Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Christianity and Stoicism: do Stoics have more fun?

– Some Christian thinkers have regarded Stoicism as a kind of delusion; others –Simone Weil, for instance – see it as expressing a deep piety which makes it the closest of all philosophies to Christianity. Who’s right?
It depends on which aspects of Stoicism you’re concentrating on. There’s definitely a very profound piety in traditional Stoicism, and to a large degree Stoicism and Christianity are very sympatico. Both seek to situate the human person within a larger, divinely ordained context. Both promote the cultivation of virtue — and identify a lot of the same behaviours as virtuous or vicious. Both seek to free the person from enslavement to appetites and passions. And there does seem to have been a certain amount of mutual respect between Christians and Stoics, at least for a while. Epictetus, for example, speaks with great admiration for the “Galilean” martyrs, and uses them as an example of how it’s possible to have interior freedom even in the face of death. And of course the notion of apatheia was very important in a lot of the writings of the Church Fathers, especially in the East.
But then, there were significant persecutions of Christians under the Stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius — basically because Stoicism sees the social order in this world as the higher good towards which individual human life is ordered, whereas Christianity looks towards the eschatological transformation of society in the Communion of Saints. Also, God in Stoicism is imminent, whereas God in Christianity is a transcendent Being who becomes immanent through the Incarnation. And Stoicism posits human perfection through moral effort and self-discipline, whereas Christianity promises salvation through grace. So there are these very fundamental differences as well.

Read all here in Catholic Authenticity

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Francis: True defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter

From Pope Francis address to the synod of the family
The Synod experience also made us better realize that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness. This is in no way to detract from the importance of formulae, laws and divine commandments, but raather to exalt the greatness of the true God, who does not treat us according to our merits or even according to our works but solely according to the boundless generosity of his Mercy (cf. Rom 3:21-30; Ps 129; Lk 11:37-54). It does have to do with overcoming the recurring temptations of the elder brother (cf. Lk 15:25-32) and the jealous labourers (cf. Mt 20:1-16). Indeed, it means upholding all the more the laws and commandments which were made for man and not vice versa (cf. Mk 2:27).

Saturday, October 24, 2015

As bishops of the church we ask people for forgiveness

From the German speaking group of bishops report on the third part of the working document in the synod:
Here, a confession was important to us: wrongly understood efforts to uphold the Church’s  teachings time and again led to hard and merciless attitudes, which hurt people, especially single mothers and children born out of wedlock, people living together before or in place of marriage, homosexually oriented people and divorced and remarried people. As bishops of our Church we ask these people for forgiveness.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Natural and supernatural Joy

Suffering, on the natural level, is always opposed to natural joy. There is no opposition between natural suffering and supernatural joy. Joy, in the supernatural order, is simply an aspect of charity. It is inseparable from the love that is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. But when sanctity is not yet mature, its joy is not always recognisable. It can too easily be buried under pain. But true charity, far from being diminished by suffering, uses suffering as it uses everything else: for the increase of its own immanent vitality. Charity is the expression of a divine life within us, and this life, if we allow it to have its way, will grow and thrive most in the very presence of all that seems to destroy life and to quench its flame. A life that blazes with a hundredfold brilliance in the face of death is therefore invincible. Its joy cannot fail. It conquers everything. It knows no suffering. Like the Risen Christ, Who is its Author and Principle, it knows no death. 
From Thomas Merton in his essay on St John of the Cross. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Friday, August 7, 2015

St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Are we all equal in heaven?

That's what St Thérèse of Liseaux, a Doctor of the Church, has to say. 

You knew all my intimate thoughts and cleared up all my doubts. I once told you how astonished I was that God does not give equal glory in heaven to all His chosen. I was afraid they were not at all equally happy. You made me bring Daddy’s tumbler and put it by the side of my thimble. You filled them both with water and asked me which was fuller. I told you they were both full to the brim and that it was impossible to put more water in them than they could hold. And so, Mother darling, you made me understand that in heaven God will give His chosen their fitting glory and that the last will have no reason to envy the first. By such means, you made me understand the most sublime mysteries and gave my soul its essential food. —St. Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul. (New York: Double Day, 2001) 20.

You can find some quotes here. Or read the full Story of the Soul. It is very good. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

How does the body of Christ taste (theological fun)

This is some theological fun from barefood and pregnant
Sienna: “Mom, can you tell me what the Blood of Christ tastes like, since I’ve never had it before?”

Me: “It tastes like wine. Just like the Body of Christ tastes like a cracker, even though it’s become the actual Body of Christ.”

The Ogre: “That’s just because Mom’s a sinner, sweetie. When I drink it, it tastes like blood.”

Monday, July 27, 2015

The chief end of man (theological fun)

Doodles from Faith and Theology

Famously, according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” The word “enjoy” is, of course, a typo: that should be “annoy”.

The church has often been seriously hostile to the theatre, both actors and audiences, and with good biblical support. As Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, “Broadway leads to destruction.”
(Matthew 7:13, Original Autograph)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Non-theological fun

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Shroud of Turin: some interesting talk and data (hey, science here!) for Eastertide

Here some interesting talk about the Shroud of Turin. Comments welcomed.

summary of some information here from sorensen

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review of Arriving at Amen, seven catholic prayers that even I can offer.

I happen to be a long term follower of Leah Libresco’s blog “Unequally Yoked”, even before he converted to Catholicism from Atheism. When she announced that he wrote a book, I entered in a draft and won a free copy in exchange of a review, with no other conditions attached. The book is called Arriving at Amen, seven catholic prayers that even I can offer. Here is my review. 

After a lot of fights in good faith with her Catholic friends, one day, when thinking about how do we know that some things are right and others wrong, Leah Libresco found herself changing her mind about God (all the details are in the book) and started the process to become a Catholic and practising the faith.

Catholic spirituality, however, is a very strange thing, a world by itself, specially if one comes to the faith from the outside. Learning to breath and live the Catholic life is like inhabit a new world;
it is like learning a language in that very same language. Rewarding but also confusing. The master skill of Leah in this book is to parse this Catholic life for us by drawing analogies from all over the place, using musicals, Chinese culture, maths and even a little bit of programming language.

Leah Libresco, with her geeky but easy to follow explanations, manages to bring a new perspective to the Catholic practices of Petitionary prayer, Confession, Divine Office, the Rosary, the Examen, and Mass. All are introduced and explained from the point of view of someone who, in a very original way, is trying to understand, live, and make sense of them.

For instance, don’t you think it difficult to understand the Eucharist as Christ’s sacrifice? Why not to think about this using coordinate planes? Or another example. Are you not getting much out of the Ignatian Examen, always coming out with the few same reflections? Why not trying everyday to single out a virtue of one of your friends and review your day from that perspective? These are two of the many gold nuggets that you can find in the book, explained not as a suggestions, but as first
person accounts of how Leah has engaged with the Catholic spirituality. 

This  book, precisely because it is not a scholarly piece of theology nor a deep mystical writing, can be useful to many people, both Catholics and non-Catholics. For non-Catholics it could be a fresh and unconventional introduction to the Catholic mind and practises. For Catholics, it could be a way to learn how to express the Catholic faith and practises in a new way, and an opportunity to re-visit some of our first steps, learning on the way a few suggestions that we can apply in our lives. 

All in all, the book is worth reading. I recommend it to you.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lord have mercy: no to weapons of mass destruction

Lent has come again. It is a time for repentance and change, not only individually but collectively. What do we need to repent as a society? What is that we are doing against the will of God?

One thing that comes to mind is the possession and the threatening to use weapons of mass destruction. This is utterly immoral. For the love of God, this has to stop now. No to the trident.

"Trident is Britain's nuclear weapons system. It's made up of four submarines – one of which is on patrol at all times - carrying up to 40 nuclear warheads on board. Each of these warheads is eight times more powerful than the atomic bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, one of the biggest supporters of replacing Trident in 2007, has admitted that the only purpose of maintaining the nuclear weapons system is to give Britain status." read more

Here are some pictures of the demonstration I went with my Catholic Worker friends.  We are all complicit with the structures of sin. Repent now and believe in the gospel.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Debugging the brain

From xkcd

I haven't given up fun for lent, and I think this is fun. Praying, fasting and almsgiving is good too. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ash Wednesday Pride Again?

I wonder whether this lent it would happen again or not: would the priest be making some remark in the homily to let us know, directly or indirectly, how useful is for evangelisation to go into the streets with the ash cross still on our foreheads? The line being, people will know that you are Christians, and if not you can start a conversation about it.

I am all up for evangelisation, standing up for our faith, and going into the streets, but perhaps Ash Wednesday is the least proper day to do this. Here goes the gospel:

“When you fast, do not do like the hypocrites, who put a sad apparence and distort they faces so that every one will see that they are fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast, perfume your head and wash your face¨ (Mt 6.16-17, read on Ash Wednesday)

The gospel tells us to "perfume your heads and wash your face" and not "don't show off when you are fasting", and and then we go on the streets showing off our signs of repentance. We need to share the good news of Jesus Christ everyday, but if we were to choose a day to show-off and sto pur conversation why not Easter Sunday. And everyone of us can go on the streets talking to the unbelievers that Jesus is indeed Risen.

So my suggestion is to keep the Ash Wednesday humbly.

Extra notes:
If you are a Catholic of the Roman Rite, fasting in Ash Wednesday is "compulsory" (between the 14th and 60th birthday), but going to mass or receiving the ashes is not. If you are of the Ambrosian Rite (for instance in Milan, Italy) you don't have an Ash Wednesday and you are already in the season of lent in Monday. For the rules of fasting and abstinence see my previous post.

You may chose to do like the gospel says, and perfume your heads.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Paradoxes and ecstasy in the gospel of Luke

A paradoxical situation is a situation that seems logical or contradictory. There is a particular passage in the gospel of Luke (chapter 5) in which something paradoxical happens. It is the passage where a paralysed man have been brought to Jesus so that he may heal him. This ensues:

          Jesus saw the faith of the crowd

          Jesus says to the man: “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” 

          The educated people of the time, the scribes and Pharisees,
          start to question what Jesus is doing:
              Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
              “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies?
          Jesus notices their questions and addresses them in a practical way:
               Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?
               Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?

          Jesus explains what he wants to show:
               in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins

           so he says to the paralysed man: 
                “I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.” 
           and the man stands up, in front of the people, takes his bed, and goes home.
           He goes home glorifying God.

           Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying,
                 “We have seen strange things today.”

Now, the last sentence is a very interesting sentence since to my knowledge it is the only sentence in the new testament that contains the world paradox. In Greek:

καὶ ἔκστασις ἔλαβεν ἅπαντας, καὶ ἐδόξαζον τὸν θεόν, καὶ ἐπλήσθησαν φόβου λέγοντες ὅτι εἴδομεν παράδοξα σήμερον. (Lk 5:26)

These are several interesting things in this sentence. These are the reactions of people to the action of Jesus:

a)  ἔκστασις ἔλαβεν : They were taken by ecstasy, that is translated by amazement seized all. It is related to the trance or great amazement that happened when Jesus raised the young dead girl (Mc 5:26), or that that the women fell when they found the empty tomb. 
b)  ἐδόξαζον τὸν θεόν : They glorify God. What Jesus did was reckoned as the action of God.
c)  ἐπλήσθησαν φόβου : They were filled with fear. This is the trembling that accompanies being in the presence of God. 

So finally they say:

εἴδομεν παράδοξα σήμερον : "We have seen a paradox today". It seems to me that it is not only something strange that they have seen but something astonishingly out of what they had expected, a paradoxical situation. And what was the paradox? I would say that it is not that someone was healed, but that the sins of a man have been forgiven by another man. The healing there was to prove the point of the forgiveness of sins. People went home with a paradox to mull over, something that apparently was logically contradictory had happened, which made them go into trance, worship God, and to stand before him in fear and trembling.