Archbishop Gänswein on Constantine

Archbishop Georg Gännswein was in Heiligenkreuz yesterday and today for a conference on “The Prophetic” in the theology of Pope Benedict XVI. He gave a talk yesterday evening, and today he celebrated Mass and participated in a panel discussion.

Archbishop Gänswein’s talk (Photo: Stift Heiligenkreuz)

I was particularly struck by the opening of his talk yesterday. After quoting from a parish bulletin from Germany that had spoken of the death of Pope Benedict as a turning point, the Archbishop said the following:

For me, and for us, Feast of Pope St Sylvester of the past year will remain connected until the end of our days with the passing of Pope Benedict XVI. And it will become clear whether the 31st of December 2022 will indeed mark a kind of turning point— a turning point of certain elements in the Church towards a subordination under secular machinations. The Church has often been accused of having subjected herself to Caesar, or, as we say now, the state, since the fourth century when under the Emperor Constantine she was declared politically free, and shortly thereafter declared the state religion. But the historical findings are actually exactly the opposite. The emperor, Emperor Constantine, had submitted himself to the sign of the cross—in hoc signo vinces—under which he then defeated his enemies. (This is somewhat crudely sketched, but history is history). The external freedom that now gave peace to the Church allowed something to blossom that had lain hidden like a grain of wheat in the catacombs and in the seclusion of the domestic churches. We can see this in the architecture of the churches, in the magnificent mosaics, but above all in sacred music and in the liturgy. Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict, was deeply attached to this beauty of the faith and of the Church. This beauty, however, is not an insubstantial aesthetic surface, but the mirror of the action of the one God. This mirror is unclouded when truth and goodness can flourish unhindered. This unity of the true, the good, and the beautiful finds its highest expression in the liturgy celebrated with love and dignity. This is not merely something incidental, an amusement. It is not an ‘optional’ but an ‘essential.’ Liturgy, in the broad sense, was especially close to Pope Benedict’s heart throughout his life. (Quick translation by Sancrucensis)

Continue reading

The Eucharist in the Plan of Salvation, First Part

The following is the first part of a day of recollection that I preached recently on the theme of “The Eucharist in the Plan of Salvation.”  In the first part I give an outline of the plan of Salvation. In the second part (which I will post soon) I reflect on how the Eucharist contributes to that plan.

The Plan of Salvation

1 God’s Happiness

The first article of the Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the plan of salvation as follows:

God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Saviour. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life. (CCC 1)

Continue reading

St Thomas Aquinas as a Model of Happiness

A Sermon Preached at the Katholische Hochschule ITI on the Feast of St Thomas Aquinas, Trumau, January 28th, 2023

I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came upon me: And I preferred her before kingdoms and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in comparison of her. (Wisdom 7:7-8)

The Greek historian Herodotus recounts that Solon, the lawgiver of Athens, travelled through the world and saw many things. On travelling through Asia Minor, he visited the fabulously wealthy king Croesus of Lydia. Croesus had his servants show off his many treasures to Solon. Then Croesus asked Solon who the happiest man whom Solon has seen in all his travels might be, expecting that Solon will say that none is happier than Croesus himself. Solon, however, answered that Tellus the Athenian was the happiest, for he lived at a time when his city prospered, he had excellent sons and grandsons, and he died at last a glorious death fighting for his city. Rather surprised, Croesus asks him who the second happiest of men might be, expecting to at least get the second prize. But Solon answers that two Argive athletes, the brothers Cleobis and Biton, were the next happiest. These two had achieved a great feat of strength that gave great honor to their mother, she prayed to the gods that they might receive the greatest gift that mortals can receive. The gods heard her prayer and granted her sons the gift of death. Solon explains to Croesus that we should call no man happy until he has reached his end (telos), because only then is he out of reach of the capricious cruelty of the jealous gods. Whoever is lucky enough to escape misfortunes in life, and to prosper and see his city and his relatives prosper, and then die before his blessings can be snatched away from him: this is a happy man.[1]

Continue reading

Pope Benedict XVI

In the latest episode of The Josias Podcast we reflect with gratitude on the life, death, and writings of Pope Benedict XVI. Urban Hannon and I also recount going to his funeral in Rome.

I also take the opportunity to read from my favorite book of Ratzinger’s, a small volume based on a retreat that he preached to priests of the Communion and Liberation Movement, entitled The Yes of Jesus Christ: Spiritual Exercises in Faith, Hope, and Love. It is one of Ratzinger’s most Thomistic books, being inspired in part by his re-reading of Josef Pieper’s trilogy on the theological virtues. The part on hope is particularly brilliant, anticipating some of the key points of by favorite of his encyclicals: Spe Salvi, but expressed with even greater simplicity and directness. The initial chapter on faith is also very good.

Here is the quote that I read on the Podcast:

[What] seems to be important is that the greatness of soul of the human vocation reaches beyond the individual aspect of human existence and cannot be squashed back into the merely private sphere. A society that turns what is specifically human into something purely private and defines itself in terms of a complete secularity (which moreover inevitably becomes a pseudo-religion and a new all-embracing system that enslaves people)—this kind of society will of its nature be sorrowful, a place of despair: it rests on a diminution of human dignity. A society whose public order is consistently determined by agnosticism is not a society that has become free but a society that has despaired, marked by the sorrow of man who is fleeing from God and in contradiction with himself. A Church that did not have the courage to underline the public status of its image of man would no longer be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the city set on a hill.

Ratzinger Conference in Steubenville

I just attended a conference on the Josef Ratzinger’s/ Pope Benedict XVI’s theology of the Church in Steubenville, jointly organized by the Holy See’s Josef Ratzinger Foundation and Franciscan University of Steubenville (October 20th-21st). The conference was lively and extremely thought provoking, with a large number of scholars, of various schools of thought, addressing all aspects of Ratzinger’s ecclesial theology.

Fr. Lombardi reads the Pope Emeritus’s letter to the conference

The highlight of the conference came right at the start, when Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, of the Joseph Ratzinger Foundation reading a letter that the Pope Emeritus sent to the conference. The letter is a notable document of Ratzinger’s memory of Vatican II and its background. He wrote about the situation after World War I in Germany, recalling Guardini’s famous dictum about the Church awakening in souls. I could not help wondering, what Vatican II would have been like had it been held in the interwar period, with the strongly anti-individualistic, corporatist ethos of those days. Pope Benedict went on to discuss his own work on Augustine’s City of God after World War II. He sees that work, and the great Augustine Conference in Paris in 1954 as being essentially in continuity with the interwar “awakening of the Church,” but there are of course significant differences, to do (in part) with the anti-authoritarian reaction of the postwar period. In any event, Pope Benedict emphasized the way the new interpretation of Augustine to which he contributed decisively broke with the liberal reading of Augustine found, for example, in Heinrich Scholz. This was certainly an important achievement. Pope Benedict also, however, reiterated his acceptance of the Paris Conference’s rejection of medieval political Augustinianism’s interpretation of Augustine (a rejection that I myself find somewhat questionable).

Continue reading