Quomodo Sedet Sola Civitas


Jeremiah Chapter 39

The Fall of Jerusalem

39 In the ninth year of Zedeki′ah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadrez′zar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and besieged it; 2 in the eleventh year of Zedeki′ah, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, a breach was made in the city. 3 When Jerusalem was taken,[a] all the princes of the king of Babylon came and sat in the middle gate: Ner′gal-share′zer, Sam′gar-ne′bo, Sar′sechim the Rab′saris, Ner′gal-share′zer the Rabmag, with all the rest of the officers of the king of Babylon. 4 When Zedeki′ah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled, going out of the city at night by way of the king’s garden through the gate between the two walls; and they went toward the Arabah. 5 But the army of the Chalde′ans pursued them, and overtook Zedeki′ah in the plains of Jericho; and when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadrez′zar king of Babylon, at Riblah, in the land of Hamath; and he passed sentence upon him. 6 The king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedeki′ah at Riblah before his eyes; and the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah. 7 He put out the eyes of Zedeki′ah, and bound him in fetters to take him to Babylon. 8 The Chalde′ans burned the king’s house and the house of the people, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem. 9 Then Nebu′zarad′an, the captain of the guard, carried into exile to Babylon the rest of the people who were left in the city, those who had deserted to him, and the people who remained. 10 Nebu′zarad′an, the captain of the guard, left in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.

 

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We continue to wait with somber hearts for the resurrection on the third day and the glory of God.

-P.A.

 

“For the Reason that it was Forbidden.”

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So many of my fellow bloggers know that I’ve been teaching school. Today, I had to cover for P.E. class for elementary school. It was fascinating to observe the students and how they chose to play the games. One of the games that I played with the younger students is called Pacman tag. Pacman tag basics are pretty simple: every student must walk, four students are picked as taggers called a ghost, and all the students must follow the gym lines when moving.

At the beginning of class, I explained the rules to the students, but I also used the time to teach a moral lesson to the students. I asked, “Who here thinks that lying is a good?” If the students understood the question, of course, they answered “no” or didn’t raise their hand. After they had answered the question, I explained to them that if they were tagged by their fellow students; refused to sit out, ran, or didn’t use the lines; then they would be lying. The students all agreed.

However, after a few moments after the game had started nearly every student began to cheat in some way, whether they ran, cut the inside corner of a line, or wouldn’t sit out. I thought to myself, “Well, this pretty much in a nutshell explains human society.” Most of the students either didn’t care what I had to say, others only cared if I gave them a favor or smote their fellow classmates, and the rest pretended like I didn’t exist.

Why is this?

St. Augustine, I believe, explain very well in his Confessions why as a society we all act in this manner. St. Augustine writes, “What thief puts up with another thief…Not even a rich thief will pardon one who steals from him because of want…In a garden nearby to our vineyard there was a pear tree, loaded with fruit that was desirable neither in appearance nor in taste…We took great loads of fruit from it, not for our own eating, but rather to throw it to pigs; even if we did eat a little of it, we did this to do what pleased us for the reason that it was forbidden.”[1]

 In retrospect to my observations, it’s interesting to connect Augustine’s words here to how the game was played. There were probably less than five kids playing the game by the rules; however, strangely enough, I was always speaking to other students complaining how others were cheating. I’d stop and remind them of past events, “I just saw you break the rules, why was it now important that your fellow classmates are made to follow something you did not?”

Kids are interesting folks, because although many were cheating, at the same time, there was a sort of a honesty about how they went about it that doesn’t occur in adults. I believe this explained also well in Confessions, “Thus it is not the infant’s will that is harmless, but the weakness of infant limbs. I myself have seen and have had experience with a jealous little one; it was not yet able to speak, but it was pale and bitter in the face as it looked at another child nursing at the same breast.”[2]

 So if this behavior, which Augustine observes is humanity’s sinful nature, is innate from our infancy to old limbs, what does this mean for society?

Please, comment below.

[1] Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, trans. John K. Ryan (New York: Image Books, 2014,) 28.

[2] Ibid, 8.

“Just another dude, …has no business …to tell people what to do.”

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My friend messaged me again tonight. My friend, it seemed, was concerned with all of my various posts from National Catholic Register, Catholic News Agency, etc. on social media. At the end of our conversation last night, I said, “Well, I use to post political comments and memes all the time, and many of my friendships deteriorated, so instead of making posts about Bernie and Donald, I thought why not Pope Francis?”

Friend: At the end of the day, Pope Francis is just another dude, that has no business trying to tell people what to do. The way I look at it is that you can be pro-life etc. and be a good person without religion. Religion only exists because we are scared of the unknown. I get that….but it’s not for me.

PA: I’ve studied it a lot these last couple of years. I certainly think Christianity is true; however, it’s not fundamentally true, or, at least, to say, how naysayers attempt to frame it. One of the things I learned majoring in history is studying how people during a certain period wrote and thought. So when the authors wrote Genesis, Exodus thru the Gospels, they didn’t write their accounts down how we write down historical accounts. A lot of the writings are simply to serve symbolically, typological, parabolical and not to be taken literally while other authors and events are to be taken as such.

I certainly do not believe in God because I’m afraid of what will happen to me when I die. In fact, I don’t know one person who actually thinks in that particular way. It’s rather simple; I believe in God because I believe he’s God.

Friend: I know you’re a smart guy, I respect your opinion since I know what you say you’ve researched. So politics made you cynical, well that’s what religion did it to me. I honestly find it disgusting…. every bit of it…. oh and silly…lol Also, saying that is is meant to be interpreted symbolically is just a way of keeping it alive in today’s world.

PA: Well, I think you can understand this then when I got really involved in politics. Some of my friends and I really grew apart. I sat and thought about it for a long time. Now there’s no argument that Politics is entirely a human construction, so I felt it silly to lose friends over. Ultimately my morals were tied to my religion, and if I chose to live by the compassion and mercy of my faith, then maybe, a few friendships would survive.

Of course, I do know that religion has created cynics, and  I do know some people grow apart because of religion, but this is from misplaced righteousness. I think folks miss some parts of Christianity, even though I believe that God has decreed how to be moral, I believe he teaches us to forgive still and love those who do not follow those morals. If those who find both God and Christians silly, still need food, clean water, and shelter, we must give them food and shelter. If they need an education, we must look for ways to educate them, etc. When I say symbolically, I’m not saying I don’t believe that Christ performed miracles, I certainly do. What I am saying is when the Bronze Age writer who wrote Genesis is describing the origins of God and the world, he did so in a way that only his mind could understand. Historical documents are written the same way.

 You believe humanity can have morals without God; I believe that God gave morality to man. Overall, our beliefs are aligned for our concern for humanity’s happiness. To you, faith may be superstitious madness, but madness which comes from God is so much more beautiful than any wisdom of human origins. Of course, that doesn’t come from the Bible; it comes from Plato—the founder of reason.

At this point, my friend for some reason changed the subject. It’s strange, I feel that as my faith and certainty grows. The world appears to be fighting and clawing to turn me away from my convictions. 

Hey, man, when did you get so ‘Jesusy’?

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Hey man, when did you get so ‘Jesusy’?

I suppose this is a terrible question to be asked when you’ve always thought yourself a Catholic, but; nonetheless, this is a question an old college roommate asked me tonight. I’m glad he asked me, It’s a humbling question, which causes one to step back and assess his life. A question that allows one to check their righteousness at the door and remind themselves of their sinful nature. When my roommate and I went to college together, I sinned without apology. Now, I was certainly no St. Augustine of Hippo or Thomas Merton, but I certainly lusted over women, guilty of being a sloth,  and generally immoral to God’s truth. I will certainly attest that I was persuaded by the liberalism that was promoted by the college; however, it was still me that choosing any and all actions.

Of course, some of this I couldn’t explain to him, although he was baptized a Catholic, he is an admitted Atheist,  my answer which is written all through this blog would simply fall on deaf ears. Now, could he have been asking for God? Perhaps, but what I gathered from his questioning was, “What happened to my friend?”

I told him something of this nature: “I suppose it’s difficult to answer. I’ve always claimed to be Catholic, even though I was very poor at it at times. However, my moral foundation even if I was led astray has always been rooted in Catholicism, I’m pro-life, pro-Traditional marriage, I donate to the poor. etc. During the period, I attempted to substitute my identity with politics that ended up just making me cynical about life. I lived in a society that labeled me a bigot for having the morals of my faith–so I decided my faith was the only logical place for me.

I read Psalm 23 earlier today before I began praying the rosary. I think it explains very well why I turned fully to God when the world had made me a cynic.

Psalm 23 RSV

23 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;
2 he makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters;[a]
3 he restores my soul.[b]
He leads me in paths of righteousness[c]
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[d]
I fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff,
they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil,
my cup overflows.
6 Surely[e] goodness and mercy[f] shall follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
for ever.[g]

My cynical soul needed to be restored, but it could only be done so with Christ. I kept trying to fill the hole in my soul with political identity; however, it was futile. In the Gospel of John 4:14 it states:

14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

When my sister spoke hurtful words toward Christianity, I simply said to her: ” I may be seen as ignorant or superstitious, but I am at peace with it.” A sentiment that could be more easily said to a family member than an old friend.

My friend may think it odd that I have committed fully to God, but as I can explain to you who read this blog. It took me a long time to learn the lesson of 1 Corinthians 6:19:

19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own;

But alas, I told my friend from almost a decade ago, we can still listen to music, dance, and drink beers (although I may have a Trappist beer), but I will choose to live my life according to God’s commands who expects me to live by honoring the dignity of myself and others. I’m to do this all while giving thanks to the Lord, our God.

It’s certainly an odd feeling to perceive oneself not as the Charles Ryder, but as a Flyte in your own personal story.

Defend us in Battle.

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I had a pretty disturbing dream last night; it could stem from a variety of things–maybe a combination. One of my favorite blogs, which is really ecumenical in nature, has been torn apart recently by our differences in faith. I have done my best to heal wounds of both sides and to extend my hand of friendship. A lot of the anger has been generated by traditional views of Catholicism.

Another source could be that I am reading a history of the Crusades written by Thomas Madden. As history is my interest in my profession, it’s certainly strange that reading a book on a topic would have such a profound impact on my dreams. Of course, much of it could also stem from reading Brideshead Revisited and ideas floated around on religion in the book.

In my dream, I just remember carnage and death. The buildings did seem urban and were sort of a clay color that were tumbled over. I walked or ran through an alley of rubble piled up against the buildings until I finally ran into a girl. The girl was tan with dark hair; she was covered dirt and black from the smoke. She screamed, “This is because of Religion…This is because of Religion.” My reply out of fear in my dream was, “God is Good…God is Good.” The girl’s reaction was a long tremendous scream which woke me from the dream. I woke up in sweat, and I felt disturbed by the whole experience. Was my dream trying to convince me against religion?

Notwithstanding, I found comfort with God after the dream. I got my laptop and found this Latin hymn of a prayer my diocese says after every mass has been concluded: St. Michael the Archangel. The chant comforted my spirits and was able to get some sleep again.

Two Miracles: The Eucharist and Reconcillation

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I am a very much the academic type. I enjoy studying a topic and discussing the different ideas that are presented within its frameworks. I enjoy debating schools of thought; however, I often feel like I am missing the spiritual aspect of faith. For those who read posts on this blog, one can easily see that I write about academic ideas with a bit of research, but I very rarely discuss my own faith. I do participate in an excellent blog by the name All Along the Watchtower, which I often become very personal in my comments; however, my blog is usually missing the personal element.

I had what I believe to be a very deep spiritual experience this last Friday. I have been reflecting quite seriously about my faith recently. I have finished Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict, which I hope to continue to have posts to add to that series—as well as have friends also write their thoughts on that magnificent treatise. I have also been reading during my free time Brideshead Revisited (almost finished) by Evelyn Waugh. The book has been great to reflect on the importance of my Catholic faith and morality in a world that seems quite averse to it.

Recently, I feel that I have been battling with some of my own sins—which I ask for your prayer. After discerning my conscience for quite some time during this Year of Mercy, I ultimately felt the greatest power my sin had over me was that I was afraid to confess openly it during the sacrament of reconciliation. It’s true that I may have gone to confession and Christ forgave me for my sins, but it was never genuine until I legitimately asked for  Christ’s forgiveness and moved on from it. My parish had this last Friday a 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration as part of the initiate for the Year of Mercy instituted by Pope Francis. It also had on the same day a special session for confession.

 

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The Adoration began in the morning, which I was there and something was very odd. I couldn’t really look upon the Eucharist. The Eucharist with the presence of Christ felt blinding. In my head, I kept saying over and over, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Lk. 5:8) I continued to pray during the time I was there only looking up so often at what seemed to be the blinding Eucharist. It reminded me when Moses couldn’t look upon the face of God.

(Ex. 33:18-24)

18 Moses said, “I pray thee, show me thy glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand upon the rock; 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

It’s interesting that I felt this way towards the Eucharist—towards Christ’s body. I felt the words of Peter, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” However, Christ’s forgiveness is greater than his resurrection of Lazarus. My conscience kept telling me, “Simply ask and you will be forgiven.”

So I asked for forgiveness.

The amazing part is that I after I had admitted my sin, I felt forgiven. When I came out of the confessional, The Eucharist during the Adoration seemed to pull my attention towards it. The Eucharist no longer felt blinding. I felt at peace with the presence of God. It was a magnificent feeling, I thought, “This is what Grace feels like!”

Two Miracles—The Eucharist and Reconciliation— simply, amazing.