Rorate Caeli

The example of Good King Wenceslas


This morning, we are gathered around the altar for the glorious commemoration of the martyr Saint Wenceslaus, whose relics I was able to venerate before Mass in the Basilica dedicated to him. He shed his blood in your land, and his eagle, which – as the Cardinal Archbishop has just mentioned – you chose as a symbol for this visit, constitutes the historical emblem of the noble Czech nation. This great saint, whom you are pleased to call the "eternal" Prince of the Czechs, invites us always to follow Christ faithfully, he invites us to be holy. He himself is a model of holiness for all people, especially the leaders of communities and peoples. Yet we ask ourselves: in our day, is holiness still relevant? Or is it now considered unattractive and unimportant? Do we not place more value today on worldly success and glory? Yet how long does earthly success last, and what value does it have?

The last century – as this land of yours can bear witness – saw the fall of a number of powerful figures who had apparently risen to almost unattainable heights. Suddenly they found themselves stripped of their power. Those who denied and continue to deny God, and in consequence have no respect for man, appear to have a comfortable life and to be materially successful. Yet one need only scratch the surface to realize how sad and unfulfilled these people are. Only those who maintain in their hearts a holy "fear of God" can also put their trust in man and spend their lives building a more just and fraternal world. Today there is a need for believers with credibility, who are ready to spread in every area of society the Christian principles and ideals by which their action is inspired. This is holiness, the universal vocation of all the baptized, which motivates people to carry out their duty with fidelity and courage, looking not to their own selfish interests but to the common good, seeking God’s will at every moment.

In the Gospel we heard Jesus speaking clearly on this subject: "What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?" (Mt 16:26). In this way we are led to consider that the true value of human life is measured not merely in terms of material goods and transient interests, because it is not material goods that quench the profound thirst for meaning and happiness in the heart of every person. This is why Jesus does not hesitate to propose to his disciples the "narrow" path of holiness: "whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (16:25). And he resolutely repeats to us this morning: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (16:24). Without doubt, this is hard language, difficult to accept and put into practice, but the testimony of the saints assures us that it is possible for all who trust and entrust themselves to Christ. Their example encourages those who call themselves Christian to be credible, that is, consistent with the principles and the faith that they profess. It is not enough to appear good and honest: one must truly be so. And the good and honest person is one who does not obscure God’s light with his own ego, does not put himself forward, but allows God to shine through.

This is the lesson we can learn from Saint Wenceslaus, who had the courage to prefer the kingdom of heaven to the enticement of worldly power. His gaze never moved away from Jesus Christ, who suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in his steps, as Saint Peter writes in the second reading that we just heard. As an obedient disciple of the Lord, the young prince Wenceslaus remained faithful to the Gospel teachings he had learned from his saintly grandmother, the martyr Ludmila. In observing these, even before committing himself to build peaceful relations within his lands and with neighbouring countries, he took steps to spread the Christian faith, summoning priests and building churches. In the first Old Slavonic "narration", we read that "he assisted God’s ministers and he also adorned many churches" and that "he was benevolent to the poor, clothed the naked, gave food to the hungry, welcomed pilgrims, just as the Gospel enjoins. He did not allow injustice to be done to widows, he loved all people, whether poor or rich". ...

Wenceslaus died as a martyr for Christ. It is interesting to note that, by killing him, his brother Boleslaus succeeded in taking possession of the throne of Prague, but the crown placed on the heads of his successors did not bear his name. Rather, it bears the name of Wenceslaus, as a testimony that "the throne of the king who judges the poor in truth will remain firm for ever". This fact is judged as a miraculous intervention by God, who does not abandon his faithful: "the conquered innocent defeated the cruel conqueror just as Christ did on the cross" (cf. The Legend of Saint Wenceslaus), and the blood of the martyr did not cry out for hatred or revenge, but rather for pardon and peace.
Benedict XVI
September 28, 2009

28 comments:

ben ingledew said...

"What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?" (Mt 16:26).

What is that supposed to mean. It should be ...

"What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul?" (Mt 16:26).

Everybody forfeits their life. It is a punishment for original sin.

"For what does it profit a pope if he gains the worlds respect and millions upon millions suffer the loss of their souls."

MCITL said...

I pity you, ben ingledew, please relent!

Please open your heart and mind!

Understand that "life" includes body and soul, both of which must be redeemed, as the Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of the Incarnate God was put to death, entire, and arose gloriously and entire, our Savior and Lord.

Let us pray for one another.

((((..))))

David said...

Ben, do you really think that Pope Benedict XVI was referring to this earthly life and not eternal life? (By the way, was the address delivered in English, or translated thereto?)

Do you really think that Pope Benedict XVI is seeking the world's respect? Do you really think that he cares nothing for souls?

Jordanes said...

What is that supposed to mean. It should be ...

"What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul?" (Mt 16:26).

Everybody forfeits their life. It is a punishment for original sin.


The death that comes from original sin is not merely the end of a human organism's biological functions, but the death of the soul, which if not remedied will result in eternal death, final damnation -- i.e., forfeiting one's life/soul.

Hebrew "nephesh" means "life," "living creature," "soul," "self," or even "corpse."

Greek "psuche" has a similar range of meanings.

"For what does it profit a pope if he gains the worlds respect and millions upon millions suffer the loss of their souls."

Oh yeah, that's Pope Benedict alright -- enjoying, and angling to keep, the world's respect! Ha!

John McFarland said...

Ben,

I wouldn't carp at the first of the statements of the Pope in the Czech Rep. (the first that's been posted here, at any rate) that reflects a true Christian orientation.

To be sure, it would be better if he called on the congregation to follow in St. Wenceslas' footsteps in encouraging the spread of the faith. But I at least am pleased to have it.

But I still have the basic problem: how to square this homily with the rest of what he's always saying.

Anonymous said...

This is the most traditional sermon I have ever read from Pope B16.

John MacFarland isn't the Pope saying to immitate and follow in the steps of good King Wenceslas? That is how I read his sermon.

Bryan Dunne said...

The Czech version of the Holy Father's speech from vatican.va is

"Neboť co prospěje – říká Ježíš – člověku, když získá celý svět, ale ztratí **svou duši**?“ (Mt 16,26).

"Do not fear....but will lose his soul"

"svou dusi" is definitely Soul.

The Czech/Slovak for Life is "Zivot", funny that the English (and indeed French) version has "life" rather than "Soul" as the Vatican's translation.

PS: Do you have any news of Mr Palad's situation after the flooding?

Gideon Ertner said...

But I still have the basic problem: how to square this homily with the rest of what he's always saying.

Because the authentic interpreter of the divine doctrine of the Church is Pope John McFarland I of the ancient and venerable see of Nusquamville, IN.

Jon said...

I think the homily very "Benedictine" (in more ways than one) and fine.

The homily was about true charity, rooted in Christ, as opposed to Eurobamacare humanism.

"In the good saint's steps he trod..."

Anonymous said...

"Today there is a need for believers with credibility, who are ready to spread in every area of society the Christian principles and ideals by which their action is inspired."

Corpus Christianum!
www.corpuschristianum.org

Jordanes said...

The English versions of the Pope's talks use the USCCB's New American Bible translation, which includes the imprecise word "life" for "psuche," justifying that with a factually erroneous footnote to John 12:25 that says, "the Greek word psyche refers to a person's natural life. It does not mean 'soul,' for Hebrew anthropology did not postulate a body/soul dualism in the way that is familiar to us."

That the Greek word "psyche" means "natural life" rather than "soul" would have been news to Socrates and his heirs. The claims about Hebrew anthropology need also to be qualified by reference to Wisdom 9:15.

David said...

One would have to be very cynical to not recognize that the Holy Father is talking about eternal life.

It is an excellent homily.

By the way, Jordanes, I am the former "prodinoscopus". I've had a change of heart about many things since the last time I posted here.

John McFarland said...

Anonymous 15:47,

It could be read to imply that all Czech Catholics could go forth and evangelize.

But the Czech Rep. (like pretty much every other nation) is hardly a bastion of Catholic fervor, so it wouldn't have been a bad idea to make the point quite explicit.

But perhaps he didn't want to offend Czech Protestants with references to such unecumenical pronouncements as The Great Commission.

As for those wondering if life meant eternal life, I'd suggest a more profitable exercise would be to look at the Pope's encyclical on hope, since hope as a theological virtue is the hope of eternal life. Anyone care to read or reread the encyclical and give us a report? No doubt there are some eloquent passages telling us that the matters of the world are but dust and ashes by comparison to eternal life, and how we must die to the world in order to attain eternal life.

ben ingledew said...

I apologize to the Pope if he did say soul. The translation was to blame. I wonder if the error was deliberate. I hope not.

MCITL. I will pray for you too.

John McFarland said...

Mr. Ertner,

THE POPE IS THE SERVANT OF REVELATION. HE IS NOT ITS MASTER.

I am not a teacher in Israel, but I know the faith well enough to know when what is being said does not jibe with the Faith.

You might consider me spiritual kin of the little child in Andersen's tale who noted that the emperor had no clothes.

If you don't know how the story ended, it ended thus: the Emperor brazened it out, continuing buck nekkid down the street.

The story reminds me a bit of guys like you and Jordanes, except that the Emperor admitted the obvious.

I'll leave you to identify the equivalent of the mountebanks who gulled the emperor.

ben ingledew said...

I apologise to the Pope. It did not occur to me that this would be a mistranslation.

MCITL, thanks for the prayers. I will pray for you too. :-)

Gideon Ertner said...

Your Ireness,

You're damn right the Pope is not the master of Revelation. This Pope has never claimed to be, nor has anyone else ever done so (certainly not the heretics). Now will you stop treating Revelation as if it is the servant of your own petty and irascible whims?

Jordanes said...

As for those wondering if life meant eternal life, I'd suggest a more profitable exercise would be to look at the Pope's encyclical on hope, since hope as a theological virtue is the hope of eternal life. Anyone care to read or reread the encyclical and give us a report? No doubt there are some eloquent passages telling us that the matters of the world are but dust and ashes by comparison to eternal life, and how we must die to the world in order to attain eternal life.

I don't know about "eloquent" -- Pope Benedict is an academic, and academics are not known for eloquence or beautiful use of language, but still, a few relevant passages are SS 5, 8, 10-12, 37, 41-48, and 50.

I think SS 50 is quite eloquent.

Jordanes said...

By the way, Jordanes, I am the former "prodinoscopus". I've had a change of heart about many things since the last time I posted here.

I'm happy to hear it. Welcome back to Rorate, David.

John McFarland said...

Mr. Ertner,

As between the two of us, you would seem to be the more irascible one.

Let me make a suggestion. Read the Catechism of St. Pius X through, and then come back, look me in the eye (so to speak), and tell me that only an idiot and moral leper could say that there was any significant difference between what it says and what Pope Benedict says, day in and day out.

John McFarland said...

David,

Did you read anything from the SSPX besides Dinoscopus?

And would you be kind enough to give us some idea of what made you change your mind?

John McFarland said...

Jordanes,

You've given me what we Yank lawyers call a string cite. Lawyers are always suspicious of string cites, for obvious reasons.

Could you give me a bit of an explanation of what you think these passages mean? Meanwhile, I'll take a look at the string.

Jordanes said...

Could you give me a bit of an explanation of what you think these passages mean? Meanwhile, I'll take a look at the string.

I think you'll be more edified to read, contemplate, and pray over those passages yourself.

John McFarland said...

Jordanes,

5: highflown generalities; certainly not specifically Christian generalities

8: hope-filled faith the basis of our existence. In traditional theology, faith is of the intellect, hope of the will. What does this combining them mean? What does it mean to say that hope-filled faith is the basis of existence? I would have thought that that was God.

10-12: classic phenomenological sort of stuff. His Holiness quotes St. Ambrose and then indicates that he doesn't know what St. Ambrose means. Quotes St. Augustine to offer "learned ignorance." Wanders about in a sort of hifalutin spiritual fog. I'm reminded of a famous phrase of Hegel's: mere edificiation.

37: Paul Le-Bao-Tinh's writing is not a letter from Hell, with or without quotes. It is a letter from a suffering Christian who retains faith and hope and charity through it all. Nor does Jesus's descent into Hell have anything to do with suffering. The Pope wants to glorify suffering; but beyond that, I don't understand what he is trying to say. It's easy enough to figure suffering out in traditional Catholic theology: it's how we expiate our sins and grow in the supernatural life.

WHY WON'T HE MAKE HIMSELF CLEAR?

41-48: This account of judgment is rather different from Matthew
25, with the King separating the sheep from the goats; or from the lake of fire of the Apocalypse. It is also very long and almost entirely impenetrable, very much including the recent theologians' notion of our being burned by Christ personally at the judgment.

It looks to me as if, because you haven't the faintest idea what His Holiness is saying, you think it's profound; and because it's profound, you figure you don't have to wonder about the less than obvious connection between what the Church taught in its first 1930 years and what the Pope is here teaching.

I, on the other hand, do know what he is saying. This is not to say that I understand it any better than you do. But I do know that it wasn't meant to be understood. It's the classic existential and phenomenological search for Meaning mixed together with various elements of the Christian faith in an intellectual bouillabaise from which you can pull any number of things, but from which you can't pull the integral and unadulterated Catholic faith.

David said...

John,

I've read plenty of SSPX material in addition to Bishop Williamson's blog.

I've learned that parsing every word of the Pope for signs of crypto-heresy hasn't contributed one iota to my own salvation.

Jordanes said...

5: highflown generalities; certainly not specifically Christian generalities

You were supposed to read the cited passages before commenting on them. If you really read SS 5, you either failed to understand any of it, or else you made an act of the will not to understand it. A discussion of St. Gregory Nazianzen's comments on the Adoration of the Magi and the Star of Bethlehem, with the sentence, "Life is not a simple product of laws and the randomness of matter, but within everything and at the same time above everything, there is a personal will, there is a Spirit who in Jesus has revealed himself as Love." Nothing more than highflown generalities and certainly not specifically Christian generalities?

You're making a fool of yourself, Mr. McFarland. Stop it.

While we're at it, you can also take a look at SS 4 -- "When the Letter to the Hebrews says that Christians here on earth do not have a permanent homeland, but seek one which lies in the future (cf. Heb 11:13-16; Phil 3:20), this does not mean for one moment that they live only for the future: present society is recognized by Christians as an exile; they belong to a new society which is the goal of their common pilgrimage and which is anticipated in the course of that pilgrimage."

8: hope-filled faith the basis of our existence. In traditional theology, faith is of the intellect, hope of the will. What does this combining them mean?

Um, human beings have both an intellect and a will.

What does it mean to say that hope-filled faith is the basis of existence? I would have thought that that was God.

Where do you think Faith and Hope come from?

10-12: classic phenomenological sort of stuff. His Holiness quotes St. Ambrose and then indicates that he doesn't know what St. Ambrose means.

No, he says nothing of the sort.

Quotes St. Augustine to offer "learned ignorance." Wanders about in a sort of hifalutin spiritual fog. I'm reminded of a famous phrase of Hegel's: mere edificiation.

Quit playing dumb, Mr. McFarland. Or if you really do find the Pope's writings too difficult for you (right!), stop bothering yourself with them and have enough humility to refrain from picking and grousing about them.

Jordanes said...

37: Paul Le-Bao-Tinh's writing is not a letter from Hell, with or without quotes.

*Sigh*

St. Paul Le-Bao-Tinh is using a figure of speech, Mr. McFarland. He isn't saying that he's writing a letter from Hell.

It is a letter from a suffering Christian who retains faith and hope and charity through it all.

It is also a letter from a suffering Christian who says his prison is a true image of everlasting Hell. But go ahead and mock the Holy Martyr St. Paul Le-Bao-Tinh if you like. Congratulate yourself on having a more perfect faith than a sainted martyr -- he obviously has nothing to teach you.

Nor does Jesus's descent into Hell have anything to do with suffering.

Ah, so you think His Passion and Death, the separation of His soul and body, were a cakewalk, eh?

The Pope wants to glorify suffering; but beyond that, I don't understand what he is trying to say.

Then you are truly a pitiable soul.

WHY WON'T HE MAKE HIMSELF CLEAR?

He makes himself clear. You just don't like what he is telling you. You view the Faith through your own preferred theological lenses, and get frustrated that the Pope doesn't wear the same kind of glasses.

It looks to me as if, because you haven't the faintest idea what His Holiness is saying, you think it's profound; and because it's profound, you figure you don't have to wonder about the less than obvious connection between what the Church taught in its first 1930 years and what the Pope is here teaching.

I know exactly what the Holy Father is talking about. That's why I've noticed the obvious connection between what the Church has taught throughout her 2,000 years and what the Pope teaches.

Of course you'll just repeat that I refuse to see the obvious, etc., as if repeating your claims over and over again constitute a demonstration that the Pope's doctrine is contrary to the Church's perennial doctrine.

I, on the other hand, do know what he is saying.

Oh you do now? Hallelujah!

This is not to say that I understand it any better than you do.

Less, evidently. But that's because you won't read him with the docility proper to a Catholic.

But I do know that it wasn't meant to be understood.

You know nothing of the sort.

Enough with your attacks on the Holy Father, Mr. McFarland.

Enough.

Jordanes said...

http://www.catholicculture.org/
news/features/index.cfm?recnum=60350