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Posts Tagged ‘St. Augustine’

Please note: This is a follow-up to the post titled “What We Can Learn From Drug Addicts and Alcoholics” — but it can be read on its own.

HeroinIf there is, or were ever to be, a theology of addiction, my guess is that it would follow an Augustinian anthropology.  Addressing God, St. Augustine of Hippo had this to say:

You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You

(Confessions, I:1)

“You have formed us for Yourself…”

Man’s soul is a vast cavern, bigger by far than anything in the created universe.  It is made for God as a lock is made for a key, an outlet for a plug, a certain kind of hat for a certain-shaped head, etc.  Any time we try to hook our infinite desire for God onto something less than God, inevitably it fails to satisfy.

Nevertheless, we do get some semblance of joy the first time we use or experience the object in question.  The more this initial feeling eludes us on subsequent occasions, the harder we will strive — and the more extreme measures we will take employ — to reproduce it. (more…)

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For part one, click here

Bradley Cooper American SniperIt is important to note that at no point in ‘American Sniper’ do we see our protagonist salivating at the opportunity to gun people down or gleefully exulting in the elimination of his targets.  On the contrary, it appears as if something in him dies with every shot.  Even when he takes out the infamous “Mustafa” (Sammy Sheik), we can see sadness in his eyes…perhaps even a sort of regret; not necessarily regret for having done the deed as such, but rather as if to say: “I wish it didn’t have to be this way.”

the butcherAs far as we can tell, the people against whom Chris and his comrades in uniform fight are quite definitely “wolves” (again, read part one if you haven’t already).  We even see some of them performing outrageous, heartless acts that have the strange effect of both chilling and boiling our blood.  So while part of us might ask how a Christian could bring himself to go to war, another part of us is more apt to ask, “How on earth could anyone feel any kind of sadness over taking the lives of such scum as these?”

Saint_Augustine_by_Philippe_de_Champaigne

“Saint Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne” by Philippe de Champaigne – [2]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saint_Augustine_by_Philippe_de_Champaigne.jpg#/media/File:Saint_Augustine_by_Philippe_de_Champaigne.jpg

I think we can find something approximating an answer in the words of St. Augustine of Hippo:

Man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities: when you hear “man” – this is what God has made; when you hear “sinner” – this is what man himself has made. Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what he has made

(Quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1458)

Sin is something that separates us not only from God, but also (and for that reason) from our true selves, uniquely conceived and held in existence by our Creator.  Yet somewhere deep beneath the “false self” that every sinner — no matter how foul — manages to forge is this precious creation, this jewel in the muck that God the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save.

I think we can safely assume that Chris Kyle has a sense of this, and that in the aforementioned scene, this intuition finds an outlet in his eyes.

americansniperbattleLet us think of this as yet another challenge facing our men and women in uniform — in addition to putting their lives on the line, and likewise for the sake of our freedom.  The former challenge demands no less bravery than the latter, and we must assume that those facing it are anything but “cowards,” contrary to what Michael Moore recently alleged.

And I think that’s a good place to stop.  Thanks for reading.

Movie stills obtained through a Google image search; remaining image from Wikipedia

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Saint_Augustine_and_Saint_Monica

Today, we observe the Memorial of St. Monica.  If you doubt in any way that suffering can produce sanctity, consider what you know about her.

And if you don’t know anything about her, kindly lend me your ears (well, eyes technically).

Some of you may already know that Monica was the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the Catholic Church’s holiest known saints and among the most influential figures of Church history.  But looking at his early life, you wouldn’t know it.

Let me say that again: You wouldn’t know it.

As a mother, St. Monica lived in a troubled home.  Among the crosses she had to bear were:

  1. A wild and defiant son who abused alcohol and consorted with prostitutes;
  2. A physically and verbally abusive husband; and
  3. An unpleasant mother-in-law

Clearly, she did not have an easy go of things.  But make no mistake — she never gave up her faith.  She remained firm in her commitment to God and to her faith.  She responded to her husband’s early abusiveness with kindness and humble obedience — not out of weakness, nor for the purpose of remaining a “doormat;” rather, she knew that this was the very best way she could bear loving witness to the Truth, to the humble Savior who is none other than Christ Himself.

Eventually, she did succeed in converting her husband (who was a pagan when she married him).

And then there was the matter of her son.  During Augustine’s troubled years, Monica prayed for him fervently and constantly, shedding profuse tears in the process.  Once, when she spoke to a bishop about her concerns, he famously remarked thus:

“…the child of those tears shall never perish.”

Saint_Augustine_by_Philippe_de_Champaigne

And he didn’t.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

For any wives and/or mothers reading this post: I would strongly encourage you to foster a devotion to St. Monica — especially if you are worried about your husband or children for any reason.  Here is a traditional prayer you could use, if you find it helpful:

Exemplary Mother of the Great Augustine,

You perseveringly pursued your wayward son

Not with threats but with prayerful cries to heaven.

Intercede for all mothers in our day

So that they may learn to draw their children to God.

Teach them how to remain close to their children,

Even the prodigal sons and daughters who have sadly gone astray.

Dear St Monica, troubled wife and mother,

many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime.

Yet, you never despaired or lost faith.

With confidence, persistence, and profound faith,

you prayed daily for the conversion

of your beloved husband, Patricius,

and your beloved son, Augustine;

your prayers were answered.

Grant me that same fortitude, patience,

and trust in the Lord.

Intercede for me, dear St Monica,

that God may favorably hear my plea.
(mention your intention here)

Grant me the grace to accept His Will in all things,

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.

Amen

– Text from http://www.family-prayer.org/saint-monica.htm

 

Images from Wikipedia

 

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Nebraska_PosterFor part one, click here

So we’ve established that Woody and Kate Grant (Bruce Dern and June Squibb) do not enjoy a blissful marriage.  We can only assume that Woody’s deep discontent, which his supposed $1 million winnings are meant to alleviate, is tied to this.

It seems to me that there are two possible explanations for this.  First, Woody and Kate may have approached marriage with insufficient circumspection in their early days.  Kate comments that boys growing up in their hometown of Hawthorne, Nebraska spent their young lives looking at the backsides of pigs and cows, and therefore were hopelessly lost at the sight of the first girls they saw.

 

Nebraska_WalkingBut there is another possible explanation.  What I have in mind here is the image of Woody walking, which is fairly constant throughout the film.

All sentient creatures have in common the trait of movement (though to varying degrees).  From my perspective as a Catholic Christian, I believe that such creatures are more like their Creator than, say, rocks and plants, which have no consciousness or awareness; as such, unlike the latter they tend toward motion, or activity (while God does not have to “move” as creatures do, since He is infinite and perfect, He is never idle).

With human beings, this goes a step further.  Our drive toward movement is not just physical, but also spiritual (and, as a derivative of both, psychological).  In the depths of our being, we are never satisfied.  We are always yearning for something more, something that seems within and yet painfully outside our grasp.

Saint_Augustine_by_Philippe_de_ChampaigneThis is because, as St. Augustine of Hippo famously said, our hearts are made for God, and are therefore “restless until they rest in (Him).”

bruce.dern_.et_.june_.squibb.dans_.nebraska.dr_It is quite possible that Woody and Kate approached marriage with the idea that it would be a “domestic utopia.” giving them perfect happiness.  One way or the other, it is clear that they were not approaching the whole question of marriage with any profound spiritual basis in mind.

Marriage is a glorious thing.  But if we are expecting it to be the one thing that will fulfill all of our deepest human needs, then we are placing a burden upon it that it is unable to carry.  In this way, we come to expect more of it and of our spouses than they are meant to give.  This expectation affects those who get married for that reason as well as those who avoid marriage because they are afraid of its imperfections; I suspect the latter tendency is, in part, what affects the generations that have followed that of Woody and Kate.

Indian WeddingBut if we view marriage as a calling, if we approach it with attention to the will of a Higher Power and see it as a common mission between husband and wife, that changes things.  If we see it as a sign to the world of the Great Bridegroom, Jesus Christ’s unwavering love for and fidelity to mankind and a foreshadowing of its perfect consummation at the end of time — a promise far more fulfilling than a million bucks — well, that changes things even more. (See my June 7 post for more on this topic)

Grant Family

“Nebraska” ends on a fairly positive note.  The members of the Grant family, having spent some time together on their unexpected trip to Nebraska and gone through a lot of interesting adventures, grow closer.  A situation like this reminds us of how God can, as they say, “draw straight with crooked lines.”  So thank you, Alexander Payne, for leaving audiences with hope rather than despair.

Movie stills obtained through a Google image search; remaining images from Wikipedia

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Before I begin, I should make it clear that Easter begins, rather than ends, on Easter Sunday — despite what retailers might have us believe (no offense intended to people in retail).

Gnosticism

There is an ancient religious-philosophical system known as gnosticism.  In a nutshell, gnosticism espouses the following general principles:

1. Matter is evil.  The material world, including our physical bodies, is created and ruled by a demon called the Demiurge.

2. Gnosis (Greek for “knowledge”).  Certain people — a very select few — are selected to be “saved” by becoming spiritual through a hidden, infused knowledge.  When they die, their true inner selvestheir spiritual souls — will break free from the prison of their physical bodies, and they will fly away to a realm of pure spirit.

ManicheansA related school of thought was Manichaeism, which flourished for a little while in the Near East during the early A.D. period.  St. Augustine of Hippo was a member of this school of thought for a little while, before converting to Christianity.

In his great work “Confessions,” Augustine shares an important insight that he gained after his conversion:

(. . .) and with a sounder judgement I held that the higher (I presume that he meant spiritual) things are indeed better than the lower, but that all things together are better than the higher ones alone (“Confessions,” VII:xiv — John K. Ryan translation from Image Books)

What was it about Judeo-Christian revelation that would have led him to that insight?  Well, for one thing, there is the Genesis creation account, which speaks of how God created the material world in all its splendor, climaxing in the creation of mankind…body and soul.

God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. (Gen. 1:31)

ResurrectionBut with the Resurrection of Christ, the Son of God, God in the flesh, this point is super-eminently reaffirmed.

With the Resurrection, any form of Gnostic dualism is definitively refuted.

With the Resurrection, God reaffirms the goodness of His creation, and especially of humankind.

With the Resurrection, the value of the human body as part of a person’s identity is radically reaffirmed.

With the Resurrection, the material world (to which the body is necessarily related) is not only– and not to be redundant — reaffirmed in its goodness, but, as Fr. Robert Barron says, “rais(ed) (…) up to a higher pitch.”*

Indeed, the Resurrection is the wellspring of renewal — not just for humanity but for all of creation, created good but damaged by sin.  And in Christ, God has seen fit to make us leaders in this great renewal.

That doesn’t mean that we will be able to build a perfect world here on earth, of course.  But as we prepare for that Final Day when Christ ushers in a new heavens and a new earth (Rev. 21:1), we must strive to spread the truly good and liberating news of the Divine Love and its definitive victory in all we say and do, bringing it to bear upon our everyday affairs and upon the things of this world.

Kind of makes Easter seem more exciting than images of bonnets and baskets, doesn’t it?

Images from Wikipedia

http://www.lentreflections.com/why-easter-matters/

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This video was made four years ago, when the first scandal came around.  Apropos now, don’t you think?

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