Tuesday, December 6, 2016

School, Love for Freedom and Legitimate Pluralism

Excerpts of writings of St. Josemaria


The University: a serene preparation to finding solutions, not the place for deciding debatable political matters


In temporal and debatable matters [we do] not wish to have and cannot have any opinion, since [our] goals are exclusively spiritual. In all matters of free discussion, each [one] freely expresses his own personal opinion, for which he is also personally responsible.

I think we would in the first place have to come to an agreement about what we mean by 'politics'. If by 'politics' we mean being interested in and working for peace, social justice, the freedom of all men, then in that case everyone in the university as a corporate body is obliged to respect those ideals and to foster a concern for resolving the great problems of human life.

But if, on the contrary, we understand by 'politics' a particular solution to a specific problem, in competition with those who stand for other possible and legitimate solutions, then I think that the university is not the place where politics should be decided.

College years are a period of preparation for finding solutions to these problems. Everyone should be welcome in the university. It should be a place of study and friendship, a place where people who hold different opinions which, in each period, are expressions of the legitimate pluralism which exists in society — may live together in peace.

In a country in which there was absolutely no political freedom, universities might lose their proper nature, thus ceasing to be the home of all and becoming a battle field of opposing factions.

Nevertheless, I still think it would be preferable to spend one's college years acquiring a sound training and a social conscience, so that those who govern later on (those who today are studying) will not fall into the same aversion to personal freedom, which is something really pathological. If the universities are turned into a debating hall for the solution of specific political problems, academic serenity will easily be lost and students will develop a partisan outlook. Thus the universities and the country would always suffer from the chronic illness of totalitarianism, of one kind or another.

Let it be clear that, when I say universities are not the place for politics, I do not exclude, but rather desire, a normal channel of opinion for all citizens…

My outlook as a jurist and theologian, and my Christian faith, lead me always to stand up for the legitimate freedom of all men. No one has a right to impose non-existent dogmas in temporal matters. Given a concrete problem, whatever it may be, the solution is to study it well and then to act conscientiously, with personal freedom and with personal responsibility as well. 


Love for freedom: a great and difficult ideal 


Christian freedom is born on the inside, in the heart, from our faith. But it isn’t something merely private. It shows on the outside. One of its most characteristic signs is something that was a keynote of the early Christians: fraternity. Faith in the great gift of God’s love has made all differences and barriers dwindle away. "There is no longer any distinction between Jew and Greek, between slave and free man, between man and woman, because you are all one thing in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:28)  Knowing that we are all brothers and sisters, and loving each other as such, over and above all differences in race, social background, education and ideology, is essential to Christianity.


It is not my mission to talk about politics. Nor is it the mission of Opus Dei, whose only aim is spiritual. Opus Dei has never entered into party politics or factions and never will, and it is not tied to any one person or ideology. That way of acting is not an apostolic stratagem, nor is it merely a praiseworthy way to behave. It is an essential need for Opus Dei to be like that, stemming from its very nature, and it has a clear stamp: love for freedom, confidence in one’s own position as an ordinary Christian in the world, acting with complete independence and personal responsibility.

There are no dogmas in temporal matters. It is contrary to human dignity to try and lay down absolute truths in things that are necessary matters of opinion, on which people will have different viewpoints depending on their interests, cultural preferences and personal experience. Trying to impose dogmas in temporal affairs leads one inevitably to do violence to other people’s consciences, to fail to respect one’s neighbor.

I don’t for a moment want to suggest that Christians should be indifferent or apathetic about temporal matters. But I do think that Christians have to combine their passion for civic and social progress with an awareness that their own opinions are limited, and hence they have to respect other people’s opinions and love legitimate pluralism. Someone who cannot do this has not understood the message of Christianity in all its depth. It’s not easy to understand it fully and in a sense, we never will, because our tendency to selfishness and pride never leave us. This means we are all obliged to examine our conduct constantly, comparing our actions with Christ’s, to recognize that we are sinners and begin over again. It’s not easy, but we need to do our best.
When God created us he ran the risk and adventure of our freedom. He wanted history to be real, made of genuine decisions, not a fiction or a game. Each individual has to experience his or her personal autonomy, with the hazard, experimentation and uncertainty that it involves. Let’s not forget that although God has given us the security of our faith, he hasn’t revealed to us the meaning of all human events. Together with things that Christians find clear and certain, there are very many others which are open to opinion, i.e. a certain degree of knowledge of what may be true or right, with no absolute certainty. In such cases, it’s possible that I’m mistaken, but even if I am right, other people may be right too. An object that looks concave to me looks convex to people seeing it from a different standpoint.
An awareness of the limitations of human judgments leads us to recognize freedom as a necessarily condition for living in harmony with others. But it isn’t everything, and it isn’t even the most important thing. Respect for freedom is rooted in love. If other people think differently from me, is that any reason for us to be enemies? The only reason for that would be selfishness, or the narrow-mindedness of thinking that there are no values other than politics and business. But Christians know this is not so, because every human being has an infinite value and an eternal destiny in God: Jesus Christ died for every single one of us.
We are Christians when we can love not just “mankind” in the abstract, but each of the people around us. It is a sign of maturity to feel responsible for the well-being of future generations, but that mustn’t lead us to neglect opportunities to give ourselves and serve others in ordinary things: an act of kindness to those who work with us, genuine friendship shown in deeds, compassion for someone who is suffering or in need, even when their unhappiness seems slight in comparison with the great ideals we are pursuing.
Speaking of freedom, love for freedom, raises a difficult ideal which is one of the greatest riches of our faith. Because – let’s not kid ourselves – life isn’t a trashy novel. Christian fraternity isn’t something that comes down from heaven once and for all, but something that has to be built up day after day. It has to be built up in a life that keeps all its harshness, with clashes of interests, friction, struggles, in daily contact with people who seem unfair, and with unfairness on our part too.
But if that prospect discourages us, if we let our selfishness get the upper hand, or if we merely shrug our shoulders skeptically, that will be a sign that we need to go deeper into our faith, to contemplate Christ more. Because only in his school can we Christians learn to know ourselves and understand others, and live in such a way that we are Christ present among the people around us.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

James Stenson's ParentLeadership website

James Stenson's website titled ParentLeadership.com is a great source of parenting resources.

He says, "please feel free to copy or e-mail the folios in this Web page, as do thousands of parents and teachers each year. The service is without charge."

Among his many parenting essays are these three key articles:

You can also find these articles in one-page leaflet form in these links:




Sunday, October 23, 2016

Where is God when evil is done? On the cross


Where was God when a little girl is raped and murdered? Where was God when millions were killed by Nazis and the communists? Where is God when unborn babies are killed by their own mothers by the millions, not just through brutal late-term abortions, but also through “reproductive health” products?

This dramatic question is asked again and again over all the world. Being a theological question, the right answer can only come from God himself.

A first reply comes from God’s reminder to Job, a fabulously wealthy man and saint who lost all his properties and his ten children: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know!”

God’s dig has two implications. A creature’s mind, made from nothing, is infinitely lower than the mind of the Creator. We can’t wrap our mind around God’s. He wraps his around ours. Secondly, the world has a design: an ordered arrangement that leads to a goal.  His purpose is that “we may be holy in his sight”. God created us for nothing else but to be with God. Taking Steven Covey’s famous “Begin with the end in mind”, this clear end illuminates all the discussions about the so-called problem of evil – which God integrated into his plan.

Where is God when evil is done? He is everywhere, holding things into existence, and he is unchanging. We, who are changeable, can make ourselves more or less present to God, depending on our response to him. Thus, it is necessary to make a distinction between the evildoer and the victim of the evil.

Plato clearly saw the difference: “He who commits injustice is ever made more wretched than he who suffers it.” From God’s point of view, the evildoer separates from him. The victim is drawn closer to him.

And in both cases, the God’s death on the cross illumines the issue.

For evildoers, they crucify Jesus anew, says Hebrews 6:6. Where? The Catechism specifies: in their hearts. For he is in them. Philosophers define evil as “deprivation of due good,” the removal of something wonderful that is supposed to be there. Like blindness. Like houses shattered by a supertyphoon. Evil per se is not a thing. For all things that God created is good. When a rapist rapes, he on his own free will decides to remove beauty, truth and good from himself. He crushes the image of God present in his soul. And so Plato is right: a rapist is ever made more wretched than his victim.  

But where is God in the victim? This is the key problem, the hardest to crack. Why isn’t  the omnipotent power of God used to shield the victim? If God is love, why didn’t he stop all the pain? Again, the goal and the cross illumine this mystery.

One of the ways God expresses the goal is when he describes someone as “greatest in the kingdom”. Jesus used this phrase twice. Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The real world designed and revealed by God turns our human conceptions upside down. Our contemporary minds can’t see the world correctly because we think we are at the top looking down. But the truth is the opposite. We are cosmic dust. Creatures can climb the infinite distance to God, only if we are humble enough to allow God to take us up to him, and to act like him to benefit other people.

Because obedience and humility are key to attaining the one goal, God has permitted the human beings’ decision to commit evil against other humans and against God.  Suffering evil, in God’s master plan, facilitates the attainment of these key attitudes.  

C.S. Lewis who wrote the Problem of Pain says that “God whispers in our pleasures but shouts in our pains. Pain is the megaphone to rouse a dulled world.” Pain and suffering, because they make all the other things of secondary importance, help us realize what is essential.

But there is more. Suffering identifies us with God himself. The summit of God’s presence in the world is not a spectacular display of power to achieve success and popularity. Thus in the mind of those anti-theists who think themselves more efficient than God, God is a failure.

But failure is relative to the real goal.

God who became man attains the summit when he acts according to the highest attribute of God. Love. When he gives himself and obeys God in the midst of insufferable humiliation. On the cross.

But this is not all. God’s love is displayed in suffering, but when viewed with his logic, omnipotence and wisdom are also displayed.

On the cross, the greatest possible evil, the murder of God or deicide, is astutely turned to achieve the greatest good: the salvation of all men.

Victims of cheating, rape, mutilation, robbery, of social structures that breed poverty, have become, in the teaching of St. John Paul the Great, recipients of a gift. They have become sharers in his work of saving all men.  

And in this world where God wanted us to be like him, possessing freedom, victims have a choice. They can say yes to participating in the greatest deed, becoming the greatest in the kingdom, or they can take the side of the evildoer and destroy God’s image in them.  

The division of men into two groups was presaged when Jesus was presented at the temple. Simeon said that, “This child is destined to bring about the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against.”

We rise or fall relative to the goal. And speaking against God, standing in judgement of God, as if we were higher, is the opposite of the obedience and humility that make us rise to the level of God.






Thursday, September 29, 2016

ROSARY OF ST. JOHN PAUL THE GREAT: Images and Biblical Passages

In praying the Rosary, St. John Paul II, the greatest Marian Pope, recommended:

(1) use of sacred images as a “great help in focusing the mind on the particular mystery” and
(2) proclamation of a Biblical passage because  “no other words can ever match the efficacy of the inspired word.” Benedict XVI reiterated this, saying  this facilitates memorization of key biblical passages.

To facilitate the practice of these recommendations is a collection of sacred images and biblical passages in one powerpoint presentation, titled Rosary of St. John Paul the Great.

Download this Rosary aid here for your personal use, or for the family or community rosary. Or here in PDF.

To further understand the recommendations of St. John Paul II, read Top Ten Instructions of John Paul the Great on the Rosary

Thursday, September 22, 2016

ROSARY BIBLICAL PASSAGES: Some Values Content of Selected Texts of the Word of God

This is an initial listing of values content of the selected texts of biblical passages found here in a former blog post.


JOYFUL MYSTERIES

1. Annunciation.
Christianity begins with joy and is about joy.
Mary is properly called full of grace. Virginal Motherhood
Practice of calling Jesus’ name
Mary is Spouse of the Holy Spirit
God is omnipotent. Omnipotence as basis of faith.
Mary’s yes, response of faith, as key to salvation of all.
God is not distant, but near and among us.
2. Visitation.
Mary’s spirit of service.  Greeting. Politeness.
Mary as Mother of God. Importance of presence of Mary. 
With Mary, God visits his people. 
God and Mary spread (cause) joy
Prayer of praise. Joy is based in God. Virtue of rejoicing.
3. Birth of Jesus.
Importance of maternity. Mary’s divine motherhood.
Jesus is first-born “among many brethren” (Rom 8:29): Mary mother of other Christians
God’s announcement through angel of the universal joy of Christmas
Sign of God: Spirit of poverty and detachment from material things, humility and abandonment in God, spiritual childhood.
Constant prayer of meditation and contemplation like Mary
4. Presentation.
Parents offering their children to God
Offering sacrifice (mass) according to law
Jesus as light of revelation and savior of all the nations
Amazement over divine things
Sign of contradiction is sign of the divine.
5. Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple
Priority of doing God’s work over other great things
Diligent search for Jesus
Capacity for dialogue. Asking questions: humility and pedagogy
Amazement at God
Ordinary life of obedience to parents and authority. Effort to study to become wise. Growth in maturity. Positive relationship with God and all men

LUMINOUS MYSTERIES

1. Baptism of Our Lord.
Jesus example of prayer. Sacraments and prayer open us to God’s action
God the Father’s love for God the Son.
Being another Christ, Christ himself through baptism
The greatness of God’s loving gift of our divine filiation
2. Self-manifestation of Jesus at the Wedding of Cana.
Importance of marriage and family.
Service without being noticed
Mary’s most powerful intercession
Mary’s advice to follow Jesus
Generosity up to the brim as step to the great miracle. Miracles as aid to belief.
Jesus is the unnamed bridgegroom. Best wine is the symbol of his saving blood that is excessively poured out for all. 
3. Christ’s Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, and his Call to Conversion.
Repentance as key message
Presence of the kingdom of God
Faith in the Gospel.
Greatest commandment of love
Obeying and teaching commandments  (sanctity and apostolate) as goal of life
4. Transfiguration.
Jesus’ example of prayer
Prayer is glorifying and divine.
Dialogue with others as heavenly
Jesus’ Divine filiation. The Father’s love for the Son.
Listening to Jesus as God commanded (as Mary, sister of Martha did) as one thing necessary.
Christian life is seeking Jesus’ face.
5. Institution of the Holy Eucharist.
Eucharist as summit of Jesus’ loving and saving action
Jesus models serving like a slave
Love for the Mass as God’s sacrifice for us.
Charity towards others is inseparable from the Mass.  Jesus as standard and model of charity.

SORROWFUL MYSTERIES

1. Agony in the Garden.  
Need for vigilance and prayer to fight temptation
Jesus’ example of extremely fervent prayer
Endearing relationship with God the Father. Abba = Daddy
God the Father is omnipotent. Trust in him.
Priority of God’s will over our own
Becoming children as fundamental condition for the Christian life
2. Scourging at the Pillar.  
Sin as choice of creatures over God
Jesus sacrifice and reparation for sin
Sin makes Jesus suffer
Chastity, chastisement over our desires, give us peace
Paschal mystery in the sacraments heals us
3. Crowning with Thorns.
Man’s mockery of God in sin
No human respect: not to think of what others say
God’s infinite love and mercy in the face of our sin
Trust in God’s mercy (key attitude according to Jesus to Faustina)
God invites us to drawing close to him
4. Carrying of the Cross.
Jesus willingness to sacrifice and make reparation
He carries our weakness and sufferings.
His self-offering expiates for sins and saves us.
God’s call: invitation to discipleship
Jesus requirement for discipleship on self-denial and mortification
God is rest in difficulties and sacrifice. Response to calling, vocation to holiness leads to peace.
5. Crucifixion and Death of our Lord.  
Greatest evil, killing God, leads to greatest good, salvation
Attitude of forgiveness
Mary as God’s gift of love. Devotion to Mary as will of Christ
Jesus repeatedly calls on God as Father. Jesus prays on the cross
Jesus’ sacrifice as ultimate love.
Jesus’ infinite love is addressed to each one, individually
Entire Christian life is centered on paschal mystery

GLORIOUS MYSTERIES

1. Resurrection.
Resurrection based on Jesus’ own power
Jesus brings peace. Forgets and forgives offenses.
Perpetuity of his paschal mystery: wounds are part of resurrected life
Mission of Christians. Sacrament of Confession. Entrusted with key message of reconciliation
Resurrection is the new creation.
2. Ascension of our Lord.
Great Commission of all Christians to evangelize. Last command.  
Ascension to Right Hand of God (rule of Christ)
Joy as basic Christian attitude after Christ’s move to heaven
Christ’s exaltation is based on his humility, obedience and total self-giving sacrifice
God's providence draws good from evil. All for the good. 
3. Descent of the Holy Spirit.
Perseverance and unity in prayer, with devotion to Mary, prepares Pentecost
Holy Spirit dwells in all aspects of the soul and in the Church.
Apostolic boldness is based on presence of Holy Spirit
4. Assumption.
God’s love for Mary. Beauty of Mary. God calls us to him.
Entry into heaven depends on our loving Jesus in works of mercy towards the least. Intimate family relationship with God is based on meeting Jesus in scripture and acting on its inspirations. We meet Jesus in the poor.
Entry to heaven is based on meeting Jesus in others. Works of mercy.  
Humility attracts God’s great power and mercy , allows man to be used by God to accomplish great things
Veneration to Mary is for all times. 
5. Coronation of the Blessed Virgin
Mary is glorious Queen of the Universe. Mary is the likeness of the entire Church sanctified and glorified by God at the end.
Blessedness based more on her faith than her motherhood (CCC 506)
Faith and fidelity in little things as key to greatness.
Virginity and celibacy have greatly multiplied rewards
Total detachment for God is basis of abundant happiness on earth now and eternal glorification

Download this in a one-page leaflet here