Thomas Merton admires St John Cassian -
(NOTE: There is a series of audio C. D.’s available entitled Thomas Merton on Contemplation which are simply recordings of lectures he gave to the monks of Gethsemane Abbey in Ky. Much of this paper is taken from disk two of this series which is entitled Cassian on Prayer delivered 5/19/63.)
A PREPATORY WORD ON JOHN CASSIAN’S LIFE
St John Cassian was born in the late 4th century in what is today Bulgaria. He was well educated and fluent in both Greek and Latin. He became a monk in an early monastery located near Jerusalem where he was exposed to eastern monasticism. He began to travel in about 390 first to Egypt to study the desert monks in that country, later he traveled to Constantinople where he joined the group of advisers around the patriarch St. John Chrysostom. When John Chrysostom was sent into exile by the Emperor for preaching against lavish living, Cassain was one of the clerics who argued before the Emperor to allow Chrysostom to return to Constantinople, but to no avail. He then traveled to Rome to get the Pope to intervene in the matter. Again the Emperor was unmoved. Chrysostom died in exile. Once in the west, John Cassain decided to settle in Southern France near Marseille where he founded the first monastery in western Europe.
Cassian’s monastic rule, contained in his works entitled Institutes and Conferences, became the model that St. Benedict later used for his new religious order, the Benedictines.
John Cassian became embroiled in the raging conflict with Pelagianism, which taught that a man was able to live a perfect life without the help on God. St John Cassian wrote eloquently about the back and forth process wherein man uses grace to move slightly toward God and then with additional grace and personal effort he is able to move even further toward God and this process goes back and forth until the man can move into full alinement with God. St John believed in a process relationship between each man and God rather than a static relationship. This approach allowed for each man’s free will to have sway in the process. Later St. John’s teaching was used to qualify St Augustine’s teaching that all salvation results solely from God’s grace. This is the Augustinian teaching that was taken much further by Protestant teachers in later centuries to justify their sole focus on grace to the point of teaching predestination and even rejecting the existence of man’s free will.
MERTON’S INTEREST IN CASSAIN
However, Merton was not so interested in Cassian on grace rather in his lecture he was interested in Cassins’ teachings on prayer.
Cassian argues that a person prays from one of three positions: slave of God, servant of God, or son of God. The slave prays out of fear of punishment, the servant prays out of a desire for reward, but the son prays out of pure love and a desire to do God’s will. When one prays out of love it is possible to train the mind to pray constantly.
However there is the concern that apathy or fixedness can set in and this needs to be resisted. We must get in the habit of weighing each thought to see if it is worthy just as a money changer examines each coin. In similar fashion we must constantly be assessing what material our minds are processing just as a miller wants fine grain running through his mill not rocks or mud. Additionally we must check to make sure our thoughts and prayers are floating always upward always toward God untethered by the weight of sin, here remember that a wet feather is held to the earth but a dry feather floats freely.
Recall above all we must strive to be normal humans so, as Augustine said “our souls can do their natural thing which is to seek God”. Accordingly excessive striving after anything worldly blocks us from being normal and from moving naturally toward God. In prayer the person must “let go” and allow himself to be “thrown back completely on God.” This emphasis is consistent with Cassian’s love for the beginning of the 70th Psalm which reads “ Oh come and rescue me God .... Yahweh come quickly and help me!”.
Prayer is not a time to reason about worldly things. Prayer is the time you are speaking with and being with your Father. This is not to say you are in a mystical state, you are simply in the presence of your father.... Prayer goes through stages just as a person moves from slavery to son ship. The first stage is praying to seek pardon for sin, then one requests spiritual confidence or comfort, then on to prayer for the needs of others, and finally prayer in thanksgiving.
From any of the four preceding states of prayer, Cassian says you might be transported suddenly to a mystical level. But such an experience is strictly in the hands of God. Merton says he feels such transports are usually for only a minute or two. Cassian calls these transports fiery experiences and there are times when the person, in the grip of mystical prayer, has been to known to groan or sigh.
While in prayer, time can be an in determent thing. Many people have lost track of time while praying either in normal prayer or in mystical prayer.
St. John Cassain’s reputation suffered during the reformation period. Cassian’s views are nuanced. They were not well suited for the “black and white” debates that characterized the reformation era. His writings, particularly his Institutes & Conferences, were widely read in the early medieval period, but fell into obscurity after the Reformation. In recent decades St John Cassian has experienced something of a revival.
.... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 9/12/16)
An Open Letter to Cardinal Sarah in the Vatican
- ..... July 20, 2016
Cardinal Robert Sarah
Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship
RE: Your recent speech in London
Dear Cardinal Sarah,
Thank you for raising the issues you raised in your recent address in London.(click here)
I have been very concerned that the Mass, as generally celebrated, does not convey the mystery and majesty appropriate to the reality of the Mass. Additionally I think that communion is distributed in a far too casual fashion.
I believe that young people suffer the most from these failures. The young learn from the behavior of their elders. If the behavior the youth see is causal and irrelevant, they will begin to think that weekly attendance at Mass is optional, that belief in the real presence is optional.
As I am sure you know, Mass attendance by young adults has declined and belief in the real presence among young adults has also dropped.
Anthropologists, based on their studies of religious adherence through history, have noted that the behavior that the priest enforces at religious services have to correspond to doctrines preached. If a religion teaches one thing but behaves in a way inconsistent with that belief that religion will not be effectively transmitted to the next generation.
Enclosed is a short essay explaining this reality more fully.(click here)
Very truly yours,
PS Perhaps you could hire a PhD Anthropologist and send him around the world educating bishops on “techniques for the effective transmission of Eucharistic beliefs to young Catholics”. The Church currently runs social service agencies so social scientists have the attention of the bishops. An Anthropologist is just another social scientist and would fit right in. ............... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 7/20/2016)
Non-Voting, Non- Citizens May Decide Presidential Election By their mere Presence. -
This essay has to begin with a few facts:
1)The Supreme Court in various opinions has decided that all those present, citizens and non-citizens , in the US are counted when apportioning districts for the US House of Representatives.
2) Each Congressional district gets one electoral vote,
3) it is actually the electoral college that elects the president and
4) most states vote all their electoral college votes as a block - winner take all.
With the forgoing in mind. Consider that if non-citizens were spread evenly across the country, the fact that they are included in the apportionment process would make little difference, but it happens that the non-citizens residents tend to congregate in our cities where many traditional democratic voters also tend to congregate. This means that states with large cities tend to have undeserved extra electoral votes, and to the extent that these states lean democratic these undeserved electoral votes will go to the democratic candidate.
So the second question is “how big a problem is this?”
Well the US Homeland Security Dept publishes data on the total number of both Legal and un-documented immigrants in the US. This data indicates that 8 to 9 percent of those living in the US are non-citizens. But drilling down a little shows that California is about 15% or 16% non-citizens. This translates into California getting an extra 7 or 8 electoral votes and since California leans democratic that means the Democrat Presidential candidate well get these extra electoral votes. .
The situation in Texas is similar. The difference is Texas is smaller than California so it ends up with only 5 un-deserved electoral votes. Of course, Texas tends to vote republican so its extra electoral votes usually go for the Republicans.
Looking at a few heavily Democratic states we can see the electoral vote advantages:
New York 3 votes
New Jersey 1 electoral vote
Illinois 2 electoral votes.
Massachusetts 1 electoral vote.
At this point, it a good idea review the situation in the several states which the political pundits call swing states:
In Ohio 1/3 of an electoral vote
In Colorado about 1/3 of an electoral vote.
In Florida 3 electoral votes
In Michigan 2/3 of an electoral votes
In Nevada half of an electoral vote
In Virginia 2/3 of an electoral vote
In North Carolina half of an electoral vote
In Arizona 2/3 of an electoral vote...... There are 541 electoral votes so these numbers don’t look very significant but when you hear that the maximum Trump can expect is about 300 votes if everything breaks his way, only a 30 vote margin over the 270 needed to win. Now the situation becomes more alarming.
If the 22 electoral college votes allocated to non-citizen residents in the ten most population states were reallocated to states that had a higher proportion of actual citizens. The Republican task would be less daunting. Think of the states that would gain one electoral vote each in such a re-allocation process: Missouri, Tennessee, Indiana , Colorado, South Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, Iowa, Mississippi, Arkansas, Utah, and Idaho to name a few.
What Needs to Happen to Address this Problem?
There are two solutions:
1) The Supreme Court has to stop giving political influence to non-citizens, but given the death of Scalia and the Democratic preferences of several remaining justices such a change is unlikely, Perhaps an Amendment to the Constitution will be needed.
2) There could be a Federal requirement that all states vote their electoral college votes the way Maine and Nebraska do it today. In those states only two electoral votes are voted based upon the state wide total vote, the remaining electoral votes are cast the way each Congressional District within the state voted.
(The difficulty with this approach is the “special minority districts” created to get black and/or Hispanic Democrats elected to Congress. These “special districts” are designed so a minority can easily win both the primary and the general elections. In order to assure this double electoral success for Congress, these districts have 70 plus percent Democratic voters with over half of those voters being minority voters. This concentrating of Democratic voters could work against a Democrat running for the White House because all those extra Democratic votes in these “special districts” could not help carry the whole state for the Democrat. Consider Missouri which has 10 electoral votes: two (2) of these from the “special districts”, 6 from normal Congressional Districts, and of course two from the two senators. Missouri is a competitive state it has a Democratic governor, a Democratic US senator, and a Republican US Senator. But if the Maine/Nebraska system was used to allocate electoral votes in Missouri the most the Democrats could realistically hope to get would the 2 state wide electors and the electors from the two “special districts” out of the 10 electoral votes. This is because the six normal Congressional Districts have just enough extra Republican voters to be pretty reliably Republican.)
The bottom line, neither of these solutions is likely to be implemented anytime soon, but something needs to be done. ......... .(prepared by Hugh Murray on 9/22/2016)
Can the Catholic Church tolerate two great upheavals in less than 100 years? -
Vatican II revolutionized the liturgical practices of the Catholic Church in the early 1970's. Now Pope Francis seems to trying to revolutionize the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and the indissolubility of marriage. These are doctrinal issues..
Can any institution, even the Catholic Church, tolerate so much fundamental change in such a short period of time..
The liturgy that Vatican II changed (or at least authorized local bishops to change) dated back to the fourth century when St. Basil and St John Chrysostom designed the basic liturgical form. This form had been re-affirmed by the Council of Trent in the seventeenth century when the Tridentine Mass was mandated in the western church . Vatican II upset a liturgical tradition that was 1700 years old..
Now Francis’ proposed changes are even more dramatic because the teachings he wishes to change date back to St Paul and even Christ himself..
Such change in the doctrine and liturgy of the most important religious tradition in the world would be difficult in best of times, but they are coming in the midst of tremendous upheaval in nearly every other area of life:.
1) Jobs are being off shored and/or replaced by technology at record rates causing angst in most work places..
2) New forms of human reproduction technology, both to limit births and to facilitate births, have affected the having and rearing of children worldwide..
3) Communications between people have been de-personalized through advances in computer and telephone technology..
So with all this pre-existing change going on the Catholic Church has decided to implement its own set of additional change(s). All social scientist know that religion is the one aspect of culture that needs to remain fixed particularly when other aspects of culture are changing..
It was probably wrong to do Vatican II in the middle of the Vietnam era when the contraception pill was coming into vogue. In like fashion it would probably be wrong for Pope Francis to change the Church’s teaching on marriage and homosexual activity in the middle of the declining economic prosperity, the breakdown of the family, with huge immigrant flows disrupting advanced societies, and with an enfiladed Islam ready to do battle across the globe..
Consciously and subconsciously people want at least a pause in the constant flood of change particularly change that it is impossible to opt out of. Practicing Catholics don’t want practicing homosexuals crowding into their Churches and processing up to receive Holy Communion. ................ (prepared by Hugh Murray on 9/17/2014)
Eisenhower's Style Compared to Trump and Clinton - Dwight Eisenhower’s campaign announcement for President was made in June 1952. He was elected Pres. In Nov ‘52. His announcement speech is in the C-SPAN archives, it should be listened to by every American. He speaks clearly, he develops rather complex thoughts about foreign affairs, the economy, etc. He uses short words but also longer words to shape his thoughts with precision.
His talk when compared to the mono-syllabic bombast of Trump, or the insipid nothingness of Clinton, is refreshing. ........... (prepared vy Hugh Murray on 9/23/2016)
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