Deus Caritas Est: Part Four

This week we finish up going through Pope Benedict’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est. The focus this week is the conclusion of the document.

The conclusion starts with Benedict directing us to the Saints. He starts with one of that everyone should know Martin of Tours who illustrates the irreplaceable value of the individual testimony to charity when he offered his cloak to a poor man.  Then he moves on to Anthony the Abbot and the whole monastic community and loads of others, like Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, John of God, Camillus of Lellis who founded the Camillians or Clerics Regular, Minsters to Sick which was basically the Red Cross before it existed, Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac who were the co-founders of the Daughters of Charity, Giuseppe B. Cottolengo who formed many orders which still work together in activities focused on communicating God’s love for the poorest, John Bosco who founded orders which focused on poor children, Luigi Orione a student of Don Bosco and founder of the Son of Divine Providence who are dedicated in helping the poor, Mother Teresa of Calcutta to name but a few—stand out as lasting models of social charity for all people of good will. All of these people have done wonders and provided care to the less fortunate, we need to follow their example. Benedict picks out the example par excellence Mary, the mother of Jesus and mirror of holiness. Mary is great because she wants to magnify the Lord this can be seen in the Magnificat.   As we can pray or sing during Vespers “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Benedict traces this throughout the life of Mary from the Visitation to Pentecost.

His Holiness make note that the lives of the Saints don’t end when they die but continue in heaven with God. One thing is clear that as we draw closer to God we cannot withdraw from society, but become closer to it. At his Passion Jesus turned to his beloved disciple saying “Behold, your mother!” This is Mary and we are all the beloved disciple, Mary is our mother and she shows us what love is and whence it draws its origin and its constantly renewed power. This is what love is, let us all have to courage of Mary to say Yes to God’s call in our lives. As well as being open to the world although it seems like a horrible place currently.

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Deus Caritas Est: Part Two

As we have had the past two weeks it is time to explore Pope Benedict’s first Encyclical. In case you forgot it focuses on Love. Last week I went through the Introduction, now we are going to get into Part One of the Encyclical, this section is titles The Unity of Love in Creation and in Salvation History.

To begin it tackles the basic fact that we begin with a simple problem with the word “love” as it has become one of the most frequently used and misused of words, a word to which we attach quite different meanings. Benedict dives into it with the three Greek words for love, eros, philia (the love of friendship) and agape, there is another storge (familiar love) but this is rarely used in ancient texts so it’s not talked about, pointing out that the Greek Old Testament used eros only twice while in the New Testament it is mostly found as agape, which Benedict points out is infrequently used in Greek, and John loved using philia.

This turns philosophical by quoting Nietzche “Christianity gave Eros poison to drink; he did not die of it, certainly, but degenerated to Vice” Benedict goes and looks at how eros was seen in the pre-Christian world. He points to the Greeks who “considered eros principally as a kind of intoxication…process of being overwhelmed by divine power, to experience supreme happiness”, Virgil is know for his “Omnia vincit amor et nos cedamus amori” (Love conquers all let us, too, yield to love), and there were many fertility cults along with “sacred prostitution” of sorts in temples. So eros was celebrated as divine power, as fellowship with the Divine, but it oddly lacked the human. This is what the Old Testament was arguing about you need body and soul to experience eros and not a degradation but a maturity of the body. Sure the Church in the past has been opposed to the body, just look at St. Paul’s writing and his body (sarx)/spirit (pneuma) debate, and it still sort of exists today. Benedict takes this here and goes into the commodification of love/ sex as that is what most people look at it now as a thing you can buy and sell, just look at the internet and see the extant of the porn that can be found, for sale and for free. We now considers our bodies and sexuality as the purely material part of ourselves, to be used and exploited at will.

Benedict changes course here and goes into the Old Testament looking at the Song of Songs/Solomon/Canticles. Sure we don’t hear from this book very often but it’s a book of love songs. Benedict notes that in Hebrew there are two words used for love dodim (love that is still insecure, indeterminate and searching) and ahabà (I give/love) this was translated by the Greeks as agape. Love is now a concern for someone else. This gets a bit out there offering different ways to look at the words  eros, is used to indicate “worldly” love or “ascending” love or possessive love and agape, being used to indicate love grounded in and shaped by faith, or “descending” love or oblative love. The Pope gives a great thing here and says that these two types of love can never be completely separated, as anyone who wants to get love must want to give love. This can be seen in the story of Jacob’s ladder where love can be seen as an inseparable connection between ascending and descending love, between eros which seeks God and agape which passes on the gift received. It is nicely summed up in this passage “Fundamentally, “love” is a single reality, but with different dimensions; at different times, one or other dimension may emerge more clearly. Yet when the two dimensions are totally cut off from one another, the result is a caricature or at least an impoverished form of love.”

We dive back into the Bible and The Shema. Looking at the Bible we can see God loves, and his love can be called eros, but at the same time it is also agape. This turns to Jesus eventually as he is the combination of eros and agape. The Eucharistic feast is a prime example “This is my Body”…”This is my blood” we have been given so much and in this feast we all become one.  Let us remember The Great Commandment to love one another for Love can be “commanded” because it has first been given.

As The Beatles said “And in the end/The love you take/Is equal to the love you make.”

Deus Caritas Est Part One

This week we begin going through Pope Benedict XVI’s first Encyclical this begins a look at the theological virtue of Charity. The Encyclical is broken into two parts along with an introduction and conclusion.

It begins with an Introduction where we are given a nice overview of what to expect. Benedict start with quoting from the first letter of John 4:16 “So we have come to know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” Then Benedict suggests that the first part is sort of a summary of Christian Life. He then breaks it down and analyzes it even more pointing out that being Christian isn’t the result of an idea or choice but of an encounter. This idea, the centrality of Love, retains the core of the Jewish faith embodied in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 it’s know as the Shema (Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength:) which Jesus names as one of the Greatest Commandments along with “Love your neighbor as yourself” from Leviticus 19:18.  Noting that since God loves us, it “is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.”

Benedict says that this topic in important today since the name of God has been associated with vengeance, as well as hate and violence. Benedict wants to “speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others.” This is what the Encyclical is about. The first part with be more speculative focusing on the theological and philosophical dealing with the different meaning of the word love in Greek. While the second part will be concrete it’s the what can I do about it part. Benedict notes that this subject is vast and this one Encyclical isn’t  going to cover it all but this is the basics.

Deus Caritas Est

We’ve finally made it to Pope Benedict XVI. It’s not that I’ve been avoiding this Pope but there have been lots of documents that have come out over the years that are pretty unique as well.  This is the first of Encyclical from Benedict XVI as well as the first of three that focus on the theological virtues Deus caritas est (about love), Spe salvi (about hope), and Lumen fidei (about faith). Lumen Fidei was written by both Benedict and Francis. As one should know the title come from the first line of encyclical God is love. It comes from the first letter of John (4:16) “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” As we have learned about in John Paul II’s Salvifici Doloris  suffering is linked to love.  So we looked at the suffering now it’s on to love. Sure most of the time during Lent we tend to focus on the negatives, like when we give something up but Lent is more than just this it is about trying to become a better person in general as well. Over the next couple of weeks I will be going through this Encyclical. It was written by Benedict with some direction from uncompleted writings left by John Paul II. This was signed on Christmas Day back in 2005 and came out in January of 2006. It will be an interesting look during this season of Lent

Introduction
Part One
Part Two
Conclusion

Diutirni Temporis

Diuturni Temporis is Pope Leo XIII’s last encyclical on Mary and the Rosary. This came out only a year since the previous one Augustissimae Virginis Mariae, and sort of continues on with the same themes. The second paragraph is one of my favorites as it reminds us that “have never ceased to encourage the constant use of the Rosary among Christians, by publishing every year since September 1, 1883, an Encyclical Letter on this subject, besides frequently issuing Decrees, as is well known.” Pope Leo then given an overview on all that’s been said on the Rosary so far “We first of all pointed out that the origin of this form of prayer is divine rather than human,showing it to be an admirable garland woven from the Angelic Salutation, together with the Lord’s Prayer, joined to meditation, and that this form of prayer was most powerful and particularly efficacious for attaining eternal life. For besides the special excellence of the prayers, it affords a powerful protection to faith and conspicuous models of virtue in the mysteries proposed for contemplation. We showed also how easy the devotion is and how suited to the people, offering an absolutely perfect model of domestic life in meditation on the Holy Family at Nazareth, and that therefore Christendom had never failed to experience its salutary effects.” This is a wonderful summation of the previous teaching on the Rosary.

Pope Leo continues offering history of how different Popes have evolved the idea of praying the Rosary from the dates of Gregory XIII and Sixtus V to today (1898). This document itself is just a big old teaser for an Apostolic Constitution Ubi primum, which was on the laws, rights and privileges of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary issued about a month later. I’ll get to this next week.

Augustissimae Virginis Mariae

Augustissimae Virginis Mariae (Of the Most August Virgin Mary) is another encyclical from Pope Leo XIII about the Rosary, this one however talks about the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary.

This Encyclical start off as so many of the other one about the Rosary with a plea for more devotion to the Most August Virgin Mary, daily and for public and private benefit. It also highlights the role of Mary in the Incarnation and Redemption as well as pointing toward Christ’s example. As well as calling for individuals to pray the Rosary in October. Now this is the first half which we’ve read before and since.

Pope Leo continues turning the conversation to the gathering of humanity into pious associations. He specifically talks about the Confraternity of the Rosary. This is a group under the care and guidance of the Dominican order. The members of the Confraternity strive to pray the Rosary of weekly. It goes on to point to the power of the Rosary with the Battle of Lepanto and the victory of the Catholic fleet. This continues with a discussion of the prayers to God and prayers to the saints. All too often we pray to Mary and not God, for many individuals we turn to the saints and other rather than talking with God about what our troubles are yet as we pray to the saints and Mary we are asking through their prayers and merits our prayers may be efficacious. Then in turning to the communal prayer as that of the Angels. It end with a nice ending in which Leo asks that more people join in this Solidarity for the usefulness of our salvation and talks of the living Rosary.

So pick up a Rosary in this final week of the month of the Rosary and pray it.

Fidentem piumque animum

Fidentem poumque animum is another encyclical on the Rosary by Pope Leo XIII. This one is pretty short and simple one. It starts with the whole general idea of Pope Leo reminding everyone that we’ve sent out numerous Encyclicals about how important the Rosary is and how everyone should be praying it especially in the month of October. This turns into a look at how important prayer in general is everything. Leo notes “The Fathers and Doctors in subsequent times have taught that this is a matter of such grave necessity, that if men neglect it they hope in vain for eternal salvation.”  Leo continues that the Rosary is a deeply Christ-centric prayer. It concludes with the request to pray the Rosary during October. This is basically the entirety of the Encyclical

Quamquam Pluries

Quamquam Pluries is an Encyclical by Leo XIII on the Devotion of Saint Joseph. I know you might be asking isn’t this supposed to be about the Rosary since it is October now, well yes you are right but this concerns the Rosary as well. The Encyclical begins although we’ve said it before yet again it seems like it is necessary for special prayers to be offered up “chiefly when every lawlessness of act seems permitted to the powers of darkness” we turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Leo urges praying the Rosary as it turns us to Mary. We should also remember Joseph, the Patron of the Church, for his dignity, holiness, and glory. Since in the ties of marriage, Mary and Joseph became one and “its essence imparts a community of gifts between those that by it are joined together. Therefore God appointed him as a participator in Mary’s sublime dignity. It goes on like this talking about Joseph, how work is a vocation and that the family is the foundation of Christianity and society. These topic were picked up again in Rerum Novarum, which I’ll get to later on. Leo ends this Encyclical by asking for the Rosary to be prayed but to end it with a prayer to St. Joseph in the month of October. It also made his feast day, 19 March, a Holy Day of Obligation. St. Joseph’s feast day is still a Holy Day in some places as it is one of the ten set forth in canon 1246.

The prayer is as followed I think that during this month I will be adding it.

Prayer to Saint Joseph

To thee, O blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our affliction, and having implored the help of thy thrice holy Spouse, we now, with hearts filled with confidence, earnestly beg thee also to take us under thy protection. By that charity wherewith thou wert united to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly love with which thou didst cherish the Child Jesus, we beseech thee and we humbly pray that thou wilt look down with gracious eye upon that inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by His blood, and wilt succor us in our need by thy power and strength.

Defend, O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen off-spring of Jesus Christ. Keep from us, O most loving Father, all blight of error and corruption. Aid us from on high, most valiant defender, in this conflict with the powers of darkness. And even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the peril of His life, so now defend God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Shield us ever under thy patronage, that, following thine example and strengthened by thy help, we may live a holy life, die a happy death, and attain to everlasting bliss in Heaven. Amen.

October is for the Rosary

Over the month of October I will be taking a break from the decades of the Rosary and turn to some of the Encyclicals on the Rosary. It’s going to be Pope Leo XIII centric since he has written the most on the Rosary. October is the month of the Rosary because of the Battle of Lepanto took place in October in which the Holy League fleet defeated the vastly superior Ottoman fleet.  Pope Pius V urged praying the Rosary for a victory in this battle. Since the Christian fleet defeated the Ottoman fleet the day of the battle became the feast to Our Lady of Victory, this feast has been renamed to honor Our Lady of the Rosary. This is why the month of October is dedicated to the Rosary.