St. Boniface

Memorial; June 5

The German Church was in desperate need of reform in the early to mid 700s, and Pope Gregory II thought that St. Boniface was just the man for the job. Boniface, an English Benedictine Monk, gave up his election as abbot and went on a missionary journey to German lands in 719. What he found were pagans and poorly formed Christians. (Remember that at this time, the Catholic Church was the only Christian church.)

Soon after this first journey, Boniface started the hard work of reform. His primary aims were to increase the clergy’s loyalty to their bishop and to the pope and to open many houses of prayer. He was very successful in both of these tasks, and was responsible for getting the Benedictine nuns into the education business.

St. Boniface is also known for chopping down a tree—but not just any tree. He chopped down Donar’s sacred oak tree on Mount Gudenburg. As the people waited for their gods to strike him dead, he kept chopping until the trash crashed down and split into four parts. Legend has it that Boniface used the wood from the tree to build a chapel.

For his efforts and work at reform, Boniface was massacred with 53 companions as he was preparing them for confirmation.

love the sinner, hate the sin

Introduction

I recently attended a Catholic Men’s Conference, and one of the topics was love. In today’s society, it is not seen as a manly trait to consider topics such as love. In today’s society it unfortunately seems that to be manly requires one to be a womanizing philanderer with little to no moral compass. Hedonism and relativism seem to rule the perception of manliness.

This got me thinking about a variety of topics, but one phrase that kept coming back was “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I’ve never personally liked that phrase. My parents always told me not to hate anything. Therefore, I am hesitant to truly hate anything.

After thinking about the phrase some more, I’ve realized that there is a lot to unpack in it. In that simple 6 word phrase, you can actually learn everything you need to know about how to treat your fellow man.

In this series, I will present three primary topics: “What is love?”, “I am called to love?” and “I am my brother’s keeper?”

While my point of view is undoubtedly Catholic and I lean on St. Thomas Aquinas’ heavily, I have done my best to incorporate non-Catholic philosophers below. For example, I have found that Aristotle’s writings on several of these topics are most excellent.

What is love?

No, really, what is it?

Aristotle writes that to love is “wishing for [them] what you believe to be good things, not for your own sake but for [that person’s].” (Rhetoric ii, 4) Technically he calls this philia, which can be translated in a number of ways. In Greek, philia is a broad term of friendship, and includes love. Aristotle later writes:

[Love] has various forms—comradeship, intimacy, kinship, and so on.

Things that cause [love] are: doing kindness; doing them unasked; and not proclaiming the fact when they are done, which shows that they were done for our own sake and not for some other reason.

According to St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

Combined with the writings of Aristotle, we see that love is not about the giver—it is receiver. Love often requires sacrifice from the giver to the receiver. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) It becomes apparent that love will at some point require one to freely sacrifice for the sake of another. Love, however, is not just sacrifice. To truly love is to wish and to do good things for another person, not taking into account one’s own desires. Furthermore, all true friendships are based in love.

What is good?

If love is wishing and doing good things for another person, it would help to know what is good. Contrary to what many would have you believe: not everything that feels good is good for them, and not everything that feels bad is bad them.

I must start with the basis that it is possible to know the truth about things. Aristotle takes this as a given when he writes that “we have to start with the known, and ‘known’ has two meanings: there are things known to us, and things known absolutely.” (Ethics i, 4) Furthermore, he states that: “it is our duty to give first place to truth.” (Ethics i, 6) I may write an article on truth later, but for now it must wait.

There are two definitions of good. The first, most commonly used definition, states that it is plain and obvious what is good. Good brings pleasure, wealth, honor, etc. The problem with this definition is that it changes. When a person is under stress, they will change their definition to include stability. Some people think that being constantly entertained and not having to think is good. Some people think that good health is the only good. A better definition is needed. A person cannot wish good things for someone if what is good constantly changes!

The second definition of good is that which brings us closer to our final goal. It is not easy to always define what is good, because many people do not realize what their final goal is. Mankind does have a final goal, to be with our Creator after our earthly life is complete. (That sentence alone can probably spawn half a dozen articles.) The tricky part is determining what we must do to be with our Creator. Luckily, because we are able to determine the truth, we can figure this out.

This is where the Catholic Church comes into the picture—it has done a lot of this work for us. The church has had a lot of people with a lot of time to think. The church says that to be with our Creator, we must become like our Creator. We can do this by living the virtuous life, because “the goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.” (CCC 1803) The four cardinal virtues are prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. (1805) They are the basis for morally good acts (1804) We can strengthen virtue through education, good acts and perseverance through hardship. (1839) The three other virtues—faith, hope and charity—are theological virtues. These are virtues that we use to relate to God and inform us on how to live morally. (1813)

Summary

To sum it all up: to love is to wish and to do good things for others. Good things and actions are those which lead to a life strong in the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, faith, hope and charity.

In two weeks: I am called to love?

Bibliography

The following sources were consulted but not directly referenced while writing this article.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 3 “Life in Christ”, Section 1 “Man’s Vocation: Life in the Spirit”, Chapter 1 “The Dignity of the Human Person”:

· Article 5 “The Morality of the Passions”

· Article 7 “The Virtues”

Common Nonsense: 25 Fallacies About Life … Refuted, Rev. Cliff Ermatinger, L.C.

Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas, I-II, 18; 26, 4. http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2.htm

hardcore Lent 2.0

This year, I’m doing “hardcore” Lent again. One of the best things about it is that I have to get out of my comfort zone of veggies and protein for meals.

So far this year, I have plans to try several new things, including:
• Tabbouleh
• Tomato & Lentil Soup
• Shrimp Pho

I’ve already made the Tabbouleh, and later this week I’ll be making the pho. Stay tuned for recipes!

“hardcore” Lent

I decided that I wanted to take Lent seriously this year and do something that I would notice and might do me some good. A good friend of mine said that last year he did the Orthodox Lenten fast. He told me a little about it, so I decided I should investigate it a little bit.

It basically boils down: no meat, no fish with backbones (shellfish and squid is ok), no olive oil, no dairy/eggs and no wine/hard liquor. According to one source, this actually includes all oils and all alcohols! So, I did some more research on the topic, and I found that before the 20th century, the Catholic Lenten fast was much closer to the current Orthodox Lenten fast. It essentially bars eating meat and dairy products. Both traditions (the current Orthodox and former Catholic) make exceptions for the ill, pregnant, young, etc.

So I decided I would use older Orthodox food restrictions (i.e. beer and non-olive oil are acceptable) with the common fasting tradition. The Orthodox Lenten tradition also calls for totals fasts on several days, but recognizes that it is very difficult for most working people to complete these. The Orthodox tradition also does not completely relax their restrictions on Sundays and Holy Days during Lent, which I think is partially due to the different method of counting the days of Lent used by the Orthodox churches.

So, my Lenten sacrifice, which I like to call “hardcore” Lent (because it sounds cool) and many people I know like to call “you’re crazy” Lent boils down to the following:

  • No meat
  • No fish (excepting shellfish)
  • No olive-oil
  • No dairy or eggs
  • No alcohol (excepting beer)
  • No eating between meals
  • One full meal a day and two smaller meals that do not add up to the larger.

So far, it’s been rough for me. I haven’t quite gotten my meal sizes figured out yet, but I’m carefully monitoring and adjusting them. I’ve also cut down my workouts a bit due to the decrease in calorie intake. My current workout schedule is:

  • Monday: run 2 miles
  • Tuesday: Leg weights
  • Wednesday: Arm weights
  • Thursday: Leg weights
  • Friday: Arm weights / run .5 miles

So far I’ve already lost more weight than normal with this Lenten diet. I also look forward to Sundays and obligatory feast days a lot more than I used to. (The two feast days during Lent that we are taking off are St. Joseph’s feast day on March 18 and the Annunciation on March 25.)

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