The City of God: An Introduction

The Josias

by Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist.

1. Occasion and Intention

The sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410 shook the Roman world to its foundations. Although Rome was no longer the capital even of the Western Empire, nevertheless she was the symbol of the civilized world. To many Romans this catastrophe seemed to be a refutation of Christianity. Clearly, the Christian God was unable or unwilling to protect the city in which he was now honored. Christianity was unable to fulfill the function that political theology assigned to it of assuring the safety of the empire, and especially of that city from which the empire had originally sprung.[1] Saint Augustine of Hippo responded to this argument in The City of God.

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On Clerical Wigs

In discussing “spiritual worldliness,” the most recent Ratio Fundamentalis for priestly formation speaks (among other things) of “obsession with personal appearances,” and  “a merely external and ostentatious preoccupation with the liturgy.” Anyone who has moved in clerical circles knows that the description is not without fundamentum in re. One can recognize the type that Dumas père describes in Aramis: Continue reading

Pius XI: Mit brennender Sorge

The Josias

Introductory Note

Pius XI’s 1937 encyclical on the Church and the German Reich, Mit brennender Sorge (With burning concern),is today probably most known for the circumstances under which it was brought into Germany. Composed in German—allegedly by Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, then secretary of state, and Michael Cardinal von Faulhaber, longtime Archbishop of Munich—the encyclical was smuggled into Germany, distributed by the nuncio by courier, and printed in the utmost secrecy. Then, on Palm Sunday 1937, it was read out from the pulpit to German Catholics throughout the Reich. Hitler’s furious response came quickly: the Gestapo was sent out to round up those who participated in the distribution of the encyclical and to shut down the printing presses used. To Hitler and his circle, there was no mistaking what Mit brennender Sorge was: it was a declaration of war against the Reich by the Church.

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Lament for a Fox

Taking a walk after Mass today, I noticed a dead fox by the roadside. Apparently hit by a car, but still beautiful. I composed the following rhyme for poor beast:

Your cunning was no match, poor fox,
For the speed of the iron box.
Ban cars. Bring back cart and ox.

The Eighth Degree of Pride: “I meant well.”

There are many ways in which defence is made for sin. A man either says ‘I did it not’ or ‘I no doubt did it, but I acted rightly in so doing’, or ‘I may have acted wrongly but not to a serious extent,’ or, ‘If I was seriously wrong, I had no bad intention‘. If, however, he, like Adam and Eve, is proved to be guilty, he attempts to excuse himself on the ground that he was tempted by some one else. (St. Bernard of Clairvaux, The Twelve Degrees of Humility and Pride, XVII)

A Sign of Hope and Consolation

The sermon that I preached (more or less) in the village church of Grub im Wienerwald this morning, the Solemnity of the Assumption, the 10th anniversary of my first profession, the 7th anniversary of my solemn profession.

Our earthly life is a strange mixture of joy and misery. When we look at the wonder and beauty of our world— the blazing light of the sun turning the sky into a blue dome, flashing on the snowy tops of mountains, filtering through the green leaves of the trees, glittering on the waters. What wonders!  What joys! When we look at ourselves— these marvelous embodied spirits with eyes to see the brilliantly colored flowers, and ears to hear the rustling of the wind in the tree tops, and tongues to taste the sun-ripened peach; and above all, the light of intellect to penetrate to the depths and know the greater wonders of the first beginnings and causes of things. And the joys of friendship! Joys doubled and tripled by being shared in mutual benevolence and understanding. And the intoxicating ecstasy of young love! Beauty that transfixes the heart. And the joys of family life— to see new life come into the world, and take its first steps and begin to share the wonder of this world. The joy of growing old in faithfulness and seeing one’s children and one’s children’s children about one. And And the glory of the city at peace; noble, high and fair: rerum pulcherrima Roma. “The world is so full of a number of things, / I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” How do our hearts not burst with so much joy? Ich schnitt es gern in alle Rinden ein, / ich grüb es gern in jeden Kieselstein… Continue reading

Life in the Cosmos

A brilliant essay by Jeremy Holmes on how reason allows our lives to be extended beyond our bodies.

Peregrine Magazine

By Dr. Jeremy Holmes

Some time ago, I visited a friend who owns a Steinway baby grand piano. He told me about the history of the Steinway brand and the unlikely success of its orphaned and impoverished founder, but I could hardly pay attention. My fingers moved slowly over the keys, and old muscle memories stirred aching in my arms and back. I remembered how I would lean into the instrument, finding intensity in an old familiar rag. Some said I had­ a gift for it.

Then we moved away to graduate school and there was no piano around, and everyone studied late and woke early, and years went by and I did not play and did not play. I remember when I came home for vacation, sat at my parents’ upright piano to play the old favorites, and discovered that they were gone. The muscles tensed but nothing moved…

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