offering ourselves like St. Paul Miki. Most of us will have our hair and ears stretched by the curious infant who doesn’t know any better. In all cases, the question is not “how do I live a life of radical holiness”? The question is “what is Jesus asking of me right this instant”?

But who can consistently live a life like this? The answer is everybody. We simply need the virtue of hope to help us to recall that Jesus promised that the Father would never refuse to hear us in his name. We need hope to help us to recall that “life does not have a mission, but is a mission”. I suppose that is why I was struck by the reading of the Last Supper that appears during Holy Week.

St. Luke introduces the preparation of the last supper by mentioning a character so glossed-over in the history of the Church, you almost feel bad for him. See if you can pick out what I mean.

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?”  He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house which he enters,  and tell the householder, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I am to eat the Passover with my disciples?’  And he will show you a large upper room furnished; there make ready.”  And they went and found it as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. 

-Luke 22:7-13 RSVCE

When PopeFrancis speaks of the “middle class of holiness” I’m almost positive he’s got this guy in mind. Most of us are called to be this man. Here smack-dab in the climax of the gospel is a man who sets the stage for the greatest gift Jesus will give us. The very place where Jesus will allow heaven to break into our earthly reality, where he gifts us his body, blood, soul, and divinity, where he begins to accomplish the restoration of the cosmos…that place is prepared by a dude who happens to be minding his own business, carrying a water jar. WHAT?!?!?!?!?!

We focus so intently on the Passover meal and the Institution of the Eucharist that we gloss over the insane reality that Jesus called upon a common man, who till this day lives in obscurity, to set the stage for arguably the greatest miracle in human history. This man was doing nothing more than the common work he probably would have done anyway.

Now, Jesus in his divine nature knew where this guy was going to be. But what brought the man to be exactly where Jesus told them he would be? Did he get a feeling that “now” was a good time to get the water? Did an Angel show up and give him a water break without explanation? What? In the grand scheme of things, these are side-questions. Here is what is truly important.

The fact that this happened means that from all eternity, God created the heavens and the earth and arranged all of time and space for this one crystallizing moment when a man was inspired to carry a jar. What to him probably seemed like a mundane and angering task became for the world the beginning of our salvation. He did not live a life of heroic virtue and levitate like St. Joseph Cupertino. He did write the 1st theological auto-biography defending the Christian Faith like St. Augustine of Hippo.  He abided by 2 rules. He stayed close to the blood of the lamb at the last supper, the beginning of the wedding feast, and was obedient to what he was told at that moment.

As His Holiness tells us, Saints can be heroic or “middle-class”. The difference is not always one of greater commitment as much as it is obedience to the state of life God calls you.

Let us pray intently for the Holy Father and all of his intentions as well as for our own sanctification, that we might merit the grace to continue to give it The Ol’ Catholic Try.

Adventurous Chesterton and Irrational Vulcans

Daniel Adel

(Picture above by Daniel Adel)

As an adult, I have very fond memories of my father fan-girling over weekly episodes of the Star Trek series. Every week, after a long day’s work, I would lay on his bed as he rolled down his business socks, tossed them in my face– a tradition I can only hope to pass on to my children–and tuned in to watch Captain Kirk, Dr. Spock, and the rest of the Enterprise traverse the farthest reaches of space to save the day against the most malevolent forces of the universe. Despite my fading fascination with the show –I’m partial to purple lightsabers–one character has remained so enigmatic to me that he has become in my mind, the paragon of an irrational man. I’m talking here about Leonard Nimoy’s Dr. Spock.

“Many Millennia ago” the Vulcans were able to recognize their extreme inclination towards death and destruction and sought to purify themselves of the emotions which compelled them to do so. Their solution was to adopt a kind of stoicism that they felt purged them of their worst compulsions. In place of the rich religious fabric that they had crafted over thousands of years, the Vulcans adopted an empiricism so dogmatic that it made David Hume look like Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka. From that point forward the Vulcans became a people so committed to logic and empiricism that even Dr. Spock, who is half-human, is mostly incapable of understanding sarcasm, euphemisms, or even figurative speech. Check this out if you don’t understand what I mean…

Dr. Spock was never compromised and never showed an ounce of fear, even in the face of an angered Captain Kirk. Growing up I idolized that way of being. That is until I read G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.

Chesterton’s basic idea is that a lunatic is not the one who is driven by all sorts of irrational passions and believes in things that he cannot verify empirically. Quite the contrary. The lunatic is the one who believes so dogmatically in what he can verify empirically that he cuts himself off from the world as it actually may be outside of himself.  As he puts it “The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.” Suppose a man was crazy enough to believe that the government had replaced all of his family and friends with look-alikes. “we promise you. We are not government look-alikes!” the family might implore. “Well, that is EXACTLY what government look-alikes would say if they were trying to convince me otherwise!” The man has committed himself to his mistress reason so whole-heartedly that he is forced to reject the very affections/relations that would disabuse him of his delusions. He is so committed to his unfalsifiable empiricism that he cannot be captivated by the beauty of the gesture offered by his family members. Much like Dr. Spock he is incapable of chuckling at the beautiful paradoxes in our speech patterns, and actions. He is incapable of internalizing the incomprehensible depths to which his family members’ hearts must sink at the sight of their loved one in such a condition.

The modern worldview is much like the Vulcan. If it cannot see the transcendent, hear it, manipulate it, or bring it into submission, then it will be damned if does not stand in complete rejection of it. Modernity much like the lunatic asylum is filled with people who believe in themselves very strongly.

So what do I propose as a remedy to modernity’s reduction of life? To the radical empiricist, with Chesterton, I propose the adventure of love and imagination. It is not the cold and dispassionate man who becomes an expert in the field. It is the man whose love for the subject compels him to cast himself into the deep. Good music is not made by the dispassionate technician looking to make a quick buck. Good music is made by the one who has fallen head-over-heels in love with music. Great marriages are not maintained when the tired spouses technically do what their spouses ask. Marriages flourish when the spouses recognize and seek to be enraptured by the incomprehensible beauty that is their significant other. Monumental scientific discoveries are not found because an unbiased scientist ran an experiment. No. Something she observed so excited, delighted, and confounded her that she could not rest until she solved that tiny piece of the cosmos. The crucifixes which hang on our walls are not signs of an indifferent transaction between the Father and Son. To look at a crucifix is to see that the Word saw something so desirable in each of us that he would rather have emptied himself of his very godliness than imagine an eternity without us.

Chesterton was right. The dirty secret that the hyper-rational never want to admit is that actively choosing to submit ourselves to a love greater than us–a seemingly irrational move–makes us incredibly sane. Until we allow ourselves the adventure of being enraptured by the true, the good, and the beautiful, we may live long, but we certainly will not prosper.

Let us pray for the grace to be surprised by the incomprehensible beauty that God is, that it might inspire us to continue to give it The Ol’ Catholic Try

Black Funeral Vestments: The Remedy To Our Lutheran Tendencies

Author’s note: Although I intend to briefly explain Lutheran doctrines, I am well aware that there are varying levels of commitment to Luther’s original exposition on the matter of Justification. I thought it best to pull from the Solid Declarations of the Formula of Concord because they were the best articulation of the Augsburg Confessions.

About a month ago,  The Socratic Catholic published a short meditation on the Beauty of the Requiem Mass with its use of black chasuble and Dies Irae sequence. I confess that in my standard Catholic upbringing, Continue reading “Black Funeral Vestments: The Remedy To Our Lutheran Tendencies”

Happiness and Marriage: Why St. Thomas Aquinas Probably Enjoys Pharell

“Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof. Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth…”

Despite the aggravating infectiousness of that song, I believe the secret to its success lies mostly in the fact that Pharell put his finger on something incredibly fundamental to what it means to be human.

Continue reading “Happiness and Marriage: Why St. Thomas Aquinas Probably Enjoys Pharell”

Real Fake Doors VS Icons: Barometers of the Soul

The laxity of our own spiritual lives (the declaration of which should never be confused with virtue) produces in us a desire to burn for God’s peace. Catholics of sincere faith are probably very quick to recognize that the path to union with God resides in letting our mortal flesh keep silent before the majesty of the Sacred Mysteries.  These same Catholics may also recognize that God, in his infinite mercy, has become incarnate, bending his knee to clothe himself in the very beauty of creation our feeble sense need to make heads or tails of literally anything. It follows then, Continue reading “Real Fake Doors VS Icons: Barometers of the Soul”