Category: hans urs von balthasar

Vatican II, Salvation, and the Unsaved: A CWR Symposium

Via Carl Olson (Ignatius Insight):

This special CWR symposium, consisting of eight essays, is the result of a promise made earlier this year as well as the desire to address and discuss some timely questions related to the Year of Faith (which concludes this Sunday on the Feast of Christ the King), the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, and the New Evangelization.

In April, CWR published a review by Dr. David Paul Deavel of Dr. Ralph Martin’s book, Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization (Eerdmans, 2012). It was then decided that the review would be withdrawn until a later time; as Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press and publisher of CWR, explained, CWR wished “to provide a fuller treatment of a difficult subject than the original review, in my opinion, is able to provide. … The goal is to try to understand what’s what, who’s who, and how best to proceed in fulfilling the Great Commission, without overlooking the genuine nuances and insights theological wisdom provides.”

To that end, we asked six theologians to take up one, two, or all three of the following questions:

  • What did the Council say about the possibility of salvation for those who do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church?
  • What are the reasons for the apparent widespread loss of emphasis on evangelization following the Council?
  • How can the directives of Vatican II and recent popes about evangelization be best explained and implemented?

Those theologians are Douglas Bushman, STL, Dr. Nicholas Healy, Father David Meconi, SJ, Tracey Rowland, Father James V. Schall, SJ, and Father Thomas Joseph White, OP.

This symposium includes Dr. Deavel’s original review, as well as essays from the seven authors above. It concludes with the essay, “Did Hans Urs von Balthasar Teach that Everyone Will Certainly be Saved?” by Mark Brumley.


  • Dare we Hope? Rorate Caeli 12/8/13:

    Mark Brumley, in his own essay cleverly sidesteps one of the central accusations that Martin makes against Balthasar, namely that Balthasar makes specious use of his sources, often quoting them out of context or even to make the opposite point of what the author intended.

    Instead, Brumley concludes the selection of essays by offering an alternative interpretation of Balthasar that would more easily harmonize with Tradition and Scripture regarding the “hope” of universal salvation.

    But what does Scripture and Tradition tell us about hope and salvation? If God created everyone out of love, then surely he would will them all to reach their end – eternal happiness in heaven. And if he wills the end, then surely he wills the means, right? Therefore, all will be saved? …


Balthasar, Universal Salvation, and Ralph Martin’s "Will Many Be Saved?"

The Catholic blogosphere is atwitter with discussion of a recent dustup between Mark Shea and Michael Voris regarding the latter’s criticism of Fr. Barron, over Barron’s continued receptivity toward a theory advanced by Hans Urs Von Balthasar that it is acceptable to have good hope that Hell may be empty. Boniface at Unam Sanctum has the blow-by-blow for those interested.

Appropos of the topic, I have just finished reading Ralph Martin’s Will Many Be Saved?: What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization (Eerdmans, 2012).

The question of whether and how people who have not had the chance to hear the gospel can be saved goes back to the beginnings of Christian reflection. It has also become a much-debated topic in current theology. In Will Many Be Saved? Ralph Martin focuses primarily on the history of debate and the development of responses to this question within the Roman Catholic Church, but much of Martin’s discussion is also relevant to the wider debate happening in many churches around the world.

In particular, Martin analyzes the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the document from the Second Vatican Council that directly relates to this question. Contrary to popular opinion, Martin argues that according to this text, the conditions under which people who have not heard the gospel can be saved are very often, in fact, not fulfilled, with strong implications for evangelization.

I was very impressed by Martin’s survey of the subject and the praise from Timothy Dolan, Francis Cardinal George, Peter Cardinal Turkson and Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, O.P. seems to me warranted.

After a detailed explication of the doctrinal development and scriptural basis of section 16 of Lumen Gentium, Martin proceeds with a detailed analysis and criticism of Rahner’s “anonymous Christian” and the larger part of his book to Balthasar’s Dare we Hope that all may be saved?.

Martin’s negative evaluation of Rahner’s theology was to be expected, howbeit what I found interesting was how Rahner in his later years admitted to some critical reservations about his earlier position — as well as a “too euphoric” evaluation of humanity and the human condition at the Council. Likewise,

So the Council’s decree Gaudium et Spes can be blamed, despite all that is right in it, for underestimating sin, the social consequences of human guilt, the horrible possibilities of running into historical dead-ends, and so on.

Martin’s devastating critique of Balthasar, however, comes as more of a surprise. For even with figures as highly esteemed as Avery Dulles, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Emeritus Benedict giving a stamp of theological toleration (and/or approval) to Balthasar’s hope for universal salvation — Martin’s detailed exposition of Balthasar’s tendency to ignore, misquote or mischaracterize his sources (whether from the Scriptures, the Fathers or the mystics) as well as his questionable theological reasoning should give pause for all.

Consider for example:

At this point we can no more than mention that patristic scholars have raised serious questions about the accuracy of Balthasar’s interpretation of these Fathers, particularly his attempts to enlist them as sympathizers or teachers of universalism. Brian Daley, for example, challenges Balthasar’s assertion that Methodius was a universalist. He traces both Origen’s thought and its influence on Methodius and Gregory of Nyssa and he concludes that, not only does Methodius not teach this openly, but he does not even hold it secretly. […]

O’Connor identifies instances where Balthasar clearly misrepresents the teachings of the Fathers in order to claim precedents for his own theory. For example, Balthasar claims: “Let us return to the Church Fathers. At first, the view still existed among them that no Christians, even if they had sinned grievously, end up in hell. Cyprian already seems to suggest this; Hilary as well; Ambrose remains formal on the matter, and Jerome no less so.”137

O’Connor comments: “This statement is disappointingly inaccurate. . . . There is no Father of the Church, up to the time of Origen, who teaches that all Christians, even those who sinned grievously, are saved.” He finds Balthasar’s citation of Cyprian particularly egregious, for the actual text of Cyprian teaches the very opposite; the Christian sinner who sins grievously and then repents can be saved.138 He also points out that, contrary to Balthasar, the earliest Christian writing outside of the NT that attests to the reality of hell was not the Martyrdom of Polycarp (c. 156) but the even earlier Second Epistle of Clement …

Manfred Hauke also raises questions about Balthasar’s invocation of various Fathers in support of his theory, noting that it is precisely those ambiguous teachings of various Fathers that were never accepted by the Church that Balthasar cites for support.

Martin devotes a substantial amount of his book to exposing what appears to be, from a standpoint of academic integrity, a rather questionable treatment by Balthasar of myriad sources — the Scriptures, the Fathers, the mystics, in support of a position that is squarely at odds with the weight of Catholic tradition. Indeed, my experience o Martin was not unlike that of reading the late Ralph McInerney’s “Praeambula Fidei”: Thomism And the God of the Philosophers, in which he laid bare Henri De Lubac and Etienne Gilson’s (mis)interpretation of Cajetan and Aquinas.

Is Martin (and Daley, and O’Connor, and Hauke, et al.) correct in his assessment of Balthasar? Balthasar strikes me as being neither ignorant nor a fool,
and Martin’s portrayal imputes an element of brazenness in advancing his position, at once professing his orthodoxy and repudiating apokatastasis while covertly hinting at it:

O’Connor describes the situation like this:

Although he rejects the theory of apokatastasis, von Balthasar is so categorical in denying that we know that there are or will be humans who are to be eternally damned, and so forceful in defense of a hope for the salvation of all that he appears to be saying that, in fact, no one will be eternally lost.

Roch Kereszty makes a similar observation:

Does his understanding allow for a definitive free refusal of God’s love on the part of any human being? He repeatedly insists on this possibility, but the inner consistency of his thought does not seem to admit it. . . . My reservation regarding his position comes from the suspicion that the logic of his thought leads not just to hope, but to a (consciously denied but logically inescapable) certainty for the salvation of all.142

The charges practically scream for a rebuttal. (Paging qualified Balthasar scholars …).

For a theological movement that styles itself Ressourcement must be, if anything, honest in the treatment of its sources. If Martin’s critique of Balthasar is correct (as McInerney is in his criticism of De Lubac) — if their scholarship on this particular subject is simply not to be trusted, and found wanting — it casts some doubt upon the integrity of their work as a whole. Where else could they have gone wrong?

At the very least, I do find myself reading the work of both De Lubac and Balthasar with a more cautious eye, and a more attentive ear to those sounding the alarm.

* * *

One final piece of theological trivia worth noting — Balthasar ends Dare we Hope with a lengthy citation from the unpublished theological speculations of Edith Stein, ““which expresses most exactly the position that I have tried to develop.” Stein asserts that while the possibility of the soul’s refusal of grace and consequent damnation in principle cannot be rejected, “In reality, it can become infinitely improbable — precisely through what preparatory grace is capable of effecting in the soul.” According to Stein,

The more improbable it becomes that the soul will remain closed to it. . . . If all the impulses opposed to the spirit of light have been expelled from the soul, then any free decision against this has become infinitely improbable. Then faith in the unboundedness of divine love and grace also justifies hope for the universality of redemption, although through the possibility of resistance to grace that remains open in principle, the possibility of eternal damnation also persists.

But here’s the catch: While Balthasar identifies himself completely with this passage from the saint, Stein herself moved beyond it and revised her position in later years:

Schenk, “Factical Damnation,” p. 150, n. 35, points out that while Balthasar makes this his final position, it was not the final position of Edith Stein herself. Schenk points out that these were passing comments in a work that she herself never published, and that in 1939 in her spiritual testament, she significantly modifies. “The possibility of some final loss appears more real and pressing than one which would seem infinitely improbable.” Hauke, “Sperare per tutti?” pp. 207-8, makes the same point as well as the additional point that not everything a saint or Doctor wrote is honored when they are recognized as saints or Doctors.

Dr. Martin received his BA from the University of Notre Dame in Philosophy and did Graduate work on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship in Philosophy at Princeton University. He received his MA in theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary and has been on the faculty since 2002. He holds a S.T.L. degree from the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. and an S.T.D. in systematic theology from the Pontifical Faculty of St. Thomas Aquinas (The Angelicum) in Rome. He teaches in the areas of systematic theology, spirituality and evangelization and is Director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization which includes the STL program as well as the New Evangelization concentrations in the MA and MAPS programs.

He has published widely and is engaged actively in Catholic evangelization through the non-profit organization Renewal Ministries, of which he is president. His latest books are Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization and The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints.

In December of 2011 Pope Benedict XVI appointed Dr. Martin to a five year term as a Consultor for the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. In 2012 Dr. Martin was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as an “expert” for the World Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.

Book Reviews of Ralph Martin’s Will Many be Saved?

  • Who Will Be Saved, How Many and How?, by Fr. C. John McCloskey. National Catholic Register 9/28/13.
  • Review: Will Many be Saved?, by Peter A. Huff. Xavier University. Homiletic and Pastoral Review March 2013:

    Martin’s timely and provocative study is likely to shake up the theological and pastoral establishment. Critics will find a scholarship that is derivative in spots, and a prose that occasionally borders on turgid. Some will dismiss the work as biblicist. Historians will demand harder evidence to establish a link between professional theologians’ ideas, and a mood allegedly dominating a Catholic generation or two. The erosion of belief is overdetermined, as Freud would say. One can cease to believe in hell, without marching orders from a German-speaking theologian.

    The thrust of the book’s bold thesis, however, cannot be ignored, or easily denied. Universal salvation is an unofficial article of faith in the mainstream Catholic theological academy. Martin’s claim that it has no basis in the teachings of Vatican II demands a serious and self-critical response. His book restores evangelization to its proper status as a genuine Vatican II theme. Every seminarian, priest, college professor, and administrator should read it. It may not be the best book on Vatican II released during the Year of Faith, but it could be the most important.

  • Oh, Hell, by Dr. Philip Blosser. The Pertinacious Papist 12/14/12.
  • Review: Will Many be Saved?, by Rev. Andrew McLean Cummings. Archdiocese of Baltimore. Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, Fall/Winter 2012.
  • Saving the Hell Out of You, by Fr. Robert Barron. RealClearReligion. 12/13/12.

    Responses to Fr. Barron

  • The Flight from Hell, by William Doino, Jr. First Things “On the Square” 10/08/12.
  • Will Many Be Saved?, by Dr. Jeff Mirus. Catholic Culture 9/19/12. “If you can read only one book on this topic, which is so critical for a continuing Catholic renewal and the salvation of souls, read Ralph Martin’s Will Many Be Saved?. You will find it a valuable exercise in spiritual growth, and a vital means of setting the record straight.”
  • “Blatant Censorship” and Ralph Martin’s Will Many Be Saved? – On Mark Brumley’s pulling of David Paul Deavel’s review from The Catholic World Report.

Related discussions of Dare We Hope?

Personal note — I found it refreshing to revisit the research of Avery Cardinal Dulles on this subject (referenced above), where he gives what I think is fair treatment to both sides. Cardinal Dulles had a calming presence about him, conveying a sense of both scholarly neutrality (letting the research speak for itself) as well as Christian charity (presenting each position in the best light and not imbuing the other party with dubious motives).

It seems to me that the voices in these times have gotten increasingly more shrill (Mark Shea and Michael Voris strike me as prime examples). As Catholic blogs renew these theological debates (at times ad nauseum), Dulles’ tone and presentaton is one worth emulating.

And Alyssa Pitstick vs. Balthasar over Christ’s descent into Hell

Balthasar on solidarity and separation; some Lenten reading.

… we do well to keep our distance from the watered-down theories that, on the Cross, Jesus simply drew the final conclusion of his constant solidarity with sinners; just as he had shared meals with tax collectors and prostitutes, so now he let himself be crucified with two thieves. It is true, but by no means the whole truth.

Theories like this try to show that Jesus’ attitude to sinners was nothing other than a demonstration of the reconciled attitude God had already shown towards the world’s guilt. But what sense would this make of the many stern words of judgement in the mouth of Jesus? And what of the whole terrible drama, the tragedy of the Old Covenant between Yahweh and Israel? What of the departure of God’s glory from the Temple, and the angel, with fire from God’s throne, setting it in flames? Was all his a pure misunderstanding, corrected by Christ’s Father-God? Would not this bring us back to Marcion’s anti-Semitic gnosticism, in which the God of the Old Testament was an inferior demon? Surely the Bible is a unity? — especially in view of the continuity from the great prophets, Job and the “Servant” to the Cross of Christ.

Certainly the Cross is concerned with Jesus’ “solidarity” with sinners. But this word, so much in vogue today, is much too weak to express the whole depth of the identification taken on by Jesus. The truth of sin (particularly, when it is see as he lie) must be realized somewhere in the iron ruthlessness implied by the sinner’s “No” to God and God’s “No” to this refusal. And this could only be realised by someone who is so truthful in himself that he is able to acknowledge the full negativity of this “No”: someone who is able to experience it, to bear it, to suffer its deadly opposition and melt its rigidity through pain.

We must carefully avoid drawing false conclusions. We cannot say that Jesus, instead of the sinner, is “punished” by God. Nor can we say that he feels “damned” by God and placed in “hell.” For we associate the state of “hell” with a hatred of God. It would be meaningless to ascribe to the Crucified the slightest resentment toward God. But it is quite possible to speak of the Son of God suffering what the sinner deserved, i.e., separation from God, perhape even complete and final separation.

It can even be said that no one can suffer being forsaken by God more profoundly than the Son, whose whole life was unit with the Father, whose meat and drink it was to do His will. On the Cross he still does His will without realizing it anymore. With every fiber of his being he clings to God whose presence he no longer feels, because now, in the name of sinners, he is to experience what it means to have lost contact with God.

~ Hans Urs von Balthasar (Does Jesus Know Us? Do We Know Him?, pp. 34-36).

Excerpt from some Lenten reading.

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Eschaton Si, Imminent No!

[Cross-posted to The American Catholic]

Over at Vox Nova, Henry Karlson offers some thoughtful reflections on eschatology (Part I | Part II | Part III), or rather — those who employ the catch phrase “Don’t immanentize the eschaton!” as a cudgel against those “doing the work of Christ”:

How many times do we find these words repeated, time and again, since Voegelin has suggested to do so is Gnostic? How ironic is this claim, when authentic Christian theology believes that the eschaton has been immanetized in Christ. Voegelin, and many of his followers like Buckley, became critical of anyone who would try to connect the supernatural with the natural in a way which understood the eschatological ramifications of Christ have any this-worldly implications. But this is exactly what Christian theology proposes. God became man; the eschaton has been revealed; the world and all that is in it has been affected by the immanentizing of the eschaton that history can never be the same. Christians are called to live out their lives in and through Christ, bringing the eschatological implications of Pascha to the world itself. The world is meant to be transformed and brought to its perfection, and we are to be Christ’s workers in helping to bring this about; of course, our work is not on the same level of Christ’s, but, if we truly become one with Christ in his body, we must understand this is exactly what we are called to do. Anything else is a rejection of the incarnation, anything else which tries to establish an absolute duality between the immanent and transcendent is what really qualifies as gnostic!

In response, I’d like to say a little bit about why I find myself sympathetic to Buckley and company. (more…)

Wherein lies the Kingdom?

The German Jesuit Alfred Delp, who was executed by the Nazis, once wrote: “Bread is important, freedom is more important, but most important of all is fidelity and faithful adoration.”

When this ordering of goods is no longer respected, but turned on its head, the result is not justice or concern for human suffering. The result is rather ruin and destruction even of material goods themselves. When God is regarded as a secondary matter that can be set aside temporarily or permanently on account of more important things, it is precisely these supposedly more important things that come to nothing.

It is not just the negative outcome of the Marxist experiment that proves this. The aid offered by the West to developing countries has been purely technically and materially based, and not only has left God out of the picture, but has driven men away from God. [p. 33]

* * *

Let us return to the third temptation. Its true content becomes apparent when throughout history we realize that it is constantly taking on new forms. The Christian empire attempted at an early stage to use faith in order to cement political unity. The Kingdom of Christ was not expected to take the form of a political kingdom and its splendour. The powerlessness of faith, the early powerlessness of Jesus Christ, was to be given the helping hand of political and military might. The temptation to use power to secure the faith has arisen again and again in varied forms throughout the centuries, and again and again faith has risked being suffocated in the embrace of power. The struggle for the freedom of the Church, the struggle to avoid identifying Jesus’ Kingdom with any political structure, is one that has to be fought century after century. For the fusion of faith and political power comes at a price: faith becomes the servant of power and must bend to its criteria. [p. 40]

If we had to choose today, would Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary, the Son of the Father, have a chance? Do we really know Jesus at all? Do we understand him? Do we not have to perhaps make an effort, today as always, to get to know him all over again? The tempter is not so crude as to suggest to us directly that we should worship the devil. He merely suggests that we opt for a reasonable decision, that we choose to give priority to a planned and thoroughly organized world, where God may have his place as a private concern but must not interfere in our essential purposes. Soloviev attributes to the AntiChrist a book entitled The Open Way to World Peace and Welfare. This book becomes something of a new bible, whose real message is the worship of well-being and rational planning. [p. 41]

— Benedict XVI (Jesus of Nazareth

The Passion narratives are the first pieces of the Gospels that were composed as a unity. In his preaching at Corinth, Paul initially wants to know nothing but the Cross, which “destroys the wisdom of the wise and wrecks the understanding of those who understand”, which “is a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles”. But “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (I Cor 1:19, 23, 25).

Whoever removes the Cross and its interpretation by the New Testament from the center, in order to replace it, for example, with the social commitment of Jesus to the oppressed as a new center, no longer stands in continuity with the apostolic faith. He does not see that God’s commitment to the world is most absolute precisely at this point across a chasm.

— Hans Urs von Balthasar (“The Cross – For Us” excerpt from A Short Primer For Unsettled Laymen)

Hans Urs von Balthasar and Mother Teresa’s "Dark Night of the Soul"

The Swiss theologian may not have had Mother Teresa in mind when he wrote this, but I couldn’t help but think of the recent media flap spurred by Time magazine (Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith Time August 23, 2007) and disgruntled atheist Christopher Hitchens (Teresa, Bright and Dark Newsweek August 19, 2007):

Active faith means following Jesus; but Jesus’ mission leads him on a course from heaven deeper and deeper into the world of sinners, until finally on the Cross he assumes, in their stead, their experience of distance from God, even of abandonment by God,a nd thus of the very loss of that lucid security promised to the “proven” faithful. This paradox must be borne; and from the Christian point of view the juxtaposition of temporal moments — of hours, days, years — exists not least for the purpose of rendering possible the sequence of these seemingly incompatible Christian life experiences.

Paul experienced and formulated this paradox. He knows two things: that even amid all his sorrows (which can reach to the point of “despairing of life”) God “comforts” him, and that his, Paul’s, “sufferings in Christ” redound to the consolation and inner strengthening of the Church (2 Corinthians 1: 4-7). One can sense the many varied nuances possible here. A person can experience extreme affliction outwardly and at the same time be inwardly “comforted,” that is, know that he is living fully within God’s will: many martyrs knew this. It can also happen that a person experiences darkness in the depths of his being — is submerged in God’s “testing” — and in his darkness radiates light to others, though he himself does not feel or realize it at all. . . .

It is God who arranges the “theological states” of the believer, plunging him at one time into the deep waters of the Cross where he is not allowed to experience any consolation, and then into the grace given by resurrection of a hope which brings with it the certainty that it does not deceive. No one is able or permitted to fit these “theological states” into a system that can be manipulated and surveyed to any extent by man. Their every easpect, even when they seemingly contradict one another, is christological and therefore left to God’s disposition. [pp. 37-38]

* * *

The law of renunciation can become very difficult for the individual in times when genuine ecclesial life finds feeble expression and numerous sects offer the enticement of immediate “experiences.” But no one who experiences this difficulty should think that the mystic, whith his apparently immediate experiences of divine things, has an easier life. For every true mysticism, however rich it may be in visions and other experiences of God, is subject at least as strictly to the law of the Cross — that is, of non-experience — as is the existence of someone apparently forgotten in the desert of secular daily life. Perhaps the mystic has to pass through dry periods that are even more severe. Where this is not the case, where we are offered acquirable techniques to attain a mysticism without bitterness and the humiliations of the Cross, we can be certain that it is not authentically Christian and has no Christian signficance.

[Excerpts from Hans Urs von Balthasar, New Elucidations (Ignatius Press)]

  • Author of new Mother Teresa book responds to Time Magazine article Catholic News Agency:

    In an interview with the Spanish daily La Razon, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, author of the book Come Be My Light and postulator of Mother Teresa’s cause of canonization, said the revered nun “lived a trial of faith, not a crisis of faith,” and that she overcame it showing that the love “is in the will and not in feelings.”

    Come Be My Light is a collection of letters Mother Teresa written about various aspects of her life, some revealing that she suffered spiritual darkness for decades. Father Kolodiejchuk expressed regret that Time Magazine twisted the meaning of the book, whose title comes from “the words Jesus spoke to Mother Teresa in 1947. Time Magazine, even with the cover photo (of a Mother Teresa who appears depressed), has greatly manipulated world opinion. The book is about a trial of faith that Mother endured for 50 years, which is very different from a crisis of faith. This is not something new in the saints. This phenomenon of the dark night is well know in spiritual theology,” he said. . . . [MORE]

  • The “Atheism” of Mother Teresa, by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap. National Catholic Register Sept. 9-15, 2007 Issue:

    Some have completely misunderstood the nature of these writings, thinking that they oblige us to reconsider the personality of Mother Teresa and her faith and holiness. Far from undermining the stature of Mother Teresa’s holiness, these new documents will immensely magnify it, placing her at the side of the greatest mystics of Christianity. . . .

    How wrong author and atheist Christopher Hitchens is when he writes “God is not great. Religion poisons everything,” and presents Mother Teresa as a product of the media-era.

    But there is an even more profound reason that explains why these nights are prolonged for a whole lifetime: the imitation of Christ.

    This mystical experience is a participation in the dark night of the spirit that Jesus had in Gethsemane and in which he died on Calvary, crying: “My God, my God, why hast thou abandoned me?”

    Mother Teresa was able to see her trial ever more clearly as an answer to her desire to share the sitio (thirst) of Jesus on the cross: “If my pain and suffering, my darkness and separation give you a drop of consolation, my own Jesus, do with me as you wish. … Imprint on my soul and life the suffering of your heart. … I want to satiate your thirst with every single drop of blood that you can find in me. … Please do not take the trouble to return soon. I am ready to wait for you for all eternity.”

  • Pope John Paul II on the “dark night of the soul”, by Carl Olson. Ignatius Insight Sept. 9, 2007.
  • The Dark Night of Mother Teresa, by Carol Zaleski. First Things May 2003:

    Mother Teresa is not the only modern saint to have undergone such a trial of faith; one thinks also of precursors like St. Paul of the Cross (1694-1775), founder of the Passionists, and St. Jane Frances de Chantal (1572-1641), foundress of the Visitandines, but above all of Mother Teresa’s namesake, St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897), the French Carmelite famous for her “Little Way” . . .

April 9, 2005 was the Feast Day of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta:

  • Across India, rich and poor remember Mother Teresa Sept. 5, 2007:

    At Shishu Bhavan, Kolkatta the house where the MC welcomes abandoned children, orphans and babies saved from abortion, dawn mass was celebrated.

    Mother Teresa consistently battled against abortion, asking mothers to “gift” her their unwanted children.

    “I think – she said in ’94 – that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion….if we can accept that even a mother can kill her child, how can we tell people not to kill one another?”.

    Fr. Bosco, the priest who celebrated mass in Shishu Bhavan, tells that after the celebration the flock of children dressed in festive costumes sang for Mother Teresa “the happiness of these little ones is infective – he adds – they bring such joy to us”.

  • Marking the feast of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a beautiful post (and photographs) by Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, OFM Cap.

Christianity, Real or Otherwise

  • “Some Dissenters Quit the Church But Don’t Stop Being Catholic”, by Jeff Diamant (Washington Post January 27, 2006)

    Many Catholics drift away from the church or join other denominations. But Ortelli, 57, wanted to maintain both her Catholic identity and her worldview. And she didn’t want to feel one was inconsistent with the other.

    So 20 years ago, she did what a small number of defiant Catholics are doing. She joined a church with many lifelong Catholics of similar views, a church that borrows heavily from Catholic rituals even though it’s not part of a Catholic diocese. . . .

    A profile of breakaway “Catholic” sects like Rochester NY’s “Corpus Christi”, replete with mind-boggling quotes (“I don’t think I should have to give up my Catholicism. That’s part of who I am” — yes, but to sever communion with Rome?) and a curious perception of Christianity:

    The Inclusive Community’s chapel is set up to be, well, inclusive. Two crosses are on the Communion table — one with the body of Jesus, the other without, respecting Catholic and Protestant traditions, respectively. The Communion host can be taken with either wine or grape juice.

    Via Get Religion, who poses the question:

    Do these churches have bishops? How do you claim to be Catholic — big C — without a bishop? Also, what is the Vatican’s legal or technical view of the sacraments offered by the men who were once ordained? I mean, a priest is always a priest, even if he is an inactive priest. Right?

  • Responding to the proposal that we as Catholics should “we need to change our focus from Jesus in the tabernacle onto Jesus in the tabernacle of our brothers and sisters,” Off The Record‘s Diogenes’ comments on “The Real Thing”:

    On first reading this proposal might sound edifying (“as you have done to the least of my brethren, so you have done to me …”). But finding Jesus in our brothers and sisters is only edifying if Jesus himself is something extraordinary. When Mother Teresa said that Jesus was to be found “in the distressing guise of the poor” her confession had wallop. Why? Because she believed Jesus was God Incarnate, and to see God Incarnate as somehow present in a wretched human being is to acknowledge that person as intrinsically worthy of reverence. But if you’re a social Gospel christologist, to say you find Jesus in others is to say you can see in them the Jesus you yourself have found in the New Testament: a heterodox rabbi of first century Galilee. Sure, it’s meant to be a compliment, but it doesn’t shake you up, doesn’t force you to confront, radically, the difference in the way you treat important and unimportant people. If Jesus is no big deal, finding Him in others is no big deal either.

    Now consider Eucharist adoration again. Mother Teresa regarded it a daily necessity if she and her sisters were to persevere in their work. On one hand, adoration reinforces one’s faith that Jesus is God Incarnate, even as the belief itself summons the believer to adoration. But worshiping the body of Jesus under the species of bread also coaches us in a particular disconnect between appearance and reality, where the underlying reality is infinitely more precious than the surface appearance. Now it’s comparatively easy to minister to poor people when they’re cooperative and grateful and make the minister feel a sense of accomplishment. But sometimes, we’re told, they’re cantankerous to the point of being positively repellent. That’s the point at which the self-congratulatory do-gooders quit and go home and where the real charity kicks in. That’s the point at which it’s impossible to see the face of Jesus in the destitute (or sick, or deranged) except as a pure act of faith. And that’s the point at which it matters whether Jesus is divine or not, because belief in the repulsively disguised spark of divinity is the only reason to keep on giving love in exchange for contempt.

  • On a related topic, Oswald Sobrino blogs on “Catholicism that Doesn’t Work” in its secular liberal (“those who think that the mission of the Church is to coddle modern Western secular culture and to embrace the agenda of anything goes”) and authoritarian (“claims to respect the magisterium, but likes to make his own binding magisterial pronouncements even when the official magisterium has not taken a stand”) manifestations.
  • Nicholas Hardesty, aka. “PhatCatholic” who has sometimes pitched in to moderate the Ratzinger Forum, has started An Apologetics Blog — check out his sidebar and the Phatmass Catholic Defense Directory for an wealth of links and helpful resources.
  • Dr. Blosser aka. Pertinacious Papist has started a new blog, The Jesus Seminar (Critically Examined):

    . . . For some time I have had thought that the Jesus Seminar represents a significant, if scholastically dubious and slightly goofy, avant garde of the movement of historical-critical biblical scholarship, which, whatever its earlier antecedents, acquired its important historical momentum in Germany during and following the Enlightenment period. In one way, it might be characterized as the historical-critical movement gone to seed. In any case, over the past decade I have taught several courses in hermeneutics and epistemology, and at least one course explicitly dealing with the philosophical background of the historical-critical interpretation of the Bible; and these classes have reinforced my belief in the importance of addressing the issues at the popular avant garde level. Perhaps it is unfortunate that in this case “avant garde” does not mean the most scholarly sophisticated level. Yet when one looks at where the influence of these studies are found in the present culture, it is not in the world of academe, but rather in the world of popular culture.

    The blog begins with a reposting of two early articles from Crisis magazine, The Genesis of the Jesus Seminar by Prof. John McCormick and Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar, by William R. Farmer (Crisis March 2000).

. .the present situation is characterized by a strong polerization in the Church, so much so that a dialogue between “progressives” and “traditionalists” succeeds only rarely. The camp of the progressives seeks to conquer the center; that of the traditionalists holds the fortress tenaciously as if it defended the center. Both sides distance themselves from the men in office and the small number of theologians who seek to maintain the true center.

Where should one look to see a dawn? One should look to where in the tradition of the Church something truely spiritual appears, where Christianity does not seem a laboriosly repeated doctrine, but a breathtaking adventure. Why is all the world suddenly looking at the wrinkled but radiant face of the Albanian woman in Calcutta? What she is doing is not new for Christians . . . but suddently the volcano that was believed extinguished has begun to spit fire again. And nothing in this old woman is progressive, nothing traditionalist. She embodies effortlessly the center, the whole.

Hans Urs von Balthasar
A Short Primer for Unsettled Laymen.