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A lover of the liberal arts, especially antiquity in its diverse forms, I am nonetheless wholly devoted to, utterly transformed by divine revelation. I seek to know the thought of the past, articulate my deepest longings aroused by the wise, and understand the uneasy relationship between reason and revelation; all for the sake of proper action and contemplation, both now and in the future.


Method and Spirit for Studying the Code of Canon Law

After the initial excitement wore off, I began to fear I would hate canon law. For one who adores the powerful, polyphonic harmonies of the Gregorian Rite and the endless ritual precision it requires, not to mention the pulsing, silent Roman discipline, I surprised myself. My suspicion was similar to my misgivings concerning civil lawyers and the practice of moral theologians I have experienced; civil lawyers use the law to serve injustice, moral theologians (so it often seems) say that sin is no sin, and I feared that canon lawyers would use the Code to serve sin, not the good of souls. 

I still have my misgivings, but they have lessened and may lessen further. That some canon lawyers do treat the law this way does not mean canon law itself must inherently tend towards encouraging sin (duh). Even I can recognize that. At any rate, I resolved (obviously) that I would not use it that way. Further, in writing canon law briefs, I must admit that the requirement - explain what the law says to this case - can be, and usually is, quite delightful, because it encourages one of my burgeoning talents: to discuss something dispassionately and seek the truth alone. Omit unnecessary words, as Strunk would say. Be concise, even elliptical - but crystal clear. I admit: I like that. I like it a lot. Simplicity and clarity is what I strive for in all writing, and it never seems to be as effortless as when I am writing a canon law brief.

Still, I am a man, not a machine (would a robot be the best canon lawyer of all? Or would human talents like imagination still be necessary to render a good judgment?), so I must have a motivation, which cannot be the intent to make evil seem licit. Obviously the solution is simple (and obviously it took me until last fortnight to see it): pastoral zeal is the motivation; the good of souls, which is salvation. Happily, I discovered that the very last canon in the Code (canon 1752, if you're interested) states this plainly: Prae oculis habita salute animarum, quae in Ecclesia suprema semper lex esse debet. The salvation of souls is the supreme law of the Church; it is the form of canon law, it is its soul. So in all of my judgments, practiced in class and then (God willing) in the midst of and for the Mystical Body of Christ, I will be in service to this beautiful principle. This reinforces one of my most powerful longings - service to a beautiful cause that is greater than me - so I am satisfied. Bonum est!

Everything becomes more and more simple. Obedience. Simplicity. Trust. Sacrifice. All for the Beautiful.


On the Second Vatican Council III

A lot has changed in the two years plus since I last wrote on the Council. A lot of my thinking on it has changed, and the situation of the Church in the world (particularly in the United States) is quite a bit different than it was almost three summers ago. Still, I need to absorb the teachings of the Council, and I think this project is a worthwhile way to do it. So I will continue, but my method will change, at least in the beginning. Instead of moving chronologically into Sacrosanctum Concilium, I am leaving that to the end. I have a lot to say on it, a lot to say about the Liturgical Movement and what liturgical reform truly mean, but now is not the time. So I am moving into Lumen Gentium, and from there to Gaudium et Spes. After that I am unsure whether to continue through Nostra Aetate and Dignitatis Humanae, or go back to the First Session and examine Inter Mirifica. I lean towards the latter, for Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes will probably give me enough of the Council's intent to make the lesser, more obscure decrees intelligible - not to mention that these two documents are among the most powerful the Council promulgated. 

This project has made my overall intellectual path become increasingly clear recently. Questions of what the Council meant, mean and ought to mean became questions of what sort of man I want to become, and now I have an answer. I want to be a man of Tradition. Not bound to a particular time and place, not a partisan in some ideological controversy or other, but a man of Tradition, guided by the Holy Spirit. I read three novels by Michael O'Brien recently, and the first two (about the Apocalypse) especially brought home the reality of spiritual warfare and what the oppression of evil means for life within Holy Mother Church. One does not dialogue with the Father of Lies; one refutes the foul serpent through faith, hope, and love. We must walk a path we do not know. Simplicity. Obedience. Trust. Unknowing. For me this means: more or less abandon attempts to argue and defend the Faith where this is not necessary; avoid idiotic controversies, especially on social media. Instead, focus your energies on becoming steeped in the identity and Tradition of Holy Mother Church: Her liturgical, dogmatic, moral, Scriptural, and ascetical/mystical traditions. This will direct me more towards liturgy, Scripture, and ascetical theology, I think (at least that's where my interests have slowly and increasingly been feeding as of late), but I will take hold of the one, and not let go of the other. I want to stand within the stream of Tradition, Itself a dynamic, powerful, life-giving force, guided by the Holy Spirit, and from that place of silent communion with the Holy Trinity - and that place alone - will I, by the grace of God, have the proper perspective to seek after the lost sheep, if the Master still wishes me to be a simple priest. 

So onto Lumen Gentium. I have already read the Constitution, and am studying it line by line. Each chapter will be its own article here, which is a practice I will probably keep for all the major decrees. I have almost finished the first chapter this way, so the first article proper on the Council - almost three years since I first voiced interest in it! - might appear as soon as next Tuesday. 

Thus: next stop, Lumen Gentium.