Sunday, January 26, 2014

On "Taking the Soup"

Maidan Radicals in Kyiv?

Some years ago an elderly Irish priest explained to me the expression they had at home when he was a child for Irish Protestants, people whose forebears had knuckled under to British oppression and abandoned their Catholic faith: "His father took the soup". It is a quaint Irish way of applying the Old Testament lesson about Esau who sold his birthright as the first born son to his younger twin Jacob for a plate of lentils. More than anything, I guess, as was the case with Esau, it bespeaks an unworthy choice. Throwing something of the sort in the face of another is hard and it is not the side of the coin I'd like to share some thoughts on this morning. We'll let the dead rest in peace and hope for God's mercy.

The other side of the coin has to do with an existential (survival, maybe) choice in the face of peril. It also has to do with facing temptation. This year in Ukraine people were forced by circumstance to move quickly from celebrating the glorious mystery of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John, Theophany - the God-Man revealed in the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, to "page two" of Jesus alone in the desert, tempted by Satan. Violence got the upper hand in what had been a peaceful demonstration.

Jesus' three temptations in the desert (bread, power, subservience to the evil one) are really of epic dimensions, with implications for the Son of Man far exceeding the challenges you and I must face in life. Maybe that is why saying "he took the soup" is so telling for us ordinary folk when we fail to resist temptation. In Ukraine's case, the refusal to take this unsatisfying broth any more and saying so in the public square provoked a crisis, as certain forces could wait no longer and started beating people back for peacefully demanding right rule under law and equality before the law, among other things, in their country. I am talking about countless people like my friends in the picture up top. The matter is not easily understood in Western society where "taking the soup" in one form or another is not uncommon. I will mention only the most timely example from my homeland.

The governor of the State of New York lost it entirely this week in the face of the annual Walk for Life, with its central celebration in Washington, DC, meant to mourn the countless millions of babies in the US killed since the infamous supreme court decision Rowe vs. Wade legalized abortion. With no good sense, Gov. Cuomo ordered people who love and defend life out of "his" state. To understand how he dares spout such folly, it must be recalled that generations of Americans "have taken the soup", trading dignity, their birthright as created in the image and likeness of God, for the passing pleasures of sex without responsibility and killing fellow human beings in the process. Pope Paul VI, in his landmark encyclical "Humanae vitae" in 1968, prophesied that the contraceptive mentality would ultimately be death-dealing and only serve to corrupt human beings and society in most profound fashion. The sad state of our world only serves to underlie the fact that there is a natural law and a proper order of things to be respected even within marriage, read: openness to life.

How can we not pray for and support those who refuse "to take the soup"? Our birthright at the summit of God's creation! Our birthright, born again as we are through water and the Holy Spirit, in the eternal life-giving font of Baptism! 

On this Sunday which Roman Catholics in Ukraine have dedicated to prayer for peace, let this supplication also be in the words of today's Gospel a fervent call to turn away from the death-dealing soup which holds so many bound:

Hearing that John had been arrested, Jesus went back to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this way the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled:
‘Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali! Way of the sea on the far side of Jordan, Galilee of the nations! The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light; on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death a light has dawned.’
From that moment Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’” [Matthew 4:12-17] 

Pray for the watchmen on the ramparts!


Saturday, January 25, 2014

From the Office of Readings for today, the Second Reading for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, is just too good not to share with a broader readership.

From a homily by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop, For love of Christ, Paul bore every burden

Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue this particular animal is capable. Each day he aimed ever higher; each day he rose up with greater ardour and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in the words: I forget what is behind me and push on to what lies ahead. When he saw death imminent, he bade others share his joy: Rejoice and be glad with me! And when danger, injustice and abuse threatened, he said: I am content with weakness, mistreatment and persecution. These he called the weapons of righteousness, thus telling us that he derived immense profit from them.
  Thus, amid the traps set for him by his enemies, with exultant heart he turned their every attack into a victory for himself; constantly beaten, abused and cursed, he boasted of it as though he were celebrating a triumphal procession and taking trophies home, and offered thanks to God for it all: Thanks be to God who is always victorious in us! This is why he was far more eager for the shameful abuse that his zeal in preaching brought upon him than we are for the most pleasing honours, more eager for death than we are for life, for poverty than we are for wealth; he yearned for toil far more than others yearn for rest after toil. The one thing he feared, indeed dreaded, was to offend God; nothing else could sway him. Therefore, the only thing he really wanted was always to please God.
  The most important thing of all to him, however, was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considered himself happier than anyone else; were he without it, it would be no satisfaction to be the friend of principalities and powers. He preferred to be thus loved and be the least of all, or even to be among the damned, than to be without that love and be among the great and honoured.
  To be separated from that love was, in his eyes, the greatest and most extraordinary of torments; the pain of that loss would alone have been hell, and endless, unbearable torture.
  So too, in being loved by Christ he thought of himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, present and future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet.

  Paul set no store by the things that fill our visible world, any more than a man sets value on the withered grass of the field. As for tyrannical rulers or the people enraged against him, he paid them no more heed than gnats. Death itself and pain and whatever torments might come were but child’s play to him, provided that thereby he might bear some burden for the sake of Christ.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Prayer for Peace and Concord

This morning I received from His Beatitude The Most Reverend Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, a copy of his letter to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Church inviting them to come together for the Sacred Liturgy tomorrow, 22 January, day celebrating Ukraine's territorial integrity. We all understand the destructive character of the violence which has marked these days. His Beatitude frames his invitation to prayer in the light of one of this people's greatest joys since the Baptism of the Kyivan Rus' over 1025 years ago, namely the territorial integrity of a "greater" Ukraine, a key premise for the people's prosperity and self-determination as such.

In the above video, His Beatitude makes an appeal to all forces in society to put an end to the bloodshed, each doing his or her part to build up the nation. Let us hope for the best! Let us pray for God's mercy upon His people and their nation-building for the sake of generations to come!

On 22 January, that is tomorrow, I will offer Holy Mass according to His Beatitude's intention: for the Ukrainian people and the integrity and prosperity of their nation. I invite all who read this post and my Facebook friends and followers, if you can get to Mass tomorrow to do so, but in any case to pray according to His Beatitude's intention. All my priest friends, who are able, are kindly requested to add this special intention to their Mass tomorrow.

We place all in the hands of the Lord Who loves us and Who saves His people from distress.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Our Struggle Against Principalities and Powers!

"HOPELESSNESS DESTABILIZES the constancy of apostolic leadership. Esau lost his birthright for a plate of lentil stew (Gen 25: 29-34; 26: 34-35; Heb 12: 15-18). Desire for immediate pleasure renders us incapable of sacrifice. We are careless about the things of God because we grow listless. I think that sometimes in our clerical world the lentil stew is any adulation that is offered us. It’s very hard for us not to have the last word, not to utter the always definitive prophecy. We do not like being fools. We have a hard time saying “I don’t know” without feeling disturbed or showing indifference. Leading God’s faithful people sometimes requires us to forgo the urgency of answers and to remember that silence is often the best response of the wise." [Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (pp. 84-85). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.] 

Somebody, let me blame Fr. Z, called my attention to this book as a free offer (Why not?). It gave me a little insight or rather served as an additional confirmation of a suspicion. 

Not long ago I finished an Italian best seller on the Holy Father (which I cannot recommend). What troubled me about that book is that for all its pages it simply held the Pope "hostage". The author of that book is a contemporary of mine, who obviously bought all the same tired books which for laziness or wariness I had refused to read as a 20 year old. He trots out a Pope after his own image and likeness. We've seen this again and again since the Holy Father's election. Not only terrorists are big on hostage-taking; it seems to be a favorite pastime with journalists and popular writers as well.

The book "Open Mind, Faithful Heart" is topical Francis and not somebody else's apology for himself laced with Francis "proof texts". What does that change? Well, basically nothing... For me, it points out something which I hadn't really thought enough about, and namely how hard the struggle is for the successor of Peter, how hard it is for him to fulfill the ministry he inherits from the prince of the Apostles, as entrusted to him by Christ Himself, and namely, to confirm the brethren.

St. Paul learned through personal experience that the battle could not be won through enlightened discourse out there with the movers and shakers on the Areopagus. Pope Francis gets my prayers today in a very special way. My specific intention would be that the faithful be enabled to see that the "seas" are no less stormy for him than they were for any of his predecessors since Pius XII. The Pope's "honeymoon" with the liberal press is indeed a strangle hold; it needs to end.

Psalm 10
Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies

1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? 2 In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor— let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.

3 For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart, those greedy for gain curse and renounce the LORD. 4 In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, “God will not seek it out”; all their thoughts are, “There is no God.” 5 Their ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of their sight; as for their foes, they scoff at them. 6 They think in their heart , “We shall not be moved; throughout all generations we shall not meet adversity.” 7 Their mouths are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under their tongues are mischief and iniquity. 8 They sit in ambush in the villages; in hiding places they murder the innocent. Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless; 9 they lurk in secret like a lion in its covert; they lurk that they may seize the poor; they seize the poor and drag them off in their net. 10 They stoop, they crouch, and the helpless fall by their might. 11 They think in their heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

12 Rise up, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed. 13 Why do the wicked renounce God, and say in their hearts , “You will not call us to account”? 14 But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan. 15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers; seek out their wickedness until you find none. 16 The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations shall perish from his land. 17 O LORD, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear 18 to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more. [Harper Bibles (2011-11-15). NRSV Catholic Edition Bible (pp. 495-496). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.]

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Looking to the East!

At the risk of repeating myself, I feel compelled to underline a thought or conviction, which comes from first-hand experience here in the Byzantine world of Ukraine, and namely, that Divine Worship also according to the Roman Rite should be oriented. When speaking of the single "offender" within my usual space, that means that the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite (preparation of the gifts and Eucharistic Prayer) ought to take place with everyone in church, including the celebrant, facing toward the Lord, ad Orientem.

Again this year in Ukraine, I had the privilege of celebrating Christmas according to both the Gregorian (25 Dec.) and the Julian (7 Jan.) Calendars. I hope the Pan-Orthodox Synod in 2015 addresses the very important issue of calendar and that we all might be able to sanctify the year with the major feasts on the same days. Meantime, I am personally enriched by the opportunity to experience both. That means for me a much more intense encounter with the Byzantine Liturgy at Christmas time, this year again as celebrated by the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.

For much less than the space of my lifetime, the Roman Rite has partially forgotten our millennial tradition of everyone praying together facing toward Christ, something which has not been lost to the Byzantine tradition. It is at these times that I understand very clearly just how much your average Roman Catholic Parish has lost. As any hardworking parish priest can affirm, liturgy albeit the "Source and Summit" is not everything. Catechesis has been sorely neglected over these decades as well, producing or contributing to the laxity, but there is no denying that the discursive style of most parish liturgy is diseducative. Any child will tell you that contemporary liturgy is made up by Father of a Sunday or Saturday, with or without the help of the ladies on the liturgical commission, who know next to nothing about what the Church has always and everywhere believed and taught.

I am profoundly grateful to be able to celebrate Mass here in the chapel of the Nunciature with respect for the rubrics ad Orientem. Most priests and bishops, with a bit of study and a little self-push to overcome inertia, would be wonderfully surprised by the benefits of this small change. Obviously, much more needs to be done. In the absence of the regular and worthy celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, I guess you could say that here in Ukraine one can also draw mutual enrichment from the "other lung", in this case, from the Byzantine tradition.

Let us pray that the Lord will show us His mercy and shine His Face upon us from on high!

From Above, Yes.

23 After they (Peter and John) were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, 25 it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant: ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’ 27 For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. [Acts 4:23-31] (Harper Bibles (2011-11-15). NRSV Catholic Edition Bible (p. 1018). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.)

I am thinking that more of us should be adhering closer to the Acts of the Apostles as our "road map". Although I am tempted to illustrate on two big issues, I will make just one statement on this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

The powerful verses cited above with their multiple references to other passages in Scripture stand at odds to much analysis and discussion simply because they are essential. If the first Christians found themselves in conflict, well, it was over the Name. These verses leave no doubt concerning Who, namely Jesus, is prime.

By the grace of our Baptism in the waters made holy by the Author of Baptism Himself, let us all pray for boldness on this Sunday. May we all find the courage to live and act always for the sake of His Name!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

To Be Fed by Him

"Until this comes to pass, until he gives us the sight of what will completely satisfy us, until we drink our fill of him, the fountain of life — while we wander about, apart from him but strong in faith, while we hunger and thirst for justice, longing with a desire too deep for words for the beautiful vision of God, let us fervently and devotedly celebrate the anniversary of his birth in the form of a servant.
  We cannot yet contemplate the fact that he was begotten by the Father before the dawn, so let us hold on to the fact that he was born of the Virgin in the night. We do not yet understand how his name endures before the sun, so let us acknowledge his tabernacle placed in the sun.
  Since we do not, as yet, gaze upon the Only Son inseparably united with His Father, let us remember the Bridegroom coming out of his bride-chamber. Since we are not yet ready for the banquet of our Father, let us acknowledge the manger of our Lord Jesus Christ."

St. Augustine
from the Office of Readings for Jan. 5

Friday, January 3, 2014

Papal Game Changers for 2014?

When it comes to my topics of interest, I have to say that I really enjoy much if not most of what Catholic News Service posts on its YouTube channel. Today's little predictions for the Church in 2014, however, would be the exception. The brief video is one gratuitous affirmation following another. Two CUA academicians gush about the great prospects for the Church in 2014, indicating from their perspective what I would call game changers in the Church for 2014. I don't know where they are coming from or what they mean. It's like so-called media projections about a Francis-effect, in England and in Italy, which nobody seems to be able to document.

The other day during an exchange with a group here in Ukraine, after fielding a basic question about Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, I turned privately to the priest who was acting as my interpreter and simply asked him what his thoughts were on the document. He told me quite frankly that he hadn't read it. No doubt I was the only one in the room who had read it. Then again, why should they have read it? How many people read papal documents anyway? For how many of those people who do does reading mean more than skimming them? What are my two people from CUA in the CNS video claiming? What are life's game changers anyway? How much of what I read stays with me, changes me or makes me grow?

Thinking only about papal documents that have had an impact on my life, I'd have to say no more than two: Humanae vitae, published by Pope Paul VI, when I was only 18. I found the document reasonable and the negative reactions of people around me confounding. The document came into its own for me ten years later at a conference, where the keynote speaker (a moral theologian, a Catholic layman, as I remember) very simply confessed how wrong he had been to protest ten years prior and about how important the encyclical was for him both as a husband and a family man, as well as a moral theologian. He made the document for me and encouraged me to seek a firmer grasp of its import through additional study and reflection. That I would say is a game changer.

The other document is Pope Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum and its associated pieces, together with the great Ratzinger book The Spirit of the Liturgy.

But game changers for the body Catholic, well, I'm more than skeptical, CUA or no CUA. A news report, a discussion by Raymond Aroyo with some great guest on the World Over, even a Word on Fire video with Father Robert Barron, can help get the gist of something, but if I don't read it myself, if I don't grapple with the text or with some idea therein, how can it possibly make any sort of difference in my life? I've been enriched by much I have read, but the enrichment, the moving or the transforming has generally remained on the subtle or cumulative side. The "aha's" and the "wow's" of a really profound sort have been few and far between. How much of our Catholic world will have occasion to take up a copy of Evangelii gaudium, let alone read past page 25? No, I simply have a credibility issue with Catholic News Service on this video. It is not so much a matter of not being totally serious as it is of painting a picture of the power of the word stripped from circumstance, which is ultimately what allows that word to catch fire and refine.

Humanae vitae was a game changer for me, but obviously not for a world still very much contraceptive in its mentality, despite the havoc we see that such disregard for God's law has brought upon our planet. Pope Benedict's eloquent invitation to be open to the mutual enrichment of the two forms of the one Roman Rite of the Liturgy has been out there since long before Summorum Pontificum in 2007 and yet priests and bishops hunch their backs and turn away from his wisdom. To talk enthusiastically about game changers is in some way to ignore Christ's sober invitation to His followers to enter by the narrow gate.

Needless to say, we hope and pray that the figure of Pope Francis will draw many to conversion, draw fallen-aways home to the Catholic Church and promote the cause of Christian unity. I guess being practically an old man from the upper Midwest, I can't say as euphoria of the type: slain in the spirit, jump and shout praise devotionalism, or even East Coast hard sell makes any points with me. I just found out, not that it is a secret, that Cardinal Dolan has a media consultant. Maybe I'm naive to think that spin-doctors have nothing to offer to the Gospel message. But one by one or people by people, I guess I'd like to see something as simple as Truth, Beauty and Goodness turn heads toward Christ. I'm not so sure I'll get to experience another game changer in 2014. I can count two for 63+ years of life. Maybe I'll need to wait a few more years for a third.

Lorenzo Scupoli's famous book carried around by greats like St. Francis de Sales is entitle "Spiritual Combat" and I guess that is what is required of us. No doubt I need to get on the stick and stop waiting for another game changer.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

To Whom Shall We Turn?

With the holidays, one occasionally "wastes" time with things, and I must confess that I am happy I "wasted" time with this Remnant Video. For me, listening to these two men of good will confirms me in my understanding of a very important practical ecclesiological principle. Much of what has been imposed, if you will, from "above" since the beginning of the liturgical reform must also be remedied from above. As priests and bishops, we cannot wait for laymen, no matter how fine, no matter how upright and well-formed in their faith, to come hat in hand and ask us to provide for the faith in its fullness (at its "source and summit" in the Liturgy) as it comes to us from the Apostles.

At all levels, this means a determined effort to root out abuse and most obviously on the part of parish priests who must "bite the bullet" and say no to add-ons and improvisations at Mass, no to music which is not sacred and to musical substitutions for the ordinaries and propers of the Mass. Who is going to make the Communion procession more reverent simply by slowing the pace if not the pastor? Ad Orientem preparation of the gifts and praying the Eucharistic Prayer (in conformity with the rubrics as they are today) wherever possible is something priests and bishops can do without further hesitation. We owe this much and more to our noble flock.

The generation of articulate adults, who in the 1970's protested abusive change to Divine Worship, are for the most part dead and gone. The attraction to the tradition is felt today by a very different generation of laity. They need our support in their efforts to live the faith and pass it on to their children. Would that we could be for them the kind of shepherds like Christ whom they seek.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Enough for Me

The Gospels give us a clear perception of people's expectations which, when we're talking about the Christmas story and with the exception of Elizabeth and John, Simeon and Anna, remain needy of dialogue with the reality Who is Christ born our Savior; the sufficiency of Christ for us as Savior needs to be run by us more than once; it needs discussion, process, and certainly, contemplation. This passage about John's witness to the Christ illustrates this very well. John is clear on Who the Christ is but his interlocutors not. John points them to the One Who is All in all, which is much more than what they bargained for.
This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ‘Well then,’ they asked ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not’ he said. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’ So John said, ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied: a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord.’
Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, and they put this further question to him, ‘Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?’ John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.’ This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising. [John 1:19-28]

As I say, Simeon and Anna in the Temple understand but few others do. Nunc dimittis... Simeon has experienced the promise fulfilled. Most of us come up short when asked the reason for our hope. Time and again in the life of the Church there have been moments when men seized by the sufficiency of the Gospel have literally drawn the world in their train for Christ: Great St. Anthony, the Abbot, in the desert of Egypt, St. Benedict of Nursia, and St. Francis of Assisi, just to name three. These men sought only Christ and others sought out them, begging them to lead them to Christ. The dialogue with the Baptist repeats itself in every age with more or less success depending upon the virtue of the precursor.

As I say, most of us finding ourselves wanting when it comes to sorting this thing through, end up on the side of those who proceeded to question John the Baptist more about who he is and what he stands for. We're called rather to witness to our world that Jesus is enough for us, that He truly is Savior. 

I guess if I had a prayer for 2014 it would be that I could more consequently sort this thing out, not so much for me, but for the sake of the life of the world. That people would take me by the coattail and beg me to take them to Christ!


The Cenobitic Life, A Work in Progress

St. Benedict 
The Rule of St. Benedict 
PlanetMonk Books. Kindle Edition. (2011-04-30).

Among the things I wanted to do on this first day of the New Year was read again the Rule of St. Benedict. I found all my favorite passages in this short little book, but two struck me exceptionally today: first, the admonition to the abbot not to hesitate in administering corporal punishment.

The well-disposed and those of good understanding, let him correct at the first and second admonition only with words; but let him chastise the wicked and the hard of heart, and the proud and disobedient at the very first offense with stripes and other bodily punishments, knowing that it is written: “The fool is not corrected with words.” And again : “Strike thy son with the rod, and thou shalt deliver his soul from death.” (Kindle Locations 201-204). 

The other is the chapter "Of Humility", which describes the twelve degrees on the ladder of/to humility.

Having, therefore, ascended all these degrees of humility, the monk will presently arrive at that love of God, which being perfect, casteth out fear. In virtue of this love all things which at first he observed not without fear, he will now begin to keep without any effort, and as it were, naturally by force of habit, no longer from the fear of hell, but from the love of Christ, from the very habit of good and the pleasure in virtue. May the Lord be pleased to manifest all this by His Holy Spirit in His laborer now cleansed from vice and sin. (Kindle Locations 361-365). 

I wonder when and where was the last time that a stupid or foolishly stubborn monk was brought around to obedience and reason by corporal punishment. My guess is that corporal punishment disappeared with genuine humility and confidence in superiors. I think our society is actually more violent perhaps today than was St. Benedict's. We hold everyone at arm's length and then lose it when they misbehave. It is not a real world ours; alienation prevails and nobody engages others. I'm not condoning domestic violence, but I am wondering where the immediacy and practicality of St. Benedict's counsels and rule have gone.

In this New Year, I am sure I will not resolve to hit anybody for his own good, but I will recognize how far I myself am from the top rung of the ladder of humility. In our home corporal punishment was almost nonexistent. I guess we must have been docile enough to our parents' decrees. Anyway, maybe I'll spend more time this year with the twelve degrees of humility, in hopes of rooting out vice and drawing closer to my Lord.