As November draws near, we lay down a Rose Challenge aimed at helping 30 souls to make the transition from Purgatory to Heaven! Before we get into the details of the challenge, I’m going to suggest some reading from the Catechsim of the Catholic Church to set it in context. This comes in two parts: Paragraphs 1030-1032 on Purgatory, and paragraphs 1471-1479 on Indulgences.
Once these things are understood, we’re ready to get into the details of the challenge! There are a few parameters here, but essentially the mission is to obtain a plenary indulgence, offered for the Holy Souls, each day in the month of November. A plenary indulgence is one which allows the soul which benefits from it to be released entirely from their suffering into Heaven. This kind of indulgence can be obtained only once per day. There are certain works by which the Church grants plenary indulgences, and certain conditions which must be met at the time of the performance of this work for them to be granted. Here is a summary of the conditions:
Be in a state of grace (one must be Catholic, not in schism, not excommunicated or in a state of mortal sin)
Sacramental Communion (one Communion per indulgence)
Sacramental Confession (one Confession can suffice for several indulgences – for the duration of this challenge we suggest weekly Confession, although if one is in a state of grace this frequency may not be required for the indulgences, so it is not requisite for the roses)
Pray for the intentions of the Pope (monthly intentions can be found here, or this may be of assistance – especially if you aren’t inspired by the given intention) – as a general rule an Our Father and Hail Mary is standard
Have the interior disposition of detachment from all sin – even venial
Finally, there must be the intention – at least general – to obtain the indulgence by performing the work.
So if those are the conditions, what are the works? Well, here’s the fun part: the works required to obtain an plenary indulgence are generally easier to complete than those we assign roses to. BUT for the duration of this challenge – that is for November ONLY – you can offer a Rose to Our Lady for every plenary indulgence you obtain for the Holy Souls in Purgatory! The ‘catch’, of course, is that you are going to need to make sure that you also meet the above conditions each day. In addition, we have a few rules regarding how roses are counted -these are given at the end.
Here are ideas of works for which the Church presently grants plenary indulgences:
There are further ideas here for specific events and occasions that may apply.
There are two main rules for the challenge regarding rose counting:
The works above, if they are used for your ‘Indulgence Rose’ cannot contribute towards another one also (e.g. if you spend half an hour in Adoration for the indulgence you can’t also count it as half a Holy Hour for a separate rose). However, the acts performed towards meeting conditions for the indulgence may be counted (e.g. if you go to Mass in order to receive Holy Communion for the rose of that day, the Mass and Holy Communion can be counted as a separate rose according to general perennial rules).
To mix it up a bit and vary the challenge, we suggest the ground rule that you don’t just repeat the same work for the indulgence more than two times in a given week and count it as a rose. Thus sometimes the rose may be obtained by a short prayer, but sometimes it will involve a little more of your time. This rule is not hard and fast. IF you really feel some weeks that sticking with a particular work is more beneficial to your spiritual life than mixing it up you can still count them as separate roses – but try to be generous with God and as a general rule to choose things that will help you to grow in your relationship with Him, as opposed to just ‘ticking boxes’ with the easier options.
Finally (since I can’t find anything that says there is any daily limit on partial indulgences) if you would like to do even more for the Holy Souls I reckon we can say for the month of November that one can count as a Rose for Mary every 50,000 days’ (approx 137 years’) worth of partial indulgences. Here’s the Raccolta, have fun!
Many Christians find it difficult to accept that there is a spiritual world around them that they cannot see. Although people may believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, they can be reluctant to believe that the world is full of good and bad spirits. Many Christians do not want to think about the idea of demons, Satan and hell and this makes sense in a way as these are frightening. However, a good introduction to spiritual warfare might be through first developing a love of your guardian angel and an understanding of the role which God has given them in accompanying us through life to arrive at heaven.
1. Watch both of the videos below.
Franciscan Friars on guardian angels:
Fr Ripperger on guardian angels:
2. Reflect on Matthew 18:10 & Exodus 23:20-22 for 30 minutes.
3. Pick two or three people to have a conversation with. Aim to introduce the idea of guardian angels. Some ideas are below:
Do you think that there are spiritual beings who we cannot see – angels and demons?
Do you know that God has assigned a guardian angel to accompany you?
Is there a difficult time in your day when you want to invite your angel to pray for you?
This post is designed to give guidelines to those who would like to write a seed post for others to use to grow roses!
Writing a rose post is one of the ways to complete your rose for Wild Rose week in a meeting (if you go to a meeting). It is also something that can contribute as a rose towards your monthly Rose Crown for Mary. This post aims to give all the basic info you need to get going, but (as ever) contact us if something is unclear.
How do I begin?
Probably the first thing to do is to take a browse through the blog if you’re not already familiar with it. This will give you an idea of the kind of things you could write. Your idea should fit roughly into one of the aspects of the charism: Prayer, Faith Formation, Virtue or Evangelisation. Alternatively, you may wish to write a Seasonal post or something specific, but in any case you will get an idea from the blog.
The next thing to do is to think up an idea and check it’s something new. Overlap with previous roses is OK if you’re taking a different angle – but it shouldn’t be an exact repeat!
What do I do when I have my idea?
When you have your basic idea, before you start to write send a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org to say you would like to write a rose, and which area of the charism it pertains to. You will then be given a contact name/email for the co-ordinator of that area. You will need to email them a quick summary of your idea (just a few lines should suffice). The co-ordinator will then give you a go-ahead to start writing or make a few suggestions if they aren’t sure, until you reach a mutual agreement for the direction to be taken.
What happens after I have a go-ahead?
Now it’s time to write your idea. If this is your first rose, begin with a word document. Be careful to imitate the format of other rose posts, which you will have become familiar with by reading. Here are some specific things to watch out for:
Keep information in the ‘Rose Box‘ table brief and directive. Seedtime should indicate ‘reading/watching/listening’ so the reader is immediately aware if it can be completed e.g. whilst driving or cleaning. Feedtime should just be a time value as it is presumed this will require full attention. Where things need more than a line or two to explain, this should be done in the main body of the blog post.
If you are copying and pasting text it needs to be either just a few lines that constitute ‘fair use’ or things that are in the public domain. You can link externally ad libitum, however.
OK I’ve written my post – what next?
Next you need to send your post to the co-ordinator, who will check the format etc. and forward it to a spiritual director relevant to the area to review theologically and pastorally. If either the co-ordinator or director have suggestions in their relevant areas of responsibility they will let you know. Once they have given the thumbs up, however, the co-ordinator will contact you about making a WordPress profile (this is not difficult), or adding your existing profile to the site. This will enable you to post it directly on the website. Any help needed will be given.
At the point of posting on the website, there are a few further considerations regarding formatting:
Capitalise Each Word More Than Three Letters Long in the Title
Check the box for the category into which your post falls – this will make it appear in the appropriate place on the website.
Make sure your post has an accompanying picture to be used as the feature image, and that this it is taken from the public domain. You might want to try websites like Unsplash or Pexels to find images, as on them you can be guaranteed the pictures may be used without legal issues.
You will need to write a few lines summarising your post as an excerpt. Examples of these can be seen by looking at the blog page.
For formatting the table of the ‘Rose Box’ the handiest thing is probably to go to a previous article and copy and paste. If formatting yourself, make sure the layout is ‘striped’; that both sets of stripes are set to a pastel colour from the suggested options, and that the writing is dark enough to be legible. Within that there is flexibility. You will also need to copy in the little link to the explanation of the table as a caption beneath it.
Finally you post – and not only in doing so do you give a Rose to Mary, but the post will act as a seed for people to use to grow their weekly roses long after you finish!
The guidelines given in this blogpost are just to get you started. Since the process involves quite a lot of two-way communication, there will be plenty of opportunities to ask if there is anything you are unsure of! Thank-you for reading, and thank-you for considering contributing to building up Golden Rose!
So here at Golden Rose we like to catch up with the cool stuff… in our own time! You may remember that in January there was a huge wave of enthusiasm about Fr. Mike Schmitz doing a Bible in a Year podcast that topped iTunes etc. for several weeks… well it’s now October, the fuss has long since died down, and we think it time to start reckoning that study in our Rose Count! Of course Lectio is a regular perennial rose anyway, so technically the reading could be counted as such without this – but here’s something simple, specific and systematic to count the study as a seed rose:
Bible in a Year with Fr. Mike Schmitz – Rose Series!
To do a ‘Bible in a Year’ Bible Study
About 1 hour per rose (listening to 3 podcast episodes)
1 hour per rose (3 x 20 minute sessions of reading Scripture)
Join the Bible in a Year Study. Count every three days as one rose.
So the link to the various podcast episodes are here, and the reading plan is here for download. The basic idea is that every 3 days as laid out above counts as a rose. So that means (remembering that half this time commitment can be done driving/walking etc.) committing 40 minutes a day, or 2 hours if you want to do it the ‘rose a day’ way!! As a general rule for the rose, the podcast part is complete when it is listened to – whether it is longer or shorter than 20 minutes, but if the Scripture reading takes less than 20 minutes (which it should most days) you should spend a bit longer praying with and studying the given passages to complete this part of the commitment. The Scripture passages are read in the podcasts, but even if you are reading along at that time the ‘reading time’ is separate and should be set aside to go back over the readings (or you can read them in preparation) together with any relevant complimentary spiritual reading (which may or may not have been referenced by Fr. Mike).
This Rose will take you a step further after Praying the Mass Like Never Before which can be found here. If you are looking to dive deeper into the Sacred Liturgy and discover a new perspective on your role in the Mass, then this Rose is definitely for you!
Calvary and the Mass is a short book by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. He unpacks the connection between the suffering of Christ Crucified and the Sacrifice of the Mass. There is so much about the Mass to uncover, and we will never be able know everything in our lifetime. Fortunately Archbishop Sheen goes into great detail in such few words to guide us in this one aspect. He goes through each part of the Mass and explains the connection to Calvary and what it means for us in our part of the Body of Christ.
Growing in Prayer
Calvary and the Mass
Grow in love of the Eucharist and learn how to be fully present during each part of the Mass
1 hour read
1 hour 30 minutes
Go to Mass. Beforehand take 15 minutes to examine your conscience and ask forgiveness and afterward take 15 minutes to pray in thanksgiving (Additional information below)
The book Calvary and the Mass is public domain and can be found on various websites. Here is a PDF version or you can find your own if you prefer. Alternatively if you have a scribd account, you can find it there. It is roughly around 30 pages and you don’t have to read it all in one go. Feel free to take it chapter by chapter as there is a lot of information to take it. I would recommend that you take some notes on key words or phrases that you’d like to remember, otherwise it may be easy to forget or get mixed up with other parts.
EXTRA NOTES ON DIRECTIVE
Each chapter of this book gives great detail on its connection to Calvary and to us in our participation of the Mass. With this in mind it would be most beneficial to pray with what you have read throughout the seven parts it outlines: The Confiteor, The Offertory, The Sanctus, The Consecration, The Communion, The Ite Missa Est, The Last Gospel. This could be as simple as taking one thing per chapter to pray with during the Mass.
For Example: (From Chapter 5: The Communion) “All love is reciprocal. There is no one-sided love…this being so, should not the Communion rail be a place of exchange, instead of a place of exclusive receiving?”
In remembering this line, you think of what you have to offer Jesus. What can you give Him? What does He desire from you? He gives His sacrifice freely. Is there anything you can freely offer Him?
This is just an idea of how you can use this book to go deeper in the Mass. Above all else, you should allow the Holy Spirit to guide you on your journey with this book. The most important part is to be intentional with your time at Mass and enter into it with an open and grateful heart.
In our previous post on this topic, we looked at the importance – indeed fundamental necessity – of proclaiming the Kerygma, and tried to take a preliminary step towards doing so. Now we’re going to take a closer look as to how we might take the power of its message and connect with people where they are at.
Kerygmatic Proclamation #2: Individual Situations
Explore ways of helping people come to perceive and accept the message of the Gospel in and through their lived experience
33 minutes (watch 24 minute video, read 9 minute blog post )
1 hour 10 minutes
Spend 30 minutes preparing (details below), then 20 minutes each talking to two people about the relevance of the Gospel to their lives
We’re going to begin with a video. Whilst watching, keep a pen and paper to hand and be ready to take notes in case that will help you. What you need to be attentive to is this: In this homily Fr. John deliberately targets two to three (the first is covered quite briefly) specific areas that might distance people from Jesus or give them an opinion of Him that is less than sufficient. His message remains simply kerygmatic, but it is focused with the intention of removing blocks in those areas, to help his listeners to accept the message. Make a note (mentally at least – but written notes may help) of each of these areas as they arise, and of how he targets the misconception with the simple truth of the Gospel.
Now here is your mission:
First of all take time to prayerfully identify how to engage. Spend about half an hour at this. The first step in this is to identify particular things in the lives of those you love and care about that might be acting as blocks in their lives that prevent them from knowing Jesus and the life changing reality of His Love. Here is a list of a few examples, including those from the video above:
Personal sinfulness, shame and guilt
The idea that Jesus is weak and we need other ‘strong’ role models
Bitterness over painful areas one’s life or history
A feeling of powerlessness in the face of struggles
A desire to control things and not submit to what can’t be empirically verified
Fear of what saying yes to following Jesus might entail
A lack of experience of the reality of God’s love
You can expand on this list – just think of people in your life who don’t really know Jesus, or may have some block in their relationship with Him, and consider why. Add whatever comes up for you, but you don’t need to spend too long or be scrupulous about the list being exhaustive. When you’re happy with it consider how you can apply the simple message of the Gospel, in a way that is neither overthought nor flippant, to the reality of those issues. If God became Man, and died and rose for the person who carries that burden, how can that obliterate the block? You can be assured, whatever the issue is, that the power of the Gospel can, but take some time to pray and think about how you can be at the service of their coming into contact effectively. How can you help to encourage someone struggling under a particular weight to accept that power and let it in?
It is important to note that this preparation is a prayerful consideration to help open yourself to being present to people’s suffering, and more present again to the power of the Holy Spirit in the midst of it. Whilst you may have some ideas of things you could say or ways in which you could lead the conversation, the purpose here is not to formulate a speech or plan a conversation before it begins. Rather, it is to open yourself to being used to convey God’s power in the reality of your own weakness and the unpredictability of what may come.
Next comes the active part. Identify people you would like to try to share the message with. The ideal here would probably be to aim at talking to people you’re going to see over the course of the coming days, but using the phone is possible to complete the task.
If you struggle with deciding upon people, you’re probably overthinking what bringing the Kergyma into lived situations involves. Whilst it definitely does help to create an opening if somebody just randomly starts telling you their life story, deepest fears or regrets – you don’t need this to happen in order to find an opportunity. We all encounter multiple situations most days (if not all), into which the message of the Gospel can and should be invited. That chronically stressed family member – needs Jesus. That colleague who has an irrational grudge against you – needs Jesus. That acquaintance whose problems seem to be recurring – needs Jesus. That lonely old lady who lives next door – needs Jesus.
There is no shortage of room to proclaim the message to in our day to day lives – nevertheless, if all else fails in getting the list to three people, just walk the streets until you find someone begging. Sit down beside them, ask their name and how they wound up on the streets – and you will very soon have an opening to share the Kerygma. Be ready to take it.
In reality we are not short of people who need to hear the Gospel spoken into their lives, we hesitate because we’re afraid. Afraid that we’ll be too vulnerable if we speak the Word directly into the situation, that we could look silly, that it’ll come out wrong, that the message will be rejected – and that we will feel rejected with it. We say things like we’re afraid we’ll push them further away if we are too direct, but the fact is if somebody knows you love them (and people can tell) and if you are speaking from the depths of your heart (as opposed to trying to score a point) that is unlikely to happen. They may not be ready to accept Jesus’ invitation, but that’s not our responsibility – we’re just messengers.
This detachment doesn’t mean we have to be insensitive to timing, wording and approach. On the contrary, this Rose is intended to prepare us to pitch those things appropriately. It does, however, mean that there are times we have to press on without being certain we have those things nailed, that we can’t get frozen in fear.
The decision to push past this made, let’s look at how we can meet people where they are at.
Examples of considerations in different situations you might encounter:
Relationship with Jesus
Openly distanced from Christianity
Practising on some level – sees you as OTT
Practising, takes faith relatively seriously
Perfect situation to approach with the simplicity of the Gospel message as something fresh
Not completely unfamiliar with the Gospel. May well be just waiting to understand from a different angle.
Likely to be open to having a conversation about Jesus and ready to understanding your points.
May simply want to be closed. Unfamiliarity: more bases for you to cover.
Could have barriers built up as a result of preconceptions about what it really means to open the doors to Christ.
May be offended or hurt if you give the impression you think there is something ‘wrong’ with their walk.
Variation in Your Approach
Begin with basics. Gauge levels of openness to see how far you can go.
Avoid being too forceful. Find things in their present understanding you can build on.
Be very sensitive to existing relationship with Jesus and ready to learn.
One could write books about all the ways in which these conversations can be approached. In reality Jesus approaches each soul personally and uniquely and we can only strive to be in union with Him and be ready to be at the service of that approach – if He so wills. The above are given for some general ideas in the hope of making it possible to consider factors in how to go about things, but don’t get bogged down in those factors! At this point we’re going to leave off practical theory and entrust the next step to the Holy Spirit…
Come Holy Spirit Come by the means of the most powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Your Well Beloved Spouse
On a practical level, the directives here indicate 2 x 20 minute conversations. In practice the conversations may take longer than this or be shorter. You don’t need to be scrupulous about this, but it is given as a guideline. Try to aim so that the conversations (or if they take part in the context of a longer conversation the part that focuses on the Gospel and our lives) average something close to 20 minutes. If both conversations fall far short of this, add a third person and try to aim to have at least one longer conversation. This might seem difficult, but only in intentional practice will we become more confident in sharing the love of Christ – and so we begin!
This is a Seasonal Rose challenge! To set it in context, we begin with a less-than-15-minute video:
The Challenge: Take up what they’re talking about for 54 days. Or at least try! The Dates: 15th August (The Assumption) – 7th October (Our Lady of the Rosary)
We invite you to take up a 54 day Pompeii Rosary Novena. There are a few ways of doing this, we’ll give some resources at the end. But the baseline commitment is to pray the Rosary every day. You are free to decide if that means 5, 15 or 20 decades for you. The video is given to encourage you to think about trying to pray all the mysteries for this time period, not to say this is the only way you can undertake the challenge. That said, the number of Roses you will gather to give to Our Lady will vary according to your decision. Roses for this challenge are counted in the same way as they are perennially: 20 decades (prayed over as many days as you choose) = one rose.
For each day of the Novena, you may also commit to praying some additional prayers, there are some ides given in extra resources at the end.
You might also like to read through St. Louis Marie de Montfort’s ‘Secret of the Rosary’, which Gabi talks about in the video. It is available to download amongst the materials suggested to refresh devotion when Rosaries are undertaken as a perennial commitment. Reading one ‘Rose’ a day from this book would have it more or less finished by the end of the Novena. However you may want to begin by looking at the end materials! The last 20% or so of the book gives a wide range of different ways to pray the Rosary and you may wish to try some of these in the course of your Novena…
A Pompeii Novena lasts 54 days because there are 3 Novenas of Petition and 3 of Thanksgiving. Before beginning this challenge prayerfully consider your intention(s), maybe making a note of them.
Is living as a Christian about the rules and regulations or is it about being loved by Love Himself? Are we living in an obstacle course of sin or do we have a loving and trusting relationship with our Creator?
In order to live the moral life, we need to abandon our ideas and thoughts of freedom and instead trust that God knows what is best. Ultimately, we were made for goodness and truth, and it is within the virtuous life we will find peace – a peace that only God can give.
Growing in Virtue
Living the Moral Life
Rediscover what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and learn to be at peace with who God created you to be
1 hour 30 minutes (watch video or listen to audio)
1 hour 10 minutes
Spend 1 hour alone with God and 10 minutes actively living the moral life more fully (for full explanation see below)
This video explores what it means to live a life of faith and morality as a Catholic in today’s world. Take some time to listen and take notes if you wish.
For Directives: Take one hour (without splitting it up if possible) to be completely alone with just yourself and God. Fast and abstain from electronics, entertainment, food and all distractions. Find a place or go for a walk where you can be alone and reflect on these thoughts and topics from the video:
You are loved
Living for the rules or living for the relationship
How to be the best you
Being at peace with who you are
Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect
Happiness comes from God and not the things surrounding you
These are just a few ideas. Feel free to take your time in whatever direction God wills. You can talk aloud, journal or sit with Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration.
At the end of your time, make note of one concrete thing that you can do to live the moral life more fully. Challenge yourself! Ask God what He is asking of you. This could be fasting from your morning coffee, being charitable to someone you don’t get on with, almsgiving or any number of things that will help you to be the best version of yourself. Make a commitment to do it in the next few days. The action itself does not need to take more than 10 minutes.
This is a really simple rose post as the seed is something external. Basically the idea here is to build upon the ideas that we began to think about in the introductory rose for silent prayer and explore how to seek God in silence. This we’ll do by taking some spiritual reading specifically on that topic and then giving ourselves time to open our hearts to God.
There are a couple of books can be used as accompanying reading for these roses:
‘The Power of Silence’ by Robert Cardinal Sarah. If you don’t have it I really recommend getting a copy! If you have a formed subscription and an eReader of some description, download it for free here. It’s also available on Scribd with a free trial or monthly subscription.
That said, if you don’t have these subscriptions, can’t buy it right now or want to start before you will be able to get your hands on a copy all is not lost! For alternative reading material try Silence: The Gate of Holiness, which you can download for free as a PDF here.
For the rose, take either 1-2 of the numbered paragraphs of ‘The Power of Silence’ or 1-3 pages of Silence: ‘The Gate of Holiness’. You’ll need to decide how much is required, where the subject matter changes etc. but generally just a couple of minutes’ worth of reading slowly and carefully. Then taking the considerations you have read, open your soul before the Lord in silence and pray. During this time let the Holy Spirit lead and try to keep your soul attentive to the Lord. Don’t worry if you are led away from direct consideration of what you have read. You can from time to time go back to particular words in the reading if it helps you – but the time of prayer should not be spent just reading it over and over again! You may like to try this before the Blessed Sacrament, especially if you are inclined to find silent prayer dry, but that is not required for the rose.
Take 15 minutes of prayer for each passage you read like this. The rose will be complete when your accumulated prayer time is one hour. You can do this for 15 minutes a day for four days or run the sessions together. The 15 minutes doesn’t have to be exactly-to-the-second. If you’re really struggling with a particular session you can cut it short and if you find one really fruitful you can spend longer – don’t be scrupulous. At the same time, for the rose stick to about 10-20 minutes of praying per reading. This will mean taking 3-6 readings/prayer sessions in total to complete the rose.
The two books, reading at that rate, obviously provide enough seeds for a whole Rose Garden! You can continue to cultivate these roses for as long as it’s helpful to your spiritual life.
Universality as a concept is not difficult to explain. In the world we have lots of languages. That makes it harder to communicate with other people sometimes. Communication is easier when everyone speaks the same language. Therefore when the whole Church prays or receives doctrine in one language it unifies us. This unity is helpful because the Church is universal – and having a common language around the world both strengthens that universality from within and makes its witness to the outside world more evident.
That much is so obvious that it barely even needs saying. But taken only on a practical level, it’s maybe not overly convincing in the 21st Century. After all, we have google translate, and enough people speak English – in the Western world at least – that one is generally not floundering entirely in other countries (even if a second language is handy). Isn’t a universal language specifically for the Church a bit much to be working out in the middle of all the other competing priorities the Church has to be getting on with in Her mission?
To really think about that question adequately, we need to make sure we are firmly grounded in what the Church’s mission is. We also need to be sure that we are thinking about the desirability of universality on God’s terms and not those of man. This is important because there is a biblical precedent for everyone having a universal language: Babel.
If you feel patronised by being asked to watch the above video, remember we’re all little children before God! And I thought it was a handy wee summary… anyway the point here is that though universality is a blessing, its existence amongst human beings in and of itself is not necessarily always good. When it is divorced from moving the human person to live in a way that is both grateful to God and intended to glorify Him, it can be unimaginably harmful. When you read the Scriptural account, you see that the confusion of languages in Babel was not intended so much as a punishment as a pre-emptive act of damage limitation:
“And [God] said: Behold, it is one people, and all have one tongue: and they have begun to do this, neither will they leave off from their designs, till they accomplish them in deed. Come ye, therefore, let us go down, and there confound their tongue, that they may not understand one another’s speech. And so the Lord scattered them from that place into all lands, and they ceased to build the city.” (Genesis 11:6-8)
The people, in their pride, were moving further and further away from God. Confounding their tongues was a mercy because it stopped them from seeing through their designs – which ultimately would have been only to their own detriment, in as much as it would have led them away from God. Remember that in context Babel takes place after the story of Noah, and God has promised not to destroy the earth by flood again. In order to avoid having recourse to that kind of intervention, it seems He is willing to allow for a certain amount of disunity and disparity amongst human beings, precisely to prevent them from getting carried away with seeing through their own harmful designs.
In the video, it is pointed out that God had a plan to come down to earth, so human beings shouldn’t be trying to build up to Heaven. Our life on earth is not given in order to attain to earthly glory, or any glory of our own making. Rather by recognising our own nothingness and God’s glory we are called to submit humbly and lovingly to His Will and in so doing to receive in love all that He wills to give us. It’s the same thing with languages. The scattering of Babel happened for a reason, and if we’re going to overcome the problem of linguistic disunity it has to be done by the means God chooses to provide – and not our own human inventions – or we risk making the exact same mistake that was made by the builders.
Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it. (Psalm 126:1)
And if this all sounds a bit overstated or irrelevant to us, let’s take a look at another cartoon video – but this time one made primarily for adults:
This video is given because it helps to translate the humanistic ideas behind the tower of Babel into something more recognisably modern. But we need to apply it to our understanding of the reasons Latin is specifically set apart as a language to unify the Church. That is to help us differentiate between a secular and a sacred universality.
So we’ve learned a bit about Esperanto, and there are loads of things in that video that sound really good! Uniting people, breaking down a language barrier to build unity, facilitating communication in a way that is fair to everyone… What’s not to like? The problem, spiritually speaking, is that this effort is entirely man made, and if it succeeded conclusively would effectively say to God exactly what the Tower of Babel was intended to: “We don’t need you, and we’re working towards our own collective glory instead of recognising yours.” That might seem like a bit of a harsh assessment of something with no explicit blasphemy – but let’s think about things for a moment with open minded frames of reference.
We live in a world that is increasingly desensitised to the kind of order that holds God’s rights over men in any real regard. As Catholics we might recognise and and accept that we can speak objectively about crimes against humanity – terrorism, racism, abortion, etc. – but when it comes to God being God and that, in and of itself, imposing limits on humanity’s right to seek its own ends… Everything tends to get subjectivised and we tend to assume that we have less authority to say that something just isn’t right. Even arguments against things like gay marriage have to be brought back to their societal impact for us to feel that we have any right to put them forth – it is no longer enough to simply say ‘It is wrong because God doesn’t want it.’
Now for this tension to exist between the Church and the outside world is one thing – and to a certain extent seems to be inevitable in a fallen world. But the Church’s essential authority is not of this world. Therefore it ceases to be authentic if it doesn’t make appeal to God…
Let’s look at Latin in this light:
It wasn’t constructed for human usage, it was chosen by God (as we have explored previously). Providence arranged it to rise to prominence and fall out of general usage in such a manner that Ecclesiastical Latin could develop as something set apart for the Church.
In so far as Latin has a connection to earthly glory, it is to a glory that has passed away, rather than one that is being striven for. Incidentally, in the course of its passing Rome provided the ignominious tools by which the Son of God would redeem us, binding its history in a particular way to that of Salvation. And it will always be thanks to a conversation with a Roman Governor (perhaps in Latin) that we will have Jesus’ saying recorded that His Kingdom is not of this world.
Nevertheless, Latin does have that place in history and as such is not and cannot claim the ‘neutrality’ or freedom from imperalism that Esperanto strove for. And if that sounds like a bad thing to you, remember again that Esperanto was very popular with Anarchists and Communists! Human beings are not ‘neutral’. We come with different backgrounds, different cultures, different sexes, different perspectives and different callings. And that diversity is beautiful. Universality should be something capable of embracing these things without being defined by them. Latin has this capacity precisely because it has an objective life of its own.
The above points may seem abstract or theoretical in their application to a language, but remember what we covered in part two about the effect of language on culture. The things we do and the reasons why affect us spiritually, even if our assumption of their underlying epistemology is entirely incidental and unintended. These Faith Formation Roses are designed to give you things to think about in this area, not to make pithy arguments that can ‘prove’ my point offhand. You must discern… and to finish this segment I want to throw out one further consideration to round off our discernment.
“The day the Church abandons Her universal tongue is the day before She returns to the Catacombs.” (Pope Pius XII)
I find this quote really interesting. And actually it’s difficult to find in an original context so the attribution is somewhat alleged on my part – nonetheless I want to consider the claim’s grounding!
On account of the universality that it has facilitated for centuries, Latin is often held up as being God’s answer, given to the Church in Christ, to the curse of Babel. His way of providing a concrete, stable, universal language by which the Church is once again united. That’s lovely, but there is actually another phenomenon that makes claim to the same idea: the gift of tongues. Now exploring that claim is not the purpose of this blog – but I think its essential tenets are obvious. The Apostles miraculously spoke in many languages and thus were understood by natives from many countries…
As to which of these two make the greater objective claim to being God’s ‘answer’ – way outside the scope of this blog. However I’d like to make a brief synopsis of Church History that I think is interesting! N.B. this is a CURSORY glance – properly including sources and quotes would take too long – but maybe we’ll do a Formation Rose (or series) on Charismatic gifts sometime and go into more depth!
Anyway! Acts obviously pretty much kicks off with Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, and thereafter is replete with miracles etc. – the first public one being speaking in tongues! The witness of the early Church Fathers (eg. St. Iranaeus c.130-202 AD) indicates that this thing seemed to continue for a while but then not be so familiar (at least by the time of St. John Chrysostom, c.347-407 AD). Let me place a couple of historical landmarks in the middle there. First of all, in the 3rd-4th Century Liturgy began to move into Latin and it became the primary language of the Church. And in 313 AD the edict of Milan pretty much put an end to the persecution of Christians, within about 10 years Christianity becoming the religion of the Roman Empire. Thus begins Christendom, and Latin remains the Church’s language as things evolve. Interestingly enough, Christendom as we knew it kind of hits into a demise as we head into the 20th century, with a huge bout of monarchy abolitions. Also early in that century, Pentecostalism starts – with tongues. Then in the latter half of the same century, Vatican II, a vernacular liturgy replaces Latin and almost simultaneously – BOOM guess what makes its way in a widespread manner into the Catholic Church?!
What on earth is my point? Well firstly not that tongues and Latin are mutually exclusive – however much it may seem like it in our clicky Church – I for one pray in both!! However they have distinct gifts. It seems to me that God will overcome the curse of Babel in His Church one way or another, however He has different ways of doing things. Of course miracles and Divine Intervention are GOOD – however as a general rule, it’s probably advisable not to completely overlook the more normative, structured means of striving to open oneself to God’s Grace in favour of being entirely dependent on the spectacular. This is the case for a few reasons, but notably because it tends to ground the soul in humility and because it seems to make the life of grace accessible to a wider number of people.
Christendom wasn’t perfect – you don’t get a system that is this side of eternity. But if you completely overhaul a society in which Christian faith is woven into the fabric of its structure (with however many dropped and broken threads), do not expect to replace it with an idealised secularism that welcomes the Church alongside it and respects what She thinks – for example about sexual morality or killing children. If the Church is going to influence society She has no choice but to do so on Her own terms – because those terms are determined by faith in the Unchangeable. Ultimately, to a greater or lesser degree, society will be formed by faith in Christ or opposed to it. If one wants to live a relatively peaceable life as a Christian in a world which fosters values grounded in faith, Latin is the prayer language, historically speaking, which bears the precedent – and, one could argue, the seal of God – for this state of affairs. If prayer changes things, and it does, not only that we pray but how we pray matters. And if you want to change not only your life and your walk with Jesus but the world and the Church, it is helpful to have at least few simple Latin prayers in your arsenal – because they carry with them that context. That is to say the context of a universality that looks beyond itself to God.
So that’s the end of this blog series – study session below to round out the rose!
If you’re convinced, great – OREMUS! If not, no worries, I’ll see you in the Catacombs 😉
Final Study Session!
For Study Session #3, we’re going to do things a little differently. Up until now, we’ve been working through the blogs and then studying writings that back up or develop what has been said in order to deepen our understanding. This time there is no presentation of new material, but it’s time to take 20 minutes to recap what we know.
Take 20 minutes to answer the following questions. If in 20 minutes you don’t get through all of the questions it still suffices for the rose. If you get through all questions in less than 20 minutes, go back and go deeper! It will probably help you to take a pen and paper and jot down at least brief notes in response as you work through them, however this is not required so long as you spend the time with the questions and answers. It’s not an exam, and it’s definitely not closed book – so go back through the materials you’ve read as much as you like! That said, answers to the questions may not be given directly in those materials. The aim is simply to encourage one to consider deeply what has been learned.
What do you consider to be the three main reasons that Pope St. John XXIII gives for upholding the usage and study of Latin in the Church in Veterum Sapientia?
What does (or might) Latin’s efficacy as a prayer language (e.g. in spiritual warfare) tell us about God’s choice and purpose for it?
Considering the materials you have read, did Vatican II itself intend to ‘do away’ with Latin? Could anything be done do bridge the gap between the documents and the experience of the Council by (a) the Church as a whole (b) individual parishes (c) you personally?
Write a list of your favourite saints, like a proper mini litany – not just a few! Make a little mark beside those who spoke the same language as you as their mother tongue. Now from what you know about Church history, make a different little mark beside the name of any of them who prayed in Latin. Jot down any thoughts you have about the value of language and universality.
Make a list of the best reasons you can think of to not learn Latin, and the best reasons you (now) have to learn it. Pray about the two lists and about how God is leading you personally. The aim of this rose isn’t to convince you you should learn Latin, it’s to invite one to consider the richness of the reasons the Church proposes it. However the Church proposes a lot of things and we don’t have time for everything! In freedom, decide what – if anything – might be your next step with Latin.