See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Thinking with the Church.



Something so counter cultural...
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Sometimes - well maybe often times these days - we encounter Catholic people, parish communities, men and women religious, entire religious communities, groups and organizations who disagree with the teachings of the Catholic Church on faith and morals, hierarchical structure, and so on.  We all know this - especially bloggers - why else would we blog?  I suppose a good example of such people would be the LCRW (Leaders Conference of Women Religious) whose congregations are the subject of a Vatican inquiry.  I read in another blogger's comment box a suggestion men's religious groups should also be investigated as well.  Whatever the case, the need to ensure that groups representing the Church think and speak with the Church is vitally important.  Why?  Because it is a matter of the salvation of souls.
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The Rules
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The best tradition on the origins of the rules (for thinking with the Church) says they were written either at Paris or in Italy (by St. Ignatius), perhaps fifteen years after the retreat at Manresa where the Exercises were first begun. Scholars have partly traced the Rules to a list of seven questions which Francis I, King of France, ordered in 1535 to serve as the basis for conferences between theologians at the University of Paris and German Protestant divines. The latter were asked, e.g., “Whether they are willing to confess that the Church militant founded by divine right, is unchangeable in faith and morals, and under our Lord Jesus Christ is headed by St. Peter and his successors down the centuries.” [1] However, no single document did any more than suggest the rules as they stand in the book of the Exercises. Their real cause was the Protestant Reformation, from whose errors Ignatius wished to spare the faithful sons of the Church and inspire them with an intelligent zeal for the conversion of those who had lost the true faith. According to their author, the Rules of Orthodoxy “should be observed to foster the true attitude of mind we ought to have in the Church Militant,” which, the earliest commentators explain, refers to all types of retreatants, but especially two classes of persons: those who live and work among non-Catholics, and those engaged in the active apostolate. In modern times, this means practically everyone, priests, religious and the laity in every walk of life.
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The Church and Private Judgment
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We must put aside all judgment of our own, and keep the mind ever ready and prompt to obey in all things the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, our holy Mother, the hierarchical Church.
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In the first rule, St. Ignatius isolates the basic error of non-Catholic Christianity which claims that private judgment in doctrine and morals is according to the will of God. “You have been baptized and endowed with the true faith,” Luther told his followers, “therefore you are spiritual and able to judge of all things by the word of the Gospel, and you are not to be judged by any man. Say, “My faith is here a judge and may declare: This doctrine is true, but that is false and evil.” And the Pope and all his crew, nay, all men on earth must submit to that decision.” [2] It was against this pretension to autonomy that Ignatius strove so zealously, because better than most of his contemporaries he foresaw what a brood of evils this spirit of independence would generate in the western world.
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Where the original Reformers were satisfied with proclaiming man’s freedom to interpret the Scriptures with no other guide than the Holy Spirit, their infidel disciples have since been emancipated even from a personal God. “If there were a God.” Writes Bertrand Russell, “I think it very unlikely He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence.”
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As a sane alternative to this mad subjectivism, Ignatius offers the objectivity of the Catholic faith which cannot err because it is founded on the word of God. Assuming that his listeners are Catholic, he urges them to cultivate a disposition of soul which makes the will prompt and the mind prepared to obey whatever the Church prescribes. The will must acquire an instinctive desire to submit to the Church’s authority and the mind should ever be ready to nourish the will with necessary motivation. Two motives are proposed: because the Church is the Spouse of Christ and because she is our Holy Mother. - Finish reading:  Fr. Hardon:  Norms of Catholic Orthodoxy
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Never, ever allow yourself to be discouraged or deterred by self-opinionated detractors of the Church, the Holy Father, and the authentic Magisterium.  Thinking with the Church - it's a good thing.  "We must praise all the commandments of the Church, and be on the alert to find reasons for defending but never for criticizing them."
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What should this mean to me as a Catholic? It assures me that because I have a certain position in the Church’s juridical structure; as layman or religious, priest or prelate, my obedience is not a vague submission to some undefined ecclesiocracy, but acceptance of the human agency placed above me as speaking with the voice of Christ. - Fr. Hardon
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Art:  Conversion of St. Antony of Egypt

3 comments:

  1. Great post, Terry. Thank you.

    Very close to my heart, this is.

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  2. You have hit on something that is so central, so crucial to living an authentically Catholic life.
    This perennial wisdom is absolutely essential today, as always, but even more so today.
    Obedience is a dirty word among some Catholics as if it were a noose around your neck or shackles upon your wrists and ankles.
    The greatest freedom in this life is to think, love and live with and in the Holy Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Thank you for a wonderful post!

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  3. Austringer8:41 PM

    Unfortunately too many Catholics have absorbed the charge that anti-Catholics love to toss around, namely, that we can't think for ourselves. Obedience must be a sign of intellectual weakness! But that is a sign of the essentially adolescent nature of our culture: some folks who thought, 'way back in the 60s, that "Challenge Authority" was a great slogan, still haven't grown up enough to examine it to any depth.
    There's probably some guilt operating here on some level: I can make myself feel better about disobeying the Church (and absolve myself from the bother to educate myself as to the reasons she gives for her directives, and to her founding and protection by Christ) by equating obedience with slavish, non-thinking conformity! I think, therefore I dissent!! Aye yie yie, as my old French teacher would say...

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