Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Saint January 24 : St. Francis de Sales : Confessors; #Deaf ; #Educators ; Writers; Journalists



Feast Day:
January 24
Born:
21 August 1567, Château de Thorens, Savoy
Died:
28 December 1622, Lyon, France
Canonized:
19 April 1665, Rome by Pope Alexander VII
Major Shrine:
Annecy, France
Patron of:
Catholic press; confessors; deaf people; educators; writers; journalists Bishop of Geneva, Doctor of the Universal Church; born at Thorens, in the Duchy of Savoy, 21 August, 1567; died at Lyons, 28 December, 1622. His father, Francois de Sales de Boisy, and his mother, Francoise de Sionnaz, belonged to old Savoyard aristocratic families. The future saint was the eldest of six brothers. His father intended him for the magistracy and sent him at an early age to the colleges of La Roche and Annecy. From 1583 till 1588 he studied rhetoric and humanities at the college of Clermont, Paris, under the care of the Jesuits. While there he began a course of theology. After a terrible and prolonged temptation to despair, caused by the discussions of the theologians of the day on the question of predestination, from which he was suddenly freed as he knelt before a miraculous image of Our Lady at St. Etienne-des-Gres, he made a vow of chastity and consecrated himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1588 he studied law at Padua, where the Jesuit Father Possevin was his spiritual director. He received his diploma of doctorate from the famous Pancirola in 1592. Having been admitted as a lawyer before the senate of Chambery, he was about to be appointed senator. His father had selected one of the noblest heiresses of Savoy to be the partner of his future life, but Francis declared his intention of embracing the ecclesiastical life. A sharp struggle ensued. His father would not consent to see his expectations thwarted. Then Claude de Granier, Bishop of Geneva, obtained for Francis, on his own initiative, the position of Provost of the Chapter of Geneva, a post in the patronage of the pope. It was the highest office in the diocese, M. de Boisy yielded and Francis received Holy Orders (1593).

From the time of the Reformation the seat of the Bishopric of Geneva had been fixed at Annecy. There with apostolic zeal, the new provost devoted himself to preaching, hearing confessions, and the other work of his ministry. In the following year (1594) he volunteered to evangelize Le Chablais, where the Genevans had imposed the Reformed Faith, and which had just been restored to the Duchy of Savoy. He made his headquarters in the fortress of Allinges. Risking his life, he journeyed through the entire district, preaching constantly; by dint of zeal, learning, kindness and holiness he at last obtained a hearing. He then settled in Thonon, the chief town. He confuted the preachers sent by Geneva to oppose him; he converted the syndic and several prominent Calvinists. At the request of the pope, Clement VIII, he went to Geneva to interview Theodore Beza, who was called the Patriarch of the Reformation. The latter received him kindly and seemed for a while shaken, but had not the courage to take the final steps. A large part of the inhabitants of Le Chablais returned to the true fold (1597 and 1598). Claude de Granier then chose Francis as his coadjutor, in spite of his refusal, and sent him to Rome (1599).

Pope Clement VIII ratified the choice; but he wished to examine the candidate personally, in presence of the Sacred College. The improvised examination was a triumph for Francis. "Drink, my son", said the Pope to him. "from your cistern, and from your living wellspring; may your waters issue forth, and may they become public fountains where the world may quench its thirst." The prophesy was to be realized. On his return from Rome the religious affairs of the territory of Gex, a dependency of France, necessitated his going to Paris. There the coadjutor formed an intimate friendship with Cardinal de Berulle, Antoine Deshayes, secretary of Henry IV, and Henry IV himself, who wished "to make a third in this fair friendship" (<etre de tiers dans cette belle amitie>). The king made him preach the Lent at Court, and wished to keep him in France. He urged him to continue, by his sermons and writings, to teach those souls that had to live in the world how to have confidence in God, and how to be genuinely and truly pious—graces of which he saw the great necessity.
On the death of Claude de Granier, Francis was consecrated Bishop of Geneva (1602). His first step was to institute catechetical instructions for the faithful, both young and old. He made prudent regulations for the guidance of his clergy. He carefully visited the parishes scattered through the rugged mountains of his diocese. He reformed the religious communities. His goodness, patience and mildness became proverbial. He had an intense love for the poor, especially those who were of respectable family. His food was plain, his dress and his household simple. He completely dispensed with superfluities and lived with the greatest economy, in order to be able to provide more abundantly for the wants of the needy. He heard confessions, gave advice, and preached incessantly. He wrote innumerable letters (mainly letters of direction) and found time to publish the numerous works mentioned below. Together with St. Jane Frances de Chantal, he founded (1607) the Institute of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin, for young girls and widows who, feeling themselves called to the religious life, have not sufficient strength, or lack inclination, for the corporal austerities of the great orders. His zeal extended beyond the limits of his own diocese. He delivered the Lent and Advent discourses which are still famous—those at Dijon (1604), where he first met the Baroness de Chantal; at Chambery (1606); at Grenoble (1616, 1617, 1618), where he converted the Marechal de Lesdiguieres. During his last stay in Paris (November, 1618, to September, 1619) he had to go into the pulpit each day to satisfy the pious wishes of those who thronged to hear him. "Never", said they, "have such holy, such apostolic sermons been preached." He came into contact here with all the distinguished ecclesiastics of the day, and in particular with St. Vincent de Paul. His friends tried energetically to induce him to remain in France, offering him first the wealthy Abbey of Ste. Genevieve and then the coadjutor-bishopric of Paris, but he refused all to return to Annecy.
In 1622 he had to accompany the Court of Savoy into France. At Lyons he insisted on occupying a small, poorly furnished room in a house belonging to the gardener of the Visitation Convent. There, on 27 December, he was seized with apoplexy. He received the last sacraments and made his profession of faith, repeating constantly the words: "God's will be done! Jesus, my God and my all!" He died next day, in the fifty-sixth year of his age. Immense crowds flocked to visit his remains, which the people of Lyons were anxious to keep in their city. With much difficulty his body was brought back to Annecy, but his heart was left at Lyons. A great number of wonderful favours have been obtained at his tomb in the Visitation Convent of Annecy. His heart, at the time of the French Revolution, was carried by the Visitation nuns from Lyons to Venice, where it is venerated to-day. St. Francis de Sales was beatified in 1661, and canonized by Alexander VII in 1665; he was proclaimed Doctor of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX, in 1877.
The following is a list of the principal works of the holy Doctor: (1) "Controversies", leaflets which the zealous missioner scattered among the inhabitants of Le Chablais in the beginning, when t hese people did not venture to come and hear him preach. They form a complete proof of the Catholic Faith. In the first part, the author defends the authority of the Church, and in the second and third parts, the rules of faith, which were not observed by the heretical ministers. The primacy of St. Peter is amply vindicated. (2) "Defense of the Standard of the Cross", a demonstration of the virtue of the True Cross; of the Crucifix; of the Sign of the Cross; an explanation of the Veneration of the Cross. (3) "An Introduction to the Devout Life", a work intended to lead "Philothea", the soul living in the world, into the paths of devotion, that is to say, of true and solid piety. Every one should strive to become pious, and "it is an error, it is even a heresy", to hold that piety is incompatible with any state of life. In the first part the author helps the soul to free itself from all inclination to, or affection for, sin; in the second, he teaches it how to be united to God by prayer and the sacraments; in the third, he exercises it in the practice of virtue; in the fourth, he strengthens it against temptation; in the fifth, he teaches it how to form its resolutions and to persevere. The "Introduction", which is a masterpiece of psychology, practical morality, and common sense, was translated into nearly every language even in the lifetime of the author, and it has since gone through innumerable editions. (4) "Treatise on the Love of God", an authoritative work which reflects perfectly the mind and heart of Francis de Sales as a great genius and a great saint. It contains twelve books. The first four give us a history, or rather explain the theory, of Divine love, its birth in the soul, its growth, its perfection, and its decay and annihilation; the fifth book shows that this love is twofold—the love of complacency and the love of benevolence; the sixth and seventh treat of <affective> love, which is practised in prayer; the eight and ninth deal with <effective> love, that is, conformity to the will of God, and submission to His good pleasure. The last three resume what has preceded and teach how to apply practically the lessons taught therein. (5) "Spiritual Conferences"; familiar conversations on religious virtues addressed to the sisters of the Visitation and collected by them. We find in them that practical common sense, keenness of perception and delicacy of feeling which were characteristic of the kind-hearted and energetic Saint. (6) "Sermons".—These are divided into two classes: those composed previously to his consecration as a bishop, and which he himself wrote out in full; and the discourses he delivered when a bishop, of which, as a rule, only outlines and synopses have been preserved. Some of the latter, however, were taken down < in extenso> by his hearers. Pius IX, in his Bull proclaiming him Doctor of the Church calls the Saint "The Master and Restorer of Sacred Eloquence". He is one of those who at the beginning of the seventeenth century formed the beautiful French language; he foreshadows and prepares the way for the great sacred orators about to appear. He speaks simply, naturally, and from his heart. To speak well we need only love well, was his maxim. His mind was imbued with the Holy Writings, which he comments, and explains, and applies practically with no less accuracy than grace. (7) "Letters", mostly letters of direction, in which the minister of God effaces himself and teaches the soul to listen to God, the only true director. The advice given is suited to all the circumstances and necessities of life and to all persons of good will. While trying to efface his own personality in these letters, the saint makes himself known to us and unconsciously discovers to us the treasures of his soul. (8) A large number of very precious treatises or opuscula.
Migne (5 vols., quarto) and Vives (12 vols., octavo, Paris) have edited the works of St. Francis de Sales. But the edition which we may call definitive was published at Annecy in 1892, by the English Benedictine, Dom Mackey: a work remarkable for its typographical execution, the brilliant criticism that settles the text, the large quantity of hitherto unedited matter, and the interesting study accompanying each volume. Dom Mackey published twelve volumes. Father Navatel, S.J., is continuing the work. We may give here a brief resume of the spiritual teaching contained in these works, of which the Church has said: "The writings of Francis de Sales, filled with celestial doctrine are a bright light in the Church, pointing out to souls an easy and safe way to arrive at the perfection of a Christian life." (Breviarium Romanum, 29 January, lect. VI.)
There are two elements in the spiritual life: first, a struggle against our lower nature; secondly, union of our wills with God, in other words, penance and love. St. Francis de Sales looks chiefly to love. Not that he neglects penance, which is absolutely necessary, but he wishes it to be practised from a motive of love. He requires mortification of the senses, but he relies first on mortification of the mind, the will, and the heart. This interior mortification he requires to be unceasing and always accompanied by love. The end to be realized is a life of loving, simple, generous, and constant fidelity to the will of God, which is nothing else than our present duty. The model proposed is Christ, whom we must ever keep before our eyes. "You will study His countenance, and perform your actions as He did" (Introd., 2nd part, ch. i). The practical means of arriving at this perfection are: remembrance of the presence of God, filial prayer, a right intention in all our actions, and frequent recourse to God by pious and confiding ejaculations and interior aspirations.
Besides the Institute of the Visitation, which he founded, the nineteenth century has seen associations of the secular clergy and pious laymen, and several religious congregations, formed under the patronage of the holy Doctor. Among them we may mention the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, of Annecy; the Salesians, founded at Turin by the Venerable Don Bosco, specially devoted to the Christian and technical education of the children of the poorer classes; the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, established at Troyes (France) by Father Brisson, who try to realize in the religious and priestly life the spirit of the holy Doctor, such as we have described it, and such as he bequeathed it to the nuns of the Visitation.

Transcribed by Frank O'Leary

The Problem of Evil - Powers and Principalities - by Dr. Gary D. Knight


Powers and Principalities ..
the (partly solved) problem of evil

Gary D. Knight


A pro-family organization sent their begging letter with wise words on the problem of evil. Still, disappointing it was to see the claim that evil is a vacuum or absence of good: a claim that seems just a little too parroted down the ages. Saints and doctors of the Church have said it, but I can’t help thinking they were hyperbolic over the purposes of the devil: to usher souls into that emptiness, excised from the reach of God’s light. Emptiness may be the direst privation and frost-burning absence, but the drawing pull into it is not its own.

The letter does mention the culpability of malice, say to stone someone, even if every element involved: stone, hands, muscles and even brains (as organs) are morally ‘neutral’. But this reiterates that the fact of creation is good, and short of explaining malice fails to address the agency of evil within hearts: the ‘powers’ and dominions or principalities which St. Paul takes very seriously as the enemy.

O Ephesians .. “we struggle not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities .. working spiritual evil in high places” ! Or as Jesus put it, fear him that is able to cast your soul into Hell. A first rendition of the Our Father ends “deliver us from the evil one.”

This issue percolated forth as I read a passage in the memoirs of the late father Bob Bedard, founder of the Ottawa-based Companions of the Cross. Halfway in this compelling autobiography, Bob (as he liked to be called as a high school teacher) places the main event that set him on a drastically altered trajectory, at the time of exploring the charismatic renewal of the Church, its reply to Pentecostalism.

Already taking place among his students were remarkable things: physical and moral healing after intercessory prayer. But something began to take offence at the eagerness for prayer that was dawning on his protégées. A classmate who’d given himself to pornography made the vow that if he could have a girl he lusted for, he’d repay it by shaming father Bob’s class. Eighteen year old Robert Poulin enticed the classmate to his subterranean den, raped and killed her, set fire to the home and sauntered of to shotgun their class, killing one boy and wounding several before he shot himself. He had just timed the assault for their prayerful assembly.

The globe-circling shock and local mayhem were simply incalculable. It was the fall of 1975. I had heard of this tragedy at St. Pius, Ottawa, when I was suffering (perpetrating) a failed marriage far away from the light of faith: the greatest tragedy of my own young life. Now years later, coming to see the lurid class-front details in the ink of father Bob, it struck forcibly how he and his pupils were frontally assaulted with gruesome evil. Not just an absence of good, it was a miasma of destruction, with a very personal and lacerating bite.

Two and three years before, two hugely lucrative pornographic films by mafioso Louis ‘Butchie’ Peraino were foisted on leased public theatres. The second of his graphic films parodied Dante’s Purgatorio where Miss Jones, bored with purgatory, makes a pact to earn Hell rather than Heaven by becoming Lust itself. Peraino - bad theology aside - was thumbing it at the conversion effects on some audiences (in tension between lust and guilt) of the less ‘glamorous’ Exorcist (1973). [Exorcist was contracted soon after the 1971 novel].

Pity Rob Poulin! From the age of 15 he was caught in the explosion of the (self-styled) ’Golden Age of pornography’ inaugurated by Peraino, his elders in the dark. From 14 he’d have been taken with Alice Cooper’s driving lyrics “I’m eighteen, I don’t know what I want”, with enough plaintive boredom to disparage what life any pubescent boy might hope for on reaching adulthood. Innumerable addictions come from boredom, a sin against hope. Boredom was operative for Emmanuelle, the hedonist woman featured in the influential ‘soft-core’ erotic film (1974) of that name; and there were other ‘boring’ sequels.

I’m not proposing to lay much blame on Vincent Furnier (Mr. Alice), even if his getup and antics seemed designed to romance devils. After finding Jesus on his downward spiral with alcohol, Vincent felt persuaded that what he’d played at was campy theatre more than malicious moral anarchy, unlike the dark side of acts like Marilyn Manson. The ethos of truly satanic songs (‘satan’ means adversary) is recidivist opposition to Christ.

Many are lured to this mind. In an episode of Britain’s Midsomer Murders, a feud of writers has a foil sub-story: local youth plot the ruin of their oafish drama teacher. Seduced by their diva and the tryst filmed, his lurid photos are pinned on the village church notice-board. To character-maim their coach does not satisfy the conspirators: any hope for a path to moral repentance in the community is to be shattered. Their sheer glibness makes the murders in the foreground story blanche by comparison.

Satanic acts can hardly be more corrosive than the presenting of love undone in glamour and comely dress or soft music, to lull the soul of Adonis into the claws of Moloch. Besmirched is the character of what is holy, as Kiss (even today obsessed-over by some) and others’ lyrics attest. That blot is not the mere absence of good or the negative pressure of vacuum .. it is intentional and cognizant.

However, I’d rather not think that erudite theologians were misled, as there is much truth in adages like “evil prevails where good folk do nothing”. Entropy (disorder) too is an impersonal force against the prevailing of life. But these privations are very far from the whole story. It is dulling to the conscience, say of king David, to dwell on a term like absence when he is so taken with things present. He may (briefly) wonder, ‘is this affection absent all good?’, and easily conclude ‘no: there’s beauty !’

Take entropy. I don’t pretend to know how biology was ordered before the fall, when life might ever have been able to prevail against entropy, but in the heat bath in which we now swim, life is surely not able to prevail against its unravelling fingers. Entropy can positively be seen as the cause of work to be done .. even the paradisal tending work of Adam. But if he and life before the fall could sustainably have prevailed against entropy (as we may believe), no amount of work now can keep something alive forever. Physical death, an ill effect of the fall, is described as an enemy to be overcome (tied to the ‘second death’ of the soul). But is it the radix of evil?

Cancer, ‘emperor of diseases’, is in the end a failure of genetic mechanisms to preserve parental cellular information noise-free. Nobel laureate John Polanyi, in a conference at Ordford Quebec, outlined that essential fact to a cadre of graduate biophysicists. Striking is its parallel with the fact that no technical copy of an object can retain all its information.

Contrarily, the entropic law stood aside when God made Eve. No diseased Adam, she is a ‘perfect other’, for nothing in her is less than the humanity, the imago Dei, of him. But nothing in her is greater either; so that when either was led to presume becoming ‘as God’, together they fell. They even did so before having blest ‘knowledge’ of each other .. so great was the draw of knowing good and evil. To know mere absence of good, a bleak blank, could hardly have been the appeal; so what really ‘beguiled’ them?

The devil, knowing that God knew him (better than himself actually), wanted to insinuate that God could ‘embrace’ evil as much as good .. a vain-hearted attempt to reduce God to what he was himself (‘God will be as me’). If this pose was deluded - and he tried it again with Jesus - nothing could more infuriate this enemy than hearing that said by a man. In that sense he took quite a risk of hearing Eve say it, or her husband - but then again he had nothing more to lose. He could not even go out of existence.

In describing the shootings that terrorized innumerable families, schools and father Bedard himself, the depraved moment is likened to that where “satan entered” Jesus’ betrayer. This hater of Jesus is no less vicious against prayer and the surrender of vices to Christ, so he avidly and aggressively seeks dupes from among those who might try.

The unnerving question is, how did he make a successful play for a dupe in a baptized soul at a Catholic pre-seminary school? It suggests the question of whether evil can be virtually incarnate. If it cannot really-and-truly mimic God’s hypostatic union with man, it can masquerade very closely. The Holy Spirit’s is the power to marry to or infuse as the soul of the son of Man; but power to infect the soul of a person with the venom of Shelob at Mordor, is the devil’s.

The beast of Apocalypse acts like a man, or mob, even with a human ‘number’, related maybe to human genetics. But it is an aberrant form of ‘carnum’ where evil is incarnate, or John would call it not beast but man. With human derivative genomics one shudders at how might a soul-less andromorph come to be, as without a soul it must lack conscience (that a message of the film Ex Machina). But the cringing really starts wherever men and women  have participated in evil without having been eviscerated of soul: all they had to lose was their conscience, as Rob Poulin had done.

The question that lingers on is, what is the spirit by which bright minds working in labs such as at Cambridge, go so far as to extract ova from a fetus, inseminate and bring them to term in vitro as test-tube embryos whose mother never got to be born. Aside from the glib question “what is the point?”, the moral one is “what could possess bright young men and women to do a thing like that?”.

Jesus stated that the love of power (or money, which is ‘power’) lies at evil’s root. Love this more than truth, and evil follows. Find a noxious evil like pornography, dig and you find lying at its root like a noisome nodule, a mob’s love of money. It has infected the heart, displacing the love of truth, goodness or even beauty.

An irony lies in the word ‘power’. God’s power of love can make all real things from nothing. The love of power instead vitiates or makes unreal any potential good, for “without Me you can do nothing”. Absence of good is operating here in background, but love of power ties to love of self; and the real venom that gutted a self that would have gorged itself, is the disordered love. This distortion of love is no vacuum: its author’s real malice for the love that is true, seeks to cast all good into some place away from God, some outer walled darkness.

So then, absence of good would seem to misread the essence or at least the problem of ‘evil’. Saints wrestling with it acknowledged that being itself is good, for God is its cause. But by that, any state thought to be without all good vanishes as soon as someone goes there, even the devil. A better name for a notional power able to negate or overcome God is really ‘notGod’ which is vacuous, for God is “all in all” [1 Corinthians 15:28]. But there is certainly a mad power that attempts it, and that is evil.

The question “why does God permit evil” is misconstrued if asking ‘does He admit of anything with the power to exclude His presence and ground of being’, because He doesn’t. So to think that’s the problem is probably to have misread the fathers, who were seized of some other hypothetical problem, lost in modern translations.

It seems true that God opts not to be present to the damned, after leading captivity free, from the anteroom of Hell. But if we rephrase the question as “why does God have hell exist or, if it must house the rebel angels, why must they afflict the innocent?” it is no more a question about the absence of good. It is Augustinian to note the emptiness in every person’s soul that only God can fill: yet it creates tension that draws souls to God, so cannot be the essence of evil. A Cathar heresy would read into man’s proclivity to sin, that he is radically evil. No, but evil is a self-betrayer’s mad, mindless intention to be heedless of the inner pull to God, the conscience.

Madness has been cited now several times, with reason. To read father Bob is to conclude the murderer was criminally insane. Most literary depictions of radical evil use as type the psychopath. And still evil insinuates itself at a more subtle level of non-sanity. Paschal said whimsically that given the consequences of being wrong, the dare to deny God’s existence is insane. Self-satisfied scepticism is so out of proportion to the error that it is madness to obdurately embrace it.

Kids learn that a dare is to tempt God (or as some say, fate, which is just post-hoc ratio) and basically mad. I did not learn it till later, starting from daring myself into dangerous things and not ending even as a young adult when I found myself skiing towards imminent death, flying over a two-lane highway on the side of an Alp. I dared to read < ! > as ‘caution’ or ‘watch yourself’ - but it meant ‘Stop !’.  To apply Pascal to ‘extreme sport’ mindedness, God is owed a huge debt if He arrests destiny, and we are owed due punishment if not.

Jesus advised most solemnly, ‘fear he who is able to cast your soul into Hell’. The Son of God’s reason for being born was so much more than the Christmassy gift to a devout, expectant and magnificent virgin: it would beget her dismay at his going subject to unjust malice, to save souls from the destiny meted to the betrayer.

The Hades of supernatural (perhaps infra natural) captivity after death was freed of justified souls by the descended Christ - its gates not prevailing. So we tremble at the bleak prospect of souls who will not be justified and for whose madness the gates and its keeper are permitted to prevail, just as entropy is permitted to master life.

A subtler malice that can masquerade under the guise of this or that system of ethics .. the utilitarian or the ‘greater good’ deontic or communitarian or nominalist among others .. is hard to detect even in oneself. Any evildoer believes that their choices are ‘good’ for them-self: what we disdain, we eschew. On what basis if not God, can constructive ‘ethics’ know real good? Saying none, if a sceptic must deny ever knowing good, then be scepticism ever shunned.

Passion may rear up as disdain bordering on hate for someone who has a good word, maybe a TV evangelist or a Bob Bedard calling the class to prayer. Most other times it is more nuanced. Take for instance this line, which could have come from the briefing book of a population-control lobby: “pro-lifers should be glad of late term abortion access, because removing it puts more women under the pressure of deciding earlier rather than later on the continuation of their pregnancy”.  A pro-life ‘end’ - a mother’s continued pregnancy - is used to pull for late-term abortion as extending her decision time.

Such subtleness is the soul of evil. Against it, supposing evil to be an abstract absence of good is only a mental anaesthetic. It acts like the gall of a bed-bug’s proboscis, tipped in a narcoleptic venom: you won’t feel its bite. If there’s some recognizable ‘good’ present, like giving a panicked woman longer to decide, or helping to limit the population density of a village, you can play God on its value and use the idea that evil is its complete absence to go on thinking we’re not here dealing with the devil, not really. Well, Hello !  Yes we are.

There are scriptural ways to grasp this. Jesus said that some hearers ‘hated’ him, although they were just non-affectionate in their show of gratitude or readiness to imbibe his words (words like, ‘you have no life in you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man’). Those who had feelings may have thought, “who, me?”  — and the answer would be Yes even you: you did not choose me, I chose you. Another time He said “not those who say Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom, but those who do the will of the Father”. Shame of the deeper and personal good can only mean shame at the end.

Many visitors of the sick, feeders of the hungry, helpers of the poor, will complain “when did we see you and not serve you?”, answered by “when you didn’t do it to the least”. The curse “depart from me, I do not know you” is the Lord saying we cannot conceal a hard heart. “You, who are evil [inclined], know how to give good things”. So then it is not unawareness and absence of good; it is a case of neglect despite what a lively conscience might have been heard to say, with no-one paying attention.

Evil is a self-justifying spirit of shrugging off and even mugging one’s conscience about neglect of others or indulgence of self. A man might suffer a wrong from a business; for him to move into hate of the shop-owner or prejudice of his race would be the evil of Adolph. What else could Jesus have meant in the Our Father, when we say “forgive me my trespasses as I forgive who has offended me: and lead us from temptation and the evil one”? With emphasis on ‘us’ - both the offended and the offender - the plea of the prayer is that neither of us fall further into temptation and the power of the evil one, by rehearsing past insults on our prideful self.

In some sense evil is a lightless black hole outside the cosmic vacuum and shunned by the all-present Spirit of the Lord (as Hell appears to be, by God’s election after having led captivity free). But it is mirrored by the bottomless gulf into which we let the conscience fall. After the fall, with ugly proclivities, wills weak for the good, and intellects dull of truth, we don’t naturally embrace conscience.  It strikes us as a goad, and the Spirit’s aid of convincing grace is needed even to begin to become grace-filled.

This dilemma exposes a subtle distinction about natural law.  What comes naturally to the fallen nature is not its salvation, but its demise; whereas what lies in the natural law is what’s left of the just man that is able to trouble the heart and mind into right action. The war that Paul spoke of is an innate war between the fallen ‘natural man’ and the vivifying hope quiescently vested in the conscience.

As prevenient grace can lead a sinner home, or let him be found, it can act only if there’s a conscience. Replacing conscience with a claimed ‘right to sin’ (mistaking free will), or with a public ethic such as duty to a party, is to block grace. It’s why pope John Paul named it unpardonable [Domininum et Vivificantem 46]. Silencing the conscience is to ensconce the soul in the cocoon that enwraps a spider’s prey: Shelob then has her way.

The hope of Christians is the closeness of Christ, ever knocking on the door of conscience. Cardinal Newman called conscience the unbidden voice of God. “I am closer to you than hands or feet”, and “behold I am with you even to the end of time”. Saint Paul counsels against craven fear of evil because He that is far greater is with us: “If God is with us, who can be against?”. Surely to resist the devil is to see him flee; but that requires resisting something we know is there.

A constant Christian prayer is for deliverance and conversion (through enlivening of conscience) of leaders in society, people of power and influence in high places as well as menial clerical offices, whose decisions affect the freedom of conscience of all. The cry ‘give me liberty or give me death’ was an expression of conscience, and still more, ‘without conscience no-one is free’.  John Paul II named conscience the essential human thing.

At present, in the malaise of ‘sophistication’, influential people suppose that concern for environments, global warming, mass emigration, world health and overpopulation automatically show an enlightened conscience. Inattention to personal conscience for the sanctity of one’s life or of a neighbour, shows how big ideas are ready to delude. When a Governor General inveighs with scientists that no self-respecting Christian can question the predicates of human evolution from primates, or that population is the evil behind global warming, there is an elephant in the room. The pachyderm’s feet are battering the heads of conscience.

We’ve moved from the manifest evil of a boy possessed of hate and lust, to the ideological evil of an assembly of humanists. The pitiably driven youth killed three: a girl and a boy, and himself, and traumatized many. But now a coterie of population controllers who never killed or lusted for anyone, or were other than empathic at the privations of refugee camps, are being chastened as dupes of the duplicitous devil. Why? Because a slippery slope of self-justification juts between a present state of unawareness to the final state of horrid surprise. It is a needed wake-up call.

When my own marriage ended I rationalized, as we were exceedingly young and immature, unready, improvident, beset with jealousies. Thus far the ‘higher critique’ of philosophical enlightenment. A presumed superiority of deciding the right (a moral nominalism underlying social constructivism) led more quickly than you’d guess to realms of self abuse able to attack other people’s marriages. After merciful deliverance from that terminus, my conscience began to show how the target of marauding Mephistopheles is marriage itself.

#BreakingNews 10 Catholic Priests and 2 Nuns Arrested - with 6 Killed by Police in DR Congo

AFRICA/DR CONGO - Violent repression of demonstrations: at least 6 dead, a dozen priests kidnapped

Monday, 22 January 2018
Fides Report: Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - At least 10 priests and two nuns were kidnapped by the police in the clashes which occurred yesterday, Sunday, January 21, in several cities of the Democratic Republic of Congo, due to the violent repression of a new protest initiative promoted by Catholic laity.
"We are aware of the fact that ten priests were arrested, including Fr. Dieudonné Mukinayi, of the parish of Saint Christophe de Binza Ozone. He was kidnapped along with eight parishioners", said Georges Kapiamba, President of the Association Congolaise pour l'Accès à la Justice (ACAJ), according to which two religious sisters have also been kidnapped.
"The arrested priests could even be 12 in addition to the two nuns", sources from the Congolese Church told Agenzia Fides. "Unlike December 31, this time the protests affected many cities throughout the DRC" say our sources.
"In the capital, Kinshasa, from where it was launched, the call for demonstration was accepted in all the municipalities. In Goma (the capital of North Kivu), where on 31 December the call for demonstration had not been re-launched at a local level, this time instead a demonstration took place after Mass in the cathedral, which was repressed by the police. In the capital of South Kivu, Bukavu, the police stopped the protest by preventing people from gathering. In Mbuji-Mayi, capital of Eastern Kasai, churches had been surrounded by the military since the early morning. The local Bishop had to publish a statement to ask priests to have the courage to carry out religious services. But in the cathedral of Mbuji-Mayi the military interrupted the Mass, preventing the consecration of the Eucharist" say Fides sources.
"5 people have died so far, but the number could be higher, maybe 6 or 7. Among these there is the daughter of a police officer who died simply to protect some girls when the military started shooting in the parish of Saint Kizito in Kinshasa".
The provisional toll of the repression presented by MONUSCO (UN Mission in the DRC) is 6 dead, 57 injured and more than 100 people arrested.
Yesterday's demonstration was also called by the Catholic laity to exert pressure on President Joseph Kabila to respect the New Year's Eve Agreements of December 31, 2016 and above all to obtain from him the solemn commitment not to run as a candidate at the December 23, 2018 elections.
Yesterday Pope Francis launched an appeal "asking the authorities, the leaders and everyone in this beloved Country, to avoid all forms of violence and seek solutions for the common good. All together, in silence, we pray for this intention, for our brothers in the Democratic Republic of Congo", the Holy Father said after the Angelus. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 22/1/2018)
Image source; http://www.mediamaxnetwork.co.ke

2nd Report: 

AFRICA/DR CONGO - "Protests led by the Catholic laity will continue"; the Nunciature: "fatal bullets fired against demonstrators"

Tuesday, 23 January 2018 
 Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - "The government is trying to put the blame on the organizers regarding the violent protest march held on Sunday", report Church sources of the Democratic Republic of Congo to Agenzia Fides, where on Sunday 21st January in several cities of the country law enforcement officers fired teargas to disperse demonstrations organized by the Lay Coordination Committee of the DRC against the continued rule of President Joseph Kabila. The protest was the latest in a series since Kabila refused to step down at the end of his mandate in December 2016. Despite the repression, the Catholic laity will not surrender, because as reported by Fides sources "they want to organize other demonstrations". "This is because - explain the sources - we now have the distinct impression that those in power do not want to leave. Demonstrations therefore remain the only form of protest, albeit weak, to put pressure and hope that something changes within the presidential regime".
"Nothing is known about the ten priests arrested on Sunday, January 21" our sources say. "We only know that one of the arrested priests has been accused of attempted aggression by a minister because in order to escape the firing of tear gas by the police, the priest along with other people, took refuge in a house, which belongs to the minister in question. The minister then accused the priest and the people who were trying to attack him, but it is a false version".
"In conclusion, the Catholic laity led the protest against Kabila. Several parish priests joined the protest initiatives. It is important to reiterate that the initiatives were taken by the laity and not by CENCO (National Episcopal Conference of the Congo) or by individual Bishops", the sources conclude.
In a "Technical Note", the Apostolic Nunciature in Kinshasa confirms that the police fired real, potentially fatal bullets against demonstrators in the capital Kinshasa, and in the cities of Kisangani (north-east), Goma and Bukavu (North and South Kivu, in the east), Lubumbashi (south-east) and Mbuji-Mayi (center). In the note titled "Parishes disturbed by the police" the police are accused of having surrounded the churches and of firing tear gas and real bullets.
According to the Note of the Nunciature "at least one priest was wounded and at least three others were arrested in Kinshasa". Among the victims was a woman who had wanted to become a nun (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 23/1/2018) 

Pope Francis "We cannot remain silent in the face of the suffering of millions..." at #Economic Forum - FULL TEXT at Vatican


MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO THE EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF THE “WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM”
ON THE OCCASION OF THE ANNUAL GATHERING IN DAVOS-KLOSTERS
[23-26 JANUARY 2018]

To Professor Klaus Schwab
Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum
I am grateful for your invitation to participate in the World Economic Forum 2018 and for your desire to include the perspective of the Catholic Church and the Holy See at the meeting in Davos. I thank you also for your efforts to bring this perspective to the attention of those gathered for this annual Forum, including the distinguished political and governmental authorities present and all those engaged in the fields of business, the economy, work and culture, as they discuss the challenges, concerns, hopes and prospects of the world today and of the future.
The theme chosen for this year’s Forum – Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World – is very timely. I trust that it will assist in guiding your deliberations as you seek better foundations for building inclusive, just and supportive societies, capable of restoring dignity to those who live with great uncertainty and who are unable to dream of a better world.
At the level of global governance, we are increasingly aware that there is a growing fragmentation between States and Institutions. New actors are emerging, as well as new economic competition and regional trade agreements. Even the most recent technologies are transforming economic models and the globalized world itself, which, conditioned by private interests and an ambition for profit at all costs, seem to favour further fragmentation and individualism, rather than to facilitate approaches that are more inclusive.
The recurring financial instabilities have brought new problems and serious challenges that governments must confront, such as the growth of unemployment, the increase in various forms of poverty, the widening of the socio-economic gap and new forms of slavery, often rooted in situations of conflict, migration and various social problems. “Together with this, we encounter certain rather selfish lifestyles, marked by an opulence which is no longer sustainable and frequently indifferent to the world around us, and especially to the poorest of the poor. To our dismay we see technical and economic questions dominating political debate, to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings. Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited, with the result that – as is so tragically apparent – whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms” (Address to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 25 November 2014).
In this context, it is vital to safeguard the dignity of the human person, in particular by offering to all people real opportunities for integral human development and by implementing economic policies that favour the family. “Economic freedom must not prevail over the practical freedom of man and over his rights, and the market must not be absolute, but honour the exigencies of justice” (Address to the General Confederation of Italian Industry, 27 February 2016). Economic models, therefore, are also required to observe an ethic of sustainable and integral development, based on values that place the human person and his or her rights at the centre.
“Before the many barriers of injustice, of loneliness, of distrust and of suspicion which are still being elaborated in our day, the world of labour is called upon to take courageous steps in order that ‘being and working together’ is not merely a slogan but a programme for the present and the future” (Ibid.). Only through a firm resolve shared by all economic actors may we hope to give a new direction to the destiny of our world. So too artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological innovations must be so employed that they contribute to the service of humanity and to the protection of our common home, rather than to the contrary, as some assessments unfortunately foresee.
We cannot remain silent in the face of the suffering of millions of people whose dignity is wounded, nor can we continue to move forward as if the spread of poverty and injustice had no cause. It is a moral imperative, a responsibility that involves everyone, to create the right conditions to allow each person to live in a dignified manner. By rejecting a “throwaway” culture and a mentality of indifference, the entrepreneurial world has enormous potential to effect substantial change by increasing the quality of productivity, creating new jobs, respecting labour laws, fighting against public and private corruption and promoting social justice, together with the fair and equitable sharing of profits.
There is a grave responsibility to exercise wise discernment, for the decisions made will be decisive for shaping the world of tomorrow and that of future generations. Thus, if we want a more secure future, one that encourages the prosperity of all, then it is necessary to keep the compass continually oriented towards “true North”, represented by authentic values. Now is the time to take courageous and bold steps for our beloved planet. This is the right moment to put into action our responsibility to contribute to the development of humanity.
I hope, therefore, that this 2018 meeting of the World Economic Forum will allow an open, free, and respectful exchange, and be inspired above all else by the desire to advance the common good.
In renewing my best wishes for the success of the meeting, I willingly invoke upon you and all participating in the Forum the divine blessings of wisdom and strength.
From the Vatican, 12 January 2018

Francis
Text Source: Vatican.va