Humanae Vitae at 50

Humanae Vitae is a controversial encyclical that came out fifty years ago today, I posted a short overview back in 2013. It was the last encyclical by Pope Paul VI  Humanae Vitae or Of Human Life: On the Regulation of Birth, it basically reaffirms the traditional orthodox teaching of the Church. Marriage is the union of a loving couple with a loving God, and the sole purpose of sex is for procreation and the use of contraception is bad. It was published and sure there were some not enthused by these teachings asking “What do celibate male have to say about sex?” George Weigel points out that Karol Wojtyła (JPII)’s 1960 book Love and Responsibility made better arguments about these issues.  Since it was published more and more people have been siding with the Winnipeg Statement which states that those who can’t accept the teaching are not shut off from the Catholic Church, and individuals can in good conscience use contraception as long as they made an honest attempt to accept the directives. It is still one of the biggest issues that people have with the Church.

John Paul II took up Humanae Vitae in his Theology of the Body which sort of take Humanae Vitae  and furthers the teaching. Benedict XVI reflects on it with the idea of love “that the fullness of a person is achieved by a unity of soul and body, but neither spirit nor body alone can love, only the two together. If this unity is broken, if only the body is satisfied, love becomes a commodity”. Francis himself continues this by saying that in an interview in 2014 that “Everything depends on how Humanae Vitae is interpreted. Paul VI himself, in the end, urged confessors to be very merciful and pay attention to concrete situations. But his genius was prophetic, he had the courage to take a stand against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to exercise a cultural restraint, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism. The question is not of changing doctrine, but of digging deep and making sure that pastoral care takes into account situations and what it is possible for persons to do.”

Was this prophetic or is that just people looking back with reverence on an Encyclical, I am not sure which to say. With the recent release of the book all about the birth of the Encyclical, we’ve learned a bit more about what went into it Was the publication of the Encyclical necessary sure has society slipped to the point of no return with the vulgarity, abundance of pornography and the lack of love of our neighbor

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Fulgens corona

Fulgens corona is an encyclical from Pius XII in it Pope Pius declares a Marian Year in honor of the centenary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It begins with a recap of how the Immaculate Conception became dogma, Pius IX pronouncing it and then about 4 years later a young girl in Lourdes was visited by a lady who said that “I am the Immaculate Conception.”. This special title isn’t something new as from the Early Church Mary has had many titles ranging from Lily Among Thorns and Immaculate to The One And Only Daughter Not Of Death But Of Life and By Nature More Beautiful, More Graceful And More Holy Than The Cherubim And Seraphim Themselves And The Whole Host Of Angels. The encyclical has a long list of other titles as well. Pius continues going through history pulling the thread from St. Ephrem to Aquinas. His Holiness even notes that Non-Catholics see are devotion to Mary as worship for “any honor and veneration which we may give to our Heavenly Mother undoubtedly redounds to the glory of her Divine Son,” Now the centenary celebration should revive our Catholic Faith and devotion to the Mother of God as we try to conform our lives to that of the Virgin. “Just as all mothers are deeply affected when they perceive that the countenance of their children reflects a peculiar likeness to their own, so also our Most Sweet Mother wishes for nothing more, never rejoices more than when she sees those whom, under the cross of her Son, she has adopted as children in His stead, portray the lineaments and ornaments of her own soul in thought, word and deed.” Sure it’s some sixty years later but these wishes for the centennial of the Immaculate Conception can still be things that we strive for in our lives, reviving our faith and trying to follow in the steps of our Heavenly Mother.

As we are coming from Mother’s Day let us keep this last part in mind this week as we make our way through the rest of this month of May and we keep honoring our divine mother.

Ad Caeli Reginam

As I said earlier in the week May is one of the months that is dedicated to Mary, specifically the Queenship of Mary. Ad Caeli Reginam is Encyclical from Pope Pius XII from 1954 which proclaimed the Queenship of Mary. Now this isn’t as long as the modern encyclicals from Francis and John Paul II. It is not separated into any sections and it focuses on Mary.

We begin with the idea that Mary has been a major figure in the Church for ages as ” Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother’s solicitude over the entire world.” Pius continues the history of Marian devotion highlighting the dogma of the Assumption established in Munificentissimus Deus and the Immaculate Conception established in Ineffabilis Deus the Apostolic constitution from Pius IX as well as the “current” Marian Year in 1954. In light of the urging from all over the world  the Pope has decided to institute the liturgical feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary,this feast was put on May 31 it was moved by Paul VI to August 22, the octave of the Assumption.

Then Pius XII goes into the belief from ancient days that since Mary is the mother of Jesus she has a special place in heaven. It continues from various saints through the ages have been calling Mary a queen. The Encyclical ends nicely as it goes with “let no one consider himself exempt from this tribute of a grateful and loving soul – let him invoke the most effective of Queens, the Mediatrix of peace; let him respect and preserve peace, which is not wickedness unpunished nor freedom without restraint, but a well-ordered harmony under the rule of the will of God; to its safeguarding and growth the gentle urgings and commands of the Virgin Mary impel us.”

Take some time this month of May and reflect on the Virgin Mother, pick up a Rosary at some point this month.

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.

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.