Holy Spirit

The worst thing about being Catholic is…

division amongst Catholics. I hate it. And the worst of the worst is when those who are fostering this division are priests or religious or even bishops.

Not that we have to agree on everything. Or even to tolerate everything – heresy and sin are very real. But when we see uncharitable speech and interpretations between Catholics, we should immediately recognise that the devil is at work.

If someone says or does something that might be interpreted badly, try to find the most charitable interpretation, until you can clarify with them. If you can’t find a good interpretation, assume good intentions, and try to correct your brother or sister. If you can’t do this, pray for their conversion.

If someone is accused of a sin or crime, consider them innocent until proven guilty (unless you are a prosecutor, in which case you must play devil’s advocate). Do not pass rash judgment.

The Catholic media is terrible for this. Whenever they do this, they are just following the pattern of the world’s journalism. I have largely abandoned Catholic news media as a result. It is bad for the soul.

The fact is, these people are attacking the Church – attacking Christ Himself. It is a grave sin.

Catholics & Orthodox fighting at the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

I have probably done this more than I am aware. It is very easy to judge and accuse and divide. Thinking about it, I have probably done this more to non-Catholics, and it is wrong no matter who is the target. Especially when talking politics, I often use very harsh words. I think I’ll have to mention this in my next confession…

I expect most people don’t fully realise what they are doing when they foster divisions in this way. It isn’t natural, being a Christian. I recommend we follow the rule, to always pray for a person twice as much as we criticise them, in time and in effort.

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all…
Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds.

-Ephesians 4:1-6, 17

God bless you!

The Holy Trinity

According to a certain sociology model, in each person there exists an I, a Self and a Me. As I understand it, the I is the person, as they truly are, looking out on the world; the Self is their reflective self-image, their idea of who they are; and the Me is the person they present to the rest of the world. The Self originates from the I, and the Me comes from the Self and the I together. To help explain, I will use an example:

Say someone decides to take a selfie. The I takes the picture; the Self is captured/expressed within the picture, reflecting the I; and the Me posts the picture online, sharing the life of the person with others.

Now to talk Trinity. God knows Himself perfectly, and cannot be deceived, so God’s Self is perfectly identical with God’s I, and so both are wholly God. God’s Me, by which God presents God to the world, is the fulness of God, because God is all good, and loves Himself perfectly, and so has no bad to hide and no good to forge. God’s Me, then, is the love of the I for the Self and the Self for the I, and proceeds from both the I and the Self. The Father corresponds to the I, the Son corresponds to the Self, and the Me corresponds to the Holy Spirit. They are perfectly united, and yet truly distinct. Three in One and One in Three.

The I, Self and Me model can also, I believe, help to explain how people come to be united, and so, by extension, how we come to be united with God. As the Me shares the person’s inner life, if it is accepted, those it is shared with begin to take part in this inner life; they spend more and more time with the person, talking more and more intimately. As this goes on, the outsider grows to be ever more closely identified with the person, entering into the person’s idea of their Self; they consider each other as themselves (even to neglecting their own self), and take ever more joint selfies. And as they enter into the person’s Self, they are even drawn into the I, where they live and work as one, with a single set of desires.

Between people, this process can be bumpy to say the least. Sin and the stain of sin place barriers between us at each point, and our own I, Self and Me are not perfectly united. But with God, He removes all such barriers along the way, and brings us to internal unity. And as a wonderful bonus, this removes the same barriers from our relationships with others, enabling true communion on earth also.

We see this growing into unity with God throughout the scriptures, and especially in the Blessed Virgin, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, whose flesh was made the flesh of the Word, who was united most profoundly to God and so made Queen of Heaven. The Holy Spirit is credited with making the Church the Body of Christ, and with consecrating the Holy Eucharist. It is by the Holy Spirit that we know God’s life, so that we are united to Jesus (especially on the cross), so that we are offered in perfect obedience to the Father.

May God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit bless you

‘Who are you then, O Immaculate Conception’ by St. Maximilian Kolbe

IMMACULATE CONCEPTION. These words fell from the lips of the Immaculata herself. Hence, they must tell us in the most precise and essential manner who she really is.

Since human words are incapable of expressing divine realities, it follows that these words: “Immaculate,” and “Conception” must be understood in a much more profound, much more beautiful and sublime meaning than usual: a meaning beyond that which human reason at its most penetrating, commonly gives to them.

St. Paul wrote, quoting the Prophet Isaiah: “Things that the eye has not seen, that the ear has not heard, that the heart of man has not imagined” (Is. 64,4), such are the good things that God has prepared for those who love him (I Cor. 2,9). Here, these words apply fully.

However, we can and should reverently inquire into the mystery of the Immaculata and try to express it with words provided by our intelligence using its own proper powers.

Who then are you, O Immaculate conception?

Not God, of course, because he has no beginning. Not an angel, created directly out of nothing. Not Adam, formed out of the dust of the earth (Gen. 2,7). Not Eve, molded from Adam’s rib (Gen. 2,21). Not the Incarnate Word, who exists before all ages, and of whom we should use the word “conceived” rather than “conception”. Humans do not exist before their conception, so we might call them created “conceptions.” But you, O Mary, are different from all other children of Eve. They are conceptions stained by original sin; whereas you are the unique, Immaculate Conception.

Everything which exists, outside of God himself, since it is from God and depends on him in every way, bears within itself some semblance to its Creator; there is nothing in any creature which does not betray this resemblance, because every created thing is an effect of the Primal cause.

It is true that the words we use to speak of created realities express the divine perfections only in a halting, limited and analogical manner. They are only a more or less distant echo- as are the created realities that they signify- of the properties of God himself.

Would not “conception” be an exception to this rule? No; there is never any such exception.

The Father begets the Son; the Spirit proceeds from Father and Son. These few words sum up the mystery of life of the Most Blessed Trinity and of all the perfections in creatures which are nothing else but echoes, a hymn of praise, a many-hued tableau, of this primary and most wondrous of all mysteries.

We must perforce use our customary vocabulary, since it is all we have; but we must never forget that our vocabulary is very inadequate.

Who is the Father? What is his personal life like? It consists in begetting, eternally; because he begets his Son from the beginning, and forever.

Who is the son? He is the Begotten-One because from the beginning and for all eternity he is begotten by the Father.

And who is the Holy Spirit? The flowering of the love of the Father and the Son. If the fruit of created love is a created conception, then the fruit of divine Love, that prototype of all created love, is necessarily a divine “conception.” The Holy Spirit is, therefore, the “uncreated, eternal conception,” the prototype of all the conceptions that multiply life throughout the whole universe.

The Father begets; the Son is begotten; the Spirit is the “conception” that springs from their love; there we have the intimate life of the three Persons by which they can be distinguished one from another. But they are united in the oneness of their Nature, of their divine existence.

The spirit is, then this thrice holy “conception,” this infinitely holy, Immaculate Conception.

Everywhere in this world we notice action, and the reaction which is equal but contrary to it; departure and return; going away and coming back; separation and reunion. The separation always looks foreword to union, which is creative. All this is simply an image of the Blessed Trinity in the activity of creatures. Union means love, creative love. Divine activity, outside the Trinity itself, follows the same pattern. First, God creates the universe; that is something like a separation. Creatures, by following the natural law implanted in them by God, reach their perfection, become like him, and go back to him. Intelligent creatures love him in the conscious manner; through this love they unite themselves more and more closely with him, and so find their way back to him. The creature most completely filled with this love, filled with God himself, was the Immaculata, who never contracted the slightest stain of sin, who never departed in the least from God’s will. United to the Holy Spirit as his spouse, she is one with God in an incomparably more perfect way than can be predicated of any other creature.

What sort of union is this? It is above all an interior union, a union of her essence with the “essence” of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells in her, lives in her. This was true from the first instant of her existence. It was always true; it will always be true.

In what does this life of the Sprit in Mary consist? He himself is uncreated Love in her; the Love of the Father and of the Son, the Love by which God loves himself, the very love of the Most Holy Trinity. He is a fruitful Love, a “Conception.” Among creatures made in God’s image the union brought about by married love is the most intimate of all (cf. Mt. 19,6). In a much more precise, more interior, more essential manner, the Holy Spirit lives in the soul of the Immaculata, in the depths of her very bring. He makes her fruitful, from the very first instant of her existence, all during her life, and for all eternity.

This eternal “Immaculate Conception” (which is the Holy Spirit) produces in an immaculate manner divine life itself in the womb (or depths) of Mary’s soul, making her the Immaculate Conception, the human Immaculate Conception. And the virginal womb of Mary’s body is kept sacred for him; there he conceives in time- because everything that is material occurs in time- the human life of the man-God.

And so the return to God (which is love), that is to say the equal and contrary reaction, follows a different path from that found in creation. The path of creation goes from the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit; this return trail goes from the Spirit through the Son back to the Father; in other words, by the Spirit the Son becomes incarnate in the Womb of the Immaculata; and through this Son love returns to the Father.

And she (the Immaculata), grafted into the Love of the Blessed Trinity, becomes from the first moment of her existence and forever thereafter the “complement of the Blessed Trinity”.

In the Holy Spirit’s union with Mary we observe more than the love of two beings; in one there is all the love of the Blessed Trinity; in the other, all of creation’s love. So it is that in this union heaven and earth are joined; all of heaven with all the earth, the totality of eternal love with the totality of created love. It is truly the summit of love.

At Lourdes, the Immaculata did not say of herself that she had been conceived immaculately, but, as St. Bernadette repeated, “Que soy era immaculada councepciou”: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

If among human beings the wife takes the name of her husband because she belongs to him, is one with him, becomes equal to him and is, with him, the source of new life, with how much greater reason should the name of the Holy Spirit, who is the divine Immaculate Conception, be used as the name of her in whom he lives as uncreated Love, the principle of life in the whole supernatural order of grace?

by St. Maximilian Kolbe

Yesterday/today (14th August) was the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a great saint, and martyr of charity. He wrote the above (which I found here) just a few hours before his second and final arrest by the Nazis. Also brilliant is his, ‘Why Mary Is Our Mediatrix‘.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us

God bless you

Baptism, Confirmation and Freedom

“Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ. Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Christ Jesus for his own kind purposes, to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.”

Ephesians 1:3-7 [CTS New Catholic Bible]

“Now you too, in him, have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation, and have believed it; and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise, the pledge of our inheritance which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his glory praised.”

Ephesians 1:13-14 [CTS New Catholic Bible]

I love this chapter so much, and I think it’s especially relevant as two days ago I was baptised and confirmed and received my first communion. I recommend reading the whole chapter.

What stuck out to me, was the claim that this gives us freedom. I was considering the passage in relation to my entering the Church, and was surprised to see it mention freedom. The link between forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, and freedom didn’t seem very clear at first.

But I remembered, that sin is an entirely false freedom. Freedom is to truly be what you are. And because God is the foundation of all existence, the one who creates from nothing and sustains all things in being, all being is good (Wisdom 1:14). In freedom, we flourish and grow. In the context of being with God, in His creative love and embrace, we flourish to truly be ourselves, and are made whole in Him. Filled with the Holy Spirit of the Promise, we do not lose our identities, but we find and live out our mysterious identity in relation to the mysterious God, who makes us truly alive.

Sin, on the other hand, is always destructive, and always violent. It denies the dignity of all: the person committing the sin, those it’s committed against, and creation, and its creator. It defines things in the most dull ways- what temporary pleasure we may derive from them, or how they make us look- it’s all surface level. It propagates an attitude of the division of the world, into consumers and commodities, the vulnerable and the exploiters. And the more we consider creation as commodities for consumption, the more we consider the people who depend on creation as resources to exploit also.

But to the Christian,

“He has let us know the mystery of his purpose, the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the beginning, to act upon when the times had run their course to the end: that he would bring everything under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth.

Ephesians 1:9-10

Christ has redeemed creation, and it is to be put to his purposes, all united under him. We are called to “live through love in his presence,” (1:4). We are called to live in God’s creative love, being built up and strengthened by Him, to live in true freedom.

In the parable of the prodigal son, we see that he goes out and squanders his inheritance, on partying and (if his brother was correct) prostitution. But he returns to his father’s farm. On his own, he was squandering his resources and his life, and consuming recklessly and using people as objects. At the farm, on the other hand, life is sustainable, and productive, and people are accepted as family. At both he has parties, but away from home, they are celebrating his wealth and spending, and using each other for private profit, while at home, they are celebrating him for being with them again.

“…determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Christ Jesus for his own kind purposes, to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.”

In Christ, we are redefined. We leave behind the illusions of vanity and pride and strength, and become the children of God. Our sins are forgiven, so they no longer rule and define us, as part of the dominion of death. We are truly set free, to live in and live out the divine love, being truly ourselves as we were born to be.

This freedom shouldn’t be understood as something only spiritual, and not relating to everyday life. It isn’t just a change of mindset, that is irrelevant to the real world, or will just improve your self-image. It is the truth of life itself, to be lived out every day.

When slaves became Christians, they knew that they were the Lord’s free people. They were encouraged to keep working for those called their masters in this world, but out of love, both for their masters, and for the Lord Jesus Christ (I should note, that there is plenty of place for slaves to rebel, out of love for each other). They knew they were no longer slaves, but the children of God Almighty. Yet they continued to serve their masters, but not in shame or out of fear, but out of love for their fellow man. They were freed from the intimidation and judgment of men, because they were children of the King. And when masters were Christians, they were to “treat your slaves in the same spirit; do without threats, remembering that they and you have the same Master in heaven and he is not impressed by one person more than by another.” They were redefined as brothers, and co-servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. These enemies were joined in Christ, as members of his body, the Church.

“He has put all things under his feet, and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.”

Ephesians 1:22-23

Our freedom and our unity are crucially linked. If it does not unite us, it is not freedom, and it is not serving Christ.

“and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise, the pledge of our inheritance which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his glory praised.”

The Holy Spirit makes us free! And as St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:8

By the Holy Spirit living in us, we can have the creative, loving, spontaneity of God in our lives, strengthening us and leading us. The Holy Spirit will give us words of faith when we need them most, and bless our lives always.

May God Almighty bless you as abundantly as He has offered