By: William Keimig, Guest Blogger

child

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.

Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.”
(1 Corinthians 13:11-12)

Point A.  I remember my singular priority at Holy Mass in days gone by.  Between the end of the opening prayer – first time down on my bottom – and the end of the holy, holy, holy – first time down on my knees – to convince my parents, discretely of course, to shoot straight out to the car park after receiving Communion.
For me, that was a “good” Sunday – out early.

Point B.  Now I’m the assistant director of a catechetical institute at a Catholic university.

I am never unaware of the distance God had to take me.
And I’m sure He’s ever aware of the still greater distance He has yet to take me.

Between points A and B lay many encounters.  Encounters with docile people; people docile to a body of truth, and more so to a God taken flesh who said quite startlingly, “I am the truth.” (John 14:6)

A child can be docile to whim, and also docile to wisdom, but only if wisdom is a person.  Perhaps children don’t naturally follow rules, but they do naturally follow relationships.  As a father now, I have become acutely aware of this.

Relationships with people, people docile to the truth, led me forward, to faith, to hope, to love, to a priceless peace of soul that every external whirlwind daily battles against.

baby-203048_1280

The spiritual life is so very hard.  Impossible totally without clarity being brought to my dimness.  Otherwise I’d just remain like a child, victim to my own whims, not likely to be of much account.

That clarity, His voice, speaks to me in Scripture, of course.  But also in something else given to bring clarity to all that confuses me about Scripture.  That something else is the Church’s echo, passed down from the beginning – to give me surety that what was given in the beginning, was being given now, and would be given forever.  This is the role of a Catechism.

Rewritten as needed through the centuries for ears that hear differently in different eras, the Catechism was authored afresh by the Church just before the millennium changed.  And this year to come, 2017, is the 25th since that fresh vision of ancient and eternal truths was published for the world.

Like a child needs guidance to be led by more than whim, to learn to navigate the worldly and spiritual briars awaiting ahead; like a father needs guidance to be that relationship where a child may find truth reliably; like every soul longs to really know what it looks like to be at peace with God, I can take joy, great, great joy, in being able to reach out and hold a Catechism.
And read it.

I want to invite you to the pages of this precious book.  Scripture’s intended companion.


 

CTS are honoured to be publishing a new, definitive and complete edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You can pre-order at www.ctsbooks.org/catechism

By: Dr Elizabeth Harrison, Editorial Assistant
@CorArdens

Tolstoi’s War and Peace (1869) is a novel about love, war, human nature and the progress of history itself.

For those who haven’t read this huge novel the BBCs recent dramatization, with its stellar cast and sumptuous costumes, will have brought the nineteenth century into our living rooms.

But how many of us consider some of the more serious themes in it?

An important theme is Russia’s relationship with Europe and the strengthening of Russian national identity around the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Another theme is the plight of women in the nineteenth century. We see how Lise, Andrei’s wife, is left behind while he goes off to war.

Russian Orthodox heritage and the Jesuits

Sergiev Posad

Russian Orthodox Church, Sergiev Posad

The BBC dramatization has highlighted the Orthodox heritage of Russia – including scenes from Pierre and Helen’s wedding, and other scenes with the pious Maria praying before icons.

The soundtrack features the singing of Orthodox choirs. But viewers may not realise that Tolstoi was also making a jibe at Catholicism.

Hélène, played by Tuppence Middleton, with her brother Anatole Kuragin, helps represent Francophile Petersburg society at the turn of century and, with it, the type of social and sexual mores that Tolstoi’s later work, such as The Kreutzer Sonata (1890), lambasted.

In War and Peace, Hélène wants to marry one of her lovers. The lover decides to ask the Jesuits about the legal situation of the potential marriage and introduces Hélène to one of them. She decides to convert to Catholicism, Tolstoi paints a picture of the Jesuit as beguiling and highly persuasive.

Anatole and Helene

Anatole and Helene

Her conversion story mirrors the commonly-held view of the Jesuits as Machiavellian schemers. The Jesuits expect, as the narrator explains, that Hélène will give them money.

Secondly, Hélène expects that she will be permitted to receive a divorce in return for this money. Both are acting from distinctly unholy motives, both are tainted with immorality.

Invade and convert Russia

The trope of Russia being ‘invaded’ by France is repeated in these scenes.

It is strengthened further by the threat that Russia could be not simply invaded but ‘converted’ to European ways.

Napoleon

Napoleon

Tolstoi is echoing the historical fact of conversions of prominent Russians to Catholicism at the beginning of the century, influenced by the Jesuits who ran schools in Russia.

Some Russians even joined the Society of Jesus, who were banned from Russia by the 1860s. They continued to polemicize and publish from there, much to the consternation of many Russian thinkers.

Woman and Catholicism in Tolstoi’s view

Hélène is dependent on men and uses sexual relationships with them to gain power. This is demonstrated in the BBC series when we see Pierre’s reaction to her, both when he first meets her and later, when they are married.

Pierre

Pierre

Women, like Jesuits, can also bend a man’s will, as Hélène does with Pierre. Hélène is described in ways that suggest that she is as guileful as the Jesuit, is a temptress.

One of the main purposes of this Jesuit episode in War and Peace is not only to attack the Jesuits or even Catholicism as such but to use their association with Hélène, the female villain of the novel, to attack her and her immorality.

Therefore, although his view of Catholicism is clearly negative, Tolstoi’s depiction of women can at times be more pejorative than his view of Catholics!

Parts of War and Peace suggest that Russia’s destruction can come from within. In other places, Tolstoi’s novel suggests that Europe itself presents a threat, and that the enemy is without. In this passage, the Jesuits symbolize the threat from without, Hélène the threat from within.

In the 1860s Russia was still trying to answer the question of its relationship with Europe, and Europe could still threaten Russia, even through its ideas. However, Russia also had its own problems, the need for reform and renewal.

It is not always clear who is to blame, the Jesuit for tempting or Hélène for agreeing.
The same can be said for Russia and the path it takes.St Basil's, Moscow

You can read and download the whole article: “The Image of the Jesuit in Russian Literary Culture of the Nineteenth Centuryby Elizabeth Harrison

By: Celia Wolf-Devine, CTS Author & Guest Blogger

“Nothing makes us so like to God as a readiness to forgive.” — St. John Chrysostom

What a blessing Pope Francis gives us in proclaiming a Jubilee Year of Mercy. We live in a fallen world; we wound each other constantly in small ways and in large ones as well.

forgiveness

Without forgiveness, the world quickly becomes hell, but forgiveness does not come naturally to us. Indeed, it sometimes seems humanly impossible.

God, in his mercy, breaks into this hopeless situation through the death and resurrection of his son to wash away our sins and pour his grace into our hearts — grace that can enable us to forgive as Jesus did.

Here are some practical suggestions to help the faithful let go of the past and focus on emulating Christ’s mercy:

  1. Be careful about venting anger. Venting does not dissipate anger, but instead reinforces it. Anger in itself is not bad. Like fire, it is both useful and dangerous; it can spur us to act forcefully to redress an injustice and to protect ourselves and others from harm. This is especially important where an ongoing offense is damaging innocent people. We must focus on doing what can be done to right the situation. We cannot let anger be a motivation for revenge.
Photo Credit: Mindaugas Danys. License

Photo Credit: Mindaugas Danys. License

  1. Do not keep going over past transgressions, as it will only feed the holding of grudges. Reliving the wrongs done to us simply keeps us entangled in bitterness, which can warp us into becoming the sort of people from whom others flee. Brooding over wrongs opens the door to all sorts of bad things. As St. Paul says,

“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil” (Eph 4:26-27).

At some point, we simply need to let it go. Ask God for a spirit of gratitude; this is a good antidote to brooding on wrongs.

Photo Credit: Vic. License

Photo Credit: Vic. License

  1. Don’t involve more people than necessary. It is OK to have a confidante, but we shouldn’t go around discussing grievances with anybody who is willing to listen. This just leads to the sin of gossip, which Pope Francis has warned the faithful against, saying, “The person who gossips is like a terrorist who throws a bomb and runs away, destroying. With their tongue, they are destroying and not making peace.”

gossip-532012_1920

  1. Ask forgiveness from others. When we have wronged someone, it is important to give them the opportunity to forgive and be free from the burden. Also, we should make some sort of restitution for a wrong to let the person who has been hurt know we are sincere in seeking their forgiveness.
Photo credit: Rebecca Kennison. License

Photo credit: Rebecca Kennison. License

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. St. Thérèse of Lisieux makes this point eloquently in “Her Last Conversations,” saying,

“What we choose to fight is so tiny. When we win, it’s with small things, and the triumph itself makes us small.”

When we become embroiled in trying to argue, explain and justify ourselves, we lose our peace of soul. Better let the matter drop in silence. Thérèse was never afraid to speak the truth forcefully when duty required it, but she learned to choose her battles wisely.

Therese_von_Lisieux

  1. Act for the person’s good, even when we don’t feel like it. Don’t slam the door permanently. We must allow the person room to change while also acknowledging that ignoring bad behaviour does them little good. Keep praying for reconciliation.

conversation-799448_1920

  1. Make forgiveness a ritual at bedtime. Going to bed angry at the ones we love only weakens our relationships by allowing the bitterness and anger to fester overnight. We should make it a habit to resolve the disputes — with our families, especially — before the end of each day.

baby-428395_1920

 


Celia Wolf-Devine
For more on Forgiveness from Celia Wolf-Devine, see the full article on Our Sunday Visitor.

Celia Wolf-Devine is a retired philosophy professor, author and lecturer. Her CTS publications include the New Companion to Prayer. For more information on her and her work see www.celiawolfdevine.com.

By: Jim Gallagher, CTS Author & Guest Blogger

Picture credit: Manfredo Ferrari

Picture credit: Manfredo Ferrari

Happy New Year to all readers of CTS Catholic Compass!

One of the happier pieces of news over the festive period is that Blessed Mother Teresa is to be canonised during this Year of Mercy.

As we approached Advent at the tail end of last year, I kept thinking that the Year of Mercy was to begin on the First Sunday of that season. Stood to reason, I thought. First Sunday of the new liturgical year.

In fact, of course, the jubilee Year of Mercy officially began on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 8th December.
How beautiful!

With the conception of the Sinless One, the New Eve, the path in time of our Redemption was begun, God’s Merciful plan was launched.

Picture credit: Lucia Dughetti

Picture credit: Lucia Dughetti

Mother Teresa surely epitomises the traditional all-encompassing mercy of the Church and her saints. That care for body and soul; the whole person.

And I always find it interesting that it is often the greatest mystics who have the most concern for the bodily well-being of their fellows. Think of Padre Pio and his magnificent hospital.

“Nothing is too good for the sick,”

he used to say.

And the Servant of God Chiara Lubich, foundress of a vast worldwide movement, was always the first to run to the bedside of a dying member of her movement in the residences for elderly members near her headquarters.

When I sent the late Servant of God Chiara Lubich a copy of my CTS biography of Mother Teresa, she was delighted and wrote to me of Mother being one of her ‘dearest friends’.

You see: they were both mystics, both perfect practitioners of all the corporal and spiritual Works of Mercy, both foundresses.blog pot 1

When Mother Teresa was given a former Hindu pilgrim hospice to open her first Home for the Dying, many were the Hindu brahmin or holy men who were outraged and protested.

But Mother stayed calm. This was the property the City of Calcutta (as was then) had given her and so it was where God meant her Home to be.

She named it Nirmal Hriday .
This, she once explained to me, meant Place of the Pure Heart.
“Oh!” I said, “House of the Immaculate Heart?”.
She smiled and nodded.

And every time we pray the Rosary we are reminded of the charity and mercy of Mary, the Mystical Rose.
In the second Joyful Mystery she makes haste to be with her older kinswoman, the moment that she hears she too is with child.

Happy and fruitful Year of Mercy to one and all!

 


James Gallagher
Jim Gallagher is a journalist and author who lives in London.  His books have been translated into many different languages, including Icelandic, Norwegian, Chinese and Czech. His biographies for CTS include those of Blessed Mother Teresa and the Servant of God Chiara Lubich.

 

 

From all the CTS staff, a very happy and holy Christmas: may your life, as this night, be lit by the Love of God, made flesh among us.

Christmas 2015 DSC_0408


In this special Year of Mercy, let’s not forget that out of the darkness of winter comes the Light of the World.

And we remember this, once again, with the words of the Holy Father, last Christmas:

“This is how the liturgy of this Holy Christmas night presents to us the birth of the Saviour: as the light which pierces and dispels the deepest darkness. The presence of the Lord in the midst of his people cancels the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery, and ushers in joy and happiness.

“We too, in this blessed night, have come to the house of God. We have passed through the darkness which envelops the earth, guided by the flame of faith which illuminates our steps, and enlivened by the hope of finding the “great light”.

“By opening our hearts, we also can contemplate the miracle of that child-sun who, arising from on high, illuminates the horizon.”

(Pope Francis, Homily on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, 24th December 2014)

Nativity

 “An angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherd] and the glory of the Lord shone around them”
(Lk 2:9)


Christmas Closures

Our offices and bookshop will close for Christmas at 1pm on Christmas Eve, and will reopen on Monday 4th January 2015.

Wishing you all the blessings for the New Year!

Have a Merry Christmas!

 

By: Cristiana Ferrauti
@Cristiana1649220151216_090927

Gifts to buy, the big family lunch to prepare, the greetings phone calls, friends to meet, the house to clean, the relatives to invite….

The Christmas tree is ready and baby Jesus’ small statue is the only missing piece from the Nativity.

How many items are in our to-do list for this Christmas?

It is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas that we sometimes forget what Christmas is actually all about.

Just look at the recent controversy about the plain-red Christmas cups launched this year by Starbucks.

“We want Starbucks to be very clear about the fact that it is Christmas,” says Fr Rob Ketcham. “But how clear are we about the fact that God was born into human history? Do we experience that, do we live that every day, do we love that?”

As Christians we are often so worried about what we fear, what we are against or we need to fight, that we miss the experience of the true love which is the root of our faith, and the real meaning of Christmas.

Fr Rob pictures the meeting between the average Christian and God at the end of this earthly life: I fought this, I was against that, and this… listing all the battles and the good campaigns supported.

“And God replies: ‘I know, I know, but…did you love me?”

So this Christmas, let’s not get too caught up in the sparkling and rushing for the celebration’s preparation. Instead, let us pause in front of the miracle of the Light of the World, and simply love.

 


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