137: Beginning Camino of St James and Various Routes (Camino 1)

About to set off from Leon. Here are some brief podcast thoughts on the various historic routes and a photo I took of the Cathedral of Leon last night (no filter). Such a beautiful place:

Buen Camino,
Dr Taylor Marshall

Can I pray for you on Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago?

I’m on my way to Spain to follow the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James) with my father:

I will be praying for all readers, video watchers, and NSTI members in general, but if you have a specific intention, please leave it in the comments below and I’ll carry your prayer with me into the Churches and finally to the resting place of Saint James the Greater within the Basilica.

Question: I won’t be posting here for awhile as I don’t know if I’ll have internet access as we move along the pilgrimage.I’ll pray for you. Leave your intentions in the comments below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: I hope to post photos and comments along the way. You can follow these photos at Instagram. My profile there is “drtaylormarshall.” Please follow me on Instagram to see our progress through Spain.

Our Sad Decline in Priestly Vocations: Most Priests will Retire in 2015-2025

I recently learned from Deacon Greg Kandra that Our Lady of Providence Seminary of of the Diocese of Providence Rhode Island has zero new seminarians:

Over the past five years, between two and six men have entered the seminary every fall but that’s not the case this year.

“Entering the fall we don’t have any new seminarians applying for the Diocese of Providence, which is rare,” Fr. Chris Murphy, the Catholic Diocese of Providence’s assistant vocation director, said Tuesday.

“I cannot remember in recent memory when the last time was,” he added.
A look back at the numbers shows a declining trend. Five men entered the seminary in 2012 and six entered in 2013, then the numbers drop to three, two and four in the years that followed.

Over the years, whenever the “priestly shortage” comes up in conversation, someone is quick to reply with some encouragement like this: “Oh yes, but we have so many young orthodox vocations! Things will change in a few years!”

I agree with this encouraging fact: We have some great seminarians! I’ve personally taught Catholic seminarians in America and in Rome and I can confirm that there are some dynamic, orthodox, and impressive seminarians moving into the sacerdotal pipeline.

But I am also aware of a gaping problem that hardly anyone mentions. The seminarian numbers are not there. We are about to fall off a demographic cliff of priestly vocations.

  • Yes, an impressive seminarian or deacon-seminarian visits your parish during the summer and does fantastic work.
  • Yes, you see lots of faces on the “Meet our Seminarians” color poster in the narthex after Mass.
  • Yes, you’re bishop announces yet another round of ordinations this year.

Praise God! I rejoice in all of it…but still…the numbers are lacking. Let’s take a look at priestly demographics:

For priests, we need to pray for quality and quantity:

Here is table of the number of priests in the USA from 1930 to 2015:

The number of priests exploded in 1950 (partly through migration) and peaked out in 1970. After 1975, you see a slow but steady decrease in the number of priests until the decline becomes steep around 1990. 

More troubling is the fact that the tsunami of priests ordained from 1970-1980, will be reaching retirement age between the years 2015-2025 (age 25 + 45 years of service = retirement age 70).

Discovering the 1 Priest to every Catholic Ratio:

We have already begun to feel the scarcity of priests and you’ll understand why when you examine the numbers in light of the ratio of priest per Catholics. Check out these numbers:

  • In 1950, there was 1 priest to every 652 Catholics in the United States.
  • In 2010, there was 1 priest to every 1,653 Catholics in the United States.
  • In 2016, there was 1 priest to every 1,843 Catholics in the United States.

A numeric study shows that the tipping point in the USA happened around the year 1983. This is when our priest/Catholics ratio began to tank:

When it comes to priest/Catholics ratio, our priestly manpower is 33% of what it was 1950. Meanwhile there millions more lay Catholics in the pews.

And depending on the city, the ratio can be much worse. Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles have pretty discouraging ratios, but none are hurting as badly as my neighboring diocese of Dallas:

  • Diocese of Dallas: 1 priest to every 6,229 Catholics.
  • Diocese of Los Angeles: 1 priest to every 3,931 Catholics.
  • Diocese of New York: 1 priest to every 2,055 Catholics.
  • Diocese of Chicago: 1 priest to every 1,624 Catholics.

Meanwhile there are model dioceses that have wonderful ratios that beat even the 1950 national ratio:

  • Diocese of Lincoln: 1 priest to every 598 Catholics.

And the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), which offers the Latin Mass from the 1962 Missale Romanum currently has this ratio in its parishes:

  • FSSP: 1 priest to every 250 Catholics.

Vocation Decrease among the Jesuits

Compare the growth of the FSSP to that of the global membership of the Society of Jesus:

  • In 1977, the Jesuits had 28,038 members.
  • In 2016, the Jesuits had 16,378 members.

The Jesuits have declined 41.5% since 1977. The average age of a Jesuit priest in 2018 is 63.4 years old. Considering that mandatory priestly retirement is age 70, this does not look good for the Jesuits. They will decline by more than 50% in the coming decade. If things don’t change, there will be less than 10,000 Jesuits on earth in the next few years.

[For reference, there are 6,058 (male and female) Dominicans on planet earth in 2018. That’s the size of three Texas high schools.]

Sad but True (plus some Hope):

It is true that we have many great young men in formation to be holy Catholic priests. I’ve spent hours talking with them after class and I know that we will have an excellent crop. The sad news is that it is small crop. A priest is only one man and if you spread him over 3 parishes, he will be less effective.

My prediction is that we will see a great Catholic migration over the next three decades. As that surge of vocations from 1970-1980 begins to retire and depart to their reward, we will see massive parish closings and consolidations. Priests will be rare. It is already obvious that bishops and dioceses like Lincoln Nebraska attract vocations to the holy priesthood. These bishops and their dioceses will thrive. Meanwhile, dioceses like Providence will shrink while they try to import priests from other parts of the world.

The solution is to pray for vocations, but also beg the question:

Why does Lincoln, Nebraska have a plethora of vocations (1 priest to every 598 Catholics!) while others are not only short on vocations but losing priests year after year?

  1. Is it liturgical?
  2. Is it ethnic or based somehow on immigration?
  3. Is it doctrinal?
  4. What leads young men to inquire about a priestly vocation?
  5. How do they organize their altar server programs?
  6. Does youth ministry play a role or not?
  7. How do pastors play a role?
  8. To which seminaries does each diocese send seminarians?
  9. How does seminarian retention rate differ from diocese to diocese?
  10. How is the bishop involved in the vocation process?

If “coffee is for closers,” Bishop Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska is drinking Roman double espressos. 1 priest to every 598 Catholics. Someone should study the vocations process in place under Bishop Conley of Lincoln.

My personal acquaintance with Bishop Conley (he helped guide me into the Catholic Church in 2006) is that he is orthodox, Thomistic, dignified, fatherly, and favors the template of Ratzinger’s “Spirit of the Liturgy.” And if I’m honest, every single impressive seminarian that I meet…is shaped from the same mold. Like begets like. Like father, like son.

And even if you aren’t on board with the template of “orthodox, Thomistic, dignified, fatherly, Spirit of the Liturgy,” the numbers don’t lie.

Pray for holy bishops, holy priests, and holy seminarians!

Question: How is your part of the world doing with priestly vocations? What makes for a good seminarian? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why we need St Joseph in 2018! (Hint: Lack of Leadership)

2018 is a difficult time for all us: because we plagued by confusing leadership – both in the Church and in politics. 

Some of our moral and political leaders are either practicing or approving of moral lifestyles that do not conform to natural law: same sex attraction, divorce, child abuse, sexual immorality, adult film industry, etc. We recently had an Archbishop convicted in Australia, and the entire Bishops Conference of Chile offered their resignation to the Pope in light of scandal.

We need Saint Joseph in 2018! Here’s why:

  1. First, Saint Joseph is the ultimate human father. There was never a better human father and leader than Saint Joseph. If the world has “daddy issues,” he can help.
  2. Second, Saint Joseph is known traditionally as the “Terror of Demons.” Evil flees before the gaze of Saint Joseph. He is the chaste and holy father-figure of Christ. He protects like a good father.
  3. Third, Saint Joseph is the official Patron of the entire Catholic Church. He is the true celestial patron and guardian of the Body of Christ – both in history with the Christ Child and now the Body of Christ as the universal Church.

If you want to learn more about Saint Joseph and how he can help us in our current time, please join me for a free LIVE Catholic Webinar about the theology and devotion to Saint Joseph on Thursday night at 8pm. We will discover the “Seven Secrets of Saint Joseph” and solve the questions that most people have about Joseph. For example, was he truly married to Mary?, did he want to divorce her?, how did he die?, etc.

Space is limited so if you want to join us live and participate with me (and hundreds of others Cahtolics), please reserve your free spot by clicking here: “Seven Secrets of Saint Joseph” Catholic Webinar.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

Tongues of Fire and Bishops in Pointy Hats (Acts and 1 Enoch)

Why did “tongues of fire” appear on the first Pentecost? How does it relate to Heaven and the Temple? (And why do Catholic bishops wear those pointy hats? Let’s find out:

Our Catholic feast of Pentecost derives from the Jewish feast of Pentecost or Shavuot (Feast of Weeks). Pentecost (πεντηκοστή) is Greek for the “50th [day]” since Passover/Easter (7 weeks x 7 days = 49 days).

For the Israelites, Pentecost was important because:

  1. It is the day on which the rainbow appeared to Noah.
  2. It is the day on which Moses received the 613 Laws from God.
  3. It is the day on which King David was born and died.
  4. It is also the “Feast of Firstfruits,” the first harvest of the spring wheat crops.
    (Barley was harvested at Passover; Wheat was harvested at Pentecost.)

The Holy Spirit at the First Christian Pentecost

Saint Luke describes the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The Holy Spirit manifests as “tongues of fire” so as to give the Apostles the power to speak in other tongues/languages. In the Roman West, the Catholic mitre signifies the “tongue of fire” resting on the head of an Apostle. Bishops are successors of the the Pentecost Apostles and thus they wear a “tongue” on their head. You get the idea. I used our holy Bishop Fulton Sheen as a mockup:

These tongues of fire allowed the 12 Apostles to proclaim the New Law to the Church. Saint Thomas Aquinas states that the “New Law” is the Person of the Holy Spirit: “What else are the Divine laws written by God Himself on our hearts, but the very presence of His Holy Spirit?” (STh I-II, q. 106, a. 1).

Why “Tongues” of Fire? A Hint in 1 Enoch:

Why are there tongues of fire? Why not lips of fire or words of fire? Why not a fiery dove to conform to the baptism of Christ at the Jordan?

The tongues likely evoke the Hebrew concept of “tongues” praising God. As such, there is a Jewish mystical tradition that God’s heavenly temple above is surrounded by praising “tongues of fire.” Enoch is entering the Temple of Heaven and seeing God there amidst the tongues of fire:

“Behold, in the vision clouds invited me and a mist summoned me, and the course of the stars and the lightnings sped and hastened me, and the winds in 9 the vision caused me to fly and lifted me upward, and bore me into heaven. And I went in till I drew nigh to a wall which is built of crystals and surrounded by tongues of fire: and it began to affright 10 me. And I went into the tongues of fire and drew nigh to a large house which was built of crystals: and the walls of the house were like a tesselated floor (made) of crystals, and its groundwork was 11 of crystal. Its ceiling was like the path of the stars and the lightnings, and between them were 12 fiery cherubim, and their heaven was (clear as) water. A flaming fire surrounded the walls, and its 13 portals blazed with fire. And I entered into that house, and it was hot as fire and cold as ice: there 14 were no delights of life therein: fear covered me, and trembling got hold upon me. And as I quaked 15 and trembled, I fell upon my face. And I beheld a vision, And lo! there was a second house, greater 16 than the former, and the entire portal stood open before me, and it was built of flames of fire. And in every respect it so excelled in splendour and magnificence and extent that I cannot describe to 17 you its splendour and its extent. And its floor was of fire, and above it were lightnings and the path 18 of the stars, and its ceiling also was flaming fire. And I looked and saw therein a lofty throne: its appearance was as crystal, and the wheels thereof as the shining sun, and there was the vision of 19 cherubim. And from underneath the throne came streams of flaming fire so that I could not look 20 thereon. And the Great Glory sat thereon, and His raiment shone more brightly than the sun and 21 was whiter than any snow. (1 Enoch 14:8-22)

The tongues of fire surround the Temple of Heaven. In Pentecost we see the the New Temple which is the Body of Christ and the Catholic Church. The Apostles are now anointed with tongues of fire to be the foundation and walls of this heavenly Temple on earth.

As I explain in The Crucified Rabbi, the temple is the incarnate Body of Christ. As I repeat over and over: “Catholicism is Third Temple Judaism. Why? Because Jesus replaced the Second Temple with His own Eucharistic Body.” Catholicism is Third Temple Judaism. Why? Because Jesus replaced the Second Temple with His own Eucharistic Body. So Catholics pray toward this new Temple. - Dr Taylor Marshall Click To Tweet

I’ve spent the last week reading 1 Enoch and comparing it to Luke-Acts and finding lots of amazing connections. So stay tuned for me. Till then check out my recent post on 1 Enoch and Jude/2 Peter.

It’s especially interesting that the solar calendar described by Enoch in 1 Enoch always places Pentecost Sunday (and Passover) on a Sunday (New Testament) and not a Saturday (Old Testament). This further informs what we know about Pentecost Sunday as always a Sunday in the New Covenant. More on that later.

I also have a podcast on the tongue of fire and how it relates to the old Latin liturgy which you can listen to here: Podcast: 1 Enoch, Tongues of Fire and Pre-Vatican II Liturgy. I’ve created a new category on this blog called “Enoch Studies” so you can follow more research on this topic. I think I’ll do a book on it shortly.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Catholic Webinar: Seven Secrets of Saint Joseph Solved

Last week’s Live Catholic Webinar on “Mary and the Eucharist” was a huge success. Over 1,100 attended in the live session!

This week I am hosting an other free Catholic Webinar on “Seven Secrets of Saint Joseph” where we will look at seven topics that are confusing when it comes to Saint Joseph, such as:

1) Was Joseph old or young? 2) Was he married before? 3) Did he want to “divorce” Mary? 4) Was he bodily assumed? These and more subjects will be covered.

Click here to register: Catholic Webinar Seven Secrets of Saint Joseph

Dr Taylor Marshall

Angels having Relations with Humans within Jude and 2 Peter and 1 Enoch

Genesis 6 has a confusing reference to “when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them” and how this occurrence led to Yahweh flooding the earth. What does this mean?

Sometime around the 200s BC a Jewish document called “Book of Enoch” or 1 Enoch was produced. It gives all the details on how angelic beings copulated with human women and created a cosmic mess before the Flood. And here’s the interesting problem we have:

Saint Jude (Jude 1:14-15) directly quotes this non-biblical document known as “Book of Enoch” or 1 Enoch:

Jude 14–15
It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying:“Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his saints to execute judgment on all and to convict everyone of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
1 Enoch 1:9

Behold, he comes with ten thousand saints to execute judgment upon all, and he will destroy all the ungodly and convict all flesh of all the deeds of their ungodliness that they have ungodly committed in an ungodly way, and of all the arrogant and hard words which sinners have spoken against him.

It’s not only this direct quotation of 1 Enoch by Jude, but Jude (and 2 Peter) allude to the fantastical events of 1 Enoch, namely the sexual encounters of fallen angels with human women, which gives birth to the nephilim or “giants.” The birth of the giants, according to 1 Enoch, is the reason for the Noah’s Flood.

And this belief is also found in the canonical book of Wisdom:

“And from the beginning also when the proud giants (γιγάντων) perished, the hope of the world fleeing to a vessel, which was governed by thy hand, left to the world seed of generation.” (Wisdom 14:6)

The author of Wisdom clearly associates the flood to a divine genocide of the race of the giants (γιγάντων) to leave the world a “seed of generation.” (Saint Paul quotes from Wisdom about 7 times – so Saint Paul also likely hold this belief.)

Let me tell you the story of Angels and Giants that 1 Enoch tells:

In 1 Enoch, Yahweh sends 200 angels to guide and instruct humanity. These 200 angels are called “Irin” in Aramaic and “Egregoroi” in Greek. Both words mean “Watchers.” These Watchers corrupt humanity by teaching them evil arts such as cosmetology (sorry ladies), sorcery, astrology, and the arts of war.

These angels also seduce human women and copulate with them. The women give birth to nephilim or giants. God causes these giants to fight and die. Then the souls of the giants turn into demons that haunt and tempt humans for the rest of time.

  • So Yahweh binds these 200 evil angelic Watchers into “Tartarus.”
  • What is Tartarus? In the Homer’s Iliad, Zeus teaches that Tartarus is “as far beneath Hades as heaven is above earth.” Tartarus is the deepest part of the underworld, far below Hades.
  • It’s noteworthy that the term “tartarus” is used by Enoch and 2 Peter. This signals the blending of Hebrew history with Greek mythology since Greek myth depict Zeus (after 10 years of battle or titanomachy) sending the older primordial deities called Titans into the deep dungeon abyss of “tartarus.”

Notably 2 Peter explicitly uses Enoch’s word “Tartarus” for the condemnation of fallen “angels.” Jude and 2 Peter use almost the same words, but 2 Peter uses “Tartarus”:

Jude 6
And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great day. 
2 Peter 2:4a
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartaros and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment;

It seems that 1 Enoch (and maybe Jude and 2 Peter) have assimilated the titanomachy legend of Zeus condemning the Titans into Tartaus into a legend about Yahweh condemning the 200 angelic Watchers into the chains of Tartarus. But in the 1 Enoch legend the crime is that of angels procreating mutant giants with human women.

“And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamored of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children.” (1 Enoch 7:2)

The resulting children are called nephilim in Hebrew or gigantes (giants) in Latin and Greek. In 1 Enoch, the historical Enoch goes to God and seeks to make intercession for the forgiveness of the giants. God refuses and the giants are condemned. This part of the story is referred to in Sirach:

“He was not propitiated for the ancient giants who revolted in their might.” (Sirach 16:7)

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain 10 copies (!) of the Book of Giants – a work that describes in detail the conception of giants in Genesis 6 from the union of women and angelic watchers. The giants were warriors and cannibals. This theology was an important part of the theology of Second Temple Judaism.

Church Fathers who explicitly teach that angels copulated with women and bred giants in Genesis 6:

Justin Martyr, Tatian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Commodianus, Ambrose of Milan.

In the City of God, Saint Augustine taught that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were simply human ancestors of Seth and that they bred with the evil daughters of men/Cain. This became the received tradition in the post Augustinian Christian West. It’s notable, however, that his mentor Saint Ambrose believed that the “sons of God” were in fact angels that copulated with humans.

What’s going on here in the Hebrew tradition?

The “Legend of the Watchers” in 1 Enoch was written in the Maccabean period before Christ. It’s could be a Jewish appropriation of a Greek myth but it’s likely explaining how the Hellenistic invaders are:

  1. The Gentile invaders of the Holy Land (312-63 BC)
  2. Greeks teaching and requiring Jews to follow pagan customs
  3. Greeks marrying and copulating with Jewish women
  4. The production of “hybrid” Greek/Jewish children that are considered “monstrous”
  5. The need to destroy and drive out the Greeks by means of the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC)

The titanomachy of Enoch is not historically “Zeus vs. Titans” or “Yahweh vs. Watchers,” but Judah Maccabeus vs. Greeks.

How does Catholic Christianity understand the “angels and tartarus” sections?

Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas (both had not read 1 Enoch) interpretted the passages in Jude and 2 Peter in this way:

  1. Before the flood, the “sons of God” were the righteous humans and the “daughters of men” were the female daughters of evil humans from Cain. These women were evil and and they seduced the noble and righteous sons of Seth.
  2. They interbred and this lead to the moral corruption of humanity.
  3. God sent a flood to kill everyone since they were all now a mixture of sons of Seth and daughters of Cain.

The solution here is to read “sons of God” not as “angelic beings” but as holy humans. It’s plausible and it has become the accepted tradition in Catholicism. However, ever since the Flood, good people have been interbreeding with evil people. And we know that the child of a holy mother and an evil father can turn out either good or bad. There are not “evil genetics.”

We can see here that the problem of intermarrying between the righteous and the wicked didn’t suddenly stop because water covered the land.

So it seems that Genesis describes a “water genocide” of a corrupted angel-human species. And certainly 1 Enoch is following the idea. If Jude (and 2 Peter) considered 1 Enoch as theological true, this would mean that at least one (or two) Apostle(s) believed the Enochic legend of the Watcher angels being sent to “Tartarus” because they had deceived humans and copulated with them.

The Enochic Legend as a theological device in Jude and 2 Peter:

Regardless of whether Jude and 2 Peter believed the Enochic “Watcher-Angel legend,” we know for a fact that they applied it as a teaching paradigm for their contemporary Apostolic Church:

  1. There are false heretical teachers that were once part of the Apostolic Church
  2. These have fallen away from Christ and are teaching Christians false doctrine and sin
  3. These heretics are having illicit sex with Christians (their lust here and in Revelation is highlighted)
  4. These heretics will be judged in the same way as the Watchers: they will be locked up in the dark tartarus forever.

If Jude and 2 Peter did not quote and/or reference 1 Enoch, we could cast off 1 Enoch forever as a Jewish oddity. But since there is a theological reference of 1 Enoch within Jude and 2 Peter, it provides a challenge.

I’m curious, how do you read the canonical passages of Genesis 6, Jude, 2 Peter (as well as Wisdom, Sirach and several Dead Sea Scrolls that promote the idea of giants as children of human women and demonic angels) in light of 1 Enoch? Secondly, do you think Jude and 2 Peter take the Enochic Watcher-Legend literally or are they simply using it to make an contemporary application against lustful heretics?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: I recorded a podcast on the role of 1 Enoch in the Noah film that came out a few years ago starring Russell Crowe as Noah. You can listen to it by clicking here: Podcast on Noah (2014 Film) and 1 Enoch.

What makes Catholics different? Mary and the Eucharist

My wife recently asked our children: “What makes Catholics different from your Evangelical and Protestant friends?” There are hundreds of distinctions but the most obvious difference is our Catholic devotions and doctrines regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Eucharist:

  • Why is this and how do we as Catholics understand the Blessed Mother and the Eucharist together and also how do we confidently share it with non-Catholics?

I’m hosting a FREE and LIVE Catholic Webinar on “Mary and the Eucharist” in order to equip you with a clear and easy way to answer this question:

  • I’ll give you a free Cheat Sheet on “Mary and the Eucharist.”
  • I’ll give a presentation and then I will stick around live to do Q&A on this topic or any other theological topics.
  • And together we will excavate three topics:
    • How devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament relates to our love for the Blessed Mother.
    • How our love for the Blessed Mother relates to our faith in the Blessed Sacrament.
    • MOST IMPORTANT: I will show you the easiest and most persuasive explanation for non-Catholics that makes sense of why Catholics love Mary and the Eucharist. This will tool will make you into an Apostle for the Holy Eucharist.

As in previous Catholic Webinars, we will restrict it to the first 1,000 people who register. It’s free and we will be giving away more resources throughout the Catholic Webinar. You must reserve your spot to take part next Wednesday. As before, registration will be first come, first serve. I’ll see 1,000 of you live on next Wednesday evening. Click here to register and reserve your spot.

to Jesus through Mary with Peter,
Dr Taylor Marshall

Is Blessed Mary the Mother, Sister, Spouse, or Daughter to God? St Ephrem the Syrian

I was recently reading the early Church Father Saint Ephrem. He has many hymns or poems about the Blessed Virgin Mary and one in particular plays with the various ways in which the Blessed Virgin Mary relates to the Holy Trinity.

Saint Ephrem died on June 9, 373 AD in Edessa so he gives us a unique perspective on early Christology and Mariology. Here’s a short video with me reading a passage from him with a brief reflection:

Please leave a comment and don’t forget to subscribe to my Youtube channel for more Catholic videos.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

ad Jesum per Mariam,

Dr Taylor Marshall

Plato’s Aristocracy and Why Catholics are Losing the Culture War

Whether you like it or not, we in the West have a layered class system and our inability to see it and plan accordingly has led contemporary Catholics to lose our cultural impact on the global stage. Before we get to the reasons why, let’s look at the classical Greek and Indo-European idea of society and rank and then move on to how Catholics are losing their social and political influence:

Political Society is like a Human Body:

For Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Zeno and the Stoics, the soul of the human is aristocratic and consists of estates or ranks. You will find this doctrine in Plato’s Timaeus (the book Plato holds in Raphael’s “School of Athens”) and in his Republic. You will also find it referenced or built upon in almost call classical Catholic treatments of government. See also Saint Thomas Aquinas’s De regno.

Here is how Plato puts it together:

  1. Head = Philosophers, Scholars, Astronomers, Mystics, Priests
  2. Chest = Generals, Warriors, Police (for the Greeks, nobility always is martial)
  3. Stomach and Genitals = Merchants, Farmers, Artisans, Lawyers, Corporate Owners, CEOs
  4. Arms and legs = Laborers or at the very bottom Slaves (Plato doesn’t explicitly identify them as “arms and legs” but it could be implied)

Plato’s City-Man

It’s easy to see how the cosmo-man fits together:

  1. The head thinks and plans. This is the philosopher and mystic who examines reality and plans or foretells the future and explores future contingencies for the cosmo-man (the State).
  2. The chest keeps the cosmo-man alive by pumping blood and moving air. The chest is brave and forces the body to fight and run. He fights enemies inside and outside the populace.
  3. The stomach receives food and produces capital and art through procreation.
  4. Slaves work the limbs and get things done.

Many have noted that Plato’s four strata are deeply Indo-European and map perfectly onto the Vedic system (1500 BC) of India:

  1. Brahmins (priestly scholar class)
  2. Kshatriyas (royal warrior class)
  3. Vaishyas (artisans, merchants, tradesmen and farmers)
  4. Shudras (laboring classes)

Nota bene: the Rigveda (the oldest Sanskrit text) identifies the 4 levels descending with the human body in a modified way: 1) head/mouth > 2) arms > 3) stomach/loins > 4) feet.

For Plato and the Greeks (and for Europe), people could move up and down the classes based on merit. For example, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle went from level 3 to level 1. The High Priest Aaron went from level 4 to level 1. King David went from level 3 to level 1. However, in Hindu theology, a person cannot move up and down the classes in this life (because of the false theology of reincarnation). This is a fundamental difference between Western and Eastern philosophy.

Trigger Warning: You maybe be triggered by the talk of classes and castes

We like to think that human society is now finally enlightened and that there are no castes or classes. Whether you call it a “caste” or a “demographic,” you’re just moving around words. The concept may become more humanitarian over time, but the idea of “political layers” transcends cultures and transcends time. Human society has different parts.

The Platonic way of understanding political levels has little to do with wealth. Bill Gates is very rich, but he still belongs to level 3 as a merchant and producer. A modern example of how the the levels can be transcended is how both Barack Obama and Donald Trump ascended from level 3 to level 1. A person at level 3 could be poor, middle class, or a billionaire.

The 4 Levels of Society in Contemporary Society:

In America we may think of ourselves as egalitarian and without castes, but we still preserve this natural human hierarchy of political layers:

  1. Head (priestly scholar class). This was the Catholic Church’s ecclesial hierarchy (from AD 600-1500). Now it is the University, the Professor, Politician, Judges, the “experts” and (since the 1960s) the TV Media and Social Media (Facebook). They are still almost impossible to circumvent. They seek to influence our daily thoughts and our children. And as always, they are usually very rich.
  2. Chest (royal warrior class). This is the military, but more and more so it is the IRS, FBI, CIA, police, ATF, TSA, game warden, et al. They have the power to imprison us and kill us. In a good political system, they are inspired by the Head to promote justice and protect the innocent. It was for fear of a corrupted “chest level” that the United States allowed its citizens to arm themselves with weapons and, notably, firearms.
  3. Stomach/Loins (artisans, merchants, tradesmen and farmers). This is your “middle class” white collar executives, and your corporate owners. They bear the load of society according to Plato, they must be controlled through “myths or noble lies” crafted by the philosophers. Civil religion is the best way to do this. It can be Roman imperial paganism with an Emperor cult (very powerful). In the same way it can be 16th century Church of England with civil obligations ordered to the king or queen who is “Head of the Church.” Or it can be a form of state-controlled Catholicism (Napoleonic Catholicism or Chinese Communistic Catholicism) or controlled Protestantism (state Protestantism/Lutheranism found in Northern European nations). In the last 30 years, the controlled state religions are being replaced with political correctness and class Socialism.
  4. Limbs (laboring class). We no longer call them “servants” but our society has people who are deeply in debt (in the Bible, debt is de facto slavery) and who work only to: pay off debt (to banks), have food, and have a roof over their heads.

How do we fix it?

Now for the first question:

Where are you in the hierarchy? The most important point in this essay is that you can ascend and descend in these layers. It has always been accomplished in every age. The common born Socrates reached level 1 (but he was killed by level 2). Popes have arisen from slave status level 4 to high priest status level 1. Many Roman Emperors began as level 2 generals and then later became level 1 emperors and even philosophers (Marcus Aurelius). In fact, it has always been quite easy for some people to ascend to level 1. Just be aware that level 1 people are often killed by level 2 people.

Now for the second question:

Isn’t it obvious that Christians are leaving or being forced out of level 1 (head) and level 2 (chest)? Christians are less welcome in Universities. Less welcome in politics. Less welcome in film, TV, and media. It’s a given. This means a revolution is under way whether we recognize it or not. The TV stations, the internet, the news media, and the social media have driven out everything Christian and are replacing it with a new state-sponsored religion of political correctness, which is really environmentalism, pansexuality, and moral tolerance. 

Now for the third question:

What is our response as Christians? There are two options for us:

  1. FIRST OPTION: We can fight to take back levels 1 and 2 through intellectual and moral excellence.
  2. SECOND OPTION: We can recreate our own parallel society/culture and seek to win the long distance race of permanence. This is sometimes called the Benedict Option (hat tip to Eastern Orthodox author Rod Dreher) since it follows Saint Benedict creating an alternative culture and intellectual climate.

Taylor Marshall’s conclusion on the matter:

My belief is that Christians currently have possess all 4 levels in action whether or not we are recognized in society (we have intellectuals, warriors, artisans, laborers).

Therefore we should be pursuing both strategies at the same time:

  1. We should be fighting to take back levels 1 and 2 (apologetics, academics, along with undermining the anti-Christian institutions).
    AND
  2. We should build parallel institutions (e.g., our own Universities, schools, Troops of Saint George, our own TV/radio stations, our own art, our own Social Media outlets, our own news stations).

Some of us can push forward and fight on the front lines of layers 1 and 2 now, while some of us can retreat and construct our own parallel society (of layers 1-4).

Why Catholics are struggling at the moment to accomplish this transition:

The hardest part is that Christians (especially Catholics) are still deeply tied to all the old institutions, old universities, old political parties, and old means of communication (eg, announcements during liturgy and bulletins). This means we are having a very difficult time establishing a pivot.

Also, the Catholic hierarchy in the West still acts like it is operating at level 1 influence. Sadly, this is not the case. Secular nations have spent the last several decades figuring out ways to transform bishops from level 1 priestly spiritual leaders into level 3 producers of funds (taxation of church is the end game) and into level 3 producers of government service (grants to do government work which we saw occur in America under President Obama).

The ultimate aim here is the same as that of King Henry VIII – to make the bishops into level 3 producers and transfer their wealth, land, and production (offerings) to the State. See 16th century England, Denmark, Sweden, Norway for details on how it all goes down.

The difficulty in establishing a Christian pivot for a new era can be observed in how both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis are so deeply wedded to the European Union and traditional forms of communication (eg, Encyclicals) as means for bringing about Catholic influence. The Pope might as well be talking about feudalism and the Code of Hammurabi. It’s like carrying bows and arrows into an era of nuclear war.

The most brilliant minds in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are talking about the Benedict Option (Option 2: parallel institutions), but we need to engage both fronts. The intellectuals who are currently “fighting the culture war” while trying to win back levels 1 and 2 are either Jewish (Ben Shapiro, Mark Levin, Michael Savage) or secular in outlook (Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnis, Jordan Peterson). Some might see this “diversity” as a strength. I see it as as weakness. Here’s why:

As much as I like listening Jordan Peterson or even Ben Shapiro, I sometimes cringe when I think of how much better an equipped Christian could respond. We have a profound intellectual tradition (Thomism), but we are not using it. This is likely why God has allowed Christian influence to wane.

Where are the Christians? We need to spend the next decade prayerfully cultivating sharp and relevant Christian minds to engage the culture and social media. It’s required for the common good of society and for the moral excellence of next generation. It’s not enough to possess them only within our own parallel “Benedict Option” institutions. We need them out front in the current culture war. And in case you’re ready to sign up for this “level 1” position, be mindful of those level 1 intellectuals and prophets who came before you marked with blood: Isaiah, Socrates, Cicero, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, Boethius, Thomas Becket, and Thomas More to name a few.

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