The Church is just a Building?

For some strange reason, in numerous conversations I have had with Protestants, the same statement has been made over and over by the other party while discussing the nature of the Church: “The Church is not a building!” The observation is most often accompanied with a special sort of emphasis — the cultivated certitude, the dead-eye look, the relish of one enlightening a fellow human being trapped in the depths of ignorance, topped off with a dramatic pause at the end allowing the auditor to savor the profundity of it all. It is same rhetorical flare that often accompanies that other great revelation:“You know, it’s not the heat; it’s the humidity.”

The curious thing is that this arresting disclosure that the Church is not a building is often said at the beginning of a discussion of what constitutes the true Church, and it has never been in response to me saying, “You know, the Church is a building.”

I am convinced that these various interlocutors all heard this negative definition of the Church from preachers versed in the same “ecclesiology”—which is probably the wrong word because what they learned is less like theology and more like bad rhetoric about the Church. My reaction to this claim has invariably been to agree with it and to point out that this higher, more spiritual, and less material reality that we are both calling “the Church of Christ” is actually the one to which I belong. After all, my objective in these conversations is — of course — to communicate to the other party that the one true Church of Jesus Christ is indeed the Catholic Church.

But I think I have been wrong in my approach all along. Consider:

“And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

“Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners; but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and the domestics of God. Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:19-20).

“I will build…”; “built upon”: this is not pure symbolism. It would be much more true to say that the churches (oratories, chapels, etc.) that we worship in are the symbols. Regardless of the practical functions that they fulfill as places both of worship and of shelter from the elements, these earthly edifices stand as symbols of the more sublime reality that Jesus came to build, the one that extends beyond our time and space into Purgatory and Heaven itself.

My preferred hand missal, the Saint Andrew’s Daily Missal, has this gem of a paragraph in its brief commentary for the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (Nov. 18; spelling and styles as in original):

The Dedication of St Mary Major at Rome was celebrated on August 5, that of St Michael on September 29, St John Lateran on November 9; the local feast of the dedication of all the consecrated churches has been fixed in many dioceses about this time; finally, today we celebrate the dedication of the Roman basilicas of St Peter and St Paul. These dedication feasts are fittingly placed in this season: after having celebrated the Kingship of Christ, we have remembered two provinces of His Kingdom: the Church triumphant (All Saints) and the Church suffering (All Souls): our material churches, carved with chisels and mallets (Vespers hymn), are an image of the Church militant. [Emphasis mine.]

The “Vespers hymn” mentioned by the Saint Andrew’s editors is the Cœlestis urbs Jerusalem. It is one particularly beautiful part of the liturgy for the dedication of a church, which, in its Mass, Divine Office, and pontifical ceremonies of consecration, is itself a sublime ceremonial edifice.

Let us not forget that Jesus was derided by some of His unbelieving critics not only as “the carpenter’s son” (Matt. 13:55), but also as “the carpenter, the son of Mary…” (Mark 6:3). When the creative Logos became Man, He through whom all that is made was made had as His earthly father a carpenter from whom He received that trade. It is most fitting that the humble Patriarch of Nazareth, the great Saint Joseph, toiled at this particular craft, for he was an image of the Eternal Father, the Creator of all things, “of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:15).

Jesus came as a builder. His saving mission included building a Church. The Church is a building.

But what a building! It is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, that “stone which the builders rejected,” who “is made the head of the corner” (Mark 12:10), and “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20). Atop that foundation other stones are laid. Speaking to Christians, Saint Peter, who knew something about rocks, refers to this same Old-Testament passage that Jesus and the Evangelists invoke (Psalm 117: 22) and builds upon it. We Christians, he says, come to Christ, “as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen and made honourable by God”; then follows the apostolic admonition: “Be you also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 2:4-5).

In I Cor. 3:9-17, Saint Paul employs similar imagery, concluding his exhortation with these words:

Know you not, that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? But if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which you are.

There is a tropological reading of all this “building” language (see The Four Senses of Scripture if you would like an explanation of the word tropological). If we are the living stones upon which the Church, the Temple of God, is built, then we must be chiseled, hammered, shaped, scraped, and put into our place, whether visibly resplendent in the structure or ingloriously crammed into some crevice to be seen by God alone.

In other words, in this life, we must be both perfected by prayer, penance, and patient suffering, and fit into our place by accepting our proper vocation or state in life and virtuously fulfilling its duties. God willing we do so, we will overcome our enemies (the world, the flesh, and the devil) and become pillars in the New Jerusalem, that glorious heavenly temple the Apostle saw from Patmos (Apoc. 21:1-5a):

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth was gone, and the sea is now no more. And I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people; and God himself with them shall be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away. And he that sat on the throne, said: Behold, I make all things new.

The title of this Ad Rem is ironic, if only slightly so—because of the word “just.” The Church is a building, as I believe the Scriptures make amply clear. After all, it is built by Jesus Christ. But it is a building that is also a bride, and a bride that is also a city, and a city that is also a kingdom, and a kingdom that is also a Mystical Body.

Let us make sure to remember all this when someone says to us, “The Church is not a building!”

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel. This article appears courtesy of

Featured: West Front of Rouen Cathedral at Sunset, by Henri Vignet; painted in 1903.

The Preface of the Roman Mass

As a neophyte to Catholic tradition in the early 1990’s, I was struck by the beauty of that part of the Traditional Latin Mass called the “Preface.” The chant that accompanies it, sung by the celebrant alone, is not only stirring and commanding of the congregation’s attention, but it is also remarkably anticipatory, appropriately betokening that ineffably Great Thing that is soon to happen. If done right, the chant of the Preface perfectly introduces the angelic hymn of Trinitarian adoration, the Sanctus, which, whether it be sung in one of the Gregorian tones or according to one of any number of polyphonic settings, beautifully commences the Canon of the Mass. In a feature unique to the classical Roman Rite, once the grand strains of the Trisagion die down, the Canon then proceeds in total silence that is only interrupted by the peel of the bells at the double consecration.

Here, the beauty of the rite showcases the sublime truth and supernal goodness of what is actually taking place in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Only a few years ago, when I expressed my love of this particular chant to a visiting priest from London, he told me that I was not alone in my love of the Preface Tone. No less a musician than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart considered it great music. In its entry on Ecclesiastical Music, the old Catholic Encyclopedia makes reference to this opinion of the great Austrian composer:

Mozart’s statement, “that he would gladly exchange all his music for the fame of having composed the Gregorian Preface,” sounds almost hyperbolic.

Hyperbolic or no, the appreciation it expresses from a musical genius is no doubt real.

In the earliest centuries of the Roman Rite, the text of the Preface was longer and was included as part of the Canon of the Mass. Along with the Trisagion (“thrice holy”) that we Latins call the Sanctus, it is found in all the rites of the Church. Our Eastern Christian brethren — whether of the Alexandrine, Antiochian, Byzantine, Armenian, etc., Rites, — still have what we call the Prefatio and Sanctus as part of their Anaphora, which is the “Eucharistic Prayer” that corresponds to our Canon. For them it still contains, as it did for us Occidentals in the earliest centuries, a lengthy litany of divine favors throughout salvation history for which we must be grateful.

It is, in fact, the very gratitude expressed in the Preface (Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro: “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” and later: vere dignum et justum est… gratias agere: “it is right and just… to give thanks”) that attaches the word Eucharist (Thanksgiving) to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as one of its earliest and most universal appellations. The Mass is, par excellence, the Great Act of Thanksgiving, and it is the Preface that gives words to this reality.

Aside from the shortening of the text over time—mostly before the Leonine Sacramentary came into use—the Preface went through another important series of changes. Unlike its Eastern counterparts, the Roman Preface was a changeable part of the Mass. In the Leonine Sacramentary, which was in use from the fourth to the seventh centuries, there were 267 Prefaces. That changed in the later Gelasian Sacramentary to 54. The Gregorian Sacramentary had only 10, but then added another hundred in an appendix. At the time Adrian Fortesque wrote the entry, “Preface,” for the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911), there were eleven Prefaces in use:

The Roman Missal now contains eleven Prefaces. Ten are in the Gregorian Sacramentary, one (of the Blessed Virgin) was added under Urban II (1088-99). The pope himself is reported to have composed this Preface and to have sung it first at the Synod of Guastalla in 1094.

But that needs to be updated! The 1952 Saint Andrew’s Daily Missal that I use regularly, has fifteen prefaces, which corresponds exactly to the contents of an old 1935 Altar Missal we have in our sacristy. They are:

The Holy Cross (for Passiontide and Feasts of the Holy Cross)
The Sacred Heart
Christ the King
The Holy Ghost
The Holy Trinity
The Blessed Virgin Mary
Saint Joseph
The Apostles
Common Preface
Preface for the Dead

A 1962 Altar Missal we possess has one added preface listed with these others, the Preface for the Chrism Mass, which I assume is owing to the Bugnini “reform” of Holy Week. In addition, this same Missal, published by the FSSP, lists four “particular Prefaces” that are used in certain dioceses: for Advent, the Blessed Sacrament (Corpus Christi and votive Masses), the Saints (All Saints and titular patrons of churches), and, lastly, the Dedication of a Church.

What is proper to the different Prefaces are brief, compact liturgical texts that are very useful for mental prayer.

There are two ceremonies in addition to the Holy Mass that employ the Gregorian “preface tone” so beloved of Mozart and yours truly. One is the ordination rite, and the other is the traditional Praeconium Paschale (Easter Proclamation) chanted by the deacon on Holy Saturday, known more commonly by its first word as “the Exsultet” (you can listen to it on YouTube; the melody of the preface tone comes in around the 3:15 mark of the video). The ancient Preface tone was applied to these rites later, by way of imitation of its use in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

What follows is a passage from Dom Guéranger’s masterful Explanation of the Holy Mass; it is the pious and learned Abbot’s sublime commentary on the Common Preface (all orthography, punctuation, capitalization, etc., as in the original English translation by Dom Laurence Shepard, O.S.B.).


ALTHOUGH the Priest has been making his petitions [of the Secret] in a low voice, yet he terminates this his Prayer aloud, exclaiming: Per omnia saecula saeculorum; to which the Faithful respond Amen, that is to say, we ask also, for what thou hast been asking. In fact, the Priest never says anything in the Holy Sacrifice without the assent of the Faithful, who, as we have already noticed, participate in the Priesthood. They have not heard what the Priest has been saying, nevertheless they join therein and approve heartily of all, by answering their Amen, yea, our Prayer is one with thine! The dialogue here begun between Priest and people is maintained for a while, at length leaving the final word to the Priest alone, who gives thanks solemnly, in the name of all there assembled.

The Priest then salutes the people, but this time without turning to them, saying: Dominus vobiscum, the Lord be with you: lo! now is the most solemn moment of Prayer! And the Faithful respond: Et cum Spiritu tuo, may He be with thy Spirit, may He aid thee, lo! we are one with thee! — Then the Priest says: Sursum Corda! lift up your hearts! The Priest requires that their hearts be detached from earthly thoughts, so that they may be directed on God alone; for the Prayer he is about to make is that of

Thanksgiving. Admire how well placed is this Prayer here, for the Priest is on the point of accomplishing the Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, and this Sacrifice is verily for us the Instrument of Thanksgiving; it is the Means whereby we are enabled to render back to God that which we owe Him. So Holy Mother Church, delighting with intensest relish in this magnificent Prayer, would fain arouse her faithful children with this cry: Sursum Corda! in order that they too may appreciate, as she does, this great Act of Thanksgiving, whereby she offers unto God a Something that is Great and worthy of Him. And now the Faithful hasten to express their reassurances to the Priest: Habemus ad Dominum! we have our hearts raised up unto the Lord! Then, replies the Priest, if indeed it is so, let us all unitedly give thanks unto the Lord: Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro. And the Faithful at once add: Dignum et justum est. Thus do they unite themselves wholly with the Thanksgiving of the Preface which the Priest is about to speak. — This dialogue is as old as the Church herself, and there is every reason to believe that the Apostles themselves arranged it, because it is to be found in the most ancient Churches and in all Liturgies. As far as possible, the Faithful should make an effort never to be seated on any account during these acclamations. Now does the Priest take up the speech himself and continues thus alone: Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique, gratias agere: Domine Sancte, Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus, per Christum Dominum nostrum. So it is truly just to give Thee thanks, O Almighty God, tibi to Thee, Thyself, semper et ubique, always and everywhere, and to render Thee this our Thanks, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Yes, indeed, it is through Jesus Christ that our Thanksgiving must be made, for were we to do so in our own name, there would be the Infinite between God and ourselves, and so our Thanksgiving could never reach unto Him; whereas, made through Jesus Christ, it goes straight up, and penetrates even right to the very centre of the Divinity. But, not only must we, human creatures, go to the Father through Our Lord, but the very Angels even, have no access except through Him. Hearken once more to the Priest: Per quem Majestatem tuam laudant Angeli; by Whom, (i.e., Jesus Christ), the Angels praise Thy Majesty: for, since the Incarnation, they adore the Godhead, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the Sovereign High-Priest. Adorant Dominationes, the Dominations adore through Jesus Christ; tremunt Potestates, the Powers too, those beauteous Angels, make their celestial thrillings heard, and in awe, tremble before the Face of Jesus Christ: Coeli, the Heavens, that is to say, Angels of still higher order; Coelorumque Virtutes, and the Heavenly Virtues also, Angels yet more exalted; ac beata Seraphim, and the Blessed Seraphim, who by their pure love come nighest unto God, — socia exsultatione concelebrant, all these stupendous Choirs blended together in one harmonious transport concelebrate, through Jesus Christ, the Majesty Divine. The Prefaces thus terminate by mentioning the Angels, in order to lead the Church Militant to sing the Hymn of the Church Triumphant. Cum quibus et nostras voces ut dimitti jubeas deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes; yea, fain are we to join anon our feeble voice to that mighty angelic strain, and we crave leave to begin even now whilst here below, and sinners still, the great: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.

Thus all Prefaces are formed on the one great idea of Giving Thanks to God, gratias agere; and of making this Thanksgiving through Jesus Christ, because it is by Him Alone that we can come nigh unto God, yea, approach in union with the Angels too, with whom we join in the celestial chorus of their Trisagion.

Besides this the Common Preface, Holy Church offers us others wherein we invite the Heavenly Spirits to celebrate with us, in one joint Act of Thanksgiving, the principal Mysteries of the Man-God, whether at Christmas or in Lent, or at Passion-tide, or at Easter, or, again, at Ascension or Pentecost. Nor does she fail to remember Her by whom Salvation came to this our earth, the Glorious Virgin Mary; as also the holy Apostles by whom Redemption was preached to the entire world.

The Preface is intoned on the very same melody used by the ancient Greeks when celebrating some hero in their feasts, and there declaiming his mighty deeds in song.

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel. This article appears courtesy of

Featured: The Mass of Saint Gregory, by the Spanish Painter; painted ca. 1490–1500.

Order, Disorder, and the Wisdom of God

Ordo ab chao—“order out of chaos”—is a motto used in various permutations of Freemasonry. It refers to the “new world order” that the revolutionary Masons will bring out of the chaos they create in their revolutions bent on first separating and then destroying “throne and altar.” At its heart, Freemasonry is diabolical, even if many of its adherents call themselves Christians. The devil being the simia Dei — “the ape of God” — many of the trappings of Freemasonry have been pilfered from that Christendom the Masons so hate: their degrees, their symbols, and even their name, that of the Catholic guild of the stone masons — all are stolen Catholic goods.

The concept of ordo ab chao, while it is a revolutionary motto put at the service of evil, is actually quite Catholic if we understand it correctly. How might we do that? When we Christians look at the world and see so much disorder, we can assure ourselves, by our divine and Catholic faith, that the Providence of the all-wise God is serenely seated above this madness and will bring an order out of it that will astonish us all — His friends and foes alike. We have good reason to believe this. “And we know,” Saint Paul tells us, “that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints” (Rom. 8:28). There is nothing omitted from those “all things”; Saint Augustine assures us that even our past sins are included.

Biblical Examples

Consider the revolutionary rejection of Jesus Christ by the official representatives of the true religion of the Old Testament. As wicked revolutionaries, they stirred up a mob and accomplished the mad crime of deicide. Yet, in God’s providence, that horrible crime was the very occasion of our salvation. (See this idea developed further in What Nobody Can Take from You, where I consider the patristic figure of Our Lord’s sacred humanity being a sort of “bait” or “trap” set by God for the devil.) Moreover, many members of that mob “had compunction in their heart” when they heard the preaching of Saint Peter (Acts 2:37); they did penance and were baptized. Later, as the nascent Church expanded, even “a great multitude also of the priests obeyed the faith” (Acts 6:7).

The revolutionaries became loyalists.

We can see a Christianized ordo ab chao even in the Old Testament. Consider the much beloved story of Joseph of the Old Testament, the son of Jacob who prefigured both his namesake, Saint Joseph, and Our Lord Himself. As literature, the true history of this amazing figure is a “comedy” in the sense that Dante and Shakespeare used the word, because, after all sorts of horrible things take place, it ends happily. These words of Joseph to his brothers are the revelation of just how happy an ending it is: “You thought evil against me: but God turned it into good, that he might exalt me, as at present you see, and might save many people” (Gen. 50:20).

God transformed the evil of Joseph’s treacherous brothers into good. Not only that, but the evil occasioned Joseph being exalted and turned into a savior of “many people”—clearly prefigurative of Jesus, the Savior.

Harmony out of Dissonance

Dom Augustin Guillerand, the Carthusian spiritual writer, wrote thus in his wonderful volume, The Prayer of the Presence of God:

My God, You are infinite order. Now, such vestiges of Your order that we can find and perceive here below are marvelous and dazzle us — and we see so little!

You are so essentially “order” that even what we call disorder is made to serve Your designs. You possess the amazing power of making harmony out of dissonance. It is true: to recognize that supreme order, we must pass beyond the duration of time and present circumstances — in short, of what is not — and wait until the passing and superficial moment has produced what Your eternal gaze sees and Your immense love wills.

Your wisdom is this gaze, seeing far beyond time and distance. It emerges from a mind that creates order and a love that gives itself. The order is the outcome of the mind that loves, the proper name for which is Wisdom.

“You are so essentially ‘order’ that even what we call disorder is made to serve Your designs,” wrote the Carthusian. That sentence is worth savoring, reflecting upon, turning over in our minds and hearts, and discussing with Our Lord.

The sentence that follows gives us a glimpse the monk’s sensitivity to music. It is worth pondering: “You [God] possess the amazing power of making harmony out of dissonance.” Those who have elementary knowledge of music theory will know that it is the dissonances which provide much of the harmonic “motion” in music. For a trite example of this, the dissonant tritone at the word “two” in “shave and a haircut, two bits” resolves into the consonant major sixth at the word “bits.” While contemporary serious music often revels in the dissonant with no resolution to consonance — making most of it cacophonous claptrap — serious music of a bygone era, like Bach, used dissonances resolving to consonances all over the place to move the harmonic structure while supporting a beautiful melody. In the context of Dom Guillerand’s book, we can imagine that, if our life has occasional dissonances in it (troubles, crosses, contradictions), Our Lord can and will resolve them into harmonious sounding consonances. If we cooperate with His grace, we are making beautiful music with God.

Perhaps it is the idea of “life as music” that led Pére Jacques Marquette to beg of his Immaculate Mother that she, “make clean my heart and my song.”

Picturing Divine Order

Another artistic allegory that we might consider in connection with this theme of order and disorder, though not employed by our Carthusian writer, is life as a painting. Imagine, if you will, an enormous canvas upon which an exquisite work of art is painted by the skilled hand of a master. If we look through a magnifying glass at a tiny segment of the work, but are, at the same time, prevented from seeing the whole, we might only see what is dark or even ugly. Extrapolating from the tiny part we are allowed at that moment to set our gaze upon, we might reason that we are beholding something hideous, only to discover that we have been pondering a small section of the eyeball of the serpent in Peter Paul Rubens’ exquisite masterpiece, The Immaculate Conception.

We even have an expression for this in our common parlance; we call it, “seeing the big picture.” But here and now, as Dom Augustin says, “we see so little!”

God is an artist; and, more than any other artist, He loves the work of His craft. We are that craft, not only as individuals, but as a Mystical Body. If at times there are dark spots in our lives, let us strive to practice the Christian virtues, prayerfully calling upon the Divine Artist with confidence that when His full canvas is revealed — when we “pass beyond the duration of time and present circumstances,” in Dom Augustin’s words — what we thought were hopeless blots and spills were but the dark contrasts of His masterful chiaroscuro.

It behooves us to consecrate ourselves totally to Jesus through Mary, generously and penitentially accepting all the chaos that circumstances impose upon us, asking God only that this disorder be made to serve His loving designs. Then we can work with God, in our own small way, to bring order out of chaos.

As a “coda,” I present Brother Francis’ meditations on order from his wonderful book of meditations, The Challenge of Faith:

  1. The heart of wisdom is the appreciation of order: putting first things first.
  2. The mission of religious life is the restoration of order.
  3. God created the world for man, and man for salvation: all order serves this one end, the salvation of man.
  4. St. Teresa of Avila commenting on the text, “Thou hast set him over the works of thy hands: Thou has subjected all things under his feet” (Ps. 8: 7-9), says that this is true principally of the saints, because most men subject themselves to the things of this world. Only the saints are truly the lords of creation.
  5. Peace is the tranquility of order; beauty is its splendor.
  6. Order is the perfect disposition of means to the end. Only those who know the true end can work for order. He who knows not the true doctrines of salvation is like a captain of a ship who does not know the destination of his journey.
  7. The only first principle of order is the Apostles’ Creed; the best prayer for order is the “Our Father”; the best grasp of the means for order is the “Hail Mary”; the triumphant shout of order is the “Hail Holy Queen”.

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel. This article appears courtesy of

Featured: Fiant luminaria in firmamento cæli (Let there be light), mosaic, Monreale Cathedral, created ca. 12th and 13th centuries.

Sanctifying Time as the World Ends

The Church’s traditional liturgy sanctifies our time — the day, the week, the month, the season, the year. What is quite literally mundane and temporal is thus transformed into something heavenly and spiritual, an anticipation of our partaking in God’s own eternity.

The liturgical year is, in its temporal cycle, a summary of the life of Jesus Christ, but it is also a summary of all time as salvation history. Beginning with the four weeks of Advent symbolizing the four thousand years (in the Hebrew/Vulgate reckoning) from Creation until the coming of Jesus Christ, it ends with, “the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with great power and majesty” (Matt. 24:30), bringing rapid completion to those events which immediately precede the end of time.

That Gospel passage from Matt. 24 comes from the “Twenty-Fourth and Last Sunday after Pentecost,” which we just celebrated this past Lord’s Day as the Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost. If those differing numbers confuse you, please understand an important bit of Catholic erudition concerning the traditional Roman liturgical cycle, as explained by Father Leonard Goffine: “The Mass of this Sunday is always the last, even if there are more than twenty-four Sundays after Pentecost; in that case the Sundays remaining after Epiphany, which are noticed in the calendar, are inserted between the twenty-third and the Mass of the twenty-fourth Sunday.”

The End, and the Beginning

This last week after Pentecost, which lasts till the office of None inclusive (about 3:00 p.m.) on Saturday, points us to the end of the world, to the dark and terrifying things that immediately precede Christ’s second coming — as foreshadowed in the destruction of Jerusalem — as well as to the everlasting happiness or misery which awaits each of us. It is a very eschatological and apocalyptic week. In this week, Dom Gueranger also focuses us on one of the great mysteries that will immediately precede the reign of Anti-Christ, a sign of the imminence of the Second Coming, that happy event of the mass Conversion of the Jews.

At this time of the Catholic year when we look to the end of time, and also to its beginning again with the first Sunday of Advent next week, I would like to take a quick glance at how four natural divisions in the solar year coincide with four Christian feasts, how the Church dates Easter, how the beginning of the Church’s year is determined, and, lastly, how our superior Gregorian calendar came to replace its Julian predecessor.

“Praise Ye Him, O Sun and Moon” (Ps. 148:3)

The four seasons are traditionally sanctified by the four sets of Ember Days, but there are also four feasts on the sanctoral cycle that touch upon the astronomical events that define those seasons, to wit: the Annunciation, March 25, corresponding roughly with the Vernal Equinox; the Nativity of John the Baptist, June 24, corresponding roughly with the Summer Solstice; the Conception of Saint John the Baptist, September 23, corresponding roughly with the Fall Equinox; and Christmas, December 25, corresponding roughly with the Winter Solstice. There is some variation on the exact dating of these quarterly astronomical events, and there are useful tables online, like this one, which give the dates with astronomical precision.

I believe that Jesus was born on the concurrence of two things: the Jewish festival of Hanukkah and the astronomical reality of the Winter Solstice, historically observed as a religious feast by many pagans. In my piece, In Defense of Christmas, I go to some pains to elaborate this view, which is certainly not something I came up with myself.

You will note that the four festivals have to do with conceptions and births. The conceptions are associated with the equinoxes and the births with the solstices, and by them the Holy Infant and His Forerunner cousin divide up the Church year. The equinoxes are those days wherein daylight equals nighttime; the solstices are the days on which the daylight hours are most radically unequal from those of the night, making for the longest duration of daylight on the Summer Solstice and the longest night on the Winter Solstice. Here is a schema that spells it out clearly (again, keep in mind the slight variation in the dating of the solstices and equinoxes):

  • Vernal (Spring) Equinox: March 20 (Near the Annunciation, March 25)
  • Summer Solstice: June 21 (Near the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist: June 24)
  • Autumnal (Fall) Equinox: September 23 (The exact date of the Conception of Saint John the Baptist: September 23)
  • Winter Solstice: December 21 (Near Christmas: December 25)

The first of these mysteries, the Annunciation, occurs on March 25, a date that is traditionally accepted as both the anniversary of the first day of Creation and of the first Good Friday. (Tolkien enthusiasts will recall that this is also the date that the Ring was destroyed in the Cracks of Doom, just as October 24, the feast of the healing angel, Saint Raphael, was the day Frodo was healed of the injury received from the Nazgûl on Weathertop Hill.) There is something poetic in the thought that day and night — light and darkness — were perfectly equal in their duration on that first day, when God Himself “divided the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:4).

In the mystery of the Annunciation, the Eternal Logos becomes the Incarnate Logos. He thereby ushers in a new creation, both as God and as the “Last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45; cf. What is a ‘Type’?). He will, following normal human gestation, be born on the Winter Solstice, that darkest day of the year being the right time for the “Light of the World” to be born. The coincidence with Hanukkah, the Old-Testament “Festival of Lights” provides another luminous layer of meaning. (For further details, see In Defense of Christmas.)

The Conception of Saint John the Baptist is not a feast in the West, but it is in the East, where it is celebrated on September 23, the exact date of the Autumnal Equinox. Nine months later is the liturgical feast, in both East and West, of Saint John’s Nativity. Our Lord’s birth on a date when each successive day grows longer and Saint John’s on a date when the following days grow shorter are, according to many commentators, an astronomical fulfillment of that utterance of the Forerunner himself, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Another fulfillment, which pertains, oddly enough, to corporeal height, is the manner in which each of the cousins was martyred: Jesus was lifted up on the Holy Cross, John was shortened by the cutting off of his head. The deeper meaning of the Baptist’s words is that his disciples should leave him and follow his Cousin, whose reputation and following must eclipse that of His Precursor, whose vocation was simply to prepare the way for and point out the Lamb of God, making him “more than a prophet” (Luke 7:26).

The Dating of Easter

The year is regulated by the sun’s revolution around the earth; the month, by the lunar cycles. The Church’s most important festival, the Pasch (Easter), is dated by a coalescence of both the solar and lunar cycles. The formula for its dating, devised by the First Council of Nicea is “the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox.” For this reason, the full moon on or after the Spring Equinox is called “the Paschal Full Moon.”

This situates the Pasch always on a Sunday — the day of the week sanctified by the Father creating on a Sunday, the Son resurrecting on it, and the Holy Ghost’s descent at Pentecost on the first day of the week. But it is, specifically, the Sunday closest to the lunar and solar dating of the day that Jesus rose from the dead.

Saint Andrew, the “Strong Man” Who Carries the Year

What determines the first Sunday of Advent, the very beginning of the Church’s Liturgical Year? In the Roman Rite, it is very simply the Sunday nearest to the feast of Saint Andrew, November 30. The first Sunday of Advent can occur either before or after November 30; the formula is that it is the closest Sunday. There is something appropriate here. Saint Andrew is the Protoclete, the “First Called,” as he is named in the East. He was the first of Saint John the Baptist’s disciples to follow Our Lord and he, in turn, brought his brother, Simon, to do the same: “We have found the Messias…. And he brought him to Jesus” (John 1:41-42). It was then that Jesus told Simon he would become Peter. Andrew’s name comes from the Greek word for man. He is to the liturgical year what Atlas is to the celestial spheres in Greek mythology; the manly Protoclete holds the liturgical year, as it were, on his shoulders.

St. Teresa of Ávila and the Ten-Day Night

At the time of Pope Gregory XIII, the Church reformed the calendar. It has been known for quite some time that the old Julian calendar was off, but there was not sufficient astronomical knowledge to solve the problem of fixing it until the late sixteenth century. Following a plan devised by learned astronomers, Pope Gregory issued the Bull, Inter gravissimas, which removed ten days from the calendar and simultaneously adjusted the system of leap years to prevent similar slippage of the calendar in the future. Centennial years were henceforth no longer leap years, unless divisible by 400. (How is that for careful planning for the future? In my lifetime, this century leap year happened in the year 2000. It will not happen again until 2400.)

The night that was set for the implementation of this plan was the night of October 4, the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. The next day, as declared by the Holy Father, the world would wake up on October 15. The great Saint Teresa of Ávila died during that night, which is why her feast is October 15 and not October 5, which it otherwise would have been. (Brian Kelly narrated this story at greater length on our site.)

Redeeming the Time

Twice in his canonical corpus, the Apostle says we ought to be “redeeming the time” (Col. 4:5, Eph. 5:16). Taking time seriously, not wasting it, consecrating it to Our Lord, making good use of it for God’s glory, for our and our neighbor’s salvation — these are all ways we can fulfill the injunction of Saint Paul. (Father Paul Scalia has a good meditation on this at The Catholic Thing.)

The Church’s traditional liturgy sanctifies our time—the day, the week, the month, the season, the year. What is quite literally mundane and temporal is thus transformed into something heavenly and spiritual, an anticipation of our partaking in God’s own eternity. As the old liturgical year ends in a few days and the new one begins, we should take all this to heart and redeem the time that God has given us.

We never know when it will come to an end.

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel. This article appears courtesy of

Featured: Creation. Light and Darkness, engraving, 1585.

The War Crimes in Gaza from a Catholic Worldview

“Pilate therefore said to him: Art thou a king then? Jesus answered: Thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice” (John 18:37).

What follows is noteworthy. Pilate asks a question: “What is truth?” Rather than waiting for the answer from the One who is uniquely qualified to give it, in typical bureaucratic fashion he attends to other matters: “And when he said this, he went out again to the Jews, and saith to them: I find no cause in him.” At that point, the representative of Caesar begins an imprudent political negotiation with a mob under the sway of the faithless and cruel Caiphas. Pilate loses the negotiation and, committing an act of horrific moral cowardice, washes his hands of the abominable crime he sanctions.

Because Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, we Christians ought to have a supreme love of truth. Because our Adversary the Devil is the “father of lies,” we should hate and execrate all lies. If we are not “of the truth” we will not hear the loving Voice or Our Lord. It is no surprise, then, that Saint Paul commands us, “Lie not one to another: stripping yourselves of the old man with his deeds (Col. 3:9).

Sadly, we are presently drowning in an ocean of lies — as is often the way in this vale of tears. Currently, a war is taking place in the Holy Land and we Americans are expected, as good patriots, to cheer for atrocities being committed against the 2.3 million inhabitants of Gaza, which has been described as “a concentration camp” by Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, and as “the world’s largest open-air prison” by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Roald Høvring. In 2009, the great Pat Buchanan called Gaza “a vast penal colony with no access to the outer world by land, sea or air, except by permission of the Israeli military.” (Here is Buchanan several years ago, in one-minute video, delivering an uncommon amount of common sense on the subject.)

A Bloody Background

In order to understand the background, we need to go to the era of colonial immigration of European Jews to the Holy Land that led to the founding of the Zionist state in 1948. There was a great deal of brutality against the natives who already inhabited the area — including Muslims and Christians (Catholic and Orthodox), as has been documented not only by Arab-Muslim sources, but also Jewish sources (see herehere, and here). Among the persecuted Palestinians was the family of the Catholic Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour, who bears the august title, Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth, and All Galilee. His first book on the subject, Blood Brothers, was written from a very loving and forgiving, but also fact-based, perspective. Brother Francis highly recommended it as a good summary of the subject for Catholics.

In the United States and much of the world that our American Evangelicals have exported their ideas to, so-called “Christian Zionism” has turned many Protestants (and tragically, now many Catholics) into indefatigable, uncritical advocates of the Zionist cause. Five years ago, I discussed the history of this in two back-to-back episodes of Reconquest which can be heard for free on our site.

The Oxymoron that Is “Christian Zionism”: Politics of False Religion

The events going on in the Holy Land are being shoehorned into America’s oversimplified binary political parlance — the same parlance, be it noted, that excludes the social Reign of Christ the King. If you are a good conservative, you are supposed to cheer for a genocide of Palestinians in the Holy Land because it’s just the right thing to do. Don’t believe me? See what our new, “conservative” Speaker of the House says is his first priority. See also the Zionist political credo of three other conservatives.” This is all a result of the heretical Scofield Reference Bible and the absurd dispensationalism that led many (though not all) Protestants to adopt a creed that opposes not only Catholic orthodoxy but even the historical beliefs of most Protestant denominations. If this comes as a shock to you, please give a listen to those episodes of Reconquest; I cover it all there.

Here is a quick summary: Basing themselves upon the novelties of the Scofield Reference Bible, Christian Zionists completely misread Genesis 12:3. They ignore the fulfillment of these words in passages such as Gal. 3:16-29Luke 1:54-55Matt. 3:9, and Gal. 5:6. Moreover, they neglect the very important Catholic concept of the Continuity of Religion, and the proper way to read the Bible according to the four senses of Scripture. Concerning the four senses, in Matins for the Feast of Christ the King, we see the following applied to Jesus Christ in the first antiphon: “I have been set up as King by Him on Sion, His holy mountain, proclaiming His decree” (Ps. 2:6). Sion is now the Catholic Church, as are Jerusalem and Israel itself. This elemental Catholic approach to the Old Testament in light of the New is essential to our Liturgy, but it is foreign to the Christian Zionist. Add to this fetid soup the heretical eschatology called dispensationalism, and we have the essential content of Christian Zionism.

“Catholic Zionism” is, therefore, an oxymoron, which would explain Saint Pius X’s seemingly harsh response to the pioneering Zionist, Theodore Herzl.

At this point, I well may be accused by certain partisans of being a Muslim-simp and a shill for Hamas. I am neither. We have enough material on this site critical of the religion of “the Prophet” to disprove that (see herehere, and here, for example). Further, any targeting of non-combatants by Hamas is just as wrong as the same acts perpetrated by the IDF. Both sides appear to be guilty of war crimes at this point, though the disparity of proportion is vast. Let us recall that we have Catholic brothers and sisters in Gaza, and, just as Israel’s bombs are not discriminating between combatants and non-combatants, neither are they discriminating between Christians and Muslims.

Not All Jewish People Are Pro-Israel

It needs to be understood that, among Jews, the thinking about the Palestinian question is not at all monolithic. Yes, many are Zionists who will support Israel against the Palestinians no matter what. But some of the most eloquent anti-Zionists have been and still are Jews, and these folks are not at all agreed among themselves as to why they oppose the policy of apartheid against Palestinians. Secular, liberal Jews like Ilan PappeNorman Finkelstein, and Dr. Gabor Maté have their own outlook on the question, based largely upon their liberal antipathy to “colonialism” as well as a sense of natural justice. Their motivations are informed by a secular political outlook. For a radically different perspective, we can look to Rabbi Yisroel Dovid WeissRabbi Yisroel Feldman, and their Israeli Haredim brethren. (For reference, the Haredim are commonly called “Ultra-Orthodox,” a term I have come to learn that they do not like.) The Haredi perspective is based upon a fundamental theological disagreement with Zionism. The Haredim contend that Jewish political hegemony in the Holy Land can only come about when the promised Messiah comes to lead the Jews. This, by the way, is why Orthodox Jews historically tended to oppose Zionism very strongly: It was tantamount to — and often explicitly was — a denial of the person of the Messiah, transferring the messianic identity away from the personal Messiah of Old-Testament prophesy and to the Jewish nation itself. This, among other reasons, is why the Heredim call Zionists “heretics.”

Catholic opposition to Zionism is also based both on theology, as outlined five paragraphs up, and on the just claims to their homelands of the Palestinian people, no matter what their religion. (Yes, Muslims are entitled to natural justice, and branding them “human animals,” as Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant recently did, is the kind of dehumanization that easily leads to war crimes by many nations, including our own.)

Love of Jews and Muslims: Our Christian Duty

When I posted a prayer to Our Lady of Palestine and a brief review of a book sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians on social media, I was criticized for essentially taking the side of Muslims. But this is a classic false dialectic that has been programmed into the modern mind by our very biased media. We have to be on the side of truth and justice no matter what — and we have to do so with Christian charity. When I calmly explained my point of view to one of my critical interlocutors — who was beautifully responsive to what I had to say — I did it in the following terms, responding, in my opening words, to her explanation that Islam is a false religion because it is a “political system” that spreads itself by sanguinary means. The most important content is in the last two paragraphs, which I have put in bold:

Islam is first and foremost a false religion because it denies the Trinity and the Incarnation. The same may be said of Judaism.

I’m well aware of Islamic brutality and celebrate the victories of Lepanto, Belgrade, and Vienna with as much gusto as the next red-blooded traditionalist. I am also aware that not all Muslims are murderous Jihadis, just as not all Jews are IDF soldiers who deliberately target innocent civilians.

Atrocities abound all around.

I have spoken to both Muslims and Jews about Jesus Christ and am still alive to tell about it.

I agree that Europe’s profligate policy of immigration from Islamic countries is imprudent, evil, and, ultimately, self-destructive.

As Catholics, our duty to Muslims and to Jews is identical: to love them enough to bring both to Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church so that they can be saved. Otherwise, they are all lost. This will require evangelism, not ecumenism, and yes, martyrdom will be necessary, as it always has been. This coincides with the Church’s duty to God, namely, to make Him known and loved by all men in all nations. We must love God so much as to will this.

Meanwhile, we cannot justify the violations against the natural law that persist in the systematic injustices against the Palestinian people, some of whom are our Catholic brothers and sisters. And this is the subject of the above video.

The answer to all of humanity’s problems is in the keeping of Holy Mother Church. It is the life of grace; of faith, hope, and charity; of the gifts of the Holy Ghost; and of the Beatitudes. The deathly cycle of violence in the Holy Land will never end until the Prince of Peace, who was rejected and killed there, is accepted with open hearts by Jews and Arabs alike. As Christians, we are to love them all, even if they are our enemies, for such is the divine commandment given by that same Prince of Peace.

While peace talks, treaties, prudent political negotiations, and the like may bring some temporary reprieve to the violence, the real solution is in the Sermon on the Mount, where we are told,

You have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: that you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. (Matt. 5:43-45)

Jesus Himself gave us the example. The answer to hate is love — real love, Christian love for which faith is a necessary foundation. This is the love that Saint Maximilian Kolbe (who was no ecumenist, and who is unjustly called “anti-Semitic) had for the Jews whom he protected from the Nazis. This is the love that Saint Charles de Foucauld had for the Muslims among whom he lived, some of whom ultimately murdered him.

It is the saints, men and women perfected in the love of God and the gift of wisdom, who are the peacemakers. Be a saint and be part of the Catholic response to the problem. But remember, supernatural charity is not possible without a firm commitment that thing to which poor Pilate was so indifferent — the truth. For the King of Love is the way, the truth, and the life, and all those who are of the truth hear His blessed Voice.

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel. This article appears courtesy of

Featured: Holy Family Church in Gaza City.

Aristotle and Saint Thomas on Happiness

“The pursuit of happiness” — along with life and liberty — is one of the unalienable rights that we were endowed with by our Creator according to the Declaration of Independence. But in spite of the word being so deeply embedded into our national consciousness, I wonder how many Americans can actually define this thing we say we have a right to pursue. Relatively few, I would guess.

Let us do our part to remedy this defect by considering what the Angelic Doctor had to say of happiness. Prescinding from the Declaration, the subject of happiness is of great importance.

We begin with a brief glance at the ideas of Aristotle, who is one of Saint Thomas’ sources for his own thoughts. According to philosopher Richard Kraut, “Aristotle’s search for the good is a search for the highest good, and he assumes that the highest good, whatever it turns out to be, has three characteristics: it is desirable for itself, it is not desirable for the sake of some other good, and all other goods are desirable for its sake.” What Aristotle considers “the good” is important in this discussion precisely because Aristotle calls the state of someone who achieves his good eudaimonia, or happiness. (The word literally translates, “good spirit.”)

According to Jacques Maritain, for Aristotle, “Eudaimonia is the state of a man in whom human nature and its essential aspirations have attained their complete fulfillment, and attained it in conformity with the true hierarchy of ends proper to that nature.”

The end for which man is made is, according to Aristotle, happiness. He says that happiness or “eudaimonia,” is something built into man’s nature to desire. We all want happiness — and the foolish things man does he does to attain happiness, but in the wrong way. In other words, we sin because we think it will make us happy. But the wise man goes about seeking his true happiness in the right way.

Now that end for which man is made, happiness, is also the summum bonum, the greatest good, or the sovereign good of man. In naming “the good” as our end, Aristotle is in agreement with Socrates and Plato, although he differed with them in having happiness as being identical with the good.

For Aristotle the good is both a reward for the highest virtue and the best activity of what is highest in man. Since, for Aristotle, what is highest in man is the intellect, then the speculative contemplation of truth is man’s highest good and his happiness. (It should be obvious how this concept can be easily “baptized.”)

This is why Aristotle’s ethics is called a “eudaimonistic” ethics. The ethical man, the good man, is the one who lives well, meaning that he lives virtuously in such a way that he may grow in wisdom and contemplate truth with his intellect. This is what is desirable for its own sake, with all other goods being ordered and directed to it. This end perfects what is highest in man, not his animal faculties, but his intellect.

The pursuit of happiness not a selfish thing, because, for Aristotle, “happiness is an operation according to perfect virtue.” Now, to accomplish perfect virtue requires the practice of virtues that are not only directed to the perfection of the self, but also to the good of others in human society. For Aristotle, political ethics (that is, the way man pursues the good in society) is of a higher order than personal ethics. Moreover, there is a mutual complementarity between personal ethics and political ethics because politics has as its purpose that man might live in society in a virtuous way so as to pursue the common good. While Aristotle’s ethical philosophy is not selfish, it does lack the kind of heroic self-sacrifice that is perfected in the supernatural life of virtue epitomized by Our Lord, His Mother, the martyrs, and the other saints.

Aside from this, there are other obvious defects in Aristotle’s ethical theory, including its failure to name man’s actual ultimate end, and its limiting of happiness to a handful of old philosophers who have done all that is necessary to achieve eudaimonia in this life. When Christian philosophers build upon Aristotle’s ethics, they must supplement these deficiencies with the data of revelation, and even insights from Plato, whose theories of man’s end, though also imperfect, were more anticipatory of the Christian notion of Heaven. Saint Thomas is blunt in his assertion that “In his book on Ethics the Philosopher treats of imperfect happiness, such as can be had in this life” (ST Ia IIae, 3, 6, ad 1).

Saint Thomas Aquinas on Happiness

For Saint Thomas, it is God Himself which is both man’s happiness, and his summum bonum. As the Angelic Doctor puts it, “… man’s happiness consists essentially in his being united to the Uncreated Good, Which is his last end” (ST Ia IIae, 3, 3, respondeo). The way that man possesses this end is by the Beatific Vision whereby man sees the Divine Essence. Saint Thomas cites the words of 1 John 3:2 as proof: “When He shall appear, we shall be like to Him because we shall see Him as He is.” Aquinas agrees with Aristotle in making man’s good consist in the speculative contemplation of truth, but this contemplation far exceeds what Aristotle could possibly have imagined, since the Truth spoken of here has a capital “T,” for it is the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — the Holy Trinity, seen as It is in Its very essence. Again, as Saint John wrote in his first canonical epistle: “we shall see Him as He is.”

It is only by knowing God in His essence — or “face-to-face” — that man can achieve his ultimate happiness, that is to say, his “beatitude,” which we also call “salvation,” “heaven,” and “eternal life.” Saint Thomas cites Our Lord’s words in John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God.”

For Saint Thomas, God is Happiness Itself in His very essence. Human happiness consists in a created participation in that Happiness of God. Similarly, God is Goodness itself, and our enjoyment of the highest Good is our possession of God Himself, by knowledge. Given Saint Thomas’ position on the precedence of the Intellect over the Will, it should come as no surprise to us that he associates happiness with the intellect and not the will. The three functions of the will — desire, love, and delight — are not means of possession. Desire and love draw a man to his good, while delight results from possession of the good. It is the intellect that possesses God, our highest Good, so the “Beatific Vision” is no bodily vision; it is the intellect directly intuiting the Divine Essence. If this sounds too complicated, let us return to the language of Our Lord Himself in Saint John’s Gospel: “This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God.” Knowledge is an act of the intellect.

But the will is not left out of Heavenly Beatitude because the whole person experiences the goodness of God in Heaven. The will takes its supreme delight and love in the possession of the highest Good. It can no more desire, because all desires are fulfilled, so it will experience perfect peace as well as delight and love. Even the lower faculties of man will enjoy beatitude; Saint Thomas cites Saint Augustine on this point, who says, “the body and the bodily senses will receive a certain overflow, so as to be perfected in their operations” (ST Ia IIae, 3, 3, respondeo).

Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Beatitudes

What I have said so far about Saint Thomas’ ideas on happiness comes from that part of the Summa where he answers the question, “What is happiness?” It would be wrong of me not to mention something of what he says elsewhere concerning the Beatitudes. Here is a rather beefy excerpt (ST Ia IIae, 69, 1, respondeo):

As stated above (I-II:2:7; I-II:3:1), happiness is the last end of human life. Now one is said to possess the end already, when one hopes to possess it; wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. i, 9) that “children are said to be happy because they are full of hope”; and the Apostle says (Romans 8:24): “We are saved by hope.” Again, we hope to obtain an end, because we are suitably moved towards that end, and approach thereto; and this implies some action. And a man is moved towards, and approaches the happy end by works of virtue, and above all by the works of the gifts, if we speak of eternal happiness, for which our reason is not sufficient, since we need to be moved by the Holy Ghost, and to be perfected with His gifts that we may obey and follow him.

What Saint Thomas is saying here is that the eight Beatitudes Our Lord enumerated in the Sermon on the Mount are acts of the virtues perfected by the gifts of the Holy Ghost. He is also saying that they are an anticipation in this life of heavenly beatitude. It is for this reason that we can have, even in this vale of tears, an imperfect happiness that is a seed of the future happiness of celestial bliss.

Aquinas notes that there are two aspects to each Beatitude: the merit and the reward. The merit pertains to this life, for it is only in via or “on the way” of our earthly pilgrimage that we can merit. The reward pertains imperfectly to this life in the case of those who practice a high degree of virtue perfected by the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. But the rewards pertain perfectly to the next life for the elect, where they are enjoyed in an uninterrupted way. Let us look at just one to illustrate the structure of each Beatitude: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.” The merit is cleanness of heart which entails the practice of various virtues (not only chastity) in an excellent degree as perfected by the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. The reward is a certain contemplative experience of God even in this life, which Saint Thomas — no doubt speaking from experience — called “some beginning of happiness, such as is found in those who have attained perfection.” What the mystical theologians call a quasi-experimental knowledge of God is the reward for this high virtue. Yet, even for the very holy, these contemplative experiences will be admixed with trials, tribulations, and other earthly distractions of various sorts. The happiness is not unalloyed or uninterrupted. But in the next life, the reward of “seeing God” in beatitude is perfectly achieved. A similar analysis can be carried out on each of the other seven Beatitudes.

Saint Thomas Aquinas on Man’s Finality and Grace

Now a few words need to be said about economy of creation and redemption as they relate to man’s end. For Saint Thomas, the order of material creation and the order of grace both revolve around man’s supernatural finality. Man, the crowning achievement of creation, was made to know: “All men by nature desire to know,” as Aristotle observed in words Saint Thomas frequently referenced. In man’s very metaphysical structure was woven a natural desire for God, a desire which cannot be achieved by man’s unaided nature, even when that nature is perfected by the practice of the moral virtues and the striving for wisdom as understood by the philosophers. That end, which is supernatural, could only be achieved by an elevation above our nature into a kind of connaturality with God. In other words, only if we are made “partakers of the divine nature,” as Saint Peter says (2 Pet. 1:4), can we achieve the supernatural end for which we were made.

Yet grace builds on nature, so there are certain natural perfections which are necessary for man to achieve his end. The natural law, which is the rational creature’s participation in the eternal law of God, is designed — as is all law, according to Saint Thomas — to direct man to his end. This natural law, also called the moral law, is summarized in the ten commandments.

The supernaturally revealed law of the Old Testament was higher than the natural law, but also inadequate to the task, though it prepared the human race for what will ultimately help man to achieve his end. It was not until the coming of Christ and the revelation of the Law of Charity on the Mount of Beatitudes that the Law is revealed that can effectively lead man to his ultimate end. The New Law, while it is written down at least in part, is only secondarily a written law. For Saint Thomas, the New Law of Christ consists primarily and essentially in the giving of the Holy Ghost, the Sanctifier. It is for this reason that the New Law, unlike its Old Testament prefiguration, can lead man effectively to his end by justifying him, that is, making him holy by putting him in the state of grace.

Now, if Saint Thomas makes the essence of the New Law the giving of the Holy Ghost, this does not imply some sort of purely “spiritualized” religion divorced from the Incarnational, sacramental, and ecclesiastical economy we are familiar with as Catholics. Not at all, for the New Law is, as Saint Paul calls it, “The Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:2), and Saint Thomas cites this passage when he refutes the “spiritualist” errors of Joachim da Fiore. For Saint Thomas, it is the Holy Ghost that sanctifies us through the priesthood, through the sacraments, and through the teaching Church. It is the Holy Ghost whose grace and gifts impart and perfect the theological and moral virtues.

The New Law of Christ, then, is the law of the Spirit, and everything we associate with this life has as its purpose to direct man to his ultimate end, the possession of his highest Good and his happiness. These include sanctifying and actual grace, the infused theological and moral virtues, the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, the Church, the sacramental economy, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the grace-aided struggle against sin, reparation, sacrifice, penance, fasting, prayer, almsgiving, and the works of mercy. All of it was merited by Jesus Christ on the Cross; all of it brings us to the Holy Trinity. All of it — and here, I go beyond Saint Thomas to newer theological insights — is mediated to us through the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mediatrix of all graces.

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel. This article appears courtesy of

Featured: Annunciation, by Filippo Lippi; painted ca. 1445-1450.

On Life and Causality

I. Life, Causality, and the Catholic-Protestant Divide

What do the definition of life and the philosophical concept of “secondary causality” have to do with hot-button issues that separate Catholics and Protestants? A lot, I believe, and what follows here is an introduction to a concept that can be explored in more detail.

We live in a time when nominalism, existentialism, and plain old ill-will have robbed many of fundamental common-sense certitudes. Witness the spectacle of a member of the nation’s highest court refusing to define “woman,” justifying herself with the flimsy pretext that she is not a biologist, as if foundational realities regarding human nature were the exclusive domain of a caste of experts in white lab coats.

Those who have not lobotomized themselves with the dirty scalpel of progressive ideology can say what a woman is, what a man is, and what a baby is, even if the latter is still in utero.

Speaking of which, those of us who are anti-abortion (and we should not fear that label) need to be able to define that thing we say we are for: life. There are many philosophical definitions of life, but none of them improves upon the simple one that Brother Francis taught us: “the power of immanent activity.”

Brother illustrated this by describing a scene outside of his office window: It was a windy day, and there were leaves and other small objects being blown in one direction by the powerful gusts. The uniformity of motion was disturbed by a small bird, not much bigger than some of the objects being blown about, going in the opposite direction. The inanimate objects were all subject to transient action, that is, they were being acted upon by the force of the wind. But that bird, being alive, was capable of activity that was inherent to itself, or, as the definition has it, the bird was capable of “immanent activity” because it was alive, the power of locomotion being the basis of numerous acts of sentient life.


As a material object, the bird is subject to transient activity as well — it can be blown about, thrown, eaten by a predator, etc., but inanimate objects (like the dead leaves, bits of paper, sand, etc.) are only capable of transient activity. There is nothing in them by which they can act. The principles of activity are all outside them. The tiniest living plant, no matter how fragile, how dependent upon other things, how radically contingent, is capable of acting by a power intrinsic to it: growing, assimilating nutrition, reproducing its kind. If a living thing has the higher nature of animals, it can also move, know, and pursue the objects of its appetites. Man, as a rational animal, has the higher faculties of intellect and will in addition to all those other powers he shares with lower forms of life. In the higher gradations of life, immanent activity takes on a nobler character, but whether he is exercising the powers common to lower life forms or those requiring the use of his mind, man’s life (his anima, which also means soul) is the principle of his immanent activity. It so happens that the superior nature of his immanent activity puts man at the pinnacle of material creation.

Even though living beings are capable of immanent activity, and man specifically is capable of the elevated activities of thinking and willing, it remains true that all that is not God is radically dependent upon God, for such is the very notion of creatureliness. God not only created all that is, He also sustains it in existence. Yet, does it not remain true that all the immanent activities of living things on earth are really and truly their acts, things proper to them that they actually do? Yes! This is the case whether we consider the mighty oak reaching toward the sky by assimilating water, nutrients from the soil, and sunlight; or the bee making honey and wax; or the man plying his trade. In all its grand totality, creation is the work of God, its First Cause; yet, God willingly and purposely operates through secondary causes all the time. Rain may drop from the heavens—by which I mean the sky—but it does so following laws of nature that are measurable: there is a cycle, dependent on the stable natures of things, by which water evaporates, becomes clouds, then eventually returns to the thirsty ground or the aquatic surfaces of the world in a scientifically observable way (regardless of the sometimes frustratingly imperfect predictions of the meteorologists!). We can truly say that God makes it rain as He sustains all that is and gave to the water, the sun, the atmosphere, etc., their natures by which these activities occur. But the genuine causal role of these created things cannot be denied. It is observable, and is no mere phantasm. This is what we call “secondary causality.” A secondary cause is defined by Father Wuellner as “a cause under and dependent upon the first cause; a created cause; a cause that can only specify the kind, but not the being of the effect.”

The words “first” and “second” here have nothing to do with mere chronology. We are speaking metaphysically. The simplest way to clarify the notion is to say that what is second is absolutely subordinate to and dependent upon what is first.

God could have established a created order in which all making and all change comes about directly and exclusively from Him, just as He created all that is ex nihilo in the beginning. He could have opted to be not only the First, but also the Only Cause. But He did not do so. Instead, He ordained sexual and asexual reproduction so that animals and plants can reproduce themselves. He also made man, created in His image and likeness, to be himself a maker. He remains the First Cause, but all living material things come from others of their kind acting as secondary causes; man’s industry can, “under and dependent upon” God, yield goods of all sorts: agricultural, mechanical, technological, literary, artistic, moral, etc.

Common sense and daily experience tell us this is real. Without secondary causality in creation, the universe would be a far more mystifying thing and no stable order would be observable. The laws of gravity, gas diffusion, motion, entropy, etc., would all be non-extant. Among the myriad cause-and-effect experiences of human life, we would be left wondering where babies come from, since it’s not Mommy and Daddy (with God infusing an immortal soul). Imagine if Volkswagens just dropped from the sky by divine fiat, and we needed no factories to produce them. This might seem like a sort of theocratic socialist paradise, but such a world would be less predictable and more dangerous, with nobody to sue for deaths and injuries from falling Volkswagens.

Secondary causality is so present to us that we usually take it for granted. I recall my mother informing me that the grass would not simply cut itself. Neither, apparently, would the First Cause descend to do the job. That was appointed to me, apparently as a result of Adam’s sin along with the more immediate maternal command. (And let me say that Louisiana summers lend a certain poignancy to the words “the sweat of thy face”—Gen. 3:19).

Speaking of parental commands, in our family lives, we understand that good parenting helps children to develop well, whereas bad parenting is harmful. Heli was blamed for failing to discipline his sons, leading to dreadful consequences for his house and for all Israel. By contrast, Abraham (whose original name, Abram, means “good father”) carried out a wonderful job of parenting with Isaac. While offspring eventually become responsible for their own actions, both good and bad parenting have undeniable effects—as do good and bad education, good and bad moral example, etc. All this fits into our category of secondary causality.


The order of grace parallels the order of nature and builds upon it. The natural man is elevated by grace into the supernatural order. He is a “new creature” (cf., 2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15). He is not only alive with the natural life of man, but he has the “eternal life” that comes from grace: “Now this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3; cf., many other passages). That life is consummated in heavenly glory, but is commenced on this side of the grave by grace, so Saint John could write, while yet in this veil of tears, “God hath given to us eternal life. And this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). This new and higher life also has its own “immanent activity” that is proper to the new nature grafted into us by grace. Acts of faith, hope, and charity, of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, the Fruits of the Holy Ghost (Gal. 5:22-23), and the sublime Beatitudes are all proper to this life. Without the First Cause giving us eternal life, such acts would be impossible, but the acts are nonetheless our acts, and we shall be judged upon them as upon our evil deeds: “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Apoc, [Rev.] 20:12; cf. Matt. 16:27, Matt. 25:31-46, Rom. 2:6-8).

Just as God is radically necessary and we contingent in the order of nature, so, too, is He indispensable and we utterly dependent in the order of grace. Yet, without a hint of contradiction or an iota of irony, our Christian common sense must here also acknowledge secondary causality at work. It would not do to use the examples of the sacraments, for our Protestant brethren do not accept them — or, to be more accurate, not all Protestants accept all seven. To limit ourselves to explanations that they would accept, let us consider the Bible, preaching, the Twelve Apostles, the wood of the Cross, human language, even grace itself, which, while so sublime a thing, is not, after all, God Himself. All of these are creatures, yet all have a real causality in human salvation. Moreover, each can be further broken down into constituent parts that show more minute secondary causes at work. Preaching, for instance, necessitates created human language, our human minds, the modes of transportation or broadcast by which the preacher is made present to his auditors, the vocal chords of the preacher, and the ears of those who hear (“Faith then cometh by hearing” [Rom. 10:17]), etc.

Concerning authentic preaching, Jesus said to the seventy-two disciples, “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me” (Luke 10:16). From God, the First Cause, to the sacred Humanity of Jesus, to the disciples, to their hearers. A clear-cut case of secondary causality operating in the supernatural order.

Next I would like to illustrate the concept of secondary causality with further Biblical examples, showing how certain key doctrines of the Protestant Reformers are refuted by the clear scriptural data on the subject.

II. Causality and the Biblical Economy of Salvation

When God created all things in the beginning, He did so for a purpose worthy of Himself: His own glory. It may surprise readers to learn that this is actually a dogma of the faith and that anyone who denies it is under the formal anathema of an Ecumenical Council: “If anyone … denies that the world was created for the glory of God: let him be anathema.” (Vatican I, Session 3, Canon 5, “On God the creator of all things.” This is one of the canons appended to the end of Vatican I’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith).

God is glorified by all creation, including stars and planets, rocks and rivers, trees and flowers, and all manner of brute beasts. Each of these glorifies God by acting in accordance with the nature it received from Him. All the aforementioned creatures give God glory by necessity, there being no free will involved.

There are vestiges of God all throughout these lower orders of creation, “footprints” of the Creator which reveal Him to the knowing mind at the same time they effect His glory. This would explain why certain Psalms and the Canticle of the Three Children from the Book of Daniel summon various inanimate and brute creatures to join with us in the praise of God. The Church has incorporated these cosmological prayers into her liturgy.

In creating man, God endowed this higher creature with His own image and likeness. By grace, He also gave men power to be made children of God (cf., John 1:12). This creature has understanding and free will. This creature can know God, and can freely love and serve Him, thereby rendering Him glory in a way superior to what lower creation can do.

In material creation, we humans are unique in having such potencies; we share them only with those pure spirits we call angels.

According to his nature as a knowing and free person, man can, relying on “the First Cause,” actually be a cause of God’s glory. This is the highest manifestation of what we call “secondary causality.”

Which brings me to the subject of Part I above, in which I wrote about the concept of life and the philosophical distinctions of primary and secondary causality, applying these concepts to certain points of doctrine that separate Catholics and Protestants. I concluded that piece with a promise that I would illustrate the concept of secondary causality with further Biblical examples to refute certain key doctrines of the Protestant Reformers.

Let us recall that the original Protestant “Reformers” — and I am speaking principally of Luther and Calvin — denied the freedom of the human will. Luther referred to the will as “enslaved,” famously making an odious comparison between our will and a donkey. If God rides the donkey, the will is compelled to be good; if the devil, evil.

But so much of Holy Scripture’s plain sense refutes this (not to mention the constant tradition of the Church through the ages!). While all secondary causes, including our free wills, are radically and absolutely dependent on the First Cause, this does not render God the “Only Cause” neither does it obliterate the reality of secondary causality.

Let us begin our brief journey through the New Testament with Saint John the Baptist. Saint Luke relates to us the words of the Angel Gabriel to Saint Zachary, who learns that his son would “convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God … [and] turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people” (Luke 1:16-17).

Obviously, God Himself converts people, changes hearts, and prepares people for perfection — indeed, prepares them for the coming of Jesus, which was the vocation of the Baptist. But if these words of the Gospel have any cogent meaning (and they do!) then God not only works directly on men’s intellects and wills by His grace, but also does so indirectly through other men, men like Saint John the Baptist. There are multiple layers of secondary causality operating here.

The parables of Our Lord provide numerous examples to illustrate secondary causality and refute the heresies that deny it. A good one to begin with is the very familiar Parable of the Sower, the first of Our Lord’s parables, found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 13:3 ff., Mark 4:3 ff, Luke 8:5 ff.). Jesus Himself explained it to the Apostles in private after preaching it to the multitudes:

Hear you therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, there cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart: this is he that received the seed by the way side. And he that received the seed upon stony ground, is he that heareth the word, and immediately receiveth it with joy. Yet hath he not root in himself, but is only for a time: and when there ariseth tribulation and persecution because of the word, he is presently scandalized. And he that received the seed among thorns, is he that heareth the word, and the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choketh up the word, and he becometh fruitless. But he that received the seed upon good ground, is he that heareth the word, and understandeth, and beareth fruit, and yieldeth the one an hundredfold, and another sixty, and another thirty. (Matt. 13:18-23)

The seed that was sown was universally the same: it was “the word of the kingdom.” What varied was the condition of the ground upon which it fell: (1) the wayside, (2) stony ground, (3) thorny ground, and (4) good ground. The good ground itself was not all of the same quality, inasmuch as the yield of fruit varied from one part of the ground to another. Saint Luke speaks of the men represented by the good ground as having a “good and perfect heart”; these men, “hearing the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience” (Luke 8:15).

Is it not plain from this that secondary causality is operative here? Men cooperating with grace, or failing to do so, is what distinguishes the different kind of ground, while the seed itself (the free gift of faith) is the same in each case, even if it be accompanied by different degrees of actual grace to accept it. There is also variety in the virtue of the “good ground,” which refutes Calvin’s idea that there is a radical equality among the saints, while it affirms the existence of different degrees of merit among the just.

Next, we will look at the Parable of the Pounds. “And calling his ten servants, he gave them ten pounds, and said to them: Trade till I come” (Luke 19:13). Each of these servants received the same amount of money. Each was directed to use it to turn a profit. We learn only of three of the servants. One of them doubled the amount he was given and was praised for his good work. A second gained a profit of fifty percent over the original he was given and was also praised. The third simply returned the original ten pounds to his master with a rather lame excuse. Far from being praised, this servant is reprimanded severely and his ten pounds are given to the first servant, the one who doubled the initial investment.

In this parable, the First Cause gives something indispensable for the task at hand: “investment capital.” He orders his servants to enter into the chain of causality and do something with the money to give it increase. Rewards and punishments are meted out accordingly. Secondary causality at work.

Similar to the Parable of the Pounds is the Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 25 — which, you may recall, is all about judgment. While the details differ somewhat — e.g., this time each servant is given different amounts — they resemble one another inasmuch as two servants are praised and rewarded, while a third is punished. His punishment is worth recounting: “And the unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This man’s crime was returning to his master the one talent he was given, and not making more money from it, as his fellow-servants had done. Again, the servants are being commanded to cooperate with the causality of their Master so that they will be “profitable.” In the supernatural life, this is exactly what God wants.

In the Parable of the Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-13), we learn lessons on persevering prayer. (This is one of at least two parables that impart this lesson.) Jesus clearly explains the point of the parable this way: “And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened” (Luke 11:9-10). The Savior Himself, who perfectly understands and teaches about the economy of human salvation, is clearly attaching a causal, salvific role to human acts. One might object that we need the promptings of actual grace to ask, seek, and knock. I wholeheartedly agree with this; it is no objection to the main argument, which is that our willing performance of these acts — under the influence of grace — has a causal role in our salvation.

In the very brief Parable of the Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9), we are given a clear proof that God wants us to bear fruit or be cut down. God plants the “tree” of our spiritual life; His servants “dig it about and dung it,” but it must bear fruit or be punished.

In the Parable of the Invited Guests (Luke 14:7-14), we find these two gems:

  • Because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted” (v. 11).
  • But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind; and thou shalt be blessed, because they have not wherewith to make thee recompense: for recompense shall be made thee at the resurrection of the just” (vs. 13-14).

Taking it as a given that God’s grace aids us in doing the good things Our Lord recommends here, we still learn from this parable that there is a cause-and-effect sequence that is dependent upon our human activity, i.e., our cooperation with grace. The reflexive pronoun lends a certain emphasis to the causal role of the humble man in his own exaltation: “he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.”

Without connecting the dots for the reader, I will recommend four other parables for your consideration. Play a little game of holy erudition and read these yourself to see how secondary causality clearly enters into the economy of salvation as Jesus teaches it to us in these beautiful stories: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8), and the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14).

Let me conclude by citing some passages from the Apostle to the Gentiles. Their application to this argument should be obvious:

  • For which cause I admonish thee, that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee, by the imposition of my hands.” (2 Tim. 1:6)
  • Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God.” (1 Cor. 4:1)
  • I have planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the increase.” (1 Cor. 3:6)
  • I became all things to all men, that I might save all.” (1 Cor. 9:22)

Let us commit ourselves to giving glory to God by knowing, loving, and serving Him — and seeking Him in all things. These grace-aided activities on our part allow us voluntarily to cooperate with the First Cause as secondary causes of God’s glory and of our own salvation. We can even achieve those ends by working to save others (see Saint Paul’s last quote!). In doing all this, we enter into God’s very purpose in creating the world.

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel. This article appears courtesy of

Featured: The Importunate Neighbour, by William Holman Hunt; painted in 1895.

The Triumph Of Christmas

Today’s skeptics, who seem to reject something traditional just because it’s traditional, cannot sit still during the holy season of Christmas without mocking the notion that Christ would have been born on December 25th. If it were just the unbelievers who engaged in this mockery, it would be expected, since unbelievers, by their very nature, are not expected to believe.

More troubling is the fact that, like evolution and all other modern atheistic fantasies, this one has seeped through the all-too narrow wall separating Catholics from the rest of the world. The anti-Christmas myth, which makes a myth out of Christmas, is being foisted on Catholic children as fact. To benefit these, and any Christian who respects piety, history, Scripture, and Tradition, we present our defense of Christmas.

Since there is no date for the Nativity recorded in Holy Scripture, we rely on the testimony of the Church Fathers and of history to get an answer to the question, “When did Christmas take place?”

First, let us see the essential significance of the Savior’s birth at the time usually attributed to it. The winter solstice, the astronomical event which recurs every year, is traditionally said to be the birthday of the Messias. To elucidate the meaning of this fact, we will turn to Saint Gregory of Nyssa (+ 385 or 386):

“On this day, which the Lord hath made, darkness decreases, light increases, and night is driven back again. No, brethren, it is not by chance, nor by any created will, that this natural change begins on the day when He shows Himself in the brightness of His coming, which is the spiritual Life of the world. It is Nature revealing, under this symbol, a secret to them whose eye is quick enough to see it; to them, I mean, who are able to appreciate this circumstance, of our Savior’s coming. Nature seems to me to say: “Know, oh man! that under the things which I show thee, mysteries lie concealed. Hast thou not seen the night, that had grown so long, suddenly checked? Learn hence, that the black night of Sin, which had reached its height, by the accumulation of every guilty device, is this day, stopped in its course. Yes, from this day forward, its duration shall be shortened until at length there shall be naught but Light. Look, I pray thee, on the Sun; and see how his rays are stronger and his position higher in the heavens: Learn from that how the other Light, the Light of the Gospel, is now shedding itself over the whole earth.” (Homily On the Nativity)

Saint Augustine, a Western Father, concurs with Gregory, the Easterner:

“Let us, my brethren, rejoice, this day is sacred, not because of the visible sun, but because of the Birth of Him Who is the invisible Creator of the sun. He chose this day whereon to be born, as He chose the Mother of whom to be born, and He made both the day and the Mother. The day He chose was that on which the light begins to increase, and it typifies the work of Christ, who renews our interior man day by day. For the eternal Creator, having willed to be born in time, His birthday would necessarily be in harmony with the rest of creation” (On the Nativity of Our Lord, iii).

Similar sentiments are echoed by St. Ambrose, St. Leo, St. Maximus of Turin, and St. Cyprian.

To further the beauty of this mysterious agreement between grace and nature, Catholic commentators have shown this to be a marvellous fulfilment of the utterance of St. John the Baptist, the Voice who heralded the Word: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Literally fulfilled by the ending of the Precursor’s mission and the beginning of the Savior’s, this passage had its spiritual fulfillment in the celebration of John’s feast on the 24th of June, three days after the summer solstice. As St. Augustine put it: “John came into this world at the season of the year when the length of the day decreases; Jesus was born in the season when the length of the day increases.” (In Natali Domini, xi).

Lest anyone find all this Astronomy to reek of paganism, we remind him that in Genesis, it is recorded: “And God said: Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven, to divide the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years: To shine in the firmament of heaven, and to give light upon the earth. ” Further, the Magi, those holy men from the East, who came to greet the Expectation of the Nations, were led thence by a star.

“But,” you may say, “the winter solstice is on the 21st of December, not the 25th.” Correct. But if, from the time of the Council of Nicea (325) to that of Gregory XIII’s reform of the calendar (1582), there was a 10 day discrepancy between the calendar and the actual astronomical pattern governing it, then it is entirely possible that a four-day discrepancy had occurred between our Lord’s birth and the Council. We illustrate this possibility as follows: The calendar that many of the Greek schismatics still follow (the Julian calendar), is presently fourteen days off from the Gregorian. This additional four day discrepancy from Gregory’s time has happened over about 400 years.

But now for the meat of the issue: when did it happen? According to St. John Chrysostom, the foundation for the Nativity occurring on the 25th of December is a strong one. In a Christmas Sermon, he shows that the Western Chruches had, from the very commencement of Christianity, kept the Feast on that day. This fact bears great weight to the Doctor, who adds that the Romans, having full access to the census taken by Augustus Caesar (Luke 2, 1) — which was in the public archives of the city of Rome — were well versed in their history on this point. A second argument he adduces thusly: The priest Zachary offered incense in the month of Tisri, the seventh of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding with the end of our September or the beginning of our October. (This he most likely knew from details of the temple rites which were transmitted to him by a living tradition, supported by Holy Scripture.) At that same time, St. Luke tells us that Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist. Since, according to the Bible, Our Blessed Lady conceived in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (the end of March: when we celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation), then she gave birth nine months later: the end of December.

Having no reason to doubt the great Chrysostom, or any of the other Fathers mentioned; in fact, seeing objections issued only by heretics and cynics, we agree with the learned Doctor and conclude that, by God’s Providence, His Church has correctly commemorated the Feast of His Nativity.

Further, as the continuity of the Old Testament with the New Testament was preserved in two of the principal feasts of the New: Easter corresponding to the Pasch and Pentecost to Pentecost (same name in both dispensations), it would have been unlikely for the Birth of the Eternal God into our world not to have had a corresponding feast in the Old Testament.

Until the time of the Machabees, when the temple was re-dedicated after its desecration by the Greek Antiochus IV, Antiochus Epiphanes (see 1 Machabees 4). One hundred and sixty-seven years before Jesus, the commemoration was instituted according to what was written: “And Judas, and his brethren, and all the church of Israel decreed, that the day of the dedication of the altar should be kept in its season from year to year for eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month of Casleu, with joy and gladness” (I Macc. 4, 59). To this day, Jews celebrate the twenty-fifth of Casleu (or Kislev, as they say) as the first night of Hannukah. This year (5757 in the Jewish calendar), 25 Casleu was on December 12. Even though the two calendars are not in sync, Christmas and Hannukah are always in close vicinity. With the Festival of Lights instituted less than two centuries before Our Lord’s advent, the Old Testament calendar joined nature in welcoming the Light of the world on his birthday.

As for the objection, “Jesus couldn’t have been born in the winter, since the shepherds were watching their flocks, which they couldn’t have done in winter”: This is really no objection. Palestine has a very mild climate, and December 25 is early enough in winter for the flocks and the shepherds to be out. The superior of our monastery, Brother Francis Maluf, grew up 30 miles from Beirut, which has the same climate as Bethlehem, both being near the Mediterranean coast, and he has personally testified to this fact.


For almost 2,000 years, the Church has been defending Christmas against a concerted, diabolical attack.

No, it’s not another wacko conspiracy theory; it’s a fact. Since the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us, the truth that God was born a Baby at Christmas has been assaulted with relentless demonic fury. Saint John, the very Apostle of Love, tells us: “For many seducers are gone out into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh: this is a seducer and an Antichrist” (2 John 1:7).

What the Apostle was condemning in those strong words were the earliest of the gnostic heresies, those strange amalgamations of Christianity and pagan mystery religions. Their sectarians fancied that they were little sparks of divinity trapped in matter, who could only be liberated by the gnosis, the secret knowledge.

There was also an early heresy, called docetism, which said that the Word did not assume real flesh, but took the appearance of a man (dokein in Greek, means “to appear”). Rebuked by St. Ignatius of Antioch and condemned by the Church, docetism would return in more subtle forms, admitting that our Lord was man, but denying that he had a real human soul (Apollinarianism), a true human nature (Monophysitism), or a human will and operation (Monothelitism). The last of these heresies was so repulsive to St. Maximus the Confessor (580-662), that he preferred to have his hand cut off, his tongue sliced out, and to die in exile rather than submit to a corrupt bishop who professed it.

Then there were the denials of our Lord’s divinity in heresies like Arianism, which still persists in sects as divergent as Unitarianism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Finally, there was Nestorianism, the heresy that denied the union of the two natures in the one Person of Christ. The heretical Patriarch Nestorius had it that there were two persons in Christ, the divine Person of the Word and the person of Jesus Christ the man. Consequently, he asserted in a sermon that Mary should not be called the Mother of God; she was only the mother of a human person.

The Fathers of the Church have left us heroic professions of truth against these blasphemies, and all of them impress upon us that the little Inhabitant of the Christmas Crib was Almighty God come in the flesh to save us. St. Athanasius made the point, against Arianism, that since Christ was supposed to divinize us by grace, He could not perform this mission if He were not Himself divine by nature. St. Gregory Nazianzen professed, against the Apollinarians, that “What has not been assumed has not been healed,” i.e., our Lord did not redeem human nature unless he possessed a human nature. Far from being satisfied with artful turns of phrase in their polemics, these Fathers, like St. Maximus the Confessor, suffered for their confession at the hands of the antichrist heretics.

The entire Catholic Faith is summed up in the image of the Madonna and Child: She, the Immaculate Conception, was conceived full of grace to be Mother of God; and He is One of the Holy Trinity come down to take her Flesh as true Man in order to save us. So much do heretics hate this beautiful scene that the Iconoclasts, who inherited many of the earlier eastern heresies, cut off St. John Damascene’s hand for painting it! That hand was miraculously restored it to him by our Lady.

Orthodoxy has always been attacked by antichrists. (Yes, there will be one Antichrist at the end — “the man of sin” of 2 Thess 2:3 — but St. John speaks of many “antichrists” in 1 John 2:18.) Is it any wonder that certain nefarious elements in society “have issues” with Christmas? As the early heretics wished to “dissolve” Jesus by destroying the union of two natures in one divine Person, so too, modern antichrists wish to dissolve the divine Babe from our public square: “And every spirit that dissolveth Jesus, is not of God: and this is Antichrist, of whom you have heard that he cometh, and he is now already in the world” (1 John 4:1).

According to St. Robert Bellarmine, the focus of the devil’s attack in the second millennium has moved away from the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Instead, the old goat has taken aim primarily at the Church, giving us the Great Eastern Schism and the Protestant Revolt. And he has been refining his approach ever since. In our own day, he has given us the “deadly error” of indifferentism (to quote Pope Gregory XVI), the heresy that says one religion is as good as another. He has caused an even worse pandemonium: an identity crisis within the Church herself. Some of our very own ecclesiastics do not know what the Church is. They have “dissolved Jesus” in His Mystical Body.

But even in the midst of such a crisis, we find consolation: “Behold, I make all things new!” (Apoc. 21:5). All the historical triumphs against error won by the martyrs and confessors will be renewed in grand style. The victories of the devil and his antichrists continue to mount, but the Triumph of the divine Babe will be all the sweeter because of it. It will mark the victory of our Lord, His Church, and His Vicar. What’s more, to the eternal confusion of Antichrist and Satan, Christ’s Triumph will be the Triumph of His Mother, the Woman who will crush the head of the ancient serpent!

And that should give us all a Merry Christmas.

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel.

The featured image shows, “The Nativity,” by Matthias Stomer, painted ca. 1640.

Traditionis Custodes: To Guard And Defend Tradition?

Did you notice that the Holy Father affirmed extra ecclesiam nulla salus at the same time he set about limiting and ultimately extinguishing the Traditional Latin Mass? In his Letter to the Bishops accompanying Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis wrote, “to remain in the Church not only ‘with the body’ but also ‘with the heart’ is a condition for salvation.”

The internal quoted material in that passage comes from an anti-Donatist work of Saint Augustine, which was itself quoted in the Vatican II (Lumen Gentium, chap. 2, par. 14): On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Book V, chap. 28, par. 39 (the last paragraph of that linked page).

As good is it is to see an affirmation of the necessity of the Church for salvation, the larger context is disturbing:

“In defense of the unity of the Body of Christ, I am constrained to revoke the faculty granted by my Predecessors [to offer the TLM]. The distorted use that has been made of this faculty is contrary to the intentions that led to granting the freedom to celebrate the Mass with the Missale Romanum of 1962. Because “liturgical celebrations are not private actions, but celebrations of the Church, which is the sacrament of unity”, [24] they must be carried out in communion with the Church. Vatican Council II, while it reaffirmed the external bonds of incorporation in the Church — the profession of faith, the sacraments, of communion — affirmed with St. Augustine that to remain in the Church not only “with the body” but also “with the heart” is a condition for salvation” [25].

Implicit in that passage is the terrifying notion that the Roman Church’s own liturgical tradition bears within it the seeds of schism. Such logic not only constitutes an unthinkable attack on the Church’s own sacred patrimony; it also affirms the argument of those who say that the new Mass of Paul VI is the lex orandi of an alien religion. And this in a document whose stated purpose is to build up ecclesial unity.

The former Cardinal Prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, thinks that the use of the passage from Saint Augustine was inappropriately twisted for use in the Holy Father’s letter:

“The quotation from St. Augustine about membership in the Church “according to the body” and “according to the heart” (Lumen Gentium 14) refers to the full Church membership of the Catholic faith. It consists in the visible incorporation into the body of Christ (creedal, sacramental, ecclesiastical-hierarchical communion) as well as in the union of the heart, i.e. in the Holy Spirit. What this means, however, is not obedience to the pope and the bishops in the discipline of the sacraments [which is the meaning Pope Francis attaches to it in his letter], but sanctifying grace, which fully involves us in the invisible Church as communion with the Triune God” [explanatory bracketed comment mine].

Cardinal Mueller is not alone among bishops and cardinals in being openly critical of Pope Francis’ July 16 documents. He is joined by Cardinal Zen, Cardinal Burke, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, and the Dutch Bishop, Rob Mutsaerts.

Cardinal Burke asks and proceeds to answer a timely and important question regarding the authority of the Supreme Pontiff:

15. But can the Roman Pontiff juridically abrogate the UA? [Usus Antiquior (the more ancient use), which is what Cardinal Burke calls the TLM throughout his document –BAM] The fullness of power (plenitudo potestatis) of the Roman Pontiff is the power necessary to defend and promote the doctrine and discipline of the Church. It is not “absolute power” which would include the power to change doctrine or to eradicate a liturgical discipline which has been alive in the Church since the time of Pope Gregory the Great and even earlier. The correct interpretation of Article 1 cannot be the denial that the UA is an ever-vital expression of “the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.” Our Lord Who gave the wonderful gift of the UA will not permit it to be eradicated from the life of the Church.

The Dutch auxiliary bishop, Bishop Rob Mutsaerts, agrees, but is more blunt:

“Pope Francis is now pretending that his motu proprio belongs to the organic development of the Church, which utterly contradicts the reality. By making the Latin Mass practically impossible, he finally breaks with the age-old liturgical tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. Liturgy is not a toy of popes; it is the heritage of the Church. The Old Mass is not about nostalgia or taste. The pope should be the guardian of Tradition; the pope is a gardener, not a manufacturer. Canon law is not merely a matter of positive law; there is also such a thing as natural law and divine law, and, moreover, there is such a thing as Tradition that cannot simply be brushed aside.”

Many argue in favor of the Traditional Latin Mass using Quo Primum. This is good, but let us go deeper and realize that what Pope Saint Pius V did in that document was not only positive legislation. It was the Pope using his power to guard and defend tradition, and that tradition which long preexists Quo Primum still stands even if a pope were to have the temerity to attempt an explicit abrogation of Pius V’s bull.

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel.

The featured image shows Pope Francis by Tony Rubino.

Josef Pieper On Prudence: The Mother Of Virtues

German Catholic philosopher, Josef Pieper, had very much to say about the theological and moral virtues in a number of his writings. Of interest here are chapters in his 1964 collection of previously written studies, The Four Cardinal Virtues, wherein he organizes his material according to the schema of Saint Thomas Aquinas, viz., prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, assuring his readers that this order is not arbitrary, but logical — metaphysical, even.

That the first of the cardinal virtues is prudence is no accident, for it is the “mold” and “mother” of the other cardinal virtues, without which they would not be virtues.

This neglected and much undervalued virtue — Pieper considered it so even in 1959 (!), when he wrote the study on prudence — deserves to be thrust into our spiritual spotlight for at least two reasons: (1) aside from its own excellence and its necessity as a prerequisite to the other cardinal virtues, (2) it can assist us in assessing and countering the perverse and pervasive surrealism that we confront on a daily basis. But that surrealism itself, which obscures reality and is therefore a sort of “heresy against being,” must first be seen for what it is: an obstacle to prudence that must be removed so that we may become truly virtuous.

Regarding the historical artistic movement of surrealism, the source of my analogy, I will say only a few words. First, regarding the name itself:

Its aim was, according to leader André Breton, to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality”, or surreality.

Here is Wikipedia’s general description of surrealism, giving also the revolutionary aims of its ideological partisans:

“Works of Surrealism feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur. However, many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost (for instance, of the “pure psychic automatism” Breton speaks of in the first Surrealist Manifesto), with the works themselves being secondary, i.e. artifacts of surrealist experimentation. Leader Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was, above all, a revolutionary movement. At the time, the movement was associated with political causes such as communism and anarchism.”

André Breton was a communist who eventually became an anarchist — an ideologue of revolution. Here is his description of the “pure psychic automatism” mentioned above:

“Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express — verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner — the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern” — First Manifesto of Surrealism (1924).

This is “thinking” bereft of Logos, art bereft of aesthetics, expression bereft of morals. Simply put, it is revolutionary irrationalism which necessarily leads to immorality. Numerous of Breton’s surrealist fellows were explicitly and monstrously anti-Catholic. I have no intention here to issue a blanket condemnation of all artists who incorporated some surrealist elements in their work (though it is mighty tempting!). It is the irrational and revolutionary character of surrealism as a movement that interests me, deliberately juxtaposing as it does the real with the non-real in order to make a “super-reality.”

The oligarchs who are bringing us the current Dystopian Fantasy PSYOP (and so much more) are anti-Logos revolutionaries, too, and they are, in the name of an Orwellian New World Order, presenting us with an ugly and deceptive juxtaposition of the real and the non-real worthy of Salvador Dalí at his strangest. Here, though, the craft of our current surrealist practitioners is neither art nor letters nor cinema, but a careful and atmospheric perception management which has its hapless consumers convinced that it is indeed reality. Say what you will about Dalí, none of his connoisseurs mistook his melting watches for real time pieces.

Before citing some illuminating excerpts from Josef Pieper, let me “cut to the chase” and present my readers with the simple thesis of this Ad Rem: Because the perception of reality as it is (or “true-to-being” as Pieper has it) is required for prudence, and because prudence is required for the other moral virtues, the embrace of pervasive surrealist narratives (e.g., among many others, “follow the [pseudo-] science,” “gender [actually, sex] is a social construct and can be changed”) renders prudence impossible. In so doing, it also renders justice, fortitude, and temperance impossible. It follows that the failure of so many of our ecclesiastical and temporal leaders to see reality as it is, to decide and judge based upon a “true-to-being” memory, explains so much of what is currently wrong with the world.

In light of this, the moral imperative for the Church and for all souls of good will is to strive to see reality as it is and to practice true prudence so that we can be genuinely just, brave, and temperate, not only in a natural mode, but, as Christians, in a supernatural mode, aided by grace and the Gifts of the Holy Ghost.

In the first chapter of The Four Cardinal Virtues, “The First of the Cardinal Virtues,” Dr. Pieper notes that contemporary ears (in 1959) will find it strange “that the virtue of prudence is the mold and ‘mother’ of all the other cardinal virtues, of justice, fortitude, and temperance. In other words, none but the prudent man can be just, brave, and temperate, and the good man is good in so far as he is prudent” (p. 3). “Yet the fact is,” he insists, “that nothing less than the whole ordered structure of the Occidental Christian view of man rests upon the pre-eminence of prudence over the other virtues” (p. 3).

And what is this “ordered structure of the Occidental Christian view of man”? It is Trinitarian:

“That structure is built thus: that Being precedes Truth, and that Truth precedes the Good. Indeed, the living fire at the heart of the dictum is the central mystery of Christian theology: that the Father begets the Eternal Word, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds out of the Father and the Word.”

By contrast, the modern conception of prudence strips it of its true nobility:

“To the contemporary mind, prudence seems less a prerequisite to goodness than an evasion of it. The statement that it is prudence which makes an action good strikes us as well-nigh ridiculous. … In colloquial use, prudence always carries the connotation of timorous, small-minded self-preservation, of a rather selfish concern about oneself. Neither of these traits is compatible with nobility; both are unworthy of the noble man.”

And because of this, “A ‘prudent’ man is thought to be one who avoids the embarrassing situation of having to be brave”. Worse, “To the contemporary mind, then, the concept of the good rather excludes than includes prudence.”

Dr. Pieper even laments the degradation suffered by Catholic moral theology on the subject (yes, in 1959): “At any rate, there is no doubt about the result: modern religious teachings have little or nothing to say about the place of prudence in the life or in the hierarchy of virtues.” Later, he has much to say in opposition to the exaggerated casuistry (a “science of sin”) that coincided with the eclipse of the authentic doctrine of prudence.

The great Occidental Christian view of man stands in stark contrast with these modern defects and excesses:

Classical Christian ethics, on the contrary, maintains that man can be prudent and good only simultaneously; that prudence is part and parcel of the definition of goodness; that there is no sort of justice and fortitude which runs counter to the virtue of prudence; and that the unjust man has been imprudent before and is imprudent at the moment he is unjust. Omnis virtus moralis debet esse prudens — All virtue is necessarily prudent.

In fact,

“Prudence is the cause of the other virtues’ being virtues at all. For example, there may be a kind of instinctive governance of instinctual cravings; but only prudence transforms this instinctive governance into the ‘virtue’ of temperance. Virtue is a ‘perfected ability’ of man as a spiritual person; and justice, fortitude, and temperance, as ‘abilities’ of the whole man, achieve their perfection only when they are founded upon prudence, that is to say upon the perfected ability to make right decisions. Only by means of this perfected ability to make good choices are instinctive inclinations toward goodness exalted into the spiritual core of man’s decisions, from which truly human acts arise.”

Moral goodness is radically dependent upon prudence, for, “What is prudent and what is good are substantially one and the same; they differ only in their place in the logical succession of realization. For whatever is good must first have been prudent” (p. 7). And this radical dependence implies that there is a sort of mutual interpenetration of prudence and the other virtues: “Ethical virtue is the print and seal placed by prudence upon volition and action. Prudence works in all the virtues; and all virtue participates in prudence” (p. 8). “Thus,” Pieper continues,

“…prudence is cause, root, mother, measure, precept, guide, and prototype of all ethical virtues; it acts in all of them, perfecting them to their true nature; all participate in it, and by virtue of this participation they are virtues.”.

“Truth” is, as Saint Hilary of Poitiers said, “declarative being.” When we men accept the truths of the natural or supernatural order, we unite our minds with the divine Mind who is Being itself. Among the truths that declare their being to us are moral imperatives, the “thou shalts” and the “thou shalt nots,” which are not arbitrary, but are accommodated to man’s reason. (I am here reminded that the Natural Law is, to Saint Thomas, “nothing else than the rational creature’s participation in the eternal law” [ST I-II, Q. 91, A. 2], which is itself the product of the divine Mind.) Basing himself on Saint Thomas, Pieper declares that,

“All ten commandments of God pertain to the executio prudentiae, the realization in practice of prudence. Here is a statement that has become virtually incomprehensible to people of today. And every sin is opposed to prudence. Injustice, cowardice, intemperance are in direct opposition to the virtues of justice, fortitude, and temperance; ultimately, however, through all these virtues, they run counter to prudence. Everyone who sins is imprudent.”

Pieper goes so far as to say that “the whole doctrine of prudence” is summed up in this “fundamental principle of Thomas Aquinas,” namely, “that ‘reason perfected in the cognition of truth’ shall inwardly shape and imprint [man’s] volition and action.” He hastens to add that the “reason” which is “perfected in the cognition of truth” is not exclusively unaided natural human reason, still less the unchristian pseudo-reason of the so-called Enlightenment, but a “regard for and openness to reality,” and an “acceptance of reality” — “both natural and supernatural reality.”

Therefore, truth, which we know to be the conformity of the mind to reality — to what is — is a necessary precondition for prudence and consequently for all virtue: “Certainly prudence is the standard of volition and action [that is, of willing and doing]; but the standard of prudence, on the other hand, is the ipsa res, the ‘thing itself,’ the objective reality of being.”

The passages from The Four Cardinal Virtues that I have cited so far all come from the book’s first chapter. I have not even gotten to Chapter Two, “Knowledge of Reality and the Realization of the Good.”

But this will not be our last adventure in prudence with Dr. Pieper as our guide. Already, though, we have enough material to support our thesis and show that the atmospheric and revolutionary “false narratives” which make for what I have here called a “perverse and pervasive surrealism” are all contraceptive of prudence and therefore of true virtue. Anything arising from such a defective grasp of reality is doomed to be more-or-less imprudent and therefore not virtuous in the true sense of any of the moral virtues.

Is it any wonder that things in Church and State are such as they are?

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel.

The featured image shows “Prudence,” by Piero del Pollaiolo, ca. 1469-1472.