Thursday, May 23, 2024

St. Thomas Aquinas on the Lord’s Prayer.

Since St. Thomas Aquinas can be difficult to follow, his discussion of the Lord’s prayer will be slightly modified from the way it is presented by the Saint in his Summa Theologica


Matthew 6: 9-13; Thus therefore shall you pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our supersubstantial bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. Amen.


Luke 11: 2-4; And he said to them: When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.


Part One.


Whether the seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer are fittingly assigned?


I answer that, The authority of Christ, who composed this prayer, suffices.


The Lord’s Prayer is most perfect, because, as Augustine says "if we pray rightly and fittingly, we can say nothing else but what is contained in this prayer of our Lord." For since prayer interprets our desires, as it were, before God, then alone is it right to ask for something in our prayers when it is right that we should desire it. Now in the Lord’s Prayer not only do we ask for all that we may rightly desire, but also in the order wherein we ought to desire them, so that this prayer not only teaches us to ask, but also directs all our affections.


  • The first two petitions: "Hallowed be Thy name" and "Thy kingdom come."


Thus it is evident that the first thing to be the object of our desire is the end, and afterwards whatever is directed to the end. Now our end is God towards Whom our affections tend in two ways: first, by our willing the glory of God, secondly, by willing to enjoy His glory. The first belongs to the love whereby we love God in Himself, while the second belongs to the love whereby we love ourselves in God. Wherefore the first petition is expressed thus: "Hallowed be Thy name," and the second thus: "Thy kingdom come," by which we ask to come to the glory of His kingdom. 


  • Petitions three and four: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" and "Give us this day our daily bread."


To this same end a thing directs us in two ways: in one way, by its very nature, in another way, accidentally. Of its very nature the good which is useful for an end directs us to that end. Now a thing is useful in two ways to that end which is beatitude: in one way, directly and principally, according to the merit whereby we merit beatitude by obeying God, and in this respect we ask: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"; in another way instrumentally, and as it were helping us to merit, and in this respect we say: "Give us this day our daily bread," whether we understand this of the sacramental Bread, the daily use of which is profitable to man, and in which all the other sacraments are contained, or of the bread of the body, so that it denotes all sufficiency of food, as Augustine says, since the Eucharist is the chief sacrament, and bread is the chief food: thus in the Gospel of Matthew we read, "supersubstantial," i.e. "principal," as Jerome expounds it.


  • Petitions five, six and seven: "Forgive us our trespasses." and "And lead us not into temptation," and "Deliver us from evil."


We are directed to beatitude accidentally by the removal of obstacles. Now there are three obstacles to our attainment of beatitude. First, there is sin, which directly excludes a man from the kingdom, according to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, "Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, etc., shall possess the kingdom of God; and to this refer the words, "Forgive us our trespasses." Secondly, there is temptation which hinders us from keeping God’s will, and to this we refer when we say: "And lead us not into temptation," whereby we do not ask not to be tempted, but not to be conquered by temptation, which is to be led into temptation. Thirdly, there is the present penal state which is a kind of obstacle to a sufficiency of life, and to this we refer in the words, "Deliver us from evil."


Part Two.


Objection 1. It would seem that the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are not fittingly assigned. It is useless to ask for that to be hallowed which is always holy. But the name of God is always holy, according to Luke 1:49, "Holy is His name." Again, His kingdom is everlasting, according to Psalm 144:13, "Thy kingdom is a kingdom of all ages." Again, God’s will is always fulfilled, according to Isaiah 46:10, "All My will shall be done." Therefore it is useless to ask for "the name of God to be hallowed," for "His kingdom to come," and for "His will to be done."


Reply to Objection 1. As Augustine says (De Serm. Dom. in Monte ii, 5), when we say, "Hallowed be Thy name, we do not mean that God’s name is not holy, but we ask that men may treat it as a holy thing," and this pertains to the diffusion of God’s glory among men. When we say, "Thy kingdom come, we do not imply that God is not reigning now," but "we excite in ourselves the desire for that kingdom, that it may come to us, and that we may reign therein," as Augustine says (ad Probam, Ep. cxxx, 11). The words, "Thy will be done rightly signify, 'May Thy commandments be obeyed' on earth as in heaven, i.e. by men as well as by angels" (De Serm. Dom. in Monte ii, 6). Hence these three petitions will be perfectly fulfilled in the life to come; while the other four, according to Augustine (Enchiridion cxv), belong to the needs of the present life.


Objection 2. Further, one must withdraw from evil before attaining good. Therefore it seems unfitting for the petitions relating to the attainment of good to be set forth before those relating to the removal of evil.


Reply to Objection 2. Since prayer is the interpreter of desire, the order of the petitions corresponds with the order, not of execution, but of desire or intention, where the end precedes the things that are directed to the end, and attainment of good precedes removal of evil.


Objection 3. Further, one asks for a thing that it may be given to one. Now the chief gift of God is the Holy Ghost, and those gifts that we receive through Him. Therefore the petitions seem to be unfittingly assigned, since they do not correspond to the gifts of the Holy Ghost.


Reply to Objection 3. Augustine (De Serm. Dom. in Monte ii, 11) adapts the seven petitions to the gifts and beatitudes. He says: "If it is fear God whereby blessed are the poor in spirit, let us ask that God’s name be hallowed among men with a chaste fear. If it is piety whereby blessed are the meek, let us ask that His kingdom may come, so that we become meek and no longer resist Him. If it is knowledge whereby blessed are they that mourn, let us pray that His will be done, for thus we shall mourn no more. If it is fortitude whereby blessed ere they that hunger, let us pray that our daily bread be given to us. If it is counsel whereby blessed are the merciful, let us forgive the trespasses of others that our own may be forgiven. If it is understanding whereby blessed are the pure in heart, let us pray lest we have a double heart by seeking after worldly things which are the occasion of our temptations. If it is wisdom whereby blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God, let us pray to be delivered from evil: for if we be delivered we shall by that very fact become the free children of God."


Objection 4. Further, according to Luke, only five petitions are mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer, as appears from the eleventh chapter. Therefore it was superfluous for Matthew to mention seven.


Luke 11: 2-4; And he said to them: When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.


Reply to Objection 4. According to Augustine (Enchiridion cxvi), "Luke included not seven but five petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, for by omitting it, he shows that the third petition is a kind of repetition of the two that precede, and thus helps us to understand it"; because, to wit, the will of God tends chiefly to this—that we come to the knowledge of His holiness and to reign together with Him. Again the last petition mentioned by Matthew, "Deliver us from evil," is omitted by Luke, so that each one may know himself to be delivered from evil if he be not led into temptation.


Objection 5. Further, it seems useless to seek to win the benevolence of one who forestalls us by his benevolence. Now God forestalls us by His benevolence, since "He first hath loved us" (1 John 4:19). Therefore it is useless to preface the petitions with the words our "Father Who art in heaven," which seem to indicate a desire to win God’s benevolence.


Reply to Objection 5. Prayer is offered up to God, not that we may bend Him, but that we may excite in ourselves the confidence to ask: which confidence is excited in us chiefly by the consideration of His charity in our regard, whereby he wills our good—wherefore we say: "Our Father"; and of His excellence, whereby He is able to fulfil it—wherefore we say: "Who art in heaven."


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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

St. Alphonsus de Liguori on the Lord’s Prayer.

The Church militant regards herself as entirely composed of sinners; she thinks herself unworthy to call God her Father, and to address to him the seven petitions, which in the name of the faithful she is going to address to him by reciting the Pater noster, (“The Our Father”). Hence she protests that she only dares to address to God this prayer because God himself has commanded her to do so. She then teaches us that we may venture to present to God the seven petitions which contain the whole economy of our salvation, because it is pleasing to him and he himself gives us the command. 


We are so miserable, and our mind is so limited, that we do not even know what graces we should ask of God in behalf of our own salvation. Regarding our poverty and our insufficiency, Jesus Christ himself deigned to compose our prayer or to indicate the subjects on which we should address Almighty God. He instructs us to say:


Pater noster, qui es in coelis (“Our Father, who art in heaven). The Apostle St. John says: Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called, and should be the sons of God. It is assuredly only by the effect of extreme love that we worms of the earth have been enabled to become the children of God, not by nature, but by adoption; and such is the immense grace that the Son of God has obtained for us by becoming man; for St. Paul says: You have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry, Abba (Father). Can a subject wish for greater happiness than to be adopted by his king? Or a creature to be adopted by its Creator? This is what God has done for us; and he wishes that we should address to him with filial confidence the following prayer:


1. Sanctificetur nomem tuum (“Hallowed be Thy name”). God cannot possess a greater sanctity than that which he possesses from all eternity, because he is infinite; hence what we ask in this prayer is merely that God may make known in every place his holy name, and that he may make himself loved by all men: by unbelievers, who know him not; by heretics, who do not know him in the right manner; and by sinners, who know him but do not love him.


2. Adveniat regnum tuum (“Thy kingdom come’’)· Two kinds of dominion God exercises over our souls—the dominion of grace and the dominion of glory. By these words we ask for both, namely, that the grace of God may reign among us in this life, that it may direct and govern us, so that one day we may be judged worthy of glory, and may have the happiness to possess God and be possessed by him for all eternity.


3. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in coelo, et in terra (“Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”). The whole perfection of a soul consists in the perfect accomplishment of the will of God, as is done by the blessed in heaven. Hence Jesus Christ wishes us to ask the grace to accomplish the will of God upon earth, as the angels and saints accomplish it in heaven.


4. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie (“Give us this day our daily bread”). Such is the text as we find it in St. Luke [Luke 11:3]. By this prayer we ask God for the temporal goods of which we stand in need to sustain our present life. The words “Our daily bread’’ teach us that we should ask for this kind of goods with moderation, after the example of Solomon, who asked only what was necessary: (Give me only the necessaries of life).


It is to be remarked that in the Gospel of St. Matthew [Matt. 6:11], instead of the daily bread, we read, Give us this day our supersubstantial bread. By this supersubstantial bread we must understand, according to the explanation given by the Roman catechism, Jesus Christ himself in the Sacrament of the Altar, that is, in Holy Communion. We ask this heavenly bread every day, Give us this day, because every good Christian should communicate every day, if not really at least spiritually, as we are exhorted by the Council of Trent.


5. Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris (“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us”). To eat worthily of this heavenly bread, we must be free from mortal sin, or at least be washed of it by the blood of the Lamb in the sacrament of penance. We say, free from mortal sin; but it must be observed that if anyone should communicate with an actual affection for some venial sin, he could not be said to communicate without offering some indignity to our Lord—at least if he communicates often.


6. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem (“And lead us not into temptation”). How are these words to be understood? Does God sometimes tempt us—does he lead us into temptation? No; for St. James says: God is not a tempter of evils, and He tempteth no man. This text we must understand as we do that of Isaias: Blind the heart of this people . . . lest they see. God never blinds any sinner, but he often refuses to grant to some, in punishment for their ingratitude, the light that he would have given them had they remained faithful and grateful.


Hence when it is said that God makes any one blind, it is meant that he withholds the light of his grace. This, therefore is the sense of the prayer, and lead us not into temptation; we ask God not to permit us to have the misfortune of being in those occasions of sin in which we might fall. Hence we should always watch and pray as the Lord exhorts us to do, in order not to fall into temptation: Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. To enter into temptation means the same as to find one’s self in the danger of falling into sin; we should therefore often say to God, Lord, lead us not into temptation.


7. Sed libera nos a malo (“But deliver us from evil”). There are three kinds of evils from which we should ask the Lord to deliver us—the temporal evils of the body, the spiritual evils of the soul, and the eternal evils of the next life. As for the temporal evils of this life, we ought always to be disposed to receive with resignation those that God sends us for the good of our souls, such as poverty, sickness, and desolation; and when we ask God to deliver us from temporal evils we should always do so on condition that they are not necessary nor useful for our salvation.


But the true evils from which we should absolutely pray to be delivered are spiritual evils, sins, which are the cause of eternal evils. Moreover, let us be convinced of this infallible truth, that in the present state of corrupt nature we cannot be saved unless we pass through the many tribulations with which this life is filled: Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.


The priest finishes the Lord’s prayer with the word Amen, which he pronounces in a low voice, because he represents the person of Jesus Christ, who is the foundation of all the divine promises. This word is a summary of all the petitions that have been made—petitions the repetition of which pleases the Lord, for the more we pray to God the more he will hear our prayers. The great people of this world are not pleased when they are importuned by petitions; but this importunity is pleasing to God, says St. Jerome. Cornelius a Lapide even assures us that God wishes that we should persevere in this importunity in our prayers.

St. Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Mass – the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Alpha Editions, 2020, pp. 58-62.

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Thursday, April 4, 2024

Sedevacantists Condemn Themselves

A certain sede-vacante website has been featuring a major article to make the case for sedevacantism. They present the below paragraph, quoting from the future Pope St. Pius X, in order to support their thesis. However, if one reads this carefully, it actually is a condemnation of sedevacantism.

When Leo XIII was Pope and was celebrating 50 years of being a priest in 1887, Bishop Giuseppe Sarto of Mantua in Italy said to his flock:

"The moment has come to prove to the great Vicar of Christ our unchanging affection and fidelity. For us Leo XIII is the guardian of the Holy Scriptures, the interpreter of the doctrine of Jesus Christ, the supreme dispenser of the treasures of the Church, the head of the Catholic religion, the chief shepherd of souls, the infallible teacher, the secure guide, who directs us on our way through a world wrapped in darkness and the shadow of death. All the strength of the Church is in the Pope; all the foundations of our Faith are based on the successor of Peter. Those who wish her ill assault the papacy in every possible way; they cut themselves adrift from the Church, and try their best to make the Pope an object of hatred and contempt. The more they endeavor to weaken our faith and our attachment to the head of the Church, the more closely let us draw to him through the public testimony of our Faith, our obedience and our veneration."

[F.A. Forbes, Pope St. Pius X (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1987), pp. 34-35.] 


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Sunday, March 31, 2024

The Empty Tomb Visits.

  The holy women and apostles have varying visits and experiences at the empty tomb of the Risen Lord.  The gospel accounts can seem confusing, if not irreconcilable.  Maria Valtorta in The Gospel as Revealed to Me gives these accounts in such detail that it is possible to unravel their sequences.  One thing to be considered are the various locations and trajectories of the visitors from their respective starting points.  

   A Canadian site has produced a video with clear icons showing these events.  Although it is in French, I am posting it because of the visual aspects of the video and also because most people at one time or another studied some French, so please accept my apologies for this.  

  The link below is to the French language web site for Valtorta, and at the very top you can change it to a rough Google translation of  the text into English.   A short ways down you will be able to click on the YouTube of the video.  Enjoy this surprise Easter Bon Bon! 


LINK to French website and video.


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Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The scourging and crowning of Jesus.


The scourging and crowning of Jesus, amid the mockery of the soldiers. As revealed to Maria Valtorta – mystic and victim soul.

«Let Him be scourged» Pilate orders a centurion.


«How many blows?»


«As many as you like... In any case the matter is over. And I am bored. Go.»


Jesus is led by four soldiers to the court-yard beyond the hall. In the middle of that court-yard […], there is a high column like the one in the porch. At about three meters from the floor it has an iron bar protruding at least a meter and ending with a ring, to which Jesus is tied, with His hands joined above His head, after He has been undressed. 


He has on only short linen drawers and sandals. His hands tied at His wrists are raised up as far as the ring, so that, although tall, He rests only the tips of His toes on the floor... And even that position is a torture. I have read, I do not know where, that the column was low and that Jesus was bent over it. That may be. I say what I see. 


Behind Him stands one who looks like an executioner […], in front of Him, another man, looking like the previous one. They are armed with scourges, made of seven leather strips tied to a handle and ending with small lead hammers. They begin to strike Him rhythmically […]. One in front and one behind, so that Jesus' trunk is in a whirl of lashes and scourges.


The four soldiers [...], are indifferent and are playing dice with another three soldiers who have just arrived. And the voices of the players follow the rhythm of the sound of the scourges, which hiss like snakes and then resound like stones striking the stretched skin of a drum.


They beat the poor body, which is so slender and as white as old ivory, and then becomes covered with stripes that at first are a brighter and brighter pink shade, then violet, then it displays blue swellings full of blood, then the skin breaks letting blood flow from all sides. They redouble their cruelty on His thorax and abdomen, but there is no shortage of blows given to His legs, arms and even to His head, so that no fragment of His skin may be left without pain.


And not a moan... If He were not held up by the rope, He would fall. But He does not fall and does not groan. Only His head hangs over His chest, after so many blows, as if He had fainted.


Displayed in the church of Paola, Malta.

«Hey! Stop! He must be alive when He is killed» shouts a soldier scoffingly. The two executioners stop and wipe their perspiration.


«We are exhausted» they say. «Give us our pay, so that we may have a refreshing drink...»


«I would give you the gallows! But here you are...» and a decurion [Roman officer in charge of ten soldiers] throws a large coin to each executioner.


«You have done a good job. He looks like a mosaic. Titus, do you mean that this man was really Alexander's love? We must let him know, so that he may mourn over His death. Let us untie Him.»


They untie Him, and Jesus falls on the floor like a dead body. They leave Him there, pushing Him now and again with their feet […], to see whether He moans. But He is silent.


«Is He dead? Is it possible? He is a young man and a handicrafts-man, so I am told… and He looks like a delicate lady.»


«I will take care of Him» says a soldier. And he sits Him with His back against the column. Clots of blood appear where He was. He [the soldier] then goes towards a fountain […], he fills a tub with water and pours it on Jesus' head and body.


«That's it! Water is good for flowers.»


Jesus draws a deep sigh and tries to stand up, but His eyes are still closed. «Oh! good. Come on, darling! Your dame is waiting for You!...»


But Jesus in vain presses His hands against the floor trying to stand up.


«Come on! Quick! Are You weak? Here is some refreshment» says another soldier sneeringly. And with the shaft of his halberd he delivers a blow to Jesus' face striking it between the right cheekbone and the nose, that begins to bleed. Jesus opens His eyes and looks round. His eyes are veiled... He stares at the soldier who struck Him, wipes the blood with His hand, and then, with much effort, He stands up.


«Get dressed. It is immodest to stay like that. You lewd man!» They all laugh standing around Him.


And He obeys without speaking. But when He bends – and He alone knows how much He suffers when stooping to the ground, contused as He is, as His wounds open even more when the skin is stretched [...] – a soldier gives a kick to His garments and scatters them, and every time Jesus reaches them, staggering to where they lie, a soldier pushes them away or throws them in a different direction. And Jesus, suffering bitterly, goes after them without uttering a word, while the soldiers deride Him obscenely.


He can dress Himself again at last. And He can put on also the white tunic, which was left in a corner and is still clean. He seems to wish to conceal His poor red garment, which only yesterday was so beautiful and now is filthy with rubbish and stained with the blood sweated at Gethsemane. Furthermore, before putting on His short vest, He dries His wet face with it, cleaning it of dust and spittle. And the poor holy face looks clean, marked only by bruises and small cuts. And He tidies His hair which is hanging ruffled, and His beard, out of an inborn need to be personally tidy. Then He squats in the sunshine. Because my Jesus is shivering... Fever begins to torture Him with its cold shivers. And He feels weak because of the blood He has lost, of fasting and walking so much.


They tie His hands once again. And the rope begins to cut into His wrists, where the excoriated skin has left a mark like a red bracelet. «And now? What shall we do with Him? I am bored!»


«Wait. The Jews want a king. Now we will give them one. Him...» says a soldier.


And he runs out to a court […], from which he comes back with a bunch of branches of wild hawthorn, still flexible, because springtime keeps the branches relatively tender, whilst the long sharp thorns are hard. With a dagger they remove leaves and buds, they bend the branches forming a circle and they place them on His poor head. But the cruel crown falls down on His neck.


«It does not fit. Make it narrower. Take it off.»


They take it off and scratch His cheeks, risking to blind Him, and they tear off His hair in doing so. They make it smaller. Now it is too small, and although they press it down, driving the thorns into His head, it threatens to fall. They take it off once again, tearing more of His hair. They adjust it again. It now fits. At the front there are three thorny cords. At the back, where the ends of the three branches interweave, there is a real knot of thorns that penetrate into the nape of His neck.


«Do You see how well You look? Natural bronze and real rubies. Look at Yourself, o king, in my cuirass» says the inventor of the torture scoffingly.

Library of Congress

«A crown is not sufficient to make a king. Purple and sceptre are required. In the stable there is a cane and in the sewer there is a red chlamys [a woolen cloak]. Get them, Cornelius.»


And once they have them, they put the dirty red rag on Jesus, shoulders, and before putting the cane in His hands, they beat His head with it, bowing and greeting: «Hail, king of the Jews» and they roar with laughter.


Jesus does not react. He lets them sit Him on the «throne»: a tub turned upside-down […], He lets them strike and scoff at Him, without ever uttering a word. He only looks at them, casting glances of such kindness and such atrocious sorrow that I cannot bear them without feeling heart-broken.


The soldiers stop sneering at Him only when the harsh voice of a superior orders them to take the guilty prisoner to Pilate. Guilty! Of what? Jesus is taken back again to the entrance-hall […]. He still has the crown, the chlamys and the cane.


From chapter 604, The Gospel as Revealed to Me, by Maria Valtorta. 


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