“In the solemn celebration of Pentecost we are invited to profess our faith in the presence and in the action of the Holy Spirit and to invoke his outpouring upon us, upon the Church and upon the whole world. Let us make our own, and with special intensity, the Church’s invocation: ‘Veni, Sancte Spiritus!’ ” Pope Benedict XVI Homily of Pentecost 2010
Today in Catholic History:
† 1601 – Birth of Antoine Daniel, Jesuit missionary and martyr (d. 1648)
† 1651 – Birth of Louis-Antoine, Cardinal de Noailles, French cardinal (d. 1729)
† Feast Days in the Church: Augustine of Canterbury, Venerable Bede, Saint Julius the Veteran, Pope John I, Hildebert, Bruno, Bishop of Würzburg, Eutropius, Mother’s Day in Bolivia (Día de la Madre) and Sweden (Mors Dag), Children’s Day in Nigeria
Quote or Joke of the Day:
The difficulty does not arise so much from the mere fact that good and evil are mingled in roughly equal proportions; it arises chiefly from the fact that men always differ about what parts are good and what parts are evil. – G.K. Chesterton
Today’s reflection is:
Why does all personal sin have social consequences? Do I think of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a positive celebration of the mercy of God?
Sin and its consequence on society: what an interesting subject. I guess the first thing to discuss is what exactly is “sin” and “evil.” Catholic resources say that is a “moral evil.” Now we have to determine what is meant by evil and in particular moral evil. It seems Catholic Theologians like to make things fairly difficult for other Catholics to understand at times.
So, being a good Catholic, I stopped with the religious resources at this point, and went to the secular dictionary instead. A much easier definition of sin is:
“A transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when it is a deliberate disobedience to the known will of God. Sin causes a condition of estrangement from God as a result of this disobedience. Sin is usually something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong.”
Evil is defined as:
Something morally bad or wrong, or wicked; causing ruin, injury, pain, or some other type of harm. Evil implies a deficiency in perfection, hence it cannot exist in God who is by nature, “all good.”
On earth, only the human race can display moral evil, as we are the only intelligent beings. Animals and plant life have no capabilities to be intrinsically evil. Animals and plants are only respondents to nature, and do not have “free-will.”
God gave free-will to only two of His creations: humans and angels. This grace of free-will is a two edged sword. One side brings us just this much closer to the divinity of God than all other creation, but its other side takes one away from God in the belief they ARE “gods” also!
Free-will is a concept and action of how we internalize and conform to right and wrong. We either agree and conform, or disagree and do not conform to the natural and divine laws of God.
The angels were the first to fall on this sword, when a third of the angels tore themselves away from God, and were doomed to Hell. As God is pure good and perfect in all ways; these “fallen angels” now have no good in them, and are pure evil.
Adam and Eve were made perfect and good by God because God cannot make anything other than good. Adam and Eve’s own free-will led them to sin. With that first sinful act, humanity lost all hope of perfection since non-perfect people simply cannot make perfect offspring. Makes me wonder what would have happened if Cain and Abel were born prior to the “apple” incident?
When humans and angels know of God and His law, and then deliberately refuse to obey, “moral evil” results. Sin is nothing more than a morally bad act; an act not in accordance with reason as informed by the divine law, and which is known to us by the dictates of our own conscience (angel on one shoulder, and devil on the other).
In every sinful act two things must be considered, the substance of the act and the want of conformity. The Catholic Church has divided sin into two fundamental categories: “venial” and “mortal” sins. Venial sins are relatively minor and could be forgiven through sacramentals or sacraments of the church. For those Catholics that “do” go to church, this is done at the very beginning of each and every mass. Mortal sin destroys grace, and separates the soul from God. Mortal sin creates a threat of eternal damnation for the individual unless absolved through the “Sacrament of Penance.”
The most objectionable sins (vices) are called the “Seven Deadly Sins,” also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins. They are wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
Now that we know what sin and evil are, we can discuss how ones personal sins have consequences on groups such as family, community, and society as a whole.
All Catholics are part of a community. If one part fails, it has a direct result on the other parts. If you stub you toe, your entire body suffers. The brain has trouble concentrating for a short time, and you body has trouble walking or hopping for a period of time as well. This is the same for the Church community also. Any injury to one part injures all.
The body can be healed. We have medicines, Band-Aids, and even physical therapy to help us heal in body; but what about our soul? It can be healed as well. The Sacrament of Reconciliation needs to be looked as the “healing” sacrament it is, instead of as punishment for our transgressions. We did away with cod liver oil decades ago, and in the church we have also done away with the medieval attitudes and practices associated with having our sins forgiven.
Confession (yes, I’m an old-timer) is a very pleasant experience. I nearly laugh as I watch people walk into the “confessional” looking like they are about to get a prostate exam, and exiting as if they had won a large and priceless prize. In actuality, they did! They won the prize of being sinless and nearer to God, and assured (if only temporarily) of a place in eternal oneness with God in heaven. The act of confessing sins to Christ (in the person of the Priest) is a very open and fluid experience now. There is a formula, but the priest will easily help you through the process. It is truly NON-painful, and makes one so happy inside and out. I have actually laughed “in the confessional,” over the exchange between the priest and I (my childhood St. Joseph Nuns are turning over in their graves at the thought of humor involved in confession). If you haven’t gone in a while, you honestly do not know what you are missing: a pleasant experience; and eternity in heaven!
“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins, because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
Catholic Saint of the Day: St. Augustine of Canterbury (d. 605?)
In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless.
Augustine again set out and this time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester.
Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors
Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Truly Augustine of Canterbury can be called the “Apostle of England.”
Prologue to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule, Chapter 1:
All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength (cf. Mk 12:30), and love their neighbors as themselves (cf. Mt 22:39) and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.
Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because “the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them” (cf. Is 11:2) and he will make “his home and dwelling among them” (cf Jn 14:23), and they are the sons of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50).