July 2000

July 31, 2000

Subject: Which Mary Is Which?

From: Ron

Dear Father Moderator:

Some biblical commentators have identified Mary Magdalene with Mary (of Bethany), sister of Martha and Lazarus. I didn't think that they were the same person. Please clarify this for me. Thank you.

Fr. Moderator Replies.

There is dispute on this point, even among the ancient Fathers. It is generally held today that the woman who bathed the feet of Christ (Luke 7), the sister of Martha and Lazarus (Luke 10 and John 11), and the woman who was freed by Christ from the seven devils (Luke 8) are the same person. Sometimes she is held to be also the adultress caught in flagrante delicto.

July 30, 2000

Subject: The Key to Victory

From: Jeff

The conflict is instructive insofar as it reflects the growing rift between conservatives and traditionalists in the Catholic Church. As the traditional movement has grown in strength and success, attracting the young and producing vocations and making converts, some conservatives have become increasingly militant in their defense of the Novus Ordo.

It has been most entertaining to watch the shift in rhetoric. Originally, proponents of the Novus Ordo wanted to make the liturgy "relevent" so as to attract a new generation of young people. Hence, the Mass was invaded by liturgical dance and popular music, trendy sermons and marshmallow morality, all for the sake of attracting the young.

Now, the stereotypes have been overthrown, and they are singing a different tune: according to Cardinal Hoyos, young men are attracted ... because they are prone to "a certain spirit of rebellion" and "incline to extreme and rigorist positions". I recently came across another article lamenting that the traditional Latin Mass has one thing in common with many non-Catholic sects and cults: namely, it is disproportionately attractive to young people.

So, it was never really about "the young" after all: it was about The Revolution, which at the time happened to have the young on its side, but today is alienating the young who are starving for authentic Catholic worship and spirituality. Appealing to "the young" was apparently just a tactical maneuver, and a dishonest one at that.

The goal of some conservatives is clearly to make attendance at the traditional Mass nothing more than a mere "preference", like one of so many flavors of ice cream, another dish in the Catholic cafeteria. To these Catholics, any substantive criticism of the Novus Ordo smacks of disloyalty. (Somehow, criticism of the traditional Mass before, during, and after the Second Vatican Council does not count as disloyalty.) As I heard one priest put it recently, "contempt for the new Mass is sacrilege and blasphemy".

At the bottom of the conservative position is a fear-based reluctance to get behind our arguments. They perceive that we are on the losing side, and that is enough for them. After all, who wants to entertain the arguments of a bunch of quixotic losers? What infuriates these conservatives is our insistence that the Novus Ordo ... is a qualitatively inferior rite, an invitation to abuse and sacrilege, and even worse, an occasion of sin for many priests and laity....

Attendance at the New Mass can be likened to standing at the foot of the Cross while congratulating ourselves for the wonderful people we are and the wonderful things we do for Jesus. That the Novus Ordo could be anything but inherently wonderful is the unthinkable possibility for many conservatives: if they believed that Holy Mother Church did indeed err in promulgating the Novus Ordo, they would lose their faith in the Church and cease to be Catholics. They simply cannot "go there".

I have a theory about the conservatives' predicament that may not resonate well with traditionalists. Perhaps the intense polemics of the Counter-Reformation, when taken as a whole but not analyzed too carefully, gave the overall impression that "the Church can do no wrong". Perhaps it came to be believed among Catholics that "private judgment" (or common sense) is always to be contrasted with ecclesiastical authority.

While conservatives have digested well the doctrines of authority in the Church, they seem to have a selective memory when it comes to the human side of ecclesiastical decisions.

The conservatives cannot endure an untidy Church like this; it is much too scary. So they construct a safer and more worldly Church which doesn't demand too much from their consciences. And in so doing they must, in some degree, ensure that Catholics remain ignorant of their history and heritage.

Subject: Time for a Truce

From: Jeff

Conservatives and traditional Catholics are certainly working toward many of the same ends. Both want a restoration of the sacred in worship and an end to liturgical abuses; both want a resurgence of Catholic spirituality and a return to traditional morality.

The conservatives are, by and large, faithful Catholics doing the best they know how to do. And they are doing a great deal of good. Catholic Radio and EWTN, in spite of their shortcomings, have been tremendously successful in waking up lukewarm Catholics around the world. Indeed, they were instrumental in my own conversion. There is no reason why traditional Catholics should not be supportive of their work and applauding their successes.

At the same time, conservatives ought to recognize that traditional Catholics have come the closest to achieving an integrated Catholic culture in their communities. Yes, they have a long way to go, but with liturgical issues being settled, traditional Catholics are now going about the business of restoring Catholic culture and pursuing lives of holiness.

They are beginning to live, once again, in a resurrected Catholic reality: a world of saints and mystics, scapulars and medals, miracles and relics, shrines and images, fasting and penance, weekly confession, daily rosaries, large families, consecrated virgins, and holy priests who do not want to leave the altar. This is the medicine that will ultimately save the Church.

The liturgical wars in Novus Ordo Land consume massive amounts of energy and resources, often at tremendous spiritual and emotional expense. Even the "good guys" often get hooked on controversy: some wouldn't know what to do with themselves without liberal priests and committees to combat.

A Catholic acquaintance of mine was recently turned down for the diaconate because of his conservative views. So, he is going back to battle the parish committees, and the innovations of a modernist priest, to the best of his abilities. When I suggested that he try the Latin Mass, he politely changed the subject!

Just as the very silence of the Mass so often disturbs visitors from the Novus Ordo, perhaps the absence of liturgical controversy disturbs those who have never known any other way of being Catholic.

There really is only one long-term strategy for victory.... Traditional Catholic communities must be known first and foremost for the sanctity of their members. And this should be a cinch, since the Traditional Latin Mass has proven to be indispensable in the formation of countless saints.

Additionally we must be storming the confessionals, telling our beads, loving our wives, and leading our children to Jesus and Mary. As a convert still in the honeymoon phase of my Catholic life, one thing remains crystal clear: I do not deserve the great Pearl which has been delivered to me. I do not deserve the traditional Mass, or the Benedictions, or the Rosaries, or the life-giving Absolutions, or the community, or any of the graces which flow from the Cross to me in the Catholic Church.

On the one hand, it does not seem fair that what is really the historic Catholic mainstream is now confined to the margins.... Just before I took Communion for the first time, I read an excellent article in Catholic World Reports about "The Calvary of Romania". The thought occurred to me that I would soon be partaking of the same Body as did the martyrs of Romania under the communist yoke, whose heroic suffering and charity surpasses the human imagination.

How could I dare? We are so far from the saints, yet we are given the same graces. Nothing could be more profoundly humbling.

July 29, 2000

Subject: The Philistines Are at It Again

GRAND RAPIDS, OHIO, July 24 (Toledo Blade) - About 50 angry parishioners confronted their priest outside St. Patrick Catholic Church after Mass yesterday, demanding a parish vote on controversial plans to renovate the historic church.

Many of the protesters pointed fingers and shouted at the Rev. F. Anthony Gallagher, upset with the decision to alter the church, which was built in 1845....

After the morning confrontation, protesters returned to the church grounds in the afternoon in hopes of blocking maintenance crews from entering the building to remove pews and other furnishings before reconstruction begins this next week.

At issue are plans, approved 5-1 by the parish's six pastoral council members, to renovate the inside of the church, including the relocation of the tabernacle from the central altar to a separate area for private prayer.

In Catholic churches, the tabernacle houses the consecrated communion bread known as the Blessed Sacrament or Eucharist, which Catholics believe to be the Body of Jesus Christ....

Parish council members have said the parish is following guidelines set by the Second Vatican and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, a 1975 document.

The preceding is a common error. There are no such guidelines.

"It didn't really hit until you got into church today," she [Mrs. Homan] said. "It was hard to leave, because you knew it might be the last time you saw it that way."

Mrs. Homan should leave that church and find the closest one that offers the Traditional Latin Mass.

Mr. Westhoven, a church member of 45 years, said he can't recall such a volatile confrontation between parishioners and a priest in his church's history. "It's not just about the building, it's about our beliefs and our faith," said parishioner Lou Leasor. "We're willing to do anything for our faith."

If the faithful had reached as vociferously against the vernacularized New Order of Mass and other aberrencies in the Church in the late 1960s, perhaps none of this would ever have happened. These people are doing too little too late. If only they had stood up against the bishops and priests when the New Order was first thrust upon them, but instead they lay down in false obedience to the Philistines who were destroying their Church, and now they are paying the price for it.

The proposed renovation includes modifying and moving the main altar to the center of the church, rearranging the pews around it, and relocating the organ so that it is closer to the people. In addition, plans calls for new carpeting, refinishing the pews, and making the building more accessible to people with disabilities....

In other words, its not a Catholic church, but a "church in the round."

July 28, 2000

Subject: "Ecumenical" Persecution of Christians

AGARTALA, India, July 25 (Reuters) - A 48-year-old Roman Catholic priest was shot dead in the insurgency-hit northeastern Indian state of Tripura on Tuesday, police and church officials said.

Father Victor Crasta was killed and three church officials injured when National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) guerrillas attacked their vehicle at Damchara, 195 km north of the state capital, Agartala, police said. There has been a spate of attacks on India's minority Christian community across the country in recent months....

The NLFT is one of several militant groups fighting for autonomy or independence in India's hilly northeastern region and it consists mainly of Christians. India's Christian community, which makes up about two percent of the country's billion strong population, has been under attack in recent months.

Earlier this month, a Catholic priest was shot dead in the crime-plagued eastern state of Bihar. Last month, there was a series of bomb blasts in churches in southern India and vandals struck twice at Christian cemeteries in the south, destroying crosses on graves.

Some missionaries have blamed right-wing Hindu groups, including those considered close to the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, for some of the attacks. Hindu leaders deny involvement in the attacks but say that Christian missionaries sometimes cause resentment by forcing tribal people in remote areas to convert.

Fr. Moderator Comments.

Is this what Vatican II "ecumenism" has led to? That Catholic missionaries should stop seeking conversions to the True Faith; otherwise, they will be murdered? If so, they will join many missionary martyrs from the early Church to the present day, who did not let politics stand in the way of the saving of souls, even though those politics may come from the ecclesiatstical bureaucracy now.

Subject: The Old Red Herring

From: Carlos

Dear Fr. Moderator:

I have been going to an independent chapel for the Traditional Latin Mass for almost three months. I still have questions in my mind whether I'm doing the right thing. Some Franciscan Novus Ordo presbyter says that one should not attend independent Masses, that independence is directly opposed to the unity of the Church. This New Order presbyter suggests that I stay home rather that attend any Mass by independents, SSPX, SSPV, CMRI, or any others except theirs. I'm trying to live a good and devout Catholic life. I just want to know the truth.

Fr. Moderator Replies.

The real question is: where is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church? Is it in the New Order (Novus Ordo) that has abandoned the immemorial and apostolic Traditional Latin Mass of 2000 years, that has changed Catholic theology to the point that even Catholics aren't quite sure any more what it is, that has changed the nature of the very Sacraments themselves?

Catholic theology teaches that if the Faith is not founded on Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, the Deposit of Faith, the structure is unimportant. Many great Saints -- like Athanasius and Augustine, Doctors of the Church, no less -- challenged even popes when they departed from this. St. Augustine even took a public oath once, denouncing confusing and perceived heretical actions by a pope who was later excommunicated.

So, where is the Church? In unCatholic innovations that St. Paul condemned from the beginning? Or where it always has been -- in the Mass, the Sacraments, and Faith of 2000-year Roman Catholic tradition? Our Lord will deal ultimately call Church officials to account. We, however, are called on to stand with the Faith that we have been taught by Tradition. We know we are safely Catholic that way. St. Paul tells us so many times in his Epistles.

As St. Athanasius said to his flock when the Church of the fourth century was taken over by the Arian heretics, including the vast majority of the bishops, with even the pope being suspect: "They have the buildings, but we have the Faith." For further details about this previous history of the Church as a guide for the future, see Arians.

The response of the traditional Catholic to such a New Order presbyter must be:

We are what you once were.
We believe what you once believed.
We worship as you once worshipped.
If you were right then, we are right now.
If we are wrong now, you were wrong then.

Subject: Friday Abstinence on Thursday?

From: Jo

Dear Fr. Moderator:

Father, I am a newly baptized Catholic. I try to obey the Church and abstain from meat on Fridays. I work, and there are luncheons every so often on Fridays when they celebrate people's retirements, promotioins, etc., and they always barbequed chicken, hamburgers, etc.

Father, I want to obey the Church, but can I participate in those luncheons if I abstain on Thursdays those weeks that they have these luncheons scheduled?

Fr. Moderator Replies.

No, the traditional abstinence from fleshmeat (which goes back very early in the Church) is on Friday, the day Our Lord gave Himself for us that Good Friday. Can we not do such a little self-mortification by abstaining from fleshmeat on that one day of the week, especially when it is so easy nowadays with so many vegetarian options available?

Abstain from the meat and partake in all the other good food available -- salad, bread, beans, and whatever else may be served. Or ask for a Gardenburger (soy burger). Many people don't like fatty meat anyway. Your colleagues would probably hail you for speaking up!

Subject: U.S. Law to Protect Churches and Religion

WASHINGTON, July 27 (AP) - City officials will not be able to zone a new church out of its area simply because they don't want it around under a bill (S. 2869) sent to President Clinton on Thursday.

Religious groups had complained that cities and towns would try to use zoning laws to stop them from building new churches or temples or moving into their area. Some city officials would "deliberately exclude all new churches from an entire city; others refuse to permit churches to use existing buildings that nonreligious assemblies had previously used and some intentionally change a zone to exclude a church," said Rep. Charles Canady, R-Fla....

The bill also protects the right of prisoners to practice their religion as long as it does not disrupt the security, discipline, or order of their institutions.

Hatch also said prisoners and mental health patients have been prevented from practicing their faith, including simple things like letting Jewish prisoners have matzo and unleavened bread during Passover even when Jewish groups donated the food for free. "The legislation would require that a substantial burden on an institutionalized person's religious exercise be justified by a compelling interest," Canady said.

Dom Gueranger's Liturgical Masterpiece Republished

From: Fr. Moderator

St. Bonaventure Publications, which gave the Catholic world back the Liber Usualis, the indispensible compendium of Gregorian chant for liturgical use, has done the Catholic world another great service by making available the fifteen-volume classic The Liturgical Year. Translated from the original French by Dom Laurence Shepherd, this "Summa" of traditional Roman liturgy was penned by the noted Benedictine scholar of the nineteenth century, Dom Prosper Louis Pascal Gueranger (1805-1875). Dom Gueranger was Abbot of the Monastery of Solesmes, France, which was responsible for reintroducing the chant into the daily life of the Church's Sacred Liturgy once again.

This work, in its fifteen volumes of about 500 pages each, admits us into the "interior world of heavenly beauty, splendour, and peace, the liturgy of the Church." It consists of a beautiful spiritual commentary on the season and solemnities of the Sacred Liturgy in the traditional Roman Rite.

Each volume treats, with a liturgical and spiritual approach, the general topics pertaining to the liturgical season, together with a commentary on the Proprium de Tempore (Proper of the Time) and the Proprium Sanctorum (Proper of the Saints). The work treats of the weekdays as well as the Sundays of the entire year. At a time, such as our own, when daily Mass is frequently unavailable, this work provides the missing piece.

Here, for example, is part of Dom Gueranger's liturgical and spiritual commentary on Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent:

Today, again, the Church is full of joy, and the joy is greater than it was. It is true that her Lord has not come, but she feels that He is nearer than before, and therefore she thinks it just to lessen somewhat the austerity of this penitential season by the innocent cheerfulness of her sacred rites. And first, this Sunday has had the name of Gaudete given to it, from the first word of the Introit; it also is honoured with those impressive exceptions which belong to the fourth Sunday of Lent, called Laetare. The organ is played at the Mass; the vestments are rose-colour; the deacon resumes the dalmatic, and the subdeacon the tunic; and in cathedral churches the bishop assists with the precious mitre. How touching are all these usages, and how admirable this condescension of the Chuch, wherewith she so beautifully blends together the unalterable strictness of the dogmas of faith and the graceful poetry of the formulae of her liturgy! Let us enter into her spirit, and be glad on this third Sunday of her Advent, because our Lord is now so near unto us. Tomorrow we will resume our attitude of servants mourning for the absence of their Lord and waiting for Him; for every delay, however short, is painful and makes love sad.

Each of the fifteen hardback volumes, 13 x 18 cm in size, is bound in an attractive gold-embossed blue-green color. There are a total of 7200 pages in the set. The cost is $165.00, plus $14.00 shipping in the U.S.

July 25, 2000

Subject: What Happens to Animals?

From: Edmund.

Dear Father Moderator:

What happens to animals after they die? Will the faithful ever be able to live in eternal joy with their beloved pets?

Fr. Moderator Replies.

The concept of heaven as "old home week" is not really a Catholic one, but more one of Protestant Millennarianism, a thousand years of "heaven on earth."

Remember what heaven is. It is the Beatific Vision, seeing God in the face, as it were, the perception by the soul of Divinity Itself -- All Good, All Beautiful, All Powerful. When faced with that, the soul would be riveted in an eternity of contemption. Even Aristole understood this, four centuries before Christ.

Earthly concerns will pale to nothingness. Remember that the Sadducees once asked Our Lord about marriage in heaven, and He replied:

For in the resurrection they shall neither marry nor be married, but shall be as the angels of God in heaven" (Matthew 22:30).

In other words, existence will be devoid of such concerns.

Animals do have souls (Latin animae), that is, a life principle, but not rational souls (animi). It is the principle of rationality to which the immortality of the soul is attached. Genesis tells us that animals, as all of God's wondrous creation, are given to us for our use, and Scripture is filled with many animals that show us the splendor of God's Creation.

In them, we see aspects of their Creator: in the tiger, the depth of His loving-kindness in caring for us; in the dog, His faithfulness (though usually dogs get a "bad rap" in Scripture); in the birds of the air, His beauty. Yet animals were created for us here on earth, not for eternity.

Subject: Confession to a Friend

From: Georgina.

Dear Fr. Moderator:

From the prospective of a traditional priest, would you please tell me if you think that going to confession to a priest-friend would be in bad taste? That is, would it compromise a friendship from the priest's standpoint by making him very uncomfortable?

Fr. Moderator Replies.

Not at all. This has never been all that uncommon a situation and is more common in smaller Catholic communities. Like doctors, psychologists, and attorneys, priests learn to separate subjective relationships from the occasions on which they are acting in an official capacity.

Moreover, the Sacrament of Confession is not necessarily supposed to be an entirely impersonal thing. In fact, it is better to establish a sustained relationship of pentitent to confessor, so that spiritual advice can be given to the penitent from the perspective of a continuity of time.

July 24, 2000

Subject: The Catholic Understanding of the "Rapture"

From: Marybeth.

Dear Father Moderator:

My question pertains to the "rapture," as the Protestants call the event when Christ takes Christians to heaven before the tribulations on earth begin. To the best of my knowledge, the Church doesn't have a "teaching" on this concept.

There are verses in Scripture which seem to shed light to this sort of thing being true. My first question is: (1) what does the Church teach about the "rapture," if anything, and (2) if the Church doesn't teach about the "rapture," what do the Scriptural passages mean?

Fr. Moderator Replies.

St. Paul, in his First Letter to the Thessalonians 4:16, writes:

Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be taken up [Greek hapargesometha] together with them [the dead in Christ, 4:15] in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air, and so shall we be always with the Lord.

Some Fundamentalist Protestants hold to the error of Millennialism, believing that Christ will actually reign as king over the entire earth for a thousand-year period at some time in the future.

These Protestants read the passage as meaning that the entire Church would be taken to meet Christ in the air on a cloud ("raptured out") at the start of the Millennium.

Against this error is the fact that this notion was first taken from a marginal commentary in a Protestant Bible and over time was given a life of its own. St. Augustine, on the other hand, enunciating the belief of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, held that the thousand-year period allegorically refers to all of time after the death and resurrection of Christ and that those who are alive at the Lord's second coming (parousia) will be "caught up," that is, changed by the power of God from being corruptible and mortal to being incorruptible and immortal (cf. 1 Cor. 15:51, 2 Cor. 5:2-4).

Subject: Pope "Joan"

From: John.

Dear Fr. Moderator:

I keep hearing about this Pope "Joan." Is there any truth to this story, or is it just another case of sensationalistic authors with no meat behind it?

Fr. Moderator Replies.

The latter.

At about the time of Pope Leo IV (847-855), some anti-Catholic polemicists alleged that a so-called "Pope Joan" held the papal office. There is in fact, no truth in the story of the woman-pope. The legend is based on ignorance of Latin, since this purported "Joan" is simply the common abbreviation "Joan." for "Joannus" (John) in early mediaeval manuscripts!

In fact, it was a Protestant Calvinist who first (1657) demonstrated the unhistorical character of the allegation. He was followed by Petrarch, Leibniz, Dollinger, and all historians since. An array of reference books, from the Encyclopaedia Britannica to the Oxford Dictionary of Popes, dismiss "Pope Joan" as a mythical or legendary figure, no more real than Paul Bunyan or Old King Cole.

The chief weakness of the Pope Joan story is the absence of any contemporary evidence of a female pope during the dates suggested for her reign. In each instance, clerical records show someone else holding the papacy and doing the deeds that are transcribed in church history.

Another problem is the gap between the alleged event and the news of it. Not until the 13th century -- 400 years after Joan, by the most accepted accounts, ruled -- does any mention of a female pope appear in any documents. That's akin to word breaking out just now that England in 1600 had a queen named Elizabeth.

So, if a woman didn't become pope, what did happen? One explanation is that somebody was trying to be humorous. On the narrow Roman street, where Joan was supposed to have been exposed as a woman in the papal procession, is called the Vicus Papissa, named after the wealthy family of Giovanni Pape. Years after the Papes were gone, it is suggested that a visitor joked that Vicus Papissa meant "the street of the woman pope [papissa]" instead of what it really means, "the street of Mrs. Pape"!

July 22, 2000

Subject: Los Angeles' St. Vibiana's Cathedral "Restored"

Commentary from Fr. Moderator

Readers of TRADITIO are aware of the sorry state of what is going on in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles with respect to its Spanish baroque-style cathedral of 124 years.

St. Vibiana's Cathedral was abandoned, allegedly because of "earthquake damage" in the 1994 Northridge earthquake (that excuse was used in the Archdiocese of San Francisco to close a dozen mostly traditional-style churches after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake). Meanwhile the archdiocese proceeded to spend something approaching $163,000,000 to build a new cathedral in the "Vatican II, ecumenical" style instead of spending much less to restore the historic St. Vibiana's.

Well, there was a public outcry, and now the Associated Press reports that a $4,000,000 state grant has been given to shore up St. Vibiana's, on account of the efforts of historical preservationists (not the archdiocese!) in the courts. The price to be paid is that St. Vibiana's is not to be restored as the cathedral, but as a performing arts center. Apparently, only another six or seven million dollars will completely restore St. Vibiana's.

One wonders how the diocese justifies the $163,000,000 to build a new cathedral, whereas only about $10,000,000 would have restored the historic St. Vibiana's!

In the last century, Pope Pius IX sent the relics of St. Vibiana to this cathedral. Word has it that when the archdiocese "decommissioned" the cathedral, the remains of the Saint were unceremoniously buried in a common grave, marked with no particular honors.

It seems that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles treats its saints like its cathedrals -- in a way in no way meriting the name "Catholic."

Subject: The Ancient World Had It Right

From: Philip.

Dear Father Moderator:

The ancient world had it right. To make a whole man or woman required the input of many. The original extended family provided that network of people that helped to create the man and woman who could really beneficially contribute to the society. Today's nuclear family is by comparison a wasteland barren of civic virtues. No wonder so many public leaders are shallow individuals, venal, rapacious, shortsighted, in it for what they can get out of it ... yesterday.

And we think we are civilised? Here are the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (I.1-10):

1. From my grandfather Verus I learned good morals and the government of my temper.

2. From the reputation and remembrance of my father, modesty and a manly character.

3. From my mother, piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.

4. From my great-grandfather, not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home, and to know that on such things a man should spend liberally. [Homeschooling!]

5. From my governor, to be neither of the green nor of the blue party at the games in the Circus, nor a partizan either of the Parmularius or the Scutarius at the gladiators' fights [go light on the sports!]; from him too I learned endurance of labour, and to want little, and to work with my own hands, and not to meddle in other people's affairs, and not to be ready to listen to slander.

6. From Diognetus, not to busy myself with trifling things, and not to give credit to what was said by miracle-workers and jugglers about incantations.... [solid prudence, not "visions and apparitions"!]

7. From Rusticus I received the impression that my character required improvement and discipline; and from him I learned not to be led astray to sophistic emulation, nor to writing on speculative matters ... and to write my letters with simplicity....

8. From Apollonius I learned freedom of will and undeviating steadiness of purpose....

9. From Sextus, a benevolent disposition, and the example of a family governed in a fatherly manner, and the idea of living conformably to nature; and gravity without affectation, and to look carefully after the interests of friends, and to tolerate ignorant persons and those who form opinions without consideration....

10. From Alexander, the grammarian, to refrain from fault-finding, and not in a reproachful way to chide those who uttered any barbarous or solecistic or strange-sounding expression; but dexterously to introduce the very expression which ought to have been used....

Fr. Moderator Replies.

It is amazing how nothing has really changed in 2000 years. We are not living in a "new millennium" in the spiritual sense. We are the same souls with the same questions and the same problems as when the Apostles worked the earth, and the Roman emperors were trying to govern the whole world.

Marcus Aurelius was the Roman emperor in the latter half of the second century. He is portrayed, not inaccurately, in the recent film Gladiator. He was of a philosophic mind, a devoted Stoic, who wrote the Meditations (a more exact translation of the Greek would be "About Himself"). It is one of the most influential books written and can profitably be read by any Christian.

One sees almost a Christian here, except without the final hope of heaven. In fact, early Christianity was deeply influenced by Stoicism, which was a highly moral philosophy, stressing autarkia, self-sufficiency, and apatheia, imperviousness to the vagaries of life.

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