Saint Bernard: The Three Freedoms

Over eight centuries before Franklin D. Roosevelt articulated his “Four Freedoms,” a shorter and much better list of freedoms was elucidated by the young abbot of the new monastery of Clairvaux, one Bernard by name.

In his work On Grace and Free Choice (De Gratia et libero arbitrio), Saint Bernard (1090-1153) distinguished three kinds of freedom: of nature, of grace, and of glory. The first is freedom from necessity; the second, from sin; and the third, from suffering. All three concern man’s inner life, where all true freedom resides, rather than extrinsic factors. (For a timely example of what I mean by “extrinsic factors,” we might consider freedom from external compulsion to receive an unethically sourced, unnecessary, and ineffective vaccine against an illness that 99.7% of people who contract it survive.) For us moderns, like Roosevelt, the tendency is to locate freedom outside of ourselves, but that is not what Saint Bernard had in mind. Real freedom, I repeat, is an interior reality, and all three of these freedoms are interior.

The Calvinists and Lutherans, who exaggerated the effects of the Fall, denied that man’s will is free. They would have done well to read Saint Bernard, who based his argumentation solidly on Holy Scripture. So, too, do modern schools of psychological determinism deny — or at least detract from — the freedom of the will. But Saint Bernard, writing with great philosophical certitude and liberty, shows that the will by its very nature is free.

This innate freedom of the will, in addition to our intellect, is what makes us in the image and likeness of God, and the Master of Clairvaux notes that this first freedom has nothing to do with whether we are good or bad: “Freedom from necessity belongs alike to God and to every rational creature, good or bad.” This freedom, which makes our actions “voluntary,” is contrasted with that necessity of which brute beasts are possessed in all their actions. In dogs and cats, and all the rest of non-rational animals, there are no voluntary or free acts. They act by an interior compulsion to do what they do. Without having an intellect and a will, non-rational animals live exclusively on the level of the senses and the irascible and concupisciple appetites. We, too, have those faculties, but our intellect and will tower over them and make our acts human acts and therefore voluntary and free acts. As the Cistercian Doctor puts it negatively, “What is done by necessity does not derive from the will and vice versa.”

For clarity, I should note here that there are acts that men do that are not voluntary and therefore not free. These are things we have in common with the beasts, like respiration, digestion, and the myriad other activities our bodies perform every moment to keep us alive and functioning at the level of mere sentient activity. Philosophers call such acts “actus hominis” (acts of a man) as distinguished from “actus humanus” (human acts). “Human” here means rational and volitional.

The following sentence from On Grace and Free Choice may be long and need to be read two or three times, but it is very illuminating of the truth concerning man’s will being free and the consequent moral responsibility we all shoulder by virtue of our freely chosen acts:

Only the will, then, since, by reason of its innate freedom, it can be compelled by no force or necessity to dissent from itself, or to consent in any matter in spite of itself, makes a creature righteous or unrighteous, capable and deserving of happiness or of sorrow, insofar as it shall have consented to righteousness or unrighteousness. [All excerpts here are from the Cistercian Publications edition of the work, translated by Daniel O’Donolan, OSCO.]

The truth that “sin is in the will,” is an immediate conclusion from what Saint Bernard writes here. While we might be externally influenced, threatened, cajoled, directed, encouraged, etc., in our will we always remain radically free. This is an anthropological or psychological fact that follows from our very nature as it was created by God, prescinding from the Fall. It is the basis of all merit and culpability and, therefore, of the notions of reward and punishment.

Over and above this first freedom, the innate freedom of nature, are the two other freedoms (that from sin, and that from sorrow) which are not natural endowments but supernatural gifts.

Saint Bernard explains that freedom from sin is what Saint Paul described when he wrote, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17). This second freedom is not innate in us, but results from grace, and stands in contrast — so the Abbot of Clairvaux notes — to that slavery to sin that the Holy Apostle describes elsewhere: “For when you were the servants of sin, you were free men to justice. [Saint Paul is ironically contrasting “slavery to sin” and “slavery to God (or justice)”. Being “free men to justice” means being “liberated” from God’s holiness or righteousness. This is a false and damning freedom.] … But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end life everlasting” (Rom. 6:20, 22).

Citing Our Lord saying, “If therefore the son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36), Saint Bernard tells us:

He meant that even free choice stands in need of a liberator, but one, of course, who would set it free, not from necessity which was quite unknown to it since this pertains to the will, but rather from sin, into which it has fallen both freely and willingly, and also from the penalty of sin which it carelessly incurred and has unwillingly borne.

We ought not quickly pass over the profound thought that “even free choice stands in need of a liberator.” The words are beautiful, yes, but there is more than mere aesthetics here. Our free will, after the Fall, contracted the defect Saint Thomas calls “malice,” and needs to be saved from it, or freed. The liberator in question is, of course, that Man who knew no sin, and who always was and always remains absolutely free from sin. Citing Psalm 87:6, Saint Bernard calls Christ, “[He who] alone of all men was made free among the dead; free, that is, from sin in the midst of sinners.”

Concerning this “second freedom” — freedom from sin — the Mellifluous Doctor eloquently addresses the question of good will versus bad will in words that should encourage us:

When a person complains and says: “I wish I could have a good will, but I just can’t manage it,” this in no way argues against the freedom [from necessity, the “first freedom”] of which we have been speaking, as if the will thus suffered violence or were subject to necessity. Rather is he witnessing to the fact that he lacks that freedom which is called freedom from sin. Because, whoever wants to have a good will proves thereby that he has a will, since his desire is aimed at good only through his will. And if he finds himself unable to have a good will whereas he really wants to, then this is because he feels freedom is lacking in him, freedom namely from sin, by which it pains him that his will is oppressed, though not suppressed. Indeed it is more than likely that, since he wants to have a good will, he does, in fact, to some extent, have it. What he wants is good, and he could hardly want good otherwise than by means of good will; just as he could want evil only by a bad will. When we desire good, then our will is good; when evil, evil. In either case, there is will; and everywhere freedom; necessity yields to will. But if we are unable to do what we will, we feel that freedom itself is somehow captive to sin, or that it is unhappy, not that it is lost.

The words here rendered “oppressed, though not suppressed” are premi non perimi, and are difficult to translate, but the sense is that, though the will is in part impaired (by sin), it is not rendered powerless. Moral theologians of later ages would develop in detail the Church’s accepted moral doctrine concerning the diminishing of the freedom of the will by habitual sin, yet the notion is here in seminal form in Saint Bernard. The doctrine here explained is very consoling. If we will the good but yet sin, there is still some good in us. The remedy is grace, the major burden of Saint Bernard’s book, which is there for us if we but ask of it. For that reason and others, in the practical order, prayer is the main point of contact between God’s grace and our free will. It opens us to the remedy our will needs. Without prayer, even the sacraments will avail us but little because we lack the necessary dispositions to receive the remedies they contain.

Concerning the “third freedom,” that from suffering, or, as he also calls it, “the freedom of glory,” the Cistercian abbot is clear that it is not for this life, but the next, for “it is reserved for us in our homeland” of Heaven:

There is also a freedom from sorrow, of which the Apostle again says: “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God” [Rom. 8:21]. But would anyone in this mortal condition dare arrogate to himself even this kind of freedom?

He further adds that, by this third freedom,

[W]e are raised up to glory, a perfect creature in the Spirit. [And] … by it, we cast down death itself. … Finally, by the last-named, in our own more perfect submission to ourselves through victory over corruption and death — when, that is, death shall be last of all destroyed [1 Cor. 15:26] — we will pass over into the glorious freedom of the sons of God [Rom. 8:21], the freedom by which Christ will set us free, when he delivers us as a kingdom to God the Father.[Cf. 1 Cor. 15:24]”

We are living in a time when our civic freedoms seem imperiled by an emerging biometric security state, an Orwellian oligarchic kleptocracy that demands we give up our freedoms for the lying promises of safety, security, and now health. In the midst of these mendacious statist shenanigans — so obvious to those not drinking the Kool-Aid of mainstream media and Big Tech—let us more and more cherish and cling to our real freedoms which are ours by Baptism and the giving of the Holy Ghost… and which no man can take from us.


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 Catholicism.org.


The featured image shows, “The Liberation of Saint Peter,” by Juan de Valdés Leal, painted ca. 1650.

The Holy Emperor: The Ground Of Politics To Come

Our friend Charles Coulombe has written a wonderful book that I am reading right now, Blessed Charles of Austria: A Holy Emperor and His Legacy. Though I am only about half-way through the book, I was so struck with the contents of the chapter called “A King is Crowned” that I would like to reflect on some of its contents with our readers.

That chapter describes the coronation rite that Blessed Charles von Habsburg underwent on December 30, 1916, at the Church of the Assumption of the Buda Castle (known more commonly as the Matthias Church) in Budapest. Blessed Charles (Karl) was already Karl I, Emperor of Austria. This separate rite made him King Charles IV of Hungary, and it was administered during the Coronation Mass by Cardinal János Csernoc, Archbishop of Esztergom and Primate of Hungary.

What is fascinating and deeply moving about the prayers of the rite are the Christian and chivalrous ideals they so beautifully enshrine, ideals which were manifest in the all-too-brief reign of that blessed recipient of the crown jewels of Hungary.

We might look at that man known as “the Peace Emperor” as a tragic figure, a failure even. He died at the age of thirty-four, the exiled emperor of a defunct empire and the exiled king of a defunct monarchy (the latter of which he attempted to reclaim, but in vain). Even prescinding from these larger tragedies, we might be tempted to lament Blessed Karl’s “untimely demise.” But all of this would be to miss the point. He reigns now in Heaven. And on earth, he became and remains an icon of loyalty to Christian social order amid the vicissitudes of revolution; of love of Christendom in the face of hateful nationalisms; and of commitment to true faith, peace, and justice in an atmosphere of perfidy, hostility, and horrible injustice. In other words, he was and remains an image of so much of what we need right now. As with his Lord and Master — whose own “untimely demise” came at a slightly earlier age than Karl’s — his death was a victory.

From the testimony of Cardinal Csernoc, we know that Blessed Charles studied the Hungarian coronation rite beforehand and pondered very carefully the inner meaning of its texts. The Cardinal prepared Karl to a priest devoutly preparing himself for ordination. He prayerfully internalized the duties, obligations, and burdens it was going to impose upon him, while giving only second place to the magnificent pomp of the ceremonies. The man desired to unite the internal motions of his soul and his external acts to what the prayers demanded of him. If all of us would take so seriously the liturgical ceremonies that surround our own reception of the sacraments, how different the world would be!

Later, his lovely wife, Empress Zita — who was herself crowned and enthroned Queen of Hungary in this same Coronation Mass — said this of the coronation rite:

The thing that impressed both of us most about the whole ceremony was the moving liturgical side of it all — especially the oaths that the King took at the altar before his anointing to preserve justice for all and to strive for peace. This sacred pledge given in the cathedral was exactly the political program he wanted to carry out from the throne. We both felt this so strongly that hardly any words were necessary between us.

In these days when statecraft seems so hopelessly doomed, it is good to reflect on what once was — and will one day be again (more on that later).

Here is the “Primate’s Prayer” that forms a part of the Hungarian Coronation Rite:

Almighty and everlasting God, Creator of all things, Commander of angels, King of kings and Lord of lords, who caused your faithful servant Abraham to triumph over his enemies, gave many victories to Moses and Joshua, the leaders of your people, exalted your humble servant David to the eminence of kingship, enriched Solomon with the ineffable gifts of wisdom and peace, hear our humble prayers and multiply your blessings upon your servant, whom in prayerful devotion we consecrate our king; that he, being strengthened with the faith of Abraham, endowed with the meekness of Moses, armed with the courage of Joshua, exalted with the humility of David and distinguished with the wisdom of Solomon, may please you in all things and always walk without offense in the way of justice. May he nourish and teach, defend and instruct your Church and people and as a powerful king administer a vigorous regimen against all visible and invisible powers and, with your aid, restore their souls to the concord of true faith and peace; that, supported by the ready obedience and glorified by the due love of these, his people, he may by your mercy ascend to the position of his forefathers and, defended by the helmet of your protection, covered with your invincible shield and completely clothed with heavenly armor, he may in all things victoriously triumph and by his [power] intimidate the unfaithful and bring peace to those who fight for you, through our Lord, who by the vigor of his Cross has destroyed Hell, overcome the Devil, ascended into heaven, in whom subsists all power, kingship and victory, who is the glory of the humble and the life and salvation of his people, he who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

Note the heavy emphasis on faith, justice, and peace.

In that part of the rite when the Cardinal presented Charles with the Sword of Saint Stephen, the following prayer was recited:

Accept this sword through the hands of bishops, who unworthy, yet consecrated by the authority of the holy apostles, impart it to you by divine ordinance for the defense of the faith of the holy Church and remember the words of the psalmist, who prophesied, saying, “Gird yourself with your sword upon your thigh, O most mighty one,” that by it you may exercise equity, powerfully destroying the growth of iniquity and protect the holy Church of God and his faithful people. Pursue false Christians, no less than the unfaithful, help and defend widows and orphans, restore those things which have fallen into decay and maintain those things thus restored, avenge injustice and confirm good dispositions, that doing this you may be glorious in the triumph of justice and may reign forever with the Savior of the world, whose image you bear, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns forever and ever.

A true heir to the holiness as well as to the crown of Saint Stephen, Charles the Blessed cultivated the virtues requisite to carry out these serious obligations I have underlined above. Would that our modern rulers would realize that the sword is to be wielded for such purposes. Instead, their bellicosity is directed to far less noble pursuits, and directed by the hidden hands of the oligarchs and monied interests who themselves (unlike Blessed Karl) will never don the military uniform or see the crimsoned field of battle.

A man who is not in control of his passions, whose desires are not subject to the moral law should never wield the sword of royal power. It is precisely here that most of the wicked kings in the past committed their crimes. A thought comes to mind, though, that we can practically apply to ourselves and to whatever powers we possess that are in any way analogous to the sword (the power to fight, to punish, to kill, to silence, to fend off, or even to speak harshly): They ought to be used for the causes of faith and equity, and in defense of the defenseless. In other words, they ought to be wielded in such a way that justice, mercy, right order, and therefore peace are pursued. In this, we find solid motives for disciplining our passions and rightly directing our energies.

The orb is the symbol of the universal dominion of Christ over all the earth, and when it was ceremoniously handed to the monarch, there was no accompanying prayer, presumably because it is not investing him with such power. (That very orb may be seen here, at the lower right of this photo of the Hungarian crown jewels.) But immediately before receiving the orb, Karl received the scepter, which symbolizes the king’s temporal authority over his subjects. As he placed it in Karl’s hand, the Cardinal offered this prayer from the ritual:

Accept the Rod of virtue and equity. Learn to respect the pious and to intimidate the proud; guide the straying; lend a hand to the fallen; repress the proud and raise the humble, that our Lord Jesus Christ may open to you the door, he who said of himself, “I am the Door, whoever enters by me, by me shall be saved,” and let him who is the Key of David and the Scepter of the House of Israel be your helper, he who opens and no one may shut, and who shuts and no one may open; who brings the captive out of prison, where he sits in darkness and in the shadow of death, that in all things you may imitate him, of whom the Prophet David said, Your seat, O God, endures forever; a rod of righteousness is the rod of your kingdom. You love justice and hate iniquity, therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

What might a modern elected head of state in former Christendom say of this prayer? He might say what Emperor Napoleon III said to Cardinal Pie when that great churchman lectured him on the obligations of the state to Christ the King. The Emperor said that all this was not “timely.” We might respond to them, as Cardinal Pie did to the Emperor, “If the time has not come for Christ to reign, then the time has not come for governments to last.”

Charles Coulombe writes of Blessed Emperor Karl’s intense devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This was not a superficial or maudlin devotion. It was manly and also profound, joined as it was to the Habsburg’s genuine Eucharistic piety. We should recall in this context that the Sacred Heart devotion has a definite political dimension, one which was not lost on the holy Emperor.

There is a furious debate going on about “integralism.” (Actually, what I have seen is less a “debate” than a one-sided exercise in puerile name-calling, which would be remedied by people giving serious attention to the wonderful and scholarly book, Integralism: A Manual of Political Philosophy coauthored by two heavy-duty scholars, Father Thomas Crean and Dr. Alan Fimister.) While considering these aspects of the Church’s social teaching, we would be wise to keep in mind that sacrosanct principle of theology, Lex Orandi Lex Credendi, and engage ourselves and some calm and meditative reflection on the liturgical tradition of the Church, including the prayers just cited. They are only part of a larger corpus of venerable ceremonies surrounding imperial and royal coronations (indeed, Charles cites a few more in his book; Dom Guéranger cites other texts from different ceremonies in his Liturgical Year). Sadly, that corpus of liturgical prayer is something from which many in this “debate” have been deracinated.

That the polity outlined by the above prayers constitutes a “once and future politics” is not merely a pipe dream of some nerdy traditional Catholic “larpers.” If we attend to numerous approved prophesies, including those of Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser, we may be confident that there will be a return of Christian monarchs and integrally Catholic societies functioning under them. The timing is not ours to implement. Meantime, let us do what we can to lay the foundations for this complete social transformation by doing what we ought to be doing anyway: Christianizing ourselves and our families more and more, and keeping in our hearts and minds the clear conviction that as with individuals so with political societies: there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.


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 comes courtesy of Catholicism.org.

The featured image shows a portrait of Blessed Karl (Charles) of Austria.

Christmas In Tradition

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.” (Sermon 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.” (Sermon In Natali Domini xi).
adoration-of-the-shepherds-el-greco

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.

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 image shows, Adoration of the Shepherds, painted by Gerard van Honthorst, ca. 1622.

The Prophecies Of The Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser

There are many approved prophesies of a great future monarch and holy pope, and also of a future ecumenical council. The prophesies of Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser (1613-1658), which speak of seven ages of the Church, has this council taking place in the sixth age. I believe that we are in the fifth age written of by that holy priest. How far off the sixth age is, I do not pretend to know, but I want to bring to the attention of any readers who are tempted to believe that the coming of the Antichrist is imminent that such a timeline is not at all likely. Before the Antichrist, there will be a time of spiritual prosperity for the Church, and this is the sixth age mentioned by Venerable Bartholomew.

In order to get this information to our readers I reproduce a short section of the wonderful article, “Is the Catholic Rejection of Theistic Evolution a ‘Conspiracy Theory?‘” by the Kolbe Center for the Scientific Study of Creation.

We pray for the speeding coming of that great ecumenical council that will “define the true sense of Holy Scripture.”

The Message Of Fatima And The Future Of The Church

On October 13, 1917, at Fatima, Portugal, Our Lady worked the greatest public miracle since the Resurrection, the Miracle of the Sun, to prove that her Fatima message was urgent and true. In that message She warned that, if her requests were not heeded, Russia would spread its errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church, and that several entire nations would be annihilated.

The principal error that took hold in Russia with the Bolshevik Revolution, a few weeks after the Miracle of the Sun, was not communism, but evolutionism – since it was the “scientific fact” of molecules-to-man evolution that made confident atheists and communists of Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong, and their numerous disciples and stooges.

On the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun, October 13, 1973, the year of Roe vs. Wade, through her approved apparition in Akita, Japan, from a statute that had wept human tears 101 times, Our Lady warned that the Miracle of the Sun was a foretaste of a fiery divine judgment that would be unleashed upon the world, killing most of the earth’s population, unless mankind repented and turned back to God.

Given that we have only grown worse since Our Lady of Akita’s warning, we may well have reached the point where a divine chastisement and the annihilation of nations are inevitable. But we have our Blessed Mother’s solemn promise that her Immaculate Heart will triumph, that the Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Her, that Russia will be converted, and that a period of peace will be granted to the world. So, let us hasten her Triumph, by living our consecration to Jesus through Mary in every thought, word and action – in every moment of our lives!

As we observe the multiplication of errors against faith and morals on every side, it is tempting to lose heart and to doubt that there will ever be an era of peace, a restoration of the Faith all over the world, and the social reign of Christ the King. But this would be tragic, because God who does “nothing without telling His servants the prophets,” has repeatedly foretold a future era of peace and a final Ecumenical Council that will put an end to all heresies. Moreover, in light of a number of authentic prophecies that speak of a future Ecumenical Council that will “define the true sense of Holy Scripture,” it seems virtually certain that the overwhelming support in Scripture and Tradition for creation in six days will lead to a solemn definition of “day” in Genesis 1 as a 24-hour day.

In his book Trial, Tribulation, and Triumph, researcher Desmond Birch cites a number of holy men and women of recent centuries who prophesied an Ecumenical Council during the future era of peace that will define the sense of Scripture on certain important, unresolved questions. In particular, he mentions the seventeenth century founder of an institute for priests, Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser; Sr. Jeanne le Royer, a French nun and mystic of the eighteenth century; and a nineteenth century French nun known as the Ecstatic of Tours.

Before presenting the prophecies of a final Ecumenical Council during the Era of Peace, Birch cites the work of Scripture scholar Fr. Kramer whose analysis of the Book of Revelation argues that “the seven thunders” of chapters eleven and twelve of the Apocalypse refer to the declarations of an Ecumenical Council during the Era of Peace, before the appearance of the final Antichrist. According to Kramer:

The Seven Thunders may then be declarations of an ecumenical council clearing up all that was left unfinished by the magisterial office of the Church, before God will permit Satan to exert his supreme efforts to destroy her from without. The Seven Thunders will strengthen the faithful and loyal clergy in their belief and practices, expel all who are addicted to corrupt lives and superstitions and manifest the unwavering stand of the Church on the then prevailing maxims of the world… Through the Seven Thunders, God gave him (St. John) a special revelation of great importance, indicating what would immediately precede the coming of Antichrist, but it was to remain a secret to the Church.[31]

Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser was a holy priest of the seventeenth century, founder of an Institute for the formation of priests approved by Pope Innocent XI in 1680. Holzhauser accurately predicted the execution of Charles I of England and the persecution of the Catholic Church in England for 120 years. (Prohibition of Mass under penalty of death lasted from 1658 until 1778.) The documents for his cause of canonization attribute miracles of healing to him. In one of his works, Venerable Holzhauser divided the history of the Church into seven periods and situated the seventeenth century Church in the fifth of these periods. He wrote:

During the fifth period, we saw only calamities and devastation; oppression of Catholics by tyrants and heretics; execution of Kings, and conspiracies to set up republics[32]…. Are we not to fear, during this period, that the Mohammedans will come again, working out their sinister schemes against the Latin Church?… During this period men will abuse the freedom of conscience conceded to them… there will be laxity in divine and human precepts. Discipline will suffer. The holy canons will be completely disregarded, and the clergy will not respect the laws of the Church. Everyone will be carried away and led to believe and to do what he fancies, according to the manner of the flesh[33]… But, by the hand of God Almighty, there occurs so wondrous a change during the sixth period that no one can humanly visualize it [34].

The sixth period of the Church will begin with the powerful Monarch and the holy Pontiff . . . and it will last until the revelation of Antichrist. In this period, God will console His Holy Church for the affliction and great tribulation she has endured during the fifth period. All nations will become Catholic. Vocations will be abundant as never before, and all men will seek only the Kingdom of God and His justice. Men will live in peace, and this will be granted because people will make their peace with God. They will live under the protection of the Great Monarch and his successors.

All nations will come to worship God in the true Catholic and Roman faith. There will be many Saints and Doctors on earth. Peace will reign over the whole earth because God will bind Satan for a number of years until the days of the Son of Perdition. No one will be able to pervert the Word of God since, during the sixth period, there will be an Ecumenical Council which will be the greatest of all councils. By the grace of God, by the power of the Great Monarch, by the authority of the Holy Pontiff, and by the union of all the most devout princes, atheism and every heresy will be banished from the earth. The Council will define the true sense of Holy Scripture, and this will be believed and accepted by everyone (emphasis added).[35]

It is difficult for twenty-first century readers to imagine how unbelievable Venerable Holzhauser’s predictions of the rise of republics must have seemed to seventeenth century Catholics in nations where Christian monarchies had existed for many centuries. In our proud and unwavering faith in progress, we fail to consider that the restoration of monarchies in the future is no less likely today than the prophesied rise of republics in the seventeenth century. Moreover, Venerable Bartholomew was not the only authentic Catholic prophet to predict a future Ecumenical Council in similar terms.

Why would the six days of creation be among the passages of Holy Scripture whose “true sense” will be defined once and for all during the Era of Peace?

The answer emerges where Venerable Holzhauser remarks that “atheism and every heresy will be banished from the Earth.” Given the intimate connection between the denial of the six days of creation and the acceptance of evolution – in dogma and in morals, as well as in natural science – the definition of “day” in Genesis One as a 24-hour day would irrevocably seal the Church’s condemnation of that error.

Like Venerable Holzhauser, Sister Jeanne le Royer foretold a great Council of pastors after a time of great trial and tribulation: “I see in God a large assembly of pastors who will uphold the rights of the church and of her Head. They will restore the former disciplines. I see, in particular, two servants of the Lord who will distinguish themselves in this glorious struggle and who, by the grace of the Holy Ghost, will fill with ardent zeal the hearts of this illustrious assembly [36].”

Similarly, the Ecstatic of Tours predicted: “The Council will meet again after the victory. But, this time, men will be obliged to obey; There will be only one flock and one shepherd. All men will acknowledge the Pope as the Universal Father, the King of all peoples. Thus, mankind will be regenerated [37].”

Since the Ecstatic of Tours had lived during the first Vatican Council, which was interrupted by strife between French and Italian forces, it was logical for her to see the future council as a continuation of the work of Vatican I. On the other hand, as a “pastoral council,” which did not define doctrine or condemn errors, Vatican II could not complete the work of Vatican I, which was a Council in the traditional sense, defining doctrine and condemning errors in faith and morals. Thus, the Ecstatic’s prophetic announcement of a council “after the victory” of the Church points to a future Council that will complete the unfinished work of the First Vatican Council.[38]

In light of the promises of Our Lady of Fatima, it is interesting to note that prophets of the Russian Orthodox Church have also predicted a future Ecumenical Council. St. Seraphim of Sarov who predicted the Bolshevik Revolution and the overthrow of the Tsar more than one hundred years in advance also foretold a final Ecumenical Council before the rise of Antichrist and the end of the world.

He prophesied that its aim would be: “…to unite and reunite all the holy Churches of Christ against the growing anti-Christian tendency under a single Head, Christ the Life-Giver, and under a single Protecting Veil of His Most Pure Mother, and to deliver to a final curse against the whole of Masonry and all the parties similar to it (under whatever names they may appear), the leaders of whom have one common aim: under the pretext of complete egalitarian earthly prosperity, and with the aid of people who have been made fanatical by them, to create anarchy in all states and to destroy Christianity throughout the world.”

It is significant that St. Seraphim recognized that the Orthodox Churches have not been able to have an Ecumenical Council since their separation from the Church of old Rome. Thus, he regards this future Council as “the eighth” because it will involve the Bishops of the whole world, as did the seven Ecumenical Councils of the first millennium when the Patriarch of Constantinople remained in communion with the Bishop of Rome.

This is a remarkable admission by one who is probably the most revered modern saint of the Russian Orthodox Church—an admission that it is impossible to have a truly Ecumenical Council without the participation of the Bishop of Rome. Indeed, we know that this event will only become possible after the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by the Pope and the Bishops in union with him [39], the act that will spark the conversion of Russia and her return to full communion with the Catholic Church.[40]

It is worth reflecting on the agenda that St. Seraphim identifies as the common aim of all of the enemies of Christianity: “under the pretext of complete egalitarian earthly prosperity, and with the aid of the people who have been made fanatical by them, to create anarchy in all states and to destroy Christianity throughout the world.” Is that not the very goal that we see being pursued throughout the world by corporate globalists like Bill Gates and George Soros, in concert with the United Nations, Communist China, and secular humanist regimes?

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 image shows a portrait of the Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser. in the St. Johann Museum, Tirol.

Medieval Clarity

“I try to be unoriginal.” That quote was attributed to Brother Francis in a recent conversation I had with a friend, who, like me, regards Brother as a beloved mentor. Our teacher’s point, which he made in various ways over the years, was that he was trying to be faithful in passing on the wisdom that he himself had received.

This acting as a conduit to pass on what one was received, without being “original,” is redolent of two passages from Saint Paul that both serve as wonderful illustrations of the Catholic notion of tradition: “For I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures…” (1 Cor. 15:3); and ““For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread” (1 Cor. 11:23).

Receiving and delivering; “handing on” to others what was “handed to you:” That is tradition.

One of the beautiful Catholic traditions that Brother Francis loved to teach us about concerned the four senses of Holy Scripture, or “the quadriga” as this bedrock of Catholic Biblical studies is known.

Loving this subject as I do, I was delighted to learn more about it through the work of the Catholic medievalist, Dr. Andrew Jones, in a three-part lecture series, “The Liturgical Cosmos: The Worldview of the High Middle Ages.”

I would like to summarize what Dr. Jones has added to my understanding on the quadriga.

First, let me summarize the four senses. We begin with (1) the literal, also called the historical sense. This is what is actually narrated by the text. It is the foundation of the other senses, and, no matter how much more elevated the other senses may be in comparison, they must not be thought of as derogating from or negating the literal sense. That point is imperative, especially in these days when Neo-modernists deny the inerrancy of Scripture.

The remaining three senses are all collectively called “the spiritual sense,” but they are divided into three. The first of these is (2) the allegorical sense, which is a reading of some utterance or event as pertaining to a future and higher reality, most often, of Christ Himself. So, we see Adam, Joshua, King David, and various qualities of theirs or episodes in their lives as foreshadowing the greater reality of Christ. So, too, the twelve sons of Jacob, as historically real as they were, were also allegorical of the Twelve Apostles.

Next, we have (3) the tropological sense, which is often referred to under one aspect as the moral sense. This is the application of the passage to our own lives. It is where the “rubber” of the Bible meets the “road” of our own daily living of our baptismal vocation to sanctity. The Parables of Christ are more than merely great stories; they are that, but they also present us with practical illustrations of Christian virtue that we must imitate. Our Lord Himself, of course, is the greatest exemplar. From His most divine life narrated in the Gospels, we can draw a pattern for our own lives.

Lastly, there is the anagogical sense, which pertains to the future life of Heaven. Brother Francis liked to explain this sense in terms of the Holy City, Jerusalem. Literally, this is a terrestrial city, a stretch of land in a specific geographical place. Allegorically, this city can be seen as the Church on earth — and Holy Mother Church explicitly applies the word to herself in the liturgy. Tropologically, Jerusalem is the Christian soul who is called upon to receive the enlightenment of grace: “Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” (Is. 60:1). Again, tropologically, that same soul is encouraged to adore her God: “Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem: praise thy God, O Sion” (Psalms 147:12). But if we rise still further, Jerusalem is the dwelling of the blessed in Heaven, as seen in Saint John’s vision in the Apocalypse: “And he took me up in spirit to a great and high mountain: and he shewed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God” (Apoc. 21:10). This is the anagogical sense. Saint Paul also appears to employ Jerusalem in this sense in his Epistle to the Hebrews (Cf. 12:22-23).

To go deeper, let us take one verse and apply all four senses to it: “And he said to them: With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you, before I suffer” (Luke 22:15).

In the literal or historical sense, Jesus Christ truly uttered these words to His disciples at the Last Supper. This is an undeniable fact of history; it unquestionably happened. Allegorically, we can see the Paschal meal of the Mosaic Law, wherein was consumed the sacrificial lamb, as pointing ahead to Christ and the Christian Pasch, wherein He Himself, the Lamb of God, is offered as a victim and consumed as food in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Tropologically, each Christian soul can read this passage and stir himself up to a holy desire, which, in some measure, reciprocates the desire of Our Lord, as if to say, “Yes, Lord, you desired with the desire of your Sacred Heart to institute the Sacrifice of the Mass the night before you suffered. Here and now, as I come to you in the Holy Sacrifice and Sacred Banquet of the Mass, I desire to receive you, and to render, through you, to the Father all glory and honor.” Anagogically, this desire of the Sacred Heart and this communion with Our Lord in the Eucharist is fulfilled in the Heavenly Nuptial Banquet of the glorified Jesus Christ with His spotless Bride, the Church Triumphant.

Now, what is it that I learned from Dr. Andrew Jones? This very knowledgable medievalist makes the point that the quadriga is not simply a set of static, side-by-side interpretations we can choose from while interpreting the Bible. In the modern idiom, it is no mere “hermeneutic tool.” The medievals read Scripture in a very dynamic way, in an ascending way, and each individual believer is called by Baptism to rise from the historical through the allegorical to the tropological senses in this life, and even anticipate the life of Heaven by achieving some measure of “anagogy” or contemplation. “Pure anagogy” can only be achieved in the Beatific Vision, but its anticipation by way of contemplation in this life is something to pursue.

While insisting on the reality of the historical sense, Dr. Jones also speaks of the defect of one who remains in that sense and fails rise above it to see Christ in the Old Testament. Such a man is, to use my own expression, “stuck in history,” without seeing history’s point: Jesus Christ. The person who has ascended to the allegorical sense sees Jesus Christ as prefigured and pointed to throughout sacred history, but he needs to go further, and from that sense rise to the tropological by assimilating, in his daily life, the Faith, morals, and sacraments established by Jesus Christ for our salvation.

To do this is to “make the tropological turn,” as Dr. Jones says. Here, he is employing the etymology of the word, for “tropological” comes from the Greek noun tropos, which means, “turn” and is related to the verb trepein, “to turn.” Using the threefold medieval path to living one’s Baptismal life, the Doctor notes that whether one (1) prays like a monk or cleric, (2) fights like a knight, or (3) works like a farmer or artisan, we each have our own “tropology” — that is, our own way of living out the virtuous Christian life. It is the especial task of the preacher, a man who has mastered the four senses in his intellect and will, to help others to make the tropological turn, directing them yet higher to the ultimate anagogy of Heaven.

In other words, far from being only a way of studying the Bible, to our medieval forebears, the quadriga was a way of seeing all reality and a way of living life!

In the three lectures, the good Doctor says far more. He speaks of Pope Innocent III and the ecumenical council he summoned, Lateran IV, setting about the difficult tasks of teaching orthodoxy, bringing about ecclesiastical reform, conquering heresy, and reclaiming the Holy Land. But he speaks of all these as part of this larger sacramental outlook on life, or, as he calls it, the “liturgical cosmos” which forms the “worldview of the High Middle Ages.” In so doing, Dr. Jones accomplishes two things: first, he puts in their proper context that great Council and that great Pope, whose pontificate is considered the high-point of the medieval papacy. Second, he gives us a vision of a Christian Civilization towards which we can work. This is not to say that we ought to try to recover the Middle Ages, for it is never a good idea to “go back,” to something else. Rather, this era provides us with Catholic ideals towards which we must work to build a Christian social order, the Christendom of tomorrow.

Most valuably, this sublime worldview steeped in the quadriga joins the living of the interior life to the pursuit of evangelism as well as ecclesiastical and social reform. In so doing, it serves as a corrective to modern notions of “activism” that often spoil our best efforts.

After all, the best reformers, the best missionaries – the best prayers, fighters, and workers – are the Saints. This is a very “unoriginal” tradition that is quite worth recovering and passing on.

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 image shows, “Saint Jerome in His Study,” by Jan van Eyck, painted in 1442.

What Is God’s Image And Likeness?

“The internal counsels of the Blessed Trinity when He deigned to create man have been mercifully revealed to us in the book of Genesis: “Let us make man to our image and likeness” (1:26).

This passage, frequently cited, is not widely understood. In what way may it be said that man is in God’s image and likeness? Is this likeness to God natural or supernatural? What is the purpose of man being so made?

The questions are worth pondering because they touch directly upon man’s origins, his nature, and his ultimate purpose.

In Question 93 of Part I of the Summa Theologiae, Saint Thomas Aquinas considers “the end or term of the production of man” in nine articles. What I propose to do in this Ad Rem is, first, to give a truncated summary of all nine articles, with the help of Father Paul Glenn, whose work I have used with my own embellishments; second, I purpose to dwell in more detail on some select points Saint Thomas makes regarding the nature and purpose of the divine image in man.

Here are each of the articles as Saint Thomas posits them, with a summary of what he says under each heading:

1. Whether the image of God is in man? YES. An image is a kind of copy of its prototype. Unless the image is in every way perfect, it is not the equal of its prototype. Finite man cannot be a perfect image of the infinite God. Man is therefore an imperfect image of God.

2. Whether the image of God is to be found in irrational creatures? NO. Of earthly creatures, only man has a true likeness to God; other creatures have a trace or vestige of God rather than an image.

3. Whether the angels are more to the image of God than man is? The angels are more perfect in their intellectual nature than man is, and, therefore bear a more perfect image of God than man does. In some respects, however, man is more like to God than angels are. For man proceeds from man, as God (in the mysterious proceeding of the divine Persons) proceeds from God; whereas angels do not proceed from angels. Also, the manner of the human soul’s presence in the body has a likeness to God’s presence in the universe. But these human resemblances lacking in angels are only accidental qualities. Substantially, angels bear a more perfect image of God than man does.

4. Whether the image of God is found in every man? YES. There are three ways that man is in the image of God (which will be considered below).

5. Whether the image of God is in man according to the Trinity of Persons? YES. The divine image in man reflects God in Unity and also in Trinity. In creating man, God said (Gen. 1:26): “Let us make man to our own image and likeness.”

6. Whether the image of God is in man as regards the mind only? YES. The image of God in Trinity appears in man’s intellect and will and their interaction. In God, the Father begets the Word; the Father and the Word spirate the Holy Ghost. In man, the intellect begets the word or concept; the intellect with its word wins the recognition or love of the will. God’s image is not in the body, where there are only to be found “traces” or “vestiges” of God (just as in brute creation), by virtue of God’s being the cause of man’s body.

7. Whether the image of God is to be found in the acts of the soul? YES. The image of the Trinity is found in the acts of the soul. In a secondary way, this image is found in the faculties of the soul, and in the habits which render the faculties apt and facile in operation.

8. Whether the image of the Divine Trinity is in the soul only by comparison with God as its object? YES. The image of God is in the soul, not simply because the soul can know and love itself or other created things, but because it can know and love God. And the divine image is found in the soul because the soul turns to God, or, at any rate, has a nature that enables it to turn to God. (More on this below.)

9. Whether “likeness” is properly distinguished from “image”? YES. The image of God is discerned in the acts and faculties and habits of the soul. The likeness of God is either a quality of this image, or it is the state of the soul as spiritual, not subject to decay or dissolution.

Essential to the notion of an image is “that it is copied from something else.” Every image is a likeness, but not every likeness is an image. Saint Thomas gives the example of two eggs being like each other, but the one is not the image of the other, because it is not copied from it.

For a copy to be an image of the original, it need not be equal to it; for instance, the reflection of a man in a glass, which is an image, is not equal to the man himself. Because the only-begotten Son of God — “who is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15) — is the only image that actually equals God, He is a perfect image of God, whereas each man is an imperfect image of God. Of the only-begotten Son of God, it may be said that he is the image of God simply; of man it may be said that he was made “to the image of God,” says Saint Thomas, because, “‘to’ signifies a certain approach, as of something at a distance.”

Saint Thomas follows Augustine in saying that “image” and “likeness” are not identical. Certain passages in the writings of Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, of Saint John Damascene, and of Peter Lombard could lead us to interpret the word “image” to mean man’s nature as a rational, free-willed creature, and “likeness” as a closer resemblance to God by grace. This is not exactly how Saint Thomas views the question.

For him, “likeness” signifies two distinct things, one lower, the other higher. First, a likeness is a “preamble” to image inasmuch as it is “more general than image”; but, in a higher way, a likeness is a “perfection” of the image. (It is to get ahead of ourselves, but “likeness” in this higher sense as a perfection of the image admits of degrees:

Mary is more like God than the great Saints; those higher in heaven are more “God-like” than those lower; and on earth, the members of the Church Militant in a higher degree of grace and charity are more divinized or “like God” than their less perfect brethren.)

There are three ways that man is in God’s image. Saint Thomas’ explanation of this is clear and easy to understand:

“Since man is said to be the image of God by reason of his intellectual nature, he is the most perfectly like God according to that in which he can best imitate God in his intellectual nature. Now the intellectual nature imitates God chiefly in this, that God understands and loves Himself. Wherefore we see that the image of God is in man in three ways.

“First, inasmuch as man possesses a natural aptitude for understanding and loving God; and this aptitude consists in the very nature of the mind, which is common to all men.

“Secondly, inasmuch as man actually and habitually knows and loves God, though imperfectly; and this image consists in the conformity of grace.

Thirdly, inasmuch as man knows and loves God perfectly; and this image consists in the likeness of glory. Wherefore on the words, “The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us” (Psalm 4:7), the gloss distinguishes a threefold image of “creation,” of “re-creation,” and of “likeness.” The first is found in all men, the second only in the just, the third only in the blessed.”

The image of God in man is not merely the image of the divine nature or the image of one or other of the divine Persons, but it is specifically the image of the Trinity. The proofs for this that Saint Thomas offers are a very theological and would take too much space even to summarize here. But Thomas’ explanation of how man images the Trinity is within our grasp. He bases himself on the doctrine of the Trinitarian processions he has already developed:

“As the uncreated Trinity is distinguished by the procession of the Word from the Speaker [the Father], and of Love [the Holy Ghost] from both of these, as we have seen…; so we may say that in rational creatures wherein we find a procession of the word in the intellect, and a procession of the love in the will, there exists an image of the uncreated Trinity.…”

The question Saint Thomas asks in article eight (“Whether the image of the Divine Trinity is in the soul only by comparison with God as its object?”) is difficult to grasp, but worth considering for its richness and how it perfectly corresponds to Saint Thomas’ teaching on grace. Indeed, it is a prelude to that beautiful doctrine.

I will try to simplify the article.

God knows Himself and loves Himself, and thence originate the Trinity of Persons. Is man in God’s image because he can, like God, know himself and love himself, or is he is God’s image because he can know and love God? The ability to know and love himself would make man like God is some way, as he would resemble God’s abilities to know and love.

But, this would not make man attain a “representation of the species,” i.e., a resemblance to the form or mental idea of God, which is required for man to be in the “image” of God. “Wherefore we need to seek in the image of the Divine Trinity in the soul some kind of representation of species [i.e., mental concept, form, or idea] of the Divine Persons, so far as this is possible to a creature. … Thus the image of God is found in the soul according as the soul turns to God, or possesses a nature that enables it to turn to God.”

Hard to understand, I know, especially if the reader is not familiar with the scholastic concept of species. The argument is Saint Thomas’ attempt at explaining why Saint Augustine said, “The image of God exists in the mind, not because it has a remembrance of itself, loves itself, and understands itself; but because it can also remember, understand, and love God by Whom it was made.”

What this implies is that, even in God’s very creation of man in His own (Trinitarian) image and likeness, God orients man toward Himself as the end of our knowledge and love.

By nature, we have the capacity to know and love God as He is naturally knowable, but, with grace and the infused theological virtues, we can know and love God supernaturally, as He has revealed Himself. We can thereby merit, and the reward of that merit is the consummation of our knowledge and love of God in Heaven.

Thus man’s final cause, or purpose – of which the philosophers say that it is “the first [cause] in intention and the last in execution” – was placed in him when he was created, being made to God’s own image and likeness.

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 photo shows, “God the Father on a throne, with Virgin Mary and Jesus,” ca. 15th-century, anonymous.

The Trinity: A History

When the first Sunday of Advent comes and the new liturgical year begins, the Church once again relives the Mysteries of Christ for a whole year. She also summarizes all of history, from Creation to the end of time. The four Sundays of Advent symbolizing the four thousand years of the Old Testament (if we rely on the Vulgate, not the Septuagint), we are, as it were, mystically transported back to the time before the Incarnation of the Man-God. It is opportune, then, to dwell during this time on the Law of types and figures to see New-Testament realities hidden in it.

Saint Augustine has it that novum testamentum in vetere latet. Vetus testamentum in novo patet — “the New Testament is hidden in the Old. The Old Testament is revealed in the New” (see reference information here and here). This canon of interpretation is a standard part of the Catholic approach to the Bible. Let us look, then, for the Blessed Trinity “hidden” in the Old Testament.

We begin at the beginning, Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created heaven, and earth.” The Hebrew for “God created” is bara Elohim, which has the linguistic peculiarity of a plural noun followed by a singular verb, something which actually does not violate the grammatical rules of Hebrew.

The particular kind of plural here used means three or more, (there is, in Hebrew, a plural that indicates only two). A conventional way of dismissing the trinitarian interpretation of this name for God is to say that it is a plurality “of majesty,” much as the queen or the pope might say “we” instead of the first person singular.

This, of course, is not how Christian exegetes classically understood such passages. See, for instance, Saint Lawrence of Brindisi, a man learned enough in Hebrew to preach in it:

“Therefore, since Moses, inspired by the Holy Ghost, wrote bara Elohim, literally, ‘the gods, he-created’ (a plural subject with a singular verb), without doubt we understand the sense of these words: he means plurality of divine Persons in the word Elohim and the unity of essence in the singular verb, ‘he-created.’ That is to say, three divine Persons are not three gods, but one God” (Explicatio in Genesim, Ch. 1).

Nobody, of course, says that this passages proves that there is one God in three divine Persons. That would be a reach. But it does foreshadow what the New Testament later reveals clearly when it indicates a plurality of Persons in the Godhead.

We can say the same about two other passages in Genesis where the so-called “plural of majesty” is found: “And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness…” (Gen. 1:26), and “Come ye, therefore, let us go down, and there confound their tongue, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (Gen. 11:7). The first is the divine utterance preceding the creation of Adam, while the second concerns the builders of the Tower of Babel.

God created man in His own image, in the image of God. He was not speaking to the angels, in whose image man was not created, but to Himself in Gen. 1:26. In both Latin and English, we have a plural hortatory subjunctive verb, “Let us make…” in verse 26, followed in the next verse by the singular indicative verb, “God created.” This is substantially the same in the language of inspiration: see an interlinear translation of the Hebrew — v. 26 and v. 27 — for proof.

In confounding the tongues at Babel, there is a similar structure: in Genesis 11:7, the two verbs for “let us go down and confound…” are plural, while the subsequent verse eight has a singular verb for “the Lord [Yahweh] scattered….”

In both cases, Moses was privileged to know — and we to read — the internal counsels of God, speaking in a plurality of Persons.

Remaining in Genesis for one more account, we turn to Chapters eighteen and nineteen, where Moses relates the interaction of the three angels with Abraham and then with Lot. This is the account that terminates in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The whole thing is quite mystical, for Genesis alternately calls these three persons “men” and “angels” — as do the Gospels, by the way, concerning the angels who appeared to the women after the Resurrection. More mysterious is that these three angels show up just after Genesis eighteen mentions that “Yahweh” appeared to Abraham, of whose appearance nothing else is said, unless we assume that the appearance of the three angels is the appearance of Yahweh. Moreover, Abraham “adored down to the ground. And he said: Lord [Adonai], if I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away from thy servant” (Gen. 18:2-3).

If these angels did not stand in the place of God, such an act would be a shocking violation of the Old Testament’s strict monotheism. By comparison, when Saint John bowed down to the feet of an angel (Apoc. 22:8-9), the angel stayed him, and forbidding that he should receive such honors: “See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant… Adore God.” But the angels who received similar honors from Abraham made no such remonstration, probably because they were standing in the Person(s) of God.

Saint Augustine interpreted this passage in a Trinitarian sense in book two of his On the Trinity(see here for a brief but interesting discussion of this passage). According to Monsignor Pohle, Saint Augustine was of the opinion that the three angels of Genesis eighteen were just that, angels, not actually God Himself, but their mission was such that the words they spoke were understood to be the words of God; they were, in other words, standing in God’s place. This opinion was shared by Saints Athanasius, Basil, Cyril of Alexandria, Chrysostom, Jerome, Gregory the Great, and others. This “standing in the place of” would help us to make sense out of the Angel’s willingness to allow Abraham to “adore down to the ground”: the adoration was going to the three divine Persons whom they were visibly manifesting.

As can be seen from the list in the last paragraph, it is not only Western but also Eastern Fathers who read this episode as a Trinitarian theophany. One of Christian Russia’s most celebrated icons, the Trinity, by Andrei Rublev, is a depiction of Abraham’s hospitality to these three angels, but with a clear Trinitarian interpretation.

Still remaining in the Pentateuch, we come to the Book of Numbers 6:24-27. This is the blessing that God instructed Moses to teach to Aaron and his priestly sons: “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee. The Lord shew his face to thee, and have mercy on thee. The Lord turn his countenance to thee, and give thee peace.” The blessing is threefold, leading many Christian commentators to see in it the Holy Trinity. Notice that the “face” the Levitical priest wishes God to show us is the second of the three: it is the Holy Face of Jesus! For a brief explanation of this blessing by an exegete who is apparently not a Catholic, see this YouTube video.

Many Franciscan priests will use this formula of Numbers six to bless people. The story of how this blessing came to be known as “the blessing of Saint Francis” is edifying.

We pass now to the Prophesy of Isaias, chapter six, which gives us the Sanctus in our Holy Mass. Here is what Monsignor Joseph Pohle says on it in his text on the Trinity (pg. 12):

“The clearest allusion to the mystery of the Blessed Trinity in the Old Testament is probably the so-called Trisagion [“thrice holy”] of Isaias (VI, 3): “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of Hosts, all the earth is full of his glory,” which is rightly made much of by many Fathers and not a few theologians. This triple “Holy” [uttered by the seraphim, the highest angelic choir] refers to an ecstatic vision of the Godhead, by which Isaias was solemnly called and consecrated as the Prophet of the Incarnate Word, an office which won for him the title of the “Evangelist” among the four major prophets.”

The Hebrew word for “holy” is Kadosh (or qā-ḏō-wōš). Regarding the tripling of the word, some authors claim that there is no regular way of forming the comparative and superlative degrees of the adjective in Hebrew, and that this triple utterance of the adjective is an effort at the superlative. I’ve seen this contested by others, who say that the tripling of the adjective is merely an “intensifier.” I will let the Hebrew specialists fight it out; either way — whether constrained by the conventions of Hebrew usage or the desire to be “intense” — the Holy Isaias taught us that God is not simply “holy,” but “Holy, holy, holy”; and the Church has seen in this sublime utterance of the seraphim a foreshadowing of the full revelation of the Trinity.

In another indication of plurality in the Godhead, the same Isaias also presents the future Messias as God. Here are some of his descriptions of Christ to come: “the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Prince of Peace… God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come” (Is. 9:6, cf. Luke 1:32); “Emmanuel,” literally, “God with us” (Is. 7:14, cf. Matt. 1:23); “God himself will come and will save you” (Is. 35:4; cf. Matt. 9:5); “Prepare ye the way of the Lord… . Behold, the Lord God shall come with strength” (Is. 40:3, 10; cf. Mark 1:3).

Of the Messianic Psalms, I will select only two passages: “The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my son, this day I have begotten thee” (Ps. 2:7) and “The Lord said to my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand . . . from the womb before the day star I begot thee” (Ps. 109 [110]:1-3). Here, the Messias is shown to be the Son of God. Moreover, He is “my [David’s] Lord,” who is at the same time the Son of “the Lord”; He is, in other words, both Son of God and God. During His public life, Our Lord confounded the Pharisees with the mystery hidden in Psalm 109 (cf. Matt. 22:41-46). If they had had good will, His enemies would have asked Him to explain the passage, which was perfectly fulfilled in Himself, but they held their tongues. Concerning Our Lord’s enemies, Saint Augustine pointed out that the unbelieving Jews of His day understood more of Christ’s claims than the Arians did, for the unbelievers understood Him to call Himself God simply because he called God His Father (cf. Jn. 5:18, and Jn. 10:33; note that Jesus did not deny the accusation), whereas the heretics missed that point, and denied Him divine honors. All of this shows a plurality of persons in the Godhead, at least as concerns the Father and the Son.

One last strain of Old-Testament prophesies that show the plurality of persons in God comes to us from the Wisdom Books. To keep this Ad Rem from getting too long, I will refer the reader to Monsignor Pohle’s page sixteen and following: “The Teaching of the Sapiential Books”.

Those who would like to read more of our offerings on this tremendous Mystery are invited to view a small catalogue of them on Catholicism.org.

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity is a “pure Mystery” or an “absolute Mystery,” meaning both that we have no way of knowing it without the benefit of supernatural revelation, and that we cannot comprehend it fully. Because It is such a Mystery — indeed, it is the greatest of our Mysteries — we cannot know everything about It, but we can know what God has taught us through the Church. And that is both true and sufficient for us to adore the Three:

“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen!”

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 photo shows, “The Holy Trinity,” by Luca Rossetti da Orta, fresco, 1738-9, St. Gaudenzio Church at Ivrea (Torino).

Progress? How Pathetic!

Imagine pulling into your local farmer’s co-op, where hippies, “traddies,” and other divergent elements of our modern melting pot all coalesce in the interests of health, localism, and fresh asparagus.

You park your dinged-up Ford Explorer, bedecked with rear-view Rosary and other ostentatious sacramentals, in the only available parking spot. As you exit the vehicle, fumbling with your keys and shopping list, you notice that the Prius you’ve inattentively parked next to is so adorned with adhesive political messaging that it looks like a leftist bumper-sticker emporium: icons of Marx and Che keep company with “I Support Planned Parenthood,” “Coexist,” and “I’m Non-Judgmental and I Vote!”

There must be more than a dozen decals, simultaneously assaulting your intellect and senses with offensive thoughts and substandard graphic design. The chaos is getting to you. Then, as if guided by preternatural help, your eyes land on a sticky slogan you’ve never before seen, and it helps to contextualize all the others, for it reads: “MY PATHOS RAN OVER YOUR LOGOS.

Alas, there is order amid the chaos!

It is my contention that the progressivist spoils rhetoric by giving pathos rather than logos the central position among the rhetorical appeals, and the effect of such an inversion is dangerous, for emotion unhinged from reason is like powerful wild horse infuriate with passion.

If we extend our simile by incorporating the mob mentality and a dastardly provocateur, then we have a cautionary parable about a madman instigating a stampede, with all its potential for death and destruction.

But let me back up and give some of the principles that govern the subject under consideration.

According to Aristotle, in any given rhetorical situation, the rhetor has three “appeals” he can make to his audience: logosethos, and pathos. Simply explained, logos is reason, ethos is character, and pathos is feeling.

Because logos pertains to the subject matter, ethos to the speaker, and pathos to the audience, the first appeal has more of the nature of objectivity to it, while the others are necessarily subjective as they pertain to persons — though, of course, standards of ethical goodness are objective, and standards of beauty that can move the human heart are not entirely arbitrary.

Because he joined rhetoric to logic — whereas Plato joined it to mercantile pursuits! — Aristotle’s approach to rhetoric is very logos-centered. We can understand Plato’s mistrust of rhetoric as the notable rhetors of his day, the sophists, were responsible for the death his mentor, Socrates.

And this illustrates why rhetoric ought to be joined to logos, for without having acquired the art and science of right thinking, one ought not to pursue the art of persuasive speaking: the reason why is obvious; in addition to the sophists, history presents us with a rogues gallery of despots and charlatans who moved men to mischief by the clever use of speech.

Aristotle would have preferred that the rhetorician stick to reason, but he conceded that the other appeals were necessary. Man is a “pathetic” being, he acknowledged, meaning quite literally that we have feelings. Because of this, feeling must be incorporated into rhetoric, but not given the centrality that belongs to reason.

The three rhetorical appeals have an affinity to the three transcendentals: logos corresponds to truth, ethos to goodness, and pathos to beauty. Far be it from me to downplay either pathos or beauty, but certain beauties have been known to turn men’s heads away from reason, which accounts for the more decadent aspects of romanticism.

I make no claim to understand the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar, but I do know a little about his heretical leanings, including not only his eschatological “hope” for an empty Hell, but also his bizarre Christology concerning Our Lord’s descent thither.

Von Balthasar is sometimes called the “theologian of beauty,” as he apparently wrote a great deal about it in his theological tomes. But if my understanding is correct, he did with this third transcendental precisely what we ought not to do with it: untether it from the other two, or — probably more accurately — he put it in the lead position over the others.

Without truth, beauty can mislead us, leading us to find her in what is contrary to the law of God, and therefore contrary to reason, to logos. To give an obvious example, God made the female anatomy to be beautiful to the male, and this is no bad thing.

Beauty is the splendor ordinis (splendor of order) or the splendor formae (splendor of form). Speaking abstractly and dispassionately in purely aesthetic terminology, one may note that there is a more perfect proportionality, or order, in one or another specimen of the female form, yet we must ever be mindful of the words of Our Lord: “whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).

The undeniable logical truth of that statement, and our obligation to conform to it for the sake of ethical goodness lead us to discipline (yet not destroy) our pursuit of the pathos of beauty.

Saint Augustine rightly called God the “beauty ever ancient and ever new,” but when Saint John set out to speak of Christ’s eternal generation, the Holy Ghost gave him to use the word logos, not either of the Greek words for beauty, kallos or hōraios.

There was a primacy to logos in the best of Greek thought, and that concept ripened in the Hellenized world so that, “in the fulness of time” (Gal. 4:4) it would be there as a personal, proper name of the Second Person of the Trinity. We can adequately appreciate His beauty only when our reason has been elevated by grace to know Him and our will has been moved to love His goodness.

From the high-brow heterodoxies of the ex-Jesuit von Balthasar, let us move to the lowbrow journalism of the popular still-Jesuit, James Martin, who loves to extol false mercy. What Christian virtue is more beautiful than mercy?

We all love mercy; we all count on it. Inasmuch as we have received grace, we have received mercy, and we ought to show it to others, as is manifest from Our Lord’s parable of the unmerciful servant and the fifth Beatitude. Our Lady is the Mother of Mercy, the saints were all agents of divine mercy.

Yet, the beautiful appeal to mercy can, in the mind of one bereft of logos, be perverted into something contrary to reason; it can and often does become an invitation to moral libertinism that also contradicts ethos.

Hence James Martin’s nonstop cheerleading for unnatural sins of lust and the people who commit them. Frequently, his defense of the unspeakable is couched in terms of an emotional appeal to stop being “mean” to homosexuals, for doing so is not merciful.

Tugging at the heartstrings of his readers by showing how cruel “anti-gay” people can be, he elicits sympathy not only for persons who are allegedly being abused, but also for the cause for which they stand, which is itself inherently mortally sinful.

See this Twitter thread, for example, which includes a real gem: “LGBT issues seem to bring out the mean in people, too.” I replied to this (in a non-mean way) by saying, “Let’s take a balanced approach in our analysis. Vice, in general, tends to bring out the worst in people. Some have even been saying mean things about Jeffrey Epstein” — which raises the ethical question as to whether it is even possible to be “mean” to a #MeToo villain.

Following Martin’s method, if I were a Nazi and wanted to defend my cause, I could say how mean the Communists are to our people. I could conversely argue in favor of Communism by showing how mean Nazis and “Fascists” are to us. (A “Fascist,” by the way, is generally anyone that the speaker does not like).

Amid all the positioning for superior victim status, questions of truth and falsity, good and evil get set aside, which plays into the progressivist cause. Pathos is the most useful defense for the indefensible.

James Martin recently retweeted the tweet of one Michael Bayer, who announced a new “ministry for LGBTQ+ people,” called “Affirmed,” wherein, “every person is affirmed as made in image of God, called to deeper relationship with Jesus, and invited to share their gifts” (I note in passing the progressive aversion to definite and indefinite articles, those perfectly innocent parts of speech).

There is here an appeal to mercy, to affirm people. Affirming people is good, right? But do we affirm wife-beaters, serial adulterers, pederasts, racists, drug-dealers, gun-runners, and mercenary capitalists who defraud workers of their wages?

These people need mercy and affirmation just as much as the others, right? But they don’t fit into the progressivist narrative, which is very selective in identifying recipients of mercy. And what of that work of mercy, “admonish the sinner”? Perhaps “Affirmed” should have its name changed to “Admonished.”

The pathetic progressivist approach to mercy has been further augmented and institutionalized since the publication of Amoris Laetitia, which offers a “forgiveness” and mercy that are distorted, house-of-mirrors simulacra of the genuine items.

While Christian forgiveness and mercy are supernally beautiful things, there is something ugly about the habitual adulterer, with no purpose of amendment, being welcome to receive Holy Communion.

Grace heals hardened sinners (if they cooperate, which is part of the pure mystery of grace and free will), but the notion of God overlooking ill will and impenitence flies in the face of the Gospel: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings [beautiful image, no?], and thou wouldest not? [Ah! But the beauty is stifled by the ugliness of ill will!]” (Matt. 23:37).

In the next verse, we are told what was to happen: “Behold, your house shall be left to you, desolate,” which prophesy was brutally fulfilled. (There will be a beautiful ending, though; when its people respond to grace, Jerusalem will return to Our Lord: “For I say to you, you shall not see me henceforth till you say: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” [Matt. 23:37]).

There is a profoundly unChristian aesthetic in the image of the hardened sinner who will not let go of his sins being unconditionally embraced by God. Would it not be cruel for the Good Shepherd to feed his wayward sheep with food that would harm or even kill them?

Yet that is what happens when the person in mortal sin receives Holy Communion. The shepherd who knowingly gives Holy Communion to his adulterous sheep poisons them by allowing his flock to eat and drink judgment to themselves and become guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord (cf. I Cor. 11:26-30).

Cardinal Burke, the Darth Vader figure in the progressivist legendarium, recently made an excellent point regarding the canonically mandated denial of Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians, telling Martha MacCallum, “It’s not a punishment. It’s actually a favor to these people to tell them don’t approach, because if they approach, they commit sacrilege” (my emphasis). There is logos, and ethos, and pathos — all in good order.

But the inverted mercy of the progressivists is profoundly unmerciful, which fact probably betrays its actual origins.

Seventy-two years ago, Brother Francis gave a name to this wrongheaded prioritizing of pathos over logos in Catholic thinking: “Sentimental Theology.” And when the sentimental theologian enters the domain of rhetoric, he becomes terribly pathetic, and we must not fear subjecting his pathos to the careful judgment of logos — even if we don’t have to make a bumper sticker about it.

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 photo shows, “The Whale Bus,” a view of life in the 21st-century, as imagined in 1899. Drawing by Jean-Marc Côté.

The Council Of Trent – Some Thoughts

The importance of the Council of Trent lies in its being two things at the same time: 1) the heart and soul of the Catholic Reformation (the authentic reform of the Church); and 2) the definitive moment of the Counter Reformation (the reaction against the Protestant Revolt): “By almost universal agreement, the counter-attack of the Church to the movement that is known as the Protestant Reformation begins seriously with the Council of Trent.”

Besides these important issues the Council met to address, there were serious problems that plagued it before, during, and after its sessions. These will come to light in the following brief sketch.

For many years before the Council actually met, there had been talk of an ecumenical synod to reform the Church and to react to the challenge put to her by Luther.

Reform-minded Catholics strongly desired such a council, as did others with a more pragmatic agenda, especially the Emperor (Charles V), who had to address the civil strife caused by Luther’s revolt within the Empire and the Spanish Netherlands.

As early as 1520, only three years after the close of the Fifth Lateran Council, there was a call for such a council, but Pope Leo X was afraid of what might come of it, especially in light of the conciliarist tendencies that were still lingering.

The threat was a real one: The Protestants agitated for conciliarism during the Council, and, even after its conclusion (1563), the Catholic Emperor Ferdinand I, who succeeded his brother Charles as emperor, advanced a conciliarist line.

Pope Paul III (1534-1549), a reform-minded Pontiff, was willing to risk the dangers, and summoned a council to meet in Mantua. Emperor Charles V resisted, as he wanted the council within the confines of the Empire. A compromise was made in selecting Trent, which, while an Italian city, belonged to the Empire. Charles resided much of the time at Innsbruck, a day’s ride to the south.

Although the Council was summoned in 1542, it did not convene until 1545. Even then, it was off to a very slow start. Those who were in attendance at first were exclusively Italians. Then the Spaniards showed up. French and German bishops were in sporadic attendance throughout the history of the Council, depending on the present mood of their sovereigns.

The Council met on and off for eighteen years: 1545 to 1563. That it was off more than on can be seen by the dates of the sessions, which spanned over three periods: 1545-1547, 1551-1552, and 1562-1563.

The Council met for only four of those eighteen years. The reason behind the frequent prorogations of the Council was most often disagreement between the pope and the emperor over such things as location of the Council, the subjects it was to take up, the pope’s policies toward Charles’ war with France, and the war itself.

There was also a typhus epidemic that broke out in Trent, leading to a brief convocation in Bologna. Francis I, the Valois king of France, showed himself to be even less cooperative, opposing the Council at first, forbidding the publishing of the bull of convocation in his Kingdom, and refusing for a while to allow French bishops to attend its sessions.

Francis feared not only the loss of the Gallican Church’s independence, but also whatever might favor Hapsburg hegemony in European politics. Indeed, France’s allying herself against the Empire with the Protestant Schmalkaldic League showed that she put her own national interests over those of the Church.

For his part, Charles, a good Catholic, was too pragmatic in his pursuit of peace with Protestants within the Empire. At many points during the Council, he pushed for a deferring of the doctrinal questions in favor of discussing reform, naively thinking that the Council could show the Protestants that the Church was reforming herself, thus rendering the dogmatic disagreements non-issues.

We see that there were two issues the Council met to address: reform and heresy. In the immediate background, though, were the issues of conciliarism (condemned shortly before at Lateran V, but still lingering) and nationalism. The complex interplay of these four issues was to impact the life of the Council until its very end.

In light of the events he had to deal with, Charles’ pragmatic considerations are not as reprehensible as they may seem. They were not governed by sheer pacifism. Not only did he have to deal with the treachery of an anti-Hapsburg Valois policy, but, all the while, the Turks were at the Gate threatening the security of all Christendom.

The Italians present, by far the majority of Fathers – never to be equaled or outnumbered by all the other national groups combined – were of a much more realistic awareness of the depth of the doctrinal divide. Luther had transgressed orthodoxy. Not only was the Church in need of internal reform; heresy must be condemned.

But how to accomplish both of these ends? Paul III preferred that doctrinal questions be addressed first, then the Council could take up reform. Charles V wanted it the other way. In a compromise between the emperor’s preferences and the pope’s, issues of doctrine and of reform were addressed simultaneously.

Having briefly summarized the intrigues and politics that complicated the work of the Council, and what, in broad outline, that work was, we now detail some of the issues the Council addressed. We will do so session by session, skipping those whose work was limited to the administrative functions such as convocation, indiction, resumption, translation, prorogation, or the granting of safe passage to heretics.

The fourth session of the Council defined the Canon of Holy Scripture contrary to the Protestant rejection of the deutero-canonical books. It also established the authenticity of the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome, anathematizing anyone who would reject it. (It did not, as Palmer claims – pg. 85 – say that the Vulgate was “the only version of the Bible on which authoritative teaching could be based.”)

The fifth session issued the Decree on Original sin. This condemned Lutheran and Calvinist “total depravity,” the doctrine that exaggerated the effects of Original Sin.

At the same time, the Decree avoided anything savoring of Pelagianism, Protestantism’s heretical opposite in the doctrine of grace. The Decree established the true doctrine of Original Sin concerning its existence, extent, effects, and remedies. This session also addressed two reform issues touching upon 1) the education of clerics in theology and the liberal arts and 2) the office of preaching and that of “questors,” i.e., collectors of alms.

The sixth session gives us the celebrated decree on Justification, which did so much to clarify Church teaching in a matter some Catholics were confused about, thinking that there was room for compromise with the Protestants. In the “process of justification,” faith is not the only ingredient, but it is the essential initium salutis.

In addition to faith, the other infused theological virtues are necessary, as is human cooperation with God’s movement. Those in sin can, by the actual grace of God, cooperate with His loving designs.

Grace is not simply an external garment (still less is it snow on dung!), but an interior beautification of the soul, an intrinsic change that makes the Christian a new creature. Once in the state of Grace (justification), man can truly merit an eternal reward because he has the principle of supernatural life in him. In a series of canons, the various heresies of Luther and Calvin on these points are explicitly anathematized.

The reform issues taken up by this session included episcopal and priestly residence (the duty of the bishop to reside in his diocese and the priest charged with cure of souls to reside in his parish), restrictions on bishops performing pontifical functions outside their dioceses, and the prohibition of regulars from residing outside their religious houses.

The seventh session considered the doctrinal issue of the sacraments in general and two of them specifically: Baptism and Confirmation. There are seven sacraments, all of which were founded by Jesus Christ.

They work ex opere operato, effecting what they signify, and are not mere symbols of grace. The form and matter of Baptism and Confirmation, their effects and relative necessity, as well as the proper minister are carefully laid down. Canons with anathemas attached to them censure the Protestant errors in sacramental doctrine.

The reform issues addressed included several items concerning benefices, clerical life, promotion to orders, repair of churches, and the timely filling of vacant sees.

After several prorogations, delays, and upon the beginning of a new pontificate, the thirteenth session resumed the work of the Council on the Sacraments, treating only of the Eucharist. Lutheran “consubstantiation” is condemned, while transubstantiation is upheld.

The real presence of Jesus Christ, which abides after the Mass (ergo allowing for reposition of the Blessed Sacrament) was also affirmed, as was the divine institution of this august sacrament, Its excellence over the other sacraments, Its power to give grace, the dispositions necessary for Its reception, and the veneration to be showed It. Contrary errors were anathematized.

The reform issues addressed included the bishops’ involvement in civil criminal cases, ecclesiastical exemption from the civil arm, and the degradation of clerics for severe crimes.

The fourteenth session continued with the sacraments, laying down the Church’s doctrine on Penance and Extreme Unction. As for the former, it was defined that Our Lord established Penance when he said “Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” (John 20:22).

Regarding the latter, St. James’ text is shown to speak of Anointing: “Is any man sick among you ? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick man; and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14-15). The necessity, effects, form and matter, and minister of each sacrament are taught, while contrary errors are anathematized.

The reform decree of this session treated episcopal oversight of clerics, their promotion to orders, and their suspension for various crimes. Financial endowments, rights of patronage, and benefices were also addressed.

The twenty-first session treated of communion under both species and the communion of infants. The Council taught the principle of Eucharistic concomitance, that “Christ whole and entire, and a true Sacrament are received under either species,” so the faithful need not receive from the Chalice. Infants need not receive Holy Communion at all. The reform decree in this session treated benefices and the establishing of new parishes.

The twenty-second session set down the true doctrine concerning the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass against the novelties of the Protestants. Included in this doctrine is “that the Sacrifice of the Mass is propitiatory both for the living and the dead.” The reform decree addressed the use and protection of church property, among other things.

The twenty-third session defined, against the heretics, what is the truth concerning the sacrament of Holy Orders, which is “a true and proper sacrament,” distinguishing the three sacramental orders from the minor orders and subdiaconate, and affirming that the former of divine institution. Contrary errors were condemned in the canons. The reform decree included minute prescriptions on who can be admitted to Orders.

The twenty-fourth session treated of the sacrament of Matrimony. A short section established its true sacramental nature, while a much longer section minutely reformed the administration of the sacrament.

The twenty-fifth and last session treated the dogmatic topics of purgatory relics, saints, sacred images, and indulgences. The reform issues concerned religious, regulations on the granting of indulgences, the establishing of the index of forbidden books, feast and fast days, and the reform of the breviary and missal. It also called for a catechism to be issued.

J.P. Kirsch succinctly summarizes the importance of the Council of Trent: “The Ecumenical Council of Trent has proved to be of the greatest importance for the development of the inner life of the Church.

No council has ever had to accomplish its task under more serious difficulties, none has had so many questions of the greatest importance to decide. The assembly proved to the world that notwithstanding repeated apostasy in church life there still existed in it an abundance of religious force and of loyal championship of the unchanging principles of Christianity.

Although unfortunately the council, through no fault of the fathers assembled, was not able to heal the religious differences of western Europe, yet the infallible Divine truth was clearly proclaimed in opposition to the false doctrines of the day, and in this way a firm foundation was laid for the overthrow of heresy and the carrying out of genuine internal reform in the Church.”

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 photo shows, “The Council of Trent,” by Pasquale Cati, painted in 1588.