Thursday, July 26, 2012

Letter 23: St. Augustine the priest to Maximinus the Donatist bishop regarding re-baptism: A lesson in ecumenism

St. Augustine being baptized by St. Ambrose in St. Monica's
presence. Work by Joseph Briffa.

During the fourth and fifth century St. Augustine and the many others of the African Catholic Church were at great ends to put an end to a schism that had started around 303 AD (about sixty years before St. Augustine was born) regarding Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. The persecution involved either death or the handing over of the Scriptures, and those which had decided to hand over their church’s Scriptures were called traditores (those who handed over holy things). At one point in 311 AD a so-called traditor had ordained the new bishop of Carthage which started a controversy in which the Donatists formed a schism from the Catholic Church. The Donatists were somewhat like the Novationists in that they saw the Church as only for saints and not sinners, and in that regard they were rigorists with regards to sins and sins that excluded from Communion. This is a very brief account of the Donatists, but suffice to say they were the majority Christian sect at the time of St. Augustine’s being a priest, though by the end of his office as bishop the Catholic Church was a much greater force in the region. This article regards St. Augustine’s humility as a priest lovingly exhorting Maximinus the Donatist bishop to stop re-baptizing Catholics and to strive for peace and unity of Donatists and Catholics. Letter 23 was written in 392 AD.

The letter regards a controversy in which St. Augustine sends a letter to the Donatist bishop Maximinus (who later became Catholic) regarding their re-baptism of one of the deacons of St. Augustine’s church, named Mutugenna. St. Augustine repudiates re-baptism here as un-Christian but the manner of his letter is impressive in the degree of his humility and charity. One might say this regards how weak the Catholic Church was in 392 AD, when the letter was written, but considering St. Augustine’s Confessions which are from a close time period, I think it likely that this simply regards St. Augustine’s taking up the life of the Gospel of humility, obedience, and charity.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Beyond the Absolute, Part 3 of 3: Beyond the Absolute

St. Bruno in ecstasy
In earlier blog posts I addressed the essay written by a Carthusian monk regarding the concept of God as Absolute and the wounding embrace with which He calls a Carthusian monk (or any man) to his final and true vocation, taking up the cross in the monastery. This is the last part of the Carthusian’s essay and in my opinion is the better part of the essay since it is the climax of the monk’s work.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Rule of St. Benedict and the Twelve Steps of Humility

July 11th is the feast day of St. Benedict the great founder of monastic communities all across Italy. St. Benedict was born around 480 AD and died around 543 AD, though the purpose of this post is not to provide the biographical information regarding St. Benedict’s founding numerous monastic communities. You could find more about St. Benedict of Nursia’s life here at New Advent. 

What will however be discussed regards St. Benedict’s Rule, that is the Rule that he set down for how to live in a monastic community. After much difficulty in settling monastic communities and maintaining them, St. Benedict set out to write his thoughts regarding the right schedule and life style proper to a monk in a monastic community. The Benedictines and several other monastic orders still keep the Rule of St. Benedict or a modification of it. St. Benedict is in some manner the father of organized monasticism after the fall of Rome. There were other monastic communities that contained documents written by holy saints (like St. Basil’s Rule and St. Augustine’s Rule) but none were so organized and thought out in such a manner as to provide daily guidance and stability as St. Benedict’s Rule. St. Benedict’s piety and patience shows forth very clearly from his Rule, and of one particular importance for today’s focus will be his consideration of humility.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Contraception and the Divine Poverty

Sic Deus dilexit mundum.
For God so loved the world.
My apologies on not having written anything in due time, I have had a lot of time to spend at work this summer, and though that is not a full excuse I have spent some time reading up. I hope to blog a bit about what I read in Orthodox readings of  Augustine, that is a volume based on a 2007 conference regarding the Eastern Orthodox reception of St. Augustine the blessed Father of the West. However, this post regards a controversial topic for Christians in modern industrialized societies regarding the usage and acceptance of contraception as a means to postponing pregnancy. The focus of this essay will aim to discuss why the Catholic Church in her wisdom has provided that contraception is against the Divine mandate to be fruitful and multiply, as well as the notion of the man and woman becoming one flesh as Christ chose Himself to become one with His holy Church. Human sexuality is inevitably tied to Christ and His mission through His Incarnation and Holy Life. Marriage is the image and icon of Christ’s loving union and communion with the Church, which is without reserve and is of a totally self-giving, self-sacrificial love. The use of contraceptives shatters the total self-giving of love present in the marital life and so ruins and distorts that which marital life is aimed to imitate, the beauty of the unity between Christ and His Bride the Church. May Christian spouses love each other in Christ, be united to Him, and love each other in the image and likeness of Christ's sacrificial Incarnation, Life, and Passion, for the sake of His Beloved Bride, the Church.