Catholic Catechism

Catholic Catechism, Do Not Envy, Purification of the Heart, Blog 3

“Be simple and guileless, be like the children who are ignorant of the wickedness that ruins the life of men.  Speak evil of no-one, and do not revel to anyone who speaks evil of another.”  You sin when you listen to slander, when you believe the slander you become a slanderer.  “Slander is evil and an unsteady demon, never peaceful, always stirring up discord.”  “Practice goodness,” “give to all,” “he who gives is guiltless.” […]

St Augustine

St Augustine’s Treatise on the Faith and the Creed

This discourse on the Apostle’s Creed was delivered by St Augustine to a local church council in North Africa.  In this treatise he repeats his classical explanation of the Trinity:
The Father is truly God, the Son is truly God, and the Holy Spirit is truly God.
The Father is not sometimes the Son, and the Father is not sometimes the Holy Spirit, and God is One.  We have God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, but “there are not three Gods in that Trinity, but One God and one substance.” […]

Early Church Writing

Shepherd of Hermas

The Shepherd of Hermas, also known as the Pastor of Hermas, was regarded by some early Christians as Scripture. A consensus was reached that only books that were apostolic would be included in the canon, and the Shepherd was written in the generations after the apostles. But it was recommended by many for profitable spiritual reading, and reading this work is profitable still, for the message of Hermas runs counter to the prosperity gospel, condemning luxurious living. He has a vision in Similitude 6 of a false shepherd, “an angel of luxury and deceit,” whose sheep “were feeding luxuriously and riotously, merrily skipping about,” “deceived by wicked desires, forgetting the commandments of the Living God.” Those who are lost in luxurious living, spending their time eating “the richest delicacies and in drunken revels,” cannot “return to life through repentance, because they are adding to their sins, and blaspheming the name of the Lord.” […]

Catholic Catechism

Catholic Catechism, Do Not Covet Your Neighbor’s Wife, Blog 2

Surprisingly, the Catholic Catechism discusses concupiscence not when reflecting on the commandment prohibiting adultery but on the commandment forbidding coveting your neighbor’s wife.  Concupiscence is not itself a sin, and although it is commonly thought of as a sexual sin, it can “refer to any intense form of human desire.”  “Concupiscence stems from the disobedience of the first sin.  It unsettles man’s moral faculties and, without being in itself an offense, inclines man to commit sins.” The Catholic Catechism footnotes the decrees of the Council of Trent, which teaches that “concupiscence or the tinder of sin remains in the baptized.  Since it is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.”  This decree of Trent then confirms that concupiscence is not sin itself, but inclines us to sin. […]

Catholic Catechism

Do Not Covet, Do Not Envy, Blog 1, Early Church Fathers and Others

St Gregory Palamas teaches us that the command not to covet is not only a negative THOU SHALT NOT command but is more a SHALL positive command, that we shall be generous and show charity and lend to our less fortunate neighbor, and to watch after our neighbor’s interests, returning to him lost items you may find.  “Covetousness, conceived in the soul, produces sin; and sin, when committed, results in death (James 1:5).  Refrain from coveting what belongs to others and avoid filching things out of greediness.  Rather you should give from what you possess to whoever asks of you, and you should, as much as you can, be charitable to whoever is in need of charity, and you should not refuse whoever wants to borrow from you (Matthew 5:42).  Should you find some lost article, you should keep it for its owner, even if the owner is hostile towards you, perhaps your kindness will change him and your kindness will overcome evil, as Christ commands.” […]

Evagrios the Solitary

Evagrios the Solitary, Blog 4, 153 Texts On Prayer

Evagrios compares the persistence of prayer to the seven years of labor by Jacob to gain the hand of Rachel, his gazelle, for Jacob so loved Rachel that the seven years he labored for her hand seemed to him to be but a day. On his wedding night Leah, her sister, was substituted for Rachel, and Jacob labored yet another seven years for the hand of Rachel. […]

Seneca

Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 5, On the Benefits of Friends and Keeping Score

Seneca says, “Let us avoid being ungrateful, not for the sake of others but for our own sakes.” Likewise, Seneca warns, “evil drinks the largest portion of her own poison.” “When we do wrong, only the least portion flows back upon our neighbor, the worst and densest portion blows back, troubling us instead.” “The ungrateful man tortures and torments himself; he hates his gifts for he must return the favor, he tries to belittle their value, but when he does this he hurts himself instead. What is more wretched than the man who forgets his benefits and clings to his injuries?” […]

Seneca

Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 4, Stoic Concepts of Virtue and the Good

What distinguishes the virtuous soul? Seneca says It is “the soul that penetrates the whole world and directs it contemplating gaze upon all its Phenomena, paying strict attention to thoughts and actions, rising above both hardships and flatteries, yielding neither to poverty nor to fortune, rising above all tribulations and blessings, absolutely beautiful, perfectly equipped with grace and strength, unruffled, never dismayed, unmoved by violence, neither exalted or depressed by chance events – a soul like this is virtue itself.” Virtue is not like the house built on sand that is swept away by the first storm, virtue is the house built on the rocks, the house that stands firm against the waves and the storms that crash against the rocks, this house is never moved. Seneca lists the other virtues, “tranquility, simplicity, generosity, constancy, equanimity, endurance.” […]

Evagrios the Solitary

Evagrios the Solitary, Blog 2, Text on Discrimination of Passions and Thoughts

The demons tempt us through our passions, they tempt us through our perceptions, they tempt us through our memories of past pleasures that tempt us, through painful memories of those who have harmed us, and if this was true in the days of Evagrios, how much more true it is today when the media bombards us with images of pleasure and pain and cruelty.  Evagrios warns us, “all thoughts producing anger or desire in a way that is contrary to nature are caused by demons.”  If Evagrios could visit us today, what would he say about the wisdom of Christians attending church on Sundays and watching horror movies or violent movies on Friday nights?  Are we inviting demons into our souls to tempt us, to crowd us the compassionate thoughts in our soul?  We should guard ourselves against the demons of anger and rancor who seek for us to replay over and over in our mind the wrongs that others have done to us in the past. […]