Thanking Freedom and Three Saints

I hope that all our readers had a delightful Thanksgiving weekend, a secular holiday, one may think, but as Christians we are called to ‘baptize’ the culture, to turn what could be an excuse simply to ‘manducare, bibere et epulare’, to paraphrase Saint Paul, ‘eat, drink and be merry’, into something spiritual and good. Just so, we may engage in such pleasurable activities with a ‘Catholic’, or universal, mind, seeing all things as a gift from God.

Hence, the food and stuffing and fine red wine are all means to an end, to grow in fellowship, as families and friends, to break bread together, with good and delightful conversation, eutrapelia, as Thomas would put it. As I quoted the Pauline dictum yesterday, give thanks to God for all things

We have much to be thankful for, even if they may be at times difficult. Ponder just the freedom we have in this country: We are free to practice our religion, to worship God as the Church asks us to. The same goes for education; there are good schools, teaching the truth, from elementary all the way to university, even if small and hidden; we may eat and well, with fresh food in plenty and wines of various terroires and vintages,; we can explore the great outdoors, and there is no end to such across this land, lakes, rivers, hills, mountains, vales and trails. We can still publicly disagree with the government and society, standing on corners protesting abortion; and, conversely, we are even free to have and raise as many children as we like; in the version of socialism practised in Canada, the government will even pay you handsomely to do so! (A brief internet search will reveal how much can be made on ‘baby bonus’).

Yet, like the voluntary prisoners in Plato’s Republic, so few avail themselves of these freedoms; we have been ungrateful, not seeing them as good; or, if good, as not worth the trouble. We would rather fast junk food and the sugary concoction known as ‘pop’ than anything substantial; a quick path to a ‘job’ than an education immersed in truth; a life of indolence in front of flickering screens than actually out there enjoying that God-given thing called ‘reality’; so many wallow in a life of ease and selfishness, contracepting ourselves into generational oblivion, than sacrificing for family and children. Who, in our current metaphysical malaise, wants to lay down their lives for something greater than they are?

We should be grateful, for in most countries across the world, these freedoms either do not exist, or are gravely restricted. And if we do not exercise our right to our freedoms, we will lose them, as we have already lost so many.

Despair? Perish the thought. Rather, if even a few more people availed themselves of these freedoms open to us, in truth, Canada, I dare say, would be changed overnight, and all for the good.

So esto vir, as the Bible says, man up; be grateful for what we are given; cast off the stultifying illusions; strive for virtue, truth and goodness; act as we should, and so become what we are meant to be. Live free or die? Live free, or we’re already dead.

Seeing things from the perspective of eternity we should, with the great Job of old, give thanks even for our sufferings, which God only sends to help us detach ourselves from this world and grow in holiness and love of Him. After all, He is a jealous God, and desires not His children to become addicted to idols of any kind, which will only lead us to alienation from Him, which our tradition calls ‘hell’. Avoid that at all costs.

While on eternity, and for helping in gaining heaven, today we celebrate at least three saints:

Saint Denis (+250 or 258), the first bishop of Paris, who lost his head for the faith on the hill now called Montmartre; tradition, with a small ‘t’, has it that he walked to the summit of the hill, carrying his disembodied head, preaching as he went, before falling down, where a basilica now stands, and where, as I wrote on my pilgrimage notes, perpetual adoration has been held since 1885.

Saint John Leonardi (+1609), a holy and zealous priest, founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God, prayer warrior and miracle worker, confidante of Saint Philp Neri and, with him, one of the great lights of what is (unfortunately) called the Catholic ‘Counter Reformation’, which is, of course, the real Reformation.

And, yes, we also celebrate today Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (+1890) also a follower of Saint Philip’s way of life, a member of his congregation, bringing the Oratory of Saint Philip from Italy to England, where he was prior of the Birmingham Oratory from his conversion to Catholicism on this day in 1845 until his death in 1890. Much could be written on the great Newman, and I will get to that over time I hope, but for now, in this brief note, ask his and the other saints’ intercession in these troubled days, and read a bit of the calm, clear prose of Newman, a refreshing delight to the soul and mind.

Eutrapelia, indeed.