Tuesday, August 29, 2017

"Edmund Campion: A Life" by Evelyn Waugh

            When an accomplished and celebrated novelist writes a biography, it is no small matter. The subject must be great indeed, to be the cause of such a deviation. In the case of Evelyn Waugh, the noble subject is none other than the great martyr Saint Edmund Campion.

            Edmund Campion: A Life was written by Evelyn Waugh in 1935, only five years after converting to the Catholic Church, and won the Hawthornden Prize in 1936. This is clear in his writing, which displays the vibrancy and fervor rarely found outside recent converts to the one true faith.

            This wonderful book is far more than a biography, far more than simply a glimpse into the life of this powerful martyr; it is a portrait, intricately woven, of the effects of the Protestant Reformation on English scholarship, politics, government, and religion. Indeed, Campion himself is merely a character in this sad story, one that shines with the light of hope and righteousness in a culture as confused and disoriented as the one in America today.

            Like St. Thomas More, Edmund Campion was a man deeply rooted in English society, almost as in love with his country as he was with Christ. He was raised at Oxford, and quickly garnered the attention of not only his contemporaries, but Queen Elizabeth herself. Campion was a man that had everything going for him, every opportunity at his fingertips. But the truth is a persistent thing, and the more he studied, the more he came to know that the Catholic faith was the only place of truth. According to Percy Hutchison, author of the New York Times article “Evelyn Waugh's Life of Edmund Campion” in 1936 describes Campion’s situation, saying,
“He was devoted to his Queen. In every fiber of body and mind he was an Englishman. But he was of the opposite faith from the queen. His political allegiance could give whole-heartedly; his religious allegiance lay elsewhere.” (1)
The court of Queen Elizabeth could afford no such loyalties, let alone from within their ranks. So Campion left and joined the Jesuits.

            He served his order in Europe, but as the persecutions of Catholics in England worsened, Campion was called by Rome to return to his native land to aid his beleaguered brethren in their plight, and did so knowing that it could only end in his suffering and death. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, Campion could not be swayed by the fickle yet tempting nuances of apostasy, dereliction, and conspiracy; no, he sought nothing but complete holiness and perfection. Waugh beautifully describes this, saying,
“In a world where everything was, by its nature, a makeshift and poor reflection of reality, why throw up so much that was excellent, in straining for a remote and perhaps unattainable perfection? It was an argument which might be—which was—accepted by countless decent people, then and later, but there was that in Campion that made him more than a decent person; an embryo in the womb of his being, maturing in darkness, invisible, barely stirring; the love of holiness, the need for sacrifice. He could not accept.” (39).

            This effortlessly beautiful work of spiritual writing ought to be added to the canon of every young Catholic seeking to bring about the New Evangelization and make disciples of all nations. For our efforts will surely fail if we settle for excellence; only by the constant pursuit of the sacrificial fires of perfection, like Saint Edmund Campion, can we hope to be successful. 

Hutchison, Percy. “Evelyn Waugh's Life of Edmund Campion.” New York Times. 5 January 1936. Web.
Waugh, Evelyn. Edmund Campion: A Life. Ignatius Press, 2007. Print.

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Little More About Gregorian Chant

Grace and peace to you from God Our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
            In my last blog, I discussed the history and relevance of Gregorian chant, which begged the following questions: if Gregorian chant is so integral to the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, why do so few churches in America utilize it? How do we, as Catholics, work to revitalize this powerful tradition and revive the reverence of the mass? Indeed, Valentino Grau asks this same question in his essay “Gregorian Chant: The Possibilities and Conditions for a Revival,” saying, “How could a bunch of insipid tunes stamped out according to the models of the most trivial popular music ever replace the nobility and robustness of the Gregorian melodies, even the most simple ones, which are capable of lifting the hearts of the people up to heaven?” (21).
            First of all, the Catholic Church in America has ever been besieged by the influence of Evangelical Protestantism, particularly in the realm of music, with their “revival meetings.” These early “worship” services consisted of a short sermon followed by highly emotive music that would cause people to be “caught up in the Spirit” until they would burst into a prophetic tongue. These non-liturgies were very attractive and garnered hundreds of Protestants who sought to leave the high and lofty liturgies with their bells and smells for the emotional high provided by these revival meetings.
This frightening reality is but a glimpse of what has happened to the music in the Sacred Liturgy in America today, which really turn its worst turn at Vatican II. According to our good friend Edward Schaefer, “Prior to the Council there was an intense and growing conflict between musicians and liturgists” (136). Musicians sought to follow the teachings and traditions of the Church by keeping the music sacred and the liturgy reverent, while liturgists, usually unqualified laypeople, sought to make the mass more engaging, and unfortunately, more Protestant. Ann Labounsky outlines the differences between liturgists and musicians in her book Jean Langlais: The Man and His Music and hits the nail on the head ten times when she describes the approach and methods of the liturgists. The painfully accurate list includes the following:

1.      Emphasis on total revision of the liturgy discarding the musical patrimony of the Church, including Gregorian Chant, polyphony, and Classical music.
2.      Verbal emphasis: weakening symbols. Vernacular important; Latin unimportant.
3.      Use of new composed music of very simple and repetitive character.
4.      Priest as celebrant, presider, president of the assembly, more in the Protestant role model.
5.      No distinction between sacred and secular. Utilitarian nature of worship.
6.      Choirs less important than congregational singing.
7.      External signs of piety preferred to internal signs. Action rather than contemplation.
8.      Mass as a meal of commemoration. All part of Mass equally sacred. Informal, folksy worship. Spontaneous, human-centered meal.
9.      Community, people-centered worship.
10.  Subjective criteria for planning worship.

I'm sorry, I was going to summarize, but they are all too real and I couldn’t leave even one of them out. If this list doesn’t describe your parish, then you are one of the few Catholics in America blessed with a reverent liturgy (I am quite spoiled in this regard; Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, Arizona excels in their celebration of the liturgy, particularly with the greatness of their sacred music). Unfortunately, the list above is the best case scenario for most Catholics—believe me, I mean best.
Let me be clear; the Holy Mass is a sacrament administered by the Roman Catholic Church that is objectively good, true, and beautiful, and cannot be marred. I am not suggesting that the poor substitute to sacred music that most Catholics in America endure each Sunday—or anything for that matter—could mar the greatness of the mass. What can be marred, what can be made irreverent, invalid, irrelevant, sacrilegious, is the celebration of the mass, which is known as the liturgy.
So what can be done to fix this astronomical problem? How do we bring back the reverence? Step One: bring back Gregorian chant. As I discussed in my previous blog, nothing is more universal, communalizing, and orthodox than the music that exclusively served the Catholic liturgy for over 1,960 years. Grau boldly proclaims two other factors that are indispensable for revitalizing good sacred music, saying:

1.      Above all, the musical formation of priests, religious, and the faithful requires seriousness, and the avoidance of the halfhearted amateurishness seen in some volunteers. Those who have gone through great pains to prepare themselves for this service must be hired, and proper remuneration for them secured. In a word, we must know how to spend money on music. It is unthinkable that we should spend money on everything from flowers to banners, but not on music. What sense would it make to encourage young people to study, and then keep them unemployed, if not indeed humiliated or tormented by our whims and our lack of seriousness?
2.      The second necessary factor is harmony in action. John Paul II recalled: “The musical aspect of liturgical celebrations cannot be left to improvisation or the decision of individuals, but must be entrusted to well-coordinated leadership, in respect for the norms and competent authorities, as the substantial outcome of an adequate liturgical formation.” So, then, respect for the norms—which is already a widespread desire. We are waiting for authoritative directives, imparted with authority. And the coordination of all the local initiatives and practices is a service that rightfully belongs to the Church of Rome, to the Holy See. This is the opportune moment, and there is no time to waste.

So let’s set up the process:
Step One: Pray for the spiritual renewal of the Sacred Liturgy.
Step Two: Bring back Gregorian chant.
Step Three: Proper catechesis and professional formation.
Step Four: Better stewardship of parish resources to include staff and musicians properly educated and trained for the services they provide.
Step Five: Follow to the letter the precepts and teachings of the Catholic Church regarding the Sacred Liturgy.
Step Six: The Universal Church complete the steps above together and at the same time.

Let's get to work, shall we? 

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful,
And enkindle in them the fire of thy love.
Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created,
And Thou shalt renew the face of the Earth.

O Holy God, you are the font of life and the fire of love. Grant that we, your holy servants, might be graced with the wisdom to know your will, and that, by the guiding hand of Holy Mary, your most precious spouse, we may always seek what is truly holy and reverent, not submitting to the desires of our fallen nature, but ever obeying the precepts of your Holy Church. We ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Grau, Valentino Miserachs. “Gregorian Chant: The Possibilities and Conditions for a Revival.” Sacred Music. Winter 2005, Vol. 132 Issue 4, p20-23. Web.

Schaefer, Edward. Catholic Music Through the Ages. Hillenbrand Books, 2008. Print. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Rene Descartes Life as an Adventurer

Rene Descartes ¹
Throughout Rene Descartes Discourse on the Method, he continuously goes back to the underlying theme of his work. This theme is one of culture, people, individuals, the soul, tradition, and culture. Most importantly, how it is all connected int he human mind, and all stems from God. Descartes does not stay stuck in one place, and throughout his work, he goes through his own emotional, mental, and physical journey to try to find the answers he seeks. 

“In the same way I thought that the sciences contained in books (such of them at least as are made up of probable reasonings, without demonstrations), composed as they are of the opinions of many different individuals massed together, are farther removed from truth than the simple inferences which a man of good sense using his natural and unprejudiced judgment draws respecting the matters of his experience. And because we have all to pass through a state of infancy to manhood, and have been of necessity, for a length of time, governed by our desires and preceptors (whose dictates were frequently conflicting, while neither perhaps always counselled us for the best), I farther concluded that it is almost impossible that our judgments can be so correct or solid as they would have been, had our reason been mature from the moment of our birth, and had we always been guided by it alone.”²

Descartes journey not only leads him to better understanding other religions, races, traditions, and cultures, but it helps him better understand himself, mankind's connection to God, and even God himself. In his coming to the conclusions he does of mankind's connection with God, he understands and speaks of how even though we as humans are imperfect beings, we are still rational. With our rationality, we can understand and acknowledge our imperfectness, and come to the realization that through God, we remain stable imperfect beings, that even though our dependence relies on God, because he is perfect, we can be perfect through him. 

“But at the end of the path, Descartes arrived at an absolutely indubitable: the so-called cogito, the “I think,” meaning “I am aware, sensorily, appetitively, imaginatively, recollectively, intellectually, and volitionally.” To attempt to doubt one's self-presence in wakeful states is to instantiate it. From that fixed point, Descartes attempted to prove the substantial difference between thought so conceived and body as extension; then the existence of God as non-deceiver, a mathematically reconstructed view of nature, the control of which for human benefit was the ultimate fruit; and, finally, a rehabilitation of the sensory world as a coherent presentation of threats and opportunities for human adjustment to the environment. Human subjectivity took center stage and has directed modernity ever since.”³

Throughout his journey, he comes to many realizations, everything from the constitution of mankind, to our connection to God, God himself and how he is connected to everything, the individuals ability to recognize itself, etc. With his ability to open his self to other outside people and cultures, he was able to step away from the scriptures and texts of the ancients, and truly try to experience life in his own way. 

His studies were graced with hard to get books and scriptures from old ancients and those who had experienced big things in their lives. Descartes considered himself very lucky to have the education he did, being taught by the best while studying the best. But he felt let down and unfulfilled when he came to the understanding that with all the knowledge at his hands, he was not truly learning how mankind was in the real world, in the moment and sporadically. With this he started to hold his own opinions, to look more into his own, to look at the souls and beings of those around him, and to try to include himself in all the thriving life and action around him. 

"For as I had from that time begun to hold my own opinions for nought because I wished to subject them all to examination, I was convinced that I could not do better than follow in the meantime the opinions of the most judicious; and although there are some perhaps among the Persians and Chinese as judicious as among ourselves, expediency seemed to dictate that I should regulate my practice conformably to the opinions of those with whom I should have to live; and it appeared to me that, in order to ascertain the real opinions of such, I ought rather to take cognizance of what they practised than of what they said, not only because, in the corruption of our manners, there are few disposed to speak exactly as they believe, but also because very many are not aware of what it is that they really believe; for, as the act of mind by which a thing is believed is different from that by which we know that we believe it, the one act is often found without the other.”⁴

Another problem he encounters through his journey is the lack of people to be able to open up, to do something that might be considered uncomfortable. He found that many people choose the beaten path, the paved and easy one that seems comfortable and 'familiar". He wants people to be able to come out of themselves, as he wishes for himself, to step out of the familiar and do something unusual from what they have always known. 

“But the reason which leads many to persuade themselves that there is a difficulty in knowing this truth, and even also in knowing what their mind really is, is that they never raise their thoughts above sensible objects, and are so accustomed to consider nothing except by way of imagination, which is a mode of thinking limited to material objects, that all that is not imaginable seems to them not intelligible.”⁵
Descartes mentions how professors and philosophers teach that there exists nothing that cannot be perceived by the senses:

“…the philosophers of the schools accept as a maxim that there is nothing in the understanding which was not previously in the senses, in which however it is certain that the ideas of God and of the soul have never been; and it appears to me that they who make use of their imagination to comprehend these ideas do exactly the same thing as if, in order to hear sounds or smell odours, they strove to avail themselves of their eyes;…”⁶

While in the subject of the senses and the human/animal anatomy, he also speaks of life that does not come from God, like that is created by humans but does not have the capacity to preform and act as humans do through God's grace. He applies the concept of two tests to any artificial intelligent life that could be like a machine or “robot”
1. not having the ability to truly express themselves as humans can: being hurt, expressing emotion, etc.
2. Do not have the ability to act out actions from which they have not the appropriate organ. 

“It could be discovered that they did not act from knowledge, but solely from the disposition of their organs: for while reason is an universal instrument that is alike available on every occasion, these organs, on the contrary, need a particular arrangement for each particular action; whence it must be morally impossible that there should exist in any machine a diversity of organs sufficient to enable it to act in all the occurrences of life, in the way in which our reason enables us to act.”⁷

Robots do not have the ability to act outside of themselves, quite like a human who has never been allowed or never experienced/ventured past what they have always known, what is common to them, or regular. They do not have God flowing through them, they do not have the internal organs and blood pumping and beating inside of them, they do not have a soul or the ability to gather experiences and learn as Rene Descartes and all other humans do. The moment he speaks of the artificial life, is the moment his work truly comes together, for it is here that the ability to learn, experience, think and reflect, and understand, is truly seen as a gift from God by God, for the human person, the rational soul. 

We are material creatures, but immaterial beings, at the same time. Our two natures co exist, and this is one of Descartes main points throughout his work, without directly saying it. Through his time with different people, understanding different minds and outlooks on life from the people themselves, he was able to grasp concepts of the human mind and conscience. Toward the end of his writing, he makes note of how if he had never stepped away from his classroom with all of his books and teachers, he might never have come to the conclusions he did. It was only through hands on experience and time, energy, thinking and rationalization that he was able to truly grasp a better understand of what it means to be a man in this world filled with so much life and meaning.  

“Besides this, the habit which they will acquire, by seeking first what is easy, and then passing onward slowly and step by step to the more difficult, will benefit them more than all my instructions. Thus, in my own case, I am persuaded that if I had been taught from my youth all the truths of which I have since sought out demonstrations, and had thus learned them without labour, I should never, perhaps, have known any beyond these; at least, I should never have acquired the habit and the facility which I think I possess in always discovering new truths in proportion as I give myself to the search. And, in a single word, if there is any work in the world which cannot be so well finished by another as by him who has commenced it, it is that at which I labour.”⁸


² Rene Descartes, “Discourse on the Method…”, 1635, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/descartes/1635/discourse-method.htm , P. 2, Para. 1
³ Robert Wood, “New Catholic Encyclopedia Supplement 2012-2013: Ethics and Philosophy”. Ed. Robert L. Fastiggi. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 2013. p1478-1480.
⁴ Rene Descartes, “Discourse on the Method”, P. 3, Para. 2
⁵ IBID, P. 4, Para. 6
⁶ IBID, P. 4, Para. 6
⁷ IBID, P. 5, Para. 7
⁸ IBID, P. 6, Para. 6

Rene Descartes: An Auto-Biography

Rene Descartes ¹
Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking the Truth in the Sciences acts an autobiography for Rene Descartes. In his six part adventure, he details his internal thoughts, based off of all he learns in the world. He experiences, studies, reads, and questions his reality, human and earthly reality, and the reality of God. He also goes into detail of his own personal experience both in the classroom and in the real world. He describes his experiences and thoughts on the world and how we should be able to learn and look at the world and our fellow man. 


He breaks down his young school time, what he was taught and how he came to understand certain things. This is all based off scripture and readings of the life of older long passed men, or even the understandings and works of men who had themselves experienced the world. He tells that he studied amongst the greatest minds, and had access to books and works that not many others in his time did. While he has this access to this amazing schooling, he still felt unfulfilled with it. He felt stuck in the fact that he never went on adventures, he never experienced the very things he read about, he shared no emotional or personal connection with the workings and scriptures he was reading and studying.  After he finished all of his school, it was only then that Descartes decided to completely change his mind and alter his life and study goals. 

But I believed that I had already given sufficient time to languages, and likewise to the reading of the writings of the ancients, to their histories and fables. For to hold converse with those of other ages and to travel, are almost the same thing. It is useful to know something of the manners of different nations, that we may be enabled to form a more correct judgment regarding our own, and be prevented from thinking that everything contrary to our customs is ridiculous and irrational, a conclusion usually come to by those whose experience has been limited to their own country. On the other hand, when too much time is occupied in travelling, we become strangers to our native country; and the over curious in the customs of the past are generally ignorant of those of the present. Besides, fictitious narratives lead us to imagine the possibility of many events that are impossible; and even the most faithful histories, if they do not wholly misrepresent matters, or exaggerate their importance to render the account of them more worthy of perusal, omit, at least, almost always the meanest and least striking of the attendant circumstances; hence it happens that the remainder does not represent the truth, and that such as regulate their conduct by examples drawn from this source, are apt to fall into the extravagances of the knight-errants of romance, and to entertain projects that exceed their powers.” ²

As long as his schooling was, it was just as simple for him to ditch the books and scriptures, and live for experience. When he began his study on people and the world, he realized that he needed to start somewhere else. He found to much in the world that he needed answers for still, so he reflected on himself, on his own inner and external being. How his being might interact with the world, and what could be trusted as truth, what might run through the minds of others in groups or individuals, as he studied his own individual self. With this, he moves into part two. 


“In the same way I fancied that those nations which, starting from a semi-barbarous state and advancing to civilization by slow degrees, have had their laws successively determined, and, as it were, forced upon them simply by experience of the hurtfulness of particular crimes and disputes, would by this process come to be possessed of less perfect institutions than those which, from the commencement of their association as communities, have followed the appointments of some wise legislator. It is thus quite certain that the constitution of the true religion, the ordinances of which are derived from God, must be incomparably superior to that of every other.” ³

He studied the ideals and thinking of groups compared to individuals by looking at the architects who worked on some of the greatest cities in the world. He noticed that in cities where there was only one lead architect, the cities were laid out better, with the ability to support growth and advances in the society or community, such as technology. In a city with one main architect also saw sculptures and designing techniques that stayed pretty much the same through time. This was compared to the cities designed and built by multiple architects, where there was less room for growth and less regularity. In these types of cities there also tended to be multiple underlying designs that were mix and matches throughout the city. Through his study of the individual versus group architects, he was able to look at the state of the people and city through the political/governmental level. 

"With this before me by way of example, I was persuaded that it would indeed be preposterous for a private individual to think of reforming a state by fundamentally changing it throughout, and overturning it in order to set it up amended; and the same I thought was true of any similar project for reforming the body of the sciences, or the order of teaching them established in the schools..."⁴

From this, Rene is able to distinguish between the times of man, and the different roads that different men might take. Some might choose the easy paved path, the same as the majority, in hopes it will be easy, that it is less scary and goes less into the unknown. Then there is the man who might be afraid, but decides on the harder less beaten path, into the unknown. He makes note of his schooling by mentioning how he was taught. 

For my own part, I should doubtless have belonged to the latter class, had I received instruction from but one master, or had I never known the diversities of opinion that from time immemorial have prevailed among men of the greatest learning. But I had become aware, even so early as during my college life, that no opinion, however absurd and incredible, can be imagined, which has not been maintained by some one of the philosophers; and afterwards in the course of my travels I remarked that all those whose opinions are decidedly repugnant to ours are not in that account barbarians and savages, but on the contrary that many of these nations make an equally good, if not better, use of their reason than we do.”⁵

He makes mention, continuing on, that he felt disappointed and failed by the teachings of the ancients. That for all their knowledge written down in text and books, it did not portray the true human, the true ability of life and experience. He also speaks of four resolutions he came to: one being to never accept anything that was not clearly defined or known, as truth. The second being to divide any difficulties into as many parts as possible so they might be examined in greater depth. Thirdly, to conduct and order his thoughts in such a way so that slowly he could be able to come to a more complex knowledge. He applies this third one to objects and things that do not even correspond to assignment of numbers or sequence. Finally, he says he needs to make sure every enumeration be as complete as possible, so that there could be nothing omitted. He applies these four resolutions to scientific and mathematical objects, understanding them and how they can be applied in the world. 


He begins part three with three maxims of his: 
1) To obey laws and customs of his country, including sticking to the main faith and keeping moderate opinions. To be aware of the traditions and opinions of other races such as Persians and Chinese whom he mentions as examples.
 2) To remain firm and absolute in his action, and to not question or doubt his actions/opinions. To not be like a traveler who never changes their course, to not choose the easiest and best path, but to go out and experience. 
3) Wish to understand and “conquer” oneself (himself).To not focus on money or wealth, to focus his desires on the order of the world, how it works, peoples thoughts, along with the failures and successes of people. 
(4) “…I may state that it was my conviction that I could not do better than continue in that in which I was engaged, viz., in devoting my whole life to the culture of my reason, and in making the greatest progress I was able in the knowledge of truth, on the principles of the method which I had prescribed to myself.”⁶ 

He states his own goal of self-instruction, calling out his own ability to expand and go beyond himself, to not stick to the ideas of one person or even just to himself. He took 9 years out of his life to travel and learn, to socialize with his fellow man and expand beyond himself. Rather than be like an actor in a play, he wished to be the spectator in the audience. 

“…I reserved some hours from time to time which I expressly devoted to the employment of the method in the solution of mathematical difficulties, or even in the solution likewise of some questions belonging to other sciences, but which, by my having detached them from such principles of these sciences as were of inadequate certainty, were rendered almost mathematical: the truth of this will be manifest from the numerous examples contained in this volume.” ⁷

Unfortunately for Descartes, after the 9 years spent traveling and experiencing, he felt unfulfilled once more. He deemed the task of what he had set out to accomplish, as much more difficult than he originally imaged. 


Rene changed his approach to his mission from here on out: 

“…I ought to reject as absolutely false all opinions in regard to which I could suppose the least ground for doubt, in order to ascertain whether after that there remained aught in my belief that was wholly indubitable.”⁸ 

While he wished to remain open to any and all “truths”, he would consider everything as a falsehood unless there was absolute truth. The only absolute truth he believed in was himself, his ability to question the truth, etc. accept himself and remain firm in his belief so much so that no one could shake it from him (his first principle of Philosophy). 

“And as I observed that in the words I think, therefore I am, there is nothing at all which gives me assurance of their truth beyond this, that I see very clearly that in order to think it is necessary to exist, I concluded that I might take, as a general rule, the principle, that all the things which we very clearly and distinctly conceive are true, only observing, however, that there is some difficulty in rightly determining the objects which we distinctly conceive.”⁹ 

 He concluded that his being is not perfect, then inquired of anything more perfect then he, admitting the possibility of imperfection in himself, and essentially all of mankind.  He came to another conclusion that, as being an imperfect creature, and being able to acknowledge imperfection, meant that there had to be a perfect being with which he was dependent. It called for a higher being, that mankind depended upon, in order for our imperfect nature to exist. 

Thus I perceived that doubt, inconstancy, sadness, and such like, could not be found in God, since I myself would have been happy to be free from them. Besides, I had ideas of many sensible and corporeal things; for although I might suppose that I was dreaming, and that all which I saw or imagined was false, I could not, nevertheless, deny that the ideas were in reality in my thoughts." ¹ยบ

From here Descartes thought on the demonstrations of objects and people, recognizing parts and pieces of people and objects. He even talks of how the existence of the triangle in geometry can be taken apart as a physical matter, but also demonstrate its ability to exist in a non-material idea/form. He mentions how as humans, we can only be sure of certain things, and acknowledge and understand their existence, because God exists. Everything proceeds from God. We would have no ground or ability to account for the true existence of things if there were no perfect being in which they possessed the ability to exist. Descartes gives the idea of dreams (night and day dreams) as an example of not being sure of anything. He states that like the sun, we cannot truly be sure of the distance or length or anything of the sun just from what we perceive of it from a distance. While we cannot be sure of these things, we acknowledge and understand their existence. 


Descartes stills holds true to his original statement of believing in oneself, and God of course in this part. 

“...and yet I venture to state that not only have I found means to satisfy myself in a short time on all the principal difficulties which are usually treated of in philosophy, but I have also observed certain laws established in nature by God in such a manner, and of which he has impressed on our minds such notions, that after we have reflected sufficiently upon these, we cannot doubt that they are accurately observed in all that exists or takes place in the world and farther, by considering the concatenation of these laws, it appears to me that I have discovered many truths more useful and more important than all I had before learned, or even had expected to learn.”¹¹

He states an ideal of light that can be transposed over all different types of learning and teachings, stating it as a basic natural law ideal, where it can be used and talked about in many forms rather than conforming to just one particular ideology or belief. 

so that even although he had from the beginning given it no other form than that of chaos, provided only he had established certain laws of nature, and had lent it his concurrence to enable it to act as it is wont to do, it may be believed, without discredit to the miracle of creation, that, in this way alone, things purely material might, in course of time, have become such as we observe them at present; and their nature is much more easily conceived when they are beheld coming in this manner gradually into existence, than when they are only considered as produced at once in a finished and perfect state.”¹²

He moves from non-living objects (creations) to plants, animals, and man. Speaking of the created body of man from God, the rational soul, and he goes into some depth of how intricate the body of man is. Goes into length about the different anatomy parts of both animals and humans. He makes his point and goal here of showing how amazing the anatomy of life is, and how complex and miraculously it works to keep us alive and living, blood pumping and flowing, air coming and going, etc. 

“But lest those who are ignorant of the force of mathematical demonstrations and who are not accustomed to distinguish true reasons from mere verisimilitudes, should venture. without examination, to deny what has been said, I wish it to be considered that the motion which I have now explained follows as necessarily from the very arrangement of the parts, which may be observed in the heart by the eye alone, and from the heat which may be felt with the fingers, and from the nature of the blood as learned from experience, as does the motion of a clock from the power, the situation, and shape of its counterweights and wheels.”¹³
Diagram of the heart ¹³

With all of this, he also manages to question much of the scientists who have made many of these discoveries. Some of his good questions are as follow: 

“And why should the left cavity of the heart and the great artery be wider and larger than the right cavity and the arterial vein, were it not that the blood of the venous artery, having only been in the lungs after it has passed through the heart, is thinner, and rarefies more readily, and in a higher degree, than the blood which proceeds immediately from the hollow vein? And what can physicians conjecture from feeling the pulse unless they know that according as the blood changes its nature it can be rarefied by the warmth of the heart, in a higher or lower degree, and more or less quickly than before? And if it be inquired how this heat is communicated to the other members, must it not be admitted that this is effected by means of the blood, which, passing through the heart, is there heated anew, and thence diffused over all the body?”¹⁴

Since he speaks of regular human life, with all its miraculous abilities, he also speaks of artificial life. He applies the concept of two tests to any artificial intelligent life like a machine or “robot”
1.) Robots are not capable of having the ability to truly express themselves as humans can: being hurt, expressing emotion, etc. 2.) They also do not have the ability to act out actions from which they have not the appropriate organ. 

“...it could be discovered that they did not act from knowledge, but solely from the disposition of their organs: for while reason is an universal instrument that is alike available on every occasion, these organs, on the contrary, need a particular arrangement for each particular action; whence it must be morally impossible that there should exist in any machine a diversity of organs sufficient to enable it to act in all the occurrences of life, in the way in which our reason enables us to act.”¹⁵

Descartes finishes part five by confirming the idea that the reasonable (rational) soul of man must be a separate created identity to all matter: 

“...that it be lodged in the human body exactly like a pilot in a ship, unless perhaps to move its members, but that it is necessary for it to be joined and united more closely to the body, in order to have sensations and appetites similar to ours, and thus constitute a real man.”¹⁶


After three years of writing and planning, Rene Descartes decided not to publish his works and experiences. He came to this conclusion for multiple reasons, one of them being his wish not to insult or do damage to anyone who might have been looking to publish any work that would be contradicted by his own. He is a man, as seen from his Discourse on the Method, who cares more for the greater good and for God than over taking the glory for himself and being the star of a show. The greater good of mankind moving forward is the emphasis of his second paragraph: 

But since I designed to employ my whole life in the search after so necessary a science, and since I had fallen in with a path which seems to me such, that if anyone follow it he must inevitably reach the end desired, unless he be hindered either by the shortness of life or the want of experiments, I judged that there could be no more effectual provision against these two impediments than if I were faithfully to communicate to the public all the little I might myself have found, and incite men of superior genius to strive to proceed farther, by contributing, each according to his inclination and ability, to the experiments which it would be necessary to make, and also by informing the public of all they might discover, so that, by the last beginning where those before them had left off, and thus connecting the lives and labours of many, we might collectively proceed much farther than each by himself could do.” ¹⁷

Compared to the many vast ideas and principles that had already been created and could be created in nature, he felt that his ideas where very simplistic and overall general. He concludes his learning of the sciences with 5-6 principles and makes point to mention that he has not truly come across any dispute with other writers or critics, at least non that made his arguments and work devalued. While this was the case for Descartes, he spared no expense in adding in a bit of criticism for how many in his world thought. Seemingly mocks those who study just for the glory of being the person knowing, rather than the glory of having learned and understanding, to teach others. Shows his humility by stating that he refrained from publishing for even more reasons, not due to his unsureness of being reciprocated by the people, but because he is unsure of his own words and that he would not want credit, or an over extensive amount of credit for his findings and works. 

Their fashion of philosophizing, however, is well suited to persons whose abilities fall below mediocrity; for the obscurity of the distinctions and principles of which they make use enables them to speak of all things with as much confidence as if they really knew them, and to defend all that they say on any subject against the most subtle and skilful, without its being possible for any one to convict them of error. In this they seem to me to be like a blind man, who, in order to fight on equal terms with a person that sees, should have made him descend to the bottom of an intensely dark cave: and I may say that such persons have an interest in my refraining from publishing the principles of the philosophy of which I make use; “¹⁸ 

As the philosopher he was and lives on to be today, he remained humble throughout his years of learning and studying. So humble in fact, that he touches on his own humility in the last part. 

“The other reason that has determined me to commit to writing these specimens of philosophy is, that I am becoming daily more and more alive to the delay which my design of self-instruction suffers, for want of the infinity of experiments I require, and which it is impossible for me to make without the assistance of others: and, without flattering myself so much as to expect the public to take a large share in my interests, I am yet unwilling to be found so far wanting in the duty I owe to myself, as to give occasion to those who shall survive me to make it matter of reproach against me some day, that I might have left them many things in a much more perfect state than I have done, had I not too much neglected to make them aware of the ways in which they could have promoted the accomplishment of my designs.¹⁹

Rene Descartes consideres his findings to be truths not hypotheses or possibilities, but realities that he has found exist. He has given proof time and time again of how we cannot be sure of much in our life as man, but if there was one thing we could be sure of, is ourselves and our correct belief and faith in God. 

 “In conclusion, I am unwilling here to say anything very specific of the progress which I expect to make for the future in the sciences, or to bind myself to the public by any promise which I am not certain of being able to fulfil; but this only will I say, that I have resolved to devote what time I may still have to live to no other occupation than that of endeavouring to acquire some knowledge of Nature, which shall be of such a kind as to enable us therefrom to deduce rules in medicine of greater certainty than those at present in use; and that my inclination is so much opposed to all other pursuits, especially to such as cannot be useful to some without being hurtful to others, that if, by any circumstances, I had been constrained to engage in such, I do not believe that I should have been able to succeed.” ²⁰


² Rene Descartes, “Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking the Truth in the Sciences”, 1635, P. 1, Para. 8
³ IBID, P. 2, Para. 1
IBID, P. 2, Para. 2
IBID, P. 2, Para. 4
IBID, P. 3, Para. 4
IBID, P. 3, Para. 6
IBID, P. 4, Para. 1
¹⁰ IBID, P. 4, Para. 4
¹¹ IBID, P. 5, Para. 1
¹² IBID, P. 5, Para. 5
¹⁴ IBID, P. 5, para. 7
¹⁷ IBID, P. 6, Para. 2
¹⁸ IBID, P. 6, Para. 5
¹⁹ IBID, P. 6, Para. 8
²⁰ IBID, P. 6, Para. 12

Philothea or, An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales portrait 1618

“Even as a man just recovering from illness walks only so far as he is obliged to go, with a slow and weary step, so the converted sinner journeys along as far as God commands him but slowly and wearily, until he attains a spirit of true devotion, and then, like a sound man, he not only gets along, but he runs and leaps in the way of God's Commands, and hastens gladly along the paths of heavenly counsels and inspirations.”[1]

            The Introduction to the Devout Life is a compendium of the wisdom and experience of the paternal heart of St. Francis de Sales in regards to the spiritual life. St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva, Doctor of the Church and co-founder of the Congregation of the Visitation is also well known for his book Treatise on the Love of God.  

            St. Francis was born into a Catholic French family in 1567. St. Thomas Aquinas states that  grace builds on nature; It does not destroy it but enhances it enabling it to attain what by its own powers it cannot.[2] So it was in the life of St. Francis. His Father demanded of him academic excellence; his mother demonstrated discipline and righteousness. With the formation received by his parents, St. Francis became a very self-possessed, disciplined and determined man. He is known as a gentle saint, in spite of his tremendous battle against his tendency to wrath.[3]

            In his adolescence, St. Francis experienced a calling from God to dedicate his life totally as a priest. Although he deeply desired to respond, his father became an obstacle in the path towards seminary. St. Francis consecrated his discernment to the Blessed Mother and continuing in his studies, embraced a strictly disciplined life of prayer. Having fulfilled his father’s expectations of fulfilling his university studies of law, he entered the seminary.

            St. Francis’ solid and strong character provided an open door for his zealous spirit. As Bishop, he volunteered to evangelize to the Calvinists at the Mission of de Chablais. It was a mission that would place his life at risk. At his arrival, there were twenty frightened Catholics in the province, but in four years, thousands of Catholics converts joyfully embraced the faith. In turn, the Holy Father assigned St. Francis as coadjutor of Geneva. Lastly, in 1620, St. Francis de Sales became a co-founder of the Visitation order with St. Jane of Chantal.[4]

“I have frequently repeated that the best way to preach against heretics is love, even without saying a word of refute their doctrines.”3

            The style of The Introduction to the Devout Life Life  is a collection of letters written to Philothea, meaning in Greek, “one who loves God,” on true devotion. This work resembles that of the Spiritual Combat which was St. Francis’ favorite book. St. Francis de Sales gazes at the human heart from its fundamental truth and desire- to know, love and serve God. The book begins with an introduction into the devout life, followed by practical suggestions on how to attain it, and spiritual guidance. His wisdom is accompanied by practical advices and enfleshed through many examples of saints and analogies reflecting the natural environment. This helps to emphasize and depict the essence of the point he is trying to communicate to the reader.  

            The cover is the image of the most authentic portrait of St. Francis de Sales painted 1618 and is now at the Visitation Convent in Turin, Italy. The title Introduction  to the Devout Life, expresses perfectly the content of the book, especially since it is coming from a holy author, St. Francis de Sales. It is interesting to note that the suggestions communicated by St. Francis are not simply theories which he stumbled upon, but rather spring from a life lived arduously seeking true devotion in the life of Christ. The canonization of St. Francis de Sales by Pope Alexander VII on 19 April 1665 sustain his work with the pillars of coherency, authenticity, and truthfulness. St. Francis is a co-founder of the order of the Visitation, therefore from his heart flows the charism of the order; every charism is a home, school and path of holiness in the life of the Church, “a free, supernatural gift in a historic moment that is given for the common good, for the edification of the Body of Christ.”[5]

            The preface of the book is written by St. Francis de Sales himself in 1608 from Annecy. St. Francis clarifies that the dogmas of the faith of the Catholic Church remain unchanging, but the teaching is arranged by the Holy Spirit in a particular way that is unique to that founder. St. Francis invites not only those who have quit the world, but all Catholics to seek true devotion, known as the universal call to holiness. This book was made accessible to all readers through simple and straightforward language, becoming a best seller throughout Europe and now worldwide.

            St. Francis clarifies that the book comes from “a certain person who abounding in uprightness and virtue, conceived a great desire through God’s grace to aspire earnestly after a more devout life.”[6] Therefore, he “took great pains to teach her” and “let her keep written records thereof, to which she might have recourse when necessary.”6 The publishing of the Introduction to the Devout Life is a fruit of others’ continual urging that it should be published that many may profit from it.
            The work is divided into five parts.

            Part One includes councils and practices for the guidance of a soul who is aspiring for a devout life to the point when she attains a firm resolution for it. Also, it describes true devotion, its nature and demands.
“I seek by suggestions and exercises to turn Philothea’s mere desire into a hearty resolution; which she makes after her general confession, by a deliberate protest, followed by Holy Communion, in which, giving herself to her Saviour and receiving Him, she is happily received into His Holy Love.”6

            Part Two emphasizes prayer, meditation, examination of conscience, ejaculatory prayer, holy Communion, the saints and the Word of God that the soul may turn to God.
“After this, I lead her on by showing her two great means of closer union with His Divine Majesty; the Sacraments, by which that Gracious Lord comes to us, and mental prayer, by which He draws us to Him”6

            Part Three contains counsels on the practice of virtue, especially those of Patience, humility, gentleness, obedience, purity, poverty of spirit, friendship, attachments, bodily mortification, modesty, edifying conversations, recreations, and balance.
“I set forth how she should practice certain virtues most suitable to her advancement”5

            Part Four includes counsels to battle temptation, sin, anxiety, sorrow, and spiritual barrenness.
“I bring to light the snares of some of her enemies, and show her how to pass through them safely and come forth unhurt”6

            Part Five renews and confirms the soul in true devotion with considerations and conclusions.
 “I lead her apart to refresh herself and take breath, and renew her strength, so that she may go on more bravely afterwards, and make good progress in the devout life”6

ISBN: 0-89555-510-7

[1] Sales, Francis de. Philothea or, An introduction to the Devout Life. Rockford, IL, TAN Books and Publishers, 1994. 3.
[2] Lapierre, Prof. Michael, SJ., Grace in Thomas Aquinas. Toronto, Canada, Regis College. 1994. http://catholic-church.org/grace/western/scholars/lap1.htm.
[3] Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales USA, Gentleness. http://www.fransaliansusa.com/pages/salesian-spirituality/teachings-of-st-francis-de-sales/gentleness.
[4] St. Francis de Sales, at Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary. http://www.piercedhearts.org/theology_heart/life_saints/francis_sales.htm.
 [5] Galindo, Mother Adela, Foundress SCTJM, The Father’s Promise: The Gift of the Holy Spirit, www.piercedhearts.org.
[6] Sales, Francis de. Philothea or, An introduction to the Devout Life. Rockford, IL, TAN Books and Publishers, 1994. Preface.