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As any well-catechised Catholic should know, I know that it is a very fruitful practice to meditate on the Last Things. Unfortunately, intellectually knowing a thing and realizing it are two different pairs of shoes.

Recently, a science conference led me to Oregon, US, with the option to extend my stay for a week of travelling. My itinarary was rather varied and definitely interesting, including urban-area lows and wilderness highs; but the crowning moment of the whole trip for me was the time I spent at Mt. Rainier National Park. I went there mostly because it was on the way back from Washington to Portland, but let me tell you: Mt. Rainier is really, really impressive. I went to Portland on a plane from Vancouver, flying over miles and miles of the most dense cloud/smoke (forest fires) … and suddenly there is this awfully great big mountain sticking out as the one single thing from that whitish plain, at what seems the height of your plane itself! Again, driving with your car inwards from the coast, you think: well, back there is a rather funny cloud – when it is a great big ice-covered mountain at the horizon, sticking out from the apparent plain in a way that seems just impossible. (And this  imaga does not in the least reflect the majesty of that mountain, unfortunatly).

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When I drove up to Sunrise Visitor Centre, I had even closer views of Mt. Rainier. And from the first to the last moment I was up there, I caught myself at the thought that I just do not believe this mountain, no matter what my senses tell me. I had a great hike, actually pretty much twice the distance of my original plan; and even though I am pretty easy to turn to tears, this might have well been the first time in my life I found myself crying for the sheer beauty of landscape.

So, on the way back, the thought crossed my brain how much greater heaven must be if it leaves you not missing such a sight. And slogging along, somewhat weary on both feet and nerves, since I had crossed some exposed gravelly slopes that did make my height-scared brain pretty much freeze, I realized for the first time in my life that what happens after death, whether heaven or hell or purgatory, was actually the most certain thing to happen to us at all.

i guess looking into the future is a natural thing, but what do I see? Very clearly, tomorrow’s project meeting; with glad anticipation, my parents’ visit in a few weeks; pretty confidently, my travel to a conference to Ireland next year; with hope, getting a grant to do research in Colorado for two years; with less confidence, some sort of tenure track somewhere, or even so much better, a family: all these things may or may not happen, but me ending up in heaven/hell/purgatory at some point has a 100% likelyhood, and it might very well happen within the next 24 hours – which none (apart of the project meeting) can claim.

Is this how meditation on the Last Things should work? Realizing that how incomprehensible to the mortal intellect, this might well be the thing that hit you tomorrow?

 

 

 

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If I want to read Aesop’s fables in either English or German, and without too much added ideology, where would I look? Thanks in advance.

If only there were more of his kind…

1. To his dear first-born son, Philip, greeting, and his father’s love.

2. Dear son, since I desire with all my heart that you be well “instructed in all things, it is in my thought to give you some advice this writing. For I have heard you say, several times, that you remember my words better than those of any one else.

3. Therefore, dear son, the first thing I advise is that you fix your whole heart upon God, and love Him with all your strength, for without this no one can be saved or be of any worth.

4. You should, with all your strength, shun everything which you believe to be displeasing to Him. And you ought especially to be resolved not to commit mortal sin, no matter what may happen and should permit all your limbs to be hewn off, and suffer every manner of torment, rather than fall knowingly into mortal sin.

5. If our Lord send you any adversity, whether illness or other in good patience, and thank Him for it, thing, you should receive it in good patience and be thankful for it, for you ought to believe that He will cause everthing to turn out for your good; and likewise you should think that you have well merited it, and more also, should He will it, because you have loved Him but little, and served Him but little, and have done many things contrary to His will.

6. If our Lord send you any prosperity, either health of body or other thing you ought to thank Him humbly for it, and you ought to be careful that you are not the worse for it, either through pride or anything else, for it is a very great sin to fight against our Lord with His gifts.

7. Dear son, I advise you that you accustom yourself to frequent confession, and that you choose always, as your confessors, men who are upright and sufficiently learned, and who can teach you what you should do and what you should avoid. You should so carry yourself that your confessors and other friends may dare confidently to reprove you and show you your faults.

8. Dear son, I advise you that you listen willingly and devoutly the services of Holy Church, and, when you are in church, avoid to frivolity and trifling, and do not look here and there; but pray to God with lips and heart alike, while entertaining sweet thoughts about Him, and especially at the mass, when the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are consecrated, and for a little time before.

9. Dear son, have a tender pitiful heart for the poor, and for all those whom you believe to be in misery of heart or body, and, according to your ability, comfort and aid them with some alms.

10. Maintain the good customs of your realm, and put down the bad ones. Do not oppress your people and do not burden them with tolls or tailles, except under very great necessity.

11. If you have any unrest of heart, of such a nature that it may be told, tell it to your confessor, or to some upright man who can keep your secret; you will be able to carry more easily the thought of your heart.

12. See to it that those of your household are upright and loyal, and remember the Scripture, which says: “Elige viros timentes Deum in quibus sit justicia et qui oderint avariciam”; that is to say, “Love those who serve God and who render strict justice and hate covetousness”; and you will profit, and will govern your kingdom well.

13. Dear son, see to it that all your associates are upright, whether clerics or laymen, and have frequent good converse with them; and flee the society of the bad. And listen willingly to the word of God, both in open and in secret; and purchase freely prayers and pardons.

14. Love all good, and hate all evil, in whomsoever it may be.

15. Let no one be so bold as to say, in your presence, words which attract and lead to sin, and do not permit words of detraction to be spoken of another behind his back.

!6. Suffer it not that any ill be spoken of God or His saints in your presence, without taking prompt vengeance. But if the offender be a clerk or so great a person that you ought not to try him, report the matter to him who is entitled to judge it.

17. Dear son, give thanks to God often for all the good things He has done for you, so that you may be worthy to receive more, in such a manner that if it please the Lord that you come to the burden and honor of governing the kingdom, you may be worthy to receive the sacred unction wherewith the kings of France are consecrated.

18. Dear son, if you come to the throne, strive to have that which befits a king, that is to say, that in justice and rectitude you hold yourself steadfast and loyal toward your subjects and your vassals, without turning either to the right or to the left, but always straight, whatever may happen. And if a poor man have a quarrel with a rich man, sustain the poor rather than the rich, until the truth is made clear, and when you know the truth, do justice to them.

19. If any one have entered into a suit against you (for any injury or wrong which he may believe that you have done to him), be always for him and against yourself in the presence of your council, without showing that you think much of your case (until the truth be made known concerning it); for those of your council might be backward in speaking against you, and this you should not wish; and command your judges that you be not in any way upheld more than any others, for thus will your councillors judge more boldly according to right and truth.

20. If you have anything belonging to another, either of yourself or through your predecessors, if the matter is certain, give it up without delay, however great it may be, either in land or money or otherwise. If the matter is doubtful, have it inquired into by wise men, promptly and diligently. And if the affair is so obscure that you cannot know the truth, make such a settlement, by the counsel of s of upright men, that your soul, and the soul your predecessors, may be wholly freed from the affair. And even if you hear some one say that your predecessors made restitution, make diligent inquiry to learn if anything remains to be restored; and if you find that such is the case, cause it to be delivered over at once, for the liberation of your soul and the souls of your predecessors.

21. You should seek earnestly how your vassals and your subjects may live in peace and rectitude beneath your sway; likewise, the good towns and the good cities of your kingdom. And preserve them in the estate and the liberty in which your predecessors kept them, redress it, and if there be anything to amend, amend and preserve their favor and their love. For it is by the strength and the riches of your good cities and your good towns that the native and the foreigner, especially your peers and your barons, are deterred from doing ill to you. I will remember that Paris and the good towns of my kingdom aided me against the barons, when I was newly crowned.

22. Honor and love all the people of Holy Church, and be careful that no violence be done to them, and that their gifts and alms, which your predecessors have bestowed upon them, be not taken away or diminished. And I wish here to tell you what is related concerning King Philip, my ancestor, as one of his council, who said he heard it, told it to me. The king, one day, was with his privy council, and he was there who told me these words. And one of the king’s councillors said to him how much wrong and loss he suffered from those of Holy Church, in that they took away his rights and lessened the jurisdiction of his court; and they marveled greatly how he endured it. And the good king answered: “I am quite certain that they do me much wrong, but when I consider the goodnesses and kindnesses which God has done me, I had rather that my rights should go, than have a contention or awaken a quarrel with Holy Church.” And this I tell to you that you may not lightly believe anything against the people of Holy Church; so love them and honor them and watch over them that they may in peace do the service of our Lord.

23. Moreover, I advise you to love dearly the clergy, and, so far as you are able, do good to them in their necessities, and likewise love those by whom God is most honored and served, and by whom the Faith is preached and exalted.

24. Dear son, I advise that you love and reverence your father and your mother, willingly remember and keep their commandments, and be inclined to believe their good counsels.

25. Love your brothers, and always wish their well-being and their good advancement, and also be to them in the place of a father, to instruct them in all good. But be watchful lest, for the love which you bear to one, you turn aside from right doing, and do to the others that which is not meet.

26. Dear son, I advise you to bestow the benefices of Holy Church which you have to give, upon good persons, of good and clean life, and that you bestow them with the high counsel of upright men. And I am of the opinion that it is preferable to give them to those who hold nothing of Holy Church, rather than to others. For, if you inquire diligently, you will find enough of those who have nothing who will use wisely that entrusted to them.

27. Dear son, I advise you that you try with all your strength to avoid warring against any Christian man, unless he have done you too much ill. And if wrong be done you, try several ways to see if you can find how you can secure your rights, before you make war; and act thus in order to avoid the sins which are committed in warfare.

28. And if it fall out that it is needful that you should make war (either because some one of your vassals has failed to plead his case in your court, or because he has done wrong to some church or to some poor person, or to any other person whatsoever, and is unwilling to make amends out of regard for you, or for any other reasonable cause), whatever the reason for which it is necessary for you to make war, give diligent command that the poor folk who have done no wrong or crime be protected from damage to their vines, either through fire or otherwise, for it were more fitting that you should constrain the wrongdoer by taking his own property (either towns or castles, by force of siege), than that you should devastate the property of poor people. And be careful not to start the war before you have good counsel that the cause is most reasonable, and before you have summoned the offender to make amends, and have waited as long as you should. And if he ask mercy, you ought to pardon him, and accept his amende, so that God may be pleased with you.

29. Dear son, I advise you to appease wars and contentions, whether they be yours or those of your subjects, just as quickly as may be, for it is a thing most pleasing to our Lord. And Monsignore Martin gave us a very great example of this. For, one time, when our Lord made it known to him that he was about to die, he set out to make peace between certain clerks of his archbishopric, and he was of the opinion that in so doing he was giving a good end to life.

30. Seek diligently, most sweet son, to have good baillis and good prevots in your land, and inquire frequently concerning their doings, and how they conduct themselves, and if they administer justice well, and do no wrong to any one, nor anything which they ought not do. Inquire more often concerning those of your household if they be too covetous or too arrogant; for it is natural that the members should seek to imitate their chief; that is, when the master is wise and well-behaved, all those of his household follow his example and prefer it. For however much you ought to hate evil in others, you shoud have more hatred for the evil which comes from those who derive their power from you, than you bear to the evil of others; and the more ought you to be on your guard and prevent this from happening.

3!. Dear son, I advise you always to be devoted to the Church of Rome, and to the sovereign pontiff, our father, and to bear him the the reverence and honor which you owe to your spiritual father.

32. Dear son, freely give power to persons of good character, who know how to use it well, and strive to have wickednesses expelled from your land, that is to say, nasty oaths, and everything said or done against God or our Lady or the saints. In a wise and proper manner put a stop, in your land, to bodily sins, dicing, taverns, and other sins. Put down heresy so far as you can, and hold in especial abhorrence Jews, and all sorts of people who are hostile to the Faith, so that your land may be well purged of them, in such manner as, by the sage counsel of good people, may appear to you advisable.

33. Further the right with all your strength. Moreover I admonish you you that you strive most earnestly to show your gratitude for the benefits which our Lord has bestowed upon you, and that you may know how to give Him thanks therefore

34. Dear son, take care that the expenses of your household are reasonable and moderate, and that its moneys are justly obtained. And there is one opinion that I deeply wish you to entertain, that is to say, that you keep yourself free from foolish expenses and evil exactions, and that your money should be well expended and well acquired. And this opinion, together with other opinions which are suitable and profitable, I pray that our Lord may teach you.

35. Finally, most sweet son, I conjure and require you that, if it please our Lord that I should die before you, you have my soul succored with masses and orisons, and that you send through the congregations of the kingdom of France, and demand their prayers for my soul, and that you grant me a special and full part in all the good deeds which you perform.

36. In conclusion, dear son, I give you all the blessings which a good and tender father can give to a son, and I pray our Lord Jesus Christ, by His mercy, by the prayers and merits of His blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, and of angels and archangels and of all the saints, to guard and protect you from doing anything contrary to His will, and to give you grace to do it always, so that He may be honored and served by you. And this may He do to me as to you, by His great bounty, so that after this mortal life we may be able to be together with Him in the eternal life, and see Him, love Him, and praise Him without end. Amen. And glory, honor, and praise be to Him who is one God with the Father and the Holy Spirit; without beginning and without end. Amen.

Found this app: Catholic Trivia by OPAU applications (link) on the Google Playstore. While probably getting a bit repetitive at higher levels (?), I found this surprisingly orthodox so far.

I came across this the other day when reading St. Thomas’ Commentary on Hebrews – the flesh of the high priests’s sacrifice on the Day of Atonement remaining uneaten signified that the saved do not partake of the Old Law. Fascinating!

“743. – Then when he says, We have an altar, from which they have no power to eat who serve the tabernacle, he gives the reason, and it is quite subtle. For, as it is stated in Leviticus (chap. 16), on the tenth day of the seventh month the high priest entered with the blood of a heifer and a goat into the holies because of his own ignorance, and burned their bodies outside the camp. And because it was the priest’s offering, the flesh was not eaten. For whatever they offered for the sin of the priests they did not eat, but burned outside the camp. From that figure the Apostle draws a mystery. For the blood of Christ was prefigured by the blood, as was explained in chapter 9. The heifer and the goat prefigured Christ, because the heifer was the priest’s offering and the goat was immolated for sin. This prefigured that Christ would be immolated for sin: not for His own but for the people’s. Therefore, the immolated heifer and goat is Christ, the Priest, offering Himself for our sins. Therefore, the blood of Christ was brought into the holies and the flesh burned outside the camp. Two things were thereby signified: one, that Christ was immolated in the city by the tongues of the Jews; hence Mark says that He was crucified at the third hour, although He was raised on the Cross at the sixth hour. The other is that by virtue of His Passion Christ brings us within the heavenly holies to the Father. But the fact that the bodies were burned outside the camp, as to our Head, signifies that Christ would suffer outside the gate; but as to us, who are the members, it signifies that Christ is immolated for those who are outside the camp of ceremonies of the Law and of the external senses. For those within the camp did not partake of that flesh. This, therefore, is the figure which the Apostle proposes: first, therefore, he shows what is signified; secondly, he presents the figure (v. 11); thirdly, he draws the conclusion (v. 13).

744. – He says, therefore: Let us strengthen our hearts not with food, but with grace; for we cannot do otherwise, because we have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. That altar is the Cross of Christ, on which He was immolated; or Christ Himself in Whom and by Whom we offer our prayers. This is the golden altar spoken of in Rev (chap. 8). Of that altar, therefore, they have no right to eat, i.e., to receive the fruit of Christ’s passion and to be incorporated into Him as head, who serve the tabernacle of the ceremonies of the Law: ‘If you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing’ (Gal. 5:2). Or they serve the tabernacle of the body, who pursue carnal pleasures: ‘Make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences’ (Rom. 13:14). For such persons received no profit: ‘He that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgement to himself’ (1 Cor. 11:29). But the body is called a tabernacle, because we dwell in it as in a war against enemies and it remains a short while: ‘The laying away of my tabernacle is at hand’ (2 Pt. 1:14). Therefore, it should not be served.”

“O Florinus, this teaching is not that transmitted to us by the ancients, the disciples of the apostles. I used to behold thee at the side of Polykarp; though shining at court thou didst none the less seek to be pleasing unto him. I was then but a child, yet the things that happened at that time are more vivid in my recollection than those of yesterday; for indeed childhood’s memories form, as it were, a part of the very soul; they grow with her. I could point out the very spot where sat blessed Polykarp while he conversed with us; I could describe exactly his bearing, his address, his manner of life, his every feature, and the discourses he made to the crowd. Thou remembers how he used to tell us of his intercourse with John and the rest of those that had seen the Lord, and with what a faithful memory he repeated their words; what he had learnt from them respecting our Lord, his miracles, his doctrine, all these things Polycarp transmitted to us, as having himself received them from the very men that had beheld with their eyes the Word of life; all of what he told us was conformable to the Scriptures. What a grace from God were these conversations of his! I used to listen so eagerly, noting everything down, not on parchment, but on my heart; and now, by the grace of God, I still live on it all. Hence, I can attest before God, if the blessed apostolic old man had heard discourses such as thine he would have stopped his ears, saying, as was his wont: ‘O God most good, to what sort of times hast thou reserved us!’ Then would he have got up quickly, and would have fled from that place of blasphemy.”

~ St. Irenaeus, Epist. ad Florinum

If we are willing to believe in virgin births, resurrections, and multiplications of loaves, then why not the transmission and preservation of the Gospel in an unwritten form?

Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us!

“He that is signified by the shepherd is also meant by the woman. Jesus is God; He is the Wisdom of God. And because good coin must bear the image of the king upon it, therefore was it that the woman lost her groat when man, who had been created after God’s image, strayed from that image by committing sin. But the woman lights a lamp; the Wisdom of God hath appeared in human flesh. A lamp is a light which burns in a vessel of clay; and Light in a vessel of clay, is the Divinity of our flesh. It is of the vessel of His Body, that this Wisdom says: ‘My strength is dried up like a potsherd’ (Ps XXI. 16). For, just as clay is made hard by the fire, so His strength was dried up like a potsherd, because it has strengthened unto the glory of His resurrection, in the crucible of sufferings, the Flesh which He (Wisdom) had assumed…Having found the groat she had lost, the woman calleth together her friends and neighbors, saying: Rejoice with me! because I have found the groat which I had lost. Who are these friends and neighbors, if not the heavenly spirits, who are so near to divine Wisdom by the favors they enjoy of the ceaseless vision? But we must not, meanwhile, neglect to examine why this woman, who represents divine Wisdom, is described as having ten groats, one of which she loses, then looks for, and again finds. We must know, then, that God made both angels and men, that they might know Him; and that having made both immortal, He made both to the image of God. The woman, then, had ten groats, because there are nine orders of angels, and man, who is to fill up the number of the elect, is the tenth groat; he was lost by his sin, but was found again, because eternal Wisdom restored him, by lighting the lamp, that is, by assuming his flesh, and through that working wonderful works, which led to his recovery.”

~ Homil. XXXIV. in Evangelia

Is there anything more inspiring than the Fathers commentating on Scripture (other than St. Thomas, of course)?

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