Thursday, July 13, 2017

Life of St. Joan of Arc



“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.”

The YouTube channel called “The Catholic Servant” does a beautiful work in putting together the life and mission of St. Joan of Arc. This video clip was basically made so that many would come to know about the courageous and uplifting life of the saint.

St. Joan of Arc, known as the Maid of Orleans and the patroness of France, was born in Domremý, in the region of Lorraine (France) in January 6, 1412 to a peasant family. Joan’s mother instilled in her from the time she was a child a great confidence and devotion to the Catholic Church. For this reason, every Saturday Joan gathered beautiful flowers from the countryside to take them to Our Lady's altar.

At the age of thirteen Joan of Arc confessed to having seen Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret, and declared that their voices urged her to lead a devout and pious life. St. Joan was especially devoted to these two female saints, virgin martyrs venerated by the universal Church. To them she vowed to remain a virgin all her life. [1] Four years later, she felt called by God to carry out a mission that seemed impossible: to instruct Charles VII that she would make possible his coronation. In May 1429, she led a small army into battle at Orleans and was victorious. She was wounded, but moved on to Rheims and was also victorious. There Charles VII was officially crowned king the 17th of July of 1429.

“Since God had commanded it, it was necessary that I do it. Since God commanded it, even if I had a hundred fathers and mothers, even if I had been a King's daughter, I would have gone nevertheless.”

In 1431 St. Joan was captured; Charles did not attempt to ransom her. Thus, the Bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon, put her on trial for heresy. He was known to be under the control of the English rulers of the Burgundy region. She was convicted of heresy because she was not allowed a defense. Before beginning her military campaigns Charles VII had had her questioned by doctors and bishops, none of whom had found any sign of illness or heresy. One priest gave her a crucifix to kiss. She was bound to the stake, and the faggots around the stake were lit. In a few moments it was all over. As she succumbed, she shrieked, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”[2] She was burned on May 30, 1431. The sentence was lifted by Pope Callistus 25 years later. She was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920 and declared patroness of France. After the French victories led by St. Joan, the French forces rallied and won Paris in 1436 and then went on to regain the rest of the English posts.



Sources:

Video clip “The Life of Saint Joan of Arc” —Feast day: May 30 Patron of soldiers and France https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkkObdifFQs

To read more quotes from St. Joan of Arc visit http://www.azquotes.com/author/501-Joan_of_Arc





[1] Engelhardt, Herbert. "Joan of Arc." Priest, vol. 71, no. 8, Aug. 2015, pp. 46-48. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=103423629&authtype=cookie,cpid&custid=s9245834&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
[2] Engelhardt, Herbert. "Joan of Arc." Priest, vol. 71, no. 8, Aug. 2015, pp. 46-48. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,cpid&custid=s9245834&db=aph&AN=103423629&lang=es&site=ehost-live.

The Imitation of Christ

Thomas A. Kempis


The Imitation of Christ was written about five hundred years ago by a German monk named Thomas A. Kempis. This mystical book guides the human soul and mind towards the person of Jesus Christ. It helps the human heart to continuously grow in the knowledge and experience of God, which means to simply and openly imitate Him. It has served as a spiritual nourishment for all Christians. Besides the Holy Bible, it is the most widely read book, with many editions. Its author show forth the study of the fundamental texts of Christianity so as to reach to a profound and direct relationship with God. This book’s greatest objective is to instruct the soul for Christian perfection, seeking the way of love that Jesus teaches us, the person of Jesus Christ being the main model and example that is presented to us. The four books comprising the Imitation were initially independent treatises. The Imitation of Christ asks us the question: “What sort of life is this, from which troubles and miseries are never absent, where all things are full of snares?” The voice of Christ answers: “I am wont to visit my elect in two ways— by temptation and consolation.... When you think you are far from me, then often I am very near you.” We sense the exceptional character of this mystical gem in a prayer to Christ: “Left to myself, I am nothing but total weakness. But if you look upon me for an instant, I am at once made strong and filled with new joy.”[1]

Through the four books contained in The Imitation of Christ, Thomas A Kempis demonstrates the infinite love and mercy of God as the Lord who became man because he wanted to walk and live the experience of every human being so as to purify and sanctify every moment, every feeling and every situation that humans can experience throughout life. As man, the Son had to grow little by little as any other human being and discover the Heavenly Father so as to love Him with all of his being. He then chose to love all of humanity, even to the point of giving His own life for our liberation from sin and to make us children of God destined for the glory that He obtained for us at a price, that is, with His filial obedience to the Father when He asked Him to give His life for humanity. “If you will have life with Christ, you must learn how to die to the world, and if you are to go freely to Christ, then you must learn how to despise all things.”[2]

The first book of the imitation of Christ speaks to us about the different challenges and struggles we may face in order to allow Jesus’ merciful love to transform and reform our hearts into his image and likeness. To whoever wishes to follow Him there must be a renunciation and desire to leave behind everything that, rather than bringing us close to him, pushes us away. This may include different disordered passions, spirit of selfishness and pride, fame, honors, high positions, fame, false joys that the world offers, easy and comfortable life.  “If you want to make progress, keep your soul in the fear of God and never wish to be completely free. Discipline your senses and never indulge in hilarity. Have sorrow of your sins and you will find interior peace. Repentance opens the way to many blessings, which dissipation soon destroys.”[3]

The second book presents to us different considerations for leading a good interior life in Christ. To follow Christ is not only about learning a simple teaching or to imitate exteriorly a virtuous life.  To truly follow Christ means to conform our way of life to His way of life; that is, to live in his sentiments and to truly partake of His life and mission. This willingness to live not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit, in true humility, draws one by discernment of spirits through prayer from imaginative and discursive meditation about God, to an awareness of His presence independent of imagination and reason.[4] The commitment to follow Christ does not know any pause nor stops, but entails the constant response to grace and the desire to attain the perfection of the Father who is in heaven. “Those who love Jesus and the truth, who lead an interior life free from unruly affections, can turn to God at will, lift themselves up in spirit and repose in Christ with joy.”[5] We must always live in the presence of God, never interrupting the common exercises of piety, keeping us humble and always working for our spiritual health, having fear of God, but with no less confidence in God's omnipotent mercy.

The third book invites us to an interior conversation with Christ. God does not make His voice heard in the midst of turmoil and worldly uncertainties, but rather He leads the soul into loneliness and silence so as to speak directly to it, for He is not among the worldly noise, nor among the tremor of the earth; nor yet within the consuming burning fire, but rather in the inner silence of the soul. Thomas A. Kempis points out to us the absolute urge and necessity to be away from things outside the body, and as far as we can with the heart, so that we are in a favorable condition to perceive the divine word of God, which does not certainly come to the ears of the faithful if they are distracted by the resounding clamor of the world. “Blessed are the ears that heed the inner whisper of the Lord, and pay no attention to the deceitful murmurings of this world; and blessed indeed are the ears which do not listen to the loud voices from the outside, but instead are attentive to Him, who inwardly teaches the truth.”[6]

The fourth book of Imitation is dedicated to the Eucharist and is one of the most beautiful treatises ever written about the Blessed Sacrament. Thomas A. Kempis expresses that the faithful, convinced of the need to be well prepared for the Holy Communion and the incapability to do so by himself, must beg Jesus to give him a living faith, simplicity of heart, peace with himself and neighbor, contempt of human consolations, zeal, fervor, trust and especially humility and charity towards God. These are the necessary dispositions in order to be worthy of receiving the greatest gift, who is Jesus Christ himself. “I ask nothing more of you than this: your efforts to surrender yourself wholly to me. I care for nothing else that you can give besides yourself; for it is not your gift but you that I seek.”[7] If one comes to Holy Communion with all these dispositions, both our hearts and minds will be enlightened and enriched by many heavenly gifts and goods. Therefore, this book teaches us that the best way to prepare for Holy Communion is by making Jesus the one and only King of our hearts. That is, that He can absolutely govern our hearts and for us to obey Him in everything and never deny him anything, for He comes to us as a king of goodness to take possession of our soul and reign over all our passions and above all our affections.

Through this ascetical and mystical book, Thomas A. Kempis offers practical advice to help us elevate our hearts to God, without, however taking off our feet from the ground… "Let your heart remain free and lifted up to God, for you have not here a lasting city. Persevere in prayer, sending you aspirations daily up to God, so that at the hour of death your soul may depart from this world and go to its Lord.”[8]






[1] Cameron, Peter John. "A Re-Appreciation: The Imitation of Christ." America, vol. 216, no. 3, 06 Feb. 2017, p. 36. EBSCOhost,search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=121282138&authtype=cookie,cpid&custid=s9245834&site=ehost-live&scope=site
[2] Kempis, Thomas A., and Clare L. Fitzpatrick. The Imitation of Christ in Four Books. New York: Catholic Book Pub., 1993. N. page.55
[3] Kempis, Thomas A., The Imitation of Christ page. 48
[4] Levko, John J. "The Relationship of Prayer to Discretion and Spiritual Direction for John Cassian." St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 3, 1996, pp. 155-171. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001016411&authtype=cookie,cpid&custid=s9245834&site=ehost-live&scope=site
[5] Kempis, Thomas A., The Imitation of Christ page. 69
[6] Kempis, Thomas A., The Imitation of Christ page. 99
[7] Kempis, Thomas A., The Imitation of Christ page. 258
[8] Kempis, Thomas A., The Imitation of Christ page. 57

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

St. Catherine of Siena and Pope Gregory XI


 “Come, come, and resist no more the will of God that calls you; and the hungry sheep await your coming to hold and possess the place of your predecessor and champion, Apostle Peter. For you, as the Vicar of Christ, should rest in your own place. Come, then, come, and delay no more; and comfort you, and fear not for anything that might happen, since God will be with you” [1].

In 1305 the cardinals of the Catholic Church met to elect a new pope, the archbishop of Bordeaus, Clement V. As Bishop of Rome, Clement V moved the papacy to Avignon, France in 1309 due to the influence of French kings, the security they provided, and the chaos arising in Rome including antipapal uprisings. This change caused a scandal because the papacy was now deprived of financial and military independence and ultimately contributed to what would become the Great Schism. Due to financial, diplomatic, and military factors, the Avignon papacy lasted during the reign of seven popes. Pope Gregory XI, impelled by the intercession of St. Catherine of Siena, became the last pope to reside in Avignon returning to Rome in 1377 [2].
 
St. Catherine of Siena and Pope Gregory XI by Giovanni di Paolo [6].

Pope Gregory XI
Pierre Roger de Beaufort (1331- 1378) was a nephew of Pope Clement VI and since his youth was favored by him. He became a cardinal-deacon at the age of eighteen and later a theologian and canonist. After the death of Urban V, he was elected pope at Avignon on December of 1370. Pierre was ordained priest January 4, 1371, and became Pope Gregory XI the following day. He is remembered for being humble and pure of heart. During his papacy, he strove to establish peace, which he did successfully in Castile, Aragon, Navarre, Sicily, and Naples. He took on the undertaking of a crusade and attempted to unify the Church of the East and the West. Most importantly, the Lord used Pope Gregory XI to return the papacy to Rome [3].

St. Catherine of Siena
Caterina Benincasa (1347-1380) was chosen by the Lord at since her childhood to be totally His and to place her life at the service of the Church. At the age of seven, she consecrated her virginity to the Lord after seeing Jesus in his glory in a vision [4]. She became a Dominican tertiary taking simple vows and joining the Sisters of Penitence of St. Dominic in Siena. She is remembered for her severe asceticism, mystic experiences, and for her mediation in the life of the Church, especially her prayers and letters to the holy fathers of the time, Pope Gregory XI . A total of 380 letters, 26 prayers, and The Dialogue have been preserved of her writings. She was declared patroness of Italy, patroness of Europe in 1999, and Doctor of the Church in 1970 [5].

In her correspondence to Pope Gregory XI, St. Catherine of Siena writes full of confidence and tenderness to her “’Babbo’ […] translated only by ‘Daddy.’” [1]. 
St. Catherine of Siena writing a letter. [7]
First, she reassures him of her fidelity, and in her, the fidelity of the Church as she writes, “Yours we are, father!” [1].  
Then, she expresses her desire to see reform in the Church. Necessarily, the transformation of the Church would have to be by the conversion of the hearts of those who make up the Church, beginning with the Holy Father himself. “Pardon me, pardon me; for the great love which I bear to your salvation, […] Willingly would I have said it to your own person, fully to unburden my conscience […] I die and cannot die, my heart breaks and cannot break, from the desire that I have of the renewal of Holy Church, for the honor of God and the salvation of every creature” [1].

Many of the desires of the Lord’s Heart which He communicates to St. Catherine and are recorded in The Dialogue she communicates to Pope Gregory XI. “Christ holds three vices as especially evil--impurity, avarice, and swollen pride, which reign in the Bride of Christ among the prelates, who care for nothing but luxuries and honors and vast riches” [1]. She recognized by the light of the Holy Spirit the inclinations of the heart of Pope Gregory XI to which she responds, “I hope by the goodness of God, venerable father mine, that you will quench this [self-love] in yourself, and will not love yourself for your own sake, nor your neighbor, nor God”; for “dangers beset him in his devotion to the interests of ‘friends and parents’” [1].

St. Catherine urgently asked the Holy Father to embrace his Petrine mission especially in disciplining the Church with love, calling her forth to be who She is. Shepherd’s fear and negligence had prevented them from corrections, but “if a wound when necessary is not cauterized or cut out with steel, but simply covered with ointment, not only does it fail to heal, but it infects everything, and many a time death follows from it” [1]. She even insists that “since He has given you authority and you have assumed it, you should use your virtue and power: and if you are not willing to use it, it would be better for you to resign what you have assumed; more honor to God and health to your soul would it be” [1].

Lastly, she tirelessly calls the Bishop of Rome home from Avignon, “for I reflect, sweet my "Babbo," that the wolf is carrying away your sheep, and there is no one found to help them […] Up, father, like a man! For I tell you that you have no need to fear. You ought to come; come, then. Come gently, without any fear. And if any at home wish to hinder you, say to them bravely, as Christ said when St. Peter, through tenderness, wished to draw Him back from going to His passion; Christ turned to him, saying, "Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou art an offence to Me, seeking the things which are of men, and not those which are of God. Wilt thou not that I fulfill the will of My Father? […] Do not delay, then, your coming” [1].

Led by the Holy Spirit and impelled by the intercession of St. Catherine of Siena on behalf of the Church, Pope Gregory XI returned as Bishop of Rome to reside in Rome from Avignon in the year 1377 [2].


Sources 


[1]. Of Siena, Catherine. "Saint Catherine of Siena As Seen in Her Letters." Saint Catherine of Siena As Seen in Her Letters from Project Gutenberg. Drawn by Love, 4 June 2004. Web. 1 July 2017. <http://www.drawnbylove.com/Scudder%20letters.htm>.
[2]. Vidmar, OP, John. The Catholic Church Through the Ages: A History, Second Edition. New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2014. Print. 161. 
[3].. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06799a.htm
[4].. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03447a.htm
[5]. "St. Catherine of Siena." Britannica Academic, Encyclopedia Britannica, 30 Mar. 2017. academic.eb.com/levels/collegiate/article/St-Catherine-of-Siena/21816. Accessed 3 Jul. 2017.
[6]. Image: http://onceiwasacleverboy.blogspot.com/2013_03_01_archive.html
[7]. Image: http://www.ancient-origins.net/sites/default/files/Saint-Catherine-of-Siena-writing.jpg


Saturday, July 1, 2017

We are Judged


Eternal Fires of Hell⁵
 " The whole Church of the true God holds and professes as its creed, that Christ shall come from heaven to judge quick and dead, this we call the last day, or last time, of the divine judgement. For we do not know how many days this judgement may occupy; but no one who reads the Scriptures, however negligently need by told that in them "day" is customarily used for "time". And when we speak of the day of God's judgement, we add the word last or final for this reason, because even now God judges, and has judged from the beginning of human history, banishing from paradise and excluding from the tree of life, those first men who perpetrated so great a sin." ¹

Throughout the Christian religion and faith, the idea of suffering after death, purgatory, is a strong factor in pushing many people towards living a good, gracious life. As humans, we are made in the image of God, and our goal and function is to better ourselves, to make ourselves closer to God, act in a way that shows our true potential. In going against our potential and sinning against ourselves and God, we move closer to Satan and sin. With sin and vice, comes suffering, for we must pay for every grievance we commit against ourselves and God. In Saint Augustine's book, "City of God", he tackles the subject of sinning, eternal suffering, hell, and Satan.

"For pain is really an experience of the soul, not the body, even when the cause of pain is presented to the soul by the body - when pain is felt in the part where the body is hurt." ²

St. Augustine, compared to the works of someone such as Dante, speaks more of Gods judgement on mankind, as apposed to Dante's direct message of what happens to earthly sinners. Augustine speaks more in line of how, as humans, we should be prepared to accept our fate for the crimes or good deeds we have committed in our physical life, and time on Earth.

The Pains of Hell⁴
Moving into chapter 2, Augustine note that God does not judge man by the amount of wealth or social status he might have, but rather what he does with such things, and how he values such things. A man who is wealthy and socially established could be more humble than a poor lowly beggar on the street, and vice versa. Someone with vast wealth could use that wealth and social status to commit heinous crimes, or to be a good person and commit good acts of charity. God judges these men based on their actions not on their material worth, their material wants and wishes. The more a man commits sins, even if he acts the good role of Christian, he is more likely to be judged harsher than a true devote Christian. But as St. Augustine notes, there are many times where it appears that such cruel and evil men, actually might appear to live better lives then those who are devote and true to God. St. Augustine addresses this:

"But now, as it is, since we not only see good men involved in the ills of life, and bad men enjoying the good of it, which seems unjust, but also that evil often overtakes evil men and good surprises the good,the rather on this account are God's judgments unsearchable, and His ways past finding out. Although, therefore, we do not know by what judgments these things are done or permitted to be done by God, with whom is the highest virtue, the highest wisdom, the highest justice, no infirmity, no rashness, no unrighteousness, yet it is salutary for us to learn to hold cheap such things, be they good or evil, as attach indifferently to good men and bad, and to covet those good things which belong only to good men, and flee those evils which belong only to evil men." ³

St. Augustine quickly addresses the fears that might occur in much of mankind, when it comes to burning in the eternal fires of hell. God judges us all, equally, and fully. He lets no small kind act go unnoticed, and neither does he allow any big evil act go unnoticed either. He address the question of why sometimes God's judgement might seem unfair, but he also comforts those who would fear they aren't doing enough to be in God's good judgement. Those who commit outrageous sins will ultimately pay much more then those who can be easily forgiven, especially if asked to be forgiven.

Augustine shows us that when the good struggle more than the bad, when the good being to question their efforts and will, this is simply God testing them, for he lets nothing happen that isn't supposed to happen. It is God's will that his followers who are loyal and of the utmost good, be strong and not fall to petty weaknesses. Those who fall easily into greed do not gain his forgiveness as easily as a loyal Christian might. Good men suffer in the physical, but are rewarded with eternal good and light, while Evil men have good physical lives, but pay eternally in the fires of hell for their earthly sins and passions. It is a distinction that men should become familiar with. To carry Christ and God with us through our hard times so they can be there with us through the good times. But the suffering allows us to remember that not everything is permanent and we must always strive for good and not let the good times make us vulnerable to sins and lust.



¹ St. Augustine, “City of God”, Waxkeep publishing, March 2013, Pg. 1392-1393
² St. Augustine, “City of God”, Waxkeep publishing, March 2013, Pg. 966
³ St. Augustine, “City of God”, Waxkeep publishing, March 2013, Pg. 1395
⁴ The Pains of Hell, http://tradcatknight.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-pains-of-hell.html
⁵ Shawn Bawulski and the Problem of Hell: Part One, http://www.mandm.org.nz/2014/04/shawn-bawulski-and-the-problem-of-hell-part-one.html

Gnosticism


Gnosticism was, regarding its historical background, a "heretical movement" which arose in the 2nd-century A.D. Most Christians, in todays modern era, have most likely not even heard the term "Gnosticism" nor its root word, "Gnostic". However, this religious movement was, very serious back in the very early days of the Church. It is my hope here, give information about this movement and show that, contrary to what is stated about it in history, it is actually very relevant to the lives of every Christian.

Gnosticism, this term has, as was stated above, its origin in the word, "Gnostic". Now this word itself has it's own root in the Greek word, "Gnosis", which means knowledge or insight. By understanding the roots of the initial word, which classified the movement, we already have a better idea about just exactly what this religious order believes in. Basically, anyone who is a self proclaimed "Gnostic" believes in: 1. That there exist fundamental secrets with regards to the universe and that these secrets were spoken of by Christ. 2. Christ is the "Logos", the creator of mankind. 3. The realm in which man exists in, is in fact false. The realm in which we exist is not the realm of reality, so to speak, but that there exists a realm which is the real realm and that this realm is to be looked upon as something which is to be overcome and shed. Here is a quote which gives an account of what I have just stated in the last point, "According to the Gnostics, this world, the material cosmos, is the result of a primordial error on the part of a supra-cosmic, supremely divine being, usually called Sophia (Wisdom) or simply the Logos. This being is described as the final emanation of a divine hierarchy, called the Plêrôma or "Fullness," at the head of which resides the supreme God, the One beyond Being.". 


The previous quote is filled with language which many people of the vast majority would not recognize, not to mention, understand. The Gnostic beliefs were and still are a conglomerate of ancient Greek mythology, Ancient Egyptian mythology, Judaical knowledge and early Christian philosophy. The former quote throws at us a lot of information, some parts of it however, may be recognizable to someone of the minority who has had experience with Greek mythology as well as Ancient Judaic knowledge. Wisdom came to Solomon and allowed him to rule his people, the Israelites, justly as well as correctly. Wisdom or Sophia, as she is referred to here, also played a role in many Greek myths. Aside from Judaic history and Greek myth, Gnosticism is truly Christian. Christ was, as stated above, spoken of as being and believed to be the, "Logos". Now, this particular word is interesting. When we read St. Johns Gospel, we find, at the very start, the passage, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God, the same was in the beginning with God..."(John 1:1). The key term here is, "The Word". What does this in fact mean? Well, we already know that,"The Word" is Christ. How is it then, that, "The Word" is in fact Christ, but Christ is also the, "Logos"? The answer to this question is that "Word" or "The Word" actually means, in Greek, "Logos". However, in Greek, the, "Logos" has several different definitions and these are: Reason or Plan. Christ then, is the "Reason" or "Plan" behind our existence. 

Now, the "Logos" is not just singularly Greek. This phrase which refers to Reason, Plan, or The Word, has been documented and seen in the cultures of India, Egypt, and Persia. This being the case, it is almost as if, and one could make the case that, the Logos which is evidently Christ has been known of throughout the entirety of the ancient world. This is the most astounding fact with regards to Gnosticism. Many conceptualize it to be simply a heretical movement, however, it is evidently much more than this. I feel that this is why the movement itself was deemed heretical because, how is there to be a united singular Church which is solely devoted to Christ, when one can actually find traces of Christ's identity, "Logos", in a great many ancient cultures which all had their own individual religions and/or mythologies? The early Church Fathers had to put some type of leash onto this movement or else it could lead many people away from the fundamental principles, which the Church was of necessity to teach. We must, in analyzing this ancient movement understand that times were completely different than what they are today. People of this ancient time period needed strong definite principles by which they could trust and direct their lives toward, this is why we see the existence of Kings and Queens who had singular control over the masses. 

I stated previously that the Logos was conceptually existent in the cultures of India, Egypt and Persia. This statement however does not necessarily mean that the people of these cultures knew of or referred to the Logos as Christ specifically. The being whom we know as Christ is truly the organizer of life. He is primal Word, the Word which echoes out and creates all life. So, it is understood that while these cultures understood and knew of the Logos, they understood it to be the creating force, the force or principality of life. 

Getting back to the heart of Gnosticism however, it is important to mention that there are different types of Gnosticism just as there are, overall, different religious faiths regarding the philosophy of Christianity. While these different types of Gnosticism exist, the important factor is that all strive for knowledge the secrets of the cosmos. There do exist many question which go unanswered by the Catholic Church regarding why Christ did this or that. There are still many more questions about similarities between different religious faiths and mythologies. An example of this point would be the calling of the Apostles, by Christ, the, "Sons of Thunder". Now there exists in Viking mythology the God Thor and in addition to this, there also exists the Greek mythological being Zeus, who was the head of the Gods. Both of these two mythological gods wielded lighting which corresponds to thunder. So, the question here is,"Why would Christ refer to his Apostles as being sons of thunder?". If we were to examine the different religious/mythological beliefs of different cultures throughout the ages, we would find other similarities between them. Many of these questions are answered by Gnostics and their secret teachings. 

Even though all that has been stated here is true, we see that there exists, as was alluded to before, a reason why the Church herself has done away with this particular movement. What good is understanding the ornate interconnection of many religious/mythological beliefs if one looses sight of the true belief, that is, the sole belief that Christ is God. You see, the Church, being pedestal upon which Christ can stand and directly influence the physical world, must be stripped of all exterior and additional attributes. While the Church does answer many problems with regards to our lives, its main focus and teaching is to simply direct one's gaze towards Christ who has now manifested himself. All other prior conceptions of this being were not complete and so should not be of any focus. While movements such as the Gnostics preach truth, it is up to the individual to analyze for himself and decide himself what he is to follow. The Church must be sound and singular in its purpose. Man needs the Church and it exists for the sole purpose of gathering as many as may come and directing them towards Christ. The best way to understand this last point is by using the example of public school. Public school is meant to give children basic knowledge and help develop their minds overall. However, if anyone who has already passed through the process of basic education wishes for a more advanced and particular education regarding any singular subject, they are left to choose, for themselves, an academic university which can give them such further knowledge. The Church is the basic school. It's teachings are pure and simple. If one has already gone through the process of accepting and believing in Christ and wishes to further their understanding of him, then there is the Gnostic Christianity which, is not contrary to Catholicism, but involves a much more deeper understanding and in depth knowledge of Christ.  

Bibliography:

1. Gaans, Gijs Martijn van. 2012. "The gnostics: myth, ritual, and diversity in early Christianity." Vigiliae Christianae 66, no. 2: 217-220. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 2, 2017).

2. Brakke, David. 2010. The Gnostics. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2010. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed July 2, 2017).

3."Gnosticism", Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward Moore, St. Elias School of Orthodox Theology, @ http://www.iep.utm.edu/gnostic/

4."Gnostic Picture", @ https://starweaverwitch.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/gnostic.jpg

5." Logos", Philosophy and Theology, Encyclopedia Britannica, @ https://www.britannica.com/topic/logos 

St. Augustine and the City of God



St. Augustine wrote the City of God at a time when the city of Rome had been captured, A.D 410. St. Augustine used this work as a way to prove the one true God, and to show how false and distant the Roman gods where. At the sacking and capture of Rome, many of the citizens blamed the gods and more so, the one true God. Claiming the Christians assimilation of their God and beliefs turned the Roman gods against the people. 


¹¹ St. Augustine pictured above  
Within the first 10 books, St. Augustine tackles many of the problems when the sacking and capture of Rome occurs. He starts off with 
correcting the notion that many Roman citizens create, blaming God
and the Christians for the sorrows and sufferings of the people. They
felt that they had been abandoned by their gods, and that due to the 
Christians bringing Christianity into the city, the old gods felt betrayed and turned against the people, leaving them to their sorrows.
Augustine uses the first few books to address their claims, and to give evidence to the people of Rome, sadly to show them that their gods had abandoned them long before the savior had come, and long before the arrival of Christianity to the city. Starting at book four, Augustine states that, if Rome suffered, then it was the will of the one true God, and not any fault of the old gods or the true Gods people. 
"True religion is the worship of the true God, not the cult of the false gods, who are just so many devils." ¹
St. Augustine uses the first ten books to set up the separation of the two cities he speaks of throughout the rest of his twenty-two books. 


The separation St. Augustine address is the separation between the city of God and the city of Man. the separation occurs when God allows his son to be resurrected, which stood as the separation, for Augustine, of the man and the spirit, of the two cities. It stood to be a categorical separation for mankind, the proud men stood to be eternally separated from God, while the sojourners were allowed and graced with eternal bliss. The men eternally damned to the City of Man, are rooted in a city founded on sin and vice, men who are selfish. Death, destruction, and conflict dwell and thrive in this City of Man. While this is the picture St. Augustine paints for the City of Man, he paints a very different picture for the City of God. The "Heavenly City" is painted by Augustine to be of grace and virtue, a place where the love of God stands as a governing factor for the city and the people. The City of God thrives with peace, salvation, and eternal life is strived for. The City of God for Augustine was an idea and heavenly paradise, "where the good were finally dominant." ² The City of God is built on the love of God to the contempt of self, while the City of Man on the other hand, is built on self love, to the contempt of God. 

As St. Augustine continues through his books, he moves onto the treatment of men, to men, focusing more on our fellow man and the role the gods and God play in our relationships to each other. 

"If we really love God, then we have to show it by how we treat our neighbor - he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. Love does no wrong to a neighbor, let us never decide to put a stumbling block or a hindrance in the way of a brother. We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. But each of us pleases our neighbor for his good to edify him, for Christ did not please himself." ³

The treatment of men plays into Augustine's retelling of the story of Genesis, and stand to over a view of mankind, mankind's destiny.  Most of Augustine's Books ten to thirteen focus on the creation of man, the nature of mankind, the creation and existence of evils especially in mankind's life, and then ultimately the downfall of mankind. For example, St. Augustine mentions the threat made Adam and Eve, in Chapter Twelve of Book 13. The threat stood to threaten not only their physical bodies, but their immaterial soul. Augustine does good to acknowledge the falling of man, of mans nature. The very image of the City of Man from the first ten books, demonstrates the falling of mans grace and nature, that Augustine goes on to detail from a historical point. 

⁷ City of Man in chaos
St. Augustine uses his historical retell of Genesis to talk through mans free will and two prime examples of mans will, Cain and Able. Books fourteen and fifteen deal mostly with these two subjects, and Augustine combines them in a way that Cain and Able not only display two different types of will, but they themselves display the very categorical differences Augustine makes between the City of Man and City of God. 

"I classify the human race into two branches: the one consists of those who live by human standards, the other of those who live according to God's will. I will also call these two classes the two cities, speaking allegorically." ⁴

Augustine places Cain in the City of Man, while Abel is placed in the City of God. Cain placed in the city with sin, vice, and self love, while his brother is placed in the city dedicated to God, filled with grace and virtue. He notes that while the heavenly city is usually a city where there is peace and a reached goodness, the earthly city and its people are usually divided amongst themselves, as they are a people of self love. Continuing on his retell on Genesis, St. Augustine moves into the stories of Noah and the Ark, David and Solomon, Abraham, Issac, and Joseph. He tells of the Kings and the gods being worshiped during the times of these men and their stories. From books fifteen to seventeen, Augustine uses these historical men and their stories to help guide his message of the City of God and the City of Man, to continue his criticism of not only the Pagans but of other religions as well. 

"When the Jews do not believe in our Scriptures, their own scriptures are fulfilled in them, while they read them with blind eyes." ⁵

Moving into Books eighteen to nineteen are focused more on the sources of good and evil, with Augustine looking at the Christian view of supreme good and evil. 

"Eternal life is the Supreme Good and eternal death is the Supreme Evil, and that to achieve the one and escape the other, we must live rightly." ⁶

He discusses misery, true happiness, justice, and the bitterness of life. Augustine says that he feels that true happiness cannot be attained in this life, and that those who are wise and wage wars for justice, tend to be miserable people. Examples of this wisdom can be seen in many lawyers in our modern generations, with lawyers being considered bloodthirsty and cold hearted. Book Twenty continues the theme of various topics, coming towards the end of St. Augustine's work. In Book twenty, one of the main topics of this book deals with Satan and the millenium, and how Augustine feels the vices and Satan play a role in the upcoming years, millennium's and into the future. He even speaks of how it is power [Satan] to be defeated. 

"In the end the Omnipotent will unloose him, so that the City of God may behold how powerful a foe it has overcome, to the immense glory of its Redeemer, its Helper, its Deliverer." ⁸

Coming to an end of Book twenty, St. Augustine talks of Revelations and the New Testament, the Old Testament and their final judgement's. Chapter twenty-one deals with pain, both physical and spiritual. St. Augustine tackles the question of eternal fire, eternal pain for the material body. 

"For pain is really an experience of the soul, not of the body, even when the cause of the pain is presented to the soul by the body - when pain is felt in the part where the body is hurt." ⁹

St. Augustine uses his address of the eternal fire and pain, to continue into a discussion of purgatory, punishment, and the ability for mankind to burn forever in the eternal fire, while not being consumed by it. This is how he ends Book twenty-one and beings twenty-two, his last book. 

¹² City of God 

Book twenty-two starts off with the statement of the citizens of the City of God being immortal. St. Augustine uses this book to also establish multiple stories of healing conducted by God, miracle stories. He discusses how life would be lived in the City of God as well, conducting his discussion from a Platonist view. The views of many famous writers and theologians such as Plato, Varro, and Labeo (whom he all cites throughout his work), are brought into question. He holds these men in high esteem, but he believes that not even these men had the whole picture, or the proper picture of God and what he is capable of. Most of twenty-two is an overall discussion on the eternal bliss that is met in the City of God. 
"[God] will be the goal of all our longings; and we shall see him for ever; we shall love him without satiety; we shall praise him without wearying. This will be the duty, the delight, the activity of all, shared by all those who share the life of eternity." ¹⁰

Throughout his twenty-two books, St. Augustine tackles many tough questions, deals with many theological and biblical problems, and provides a detailed picture of how he believes mankind is separated and functions both in the physical and spiritual realm. "City of God" represents both the physical and spiritual states of mankind, the history of Christianity, while also providing support to how the Christian God is there for his people, and allows forgiveness and grace to those who live life free from self-love, greed, vice, and sin. He shines a light on just how miraculous and eternal the one true God is, and how to be with him and in him, is true salvation, love, and happiness in both the physical and material worlds. 




¹ St. Augustine, “City of God”, Waxkeep publishing, March 2013, Pg.163, Ch. 23, Book 4
² The school of Life, PHILOSOPHY – Augustine, February 27, 2015, 6:24, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBAxUBeVfsk 
³ Sesnus Fidelium, The city of God, The city of Man, September 15, 2015, 24:38, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKJmYh2lcik
⁴ St. Augustine, “City of God”, Waxkeep publishing, March 2013, Pg. 594 
⁵  St. Augustine, “City of God”, Waxkeep publishing, March 2013, Pg. 828 
⁶ St. Augustine, “City of God”, Waxkeep publishing, March 2013, Pg. 852 
⁷ (City of Man Image) St. Augustine and the End of the World, http://jaskology.com/?cat=4  
⁸ St. Augustine, “City of God”, Waxkeep publishing, March 2013, Pg. 911
⁹ St. Augustine, “City of God”, Waxkeep publishing, March 2013, Pg. 966
¹⁰ St. Augustine, “City of God”, Waxkeep publishing, March 2013, Pg. 1088
¹¹ Encyclopedia Britannica,Saint Augustine, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Augustine 
¹² OpenUtopia, City of God, http://theopenutopia.org/look/