Tag Archives: guilt

February 14, Little Flowers LXIV: a Reflection on Brother Conrad’s prayers.

.assisi.clouds.hill

We read yesterday how the prayers of Brother Conrad, an early Franciscan, opened the gates of heaven for a dead brother through his prayers. It was tempting to miss out this story from the Little Flowers, because the soul of that young brother who died went to Paradise through the merits of Jesus Christ, according to the Theology I was taught. I wasn’t looking for an argument! It comes naturally to Catholics to pray for the dead, but even so, where does Brother Conrad come in?

Firstly, it was his young friend who sought out Brother Conrad and asked him, not just to pray but to pray the Pater Noster – the Our Father – given to us by the Lord

‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,          and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’

It is as members of Christ’s body, the Communion of Saints, that the two Franciscan brothers come together in Conrad’s vision. It is as members of Christ’s body that they pray together: if the young brother requested that Conrad should say the Lord’s prayer for him, then that same prayer was at the front of his mind and heart: he was praying it himself, alongside Conrad; and where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them. So the youth, Brother Conrad, and the Lord himself were praying together to the Father.

Conrad had a gift of being able to encourage the lad and help him to fit into the earthly community where he had chosen – and been called – to live. Perhaps, then, that same gift exercised by 100 Pater Nosters recited within the Communion of Saints, helped the brother to free himself from his remaining pains of fear and guilt to be fit for heaven.

Conrad’s merits? I’m still not sure, but if you suggested that Conrad’s gifts as mentor on earth to this young man were still effective after the young man’s death, I would not argue with you. Let’s place before Jesus all those who relied on us in this life, and would ask for our sympathetic prayers, could they speak to us now; and with Jesus let us pray:

OUR FATHER …

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

August 23: A Reply to Saint Jane Frances

heart.of.pebbles

The morning after I’d edited the post from Saint Jane Frances, I woke with this hymn going through my head. It is not a complete answer to the deep distress she was writing about, it is an unsentimental reflection on ‘His words so blest; “All ye that labour come to me, And I will give you rest.” 

At times we have to humbly seek new grace and new hope from the Lord, and a new and better heart with which to love God and our neighbour. 

1. All ye who seek a comfort sure
In trouble and distress,
Whatever sorrows vex the mind,
Or guilt the soul oppress,

2. Jesus, who gave Himself for you
Upon the cross to die,
Opens to you His sacred heart;
O to that heart draw nigh.

3. Ye hear how kindly He invites;
Ye hear His words so blest;
“All ye that labour come to me,
And I will give you rest.”

4. What meeker than the Saviour’s Heart?
As on the Cross He lay,
It did His murderers forgive,
And for their pardon pray.

5. O Heart, Thou joy of Saints on high,
Thou hope of sinners here,
Attracted by those loving words
To Thee I life my prayer.

6. Wash thou my wounds in that dear Blood,
Which forth from Thee doth flow;
New grace, new hope inspire, a new
And better heart bestow. 

Quicumquae certum quaeritis, anon, 17th Century Translation by Fr. Edward Caswall (1814-1878) 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

17 February: What is Theology saying, XLIII: Unhelpful ‘morality’.

I hope you can forgive me for looking at other chains of thought these last two months. This was only partly due to a computer putting on a hi-vis vest and going on strike. A new hard drive sorted that out. But it is good to have Friar Austin back! I’ve taken the liberty to add a couple of footnotes. Fr Rathe’s book gives something of a flavour of the Church just before the Council, when things were already beginning to change.

Can the inspiration of God ever be in conflict with the law of the Church? The whole prophetic tradition suggests that can happen. How do we test the spirit of an inspiration that suggests breaking the law? We must judge what is in line with spirit of the law. For example, the relaxation of fasting before Communion enables more people to receive the Sacrament.1

Unhelpful are: an over-simplifying notion of moral law; a preoccupation with precise measurements; disproportionate concern with sexuality; judgement of isolated bits of behaviour divorced from the whole person; punishment of sin seen in terms of an angry God; reconciliation seen as a means of shedding guilt; blind obedience praised as good behaviour by those in authority; concentrating on private morality at the expense of the social.

The perspective of Vatican II’s Moral teaching was to reject the blue-print model of the natural law – God’s plan. It presents life as gift, a fruit of the Spirit [Lumen Gentium 7.]2, and stressing personal dignity.

Conscience is not infallible, and it can be dulled by sin. Faith is conversion from sin, not once but continually; nowhere does the Church suggest that Scripture, Teaching… provide ready-made answers; we have to discern in the everyday of life. Moral challenge is not to keep the law in order to get to heaven, but to develop the full potential of what it means for me to be a human being. Gaudium et Spes 28 emphasises human development, even to loving enemies – i.e. involvement of will. [Part 2 of Gaudium et Spes3. is a treatise on values].

AMcC

1Monsignor Landru took us into the house where we enjoyed a glass of cold water before saying Mass. I wonder if the Holy Father ever thought of the tremendous refreshment he would be giving priests like ourselves, when he said: “Water does not break the Eucharistic Fast”. You have to go to the tropics, anyway, to appreciate cold water. From ‘ Mud and Mosaics – a Missionary Journey by Fr Gerard Rathe MAfr, Published 1961, available in full at http://thepelicans.org.uk/histories/history40a6.htm#top

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

14 October: CONSCIENCE VII: THE GUILTY CONSCIENCE

4canal (23) (411x640)

Earlier in these reflections I said that conscience shouldn’t be seen merely as an irritating little guilt generator.  I was implying that guilt often shakes an admonitory finger at us for doing things that aren’t really bad at all.  Granted, neurotic guilt is crippling and needs to be healed.  It originates in our emotions and not in our true conscience.  But not all guilt is neurotic.  The ability to experience guilt when guilt is appropriate does come from our conscience and it is vitally important.  In his paper, “Conscience and Truth”*, delivered in 1991 , the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger affirmed that guilt safeguards the health of our conscience, indeed, of our very existence.

Let us turn to St. Thomas Aquinas for a few moments.  His teaching can help us to understand Cardinal Ratzinger’s ideas.

St. Thomas Aquinas says [Summa Theologiae I, 79, 13] that our conscience is what enables us to apply our knowledge of the truth to a given situation.  It does this in several different ways.  Our conscience is what “binds” or “incites” us, says St. Thomas, when we are considering a course of action.  When our conscience judges that something should be done it “incites” us to do it; when it judges that something should not be done, it “binds” us – or keeps us from doing that thing.

Further, says Aquinas, our conscience is the part of us that “witnesses” our deeds, sees us as we live our life and attempt to negotiate all kinds of challenging situations.  If we have lied, for example, our conscience witnesses this.  After seeing us lie, our conscience doesn’t turn around and go away, it judges us, telling us that it was wrong of us to do so.  In that sense, its judgment “accuses” us, and may well “torment” us, he says, until we have made amends.

Let’s consider another, very different, situation.  Perhaps, for example, we were misinformed about something and the on the basis of the wrong information, said something that was untrue without realising it.  Fortunately, as St. Thomas teaches, under those kinds of circumstances, our conscience is the very thing that tells us not to worry.  It “excuses” the deed.  Although others may blame us for saying that untrue thing, our conscience knows that we were not lying; we were merely misinformed.  It excuses us.  But our conscience, if it is functioning properly, will surely incite us to apologize and explain to anyone we might have unknowingly misled that in fact we were misinformed.

Photo0936

Something is wrong when wildflowers, like these cowslips, no longer surface. MMB

In eight words, then, St. Thomas’s teaching can be summarised: conscience binds, incites, witnesses, judges, accuses, torments, accuses and excuses.   Not every word is a word that is comfortable to consider.  We do not really want to be judged, tormented or accused.  Yet, these are words that St. Thomas uses in a positive way and in conjunction with other words that are easier to accept. They all work together to help us, if we will be open to this process of growth.

Guilt can help us to grow, then.  Paradoxically, guilt can affirm my deepest self.  It can tell me that I am alive inside, that I am there, and that I am – or can be – better, greater than one might think from looking at the wrongs I have committed.  When guilt no longer surfaces within me when I do something wrong, then something else, very basic, is very wrong.

SJC.

* [Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth, presented at the tenth Workshop for Bishops, February, 1991, Dallas, Texas, U.S.A., published in On Conscience, Two Essays by Joseph Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA, 2007].

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections