Serpents & Doves: 30 Maxims on Worldly Wisdom by Fr. Baltasar Gracián SJ

Portrait of Baltasar Gracian preserved in Graus, restored. Wiki.
Portrait of Baltasar Gracian preserved in Graus, restored. Wiki.

Listers, our Lord said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”1 Despite the millennia, the Church appears to still lack a guide to the practicality of being both wise (cunning or clever) and innocent. In a world discipled by Machiavelli, who proclaimed that those who remain moral in politics will effect their own ruin, how can a faithful Catholic engage and not lose his or her soul? One of the best answers to this question comes in the form of 300 maxims written by Fr. Baltasar Gracián, SJ. Ordained a priest in 1627 and final vows in 1635, the Jesuit was an orator, an army chaplain, an academic, and a constant source of frustration for his superiors.2 He published, without the permission, a three part novel entitled Criticón. He garnered both fame throughout Europe and reprimands from the Society of Jesus. In 1647, Fr. Gracián published Oráculo Manual y Qrte de Prudencia, literally, Manual Oracle and Art of Discretion, which in English is translated The Art of Worldly Wisdom. The collection of 300 maxims aims to guide the reader in how to be politically clever while remaining virtuous. Written in the Spanish baroque style of Conceptismo, the work was well received throughout Europe and has had resurgences throughout the years.3 It is reported, “Nietzsche wrote of the Oráculo, ‘Europe has never produced anything finer or more complicated in matters of moral subtlety,’ and Schopenhauer, who translated it into German, considered the book ‘Absolutely unique… a book made for constant use…a companion for life’ for ‘those who wish to prosper in the great world.'”4 Moreover, “A translation of the Oraculo manual from the Spanish by Joseph Jacobs (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited), first published in 1892, was a huge commercial success, with many reprintings over the years (most recently by Shambala). Jacobs’ translation is alleged to have been read by Winston Churchill, seven years later, on the ship taking him to the Boer Wars.”5

Do the maxims truly strike the virtue of being both cunning and innocent?

Without question, many of the maxims of Father Gracián are controversial, and, when praised by modernist philosophers such as Nietzsche, raise a healthy suspicion in faithful Catholics. While acknowledging that submitting a practical guide to innocence and cunning is a task largely left untried, there are a few key observations about the writings of Fr. Gracián.

First, the maxims have a notable silence regarding God. In fact, only three of the 300 maxims explicitly mention anything related to God and grace. Taking a positive approach, there are two observations about Father Gracián’s silence on the supernatural. First, humans are naturally political animals, and as such, political activity is rooted by the natural virtues. In this light, it would make sense that a work on politics would largely focus on the natural virtues, i.e., prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude.

Second, the maxims in which Father Gracián does mention the supernatural are axiomatic in character. For example, in maxim c he states, “A Man without Illusions, a wise Christian, a philosophic Courtier. Be all these, not merely seem to be them, still less affect to be them.” In maxim ccli, he states, “Use human Means as if there were no divine ones, and divine as if there were no human ones.” (ccli) In the final maxim of the work, maxim ccc, he states, “In one word, be a Saint. So is all said at once. Virtue is the link of all perfections, the centre of all the felicities.” Though few maxims mention anything supernatural, those that do seem to do so without hesitation and without the customary nuances of the rest.

In contrast, taking a more critical approach to the silence, the absence of prayer and a reliance of God in the maxims leaves the Christian reader with an incomplete guide to Christ’s words. Political gamesmanship is scored by who can best discern the perceptions and intentions of the parties in play. A Catholic who enters into the fray relying on his or her own wit will fail. No matter how perceptive the mind, there will always be side conversations, ulterior motives, unknown relationships, and irrational players that even the most prudent of minds will not be able to know or discern. To believe that one is clever enough to navigate the game without God is a hallmark of pride. In fact, “success” for those living the virtuous life may look very different than what would naturally be called success. Think of the providential challenges faced by Joseph, King David, Moses, and many other holy men and women that ultimately led them to being great leaders. God knows the secrets of all men and how those secrets will unfold. The Catholic who humbles himself before God, who commits to a life of virtue, and lives a life of prayer, enters the political chaos with peace and grace. Catholics dwelling in political climates would do well to remember Cardinal Merry del Val, the Secretary of State for St. Pius X, and his Litany of Humility. In addition, many of the psalms can be a constant source of solace and many of the prayers of St. Thomas Aquinas for protection from his enemies can be pertinent as well.6

Despite the silence on the supernatural, many of the maxims of Fr. Gracián give tremendous insights on how to be clever yet innocent. Catholics would do well to contemplate the wisdom of his words and apply them to their political and social dealings. The following are thirty selected maxims that are representative of the major motifs in the Art of Worldly Wisdom.


The Maxims


1. Keep Matters for a Time in Suspense. (iii) Admiration at their novelty heightens the value of your achievements, It is both useless and insipid to play with the cards on the table. If you do not declare yourself immediately, you arouse expectation, especially when the importance of your position makes you the object of general attention. Mix a little mystery with everything, and the very mystery arouses veneration.

Cautious silence is the holy of holies of worldly wisdom.

And when you explain, be not too explicit, just as you do not expose your inmost thoughts in ordinary intercourse. Cautious silence is the holy of holies of worldly wisdom. A resolution declared is never highly thought of; it only leaves room for criticism. And if it happens to fail, you are doubly unfortunate. Besides you imitate the Divine way when you cause men to wonder and watch.


2. Avoid the Faults of your Nation. (ix) Water shares the good or bad qualities of the strata through which it flows, and man those of the climate in which he is born. Some owe more than others to their native land, because there is a more favourable sky in the zenith. There is not a nation even among the most civilised that has not some fault peculiar to itself which other nations blame by way of boast or as a warning. ’Tis a triumph of cleverness to correct in oneself such national failings, or even to hide them: you get great credit for being unique among your fellows, and as it is less expected of you it is esteemed the more. There are also family failings as well as faults of position, of office or of age. If these all meet in one person and are not carefully guarded against, they make an intolerable monster.7


3. Arouse no Exaggerated Expectations on entering. (xix) It is the usual ill-luck of all celebrities not to fulfil afterwards the expectations beforehand formed of them. The real can never equal the imagined, for it is easy to form ideals but very difficult to realise them. Imagination weds Hope and gives birth to much more than things are in themselves. However great the excellences, they never suffice to fulfil expectations, and as men find themselves disappointed with their exorbitant expectations they are more ready to be disillusionised than to admire. Hope is a great falsifier of truth; let skill guard against this by ensuring that fruition exceeds desire. A few creditable attempts at the beginning are sufficient to arouse curiosity without pledging one to the final object. It is better that reality should surpass the design and is better than was thought. This rule does not apply to the wicked, for the same exaggeration is a great aid to them; they are defeated amid general applause, and what seemed at first extreme ruin comes to be thought quite bearable.8


4. A Man of Rectitude (xxix) clings to the sect of right with such tenacity of purpose that neither the passions of the mob nor the violence of the tyrant can ever cause him to transgress the bounds of right. But who shall be such a Phœnix of equity? What a scanty following has rectitude! Many praise it indeed, but—for others. Others follow it till danger threatens; then the false deny it, the politic conceal it. For it cares not if it fights with friendship, power, or even self-interest: then comes the danger of desertion. Then astute men make plausible distinctions so as not to stand in the way of their superiors or of reasons of state. But the straightforward and constant regard dissimulation as a kind of treason, and set more store on tenacity than on sagacity. Such are always to be found on the side of truth, and if they desert a party, they do not change from fickleness, but because the others have first deserted truth.


5. Born to Command. (xlii) It is a secret force of superiority not to have to get on by artful trickery but by an inborn power of rule. All submit to it without knowing why, recognising the secret vigour of connatural authority. Such magisterial spirits are kings by merit and lions by innate privilege. By the esteem which they inspire, they hold the hearts and minds of the rest. If their other qualities permit, such men are born to be the prime motors of the state. They perform more by a gesture than others by a long harangue.9


6. Know how to show your Teeth. (liv) Even hares can pull the mane of a dead lion. There is no joke about courage. Give way to the first and you must yield to the second, and so on till the last, and to gain your point at last costs as much trouble as would have gained much more at first. Moral courage exceeds physical; it should be like a sword kept ready for use in the scabbard of caution.

Many have had eminent qualities, yet, for want of a stout heart, they passed inanimate lives and found a tomb in their own sloth.

It Is the shield of great place; moral cowardice lowers one more than physical. Many have had eminent qualities, yet, for want of a stout heart, they passed inanimate lives and found a tomb in their own sloth. Wise Nature has thoughtfully combined in the bee the sweetness of its honey with the sharpness of its sting.


7. Adapt Yourself to your Company. (lviii) There is no need to show your ability before every one. Employ no more force than is necessary. Let there be no unnecessary expenditure either of knowledge or of power. The skilful falconer only flies enough birds to serve for the chase. If there is too much display to-day there will be nothing to show to-morrow. Always have some novelty wherewith to dazzle. To show something fresh each day keeps expectation alive and conceals the limits of capacity.((Fr. Gracian’s theme of not exaggerating is similar to his theme of never displaying more excellence than needed. In maxim lxxxv, he states, “be extraordinary in your excellence, if you like, but ordinary in your display of it.” Again, cf. to maxim xciv, “Keep your abilities unknown” and clxx “In all Things keep Something in Reserve.” Reflecting this principle of withholding, it would seem, that a man in a position that demands great excellence, would constantly be having to go to the depths of his excellence to excel in his duties; thus, it would seem that one way to be “ordinary in your display” of excellence would be to continue to always be growing in it – to have the spirit of a student, thus, when someone things they have seen the depths of your excellence, you can later display the greater depth you have learned and kept in reserve until that time.))


8. Take care to get Information. (lxxx) We live by information, not by sight. We exist by faith in others. The ear is the area-gate of truth but the front-door of lies. The truth is generally seen, rarely heard; seldom she comes in elemental purity, especially from afar; there is always some admixture of the moods of those through whom she has passed.

The truth is generally seen, rarely heard; seldom she comes in elemental purity, especially from afar; there is always some admixture of the moods of those through whom she has passed.

The passions tinge her with their colours wherever they touch her, sometimes favourably, sometimes the reverse. She always brings out the disposition, therefore receive her with caution from him that praises, with more caution from him that blames. Pay attention to the intention of the speaker; you should know beforehand on what footing he comes. Let reflection assay falsity and exaggeration.


9. Make use of your Enemies. (lxxxiv) You should learn to seize things not by the blade, which cuts, but by the handle, which saves you from harm: especially is this the rule with the doings of your enemies. A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends. Their ill-will often levels mountains of difficulties which one would otherwise not face.

A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.

Many have had their greatness made for them by their enemies. Flattery is more dangerous than hatred, because it covers the stains which the other causes to be wiped out. The wise will turn ill-will into a mirror more faithful than that of kindness. and remove or improve the faults referred to. Caution thrives well when rivalry and ill-will are next-door neighbours.


10. Know Yourself (lxxxix)—in talents and capacity, in judgment and inclination. You cannot master yourself unless you know yourself. There are mirrors for the face but none for the mind. Let careful thought about yourself serve as a substitute.

There are mirrors for the face but none for the mind.

When the outer image is forgotten, keep the inner one to improve and perfect. Learn the force of your intellect and capacity for affairs, test the force of your courage in order to apply it, and keep your foundations secure and your head clear for everything.


11. A Man without Illusions, a wise Christian, a philosophic Courtier. (c) Be all these, not merely seem to be them, still less affect to be them. Philosophy is nowadays discredited, but yet it was always the chiefest concern of the wise. The art of thinking has lost all its former repute. Seneca introduced it at Rome: it went to court for some time, but now it is considered out of place there. And yet the discovery of deceit was always thought the true nourishment of a thoughtful mind, the true delight of a virtuous soul.10


12. Do not parade your Position. (cvi) To outshine in dignity is more offensive than in personal attractions. To pose as a personage is to be hated: envy is surely enough. The more you seek esteem the less you obtain it, for it depends on the opinion of others. You cannot take it, but must earn and receive it from others. Great positions require an amount of authority sufficient to make them efficient: without it they cannot be adequately filled. Preserve therefore enough dignity to carry on the duties of the office. Do not enforce respect, but try and create it. Those who insist on the dignity of their office, show they have not deserved it, and that it is too much for them. If you wish to be valued, be valued for your talents, not for anything adventitious. Even kings prefer to be honoured for their personal qualifications rather than for their station.11


13. Never talk of Yourself. (cxvii) You must either praise yourself, which is vain, or blame yourself, which is little-minded: it ill beseems him that speaks, and ill pleases him that hears. And if you should avoid this in ordinary conversation, how much more in official matters, and above all, in public speaking, where every appearance of unwisdom really is unwise. The same want of tact lies in speaking of a man in his presence, owing to the danger of going to one of two extremes: flattery or censure.12


14.  Nobility of Feeling. (cxxxi) There is a certain distinction of the soul, a highmindedness prompting to gallant acts, that gives an air of grace to the whole character. It is not found often, for it presupposes great magnanimity. Its chief characteristic is to speak well of an enemy, and to act even better to-wards him. It shines brightest when a chance comes of revenge: not alone does it let the occasion pass, but it improves it by using a complete victory in order to display unexpected generosity. ’Tis a fine stroke of policy, nay, the very acme of statecraft. It makes no pretence to victory, for it pretends to nothing, and while obtaining its deserts it conceals its merits.


15. Find the Good in a Thing at once. (cxl) ’Tis the advantage of good taste. The bee goes to the honey for her comb, the serpent to the gall for its venom. So with taste: some seek the good, others the ill. There is nothing that has no good in it, especially in books, as giving food for thought. But many have such a scent that amid a thousand excellences they fix upon a single defect, and single it out for blame as if they were scavengers of men’s minds and hearts. So they draw up a balance sheet of defects which does more credit to their bad taste than to their intelligence. They lead a sad life, nourishing themselves on bitters and battening on garbage. They have the luckier taste who midst a thousand defects seize upon a single beauty they may have hit upon by chance.


16. Look into the Interior of Things. (cxlvi) Things are generally other than they seem, and ignorance that never looks beneath the rind becomes disabused when you show the kernel. Lies always come first, dragging fools along by their irreparable vulgarity. Truth always lags last, limping along on the arm of Time. The wise therefore reserve for it the other half of that power which the common mother has wisely given in duplicate. Deceit is very superficial, and the superficial therefore easily fall into it. Prudence lives retired within its recesses, visited only by sages and wise men.13


17. Think beforehand. (cli) To-day for to-morrow, and even for many days hence. The greatest foresight consists in determining beforehand the time of trouble. For the provident there are no mischances and for the careful no narrow escapes. We must not put off thought till we are up to the chin in mire. Mature reflection can get over the most formidable difficulty. The pillow is a silent Sibyl, and it is better to sleep on things beforehand than lie awake about them afterwards. Many act first and then think afterwards—that is, they think less of consequences than of excuses: others think neither before nor after. The whole of life should be one course of thought how not to miss the right path. Rumination and foresight enable one to determine the line of life.


18. Wage War Honourably. (clxv) You may be obliged to wage war, but not to use poisoned arrows. Every one must needs act as he is, not as others would make him to be. Gallantry in the battle of life wins all men’s praise: one should fight so as to conquer, not alone by force but by the way it is used. A mean victory brings no glory, but rather disgrace. Honour always has the upper hand. An honourable man never uses forbidden weapons, such as using a friendship that’s ended for the purposes of a hatred just begun: a confidence must never be used for a vengeance. The slightest taint of treason tarnishes the good name. In men of honour the smallest trace of meanness repels: the noble and the ignoble should be miles apart. Be able to boast that if gallantry, generosity, and fidelity were lost in the world men would be able to find them again in your own breast.14


19. Be Moderate. (ccvii) One has to consider the chance of a mischance. The impulses of the passions cause prudence to slip, and there is the risk of ruin. A moment of wrath or of pleasure carries you on farther than many hours of calm, and often a short diversion may put a whole life to shame. The cunning of others uses such moments of temptation to search the recesses of the mind: they use such thumbscrews as are wont to test the best caution.

Moderation serves as a counterplot, especially in sudden emergencies.

Moderation serves as a counterplot, especially in sudden emergencies. Much thought is needed to prevent a passion taking the bit in the teeth, and he is doubly wise who is wise on horseback. He who knows the danger may with care pursue his journey. Light as a word may appear to him who throws it out, it may import much to him that hears it and ponders on it.


20. Know how to play the Card of Truth. (ccx) ’Tis dangerous, yet a good man cannot avoid speaking it. But great skill is needed here: the most expert doctors of the soul pay great attention to the means of sweetening the pill of truth. For when it deals with the destroying of illusion it is the quintessence of bitterness.

But great skill is needed here: the most expert doctors of the soul pay great attention to the means of sweetening the pill of truth.

A pleasant manner has here an opportunity for a display of skill: with the same truth it can flatter one and fell another to the ground. Matters of to-day should be treated as if they were long past. For those who can understand a word is sufficient, and if it does not suffice, it is a case for silence. Princes must not be cured with bitter draughts; it is therefore desirable in their case to gild the pill of disillusion.


21. Do not be the Slave of First Impressions. (ccxxvii) Some marry the very first account they hear: all others must live with them as concubines. But as a lie has swift legs, the truth with them can find no lodging. We should neither satisfy our will with the first object nor our mind with the first proposition: for that were superficial. Many are like new casks who keep the scent of the first liquor they hold, be it good or bad. If this superficiality becomes known, it becomes fatal, for it then gives opportunity for cunning mischief; the ill-minded hasten to colour the mind of the credulous. Always therefore leave room for a second hearing. Alexander always kept one ear for the other side. Wait for the second or even third edition of news. To be the slave of your impressions argues want of capacity, and is not far from being the slave of your passions.15


22. Never share the Secrets of your Superiors. (ccxxxvii) You may think you will share pears, but you will only share parings. Many have been ruined by being confidants: they are like sops of bread used as forks, they run the same risk of being eaten up afterwards. It is no favour in a prince to share a secret: it is only a relief. Many break the mirror that reminds them of their ugliness. We do not like seeing those who have seen us as we are: nor is he seen In a favourable light who has seen us in an unfavourable one.

He that communicates his secret to another makes himself that other’s slave.

None ought to be too much beholden to us, least of all one of the great, unless it be for benefits done him rather than for such favours received from him. Especially dangerous are secrets entrusted to friends. He that communicates his secret to another makes himself that other’s slave. With a prince this is an intolerable position which cannot last. He will desire to recover his lost liberty, and to gain it will overturn everything, including right and reason. Accordingly neither tell secrets nor listen to them.


23. Do not be too much of a Dove. (ccxliii) Alternate the cunning of the serpent with the candour of the dove. Nothing is easier than to deceive an honest man. He believes in much who lies in naught; who does no deceit, has much confidence. To be deceived is not always due to stupidity, it may arise from sheer goodness. There are two sets of men who can guard themselves from injury: those who have experienced it at their own cost, and those who have observed it at the cost of others. Prudence should use as much suspicion as subtlety uses snares, and none need be so good as to enable others to do him ill. Combine in yourself the dove and the serpent, not as a monster but as a prodigy.


24. Use human Means as if there were no divine ones, and divine as if there were no human ones. (ccli) A masterly rule: it needs no comment.16


25. Silken Words, sugared Manners. (cclxvii) Arrows pierce the body, insults the soul. Sweet pastry perfumes the breath. It is a great art in life to know how to sell wind. Most things are paid for in words, and by them you can remove impossibilities. Thus we deal in air, and a royal breath can produce courage and power. Always have your mouth full of sugar to sweeten your words, so that even your ill-wishers enjoy them. To please one must be peaceful.


26. Comprehend their Dispositions with whom you deal, (cclxxiii) so as to know their intentions. Cause known, effect known, beforehand in the disposition and after in the motive. The melancholy man always foresees misfortunes, the backbiter scandals; having no conception of the good, evil offers itself to them. A man moved by passion always speaks of things differently from what they are; it is his passion speaks, not his reason.

A man moved by passion always speaks of things differently from what they are; it is his passion speaks, not his reason.

Thus each speaks as his feeling or his humour prompts him, and all far from the truth. Learn how to decipher faces and spell out the soul in the features. If a man laughs always, set him down as foolish; if never, as false. Beware of the gossip: he is either a babbler or a spy. Expect little good from the misshapen: they generally take revenge on Nature, and do little honour to her, as she has done little to them. Beauty and folly generally go hand in hand.


27. Never act in a Passion. (cclxxxvii) If you do, all is lost. You cannot act for yourself if you are not yourself, and passion always drives out reason. In such cases inter-pose a prudent go-between who can only be prudent if he keeps cool. That is why lookers-on see most of the game, because they keep cool. As soon as you notice that you are losing your temper beat a wise retreat. For no sooner is the blood up than it is spilt, and in a few moments occasion may be given for many days’ repentance for oneself and complaints of the other party.


28. Know how to Test. (ccxci) The care of the wise must guard against the snare of the wicked. Great judgment is needed to test that of another. It is more important to know the characteristics and properties of persons than those of vegetables and minerals. It is indeed one of the shrewdest things in life. You can tell metals by their ring and men by their voice. Words are proof of integrity, deeds still more. Here one requires extraordinary care, deep observation, subtle discernment, and judicious decision.


29. Always act as if your Acts were seen. (ccxcvii) He must see all round who sees that men see him or will see him. He knows that walls have ears and that ill deeds rebound back. Even when alone he acts as if the eyes of the whole world were upon him. For as he knows that sooner or later all will be known, so he considers those to be present as witnesses who must afterwards hear of the deed. He that wished the whole world might always see him did not mind that his neighbours could see him over their walls.


30. In one word, be a Saint. (ccc) So is all said at once. Virtue is the link of all perfections, the centre of all the felicities. She it is that makes a man prudent, discreet, sagacious, cautious, wise, courageous, thoughtful, trustworthy, happy, honoured, truthful, and a universal Hero. Three HHH’s make a man happy—Health, Holiness, and a Headpiece.Virtue is the sun of the microcosm, and has for hemisphere a good conscience.

Virtue alone is serious, all else is but jest.

She is so beautiful that she finds favour with both God and man. Nothing is lovable but virtue, nothing detestable but vice. Virtue alone is serious, all else is but jest. A man’s capacity and greatness are to be measured by his virtue and not by his fortune. She alone is all-sufficient. She makes men lovable in life, memorable after death.17

  1. Gospel of Matthew 10:16; cf., ccxliii Do not be too much of a Dove. []
  2. Baltasar Gracian. []
  3. Conceptismo is characterized by a rapid rhythm, directness, simple vocabulary, witty metaphors, and wordplay. In this style, multiple meanings are conveyed in a very concise manner, and conceptual intricacies are emphasised over elaborate vocabulary.” []
  4. Id. []
  5. Id. []
  6. Spiritual resources for the political: Psalms 13, 15, 20:7-8, 35, 69, 118, 143: 12; The Aquinas Prayer Book: To the Mother of God, Aquinas prays, “Be to me, most Holy Lady, a comforter, and an ally against the stratagems and the traps of the ancient enemy and of all those who harbor ill intentions against me.” (23) In his prayer after receiving the Blessed Eucharist, he petitions, “may it be a firm defense against the plots of all my enemies, seen and unseen.” (83) Those looking for a way to end their petitions to God may reference 143:12, which reads: “and in thy mercy thou wilt destroy my enemies. And thou wilt cut off all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.” Douay-Rheims Bible. “And in thy steadfast love cut off my enemies, and destroy all my adversaries, for I am thy servant.” RSV-Catholic. []
  7. To avoid the faults of your nation/age, you must know the faults of your nation/age – 4 Steps to Understand the Crisis of Modernity. []
  8. Similarly, (xli) Never Exaggerate. It is an important object of attention not to talk in superlatives, so as neither to offend against truth nor to give a mean idea of one’s understanding. Exaggeration is a prodigality of the judgment which shows the narrowness of one’s knowledge or one’s taste. Praise arouses lively curiosity, begets desire, and if afterwards the value does not correspond to the price, as generally happens, expectation revolts against the deception, and revenges itself by under-estimating the thing recommended and the person recommending. A prudent man goes more cautiously to work, and prefers to err by omission than by commission. Extraordinary things are rare, therefore moderate ordinary valuation. Exaggeration is a branch of lying, and you lose by it the credit of good taste, which is much, and of good sense, which is more.” []
  9. Cf. the virtue of magnanimity, under Aristotle. []
  10. Often times the maxims of Fr. Gracian have garnered him the title a “Christian Machiavelli.” Maxim one hundred (c) shows one of the most fundamental distinctions between Machiavelli and Fr. Gracian. Machiavelli stated, “because how one lives is so far distant from how one ought to live, that he who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation; for a man who wishes to act entirely up to his professions of virtue soon meets with what destroys him among so much that is evil.” Machiavelli is clear – those who act virtuously will bring about their own ruin. For Machiavelli, it was important for a prince to appear moral yet be immoral. Virtue is reinterpreted to the cunning ability to gain and maintain power. We see a similar mindset with Glaucon in Plato’s Republic, where he states that it is best for one to be immoral yet appear moral so as to excel within a social contract theory. Fr. Gracian, though questionable at times on his maxims, does not appear to hold to this theory. He states the contrary, “be all these, not merely seem to be them, still less affect to be them.” In other words, where Machiavelli has discarded the “imagined republic” of the Kingdom of God, it appears Fr. Gracian is still contemplating how to remain an innocent citizen of the City of God yet be cunning as the serpent. See 7 Introductory Catholic Thoughts on Machiavelli and A Catholic Guide to Thomas Hobbes. Furthermore, see maxims ccli and ccc. []
  11. Cf. Maxim xciv; related to his motifs of exaggeration and not displaying your full excellence, Fr. Gracian continues in this maxim his thoughts on perception and power. []
  12. cf. Fr. Josemaria Escriva’s signs of a lack of humility. Cf. maxim cvi. []
  13. Similarly, in maxim civil, he states, “men must be studied as deeply as books.” []
  14. Another clear distinction between Fr. Gracian and Machiavelli – for Fr. Gracian, the ends do not justify the means. []
  15. A prudent maxim with an imprudent metaphor, “Some marry the very first account they hear: all others must live with them as concubines.” []
  16. Fr. Gracian’s comment of use “divine means” is the closest he comes to speaking about prayer or a reliance on God. It is very close to the attributed quote from St. Augustine, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” Similarly, “Act and God will act, work and He will work.” – St. Joan of Arc. []
  17. Another clear distinction between Fr. Gracian and Machiavelli, as Machiavelli had to reinterpret virtue in order to achieve his political ends. As such, virtue becomes the cunning ability to gain and maintain power, something unrecognizable to the ancients and to the Church. For Fr. Gracian, he does not appear to reinterpret virtue in order to excel in politics – though how to be both innocent and cunning is difficult at times. []

On God & Goodness: 8 Lessons on the Euthyphro Dilemma

Listers, does God will something because it is good or is something good because God wills it? The question lies at the heart of the dialogue Euthyphro, written by Plato c. 399-395 BC, recounting a conversation between Socrates and a man named Euthyphro on the meaning of holiness. Though the dialogue overall is seeking to define holiness (or piety), it is the Euthyphro Dilemma that has captured the attention of Catholic, protestant, Islamic, atheistic, and agnostic thinkers throughout the centuries. Socrates asks Euthyphro, “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” In monotheistic terms, it may be rendered “does God will something because it is good or is something good because God wills it?” or “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?” The question demands an explanation on the relationship between God and what is good (and how to be good, i.e., moral). Theologians and philosophers have disagreed over the years as supporting either horn of the dilemma imports substantial differences to the nature of God and the nature of the good.

The following list intends to simply introduce the Euthyphro Dilemma by reproducing a basic survey of the issue as presented through various texts. The majority of the list is taken verbatim from the respective cited sources and were gathered with the Catholic intellectual tradition in mind.1


1. Summary of the Narrative

"A Row of Philosophers - Busts of Greek philosophers from Socrates to Epicurus as seen in the British Museum, London." - Fr. Lawrence, OP. Flickr.
“A Row of Philosophers – Busts of Greek philosophers from Socrates to Epicurus as seen in the British Museum, London.” – Fr. Lawrence, OP. Flickr.

The Euthyphro dialogue occurs near the court of the Archon basileus (Magistrate–king), where Socrates and Euthyphro encounter each other; each man is present at the court for the preliminary hearings to possible trials (2a).

Euthyphro has come to present charges of manslaughter against his father, who had allowed one of his workers to die of exposure to the elements without proper care and attention. (3e–4d) The dead worker, earlier had killed a slave from the family estate on Naxos Island. As Euthyphro’s father awaited to hear from the exegetes (cf. Laws 759d) about how to proceed, the bound-and-gagged worker died in a ditch. Socrates is astonished by Euthyphro’s confidence in being able to prosecute his own father for the serious charge of manslaughter, despite the fact that Athenian Law allows only relatives of the dead man to file suit for murder. (Dem. 43 §57) Euthyphro misses the astonishment of Socrates, which confirms his overconfidence in his own critical judgement of matters religious and ethical. In an example of Socratic irony, Socrates said that Euthyphro obviously has a clear understanding of what is pious (τὸ ὅσιον to hosion) and impious (τὸ ἀνόσιον to anosion). Because he is facing a formal charge of impiety, Socrates expresses the hope to learn from Euthyphro, all the better to defend himself in the trial.

Euthyphro says that what lies behind the charge of impiety presented against Socrates, by Meletus and the others, is Socrates’ claim that he is subjected to a daimon, (divine sign) which warns him of various courses of action. (3b) From the perspective of some Athenians, Socrates expressed skepticism of the accounts about the Greek gods, which he and Euthyphro briefly discuss, before proceeding to the main argument of their dialogue: the definition of “piety”. Moreover, Socrates further expresses critical reservations about such divine accounts that emphasize the cruelty and inconsistent behavior of the Greek gods, such as the castration of the early sky-god Uranus, by his son Cronus; a story Socrates said is difficult to accept. (6a–6c) After claiming to know and be able to tell more astonishing divine stories, Euthyphro spends little time and effort defending the conventional, Greek view of the gods. Instead, he is led to the true task at hand, as Socrates forces him to confront his ignorance, by pressing Euthyphro for a definition of “piety”; yet, Socrates finds flaw with each definition of “piety” proposed by Euthyphro.(6d ff.)

At the dialogue’s conclusion, Euthyphro is compelled to admit that each of his definitions of “piety” has failed, but, rather than correct his faulty logic, he says that it is time for him to leave, and excuses himself from their dialogue. To that end, Socrates concludes the dialogue with Socratic irony: Since Euthyphro was unable to define “piety”, Euthyphro has failed to teach Socrates about piety. Therefore, from his dialogue with Euthyphro, Socrates received nothing helpful to his defense against a formal charge of impiety. (15c ff.)2


2. The Euthyphro Dilemma

The Euthyphro dilemma is found in Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro, in which Socrates asks Euthyphro, “Is the pious (τὸ ὅσιον) loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” (10a) The dilemma has had a major effect on the philosophical theism of the monotheistic religions, but in a modified form:

“Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?”3

Ever since Plato’s original discussion, this question has presented a problem for some theists, though others have thought it a false dilemma, and it continues to be an object of theological and philosophical discussion today.4


Analyzing the Euthyphro Dilemma


The First Horn

3. Does God will it because it is Good?

The first horn of the dilemma (i.e. that which is right is commanded by God because it is right) goes by a variety of names, including intellectualism, rationalism, realism, naturalism, and objectivism. Roughly, it is the view that there are independent moral standards: some actions are right or wrong in themselves, independent of God’s commands. This is the view accepted by Socrates and Euthyphro in Plato’s dialogue. The Mu’tazilah school of Islamic theology also defended the view (with, for example, Nazzam maintaining that God is powerless to engage in injustice or lying), as did the Islamic philosopher Averroes (arguably, however, the majority of Islam embraces the second horn, as stated below).

St. Thomas Aquinas never explicitly addresses the Euthyphro dilemma…5 Aquinas draws a distinction between what is good or evil in itself and what is good or evil because of God’s commands,6 with unchangeable moral standards forming the bulk of natural law.7 Thus he contends that not even God can change the Ten Commandments (adding, however, that God can change what individuals deserve in particular cases, in what might look like special dispensations to murder or steal).8 For a full treatment of Aquinas’ view, see the section bearing his name below.


4. Concerns with the First Horn

Sovereignty: If there are moral standards independent of God’s will, then “[t]here is something over which God is not sovereign. God is bound by the laws of morality instead of being their establisher. Moreover, God depends for his goodness on the extent to which he conforms to an independent moral standard. Thus, God is not absolutely independent.”

Omnipotence: These moral standards would limit God’s power: not even God could oppose them by commanding what is evil and thereby making it good. This point was influential in Islamic theology: “In relation to God, objective values appeared as a limiting factor to His power to do as He wills… Ash’ari got rid of the whole embarrassing problem by denying the existence of objective values which might act as a standard for God’s action.” Similar concerns drove the medieval voluntarists Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. As contemporary philosopher Richard Swinburne puts the point, this horn “seems to place a restriction on God’s power if he cannot make any action which he chooses obligatory… [and also] it seems to limit what God can command us to do. God, if he is to be God, cannot command us to do what, independently of his will, is wrong.”

Freedom of the Will: Moreover, these moral standards would limit God’s freedom of will: God could not command anything opposed to them, and perhaps would have no choice but to command in accordance with them. As Mark Murphy puts the point, “if moral requirements existed prior to God’s willing them, requirements that an impeccable God could not violate, God’s liberty would be compromised.”

Morality without God: If there are moral standards independent of God, then morality would retain its authority even if God did not exist. This conclusion was explicitly (and notoriously) drawn by early modern political theorist Hugo Grotius: “What we have been saying [about the natural law] would have a degree of validity even if we should concede that which cannot be conceded without the utmost wickedness, that there is no God, or that the affairs of men are of no concern to him.” In such a view, God is no longer a “law-giver” but at most a “law-transmitter” who plays no vital role in the foundations of morality. Nontheists have capitalized on this point, largely as a way of disarming moral arguments for God’s existence: if morality does not depend on God in the first place, such arguments stumble at the starting gate.9


The Second Horn

5. Is Something Good because God wills it?

The second horn of the dilemma (i.e. that which is right is right because it is commanded by God) is sometimes known as divine command theory or voluntarism. Roughly, it is the view that there are no moral standards other than God’s will: without God’s commands, nothing would be right or wrong. This view was partially defended by Bl. Duns Scotus, who argued that not all Ten Commandments belong to the Natural Law. Scotus held that while our duties to God (found on the first tablet) are self-evident, true by definition, and unchangeable even by God, our duties to others (found on the second tablet) were arbitrarily willed by God and are within his power to revoke and replace.10 William of Ockham went further, contending that (since there is no contradiction in it) God could command us not to love God11 and even to hate God.12

Protestant reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin both stressed the absolute sovereignty of God’s will, with Luther writing that “for [God’s] will there is no cause or reason that can be laid down as a rule or measure for it”,13 and Calvin writing that “everything which [God] wills must be held to be righteous by the mere fact of his willing it.”14 The voluntarist emphasis on God’s absolute power was carried further by Descartes, who notoriously held that God had freely created the eternal truths of logic and mathematics, and that God was therefore capable of giving circles unequal radii, giving triangles other than 180 internal degrees, and even making contradictions true. Descartes explicitly seconded Ockham: “why should [God] not have been able to give this command [i.e., the command to hate God] to one of his creatures?”

Thomas Hobbes notoriously reduced the justice of God to “irresistible power” (drawing the complaint of Bishop Bramhall that this “overturns… all law”). And William Paley held that all moral obligations bottom out in the self-interested “urge” to avoid Hell and enter Heaven by acting in accord with God’s commands. Islam’s Ash’arite theologians, al-Ghazali foremost among them, embraced voluntarism: scholar George Hourani writes that the view “was probably more prominent and widespread in Islam than in any other civilization.”15


6. Concerns with the Second Horn

This horn of the dilemma also faces several problems:

No Reasons for Morality: If there is no moral standard other than God’s will, then God’s commands are arbitrary (i.e., based on pure whimsy or caprice). This would mean that morality is ultimately not based on reasons: “if theological voluntarism is true, then God’s commands/intentions must be arbitrary; [but] it cannot be that morality could wholly depend on something arbitrary… [for] when we say that some moral state of affairs obtains, we take it that there is a reason for that moral state of affairs obtaining rather than another.” And as Michael J. Murray and Michael Rea put it, this would also “cas[t] doubt on the notion that morality is genuinely objective.” An additional problem is that it is difficult to explain how true moral actions can exist if one acts only out of fear of God or in an attempt to be rewarded by him.

No Reasons for God: This arbitrariness would also jeopardize God’s status as a wise and rational being, one who always acts on good reasons. As Leibniz writes: “Where will be his justice and his wisdom if he has only a certain despotic power, if arbitrary will takes the place of reasonableness, and if in accord with the definition of tyrants, justice consists in that which is pleasing to the most powerful? Besides it seems that every act of willing supposes some reason for the willing and this reason, of course, must precede the act.”

Anything Goes: This arbitrariness would also mean that anything could become good, and anything could become bad, merely upon God’s command. Thus if God commanded us “to gratuitously inflict pain on each other” or to engage in “cruelty for its own sake” or to hold an “annual sacrifice of randomly selected ten-year-olds in a particularly gruesome ritual that involves excruciating and prolonged suffering for its victims”, then we would be morally obligated to do so. As 17th-century philosopher Ralph Cudworth put it: “nothing can be imagined so grossly wicked, or so foully unjust or dishonest, but if it were supposed to be commanded by this omnipotent Deity, must needs upon that hypothesis forthwith become holy, just, and righteous.”

Moral Contingency: If morality depends on the perfectly free will of God, morality would lose its necessity: “If nothing prevents God from loving things that are different from what God actually loves, then goodness can change from world to world or time to time. This is obviously objectionable to those who believe that claims about morality are, if true, necessarily true.” In other words, no action is necessarily moral: any right action could have easily been wrong, if God had so decided, and an action which is right today could easily become wrong tomorrow, if God so decides. Indeed, some have argued that divine command theory is incompatible with ordinary conceptions of moral supervenience.

Why do God’s Commands Obligate?: Mere commands do not create obligations unless the commander has some commanding authority. But this commanding authority cannot itself be based on those very commands (i.e., a command to obey commands), otherwise a vicious circle results. So, in order for God’s commands to obligate us, he must derive commanding authority from some source other than his own will. As Cudworth put it: “For it was never heard of, that any one founded all his authority of commanding others, and others [sic] obligation or duty to obey his commands, in a law of his own making, that men should be required, obliged, or bound to obey him. Wherefore since the thing willed in all laws is not that men should be bound or obliged to obey; this thing cannot be the product of the meer [sic] will of the commander, but it must proceed from something else; namely, the right or authority of the commander.” To avoid the circle, one might say our obligation comes from gratitude to God for creating us. But this presupposes some sort of independent moral standard obligating us to be grateful to our benefactors. As 18th-century philosopher Francis Hutcheson writes: “Is the Reason exciting to concur with the Deity this, ‘The Deity is our Benefactor?’ Then what Reason excites to concur with Benefactors?” Or finally, one might resort to Hobbes’s view: “The right of nature whereby God reigneth over men, and punisheth those that break his laws, is to be derived, not from his creating them (as if he required obedience, as of gratitude for his benefits), but from his irresistible power.” In other words, might makes right.

God’s Goodness: If all goodness is a matter of God’s will, then what shall become of God’s goodness? Thus William P. Alston writes, “since the standards of moral goodness are set by divine commands, to say that God is morally good is just to say that he obeys his own commands… that God practices what he preaches, whatever that might be;” Hutcheson deems such a view “an insignificant tautology, amounting to no more than this, ‘That God wills what he wills.'” Alternatively, as Leibniz puts it, divine command theorists “deprive God of the designation good: for what cause could one have to praise him for what he does, if in doing something quite different he would have done equally well?” A related point is raised by C. S. Lewis: “if good is to be defined as what God commands, then the goodness of God Himself is emptied of meaning and the commands of an omnipotent fiend would have the same claim on us as those of the ‘righteous Lord.'” Or again Leibniz: “this opinion would hardly distinguish God from the devil.” That is, since divine command theory trivializes God’s goodness, it is incapable of explaining the difference between God and an all-powerful demon.

The “Is-Ought” Problem and the Naturalistic Fallacy: According to David Hume, it is hard to see how moral propositions featuring the relation ought could ever be deduced from ordinary is propositions, such as “the being of a God.” Divine command theory is thus guilty of deducing moral oughts from ordinary ises about God’s commands. In a similar vein, G. E. Moore argued (with his open question argument) that the notion good is indefinable, and any attempts to analyze it in naturalistic or metaphysical terms are guilty of the so-called “naturalistic fallacy.” This would block any theory which analyzes morality in terms of God’s will: and indeed, in a later discussion of divine command theory, Moore concluded that “when we assert any action to be right or wrong, we are not merely making an assertion about the attitude of mind towards it of any being or set of beings whatever.”

No Morality Without God: If all morality is a matter of God’s will, then if God does not exist, there is no morality. This is the thought captured in the slogan (often attributed to Dostoevsky) “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” Divine command theorists disagree over whether this is a problem for their view or a virtue of their view. Many argue that morality does indeed require God’s existence, and that this is in fact a problem for atheism. But divine command theorist Robert Merrihew Adams contends that this idea (“that no actions would be ethically wrong if there were not a loving God”) is one that “will seem (at least initially) implausible to many”, and that his theory must “dispel [an] air of paradox.”16


Catholic Responses to the Euthyphro Dilemma

7. False Dilemma Response

Sts. Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas all wrote about the issues raised by the Euthyphro dilemma, although, like William James and Wittgenstein later, they did not mention it by name. As philosopher and Anselm scholar Katherin A. Rogers observes, many contemporary philosophers of religion suppose that there are true propositions which exist as platonic abstracta independently of God. Among these are propositions constituting a moral order, to which God must conform in order to be good. Classical Judaeo-Christian theism, however, rejects such a view as inconsistent with God’s omnipotence, which requires that God and what he has made is all that there is.

God neither conforms to nor invents the moral order. Rather His very nature is the standard for value.

“The classical tradition,” Rogers notes, “also steers clear of the other horn of the Euthyphro dilemma, divine command theory.” From a classical theistic perspective, therefore, the Euthyphro dilemma is false. As Rogers puts it, “Anselm, like Augustine before him and Aquinas later, rejects both horns of the Euthyphro dilemma. God neither conforms to nor invents the moral order. Rather His very nature is the standard for value.”17


8. St. Thomas Aquinas

"Doctor Communis Ecclesiæ, St. Thomas Aquinas - This statue of the saint is in the Catholic University of America, Washington DC." - Fr. Lawrence, OP. Flickr.
“Doctor Communis Ecclesiæ, St. Thomas Aquinas – This statue of the saint is in the Catholic University of America, Washington DC.” – Fr. Lawrence, OP. Flickr.

Like Aristotle, Aquinas rejected Platonism.18 In his view, to speak of abstractions not only as existent, but as more perfect exemplars than fully designated particulars, is to put a premium on generality and vagueness.19 On this analysis, the abstract “good” in the first horn of the Euthyphro dilemma is an unnecessary obfuscation. Aquinas frequently quoted with approval Aristotle’s definition, “Good is what all desire.”((Aristotle, Ethics 1.1; Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle’s Ethics 1, 9 and 11; Aquinas, ST I 5,1.)) As he clarified, “When we say that good is what all desire, it is not to be understood that every kind of good thing is desired by all, but that whatever is desired has the nature of good.”20 In other words, even those who desire evil desire it “only under the aspect of good,” i.e., of what is desirable.21 The difference between desiring good and desiring evil is that in the former, will and reason are in harmony, whereas in the latter, they are in discord.22

St. Thomas Aquinas’ discussion of sin provides a good point of entry to his philosophical explanation of why the nature of God is the standard for value. “Every sin,” he writes, “consists in the longing for a passing [i.e., ultimately unreal or false] good.”23 Thus, “in a certain sense it is true what Socrates says, namely that no one sins with full knowledge.”24 “No sin in the will happens without an ignorance of the understanding.”25 God, however, has full knowledge (omniscience) and therefore by definition (that of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle as well as Aquinas) can never will anything other than what is good.

It has been claimed — for instance, by Nicolai Hartmann, who wrote: “There is no freedom for the good that would not be at the same time freedom for evil” — that this would limit God’s freedom, and therefore his omnipotence. Josef Pieper, however, replies that such arguments rest upon an impermissibly anthropomorphic conception of God. In the case of humans, as Aquinas says, to be able to sin is indeed a consequence, or even a sign, of freedom (quodam libertatis signum). Humans, in other words, are not puppets manipulated by God so that they always do what is right. However, “it does not belong to the essence of the free will to be able to decide for evil.” “To will evil is neither freedom nor a part of freedom.” It is precisely humans’ creatureliness — that is, their not being God and therefore omniscient — that makes them capable of sinning. Consequently, writes Pieper, “the inability to sin should be looked on as the very signature of a higher freedom — contrary to the usual way of conceiving the issue.” Pieper concludes: “Only the will [i.e., God’s] can be the right standard of its own willing and must will what is right necessarily, from within itself, and always. A deviation from the norm would not even be thinkable. And obviously only the absolute divine will is the right standard of its own act” — and consequently of all human acts. Thus the second horn of the Euthyphro dilemma, divine command theory, is also disposed of.26

  1. With few revisions, most of the article is gleaned from Wikipedia or the sources cited in Wikipedia. Catholic online sources and commentaries on this issue seemed, surprisingly, scarce. Consequently, the point of this article is just to have an introduction to the Euthyphro Dilemma. []
  2. Euthyphro, Background – Section is taken verbatim. []
  3. SPL Note: Another modern monotheistic version – “does God will something because it is good or is something good because God wills it?” []
  4. Euthyphro Dilemma, Introduction – Section is taken verbatim. []
  5. Citing, Haldane, John (1989). “Realism and voluntarism in medieval ethics”. Journal of Medical Ethics 15 (1): 39–44. doi:10.1136/jme.15.1.39; Irwin, Terence (2007). The Development of Ethics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199693856. []
  6. Aquinas, Thomas (1265–1274). Summa Theologica, 2a2ae 57.2. []
  7. ST, 2a1ae 94.5. []
  8. ST, 1a2ae 100.8; this section is adapted from Euthyphro Dilemma. []
  9. Id. []
  10. See Williams, Thomas (2013). “John Duns Scotus”. In Edward N. Zalta. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2013 ed.); Williams, Thomas, ed. (2002). The Cambridge Companion to Duns Scotus. pp. 312–316. ISBN 978-0521635639; Cross, Richard (1999). Duns Scotus. p. 92 for the view that our duties to others “hold automatically [i.e., without God’s commands] unless God commands otherwise.” ISBN 978-0195125535. []
  11. William of Ockham. Quodlibeta 3.13. []
  12. William of Ockham. Reportata 4.16. []
  13. Luther, Martin (1525). On the Bondage of the Will. §88. []
  14. Calvin, John (1536). Institutes of the Christian Religion. 3.23.2. []
  15. Adapted from Euthyphro Dilemma, Second Horn. []
  16. Id., verbatim. []
  17. Euthyphro Dilemma, False Dilemma Response, taken verbatim. []
  18. Aquinas. Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Bk. 1, lectio 10, n. 158. []
  19. McInerny, Ralph (1982). St. Thomas Aquinas. University of Notre Dame Press. pp. 122–123. ISBN 0-268-01707-7. []
  20. ST, I 6,2 ad 2. []
  21. Aquinas. Commentary on Aristotle’s Ethics 1,10. []
  22. ST, I/II q24, a2. []
  23. ST, I/II 72,2. []
  24. ST, I/II 58,2 and I/II 77,2. []
  25. Aquinas. Summa contra Gentiles 4,92. []
  26. Euthyphro Dilemma, St. Thomas Aquinas, taken verbatim; further Catholic thoughts on it being a false dilemma – Euthyphro’s (False) Dilemma, First Things, citing Fides et Ratio Blog. []

The 3 Types of Friendship According to Aristotle

Listers, Aristotle quite arguably has the most famous philosophic lesson on friendship. Aristotle, “the Philosopher,” observes there are three general lovable qualities that serve as the motives for friendship: utility, pleasure, and the good. Moreover, each type of friendship, to be an actual friendship, has the following attributes: “To be friends therefore, men must (1) feel goodwill for each other, that is, wish each other’s good, and (2) be aware of each other’s goodwill, and (3) the cause of their goodwill must be one of the lovable qualities mentioned above.”1 Note that the wishing of goodwill must be mutual and known. Aristotle states, a man cannot be friends with an inanimate object, for it would be “ridiculous to wish well to a bottle of wine.” It is not a mutual goodwill. Moreover, if a person wishes well to another, but it is not reciprocated, it is not a friendship. Again, it is not mutual. However, even if you had two persons who wished well to each other, but did not know each other wished the good for each other, then it is not friendship as the mutual goodwill is not known. Thus friendship is a known mutual goodwill between persons for one of the lovable qualities, i.e., utility, pleasure, or the good.


1. Friendship of Utility

Aristotle teaches, “thus friends whose affection is based on utility do not love each other in themselves, but in so far as some benefit accrues to them from each other.”2 Consequently, in a friendship of utility, “men love their friend for their own good… and not as being the person loved, but as useful or agreeable.”3 In other words, the friend is not loved for his own sake, but for the sake of some benefit received by the other. Aristotle notes that these friendships are not permanent, because if the benefit of the utility ends so too will the friendship. He states, “Hence when the motive of the friendship has passed away, the friendship itself is dissolved, having existed merely as a means to that end.”4

Aristotle observes, “friendships of Utility seem to occur most frequently between the old, as in old age men do not pursue pleasure but profit; and between those persons in the prime of life and young people whose object in life is gain. Friends of this kind do not indeed frequent each other’s company much, for in some cases they are not even pleasing to each other, and therefore have no use for friendly intercourse unless they are mutually profitable; since their pleasure in each other goes no further than their expectations of advantage.”5

Classic examples of a friendship of utility would be business partners or classmates.


2. Friendship of Pleasure

Aristotle observes, “And similarly with those whose friendship is based on pleasure: for instance, we enjoy the society of witty people not because of what they are in themselves, but because they are agreeable to us.”6 As with utility, in the friendship of pleasure persons love their friend not for the sake of the friend, but for the sake of the pleasure received. Moreover, as with utility, friendships of pleasure are tenuous as they can change or end as quickly as the pleasure received can change or end.

In contrast to friendships of utility, Aristotle states, “With the young on the other hand the motive of friendship appears to be pleasure, since the young guide their lives by emotion, and for the most part pursue what is pleasant to themselves, and the object of the moment. And the things that please them change as their age alters; hence they both form friendships and drop them quickly, since their affections alter with what gives them pleasure, and the tastes of youth change quickly. Also the young are prone to fall in love, as love is chiefly guided by emotion, and grounded on pleasure; hence they form attachments quickly and give them up quickly, often changing before the day is out. The young do desire to pass their time in their friend’s company, for that is how they get the enjoyment of their friendship.”7

Classic examples of a friendship of pleasures would be friends who share the same hobbies, hunting partners, drinking buddies, or love affairs.8


3. Friendship of the Good

Aristotle observes, “The perfect form of friendship is that between the good, and those who resemble each other in virtue. For these friends wish each alike the other’s good in respect of their goodness, and they are good in themselves; but it is those who wish the good of their friends for their friends’ sake who are friends in the fullest sense, since they love each other for themselves and not accidentally. Hence the friendship of these lasts as long as they continue to be good; and virtue is a permanent quality. And each is good relatively to his friend as well as absolutely, since the good are both good absolutely and profitable to each other. And each is pleasant in both ways also, since good men are pleasant both absolutely and to each other; for everyone is pleased by his own actions, and therefore by actions that resemble his own, and the actions of all good men are the same or similar.”9

He continues, “Such friendship is naturally permanent, since it combines in itself all the attributes that friends ought to possess. All affection is based on good or on pleasure, either absolute or relative to the person who feels it, and is prompted by similarity of some sort; but this friendship possesses all these attributes in the friends themselves, for they are alike, et cetera, in that way. Also the absolutely good is pleasant absolutely as well; but the absolutely good and pleasant are the chief objects of affection; therefore it is between good men that affection and friendship exist in their fullest and best form.”10

Continuing on true friendship, he states, “Such friendships are of course rare, because such men are few. Moreover they require time and intimacy… people who enter into friendly relations quickly have the wish to be friends, but cannot really be friends without being worthy of friendship, and also knowing each other to be so; the wish to be friends is a quick growth, but friendship is not.”11


Other Lists on SPL

  1. Nichomachean Ethics. []
  2. Ethics. []
  3. Id. []
  4. Id. []
  5. Id. []
  6. Id. []
  7. Id. []
  8. Are the friendships of utility and pleasure actually true friendship? “Aristotle comes rather close to saying that relationships based on profit or pleasure should not be called friendships at all. But he decides to stay close to common parlance and to use the term “friend” loosely. Friendships based on character are the ones in which each person benefits the other for the sake of other; and these are friendships most of all. Because each party benefits the other, it is advantageous to form such friendships. And since each enjoys the trust and companionship of the other, there is considerable pleasure in these relationships as well. Because these perfect friendships produce advantages and pleasures for each of the parties, there is some basis for going along with common usage and calling any relationship entered into for the sake of just one of these goods a friendship. Friendships based on advantage alone or pleasure alone deserve to be called friendships because in full-fledged friendships these two properties, advantage and pleasure, are present.” Aristotle’s Ethics, Stanford Encyclopedia. []
  9. Ethics. []
  10. Id. []
  11. Id., “Aristotle makes it clear that the number of people with whom one can sustain the kind of relationship he calls a perfect friendship is quite small (IX.10). Even if one lived in a city populated entirely by perfectly virtuous citizens, the number with whom one could carry on a friendship of the perfect type would be at most a handful. For he thinks that this kind of friendship can exist only when one spends a great deal of time with the other person, participating in joint activities and engaging in mutually beneficial behavior; and one cannot cooperate on these close terms with every member of the political community.” Aristotle’s Ethics, Stanford Encyclopedia. []

She Shall Crush Thy Head: 6 Examples of Women “Crushing” the Heads of Men in Scripture

Listers, in Genesis our first parents suffered a curse due to their fall into sin. One condition of the Fall was that God would place enmity between the woman and the serpent – but the phrase explaining the enmity and what will happen due to that enmity has been a matter of much debate. To wit, should it read he shall crush thy head or she shall crush thy head or even they shall crush thy head?1

Notice older translation below from the Douay-Rheims Bible:

“And the Lord God said to the woman: Why hast thou done this? And she answered: The serpent deceived me, and I did eat. And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and beasts of the earth: upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” Douay-Rheims Bible2

Modern Catholic texts read he shall crush your head:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” RSV-CE

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” NAB3

Proponents of the prophecy reading and she shall crush often cite the strong biblical typology of women killing men by “crushing” their head. The typological pattern of a woman killing a man via “crushing” their head occurs three times in the Historical Books and five times overall in the Old Testament. The fulfillment of the prophecy comes with Mother Mary standing on Golgotha – the mount named the skull.4 Thus, you have a woman crushing the head of the serpent through the victory of Christ.5


And She Shall Crush: Typology in Holy Scripture

1. Jael

The debate is pertinent to the Book of Judges due to the story of Jael as a type cast of the woman “crushing” the head:

"Jael and Sisera, by Artemisia Gentileschi." Wiki.
“Jael and Sisera, by Artemisia Gentileschi.” Wiki.

Sisera, in the meantime, had fled on foot to the tent of Jael, wife of the Kenite Heber, since Jabin, king of Hazor, and the family of the Kenite Heber were at peace with one another. Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come in, my lord, come in with me; do not be afraid.” So he went into her tent, and she covered him with a rug.

He said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink. I am thirsty.” But she opened a jug of milk for him to drink, and then covered him over. “Stand at the entrance of the tent,” he said to her. “If anyone comes and asks, ‘Is there someone here?’ say, ‘No!'”

Instead Jael, wife of Heber, got a tent peg and took a mallet in her hand. While Sisera was sound asleep, she stealthily approached him and drove the peg through his temple down into the ground, so that he perished in death. Then when Barak came in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, I will show you the man you seek.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg through his temple.6


2. The Tower & Abimelech

“The biblical account of the Battle of Thebaz begins in the middle of the siege. Already, Abimelech has taken most of the city and comes upon a heavily fortified tower. The civilians head towards the top of the tower while he fights his way through. Abimelech successfully fights most of the way towards the tower, however he was struck on the head by a mill-stone thrown by a woman from the wall above. Realizing that the wound was mortal, he ordered his armor-bearer to thrust him through with his sword, so that it might not be said he had perished by the hand of a woman.”7

Gustave Dore, "The Death of Abimelech." Wiki.
Gustave Dore, “The Death of Abimelech.” Wiki.

And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; he took the city, and killed the people that were in it; and he razed the city and sowed it with salt. When all the people of the Tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the stronghold of the house of El-berith. Abimelech was told that all the people of the Tower of Shechem were gathered together. And Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the men that were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bundle of brushwood, and took it up and laid it on his shoulder. And he said to the men that were with him, “What you have seen me do, make haste to do, as I have done.”

So every one of the people cut down his bundle and following Abimelech put it against the stronghold, and they set the stronghold on fire over them, so that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about a thousand men and women. Then Abimelech went to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it. 51 But there was a strong tower within the city, and all the people of the city fled to it, all the men and women, and shut themselves in; and they went to the roof of the tower. 52 And Abimelech came to the tower, and fought against it, and drew near to the door of the tower to burn it with fire. 53 And a certain woman threw an upper millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and crushed his skull. 54 Then he called hastily to the young man his armor-bearer, and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest men say of me, ‘A woman killed him.'” And his young man thrust him through, and he died.8


3. Head of Sheba

“When David returned to Jerusalem after the defeat of Absalom, strife arose between the ten tribes and the Tribe of Judah, because the latter took the lead in bringing back the king. Sheba took advantage of this state of things, and raised the standard of revolt, proclaiming, “We have no part in David.” With his followers he proceeded northward. David seeing it necessary to check this revolt, ordered Abishai to take the gibborim, “mighty men,” and the body-guard and such troops as he could gather, and pursue Sheba. Perceiving Amasa to be delaying his pursuit of Sheba, David appointed Abishai and Joab to join the expedition. Having treacherously put Amasa to death, Joab assumed the command of the army. Joab and Abishai arrived in the North of the nation at the city of Abel-beth-maachah, where they knew Sheba to be hiding. They besieged the city. A wise woman from the city (unnamed) convinced Joab not to destroy Abel Beth-Maacah, because the people did not want Sheba hiding there. She told the people of the city to kill Sheba, and his head was thrown over the wall to Joab.”9

Illustration from the Morgan Bible of Joab approaching Abel-beth-maachah and Sheba's head being thrown down (2 Samuel 20). Wiki.
Illustration from the Morgan Bible of Joab approaching Abel-beth-maachah and Sheba’s head being thrown down (2 Samuel 20). Wiki.

And all the men who were with Joab came and besieged him in Abel of Beth-maacah; they cast up a mound against the city, and it stood against the rampart; and they were battering the wall, to throw it down. 16 Then a wise woman called from the city, “Hear! Hear! Tell Joab, ‘Come here, that I may speak to you.'” 17 And he came near her; and the woman said, “Are you Joab?” He answered, “I am.” Then she said to him, “Listen to the words of your maidservant.” And he answered, “I am listening.” 18 Then she said, “They were wont to say in old time, ‘Let them but ask counsel at Abel’; and so they settled a matter. 19 I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel; you seek to destroy a city which is a mother in Israel; why will you swallow up the heritage of the LORD?”

Joab answered, “Far be it from me, far be it, that I should swallow up or destroy! 21 That is not true. But a man of the hill country of Ephraim, called Sheba the son of Bichri, has lifted up his hand against King David; give up him alone, and I will withdraw from the city.” And the woman said to Joab, “Behold, his head shall be thrown to you over the wall.” 22 Then the woman went to all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they dispersed from the city, every man to his home. And Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king.10


4. Judith

In the Book of Judith, “The story revolves around Judith, a daring and beautiful widow, who is upset with her Jewish countrymen for not trusting God to deliver them from their foreign conquerors. She goes with her loyal maid to the camp of the enemy general, Holofernes, with whom she slowly ingratiates herself, promising him information on the Israelites. Gaining his trust, she is allowed access to his tent one night as he lies in a drunken stupor. She decapitates him, then takes his head back to her fearful countrymen. The Assyrians, having lost their leader, disperse, and Israel is saved. Though she is courted by many, Judith remains unmarried for the rest of her life.”11

Judith Beheading Holofernes (1610-1620), by Cornelius Galle der Ältere - Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris).
Judith Beheading Holofernes (1610-1620), by Cornelius Galle der Ältere – Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris).

So Judith was left alone in the tent , with Holofernes stretched out on his bed, for he was overcome with wine. 3 Now Judith had told her maid to stand outside the bedchamber and to wait for her to come out, as she did every day; for she said she would be going out for her prayers. And she had said the same thing to Bagoas. 4 So every one went out, and no one, either small or great, was left in the bedchamber. Then Judith, standing beside his bed, said in her heart, “O Lord God of all might, look in this hour upon the work of my hands for the exaltation of Jerusalem. 5 For now is the time to help thy inheritance, and to carry out my undertaking for the destruction of the enemies who have risen up against us.” 6 She went up to the post at the end of the bed, above Holofernes’ head, and took down his sword that hung there. 7 She came close to his bed and took hold of the hair of his head, and said, “Give me strength this day, O Lord God of Israel!” 8 And she struck his neck twice with all her might, and severed it from his body. 9 Then she tumbled his body off the bed and pulled down the canopy from the posts; after a moment she went out, and gave Holofernes’ head to her maid, 10 who placed it in her food bag. Then the two of them went out together, as they were accustomed to go for prayer; and they passed through the camp and circled around the valley and went up the mountain to Bethulia and came to its gates.12


5. Queen Esther

Gustave Dore, "Esther Accuses Haman."
Gustave Dore, “Esther Accuses Haman.”

Along with being the New Ark of the Covenant and the New Eve, Mother Mary is also the new Queen of the Kingdom. One of the key roles of the queen-mother was to intercede for her people. In the Davidic Kingdom, Bathsheba comes before the throne of her son to intercede for the people. In the New Davidic Kingdom, Mary comes before her son and intercedes for her people. In light of this queenly intercessory role, Queen Esther serves as a type of Mary, because she interceded for her people as well. It is probably due to the already strong Marian underpinnings that Esther is traditionally also listed among the women who “crushed” the head of a man. As Judith decapitates a man by severing his head from the neck, Esther intercedes and a man is hung on the gallows by his neck. It also helps that Scripture states that the plot of Haman comes “upon his own head.”

For Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to crush and destroy them; but when Esther came before the king, he gave orders in writing that his wicked plot which he had devised against the Jews should come upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows.13


6. Mary & Golgotha

The skull of Adam at the foot of the Cross: detail from a Crucifixion by Fra Angelico, 1435. Wiki.
The skull of Adam at the foot of the Cross: detail from a Crucifixion by Fra Angelico, 1435. Wiki.

The fulfillment of the prophecy comes with Mother Mary standing on Golgotha at the foot of the Cross. “In some Christian and Jewish traditions, the name Golgotha refers to the location of the skull of Adam. A common version states that Shem and Melchizedek traveled to the resting place of Noah’s Ark, retrieved the body of Adam from it, and were led by Angels to Golgotha – described as a skull-shaped hill at the centre of the Earth, where also the serpent’s head had been crushed following the fall of man. This tradition appears in numerous older sources, including the Kitab al-Magall, the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan, the Cave of Treasures, and the writings of Patriarch Eutychius of Alexandria. It is also suggested that the location’s landscape resembled the shape of a skull, and gained its name for that reason.”14

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; 24* so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the scripture, “They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” 25* So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26* When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. 28* After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.15


  1. Jimmy Akin: For an in depth treatment of the languages, see Who Will Crush the Serpent’s Head? []
  2. Note on v. 15 from DRB commentary – [15] She shall crush: Ipsa, the woman; so divers of the fathers read this place, conformably to the Latin: others read it ipsum, viz., the seed. The sense is the same: for it is by her seed, Jesus Christ, that the woman crushes the serpent’s head. []
  3. Notes on v. 15 NAB – “He will strike . . . at his heel: since the antecedent for he and his is the collective noun offspring, i.e., all the descendants of the woman, a more exact rendering of the sacred writer’s words would be, “They will strike . . . at their heels.” However, later theology saw in this passage more than unending hostility between snakes and men. The serpent was regarded as the devil (⇒ Wisdom 2:24; ⇒ John 8:44; ⇒ Rev 12:9; ⇒ 20:2), whose eventual defeat seems implied in the contrast between head and heel. Because “the Son of God appeared that he might destroy the works of the devil” (⇒ 1 John 3:8), the passage can be understood as the first promise of a Redeemer for fallen mankind. The woman’s offspring then is primarily Jesus Christ.” []
  4. Golgotha: ORIGIN from late Latin, via Greek from an Aramaic form of Hebrew gulgoleth ‘skull’ (see Matt. 27:33). []
  5. Women of the Gen. 3:15 Prophecy: in Judges you have Jael and the woman who drops the millstone on Abimelech in chapter nine; the head of Seba in II Samuel 20:16; it occurs again with Judith and in the book of Esther. []
  6. 4:17-22 []
  7. Abimelech. []
  8. Judges 9:45-54. []
  9. Sheba, Son of Bichri. []
  10. II Samuel 20:15-22. []
  11. Judith. []
  12. Judith 13:2-10 []
  13. Esther 9:24-25; cf., “You will therefore do well not to put in execution the letters sent by Haman the son of Hammedatha, because the man himself who did these things has been hanged at the gate of Susa, with all his household. For God, who rules over all things, has speedily inflicted on him the punishment he deserved.” 16:17-18; also, “Three selections from the Book of Esther are used in the Mariology of the early Christian writers and in the Catholic liturgy (Est 2:16-18; C:12, 14-15, 25, 30; and 8:3-8, 16-17).” []
  14. Wiki, citing,  Mount Calvary. Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. III (New York: Robert Appleton Company). 1908. []
  15. John 19:17-30; cf., “And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).” Mark 15:22; “And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).” Matthew 27:33; Luke 23:33. []

Worth Reading: 15 Works of Literature Under 200 Pages

Listers, there are few things as pleasurable as a good book. The following list is a collection of short classic literary works that generally fall under two hundred pages – sometimes depending on the publication.

Listers, there are few things as pleasurable as a good book. The following list is a collection of short classic literary works that generally fall under two hundred pages – sometimes depending on the publication. Each description is taken directly from the publisher’s online description.1

Literary Works on SPL


15 Short Literary Works Worth Reading


1. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies CoverLord of the Flies remains as provocative today as when it was first published in 1954, igniting passionate debate with its startling, brutal portrait of human nature. Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students and literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought and literature. William Golding’s compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island has become a modern classic. At first it seems as though it is all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious and life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic and death. As ordinary standards of behaviour collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses with them—the world of cricket and homework and adventure stories—and another world is revealed beneath, primitive and terrible.Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies has established itself as a true classic.


2. Utopia by St. Thomas More

Utopia More CoverFirst published in Latin in 1516, Utopia was the work of Sir Thomas More (1477–1535), the brilliant humanist, scholar, and churchman executed by Henry VIII for his refusal to accept the king as the supreme head of the Church of England. In this work, which gave its name to the whole genre of books and movements hypothesizing an ideal society, More envisioned a patriarchal island kingdom that practiced religious tolerance, in which everybody worked, no one has more than his fellows, all goods were community-owned, and violence, bloodshed, and vice nonexistent. Based to some extent on the writings of Plato and other earlier authors, Utopia nevertheless contained much that was original with More. In the nearly 500 years since the book’s publication, there have been many attempts at establishing “Utopias” both in theory and in practice. All of them, however, seem to embody ideas already present in More’s classic treatise: optimistic faith in human nature, emphasis on the environment and proper education, nostalgia for a lost innocence, and other positive elements. In this new, inexpensive edition, readers can study for themselves the essentials of More’s utopian vision and how, although the ideal society he envisioned is still unrealized, at least some of his proposals have come to pass in today’s world.


3. Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm is the most famous by far of all twentieth-century political allegories. Its account of a group of barnyard animals who revolt against their vicious human master, only to submit to a tyranny erected by their own kind, can fairly be said to have become a universal drama. Orwell is one of the very few modern satirists comparable to Jonathan Swift in power, artistry, and moral authority; in animal farm his spare prose and the logic of his dark comedy brilliantly highlight his stark message. Taking as his starting point the betrayed promise of the Russian Revolution, Orwell lays out a vision that, in its bitter wisdom, gives us the clearest understanding we possess of the possible consequences of our social and political acts.


4. Of Mice & Men by John Steinbeck

They are an unlikely pair: George is “small and quick and dark of face”; Lennie, a man of tremendous size, has the mind of a young child. Yet they have formed a “family,” clinging together in the face of loneliness and alienation.Laborers in California’s dusty vegetable fields, they hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations of a flirtatious woman, nor predict the consequences of Lennie’s unswerving obedience to the things George taught him.


5. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hide by Robert Louis Stevenson

In September of 1884, Robert Louis Stevenson, then in his mid-thirties, moved with his family to Bournemouth, a resort on the southern coast of England, where in the brief span of 23 months he revised A Child’s Garden of Verses and wrote the novels Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. An intriguing combination of fantasy thriller and moral allegory, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde depicts the gripping struggle of two opposing personalities — one essentially good, the other evil — for the soul of one man. Its tingling suspense and intelligent and sensitive portrayal of man’s dual nature reveals Stevenson as a writer of great skill and originality, whose power to terrify and move us remains, over a century later, undiminished.


6. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness CoverHeart of Darkness (1899) is a short novel by Polish novelist Joseph Conrad, written as a frame narrative, about Charles Marlow’s experience as an ivory transporter down the Congo River in Central Africa. The river is “a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land”. In the course of his travel in central Africa, Marlow becomes obsessed with Mr. Kurtz. The story is a complex exploration of the attitudes people hold on what constitutes a barbarian versus a civilized society and the attitudes on colonialism and racism that were part and parcel of European imperialism. Originally published as a three-part serial story, in Blackwood’s Magazine, the novella Heart of Darkness has been variously published and translated into many languages. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Heart of Darkness as the sixty-seventh of the hundred best novels in English of the twentieth century.


7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 CoverRay Bradbury’s internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 is a masterwork of twentieth-century literature set in a bleak, dystopian future. Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden. Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television. When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.


8. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea is one of Hemingway’s most enduring works. Told in language of great simplicity and power, it is the story of an old Cuban fisherman, down on his luck, and his supreme ordeal — a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream.


9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s. The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.


10. The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Like his father and grandfather before him, Kino is a poor diver, gathering pearls from the gulf beds that once brought great wealth to the Kings of Spain and now provide Kino, Juana, and their infant son with meager subsistence. Then, on a day like any other, Kino emerges from the sea with a pearl as large as a sea gull’s egg, as “perfect as the moon.” With the pearl comes hope, the promise of comfort and of security…. A story of classic simplicity, based on a Mexican folk tale, The Pearl explores the secrets of man’s nature, the darkest depths of evil, and the luminous possibilities of love.


11. The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Stranger CoverThe Stranger is not merely one of the most widely read novels of the 20th century, but one of the books likely to outlive it. Written in 1946, Camus’s compelling and troubling tale of a disaffected, apparently amoral young man has earned a durable popularity (and remains a staple of U.S. high school literature courses) in part because it reveals so vividly the anxieties of its time. Alienation, the fear of anonymity, spiritual doubt–all could have been given a purely modern inflection in the hands of a lesser talent than Camus, who won the Nobel Prize in 1957 and was noted for his existentialist aesthetic. The remarkable trick of The Stranger, however, is that it’s not mired in period philosophy. The plot is simple. A young Algerian, Meursault, afflicted with a sort of aimless inertia, becomes embroiled in the petty intrigues of a local pimp and, somewhat inexplicably, ends up killing a man. Once he’s imprisoned and eventually brought to trial, his crime, it becomes apparent, is not so much the arguably defensible murder he has committed as it is his deficient character. The trial’s proceedings are absurd, a parsing of incidental trivialities–that Meursault, for instance, seemed unmoved by his own mother’s death and then attended a comic movie the evening after her funeral are two ostensibly damning facts–so that the eventual sentence the jury issues is both ridiculous and inevitable. Meursault remains a cipher nearly to the story’s end–dispassionate, clinical, disengaged from his own emotions. “She wanted to know if I loved her,” he says of his girlfriend. “I answered the same way I had the last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t.” There’s a latent ominousness in such observations, a sense that devotion is nothing more than self-delusion. It’s undoubtedly true that Meursault exhibits an extreme of resignation; however, his confrontation with “the gentle indifference of the world” remains as compelling as it was when Camus first recounted it.2


12. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein CoverFew creatures of horror have seized readers’ imaginations and held them for so long as the anguished monster of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The story of Victor Frankenstein’s terrible creation and the havoc it caused has enthralled generations of readers and inspired countless writers of horror and suspense. Considering the novel’s enduring success, it is remarkable that it began merely as a whim of Lord Byron’s. “We will each write a story,” Byron announced to his next-door neighbors, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and her lover Percy Bysshe Shelley. The friends were summering on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland in 1816, Shelley still unknown as a poet and Byron writing the third canto of Childe Harold. When continued rains kept them confined indoors, all agreed to Byron’s proposal. The illustrious poets failed to complete their ghost stories, but Mary Shelley rose supremely to the challenge. With Frankenstein, she succeeded admirably in the task she set for herself: to create a story that, in her own words, “would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror — one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart.”


13. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

“The Metamorphosis” (original German title: “Die Verwandlung”) is a short novel by Franz Kafka, first published in 1915. It is often cited as one of the seminal works of fiction of the 20th century and is widely studied in colleges and universities across the western world. The story begins with a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, waking to find himself transformed into an insect.


14. The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Celebrated as a leading figure of the German literary movement known as Sturm und Drang (“storm and stress”), Goethe made his reputation with this short novel, originally published in 1774. Its tale of a sensitive young man’s self-destructive passion for a lover who ultimately rejects him was based in part on the author’s own experiences, and the story’s tragic resolution inspired a wave of suicides among young romantics throughout Europe. Goethe’s portrayal of Zerrissenheit, “the state of being torn apart,” in which a character struggles to reconcile his artistic sensibilities with the demands of the objective world, proved tremendously influential to subsequent writers, and The Sorrows of Young Werther continues to speak to modern readers.


15. War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

War of the Worlds CoverThe War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel by English author H. G. Wells. It first appeared in serialized form in 1897, published simultaneously in Pearson’s Magazine in the UK and Cosmopolitan magazine in the US. The first appearance in book form was published by William Heinemann of London in 1898. It is the first-person narrative of an unnamed protagonist in Surrey and that of his younger brother in London as Earth is invaded by Martians. Written between 1895 and 1897, it is one of the earliest stories that detail a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial race. The novel is one of the most commented-on works in the science fiction canon. The War of the Worlds has two parts, Book One: The Coming of the Martians and Book Two: The Earth under the Martians. The narrator, a philosophically inclined author, struggles to return to his wife while seeing the Martians lay waste to the southern country outside London. Book One also imparts the experience of his brother, also unnamed, who describes events as they deteriorate in the capital, forcing him to escape the Martian onslaught by boarding a paddle steamer near Tillingham, on the Essex coast.

  1. Descriptions taken from – please see title links to visit the page. []
  2. Ben Guterson. []

The Downward Spiral: 6 Quick Catholic Lessons on the Book of Judges

Listers, the Historical Books are paramount in understanding salvation history. The Historical Books of the Old Testament are Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, and I & II Maccabees. The Historical Books capture the story of how Israel gains the Promise Land through obedience to the covenant but also how they eventually lose the Promise Land through their disobedience. There are seven major dates within the narrative of the Historical Books.

  • c. 1200 BC – Conquest, then Judge’s Period
  • c. 1030 BC – The United Kingdom: Saul, David, & Solomon
  • 931 BC – Divided Kingdom: Northern Kingdom of Israel & Southern Kingdom of Judah
  • 722 BC – Assyrian Exile of the Northern Kingdom
  • 586 BC – First Temple Destroyed as Babylon Conquers the Southern Kingdom
  • 516 BC – The Dedication of the Second Temple
  • 165 BC – The Rededication of the Second Template under the Maccabees

The theological significance of the Historical Books is exemplified by their alternative title: theFormer Prophets. While the Latter Prophets represent the minor and major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, etc.), the Former Prophets mark the beginning of the prophets appearing in the history of Israel. Furthermore, they record a prophetic history insofar as they point toward the coming of Jesus Christ. The internal text of the Historical Books or Former Prophets testifies to the distinction between prophetic history and general history when it utilizes the phrase are not the other works of the King written in the books of… and similar statements denoting that certain historical narratives belong in the records of prophetic history and some do not. A foundational understanding of the theological significance of the Former Prophets as a whole is found in the book of Deuteronomy. The seminal chapter is chapter twenty-eight, which records the blessings of following the covenant and the curses of breaking the covenant. Arguably the entire theme of the Historical Books is the unfolding of Deuteronomy twenty-eight: whether or not Israel is faithful to the covenant.

For a discussion of the first Historical Book, please visit The Conquest: 9 Catholic Lessons from the Book of Joshua. The list contains short discussions on the morality of the military conquest of the Promise Land, the Hexateuch, typological scenes of Mary, and much more.


The Book of Judges


1. Judges as a Downward Spiral

The Book of Judges should have been a continuation of the success of Joshua. Instead, Israel suffered a series of cycles from fidelity to failure.1

1. Sin—People did what was evil in the sight of the Lord
2. Suffering—God sends suffering, e.g., defeated by enemies, etc.
3. Supplication to God—apologies
4. Salvation—God sends a savior
5. Shalom—a period of peace
6. Repeat (repeated a cycle of seven times)

The cycles actually represent a downward spiral – each cycle being progressively worse than the one before. Note also that the text echoes a threefold repetition: at that time, there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was good in his or her own eyes, i.e., massive confusion and evil; note that it is connected to there being no king. The author or editor wants it to be known that they need a king to keep them faithful to the covenant.2


2. The Prophecy of Eve & the Serpent

In Genesis, our first parents suffered a curse due to their fall into sin. One condition of the Fall was that God would place enmity between the woman and the serpent – but the phrase explaining the enmity and what will happen due to that enmity has been a matter of much debate. To wit, should it read he shall crush thy head or she shall crush thy head or even they shall crush thy head? Notice older translation below from the Douay-Rheims Bible:

And the Lord God said to the woman: Why hast thou done this? And she answered: The serpent deceived me, and I did eat. And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and beasts of the earth: upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel. Douay-Rheims Bible3

Modern Catholic texts read he shall crush your head:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. RSV-CE

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel. NAB4

Proponents of the prophecy reading and she shall crush often cite the strong biblical typology of women killing men by “crushing” their head. The debate is pertinent to the Book of Judges due to the story of Jael as a type cast of the woman “crushing” the head:

Sisera, in the meantime, had fled on foot to the tent of Jael, wife of the Kenite Heber, since Jabin, king of Hazor, and the family of the Kenite Heber were at peace with one another. Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come in, my lord, come in with me; do not be afraid.” So he went into her tent, and she covered him with a rug.

He said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink. I am thirsty.” But she opened a jug of milk for him to drink, and then covered him over. “Stand at the entrance of the tent,” he said to her. “If anyone comes and asks, ‘Is there someone here?’ say, ‘No!'”

Instead Jael, wife of Heber, got a tent peg and took a mallet in her hand. While Sisera was sound asleep, she stealthily approached him and drove the peg through his temple down into the ground, so that he perished in death. Then when Barak came in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, I will show you the man you seek.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg through his temple.5

The typological pattern of a woman killing a man via “crushing” their head occurs three times in the Historical Books and five times overall in the Old Testament. The fulfillment of the prophecy comes with Mother Mary standing on Golgotha – the mount Christ was crucified upon named the skull.6 Thus, you have a woman crushing the head of the serpent through the victory of Christ.7


3. The Story of Gideon

Chapter seven contains the famous narrative of Gideon leading the army of the Lord. First, Gideon is commanded to tell all the soldiers in the army that if they are afraid they can go home. As a result, twenty-two thousand left and ten thousand remained. Second, the army is led to water and some drank by lapping up the water like dogs and others knelt and drank by cupping the water in their hand. The Lord commands Gideon to only keep those men who lapped the water – 300 soldiers. Third, the army of three hundred win a military victory by holding trumpets in one hand and lamps in the other (no weapons in hand). The principle here is that the victory belonged to the Lord. The victory came through obedience and liturgy.8

In chapter eight, Gideon is asked to rule as King and he declines and says the Lord should rule; however, Gideon uses his clout to ask for the spoils of war – especially gold. He then makes a golden ephod – a priestly garment – and leads the people of God into idolatry. Once again, Israel plays the harlot and there is liturgical confusion.


4. Jephthah’s Vow

During the sixth cycle, Jephthah makes a vow to sacrifice to God the first thing that exits his house. His vow is the first of two brash and ill fated vows in the Book of Judges. As the story goes, Jepthah’s daughter is the first thing to exit the house. Holy Scripture does not record whether or not the sacrifice was ever carried out; however, scripture does record his daughter taking a time to mourn she will die a virgin. The pericope of Jephthah’s vow serves as another example of liturgical confusion during the Judges period.9


5. Samson & Sight

In chapter thirteen the seventh cycle in Judges contains the Samson narrative. The story of Samson has a subtle motif of “sight.” In chapter fourteen, Samson desires a Philistine woman over any woman in Israel. He tells his parents, “Get her for me, for she pleases me” or literally, “she is good in my eyes.”10 The attitude of Samson serves as a microcosm of the current idolatrous disposition of Israel. The motif of sight characterizes the entire Judges narrative: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.”11 The motif continues with Samson’s demise as Samson’s eyes are plucked out after he submits to Delilah the secret to his strength.


6. The Concubine Raped, Cut Up, & Mailed

The Israelite discovers his concubine, dead on his doorstep - by Gustave Doré, Circa 1880. Wiki.
The Israelite discovers his concubine, dead on his doorstep – by Gustave Doré, Circa 1880. Wiki.

Judges ends with a narrative that shows exactly how deep Israel has spiraled. In chapter nineteen, a Levite and his concubine (the first clue something is wrong) go to a town within the tribe of Benjamin. Despite being among his kin, no one in the town is hospitable save one old man. The man takes the Levite and the concubine into his home for the night. During the night, the men of the city demand that the Levite priest come out so they can rape him. Instead, the old man offers his virgin daughters and the priest’s concubine. Ultimately, the concubine is thrown out to the men and she is raped throughout the night and dies.

Upon finding her dead outside, the Levite priest cuts the concubine into pieces and sends one piece to each tribe to show the wickedness that has manifested in the tribe of Benjamin. The other tribes turn against the Benjaminites and war against them. The other tribes then make the second ill fated vow of the Book of Judges – they make a covenant not to give their daughters to Benjaminite men in marriage. The error here is that this means the tribe of Benjamin will either die out or have to seek pagan wives. The narrative shows the depravity and confusion found at the bottom of the spiral.

The most telling sign of how far the tribes have fallen is comparing how the book begins to how the book ends. The first verse of the book states, “After the death of Joshua the Israelites consulted the LORD, asking, “Who shall be first among us to attack the Canaanites and to do battle with them?”12 Yet, at the end of the book the tribes of Israel are asking, “who will go with us against the tribe of Benjamin?” The People of God have gone from warring for the Promise Land to civil war – the bottom of the downward spiral of the Book of Judges.

  1. Cycle: See 2:11-17 as an example. []
  2. King David and the Jebusites: Notice in 1:19 the Jebusites are still present in the Promise Land. The Jebusites occupy what will later become Jerusalem. It is King David that will conquer the Jebusites and raise Jerusalem to the center of political and spiritual power in the Kingdom. Interestingly, after a young David slew Goliath, he places Goliath’s head outside of the Jebusite controlled Jerusalem – a foreshadowing of the coming conquest. []
  3. Note on v. 15 from DRB commentary – [15] She shall crush: Ipsa, the woman; so divers of the fathers read this place, conformably to the Latin: others read it ipsum, viz., the seed. The sense is the same: for it is by her seed, Jesus Christ, that the woman crushes the serpent’s head. []
  4. Notes on v. 15 NAB – “He will strike . . . at his heel: since the antecedent for he and his is the collective noun offspring, i.e., all the descendants of the woman, a more exact rendering of the sacred writer’s words would be, “They will strike . . . at their heels.” However, later theology saw in this passage more than unending hostility between snakes and men. The serpent was regarded as the devil (⇒ Wisdom 2:24; ⇒ John 8:44; ⇒ Rev 12:9; ⇒ 20:2), whose eventual defeat seems implied in the contrast between head and heel. Because “the Son of God appeared that he might destroy the works of the devil” (⇒ 1 John 3:8), the passage can be understood as the first promise of a Redeemer for fallen mankind. The woman’s offspring then is primarily Jesus Christ.” []
  5. 4:17-22 []
  6. Golgotha: ORIGIN from late Latin, via Greek from an Aramaic form of Hebrew gulgoleth ‘skull’ (see Matt. 27:33). []
  7. Women of the Gen. 3:15 Prophecy: in Judges you have Jael and the woman who drops the millstone on Abimelech in chapter nine; the head of Seba in II Samuel 20:16; it occurs again with Judith and in the book of Esther. []
  8. Gideon: Gideon’s victory shows that victory belongs to the Lord and the glory belongs to him, which will later serve as a comparison to King Saul. It also adds to a motif of proper liturgy. []
  9. Jephthah’s Vow see chapter eleven. []
  10. 14:2-3. []
  11. 21:25. []
  12. NAB. []

The Conquest: 9 Catholic Lessons from the Book of Joshua

Listers, the Historical Books are paramount in understanding salvation history. The Historical Books of the Old Testament are Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, and I & II Maccabees. The Historical Books capture the story of how Israel gains the Promise Land through obedience to the covenant but also how they eventually lose the Promise Land through their disobedience. There are seven major dates within the narrative of the Historical Books.

  • c. 1200 BC – Conquest, then Judge’s Period
  • c. 1030 BC – The United Kingdom: Saul, David, & Solomon
  • 931 BC – Divided Kingdom: Northern Kingdom of Israel & Southern Kingdom of Judah
  • 722 BC – Assyrian Exile of the Northern Kingdom
  • 586 BC – First Temple Destroyed as Babylon Conquers the Southern Kingdom
  • 516 BC – The Dedication of the Second Temple
  • 165 BC – The Rededication of the Second Template under the Maccabees

The theological significance of the Historical Books is exemplified by their alternative title: the Former Prophets. While the Latter Prophets represent the minor and major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, etc.), the Former Prophets mark the beginning of the prophets appearing in the history of Israel. Furthermore, they record a prophetic history insofar as they point toward the coming of Jesus Christ. The internal text of the Historical Books or Former Prophets testifies to the distinction between prophetic history and general history when it utilizes the phrase are not the other works of the King written in the books of… and similar statements denoting that certain historical narratives belong in the records of prophetic history and some do not. A foundational understanding of the theological significance of the Former Prophets as a whole is found in the book of Deuteronomy. The seminal chapter is chapter twenty-eight, which records the blessings of following the covenant and the curses of breaking the covenant. Arguably the entire theme of the Historical Books is the unfolding of Deuteronomy twenty-eight: whether or not Israel is faithful to the covenant.



The Book of Joshua

The Book of Joshua is the story of the conquest of the Promise Land by the Israelites. The following is a basic chapter outline of the book.1

1-12 – The Conquest
13-21 – The Division
22 – The Test (or the Real Victory)
23-24 – A Covenant Renewal


1. Early Church Significance

The Early Church Fathers saw a twofold significance in the Book of Joshua. In subject matter, the book records the people of God entering into the Promised Land, which serves as a type of heaven. In leadership, though Moses led them to the Promised Land, it was Joshua who served as the Christ-figure ushering in salvation. In Hebrew, Joshua means the LORD is salvation, which is also exactly what Jesus means.2 To wit, you have Joshua leading the People of God into the Promised Land as a type scene of Jesus leading the Church into heaven.


2. The Hexateuch

The first five books of Holy Scripture are referred to as the Pentateuch meaning five books in Greek; however, some biblical commentators saw Joshua as a necessary addition to the first five books as it finishes the story of Exodus. Adding Joshua makes it the Hexateuch. Proponents of the Hexateuch model focused on narrative of the books more than the authorship of the books. The basic literary outline of the Hexateuch is as follows:

Adam – Mankind
Moses – Drawn out
Joshua – Saved

Adding Joshua to the Pentateuch allows for the first six books of the Bible to serve as type of salvation narrative. It takes the strong typological connections between Joshua and Christ mentioned above and places it at the end of the Exodus narrative to create a small typological story of salvation.


3. The Jordan River & Mary Immaculate

The journey through the desert has brought Israel to the eastern bank of the Jordan River, and Jericho is located past the western shore. The Jordan River ran straight south from the fresh water sea of Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea in the south. The Jordan River serves a typological significance in studying sin and holiness. The river was seen as the washing away sin into the sea of death, the Dead Sea. In chapter three of Joshua, as the Ark of the Covenant approaches the river, God causes the river to back up all the way to the city of Adam. It calls to mind the person of Adam and original sin. Therefore, if Mary is the New Ark of the New Covenant, the fact the Jordan dried up and backed up all the way to Adam to let the Ark pass into the Promised Land may be seen as a type scene of the Immaculate Conception.


4. Understanding the “Cherem”

Few things in Holy Scripture elicit more debates than the military conquest of the Promised Land. Though it certainly merits a longer conversation, there are a few quick lessons to be learned using the victory over Jericho as an example. First, Rahab’s testimony reveals that Jericho knew of Israel’s military victories and they feared the Israelites. The implication being that they could have abandoned the city or surrendered – as other cities later did. Second, the first victory of the Promise land belonged exclusively to the Lord. The battle was won supernaturally and liturgically-not militarily. It is the beginning of a liturgical theme of “right worship” throughout the Historical Books.

After the liturgical destruction of the walls of Jericho comes the Cherem or Herem:

Then the people cried aloud, and still the trumpets blew, till every ear was deafened by the shouting and the clangour; and all at once the walls fell down flat. Thereupon each man went to the assault where he was posted, and they took the city. All that was in it they slew, sparing neither man nor woman, neither youth nor age; even cattle and sheep and asses were put to the sword.3

The Cherem is the curse or the ban meaning to be devoted to destruction. Quite literally, these people are devoted to God via their destruction. They are given to God. They are handed to God due to their hardened hearts which carry the virus of idolatry. Is the cherem genocide? Not necessarily. Notice that Rahab is spared due to her profession of faith. It is a distinction of religious identity not national or ethnic identity. Is the cherem jihad? No, unlike the Islamic jihad there is no military mandate to take over the whole world. Salvation will come to the world through the wisdom of Israel not through military conquest. The concept of cherem is discussed further in the lessons below.


5. No Such Thing as Private Sin

In the book of Joshua, the major theological theme of convent faithfulness is demonstrated in the principle that there is no private sin. The armies of Ai rout Joshua and the Israelites, and in response Joshua cries out before the Ark of the Covenant.4 The Lord responds, “Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant which I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, and lied, and put them among their own stuff.”5 Note that the Lord’s response is communal—Israel has sinned; however, only one man, A’chan, had sinned by hiding spoils of war in his tent.6 Though it was a private sin, the entire community was guilty of breaking the covenant and has lost favor with God.

Notice that the narrative of Achan almost ruins an entire people. Archan and his family are stoned to death and his possessions are burned. The story of Archan is arguably a flip side of the Cherem. The whole nation suffers until the infidelity to offered to God via destruction. It is an issue of covenant faithfulness not race or nationality.


6. The Sun Stands Still

What happened to Rahab in Jericho now happens to an entire community. Upon hearing what had happened to Jericho, the people of Gabaon devised a way to make peace with Israel. They dressed themselves in worn clothes and presented themselves as having traveled from far away to make an alliance. Israel was deceived and the people of Gabaon entered into a covenant with Israel. Once the deceit is discovered, Joshua curses them and they become laborers – but Israel remains in covenant with them and Gabaon becomes a pagan people ordered toward the true God. Note again that the cherem is not about race or nationality but about religious devotion to the true God of Israel. In chapter ten, the Gibeonites come under attack and Israel – in fidelity to their covenantal relationship – come to their defense. During the battle, the Lord makes the sun stand still in order that Israel may finish the battle and secure victory.


7. The Division of the Land

The division of the Promise Land amongst the tribes sets the stage for the rest of the history of Israel. The tribes will be a loose collection of entities during the Judges period, they will be united under Saul, David, and Solomon, and then they will fragment and will be conquered and exiled by the Assyrians and then the Babylonians. It is these section of Joshua that sets the geographic stage for the rest of Historical Books. The most important tribe in the north becomes Ephraim and in the south Judah. Typologically, the Early Church commented on this section as showing the different levels of glory in heaven, because the Promise Land is not dividing equally among the tribes. Finally, note that the Jebusities who control what will later become Jerusalem still remain unconquered in the Promise Land.7


8. The Test

In the twenty-second chapter, a few tribes of Israel still remain on the east side of the Jordan. The question of the narrative of “the test” is whether the physical barrier of the Jordan will also become a spiritual barrier. Those on the east side decide to set up a huge altar next to river to show they are part of the body of Israel and that the God of Israel is their God; however, those on the west side misread their actions and believe those on the east bank have erected a false altar. The idea of cherem re-enters the story as the Israelites on the west bank believe they must now destroy those on the east bank due to their unfaithfulness to the covenant. They are willing to war with their own kinsmen in order that Israel may remain pure and faithful to their covenant with the Lord. Fortunately, before the war begins the true purpose of the altar on the east bank is discovered and all ends well.


9. Covenant Renewal

The Book of Joshua ends with a renewal of the covenant.8 Joshua demands that Israel chose who they will serve, which has become a famous passage in Holy Scripture:

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”9

“And if you be unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”10

“But if it seem evil to you to serve the Lord, you have your choice: choose this day that which pleaseth you, whom you would rather serve… but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”11

“If the Lord’s service mislikes you, choose some other way… I and mine will worship the Lord.”12

The larger passage denotes that either the Israelites still have foreign gods among them or rather the spirit of idolatry is still dwelling in their hearts. What they need is a cherem of the heart. Israel chooses to follow the Lord and does so as long as Joshua is alive; however, the Promise Land is not completely conquered. The Jebusites still remain in what will become Jerusalem.

  1. Resources: These lessons on Joshua were drawn primarily from a lecture by a professor at a FSSP seminary. []
  2. “The word Jesus is the Latin form of the Greek ‘Ina-00s, which in turn is the transliteration of the Hebrew Jeshua, or Joshua, or again Jehoshua, meaning “Jehovah is salvation”.” – Catholic Answers. []
  3. 6:20-21, Knox. []
  4. 7:4-9 []
  5. v. 11 []
  6. vv. 19-21 []
  7. Jebusites remain, 15:63; it is not until King David that they are conquered and Jerusalem becomes the central political and spiritual point for the People of God. []
  8. 24:24-15 []
  9. 24:14, KJV. []
  10. RSVCE []
  11. Douay-Rheims []
  12. Knox Bible []

The 30 Statements of the Joint Declaration Between Pope Francis and Russian Patriarch Kirill

By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

Listers, on February 12, 2016 His Holiness Pope Francis met with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Havana, Cuba. The two leaders signed a joint declaration on several issues, which included overcoming historic antagonisms between the two Churches, the plight of Christians in the Middle East, the decline of the West, and a focus on the family and marriage. The following is the official English translation of the Joint Declaration.1




Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia


“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13).

1. By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.

It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2 Jn 12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization.

2. Our fraternal meeting has taken place in Cuba, at the crossroads of North and South, East and West. It is from this island, the symbol of the hopes of the “New World” and the dramatic events of the history of the twentieth century, that we address our words to all the peoples of Latin America and of the other continents.

It is a source of joy that the Christian faith is growing here in a dynamic way. The powerful religious potential of Latin America, its centuries–old Christian tradition, grounded in the personal experience of millions of people, are the pledge of a great future for this region.

3. By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

4. We thank God for the gifts received from the coming into the world of His only Son. We share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this Tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate. Among them are innumerable martyrs who have given witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the “seed of Christians”.

5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:21).

6. Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervour for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!

7. In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimously witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.

8. Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.

9. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defence of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.

10. Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace. Large–scale humanitarian aid must be assured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighbouring lands.

We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.

11. We lift our prayers to Christ, the Saviour of the world, asking for the return of peace in the Middle East, “the fruit of justice” (Is 32:17), so that fraternal co–existence among the various populations, Churches and religions may be strengthened, enabling refugees to return to their homes, wounds to be healed, and the souls of the slain innocent to rest in peace.

We address, in a fervent appeal, all the parts that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table. At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action. We call on all the countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action. We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

12. We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer for Christ’s sake that the word of the Apostle is directed: “Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pet 4:12–13).

13. Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times. Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony. In our current context, religious leaders have the particular responsibility to educate their faithful in a spirit which is respectful of the convictions of those belonging to other religious traditions. Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God’s name, “since God is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).

14. In affirming the foremost value of religious freedom, we give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes. Today, the chains of militant atheism have been broken and in many places Christians can now freely confess their faith. Thousands of new churches have been built over the last quarter of a century, as well as hundreds of monasteries and theological institutions. Christian communities undertake notable works in the fields of charitable aid and social development, providing diversified forms of assistance to the needy. Orthodox and Catholics often work side by side. Giving witness to the values of the Gospel they attest to the existence of the shared spiritual foundations of human co–existence.

15. At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom. It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.

16. The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities. While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.

17. Our gaze is also directed to those facing serious difficulties, who live in extreme need and poverty while the material wealth of humanity increases. We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations. The unrelenting consumerism of some more developed countries is gradually depleting the resources of our planet. The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.

18. The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer. We Christians cannot forget that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27–29).

19. The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.

20. The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.

21. We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).

The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general.

We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.

22. Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (cf. Mt 25:25), but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming.

23. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. Be the light of the world so that those around you may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:14, 16). Raise your children in the Christian faith, transmitting to them the pearl of great price that is the faith (cf. Mt 13:46) you have received from your parents and forbears. Remember that “you have been purchased at a great price” (1 Cor 6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross of the Man–God Jesus Christ.

24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.

We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another’s foundation” (Rm 15:20).

25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.

27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.

28. In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.

29. May our bold witness to God’s truth and to the Good News of salvation be sustained by the Man–God Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who strengthens us with the unfailing promise: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32)!

Christ is the well–spring of joy and hope. Faith in Him transfigures human life, fills it with meaning. This is the conviction borne of the experience of all those to whom Peter refers in his words: “Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people; you ‘had not received mercy’ but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:10).

30. With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy, Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her, so that they may be reunited, in God’s own time, in the peace and harmony of the one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and indivisible Trinity!

Bishop of Rome
Pope of the Catholic Church

Patriarch of Moscow
and all Russia

  1. Patriarch Kirill characterized the private meeting as an open discussion “with full awareness of the responsibility of our Churches, for the future of Christianity, and for the future of human civilization.” He said the conversation “gave us the opportunity to understand and hear the positions of the other.” “The results of this allow me to assure you that the two Churches will continue to work closely together with Christians in all the world, and with full responsibility to work together against war, so that human life can develop in the entire world.” Their conversation also aimed to strengthen “the bases of personal and family morality” through “the participation of the Church in the life of modern human society, that glorifies the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Pope told Patriarch Kirill before their private meeting “we’re brothers. It’s clear that this is the will of God.” Catholic News Agency. []

The 13 Examples of Pride Carved into the Floor of Purgatory

"The Proud" by Gustave Dore.
“The Proud” by Gustave Dore.

Listers, pride is the first sin to be purged in Dante’s literary work the Purgatorio. The purgation of pride represents the first ledge of purgatory. There are seven ledges – one for each of the seven deadly vices. Dante orders them according to their proximity to charity; thus, the ledge of pride is at the bottom of Mount Purgatory while lust is the uppermost ledge. On the ledge of pride, “the wall of the cliff that rises to one side of the ledge is adorned with carvings in white marble, all of them offering examples of the virtue of humility. The first example is the scene of the Annunciation. The second carving represents David, who has put aside his kingly splendor to dance in humility before the Lord. The third shows the Emperor Trajan halting his mighty array of warriors on horseback to listen to a poor widow’s plea for justice. As the Pilgrim stands marveling at these august humilities, Virgil directs his attention to a group of souls that is moving toward them. These are the Proud, who, beating their breasts, make their way around the ledge under the crushing weight of tremendous slabs of stone that they carry on their backs.”1

The massive stones force the prideful souls to face the ground as they make their way around the ledge. As they are hunched over, they contemplate examples of pride carved into the ground. As they purge the sin of pride and the weight of the stone lessens, their necks are able to lift enough to see the examples of humility carved into the walls. Regarding the carvings in the floor, Dante explains, “As they leave the souls of the Proud, Virgil calls the Pilgrim’s attention to a series of carvings in the bed of rock beneath their feet. These are the examples of the vice of Pride, of the haughty who have been brought low. Depicted in the carvings are Satan, the giant Briareus, Nimrod, Niobe, Saul, Arachne, Rehoboam, the slaying of Eriphyle by her son Alcmeon, Sennacherib’s murder by his sons, the slaughter of Cyrus by Tomyris, the destruction of Holofernes and the rout of the Assyrians, and finally the fall of Troy.”2


The Reliefs of Pride Carved into the Floor

“The reliefs cut into the floor present thirteen examples of the sin of Pride and the disastrous consequences that it entails. The first twelve tercets (in Italian) begin respectively with the letters UUUU. 0000. MMMM. forming an acrostic, which is resumed in the three lines of the thirteenth tercet: uom (the Italian word for “man”). Dante’s obvious message here is that Pride is a sin so common and so basic as to be practically synonymous with man. The thirteen examples, beginning with Lucifer’s fall, cover a wide range of material taken (almost) alternately from a biblical and a classical source. The final climactic example, the fall of Troy, represents the destruction of not merely a powerful individual but a powerful state, a civilization.”3


1. Satan

Dante describes the relief depicting the fall of Satan: “I saw, on one side, him who was supposed / to be the noblest creature of creation, / plunge swift as lightning from the height of Heaven.”4


2. Briareus the Giant

“Briareus, also called Aegaeon, in Greek mythology, one of three 100-armed, 50-headed Hecatoncheires (from the Greek words for “hundred” and “hands”), the sons of the deities Uranus (Heaven) and Gaea (Earth). Homer (Iliad, Book I, line 396) says the gods called him Briareus; mortals called him Aegaeon (lines 403–404). In Homer and Hesiod, Briareus and his brothers successfully aided Zeus, the king of the gods, against the attack by the Titans. The Hellenistic poet Callimachus (Hymn to Delos) made Briareus an opponent of Zeus and one of the assailants of Olympus, who, after his defeat, was buried under Mount Etna. Still another tradition made him a giant of the sea, an enemy of Poseidon (the god of the sea), and the inventor of warships.”5 Dante pulls from the second of the three traditions, which places Briareus against Zeus or Jupiter. Out of pride, he challenged Jupiter and was slain by a lightning bolt.6


3. Nimrod

"Nimrod & His Horn," Gustave Dore. Inferno.
“Nimrod & His Horn,” Gustave Dore. Inferno.

“Nimrod… [the] king of Shinar, was, according to the Book of Genesis and Books of Chronicles, the son of Cush, the great-grandson of Noah. The Bible states that he was “a mighty hunter before the Lord [and] …. began to be mighty in the earth.” Extra-biblical traditions associating him with the Tower of Babel led to his reputation as a king who was rebellious against God… Nimrod is considered the leader of those who built the Tower of Babel in the land of Shinar, the Bible states this in (Gen 10:10) The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.”7 “In the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (written 1308–21), Nimrod is a figure in the Inferno. Nimrod is portrayed as a giant (which was common in the Medieval period) and is found with the other giants Ephialtes, Antaeus, Briareus, Tityos, Typhon and the other unnamed giants chained up on the outskirts of Hell’s Circle of Treachery. His only line is “Raphèl maí amèche zabí almi”, an unintelligible statement which serves to accuse himself.”8


4. Niobe

An example from Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Niobe is “the daughter of Tantalus and Dione, and the wife of Amphion, King of Thebes. Proud of her sevens sons and seven daughters, Niobe boasted her superiority over Latona, who had but two, Apollo and Diana. Apollo then killed the seven sons with his bow. Diana killed the seven daughters, and Niobe was turned to stone, though tears continued to fall from her marble cheeks. Dante’s version of the story comes from Ovid.9


5. Saul

Another biblical example of pride, Saul, “son of Kish of the tribe of Benjamin and first king of Israel. He was deposed by [the prophet] Samuel for having disobeyed God’s command by sparing a life and allowing booty to be taken. Defeated by the Philistines on Mount Gilboa, Saul killed himself with his own sword to avoid capture.10


6. Arachne

Another example of pride from Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Arachne is “the daughter of Idmon of Colophon, who challenged Minerva to a weaving contest. She produced a beautiful cloth on which the love-adventures of the gods were woven, and Minerva, unable to find fault with it, ripped it to shreds. Arachne hanged herself, but Minerva loosened the rope, turning it into a web and Arachne herself into a spider.” (Ovid, Metam. VI, 1-145; Musa, cmt. 43, p. 134.))


7. Rehoboam

Another biblical example from Israel’s royal history, Rehoboam is the “son of Solomon, who succeeded his father as king of Israel. He refused to lighten the taxes imposed on his people and sent Adoram to collect them. Ten of the tribes revolted, Adoram was stoned to death, and Rehoboam fled to Jerusalem.”11


8. Alcmeon

“The son of Amphiaraus the Soothsayer and Eriphyle. Foreseeing that he would die during the expedition against Thebes, Amphiaraus concealed himself. But Polynices bribed Eriphyle with the golden necklace of Harmonia to reveal her husband’s hiding place, and Amphiaraus was constrained to go to war, where he met his fate. Before he went, however, he asked his son for revenge, and Alcmeon accordingly slew his mother for her betrayal.” Amphiaraus is mentioned in Dante’s Inferno.12


9. The Murder of Sennacherib

“King of Assyria from 705 to 681 B.C., Sennacherib arrogantly made war upon King Hezekiah of Judah and the Israelites. Although outnumbered, the Israelites, with the intervention of an angel of the Lord, annihilated the Assyrian host. Sennacherib escaped the debacle but was later murdered by his two sons while praying to his false gods.”13


10. The Slaughter of Cyrus by Tomyris

“Tomyris (or Thamyris), the queen of the Massagetae (a Scythian people), sought revenge for the treacherous murder of her son at the hands of Cyrus (560-529 B.C.), emperor of the Persians. She defeated his army and Cyrus was killed in battle. Not satisfied, however, she decapitated him and threw his head into a vessel of human blood, urging him to drink his fill!”14


11. The Destruction of Holofernes

“The general of the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Assyrians. He attacked Bethulia, a city of the Israelites, and proudly mocked their God. Judith, a beautiful widow, delivered the Israelites by going to Holofernes’ tent at night under the pretense of sleeping with him. Instead, with grim resolve, she cut off his head. The Assyrians, seeing the head of their general mounted on the wall in the morning, fled in terror.”15


12. The Rout of the Assyrians

The episode of Judith assassinating Holofernes, the general of the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, appears to serve as two separate examples. The first is the pride of Holofernes and the second is the pride of the Assyrians collectively.


13. The Fall of Troy

“In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans (Greeks) after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, king of Sparta… the end of the war came with one final plan. Odysseus devised a new ruse—a giant hollow wooden horse, an animal that was sacred to the Trojans. It was built by Epeius and guided by Athena, from the wood of a cornel tree grove sacred to Apollo, with the inscription: The Greeks dedicate this thank-offering to Athena for their return home. The hollow horse was filled with soldiers[149] led by Odysseus. The rest of the army burned the camp and sailed for Tenedos. When the Trojans discovered that the Greeks were gone, believing the war was over, they “joyfully dragged the horse inside the city”, while they debated what to do with it. Some thought they ought to hurl it down from the rocks, others thought they should burn it, while others said they ought to dedicate it to Athena. The Achaeans entered the city and killed the sleeping population. A great massacre followed which continued into the day.

Blood ran in torrents, drenched was all the earth,
As Trojans and their alien helpers died.
Here were men lying quelled by bitter death
All up and down the city in their blood.

The Trojans, fueled with desperation, fought back fiercely, despite being disorganized and leaderless. With the fighting at its height, some donned fallen enemies’ attire and launched surprise counterattacks in the chaotic street fighting. Other defenders hurled down roof tiles and anything else heavy down on the rampaging attackers. The outlook was grim though, and eventually the remaining defenders were destroyed along with the whole city.”16

  1. Purgatory, trans. Musa, opening of Canto X. []
  2. Id., opening of Canto XII. []
  3. Musa, Canto XII, cmts. 25-63. []
  4. Canto XII; cf. Book X of Paradise Lost. []
  5. Greek Mythology Encyclopedia. []
  6. Musa, cmt. 28, p. 133. []
  7. Nimrod Wiki. []
  8. Id., cf. “The giant who Built the Tower of Babel on the plain of Shinar. (Gen. 10:10) (Cf. Inf. XXXI, 77-78; Par. XXVI, 126.” – Also, to view more of Gustave Dore’s work on the Divine Comedy, please visit The World of Dante. []
  9. Metam. VI, 182-312, Musa, cmt. 39, p. 134. []
  10. See, I. Sam. 15:3-11; 31:4-5; Musa, cmt. 40, p. 134. []
  11. I Kings 12:18; Musa, cmt. 46, p. 134. []
  12. See Inf. XX, 34; Musa, cmt. 50, 134. []
  13. Musa, cmt. 52; citing II Kings 19:36-37 and Isa. 37:37-38. []
  14. Musa, cmt. 55-6. []
  15. Musa, cmt. 59. []
  16. The Trojan War, Wikipedia. []

7 Illustrations of How People in the Old Testament Viewed the Universe

Listers, the concept of ancient Hebrew cosmology is fascinating. In general, the world was a flat disc covered by a firm dome. Beneath the disc was Sheol – the place of the dead – and the deep waters. Above the dome, there was more water and finally the high heavens where God dwells. “The notion that the sky was a vast solid dome seems to have been common among the ancient peoples… According to the notion prevalent among the Greeks and Romans, the sky was a great vault of crystal to which the fixed stars were attached, though by some it was held to be of iron or brass. That the Hebrews entertained similar ideas appears from numerous biblical passages.” For example, Job 37:18 reads, “And was it with help of thine God fashioned the heavens, firm as cast bronze?.”1 The firmament acted as the separation between the higher waters of the heavens and the lower waters of the deep.2 The dome of the earth sat upon pillars and upon the foundations of the world.3 In the dome there are windows or doors from which the rain falls – the most famous example being Noah’s flood in Genesis.4 Finally, deep within the earth was Sheol. Sheol “is generally supposed to come from the Hebrew root meaning, ‘to be sunk in, to be hollow:’ accordingly it denotes a cave or a place under the earth. In the Old Testament (Septuagint hades; Vulgate infernus) sheol is used quite in general to designate the kingdom of the dead, of the good (Genesis 37:35) as well as of the bad (Numbers 16:30); it means hell in the strict sense of the term, as well as the limbo of the Fathers. But, as the limbo of the Fathers ended at the time of Christ’s Ascension, hades (Vulgate infernus) in the New Testament always designates the hell of the damned. Since Christ’s Ascension the just no longer go down to the lower world, but they dwell in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1).”5 As with most concepts, there are debates on how literal to take certain passages.


Ancient Hebrew Cosmology



Hebrew Cosmology 1

Hebrew Cosmology 2

Ancient Hebrew Cosmology

Hebrew Cosmology 4

Hebrew Cosmology 5

Hebrew Cosmology 6

Hebrew Cosmology 7

  1. Quote from Catholic Encyclopedia, Firmament. []
  2. See Job 26:11; 37:18; the dome is blue due to separation of the waters, Gen. 1:7; the earth is surrounded by water, Gen. 1:6,7; cf. Psalms 24:2; 148:4, Deut. 5:8. []
  3. Job 26:11; II Sam. 22:8. []
  4. Gen. 7:11-12; 8:2; for verses on the lumenaries of heaven, see Gen. 1:14-19; Ps. 19:4,6; for verses on the dome and birds, see Gen. 1:20; Deut. 4:17. []
  5. Catholic Encyclopedia, Hell. []

The Ultimate Guide to St. Genevieve: 13 Things about Her and Her Feast Day

Life & Works

1. General Background

St. Genevieve was born around Anno Domini 419 or 422 in Nanterre, France, “a small village four miles from Paris, near the famous modern stations, or Calvary, adorned with excellent sculptures, representing our Lord’s Passion, on Mount Valerien.”1 She died in Paris in 512. Holy Mother Church celebrates her feast day on the third of January. “She was the daughter of Severus and Gerontia; popular tradition represents her parents as poor peasants, though it seems more likely that they were wealthy and respectable townspeople.”2


2. The Prophecy Over Young Genevieve

St Genevieve Card“Pope St. Boniface had sent St. Germain to Great Britain to combat the Pelagian heresy around the year 430. He was accompanied by St. Lupus, Bishop of Troyes. On their way through France, they stopped at the village of Nanterre. Upon their arrival, the two Prelates went to the Church to pray for the success of their trip. The people surrounded them with pious curiosity and to ask their blessing. Illuminated by a divine inspiration, Germain espied in the crowd a young girl of seven years of age, and he was interiorly advised that Our Lord had chosen her for a singular mission. He asked the name of the child and that she be brought before him. The people told him that her name was Genevieve. Her father and her mother brought her forward.”

“Is this child yours?” Germain asked.

They answered, “Yes.”

And the holy man said: “Blessed are you that God hath given you this child. Know you for certain that on the day of her birth the Angels sang and a great feast was made in Heaven. This girl shall be of great merit before the Lord. And from her good life and words many shall take example, that they shall leave the yoke of sin and convert to God.”

Then, he turned toward the child, and she said to him: “Blessed Father, your servant is listening.”

The Bishop asked: “Tell me, and be not embarrassed, if you will consecrate yourself to Christ in purity without stain as His spouse?”

The maid answered: “Blessed be you, my Father. What you ask of me is the most cherished desire of my heart. I ask only that by your prayers, Our Lord will accomplish my desire.”

“Have confidence, my daughter,” said Germain. “Be firm in your resolution. Prove by your works the good things that you believe in your heart and say with your mouth, and Our Lord shall give you strength as well as virtue.”3

It is also reported the saint told young Genevieve, “Be of good heart, my child, act with earnestness, and struggle to prove by thy works that which thou believest in thy heart, and professest with thy lips; the Lord will sustain thee, and will give thee the strength that is required to carry out thy holy resolution.”4 Most sources conclude the event between the young girl and the saint as follows: “Genèvieve then expressed her wish that Saint Germain would bless her. Granting the child’s wish, Saint Germain took her to a local church where he performed the consecration. The next day, before he continued on his journey, Saint Germain gave Genèvieve a brass medal engraved with a cross. He instructed her to always wear it around her neck, in remembrance of her consecration to God and devotion to Christ. Further, he told her to be content with only the medal, and to wear it instead of more showy ornaments such as gold and silver bracelets, and necklaces. She kept the medal all her life, never giving it up even when she badly needed money. She lived a life of fervent devotion and penance. As there were no convents near her village, Genèvieve practiced her religious virtue and prayer at home.”5


3. Similarities Between St. Genevieve  & St. Joan of Arc

“Many of her neighbours, filled with jealousy and envy, accused Genevieve of being an impostor and a hypocrite. Like Blessed Joan of Arc, in later times, she had frequent communion with the other world, but her visions and prophecies were treated as frauds and deceits. Her enemies conspired to drown her; but, through the intervention of Germain of Auxerre, their animosity was finally overcome. The bishop of the city appointed her to look after the welfare of the virgins dedicated to God, and by her instruction and example she led them to a high degree of sanctity.”6


4. Stopping Attila the Hun, AD 451

"This statue of Sainte-Geneviève, patron saint and protector of the city of Paris, was created in 1928 for the Pont de la Tournelle."
“This statue of Sainte-Geneviève, patron saint and protector of the city of Paris, was created in 1928 for the Pont de la Tournelle.” She stands high above the river, facing East, watching over the city.

“Another significant and often-reported event in Genèvieve’s life occurred around 451, when the barbarian Attila and his army of Huns marched across the continent, intending to take control of Gaul away from the ruling Visigoths. After Attila crossed the Rhine and neared Paris, the Parisian citizens were ready to flee the city in terror. Genèvieve, however, advised them against evacuation. She told them that if they kept their faith in God, fasted, prayed and performed penance, the city would be protected by heaven and their lives would be spared. The citizens were doubtful, however, as they all knew that Attila was a vicious and merciless warlord who left devastation in his wake. His soldiers were an equally cruel band of marauders who raped, looted, killed and destroyed. Still, many of the citizens passed days and nights in prayer with Genèvieve in the baptistery. But when the crisis neared its peak, and Attila seemed to be right outside the city walls, the people became panic-stricken, and they turned against Genèvieve. They accused her of being a false prophet who would bring about their deaths as well as the destruction of their beloved city, and they threatened to stone her.”

“Again, Saint Germain’s intervention helped her. News of the situation reached him as he lay near death in Ravenna, Italy. In response, he sent his archdeacon, Sedulius, to help calm the citizens. Sedulius counseled them to listen to Genèvieve, saying she was not a prophetess of doom but the means of their salvation. Still, some inhabitants abandoned Paris. Genèvieve then supposedly gathered the women who had remained behind and led them outside the walls of the city. As the sun rose, and with enemy weapons before them, Genèvieve and the women prayed for deliverance. Later that night, Attila turned away from Paris, leaving the city unharmed, and headed south, to Orleans. Genèvieve was proclaimed a savior and heroine.”7


5. King Childeric & the Siege of Paris, AD 486

“Genèvieve demonstrated her bravery and helped the people of Paris a second time, almost similarly, more than 30 years later. In 486, Childeric, the king of the Salian Franks, a Germanic tribe, blockaded the city. The prolonged siege created a serious food shortage that brought the citizens to the starvation point. One night, Genèvieve led 11 boats out onto the river, rowing past the enemy’s siege lines. Once safely across, she went from village to village, begging for food. Later that night, she returned to Paris, again slipping safely past the blockade, with boatfuls of precious grain.”

“When he heard about her deed, Childeric was impressed with Genèvieve, even though he was a pagan and she was a Christian. After the siege had ended, he sent for her and, out of admiration, he asked what he could do for her. She said to him, “Release your prisoners. Their only fault was that they so dearly loved their city.” He granted her wish, and later performed other merciful acts at her request.”8


6. The Church of Sts. Peter & Paul

“When Childeric died, King Clovis succeeded him and consolidated control of the land from the Rhine to the Loire. He married Childeric’s elder daughter, Clothilde, who was a Christian. Clovis, like Childeric, was a pagan, and his wife often tried to convert him, but without success. Still, Clovis chose Genèvieve to be one of his counselors, and she earned his trust. As Childeric once did, Clovis freed many prisoners at Genèvieve’s request. Once, as Clovis prepared to enter what he knew would be fierce battle, he promised his wife that he would be baptized in the Christian rite if he came back alive. True to his word, when his army won, he became a Christian in 496, guided in his conversion by Genèvieve. His people and servants soon became Christians as well. Genèvieve is credited with developing the plans for a church to honor Saints Peter and Paul, to be built in the middle of Paris. King Clovis started the church, managing only to lay the foundation before he died in 511. The church was completed by Queen Clothilde.”9


 7. Named the “Patron Saint of Paris”

“Genèvieve died January 3, 512, only five weeks after King Clovis’s death. She was in her eighth decade of life; at least one account said she was 89 years old. She was buried in a long, flowing gown with a mantle covering her shoulders, similar to the type of garments worn by the Virgin Mary. Genèvieve’s burial site within the church would become a place of pilgrimage, as people had heard many stories of miracles and cures attributed to Genèvieve. Even after her death, miracles were credited to Genèvieve. Perhaps the most famous account involved the great epidemic of ergot poisoning that afflicted France in the twelfth century. After all efforts to find a cure were unsuccessful, in 1129, Bishop Stephen of Paris instructed that Genèvieve’s casket be carried through the city streets in procession to the cathedral. According to reports from the time, thousands of sick people were cured when they saw or touched the casket. The following year, Pope Innocent II visited Paris and ordered an annual feast to commemorate the miracle. Parisian churches still celebrate the feast.”

“St. Genèvieve also became known as the Patron Saint of Young Girls. Also, in 1962, Pope John XXIII named her the patron saint of French security forces, a gesture that honored her many efforts to secure Paris. Her feast day is January 3, but it is not part of the general Roman Catholic calendar.”10


Inside the Pantheon by Jean-Pierre Lavoie, wiki.
Inside the Pantheon by Jean-Pierre Lavoie, wiki.

The Church of St. Genevieve & Her Relics

8. Paris Turns Against Her Patron

In 512, St. Genevieve died and her body was interred in the Sts. Peter & Paul Church she helped design. “This fact, and the numerous miracles wrought at her tomb, caused the name of Sainte-Geneviève to be given to it. Kings, princes, and people enriched it with their gifts. In 847 it was plundered by the Normans and was partially rebuilt, but was completed only in 1177. This church having fallen into decay once more, Louis XV began the construction of a new church in 1764.”11 Unfortunately, the French Revolution broke out before the new church dedicated to St. Genevieve was finished. In 1791, the Constituent Assembly secularized the church and renamed it “The Pantheon” – a building dedicated as a mausoleum for notable Frenchmen. The fight for the building continued as it was rededicated as a church in 1821, then secularized in 1831, rededicated in 1852, and then finally secularized as the Pantheon in 1885.12 Today, the Pantheon remains a secularized burial place for Frenchmen, which occasional permits religious events.13


9. The Burning of St. Genevieve’s Relics

“St. Genevieve’s relics were preserved in her church, with great devotion, for centuries, and Paris received striking proof of the efficacy of her intercession. She saved the city from complete inundation in 834. In 1129 a violent plague, known as the mal des ardents, carried off over 14,000 victims, but it ceased suddenly during a procession in her honour. Innocent II, who had come to Paris to implore the king’s help against the Antipope Anacletus in 1130, examined personally into the miracle and was so convinced of its authenticity that he ordered a feast to be kept annually in honour of the event on 26 November. A small church, called Sainte-Geneviève des Ardents, commemorated the miracle till 1747, when it was pulled down to make room for the Foundling Hospital. The saint’s relics were carried in procession yearly to the cathedral, and Mme de Sévigné gives a description of the pageant in one of her letters. The revolutionaries of 1793 destroyed most of the relics preserved in St. Genevieve’s church, and the rest were cast to the winds by the mob in 1871. Fortunately, however, a large relic had been kept at Verneuil, Oise, in the eighteenth century, and is still extant.”14



10. Prayer to Saint Genevieve

Saint Genevieve, you who by the days before, penance and prayer, ensured the protection of Paris, intercede near God for us, for our country, for the devoted Christian hearts. You who cured the sick and fed the hungry, obtain the light of God and make us stronger to reject temptation. You who had the concern of the poor, protect the sick, the abandoned, and the unemployed. You who resisted the armies and encouraged the besieged, give us the direction for truth and justice. You who through the centuries never ceased taking care of your people, help us to keep the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. May your example be for us, an encouragement to always seek God and serve him through our brothers and sisters. Amen.15


11. Litany to Saint Genevieve

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

St. Genevieve, who since childhood was filled with GodÂ’s grace, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, consecrated to Christ by St. Germane, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, obedient to the Holy Spirit, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, zealous defender of the faith, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, heroically devoted to the Church, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, whose life is an example how we should live for God, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, intercessor of the clergy, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, who suffered for your vocation, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, who knew about hostility and abandonment, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, who spent hours in prayer, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, whose fasts and prayers saved the city, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, who had a demanding friendship with the king, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, whose wisdom enlightened the pagans, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, whose prudence guided the leaders, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, with purity you overcame slander, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, whose strength stood up against the evil doers, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, who miraculously nourished the hungry, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, who reconciled sinners with God, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, who brought back to the Church the lost ones, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, who read the conscience through the gift of the Holy Spirit, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, who cured the sick, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, who controlled the floods, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, who restored peace between enemies, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, who softened the fate of the prisoners, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, who drove out demons, pray for us.
St. Genevieve, protector of your devoted people, pray for us.

Give us, Lord, the spirit of intelligence and love of which you filled your daughter, Genevieve, so that attentive to your service and seeking to do your will, we can please you by our faith and our deeds. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Sprit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Let us open our hearts in thanks to God for the favors showered upon us. Saint Paul teaches us to give thanks to God the Father always through Christ, in whom He has given us everything. For when we became GodÂ’s children in Christ, God gave us the riches of his grace, rescuing us from the powers of darkness and bringing us into the kingdom of his beloved Son. Whenever we acknowledge GodÂ’s gifts, we prepare ourselves to take part more fully in the Eucharist, which is the sum of all blessings and the crown and source of all thanksgiving. Amen.16


Celebrating the Feast Day

12. Celebratory Alcoholic Drinks

Cheers! SPL is certainly no stranger to celebrating the traditions of the Catholic faith with alcohol. A week before St. Genevieve’s feast, the Church celebrates the feast of St. John the Apostle, which has a long tradition of blessing wine.17 With SPL posting lists on prayers to bless beer and introductions to Trappist Ale, it is no surprise that alcohol would be included in celebrating the great St. Genevieve. The first recipe come recommended by the author of Drinking with the Saints, Michael P. Foley. He also recommends looking into Sainte Genevieve Winery for those more inclined to wine. He proposed toast is “to St. Genevieve: May she protect us from today’s barbarians.” As the Patroness of Paris, the “Paris Cocktail” is a fitting drink to celebrate this wonderful saint.

Paris Cocktail

3/4 oz. gin
3/4 oz. Grand Marnier
1/2 oz. cherry liqueur
1/2 oz. lemon juice

Pour ingredients into a shaker filled with ice and shake forty times. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Another option, suggested by SPL, would be a French Coffee:

Caffe Francais

1/2 cup whipping cream, chilled (heavy cream)

1/8 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups coffee, hot

Beat the cream until it’s rich and fluffy, with soft peaks (or use already whipped cream from a can). Mix in the powdered sugar, and continue to beat until you have stiff peaks. Split whipped cream between 2 mugs. Add vanilla to the hot coffee, then pour over cream. Serve right away, Don’t stir!18

Enjoy the cocktail, the wine, or the caffe – but be sure to toast St. Genevieve. St. Genevieve: May she protect us from today’s barbarians!


13. Celebratory Foods

While there does not appear to be a traditional food associated with the feast of St. Genevieve, there are two fun options for breakfast. The first would be to serve french toast and the second would be to serve the so-called Apostle’s Fingers, which is a traditional French dish served during the winter carnival. The Apostle’s Fingers are lemon and riccota filled crepes.19


St. Genevieve, pray for us!

  2. Catholic Encyclopedia, St. Genevieve, paraphrased and quotes. []
  3. St. Genevieve, Tradition in Action, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. []
  4. St. Genevieve, Encyclopedia. []
  5. Id. []
  6. Catholic Encyclopedia, St. Genevieve. []
  7. St. Genevieve, Encyclopedia. []
  8. St. Genevieve, Encyclopedia. []
  9. St. Genevieve, Encyclopedia. []
  10. St. Genevieve, Enncyclopedia. []
  11. St. Genevieve, Catholic Encyclopedia. []
  12. St. Genevieve, Catholic Encyclopedia, directly paraphrased. []
  13. St. Genevieve, Wikipedia. []
  14. St. Genevieve, Catholic Encyclopedia. []
  15. St. Genevieve Catholic Church, Arizona. []
  16. Id. []
  17. SPL: Toasting St. John with Blessed Wine. []
  18. French Coffee Recipe – []
  19. Apostle Fingers, Food52. []

Ante-Purgatory: The 3 Ways Those Who Repent Late in Life are Punished in Dante’s Purgatorio

At this death there ensured a struggled between the powers of good and evil for his soul; since he had uttered the name of Mary with his dying breath and shed a tear of true repentance, the heavily faction prevailed and bore his soul off to Paradise.



1. The Excommunicated

In Canto III, Dante and Virgil encounter those souls who were excommunicated. The reason, however, these souls are in purgatory and not hell is because they repented at the very end of their life. In Dante’s Purgatorio, the repentant excommunicants are actually not in purgatory proper – they are in ante-purgatory or that which comes before purgatory. Virgil and the Pilgrim Dante meet a soul named Manfred. The soul explains that the souls of excommunicants who repent late in life must wait in ante-purgatory thirty times as long as they waited to repent on earth. The wait can, however, be shorted by intercessory prayer. Manfred explains his situation in a very beautiful section of verses:

Horrible was the nature of my sins,
but boundless mercy stretches out its arms
to any man who comes in search of it,


The church’s curse is not the final word
for Everlasting Love may still return,
if hope reveals the slightest hint of green.

True, he who dies scorning the Holy Church,
although he turns repentant at life’s end,
must stay outside, a wanderer on this bank,

for thirty time as long as he has lived
in his presumptuousness-although good prayers
may shorten the duration of his term.

The reason waiting in ante-purgatory is a punishment is because the souls cannot begin their purgation, and it is their purgation that makes them fit to enter into the beatific bliss of heaven. It is possible that Dante has the souls wait “thirty times as long” as they lived in their presumptuous state due to “a provision in Canon Law that calls for a thirty-day period of grace before the ban of excommunication goes into effect.”1


2. The Indolent

After climbing through an arduous gap in the mountain, Dante the Pilgrim is told that Mount Purgatory actually becomes easier to climb the higher you go.2 As they continue their ascent, Dante the Pilgrim and Virgil meet the “indolent souls” who constitute the second class of the “Late Repentants” in ante-purgatory. The indolent souls are lazy. Though they were not excommunicated as the first class of Late Repentants, the indolent souls simply waited until their end of their life to repent. They are punished by having to wait outside purgatory proper for as many years as they waited to repent on earth. An indolent soul named Belacqua explains:

Before I start, the heavens must revolve
as many times as while I was alive,
for I put off repenting till the end.

Prayers could, of course, make my time shorter here:
prayers form a heart that lives in grace–the rest
are worthless, for they go unheard in Heaven!”

Note that Dante again includes the benefit of intercessory prayer when speaking of the punishment of these souls. With the indolent, the concept of praying for the poor souls in purgatory is explained in further detail and includes that those prayers must come from an individual on earth who is in a state of grace.3


3. The Unshriven: Violent Deaths

As Dante the Pilgrim and Virgil continue on their ascent, they discover a group of souls chanting Miserere. The souls are the third and final class of the Late Repentants. They are those “who died a violent death but managed to repent in the final moments.”4

We are all souls who met a violent death,
and we were sinners to our final hour;
but then the light of Heaven lit our minds,

and penitent and pardoning, we left
that life at peace with God, Who left our hearts
with longing for the holy sight of Him.”

Here they encounter the soul named Buonconte of Montefeltro. Buonconte’s story is notable: “At this death there ensured a struggled between the powers of good and evil for his soul; since he had uttered the name of Mary with his dying breath and shed a tear of true repentance, the heavenly faction prevailed and bore his soul off to Paradise. But a demon took possession of his corpse and played havoc with it: he conjured up a storm and sent the mortal remains plummeting down the raging and swollen river channels.”5 He states:

I made my way, my throat on open wound,
fleeing on foot, and bloodying the plain.

There I went blind. I could no longer speak,
but as I died, I murmured Mary’s name,
and there I fell and left my empty flesh.

The unshriven or unabsolved begin the theme of each group in purgatory having its own prayer. The unshriven sing the Miserere, which is King David’s famous Psalm 50 asking for forgiveness.6 The unshriven souls request that Dante and others pray for them.7 Continuing the theme of intercessory prayer, Dante asks Virgil about the “power of prayer to affect the will of Heaven.”8 Virgil states, “high justice would in no way be debased / if ardent love should cancel instantly / the debt these penitents must satisfy.”9 In contrast, however, Virgil submits there are “those whose sins could not be urged by prayer / because their prayers had no access to God.”10


The Gate of Purgatory

"The Portals of Purgatory" by Gustave Dore.
“The Portals of Purgatory” by Gustave Dore.

While still in ante-purgatory, Virgil and Dante the Pilgrim continue to the Valley of the Princes where the “Negligent Rulers” dwell.11 The rulers are singing the Salve Regina. Though not late repentants, the rulers continue a theme of negligence seen in the excommunicants, the indolent, and the unshriven. After a few other encounters, Dante the Pilgrim and Virgil arrive at the Gate of Purgatory. Three steps lead up to the gate. The first is a marble step “polished to the glaze of a looking glass.”12 The second is a black step, “rough and crumbling, fire-corroded stone.”13 And the third and final step – upon which the Gate of Purgatory sat – was “red as the blood that spurts out from a vein.”14 According to Musa, “the three steps are generally taken t0 represent the three stages of repentance: the first step, which is white and mirror-like, stands for self-examination; the second, black, rough step stands for sorrow for sin, or contrition; the third, flaming-red step signifies satisfaction of the sinner’s debt, or penance.”15 On the threshold of the Gate of Purgatory sits an angel clothed in an ash gray robe holding a sword. When Dante approaches, the angel traces seven “P’s” on his forehead. In Latin, the word for sin is peccatum, which foreshadows the seven capital vices that will be purged in purgatory. The angel even warns Dante to be sure to “wash away” the wounds on his journey. The angel then takes keys given to him by St. Peter – one gold and one silver – and opens the Gate of Purgatory. As the gate opens, Dante can hear Te Deum Laudamus being sung.

  1. Purgatory, Trans. Musa, 39 n. 139. []
  2. See Canto IV, line 88-90. []
  3. See Purgatory, 48, n. 133-35. []
  4. Purgatory, 49. []
  5. Purgatory, Canto V, 49. []
  6. Psalm 50 – DR. []
  7. Canto VI, 25-37. []
  8. Purgatory, 57. []
  9. Canto VI, 37-19. []
  10. Canto VI, 41-2. []
  11. Canto VII. []
  12. Canto IX, 94-5. []
  13. Id. 98. []
  14. Id. 102. []
  15. Purgatory, 105. []

Purgatory: 8 Maps of Dante’s Purgatorio

"The Portals of Purgatory" by Gustave Dore.
“The Portals of Purgatory” by Gustave Dore.

Listers, “The “Divina Commedia” is an allegory of human life, in the form of a vision of the world beyond the grave, written avowedly with the object of converting a corrupt society to righteousness: “to remove those living in this life from the state of misery, and lead them to the state of felicity”. It is composed of a hundred cantos, written in the measure known as terza rima, with its normally hendecasyllabic lines and closely linked rhymes, which Dante so modified from the popular poetry of his day that it may be regarded as his own invention. He is relating, nearly twenty years after the event, a vision which was granted to him (for his own salvation when leading a sinful life) during the year of jubilee, 1300, in which for seven days (beginning on the morning of Good Friday) he passed through hell, purgatory, and paradise, spoke with the souls in each realm, and heard what the Providence of God had in store for himself and to world. The framework of the poem presents the dual scheme of the “De Monarchiâ” transfigured. Virgil, representing human philosophy acting in accordance with the moral and intellectual virtues, guides Dante by the light of natural reason from the dark wood of alienation from God (where the beasts of lust pride, and avarice drive man back from ascending the Mountain of the Lord), through hell and purgatory to the earthly paradise, the state of temporal felicity, when spiritual liberty has been regained by the purgatorial pains. Beatrice, representing Divine philosophy illuminated by revelation, leads him thence, up through the nine moving heavens of intellectual preparation, into the true paradise, the spaceless and timeless empyrean, in which the blessedness of eternal life is found in the fruition of the sight of God. There her place is taken by St. Bernard, type of the loving contemplation in which the eternal life of the soul consists, who commends him to the Blessed Virgin, at whose intercession he obtains a foretaste of the Beatific Vision, the poem closing with all powers of knowing and loving fulfilled and consumed in the union of the understanding with the Divine Essence, the will made one with the Divine Will, “the Love that moves the sun and the other stars”.1

“The “Purgatorio”, perhaps the most artistically perfect of the three canticles, owes less to the beauty of the separate episodes. Dante’s conception of purgatory as a lofty mountain, rising out of the ocean in the southern hemisphere, and leading up to the Garden of Eden, the necessary preparation for winning back the earthly paradise, and with it all the prerogatives lost by man at the fall of Adam, seems peculiar to him; nor do we find elsewhere the purifying process carried on beneath the sun and stars, with the beauty of transfigured nature only eclipsed by the splendour of the angelic custodians of the seven terraces. The meeting with Beatrice on the banks of Lethe, with Dante’s personal confession of an unworthy past, completes the story of the “Vita Nuova” after the bitter experiences and disillusions of a lifetime. The essence of Dante’s philosophy is that all virtues and all vices proceed from love. The “Purgatorio” shows how love is to be set in order, the “Paradiso” shows how it is rendered perfect in successive stages of illumination, until it attains to union with the Divine Love.”2


Maps of Mount Purgatorio

Mount Purgatory 1

Mount Purgatory 2

Mount Purgatory 4

Mount Purgatory 5

Mount Purgatory 6

Mount Purgatory 8

Mount Purgatory 3

Mount Purgatory 7


Bonus: Maps of Dante’s Universe

Dante Universe 3

Dante Universe 1

Dante Universe 4

Dante Universe 2

  1. Catholic Encyclopedia: Dante Alighieri. []
  2. Id. []

20 Quote Graphics from the 2015 World of Meeting of Families in Philadelphia

Listers, the World Meeting of Families exists to strength and support family. According to the official site of the 2015 gathers: “Held every three years and sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family, the World Meeting of Families is the world’s largest Catholic gathering of families. Each World Meeting of Families has a theme that energizes and enlivens the event while adding great depth of meaning to our understanding of families. The theme of the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 is “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” emphasizing the impact of the love and life of families on our society.”1 The host of the meeting, Archbishop Chaput, wrote:

Saint John Paul II, hailed as the Pope of the Family, created the World Meeting of Families in 1994 in Rome to explore the critical role the family plays in society and to give families opportunities to talk about the challenges and blessings that all families have.

Our theme, “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive” was inspired by the early Church Father, St. Irenaeus, who wrote “the Glory of God is man fully alive.” The glory of men and women is their capacity to love as God loves – and no better means exists to teach the meaning of love than the family. His Holiness, Pope Francis also inspired the theme. He embodies the message of mercy, joy and love at the heart of the Gospel.2

After his visit to Washington D.C. and New York City, His Holiness Pope Francis gave several addresses – including a speech on religious liberty at Independence Hall, a spontaneous address at the Festival of Families, and a homily at the concluding Holy Mass. The following are quote graphics from various sources that were either inspired by the meeting or were taken from one of the Roman Pontiff’s speeches during the meeting.




  • 8:40  a.m.  Departure from John F. Kennedy International Airport
  • 9:30  a.m.  Arrival at Atlantic Aviation, Philadelphia
  • 10:30 a.m. Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia
  • 4:45  p.m.  Visit to Independence Mall [sic]
  • 7:30  p.m.  Visit to the Festival of Families Benjamin Franklin Parkway


  • 9:15   a.m.  Meeting with bishops at St. Martin’s Chapel, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
  • 11:00  a.m. Visit to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility
  • 4:00  p.m.   Mass for the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families, Benjamin Franklin Parkway
  • 7:00   p.m.  Visit with organizers, volunteers and benefactors of the World Meeting of Families, Atlantic Aviation
  • 8:00   p.m.  Departure for Rome





WMF 11




WMF 10

WMF 12

WMF 20


WMF 15

WMF 19

WMF 13

WMF 17

WMF 16

WMF 14

WMF 22

WMF 23

WMF 24

WMF 21

WMF 25

  1. World Meeting of Families 2015, Official Website. []
  2. Archbishop Chaput, Welcome Letter. []

7 Prayers for God to Defend & Cleanse His Holy Catholic Church

Madonna Del SoccorsoListers, the gates of hell have not and will not prevail against the Church. As the Catechism states: “Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Our Lord then declared to him: ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.’ Christ, the ‘living Stone’, thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.”1 Moreover, “from the incarnate Word’s descent to us, all Christian churches everywhere have held and hold the great Church that is here [at Rome] to be their only basis and foundation since, according to the Savior’s promise, the gates of hell have never prevailed against her.”2 Catholics should also remember that the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. The Church teaches, “The Church is one because of her “soul”: ‘It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church’s unity.'”3 When the Church faces both internal and external threats, it is easy to fall into anxiety, gossip, and despair. Remember, however, that these are contrary to virtue – especially the virtue of hope – and that the faithful should hold up the Church and her leaders in prayer. The following prayers were selected due to either their focus on the Church, the leaders of the Church, or the general petition of divine protection against evil.




1. For the Lord to Defend and Cleanse His Church

May your continual pity, O Lord, cleanse and defend Your Church; and, because without you she cannot endure in safety, may she ever be governed by Your bounty. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.


2. Keep the Church Faithful to Christ’s Mission

Heavenly Father, look upon our community of faith which is the Church of your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to witness to his love by loving all our fellow creatures without exception. Under the leadership of the Holy Father and the Bishops keep us faithful to Christ’s mission of calling all men and women to your service so that there may be “one fold and one shepherd.” We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.


3. Prayer for the Preservation of the Faith

O my Redeemer, will that dreadful time ever come, when but few Christians shall be left who are inspired by the spirit of faith, that time when Thine anger shall be provoked and Thy protection shall be take away from us? Have our vices and our evil lives irrevocably moved Thy justice to take vengeance, perhaps this very day, upon Thy children? O Thou, the beginning and end of our faith, we conjure Thee, in the bitterness of our contrite and humbled hearts, not to suffer the fair light of faith to be extinguished in us. Remember Thy mercies of old, turn Thine eyes in mercy upon the vineyard planted by Thine own right hand, and watered by the sweat of the Apostles, by the precious blood of countless Martyrs and by the tears of so many sincere penitents, and made fruitful by the prayers of so many Confessors and innocent Virgins. O divine Mediator, look upon those zealous souls who raise their hearts to Thee and pray ceaselessly for the maintenance of that most precious gift of Thine, the true faith. We beseech Thee, O God of justice, to hold back the decree of our rejection, and to turn away Thine eyes from our vices and regard instead the adorable Blood shed upon the Cross, which purchased our salvation and daily intercedes for us upon our altars. Ah, keep us safe in the true Catholic and Roman faith. Let sickness afflict us, vexations waste us, misfortunes overwhelm us! But preserve in us Thy holy faith; for if we are rich with this precious gift, we shall gladly endure every sorrow, and nothing shall ever be able to change our happiness. On the other hand, without this great treasure of faith, our unhappiness would be unspeakable and without limit! O good Jesus, author of our faith, preserve it untainted within us; keep us safe in the bark of Peter, faithful and obedient to his successor and Thy Vicar here on earth, that so the unity of Holy Church may be maintained, holiness fostered, the Holy See protected in freedom, and the Church universal extended to the benefit of souls. O Jesus, author of our faith, humble and convert the enemies of Thy Church; grant true peace and concord to all Christian kings and princes and to all believers; strengthen and preserve us in Thy holy service, so that we may live in Thee and die in Thee. O Jesus, author of our faith, let me live for Thee and die for Thee. Amen.


4. Prayer to the Sorrowful Mother for the Church and the Pontiff

Most Holy Virgin and Mother, your soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the passion of your divine Son, and in His glorious resurrection, you were filled with unending joy in His triumph! Obtain for us who call upon you, to be such partakers in the adversities of holy Church and in the sorrows of the Sovereign Pontiff as to be found worthy to rejoice with them in the consolations for which we pray, in the charity and peace of the same Christ our Lord. Amen.


5. Prayer for the Authorities of the Church

We pray Thee, O Almighty and Eternal God,
who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations,
to preserve the works of Thy mercy;
that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world,
may continue, with unchanging faith,
in the confession of Thy name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy,
to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal,
and sanctity of life our chief bishop, N.,
the Vicar of our Lord Jesus Christ in the government of His Church;
our own Bishop, (or Archbishop,) N.,
(if he is not consecrated, our Bishop-elect);
all other Bishops, Prelates, and Pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed
to exercise among us the functions of the holy ministry,
and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee, O God of might, wisdom, and justice,
through whom authority is rightly administered,
laws are enacted, and judgments decreed, assist,
with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude,
the President of these United States,
that his administration may be conducted in righteousness,
and be eminently useful to Thy people,
over whom he presides,
by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion;
by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy;
and by restraining vice and immorality.
Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress,
and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our role and government; so, that they may tend to the preservation of peace,
the promotion of national happiness,
the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge,
and may perpetuate to us the blessings of equal liberty.

We pray for his Excellency the Governor of this State,
for the members of the Assembly,
for all Judges, Magistrates, and other officers
who are appointed to guard our political welfare;
that they may be enabled,
by Thy powerful protection,
to discharge the duties of their respective stations
with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise to Thy unbounded mercy
all our brethren and fellow-citizens,
throughout the United States,
that they may be blessed in the knowledge,
and sanctified in the observance of most holy law;
that they may be preserved in union,
and in that peace which the world cannot give;
and, after enjoying the blessings of this life,
be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray Thee, O Lord of mercy,
to remember the souls of Thy servants departed
who are gone before us with the sign of faith,
and repose in the sleep of peace:
the souls of our parents, relations, and friends;
of those who, when living, were members of this congregation;
and particularly of such as are lately deceased;
of all benefactors who,by their donations or legacies to this Church,
witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship,
and proved their claim to our grateful
and charitable remembrance.
To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ,
grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment,
light, and everlasting peace,
through the same Jesus Christ,
our Lord and Savior.



6. Prayer to the Virgin: Remedy Against Evil Spirits

August Queen of Heaven, sovereign Mistress of the Angels, thou who from the beginning hast received from God the power and the mission to crush the head of Satan, we humbly beseech thee to send thy holy legions, that under thy command and by thy power they may pursue the evil spirits, encounter them on every side, resist their bold attacks, and drive them hence into eternal woe.

Who is like unto God?

O good and tender Mother, thou willest always to be our love and our hope.

O Mother of God, send thy holy Angels to defend us and drive far from us the cruel enemy.

Holy Angels and Archangels, defend us and keep us. Amen.5


7. Traditional Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.6



Related Lists on SPL

  1. CCC § 522, fns. removed. []
  2. CCC § 834, citing, St. Maximus the Confessor, Opuscula theo.:PG 91:137-140. []
  3. CCC § 813; remember that in Latin the soul is the anima – it is that which animates; thus, the Holy Spirit, as the soul of the Church, animates the Church. []
  4. Composed by Archbishop Carroll in 1800; Prayers 1-5 are taken from Catholic Prayers. []
  5. “Indulgenced by St. Pius X on July 8, 1908. Original text from the prayer dictated by Our Lady to Father Cestac on January 13, 1864. It is recommended to learn it by heart.” Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. []
  6. EWTN Translation. []

Bible Study: 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Biblical Interpretation

7 Essential Principles for Catholic Study
Click to view on Amazon.

Listers, “what does a Catholic approach to Scripture study look like?” This is the question Dr. Steven C. Smith takes up in his work 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Scripture Study: The Word of the Lord. The book strikes an excellent balance between academic insights and a tone/format that is easily accessible to the everyday Catholic. His Eminence Cardinal George comments, “this is a helpful book at a time when the relations between Scripture and Tradition and Scripture and Divine Revelation are background for many other conversations in the Church today.” In the Foreward by Dr. Scott Hahn, the Scripture scholar states, “most importantly, readers are guided step by step through seven principles of Catholic biblical interpretation by a veteran teacher of Sacred Scripture at Mount St. Mary’s seminary, one of the oldest and most respected houses of formation in the United States. From years of experience in the classroom and parish, Dr. Smith is able to communicate clearly for a wide range of readers, from seminarians and clergy to young adults and professionals.” The following are the principle titles and descriptions as written in Dr. Smith’s work. SPL highly suggests 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Scripture Study as a proper introduction to reading Holy Scripture as a Catholic.1




Principle 1: God’s Word: Divine Words in Human Language

Catholic Biblical Interpretation is governed by the firm belief that Scripture is the inspired word of God, expressed in human language. God’s Word was written under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit and – at the same time – was written by true human authors with their intellectual capacities and limitations The thought and the words belong both to God and to human beings in such a way that the whole Bible comes simultaneously from God and from the inspired human authors.2


Principle 2: God’s Word is Revealed in History

Catholic Biblical Interpretation is profoundly concerned with history because of the nature of biblical revelation and the Living Word who revealed himself to humanity in history (John 1:14). Yet, Scripture can never be reduced to the natural order but fully affirms the supernatural and God’s intervention in history. Interpretation of a biblical text must be consistent with the meaning expressed by the human authors. Thus, Catholic exegetes must place biblical texts in their ancient contexts, helping to clarify the meaning of the biblical authors’ message for their original audience and for the contemporary reader.3


Principle 3: God’s Word is Revealed in History

Catholic Biblical Interpretation is grounded in the firm belief that there is one source of Divine revelation: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The living presence of God’s Word in the Church’s life through time “flow from the same one divine wellspring” (DV, 9) and “form one sacred deposit of the word of God” (DV, 10). It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the biblical canon (DV, 8) and it is above all Sacred Tradition that helps us to truly and properly understand the Word of God.4


Principle 4: God’s Word: Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture

Catholic biblical interpretation insists upon the unity and coherence of the whole canon of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. This unitive dimension of the word of God is evident in many ways; Catholic exegetes should be particularly aware of three:

The Theme of Covenant
Biblical Typology
Recapitulation in Christ

In these and other ways, we affirm Augustine’s conclusion: “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.”5


Principle 5: God’s Word Has Meanings(s)

Catholic Biblical interpretation affirms that God’s Word is rich in meaning and a multiplicity of approaches can assist the exegete in explaining texts. No one method of interpretation is adequate in itself to plumb the depths of Scripture. Catholic exegetes thus benefit from exploration of various methods, including ancient, medieval, and modern biblical scholarship. Such an array of approaches can cast valuable light on the Sacred Page, provided one “reads” them within the tradition of the Church and according to the hermeneutics faith.6


Principle 6: God’s Word Requires Sound, Balanced, Methodological Analysis

Catholic biblical interpretation requires sound and balanced analysis. In the end, all analysis should be based upon excellence in scholarship, encountered from a robust Christian faith, and reflect pastoral concern and the needs of God’s people. Three essential criteria for ensuring such control in one’s exegesis of Sacred Scripture:

1. Attention to the content and unity of the Bible
2. Reading all of Scripture within the living Tradition of the Church
3. Reference to the analogy (or rule) of faith.7


Principle 7: God’s Word is Life-giving and Active!

God’s inspired word fulfills a life-giving, foundational, and authoritative role in the life of the Church. Thus, Catholic biblical interpretation does not conclude with an understanding of words, concepts and events. It must seek to arrive at the reality of which the language speaks, a transcendent reality, communication with God. The Church is called to continually actualize the ancient texts as the Word for today, and embody it in all situations and cultures. To this end, the Catholic student of Scripture must have competence in all of the previous principles so that he/she can read, study, pray and proclaim Scripture faithfully and clearly with full confidence in their transformative power.8


Once again, please visit Dr. Smith’s personal website and check out his 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Scripture Study.



New list coming soon on how to read Scripture as a Catholic – or just how to read it correctly. #catholic #catholicism #bible

A photo posted by St. Peter’s List (@stpeterslist) on


More Lists on Holy Scripture


  1. Dr. Smith’s personal website is The God Who Speaks. []
  2. Id. 17. []
  3. Id. 61. []
  4. Id. 85. []
  5. Id. 109. []
  6. Id. 161. []
  7. Id. 199. []
  8. Id. 215. []

26 Quotes from Pope Francis’ Visit to Washington D.C. and New York City

Listers, Pope Francis’ visit to the United States is one marked with historic firsts. His Holiness Pope Francis was the first Roman Pontiff to address a full joint session of the U.S. Congress. Second, Pope Francis was the first Vicar of Christ to address the United Nations at the opening of a General Assembly. As expected, Pope Francis’ remarks were difficult to predict and the reactions to his words ranged from unrestrained praise to unadulterated criticism. The following graphics display how different sources highlighted different aspects of the pontiff’s speeches.




9:15 a.m. Welcome ceremony and meeting with President Obama at the White House
11:00 a.m. Papal Parade along the Ellipse and the National Mall (time approximate)
11:30 a.m. Midday Prayer with the bishops of the United States, St. Matthew’s Cathedral
4:15 p.m. Mass of Canonization of Junipero Serra, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception


US Francis 1

US Francis 2

US Francis 3


9:20 a.m. Address to Joint Meeting of the United States Congress
11:15 a.m. Visit to St. Patrick in the City and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington
4:00 p.m. Depart from Joint Base Andrews
5:00 p.m. Arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport
6:45 p.m. Evening Prayer (Vespers) at St. Patrick’s Cathedral


US Francis 4

US Francis 5

US Francis 6

US Francis 7

US Francis 9

US Francis 10

US Francis 12

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US Francis 8

US Francis 11


8:30 a.m. Visit to the United Nations and Address to the United Nations General Assembly
11:30 a.m. Multi-religious service at 9/11 Memorial and Museum, World Trade Center
4:00 p.m. Visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels School, East Harlem
5:00 p.m. Procession through Central Park (time approximate)
6:00 p.m. Mass at Madison Square Garden


US Francis 16

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16 Practical Tips for Creating & Maintaining Your Daily Prayer Habit

Prayer is such a crucial part of the faithful practice of Catholicism but many of us struggle, at least at one time or another, to keep a regular prayer life. Maybe we’re busy in school, busy raising a family, busy at work, or even all of those at the same time, and find that somehow prayer seems too often to slip through the cracks. To help you keep prayer a regular part of your daily life we offer these practical tips which have helped us pray more regularly.

Listers, many of the most-read lists we’ve published are prayer focused: the best prayers to say before bed, really short prayers to say throughout the day, or even prayers recommended by an exorcist to fight evil, and of course the Latin prayers we should all know. We’ve also covered questions about prayer like why prayers aren’t always answered, and much, much more. This shouldn’t be surprising since prayer is such a crucial part of the faithful practice of Catholicism. However most of us also struggle, at least at one time or another, to keep a regular prayer life. Maybe you’re busy in school, busy raising a family, busy at work, or even all of those at the same time, and find that somehow prayer seems too often to slip through the cracks. To help you keep prayer a regular part of your daily life we offer these practical tips which have helped us pray more regularly. Of course, if you have tips to share please do so in the comments and we’ll highlight the best.

Use your iPhone to remind you of prayer

1. Use your Phone

Every smartphone has both built-in and third-party apps for reminders. Use the “repeat” function to set daily reminders to pray. If you are the kind of person who uses your calendar for planning out your tasks for the day, schedule time for prayer. Pictured above, the fantastic Due app for iOS is a great choice for iPhone users.

2. Be Specific

When you schedule prayer on your calendar, or add it to your to do list, don’t just say “Pray” but rather be specific and say something like “Pray the Rosary” or “Pray the Hail Holy Queen”. This removes what psychologists call decision avoidance, or what the rest of us call putting something off because it’s too hard to decide what to do. The whole point of a reminder is so that you don’t have to decide when to pray, add some specificity and you won’t have to decide what to pray in the moment either. Of course, once you’ve said your prayer you can add extemporaneous, or other prayers as you wish. This is just a way to help get things started.


Frame a prayer and place it somewhere visible

3. Place a framed prayer in plain sight

Often we just think about whatever is in front of us, so put some prayers in plain sight by writing them out, and framing them. Then you can hang them on the wall, or use the frames’ built-in stand to place them on a flat surface. Some good spots to consider might be near the sink in your kitchen, on your desk, on your nightstand, by the sink in your bathroom, on a bookcase you walk by frequently, or on a hall or entryway table.


Ave Maria written on bathroom mirror

EXPO Dry-Erase marker

4. No frame? Write a prayer on your bathroom mirror

As a convert there are many beautiful prayers from tradition which I do not know by heart and need to see over and over to remember, this simple tip is how I learned to pray the Memorare and made sure I saw it every day: Take a dry-erase marker and copy the prayer right onto the mirror in your bathroom. Now, every time you brush your teeth you can say a prayer. Bonus: Pick a long enough prayer and it’s a good way to make sure you’re brushing as much as you ought to.


Morning Prayer reminder on iPhone

5. Turn your morning alarm into a reminder to pray

If you use your phone to wake up in the morning, and it has the ability to edit the name of the alarm, change it to something like “Get up! Offer the day to God.” or “Good morning! Thank God for it!”


Modest Catholic home prayer shelf

6. Make a place for prayer

We’ve written about home altars before, and they’re a great option for making a dedicated space for prayer. Maybe your current situation does not allow for something very elaborate, that is ok. A simple cloth napkin with a small crucifix, perhaps some prayer cards and a tea light candle can be a dignified, if diminutive prayer corner. Having a dedicated space will be a reminder of, and an invitation to prayer whenever you see it.


Use Catholic Holy Cards as Bookmarks

7. Use prayers or holy cards as bookmarks

This is particularly useful for students: keep your place in books with prayers or holy cards and before you start reading pause to pray. Some Saints’ cards you might consider are St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, especially when studying, St. Josemaria, and St. Joseph the Worker for your business reading.

8. Change your wallpaper

You know that giant background on your computer, iPad, or phone? You can change that. Consider finding an image that reminds you of prayer, or even using a free website or app to add a simple prayer to your favorite image. Some of these really short prayers might work well.




9. Put an icon & prayer on your computer desktop

Another option is simply saving a holy image right to your computer’s desktop. Most computers can be set to show a preview of files, and you’ll have a small icon (in a couple senses) right on your desktop. You can also copy-and-paste prayers into simple text files or word documents and save right to your desktop.

10. Pray while exercising

My very favorite exercise is simply walking outdoors. I usually go on several walks every day, and nearly always pray the Rosary on my first walk. In my experience, being in the gym and lifting weights isn’t an environment well suited to lengthy prayer times – but if you’re a runner or enjoy walks like I do, try praying a rosary instead of cranking up the music or podcasts next time.

11. Turn your commute into adoration

No, you probably shouldn’t set up a mobile adoration chapel but if you live in a city where your commute is a nightmare, consider stopping by a church and praying for a few minutes rather than sitting at the office or in traffic. The traffic will be there, you may not be home until later anyway, so check for churches that may be along your commute and see if you might be able to spend some time in God’s presence.


12. Put a holy water font by your door

My father and mother-in-law recently gave my wife and me this beautiful little holy water font which belonged to my wife’s grandmother. I promptly installed it by our front door and more than being a family heirloom, it serves as a reminder to invoke the name of the Holy Trinity every time we are coming or going from our home. If your in-laws aren’t as great as mine, you can always find holy water fonts at local Catholic shops or even online.


Put holy cards on your desk to remind you of prayer

13. Place a holy card on your desk

Spend a lot of time at a desktop computer? Consider keeping a holy card taped to the computer monitor’s bezel, or propped up in the keyboard by the otherwise totally useless “function” keys. Or, simply place it on the desk but beware of it simply getting lost in the shuffle of regular papers.


Moleskine-like prayer journal

14. Keep a weekly prayer journal

What I say: “Oh my! I’ll pray for you.” What actually I do: forget. What I say: “Oh, that sounds like a great oppourtunity, I’ll say a prayer for you!” What I actually do: forget. What I say: “I’m so sorry to hear that, I’ll pray for you.” What I actually do: forget. I’m sure you can’t possibly relate to this, but here’s the weapon I’ve used to (mostly) overcome this terrible vice: A prayer journal. It is nothing fancy, just a simple black moleskine-styled notebook. We keep two lists in the notebook, one for things for which we want to give thanks, and another for prayer requests. Each Sunday, we turn the page, and update the lists for the week. Now, when I tell someone “I’ll pray for you” I either do it instantly, or add it to our prayer journal for the week.

15. Set your homepage to a prayer

Change your browser’s homepage to a favorite prayer. Perhaps one of our lists, Father Z’s Prayer Before Connecting to the Internet, or something from EWTN’s page of prayers. Then whenever you open up your browser, pause for a brief prayer.


girl praying

16. Pray with your family

Finally, the number one thing you can do develop a habit of prayer is to create a culture of prayer in your family. Make a point of praying together before and after meals, pray the Angelus as a family at noon if you’re together, pray the Rosary after dinner, pray compline at the end of the day, etc. Make it a regular practice, and hold each other accountable. For a fantastic introduction to creating a culture of prayer in your home, we highly recommend this book filled with practical advice and ageless principles: The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home by David Clayton & Leila Marie Lawler.

Remember, these aren’t prescriptions which we think everyone must practice, just some ideas which have helped us keep prayer a regular part of our daily lives. If you have tips to share please do so in the comments below and we’ll highlight the best.

Monks & Beer: 13 Paintings by Eduard von Grützner

Listers, Eduard Theodor Ritter von Grützner (May 26, 1846 – April 2, 1925) was a German painter and professor of art especially noted for his genre paintings of monks. Grützner was, along with Carl Spitzweg and Franz von Defregger, one of Munich’s leading genre painters in the second half of the 19th century. The paintings of Grützner are best known for their combination of detailed academic rendering with humorous and anecdotal subject matter, often depicting monks drinking.1


Other Lists on SPL


  Eduard Grutzner (1846-1925), Monch Mit Bierkrug. Oil on canvas.
Eduard Grutzner (1846-1925), Monch Mit Bierkrug. Oil on canvas.

In der Studierstube.
In der Studierstube.

Beschauliche Ruhe.
Beschauliche Ruhe.


Das Kartenspiel.
Das Kartenspiel.

Lesender Mönch mit Weinglas.
Lesender Mönch mit Weinglas.

Mönch bei der Weinprobe.
Mönch bei der Weinprobe.

Nach schwerer Sitzung.
Nach schwerer Sitzung.

Moine dégustant.
Moine dégustant.

Kardinal mit singenden und trinkenden Weissen Vätern.
Kardinal mit singenden und trinkenden Weissen Vätern.

Das Backhändl.
Das Backhändl.


Benediktinermönch mit Wein beim Frühschoppen.
Benediktinermönch mit Wein beim Frühschoppen.

  1. Taken verbatim from the Eduard Grutzner Wikipedia page; all paintings were taken from Wikicommons. []

When the World’s Statesmen Called for a Patron: 24 Quotes on Thomas More’s Sainthood

Listers, St. Thomas More is known as the “Man for All Seasons” – but he is also a man claimed by all ages. Exactly why Sir Thomas More became a saint is a question that seems to draw out competing philosophies. In the petition to have More declared a saint, the petitioners wrote, “He was a martyr of freedom in the most modern sense of the word, for he opposed the attempt of power to command the conscience.” The modern St. Thomas More is often praised for his unconquerable conscience. This coloring of St. Thomas More is not a surprise given the aim of modernity. The grand project of modernity is to emancipate the human will from God, nature, history, and even reason. All that remains is the unbridled human will. The modern praise of More seems to have a modern hue. Consequently, he becomes a saint of autonomy – a man who had a “adamantine sense of self” that refused to break.

The unconquerable conscience of More is predicated not on his autonomy but on his fidelity to Holy Mother Church.

It is not that the modern notion is necessarily wrong in what is asserts, but rather its assertion is incomplete. What is missing from these considerations is the ancient notion of a well-formed conscience. The modern sentiments deemphasize whether or not More’s conscience was actually correct and focus primarily on him standing up for what he believes. The traditional praises of More focus on his well-formed conscience. In the modern notion it does not matter if More was Catholic or not. He could be a saint for any individual who stands up for what they believe. In modernity’s project of autonomy, staying true to one’s conscience is admirable, but the contents of one’s conscience are far less important. In contrast, the traditional More – and arguably the authentically Catholic one – begs students of his life to examine his conscience. Unpacking More’s well-formed conscience brings up topics of natural law, the virtues, political engagement, the Church’s role in civil life, and the Catholic Church as Christ’s only Church. Under the traditional view, the unconquerable conscience of More is predicated not on his autonomy but on his fidelity to Holy Mother Church. He had formed his conscience according to the Church, and when the world asked him to betray her, he knew exactly who he was in Christ Jesus. There is little doubt the authentically Catholic Thomas More makes the modern world uncomfortable; thus, there is a push – both inside and outside the Church – to refashion More as a modern hero of autonomy.


William Frederick Yeames, The meeting of Sir Thomas More with his daughter after his sentence of death, 1872. Wikipedia.
William Frederick Yeames, The meeting of Sir Thomas More with his daughter after his sentence of death, 1872. Wikipedia.




1. Christian Steadfastness
The Christian steadfastness which Thomas More demonstrated in martyrdom has made his name famous down through the centuries. In his own lifetime, he was already known throughout Europe for his scholarship and his innovative views, which led him, for example, to give his daughters the same education his son received – a revolutionary development in those times.1


2. Utopia – The Intellectual Puzzle
His work as a writer — especially his translations of the Greek satirist Lucian, his collection of original poems, and his great classic Utopia — lent his name incomparable prestige. Utopia continues to be Thomas More’s best-known work. Modeled on Plato’s Republic, this intellectual puzzle is one of the finest case studies ever devised for the political philosopher and the student of human nature. Like the Republic, Utopia is filled with internal contradictions that invite the attentive reader to think deeply about the perennial ethical values which give meaning to personal and social life.


3. Famous Last Words
His last words, “I die the King’s good servant and God’s first,” remain an inspiration for all those who dedicate their lives to the service of the common good.


4. Holiness as the Fullness of Humanity
It reflects, moreover, an admiration which transcends the specific contributions that Saint Thomas More made in the various fields in which he worked — as humanist, apologist, judge, legislator, diplomat and statesman — and focuses on the man himself: the idea that holiness is the fulness of humanity appears, in this case, quite tangibly true.


5. Model of Moral Integrity
Your Holiness’s predecessor in the Chair of Peter, Pope Pius XI, in the Bull of Canonization, presented Saint Thomas More as a model of proven moral integrity for all Christians and defined him as laicorum hominum decus et ornamentum.


6. Faith & Culture
In Saint Thomas More, there was no sign of that split between faith and culture, between timeless principles and daily life, which the Second Vatican Council laments as “among of the gravest errors of our time” (Gaudium et spes, n. 43).


7. Founder of Common Law
As a lawyer and judge, he established the interpretation and formulation of laws (he is rightly considered one of the founders of the study of the English common law) which safeguard true social justice and build peace between individuals and nations.


8. The Patron of the Poor
More eager to eliminate the causes of injustice than to repress it, he did not separate his passionate but prudent advocacy of the common good from the constant practice of charity: his fellow citizens called him the “patron of the poor.” An unconditional and benevolent dedication to justice with regard to the human person and liberty was the guiding rule of his conduct as a magistrate. While serving all men, Saint Thomas More knew well how to serve his king, that is the state, but wanted above all to serve God.


9. World’s Public Servants Call for a Patron
The timeliness of this convergence of political commitment and moral conviction, this harmony between the supernatural and the human, and this seamless unity of life have caused many public servants from various countries to join the Committee for the Proclamation of Sir Thomas More, Saint and Martyr, as Patron of Politicians.


10. Politics – A Difficult Form of Service
Politics was not, for him, a matter of personal advantage, but rather an often difficult form of service, for which he had prepared himself not only through the study of the history, laws and culture of his own country, but also and especially through the examination of human nature, its grandeur and weaknesses, and of the ever-imperfect conditions of social life.


11. A Modern Martyr of Freedom
He was a martyr of freedom in the most modern sense of the word, for he opposed the attempt of power to command the conscience: a perennial temptation — one to which the history of the 20th century bears tragic witness — of political regimes that do not recognize anything superior to themselves.


12. Martyr for Primacy of Conscience
A martyr for freedom, then, precisely because he was a martyr for the primacy of conscience which, firmly grounded in the search for the truth, renders us responsible for our decisions, that is to say, masters of ourselves and thus free from all bonds except that bond — proper to a creature — which binds us to God.


13. We Ask Sir Thomas More to Become a Saint
Therefore, certain that we act for the good of future society and trusting that our petition will find a benevolent welcome with Your Holiness, we ask that Sir Thomas More, Saint and Martyr, faithful servant of the King, but God’s first, be proclaimed “Patron of Statesmen.”


Site of scaffold at Tower Hill where More was executed by decapitation - Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz), Wikipedia.
Site of scaffold at Tower Hill where More was executed by decapitation – Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz), Wikipedia.





14. Imperishable Example of Moral Integrity
Precisely because of the witness which he bore, even at the price of his life, to the primacy of truth over power, Saint Thomas More is venerated as an imperishable example of moral integrity.2


15. Well Ordered House & Life
Throughout his life he was an affectionate and faithful husband and father, deeply involved in his children’s religious, moral and intellectual education. His house offered a welcome to his children’s spouses and his grandchildren, and was always open to his many young friends in search of the truth or of their own calling in life. Family life also gave him ample opportunity for prayer in common and lectio divina, as well as for happy and wholesome relaxation. Thomas attended daily Mass in the parish church, but the austere penances which he practised were known only to his immediate family.


16. Appointed as Lord Chancellor
Highly esteemed by everyone for his unfailing moral integrity, sharpness of mind, his open and humorous character, and his extraordinary learning, in 1529 at a time of political and economic crisis in the country he was appointed by the King to the post of Lord Chancellor. The first layman to occupy this position, Thomas faced an extremely difficult period, as he sought to serve King and country.


17. Resigned & Reduced to Poverty
In 1532, not wishing to support Henry VIII’s intention to take control of the Church in England, he resigned. He withdrew from public life, resigning himself to suffering poverty with his family and being deserted by many people who, in the moment of trial, proved to be false friends.


18. The Trial
At his trial, he made an impassioned defence of his own convictions on the indissolubility of marriage, the respect due to the juridical patrimony of Christian civilization, and the freedom of the Church in her relations with the State. Condemned by the Court, he was beheaded.


19. Beatified in 1886
In 1850 the English Catholic Hierarchy was re-established. This made it possible to initiate the causes of many martyrs. Thomas More, together with 53 other martyrs, including Bishop John Fisher, was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886. And with John Fisher, he was canonized by Pius XI in 1935, on the fourth centenary of his martyrdom.


20. Government as an Exercise in Virtue
His life teaches us that government is above all an exercise of virtue. Unwavering in this rigorous moral stance, this English statesman placed his own public activity at the service of the person, especially if that person was weak or poor; he dealt with social controversies with a superb sense of fairness; he was vigorously committed to favouring and defending the family; he supported the all-round education of the young.


21. Politics & Morality
What enlightened his conscience was the sense that man cannot be sundered from God, nor politics from morality.


22. Rights of Conscience
And it was precisely in defence of the rights of conscience that the example of Thomas More shone brightly. It can be said that he demonstrated in a singular way the value of a moral conscience which is “the witness of God himself, whose voice and judgment penetrate the depths of man’s soul” (Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, 58), even if, in his actions against heretics, he reflected the limits of the culture of his time.


23. Freedom from the State
The defence of the Church’s freedom from unwarranted interference by the State is at the same time a defence, in the name of the primacy of conscience, of the individual’s freedom vis-à-vis political power. Here we find the basic principle of every civil order consonant with human nature.


24. St. Thomas More
Therefore, after due consideration and willingly acceding to the petitions addressed to me, I establish and declare Saint Thomas More the heavenly Patron of Statesmen and Politicians, and I decree that he be ascribed all the liturgical honours and privileges which, according to law, belong to the Patrons of categories of people.

  1. Petition Sent to St. JPII for the Proclamation of Saint Thomas More as Patron of Statesmen. []
  2. Motu Proprio Proclaiming Saint Thomas More Patron of Statesmen & Politicians. []

The SPL Weekly: Issue № 18

From SPL

This Great Sacrament We Hail: 2 Eucharistic Hymns by Thomas Aquinas
Listers, “down in adoration falling / this great sacrament we hail.” The Feast of Corpus Christi is amongst the most important feasts of the liturgical calendar, especially given our modern epidemic of misbelief or disbelief amongst Catholics in the Eucharist as the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

7 Introductory Catholic Thoughts on Machiavelli’s The Prince
Machiavelli did much more than separate morals and politics.

“In general, Machiavelli is seen as the philosopher who separated morality from politics and advocated the “end justifies the means” principle to govern political thought. At worst, he sometimes seen as the thinker who freed political thought from religion and other superfluous external moral codes, and rooted it in practical reality. However, taking the perspective of the ancients looking forward to Machiavelli – not modernity looking back – it is evident that Machiavelli did much more than separate morality from politics. He separated politics from an ordered cosmos.”

5 More Short Stories That Every Catholic Should Read
Listers, fiction has a savage appeal to authors and readers because they get entertainment out of some character’s suffering or unhappiness. However, to the credit of all fans of the written word, they also derive entertainment in a resolution, but that always means that something must first be resolved. Why are we, members of humanity, so obsessed with this tension between conflict and resolution?

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Elsewhere on the Internet

VIDEO: Corpus Christi Procession (1941)
Humbling to see thousands of Irish folk, from the Army to young children, process publicly through the streets of Cork and adore the Eucharist.

NYT runs dung-caked Mary painting again, won’t run Muhammad cartoons
The paper previously defended its decision not to run Muhammad cartoons because they “do not normally publish images or other material deliberately intended to offend religious sensibilities.” Our Blessed Mother covered in elephant dung? No problem, evidently.

VIDEO: What to Expect from Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the Environment

“It is not as if the Catholic Church has never commented on environmental issues ever before in the past. So, here is what the encyclical will contain…”

Marian Devotion As The Best Christian Answer To Modernity

“If the modern heresies are really a coordinated assault on human nature, then what better response than to contemplate and put forward God’s masterpiece among His creatures, the one in whom human nature is most perfected by grace?”

Should Children be in Church or in Cry Rooms?

“a loud Mass, one which includes plenty of gooing and gaaing, is a sign of a healthy parish. Young people are getting married and having babies, lots of them, and providing more souls for the kingdom of heaven.  It would be a pity to shove these little victories aside for our own selfish feelings.”

Pope Francis Decries ‘Crisis’ of Traditional Marriage
Pope Francis breaks silence on Irish “Yes Vote”:

“Less than a week after Ireland’s landslide passage of a gay marriage referendum, which the Vatican qualified as ‘a defeat for humanity,’ Pope Francis underscored the indispensable role of mothers and fathers and said that when marriage is seen ‘as a mere form of emotional gratification,’ it loses its value for society.”

Cardinal Kasper Back Pedals on Papal Endorsement of Controversial Proposal
Good, good, good.

“No … he did not approve my proposal. The Pope wanted that I put the question, and afterwards in a general way, before all the Cardinals, he expressed his satisfaction with my talk. But not the end, not in the … I wouldn’t say he approved the proposal, no, no, no.”

One Chancery, Six Charges – Twin Cities Church Hit With Criminal Counts

“Two years since a storm of revelations of abuse and cover-up began bearing down on the archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis, yesterday saw the tumult take yet another eruptive turn as the bankrupt Twin Cities church was institutionally charged with six “gross misdemeanors” of child endangerment stemming from its handling of a now-jailed and laicized cleric whose pattern of misconduct is alleged to have continued into 2011.”

Pope Francis wants Vatican liturgy chief to continue the work of Benedict XVI

“Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, revealed in a letter sent to a liturgical conference this week that when he was appointed to his post, Pope Francis indicated a desire to continue the liturgical work done by his predecessor as Bishop of Rome.”

Why I Am NOT Leaving the Catholic Church

“Before I became Catholic, I disdained the Church for many of the reasons that caused people to fall away from the Faith. But to paraphrase Chesterton, I thought I had tried the Catholic Church and found it wanting, when in fact I had found it difficult and left untried. Once I truly opened myself up – opened myself simply to being fair to the Church, to considering the infinite Truths it tenderly cared for in spite of and in the midst of the Church shepherds’ small or glaring imperfections, I realized that the Church is a Truth and a Body unlike any other.”

The Economist on the man crisis

“As a free-market oriented publication, The Economist is usually very interested in incentives and bargaining. The working class men they are talking about are rational agents: they are responding to incentives. The change in behaviour The Economist describes from the hard-working, dependable working class men of yore to the selfish layabouts to today – both stereotypical generalisations, but with a grain of truth – is, therefore, a response to incentives. The Economist’s powers of economic analysis seem to have deserted it here, however: the articles display no interest in how useful incentives could be restored in some form.”

On the Purpose of Aridity in the Spiritual Life

“None of us who commit to prayer and the spiritual life enjoy those periods during which prayer, liturgy, or spiritual reading seem dry or dull. But such moments are necessary—or so it would seem—for God permits them.”

Don’t miss the lovely recording of Sicut Cervus at the bottom of the page.

Pope Francis on Medjugorje: it’s almost decision time

“When asked by a Bosnian journalist about the status of his decision on the Marian apparitions in Medjugorje on his flight from Sarajevo to Rome, Pope Francis said that after a lengthy study, a decision could be coming soon.”

African, European bishops’ meeting promotes an authentic ‘joy of the family

“The participants included bishops from Africa and eastern Europe, who were among the strongest defenders of the Church’s traditional teaching and practice at the 2014 Synod of Bishops, and who are certain to promote Christian values and to counter any initiatives that would go beyond Catholic teaching.”

What ‘renewing the Church’ really requires
Wow. Very straight talk from Archbishop Chaput, here’s a sample:

“So, what is to be done? We can start by understanding that the Church 20 years from now — even here in Philadelphia, which values tradition so highly — will be smaller, less wealthy, less influential and probably less free to do her work than at any time in the last century. For believers, our job, starting now, is to make sure she is also more zealous, more faithful and better led.”

Holy See puts Fellay in charge of trying one of his own priests

“This is not the first time the SSPX has made recourse to Rome when it comes to delicta graviora and dispensations from priestly obligations. What is new in this case is that the former Holy Office headed by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller has decided to entrust the case to Mgr. Fellay himself, making him first-instance trial judge.”

Transgender Surgery Isn’t the Solution
Is society placing politics over science? Dr. McHugh, former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital:

“This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken—it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.”

‘Call me Caitlyn, or else’: the rise of authoritarian transgender politics
Society demands we praise.

“The photo is indeed iconic. And not just in the shallow celeb meaning of that word. It’s iconic in the traditional sense, too, in that it’s being venerated as an actual icon, a devotional image of an apparently holy human. It’s an image we’re all expected to bow down to, whose essential truth we must imbibe; an image you question or ridicule at your peril, with those who refuse to genuflect before it facing excommunication from polite society. Yesterday’s Jennermania confirms how weirdly authoritarian, even idolatrous, trans politics has become.”

Corpus Christi: No Other Religion Has Dared This

“Apart from Christianity, no other religion has ever dared assert such a close propinquity between God and men. Indeed, even among Christians, all do not believe in the reality of this presence.”


“The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.” — G.K. Chesterton

Thank you for reading!

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Night Holds No Terror: 7 of the Best Psalms to Pray Before Bed

Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.

Compline via
Compline via

Listers, the Liturgy of the Hours is a gift from Sacred Tradition that allows the Faithful to truly pray without ceasing. Though quite complex, this rich tradition is basically the Psalms adorned with hymns and other prayers. The Holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours are the only two public prayers of the Church. It is also interesting to note that under Canon Law, the Liturgy of the Hours is a requirement of all Roman Catholic priests and deacons. Though the Liturgy of the Hours has prayers for the entire day, the following list is a selection of Psalms from the prayers called Compline. Compline is “night prayer” and stems from the same Latin word as the word complete, because the prayers of Compline complete the day.

The following list highlights some of the more striking and thematic verses of the Compline psalms. Particularly after the Second Vatican Council, the psalms selected for compline thematically reflect the trust we have in God at the end of each day. We are going to sleep, and we pray that God may watch over us – even when we are surrounded by our enemies. The theme is perfectly captured by the antiphon: “Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.” May God grant all us of quiet night and a peaceful death.



Saturday Night (Sunday Vigil)

When I call, answer me, O God of Justice;
from anguish you released me;
have mercy and hear me!

O men, how long will your hearts be closed,
will you love what is futile and seek what is false?


“What can bring us happiness?” many say.
Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord.

You have put into my heart a greater joy,
than they have from abundance of corn and new wine.1


Sunday Night

It is he who will free you from the snare
of the fowler who seeks to destroy you;
he will conceal you with his pinions
and under his wings you will find refuge.

You will not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day
nor the plague that prowls in the darkness
nor the scourge that lays waste at noon

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand fall at your right,
you, it will never approach
his faithfulness is buckler and shield.2


Monday Night

In the day of distress I will call
and surely you will reply.
Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord;
nor work to compare with yours.


The proud have risen against me;
ruthless men seek my life:
to you they pay no heed.

But you, God of mercy and compassion,
slow to anger, O Lord,
abounding in love and truth,
turn and take pity me.3


Tuesday Night

The enemy pursues my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me dwell in darkness
like the dead, long forgotten
Therefore my Spirit fails;
my heart in numb within me.


Lord, make haste and answer;
for my spirit fails within me.
Do not hide your face
lest I become like those in the grave.4


Wednesday Night

My soul is waiting for the Lord,
I count on his word.
My soul is longing for the Lord
more than watchman count on daybreak
Let the watchman count on daybreak
and Israel on the Lord.

Because with the Lord there is mercy
and fullness of redemption,
Israel indeed he will redeem
from all its iniquity.5


Thursday Night

He has put into my heart a marvelous love
for the faithful ones who dwell in his land.
Those who choose other gods increase their sorrows.
Never will I offer their offerings of blood.
Never will I take their name upon my lips.

O Lord, it you who are my portion and cup;
it is you yourself who are my prize.
The lot marked out for me is my delight:
welcome indeed the heritage that falls to me!6


Friday Night

For my soul is filled with evils;
my life is on the brink of the grave.
I am reckoned as one in the tomb:
I have reached the end of my strength,

like one alone among the dead;
like the slain lying in their graves;
like those you remember no more,
cut off, as they are, from your hand.


Wretched, close to death from my youth,
I have borne your trials; I am numb.
Your fury has swept down upon me;
your terrors have utterly destroyed me.

They surround me all the day like a flood,
they assail me all together.
Friend and neighbor you have taken away:
my one companion is darkness.


Concluding Prayers

Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee to we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

May almighty God grant us a quiet night and a peaceful death. Amen.


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Compline #prayer #catholic #catholicism #saints #jesus

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Night Prayer – #compline #prayer #catholic

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  1. Psalm 4; also read Psalm 134. []
  2. Psalm 91; the antiphon for this particular psalm is where this list draws its name: Night holds no terrors for me sleeping under God’s wings. []
  3. Psalm 86. []
  4. Psalms 143:1-11. []
  5. Psalm 130; read also Psalm 31:1-6. []
  6. Psalm 16. []

The SPL Weekly: Issue № 16


Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.
V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray. O God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in eis ignem accende.
V. Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur.
R. Et renovabis faciem terrae.
Oremus. Deus, qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti: da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere; et de eius semper consolatione gaudere. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

What We Published

Great Books: 31 Political Works Recommended by Faithful Catholic Colleges
Listers, certain “Great Books” have shaped the course of the Western world. Mortimer J. Adler, a Roman Catholic philosopher and professor, presented three criterion for a book to be considered “great,” he stated:

  1. The book has contemporary significance: that is, it has relevance to the problems and issues of our times.
  2. The book is inexhaustible: it can be read again and again with benefit.
  3. The book is relevant to a large number of the great ideas and great issues that have occupied the minds of thinking individuals for the last 25 centuries.

While over one hundred universities and colleges in the United States and Canada have some form of a Great Books program, SPL has relied on three to compile this list: Thomas Aquinas College, the University of Dallas, and Ave Maria University.

I Smell Heresy – 11 Cardinal Burke Memes
I Smell Heresy

May Catholics Overthrow or Even Kill a Tyrant? – 9 Comments by Aquinas
What options do Catholics have?
“In contemplating the assassination of Julius Caesar, a young Aquinas seemed to state that not only can a Catholic kill a tyrant, there are times he should be praised for it. Later in life, when writing at the request of the King of Cyprus, Aquinas takes a very different view…”

Elsewhere on the Internet

Foster Care and Religious Freedom

“As federal, state, and local governments continue to expand their laws and regulations regarding gender identity, conflicts over religious objections are sure to grow. Judging by an item on the website of the Department of Health and Human Services, one flash point could well be foster parenting.”

How an Iraqi friar saved ancient Christian manuscripts from IS

“You are going to get us killed with your archives," Michaeel’s assistant Watheq Qassab grumbled as he struggled to carry six boxes of the documents dated between the 13th and 19th century across the border from Iraq into Kurdistan in August last year.”

For Beauty and Prayer Plant a Mary Garden

“The early Christians, especially during the Middles Ages, knew not only the names but also the meanings behind the flowers. As they planted Mary Gardens, they knew larkspur stood for Our Lady’s Tears and cultivated herbs like rosemary symbolized Mary’s Bouquet.”

Does your family have a Mary Garden? Your parish? We welcome you to share photos of any Mary Gardnes you have in the comments section below.

Ireland has said ‘yes’ to gay marriage and ‘no’ to Catholicism

“[T]he Yes vote [i.e. yes to allowing homosexual “marriage”] was undoubtedly a reflection of growing tolerance towards gays and lesbians. But it was also a politically trendy, media backed, well financed howl of rage against Catholicism. How the Church survives this turn, is not clear. It’ll require a lot of hard work and prayers.”

The Republic of Ireland, by popular vote, has altered their very constitution to embrace homosexual “marriage”. Undoubtedly, the Church will survive this turn, of that we are promised by Christ himself. However, the nature of that survival may indeed be painful for those who remain faithful to Christ’ teachings on marriage.

Brain Williams writes at One Peter 5 about What Ireland’s Gay Marriage Vote Says About Us:

“Our contemporary culture, not just in Ireland but all of western society, has no understanding of what marriage means anymore. Now it is just legally “going steady” with whatever warm blooded mammal one wishes to identify as their soul mate, or possibly several soul mates if polygamy suits ones fancy.”

UK Priest, Fr. Blake confronts some more uncomfortable facts revealed by the resounding Yes Vote in neighboring Ireland:

“What is so remarkable is how Ireland has thrown of Catholicism, or put it another way, what is remarkable is how easy contemporary Catholicism is thrown off. Those roots which were once presumed to run deep into the Irish psyche, that helped her survive poverty and oppression, that produce enormous numbers of priests and religious who shaped the Catholic world, are shown to have been in reality shallow indeed.”

Marriage: God’s Design for Life and Love

“As with other DVDs from St. Anthony Communications, it is very beautifully produced and articulates Catholic teaching in the area of Marriage and Natural Law unambiguously and with great clarity, making this a valuable resource for parishes and schools alike.”

San Fran Teachers Shift from Contracts to Doctrine
From an open letter to Archbishop Cordilione:

“To hear a gay student, or a child of in vitro fertilization, stand on the Cathedral plaza and say: ‘This language is wrong’ echoes that young man who stood up in Nazareth quoting that same prophet Isaiah and then pronouncing to the dismay of the learned elders: ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in the hearing.’ Today, a great reversal in Church teaching is underway as we witness.”

To be clear: any “reversal” is not the Archbishiop’s doing. He is faithfully upholding Catholic teaching which is exactly his job. Also, the assertion that the Church’s teaching is somehow harmful to a “gay student, or a child of in vitro fertilization” demonstrates either a complete misunderstanding of the teaching, a misunderstanding of the nature of man, or both.

“Communion Procession” in a new Dark Age?

“It was in the nineteenth century that Catholicism in many countries was reformed very radically in its social manifestations. Cardinal Cullen, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, presided over a revolution which eliminated the centuries-old peasant Catholicism of Irish culture (elements of which I strongly suspect go back to the sixth century) and finally imposed the discipline … I nearly wrote ‘military discipline’ … of the Counter-Reformation.”

See also Part II from Fr. Hunwicke.

How to Be One Hell of a Catholic Evangelist

“Is it true that modern Catholics don’t respond to threats of hellfire and brimstone? There is no way to know, as even the mention of Hell has been expunged from almost every Catholic parish in America. Other than the word “contraceptive,” there is no word more shunned in the parish pulpit. Further, it is in this environment of diligently avoiding any mention of Hell that the Church’s numbers have dropped precipitously.”

Baltimorean Justice

“But justice operates differently. It primarily involves a focus on the individual situation between two parties. It is concerned with discerning what is right and doing so in a balanced manner. We have to trust the process. Because otherwise, emotions and prejudices rule.”

Vatican appointee says gay sex can express Christ’s ‘self-gift’

“‘The Holy Father is only a man, and is limited in how much he can know about any and every appointment,’ Father Nicholson wrote. ‘His primary language is Spanish and perhaps he has not been sufficiently briefed. And that may be done intentionally by those around him.’”

Let us pray that Pope Francis does not intend this as a sign of support for these dangerous and false beliefs.


“Not welcoming children, not being orientated to the transmission of life, as so much of our culture to is not so orientated is against nature, it is a fantasy world, that will inevitably result in serious unhappiness.”

Prophets of Truth in a Decadent Age

“We are so accustomed to hearing praise heaped upon the liturgical reform that we can too quickly forget the many clear-sighted men and women — and not just Ratzinger, even if he came to be the most famous — who spoke out against the Church’s marginalization and destruction of her own heritage at the very moment it was happening.”

This list of quotes compiled by New Liturgical Movement is worth a bookmark for reference.

Cardinal Pell: No Parent Should Fail to Teach Christ’s Core Teachings

“Our task is not to lament our situation together, but to identify the way ahead, the practical steps that can be taken. We are also called to live out the Christian virtues in a way that outsiders can admire and to speak a language sympathetic outsiders can understand.”

Parents, take 5 or 6 minutes to read this transcript of a recent speech by Cardinal Pell about the importance of your ecclesia domestica.

Everyone Benefits From Religious Liberty Protections

“The debates over state religious freedom laws has devolved into partisan and ideological warfare. But those who oppose these laws should reconsider viewing “religious liberty” as a stronghold of their opponents that they must destroy in an ideological battle. Religious liberty is not an enclave of one’s political enemies. Religious liberty protects every one of us.”

Bishops Need Science, Not Gay Propaganda

“… German bishops’ claims do not faithfully reflect psychological and medical science on the origins of same-sex attractions. Catholic bishops should not only resist pressures to conform, but should be promoting the benefits of treatment, as well as participation in the Church’s Courage apostolate.”

No. Pope Francis did not call Abbas an “Angel of Peace”

“Fr. Lombardi said that the ‘meaning to encourage the commitment to peace seems clear to me and I believe that it is necessary to specify that that the same gift of the symbol of the angel of peace is given by the Pope with this intention to many presidents and not just Abbas.’”

Also on the subject, Edward Pentin at the National Catholic Register reports:

“after giving Abbas a medallion with the figure of the angel of peace, the Pope told him: ‘The angel of peace destroys the evil spirit of war. I thought about you: may you be an angel of peace.’ It went on to say that Pope Francis did call Abbas a ‘man of peace’ during his visit to the Holy Land in 2014, but he also gave the same label to former Israeli President Shimon Peres during the same visit.”

Churches That Pay to Help Poor But Don’t Pray With Them Are Like NGOs

“This kind of assertion generally provokes surprise from those Catholics, who actually attend weekly Sunday Mass, where all of this culture-war messaging is supposedly unleashed.”

Wherein Fr. Z rants and cracks the whip

“I received word a few weeks ago about a move that was to be made in the Diocese of St. Petersburg in Florida, by the local bishop, to reduce the celebration of Holy Mass using the 1962 Missale Romanum.”

See also the coverage from One Peter 5: Bishop Lynch and the Dismantling of Summorum Pontificum

UK Bishop O’Toole Wants “Systematised Provision” of the TLM
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom:

“Somebody pinch me. This is a dream come true. This is exactly the kind of thing devotees of the Traditional Latin Mass have been looking for since…well, since the Mass was changed.”

Benedictine nuns make their home on the range

“Sister Maria Walburga Schortemeyer is at home wading through the mud and manure of a barnyard in boots, work pants, a fleece jacket, and her white veil. Minutes later, in the black-and-white habit of a Benedictine nun, she is equally at home singing psalms and praying the Divine Office in a chapel with other nuns.”

In Chilling Lawsuit, Pregnant Satanist Sues Over Abortion Restrictions

“A 22 year old pregnant Satanist going by the name “Mary” is claiming in a new lawsuit that the state’s waiting period for abortion stands against her religion.”

Please address me as Mister. I insist.

“Our society is suffering from a tyranny of informality. It is rude. It is false intimacy. It is a product of the utopian, egalitarian fiction that society is one big happy village. A friendship circle, where we’re all holding hands. Station and hierarchy should be leveled because they are so nineteenth-century. In the modern world, we are all equal — so we are all pals.”


“We live in a highly secularized society in Germany. This fact should not discourage us and make us look at harmonizing ourselves with the mainstream, but rather be an opportunity to rediscover the uniqueness of the Christian vocation in the world today.”

Five German Bishops Back Bishop’s Public Criticism of Lay Statement

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Thank you for reading!

I Smell Heresy – 11 Cardinal Burke Memes

A few light-hearted memes regarding His Eminence Cardinal Burke.

Cardinal Burke Coat of Arms



Burke Meme 9

Burke Meme 8

Burke Meme

Burke Meme 5

Burke Meme 7

Burke Meme 1

Burke Meme 2

Burke Meme 3

Burke Meme 6

Burke Meme 4

Burke Meme 10



More on Cardinal Burke from SPL: