Everyone wants to be happy, but few are truly happy. Let’s look at how our attitude about Lent reveals our level of happiness in 3 ways:
Last night I had a dream that I was having dinner with Donald Trump.
He was looking for an expert in natural law and positive law to advise him for the next four years and he wanted me to walk him through the Catholic position on the matter.
It was a vivid dream:
I can remember the food on the table (fried chicken fingers!) as I step-by-step guided Mr. Trump through Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Summa theologiae I-II qq. 91-95. I wrote my PhD dissertation on this section of the Summa, so I literally “know it in my sleep.”
We talked about eternal law and natural law and the relationship between civil/human law to natural law. It was a dream-state Socratic dialogue between me and The Donald.
And then I woke up.
Mr. Trump if you have questions on natural law, I’m ready. (But let’s get something better than chicken fingers.)
Make America in Accord with Natural Law Again.
Whenever I talk about hunting, I get critics who think I’m a mean red-neck killer. Before the critics cast their stones, let it be know that I hunt because:
- Hunting provides organic, grass-fed, hormone free meat for my family of 8 children.
- It feels exhilarating to serve food to your family that you trained for, hunted, butchered, prepared, and cooked.
- I like having a tangible connection with the food that I prepare and eat.
- Hunting is the #1 way to promote funding for wildlife conservation.
- I love the outdoors.
- It’s a craft or an art that requires practice and dedication.
- All of our ancestors did it.
We were recently discussing the Troops of Saint George achievement in “Hunting” and I suggested that we focus on Saint Hubert, the patron saint of hunting:
Saint Hubertus was born around the year AD 656. Saint Hubert’s wife (the daughter of a count) died giving birth to their son who would eventually become a bishop. Heartbroken by the death of his wife, Saint Hubert retreated from the court and gave himself up entirely to hunting.
On Good Friday morning, when the faithful were crowding the churches, Hubert went hunting. As he was pursuing a magnificent stag, the animal turned and he beheld a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying:
“Hubert, unless thou turn to the Lord, and lead an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into Hell”.
Hubert dismounted, prostrated himself and said, “Lord, what would Thou have me do?” He received the answer, “Go and seek Lambert [bishop of Maastricht-Liège, Tongeren], and he will instruct you.”
He was condemned by God not for hunting but for withdrawing from the world and shirking his duties as a member of court and as a Christian (he was out hunting on Good Friday!).
Saint Hubertus is honored among hunters as the father of ethical hunting behavior. It is said that Saint Hubertus established the hunting principle of conserving wildlife, not killing a mother with its young, and preferring older bucks and bulls past their breeding prime. He also advocated only shooting an animal when a humane, clean and quick kill is assured.
After leaving the wilderness as a hunter, he became a priest and eventually the successor bishop to his master Saint Lambert of Maastricht. He was famous for his asceticism and preaching.
He is thus the patron saint of hunters, and bowhunters in particular.
For those interested, here’s a podcast I did about one of my hunts for Indian Nilgai.
Question: Share your thoughts about ethical hunting and/or Saint Hubert. You can leave a comment by clicking here.
- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died while on a hunt for the members of the International Order of St. Hubertus.
- The Jägermeister logo is taken from the vision of Saint Hubertus. Jägermeister means “master hunter.”
One of our Members of the New Saint Thomas Institute, Dr Ken Hare, (who appeared on this podcast with me) had an excellent question recently in the Forums of the New Saint Thomas Institute. This question came up on our studies regarding Holy Matrimony and obstacles to a valid marriage:
Tagging onto part of Helene’s question, with regard to the impediments of lack of openness to having children as well as lack of commitment to marital fidelity, what if one of those exists at the time of the original marriage, but thru conversion of heart ceases to exist at some point thereafter? Can an originally invalid marriage at that point become valid?
A canonically invalid marriage can later become valid.
It’s like the example of confirmation from a previous lesson:
A 14 year old boy could validly receive the sacrament of Confirmation in a state of mortal sin. He would receive zero habitual grace upon reception of the sacrament because of the obstruction of mortal sin. However, if he were not making an explicit act of the will against receiving the sacrament of Confirmation, he would validly receive the sacrament (and the indelible character of Confirmation), but not the grace of the sacrament, nor the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
If he stayed away from Christ and the Church for 30 years from that day but then one day he made a good confession, suddenly at that moment of absolution, his soul would be FLOODED not just with the grace of justification, but with all the graces of Confirmation that had been held in reserve until that moment. This is why people sometimes experience such a spiritual experience when they make a confession after a long time. They are receiving sacramental graces accrued from the past!
There is also radical sanation of Matrimony whereby a bishop can validate a previously invalid marriage. The previously lost graces of Holy Matrimony are restored to the couple. Some people like to use the analogy of a “sacramental time machine” but I don’t like that analogy.
With regard to “artificial contraception so as to avoid the conception of children” this is an impediment to valid sacramental marriage. However, the openness to life later on would demonstrate a valid marriage. The previous graces would come to rest. The couple would not need to perform the marriage liturgy again in order to have a valid marriage since the original form stands. If, however, they were Catholics married outside the Church (lacking form) then they would have to perform the marriage liturgy to have valid marriage.
Interestingly enough, the sacrament of confession is always a “reactivating” of sacramental baptism. Confession or reconciliation is a sacrament in its own right, but it is restorative of the state of baptism. This is why baptism must always be received prior to confession. Sacramental absolution removes all guilt and eternal punishment, but temporal punishment can remain – hence the need for penance and indulgences even for those who have been to confession.
As with the Confirmation example above, the same could be true of Holy Orders. A man could receive Holy Order in a state of mortal sin. He would be validly ordained and could confect the sacraments. He would say a valid Mass. But the habitual grace of Holy Orders to assist him in ministry would be lacking in his soul. He would be a valid priest but for the sake of his salvation, not well-equipped. When he made a good confession, his soul would be justified an in that moment it would receive the habitual grace of Holy Orders.
It goes without saying that receiving sacraments (especially the Eucharist) in a state of mortal sin (except baptism) is always sacrilegious.
Please leave a question below if it’s still not clear.
Taylor Marshall, PhD
Today, March 29, is my birthday and I’m grateful to God to be alive. I have been given faith in Christ, a beautiful wife Joy, wonderful children, and a group of godly friends who keep me on track.
I have found that the secret to happiness is to be verbally grateful every single day. If I feel down, bitter, or discouraged, I can regain my joy by thanking God for what is good.
I have a typed list of “gratitudes to God” that I recite to the Lord every single day. It’s on my phone. I have made a deal with myself THAT I MUST PRAY TO GOD THROUGH THIS LIST EVERY DAY AND PERSONALLY THANK HIM. I usually pray to God through this list in front of the tabernacle at Church. It includes my wife, my house, my children, my friends, and many other small details in my life that you might find silly or stupid. But they mean a lot to me and I feel that I should thank God for them daily.
If you are a reader of this blog, a listener to the podcasts, or a student a the New Saint Thomas Institute, I thank God for you every day and I pray for you every day. Thank you for being a blessing in my life.
If you are a man, I’ve created a “A Man’s 11 Point Checklist for Living the Good Life” which you can download at over at The Maccabee Society. It will give you 11 simple things you can do every day to live a fulfilled and joyful life as a man. Many of them apply to women, but I wrote them specifically for Christian men since they often struggle in life.
Here are three podcasts I’ve recorded on how to find Joy and Meaning in your life:
Have a great day and thank you for being part of my life. I’m grateful for you!
It’s time for the 2015 Manly Christmas Gift Guide!
For the sixth year in a row, I am featuring the Top Ten Manly Christmas Gifts for Men – stuff that men want but don’t ask for.
* If you received this post by email, you’ll want to click “Always Display Images” in your email client so that you can see the manly gift images.
Every year you’ve come to expect it, and every year I get ready for angry liberals complaining about my advocacy for pocket knives, guns, scotch, pipes, and leather.
Like last year I have an improved list with more information on knives and how a lady can choose the right knife for the men in her life.
Men, it’s not bad taste to forward this post to your wife’s email account.
When your man gets back to work after Christmas and someone asks, “So what did you get for Christmas?” let him say something more than “Oh you know, a couple of new shirts and a tie.”
Top Ten Manly Christmas Gifts for Men (drumroll…)
Below is a guide for Manly Christmas Gifts: your husband, brother, or grandpa. Seriously, you can’t wrong with the following ten gifts. They’re all winners. So here we go:
What would Saint Thomas Aquinas say about the Refugee Crisis?
We as Christians are debating among ourselves about whether or not we have a moral duty to receive refugees fleeing Muslim nations.
Are We Good Samaritans?
As Christians we remember Our Lord’s parable about the Good Samaritan recounting how the outwardly religious clerics (the priest and the levite) passed the injured man in the road, but how the Samaritan proved to “be his neighbor” and care for him. Christ rebukes the outwardly religious hypocrites and commends the good Samaritan.
When it comes to the refugee crises, none of us wants to be the hypocrite who turns his steps to the opposite side of road to avoid caring for an injured victim.
Or Are We Good Maccabeans?
Meanwhile, if you are Catholic, you’ve been listening to the book of Maccabees this week in the daily Mass readings. These biblical lessons approvingly recount how Mattathias along with his Maccabean sons and companions rightfully used physical violence against their political oppressors the Seleucid Greeks who were actively using force to undermine the conscience and convictions of the People of God.
So which are we?
Are we the caring Samaritans or the crusading Maccabeans?
The Catholic political theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas can help us with this question:
- In the Summa theologiae, Thomas Aquinas places politics under the civic virtue of patriotism which is itself a sub-virtue of justice. Our discussion is ultimately not about “politics” but the virtuous duties of justice toward God, our families, our nations, and all of humanity (in that order).
- For Thomas Aquinas, all political human laws must be: 1) in accord with reason; 2) published or promulgated; 3) by rightful political authority; and for the common good (See STh q. 90, aa. 1-4). If a political law is lacking in any of these four attributes, it is for Thomas, not a law at all.
- The duty of the political magistrates (the Republic or Kingdom) are by the virtue of justice different than the duty of the civilian person. Citizens are not de facto judges, soldiers, police officers, or legislators (STh q. 90, a. 3).
- Muslims explicitly affirm that Muhammad is the Last Prophet of God.
- Muslims explicitly affirm that Our Lord Jesus Christ is certainly not the Son of God.
- These two Muslim affirmations place all Muslims in implicit or explicit theological contradiction with Christians who profess Jesus Christ as the Son of God and consequently conclude that Muhammad was a false prophet.
- For Sunni Muslims (the majority of global Muslims), the mandate to erect Sharia law in every human government is a doctrine of faith. Muslims must in accord with their conscience pursue this theological belief that Sharia law must be promulgated in every human society (England, France, Poland, USA, Mexico, etc.)
So how does this apply to Refugees from Islamic nations?
When we move through the logical points above, we begin to discover a few logical conclusions:
- Muslims are bound by conscience to erect Sharia law in your nation. This is a bad thing for baptized Christians. At best it means being taxed at a higher rate (the Muslim jizya tax for Christians). At worse it means death.
- If you live in a democracy, a 51% political Islamic majority will allow “we the people” to promulgate Sharia law. They are following their conscience and religious beliefs in this matter. They will do this just as they have done in any other community where they captured the majority (Mecca, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, etc.)
- It is a duty of of justice for Christian people to strive to prevent the promulgation of false laws (i.e. those contrary to reason or the common good). Christians are called to be politically active and advocates for the common good and natural law.
- While we have the Christian duty to care for the refugee, the sick, the victim, and the injured, we have a greater common duty by justice to preserve the state of law and our religious liberty first and foremost.
We see this principle in our Scriptural readings. When it comes to the Samaritan, he rightfully cares for the victim. However, when it comes to the nation and the threat of terrorism (Seleucid Greeks), false laws, and the danger of our children, military, and civic peace, we (like the Maccabees) are politically obliged to resist, protect, and expel…for the common good.
The Analogy of the Familial Home
I am the head of a household. I earn an income to feed my wife and my children. With my surplus, I care for orphans, widows, the church, pro-life causes, single-mothers, and other apostolates that I feel God has called me to support.
Justice and charity demand that I care for the less fortunate and it is a Catholic belief that our salvation depends on how we treat the hungry, the naked, the homeless, and the sick.
I am not obliged to take the homeless into my house and have them sleep in my daughter’s bedroom at night. I am not obliged by justice or charity to give the homeless a vote over my financial decisions. He does not have the right to choose what’s for dinner. The homeless man does not (by my charity) receive a right to my continued support. The homeless man cannot share a bed with my wife when I am traveling. Nor may he presume a right over my children’s belongings.
Since we live in a democracy (“we the people”), political refugees de facto gain a measure of political authority over our laws, taxes, finances, military, religious holidays, and legislative bodies.
This principle applies to refugees universally. It applies even more so when the refugee in his conscience believes that he is morally obligated to introduce and vote for the enshrinement of Sharia law.
There is also the further problem that 5%-20% of global Muslims are considered to be “radicalized,” which means that they are consciously willing to use terrorist tactics to advance their Muslim worldview against the West. If you knew that 10% of your child’s Halloween candy was poisoned, would you allow your child to consume any of it?
So what would Thomas Aquinas say?
I’m afraid that Thomas would be much harsher than most of us would feel comfortable with.
Thomas prizes the “common good” so highly under the virtue of political justice that he openly promotes arms and capital punishment against those who are publicly “dangerous and infectious.”
The common good is the peace of society so that life and faith can thrive. Babies can be born and have a happy life. Grandparents can grow old together. Anyone who seeks to destroy the common good should be, according to Thomas, destroyed.
Thomas Aquinas also taught that anyone that fomented “danger to the community” or heretical movements is worthy of the death penalty:
“Therefore if a man be dangerous and infectious to the community, on account of some sin, it is praiseworthy and advantageous that he be killed in order to safeguard the common good.” STh II-II q. 64, a. 2.
It is permissible to kill a criminal if this is necessary for the welfare of the whole community. However, this right belongs only to the one entrusted with the care of the whole community — just as a doctor may cut off an infected limb, since he has been entrusted with the care of the health of the whole body. STh II-II q. 64, a. 3.
Have no doubt that Thomas Aquinas would have stated that Christian nations should receive Christian refugees but refuse Muslim refugees for the sake of national justice and the common good. The Muslim’s official declaration of faith denies natural law (eg, polygamy), religious liberty (eg, Sharia), and implicitly Muhammad’s doctrine and example of political violence.
What’s our Catholic Response? The Samaritan Uses the Hotel
We Christians should be generous with humanitarian aid toward Muslims and all people. We should send money and resources to those who have been dispossessed. We should be loving and generous with Muslims. Kindness brings about conversion and understanding. We should also try to topple the Islamic State and eradicate terrorism in our lands and in the Islamic lands.
Remember the Good Samaritan! He did not take the roadside victim home with him. Rather, the Good Samaritan put the victim up in a hotel and paid for him to get better. The Good Samaritan was good and commended by Christ. The Good Samaritan did the right thing: humanitarian aid.
We are not required by Christ to take victims that oppose our faith and our way of life and make them into our political heirs. We are not required to take them into our homes.
But we are obliged to help them. And if terrorists use our charity as a pretense to hurt us, then, as Thomas Aquinas says, they should be swiftly destroyed.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.
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PS: If you like how we broke this issue down into bite-sized theological information and then logically built up a position using the wisdom of Saint Thomas Aquinas, then you are probably a key candidate for becoming a student at our New Saint Thomas Institute:
Did you know that there is a connection between your child waiting for the prayer of blessing before meals and his ability to avoid premarital sex?
It has to do with delayed gratification:
When we sit down at a meal, it is just and right that we first thank God and ask His blessing upon the food that we are about to enjoy. Then, and only then, do we pick up our forks and eat.
Little children are usually tempted to sneak a bite from their plates while mother is turned around getting the last dish on the table. It’s the duty of parents to stop this. The children must learn to wait. Why?
Well one day their appetites will include not only food for preservation of the human body, but they will have an intense appetite for the preservation of the human race. Will they be allowed to nibble a little bit here and there before the blessing? In case you’re not following the analogy:
hungry child > dinner blessing > fulfillment of hunger appetite
young person > matrimonial blessing > fulfillment of sexual appetite
You see if Timmy learns that he can eat before the family is assembled and father leads in the religious blessing, well then, Timmy will not likely wait to have sex until after his family is assembled at church and Father has pronounced the religious blessing on Timmy’s bride and Timmy at the altar.
Are you following this?
Delaying Good Things for Good Reasons:
And this isn’t just about family meals. It’s about everything. School, jobs, Advent, Lent, the Eucharistic fast, fish Fridays, penance, sacramental preparation, childbearing, childrearing, illness, natural death, and so on and so on.
Catholicism is the religion of delayed gratification. This life is a test run to determine our eternal gratification. If we live only to have pleasure in the now, we won’t have beatitude in the future. Christ has instituted His Catholic Church to provide us with small mini-trials every day.
The Eucharistic fast is one obvious example. Humbling one’s self in the confessional before receiving the Holy Eucharist is another. It’s learning how to do something difficult or inconvenient for some other greater good.
Let’s go back to Timmy. If Timmy learns to break the Eucharistic fast or cheat his resolutions during Lent, what will he do in other areas of life? He’ll push the boundaries, but ultimately he’ll fail because he does not understand that all success derives from delayed gratification – both temporal and eternal.
Look at all these hipsters in America. They have college degrees. They vote. They are somewhat intelligent. They even own an interesting collection of vinyl records. Yet they do not have jobs.
It’s now being reported that our college educated hipsters are becoming dependent on state subsidies. They hang out in coffee shops discussing Renoir, Radiohead, and Rousseau, but they buy their groceries with food-stamps! It looks like they’ve fallen for the hipster trap.
What’s going on here?
These young people have been raised to reject delayed gratification. They are the products of society that glorifies immediate gratification They want meaningful jobs…right now. They want to be art gallery directors, professors, CEOs, non-profit directors, film-directors, Facebook creators, authors, actors, and poets.
What they don’t see is that it takes a helluva lot of hard work to ascend to these professions.
This is why we must realize the value of Catholicism for our culture. Catholicism, in this regard, helps us in two ways: The first way is supernatural and the second way natural, temporal, and social.
- First, the Catholic theology of waiting confirms that the honors and accolades of this world are vanity of vanities. The Faith is what led the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V to resign his power and live his remaining days in an obscure monastery. The smaller natural pleasures of this life are not worth trading for the enormous supernatural beatitude to be attained in the next. This life itself is a prolonged wait for something better and beyond.
- Secondly, the theology of waiting or delayed gratification is not one of passivity. You are active and waiting. Unlike the ideology of hipsters smoking hand rolled cigarettes and complaining about those faceless stiff-shirts belonging to the “one percent,” the theology of waiting calls for sacrifice now for something better later. So if you want a meaningful job, get up off your skinny jeans and produce something. Contribute. Nobody cares about your thoughts and feelings unless they contribute to something. If you’re an artist, it may take you 20 years to actually sell something. If you can’t accept that, then don’t throw a tantrum and complain about the world. Learn a little delayed gratification. Write down your goals and realize that it takes a long time to reach important goals.
Contraception and Delay:
Contraception is the perfect example for our society’s desire for instant gratification. Contraception is the idea that you can have lots and lots of immediate pleasure (feels really awesome!) without committing to one person (a sacrificial act), and without committing to a pregnancy (a hugely sacrificial act), and without committing to raising a human person for eighteen years (an immensely sacrificial act).
Back to Timmy for one last time. From the time Timmy is born, he will be maintaining his “threshold for waiting.” He will observe the “threshold of waiting” in his parents. Do they live on a whim? Do they go into debt to have fun now? Are they penitential? Are they religious hypocrites? Then he will begin to see how the standard for the “threshold of waiting” is applied to him. Is he allowed to throw temper-tantrums when he is not immediately gratified. Will he persevere in household tasks? Will he finish homework? Will he keep the Eucharistic fast or will he sneak a cookie before Mass? Will he maintain simple customs such as not eating before the Blessing? You get the idea.
If Timmy does not learn this Catholic principle of delayed gratification, what will he become? He’ll become a contracepting hipster with a B.A. waiting for that $60,000 job to fall into his lap. Regrettably, he’ll be a nothing. Worst of all, he won’t live the abundant life that Christ promised for those who would take up their cross and follow Him.
Of course, it’s not easy to assume this theology of waiting. It is the most difficult teaching of Catholicism. As the Blessed Virgin Mary said to Saint Bernadette: “I promise to make you happy, not in this world, but in the next.” Those words terrify me. However, it is a sure promise. None of us will be perfectly happy in this life. It’s just not going to happen.
C.S. Lewis once speculated that if God gave us perfect happiness in this life, it would be unjust since we would then stop seeking after God Himself. Saint Thomas Aquinas would say it is impossible to find happiness anywhere else since our Summum Bonum is none other than God Himself.
So don’t get down in the mouth about delayed gratification. It’s delayed…not never. Life won’t be perfect. Embrace this truth. There is freedom in it. There is joy in realizing it. Here the verse that wraps it all up nicely:
“But if you partake of the sufferings of Christ, rejoice that when his glory shall be revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:13)
“But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)
Taylor R. Marshall
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Does smoking marijuana count as a sin? I’m in beautiful Colorado and yes the natives are toking. As you know, marijuana is becoming legal in certain states. So once again, the ethics of marijuana are back on the table.
If smoking marijuana is no longer illegal, is there any other moral reason why Christians should avoid it? Saint Paul told us to obey the arbitrary laws of our nation (speed limits in school zones) for the common good.
Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God.” (Rom 13:1)
It used to be that pastors and youth ministers could tell teenagers, “It’s illegal. Respect the law.” That was not the most forceful argument, but at least it was something. Now, if you live in Colorado or Washington, that argument falls flat.