To continue the discussion on why some people no longer believe in natural law, or act as it this does not exist, I remind readers that William of Ockham denied that humans have intentions or a leaning towards doing good, as that would interfere with free will, in his opinion.
Now, this idea leads to relativism and denies the goodness of man, especially man in sanctifying grace, although all men have been given by nature inclinations towards the good.
St. Francis de Sales refers to these inclinations in several chapters in Treatise on The Love of God, but I shall confine myself to two selections.
The wind that raises the apodes blows first upon their feathers, as the parts most light and most susceptible of its agitation, by which it gives the beginning of motion to their wings, extending and displaying them in such sort that they give a hold by which to seize the bird and waft it into the air. And if they, thus raised, do contribute the motion of their wings to that of the wind, the same wind that took them will still aid them more and more to fly with ease. Even so, my dear Theotimus, when the inspiration, as a sacred gale, comes to blow us forward into the air of holy love, it first takes our will, and by the sentiment of some heavenly delectation it moves it, extending and unfolding the natural inclination which the will has to good, so that this same inclination serves as a hold by which to seize our spirit. And all this, as I have said, is done in us without us, for it is the divine favour that prevents us in this sort. But if our will thus holily prevented, perceiving the wings of her inclination moved, displayed, extended, stirred, and agitated, by this heavenly wind, contributes, be it never so little, its consent—Ah! how happy it is, Theotimus. The same favourable inspiration which has seized us, mingling its action with our consent, animating our feeble motions with its vigour, and vivifying our weak cooperation by the power of its operation, will aid, conduct, and accompany us, from love to love, even unto the act of most holy faith requisite for our conversion. True God! Theotimus, what a consolation it is to consider the secret method by which the Holy Ghost pours into our hearts the first rays and feelings of his light and vital heat! O Jesus! how delightful a pleasure it is to see celestial love, which is the sun of virtues, as 99 little by little with a progress which insensibly becomes sensible, it displays its light upon a soul, and stops not till it has it all covered with the splendour of its presence, giving it at last the perfect beauty of love’s day! O how cheerful, beautiful, sweet and agreeable this daybreak is! Nevertheless true it is that break of day is either not day, or if it be day, it is but a beginning day, a rising of the day, and rather the infancy of the day than the day itself. In like manner without doubt these motions of love which forerun the act of faith required for our justification are either not love properly speaking, or but a beginning and imperfect love. They are the first verdant buds which the soul, warmed with the heavenly sun, begins, as a mystical tree, to put forth in springtime, rather presages of fruit than fruit itself……….
—Ah! Theotimus, we then desire it in such sort that, as the hart panteth after the fountains of waters; so my soul panteth after thee, O God! My soul hath thirsted after the strong living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God?101 This desire is just, Theotimus, for who would not desire so desirable a good? But it would be a useless desire, and would be but a continual torment to our heart if we had not 107 assurance that we should at length satiate it. He who on account of the delay of this happiness, protests that his tears were his ordinary bread day and night, so long as his God was absent, and his enemies demanded: where is thy God?102—Alas! what would he have done if he had not had some hope of one day enjoying this good, after which he sighed. The divine spouse goes weeping and languishing with love,103 because she does not at once find the well-beloved she is searching for. The love of the well-beloved had bred in her a desire, that desire begot an ardour to pursue it, and that ardour caused in her a languishing which would have consumed and annihilated her poor heart, unless she had hoped at length to meet with what she sought after. So then, lest the unrest and dolorous languor which the efforts of desiring love cause in our souls should make us fail in courage or reduce us to despair, the same sovereign good which moves in us so vehement a desire, also by a thousand thousand promises made in his Word and his inspirations, gives us assurance, that we may with ease obtain it, provided always that we will to employ the means which he has prepared for use and offers us to this effect.
And, in this selection below, the saint is even more specific.
If there could be found any men who were in the integrity of original justice in which Adam was created, though otherwise not helped by another assistance from God than that which he affords to each creature, in order that it may be able to do the actions befitting its nature, 57 such men would not only have an inclination to love God above all things but even naturally would be able to put into execution so just an inclination. For as this heavenly author and master of nature co-operates with and lends his strong hand to fire to spring on high, to water to flow towards the sea, to earth to sink down to its centre and stay there—so having himself planted in man’s heart a special natural inclination not only to love good in general but to love in particular and above all things his divine goodness which is better and sweeter than all things—the sweetness of his sovereign providence required that he should contribute to these blessed men of whom we speak as much help as should be necessary to practise and effectuate that inclination. This help would be on the one hand natural, as being suitable to nature, and tending to the love of God as author and sovereign master of nature, and on the other hand it would be supernatural, because it would correspond not with the simple nature of man, but with nature adorned, enriched and honoured by original justice, which is a supernatural quality proceeding from a most special favour of God. But as to the love above all things which such help would enable these men to practise, it would be called natural, because virtuous actions take their names from their objects and motives, and this love of which we speak would only tend to God as acknowledged to be author, lord and sovereign of every creature by natural light only, and consequently to be amiable and estimable above all things by natural inclination and tendency. And although now our human nature be not endowed with that original soundness and righteousness which the first man had in his creation, but on the contrary be greatly depraved by sin, yet still the holy inclination to love God above all things stays with us, as also the natural light by which we see his sovereign goodness to be more worthy of love than all things; and it is impossible that one thinking attentively upon God, yea even by natural reasoning only, should not feel a certain movement of love which the secret inclination of our nature excites in the bottom of our hearts, by which at the first apprehension of this chief and sovereign object, the will is taken, and perceives itself stirred up to a complacency in it…It is the same, Theotimus, with our heart, which though it be formed, nourished and bred amongst corporal, base and transitory things, and in a manner under the wings of nature, notwithstanding, at the first look it throws on God, at its first knowledge of him, the natural and first inclination to love God which was dull and imperceptible, awakes in an instant, and suddenly appears as a spark from amongst the ashes, which touching our will gives it a movement of the supreme love due to the sovereign and first principle of all things.
So what has happened in these times when young people, and the not-so-young no longer believe in natural law philosophy. denying that the law of God is written on our hearts and leads us to good intentions?
This age of cynicism reveals a gross tendency in many people to no longer believe in the goodness of men’s hearts, or that they care for the common good. What has caused this doubt, as well as the obvious departure from natural law philosophy, will be discussed in the next few days on this blog.
I remind readers of these thoughts earlier this year on the old blog.
“And, Why Do Our Sins So Waste Us?”
The above line is from The Inferno, Canto VII, line 21. I move between St. Paul and Dante in this post.
In the last post, I highlighted some sections from Romans, and in this part of the epistle, St. Paul specifically is referring to homosexuality.
What has struck me is this. The loss of faith came first and then the sin.
We are emphasizing the wrong thing about homosexuality, even some clergymen are doing so. We keep talking and writing about the inclination or tendency as the basis for the sin.
No, the basis for the sin is the lack of faith. The second basis for this sin is the denial of natural law.
Paul clearly states that the men fall away from God first, and then commit sin.
What does he mean?
In our culture of psychology, we turn to the roots of sin, such as the disordered attraction suffered by homosexuals. Paul omits that step entirely. He was living at a time when this sin was rampant in certain places, (not all, by the way).But, he points to an important factor, which is that the lack of faith and trust in God causes sin.
We do not have to be slaves to passion. We choose to do so.
Let me compare this with a person who has a tendency to drink too much, which, sadly I see daily here in Dublin. In my block alone, there are two pubs, one at one end of the block and one at the other end, with another one in-between and an off-licence, all in the space of 300 feet. Amazing. Four places to buy drink in this small block.
Now, if a person had a drinking problem, this block would be an occasion of serious sin. If I go to early Mass, I see drunken men on the street in front of some of the pubs. They have been there all night. In a mile and a half walk to Church, I must pass at least ten pubs. I should count them. Too many.
Now, why are these poor souls going into the pubs? Something is missing in their lives which would keep them away.
Faith in Divine Providence, the knowledge of the Love of God, and the resting in this Love are lacking.
First, as St. Paul points out, is the lack of faith, and second, sin.
We all have crosses. Poverty, loneliness, stress at work, broken marriages, loss of children, hatred from those close to us, abandonment, fear, illnesses of all kinds, whatever.
We have the power not to succumb to sin if we recognize that Christ has changed us and wants to heal us completely.
This may take our entire lives. We may have to spend time in purgatory, but we shall experience purification and freedom if we really follow Christ.
Now, of course, we sin while having faith, but less and less seriously as we go along the path to holiness. The more we die to self, the more we pray and do penance, the more God will bless us with grace.
Of course, we have to avoid the near occasion of sin. We must.
Fo one young woman, for example, that means not watching romantic Jane Austen movies. as these make her fantasize about men, instead of living in the singleness which is her cross. She would love to be married, but has come to realize this most likely will not happen as she grows older. To watch a Jane Austen movie puts her into the occasion of sins-pretending, lying to herself, day-dreaming, and all the wastefulness of fantasizing.
She will be a saint someday, as she will not let herself be in an occasion of sin. God bless her.
Now, this temptation may seem not as serious as that of same-sex-attraction. But, for her, it is a fight.
We cannot judge crosses. We cannot judge the pain of suffering. But, if we do not allow suffering, we shall suffer in hell. Anything, even reading, can bring us to mortal sin:
Inferno Canto V, lines 70-142 Paolo and Francesca
After I had heard my teacher name the ancient knights and ladies, pity overcame me, and I was as if dazed. I began: ‘Poet, I would speak, willingly, to those two who go together, and seem so light upon the wind.’ And he to me: ‘You will see, when they are nearer to us, you can beg them, then, by the love that leads them, and they will come.’
As soon as the wind brought them to us, I raised my voice: ‘O weary souls, come and talk with us, if no one prevents it.’ As doves, claimed by desire, fly steadily, with raised wings, through the air, to their sweet nest, carried by the will, so the spirits flew from the crowd where Dido is, coming towards us through malignant air, such was the power of my affecting call.
‘O gracious and benign living creature, that comes to visit us, through the dark air, if the universe’s king were our friend, we, who tainted the earth with blood, would beg him to give you peace, since you take pity on our sad misfortune. While the wind, as now, is silent, we will hear you and speak to you, of what you are pleased to listen to and talk of.
The place where I was born is by the shore, where the River Po runs down to rest at peace, with his attendant streams. Love, that is quickly caught in the gentle heart, filled him with my fair form, now lost to me, and the nature of that love still afflicts me. Love, that allows no loved one to be excused from loving, seized me so fiercely with desire for him, it still will not leave me, as you can see. Love led us to one death. Caïna, in the ninth circle waits, for him who quenched our life.’
These words carried to us, from them. After I had heard those troubled spirits, I bowed my head, and kept it bowed, until the poet said: ‘What are you thinking?’ When I replied, I began: ‘O, alas, what sweet thoughts, what longing, brought them to this sorrowful state? Then I turned to them again, and I spoke, and said:‘Francesca, your torment makes me weep with grief and pity. But tell me, in that time of sweet sighs, how did love allow you to know these dubious desires?’
And she to me: ‘There is no greater pain, than to remember happy times in misery, and this your teacher knows. But if you have so great a yearning to understand the first root of our love, I will be like one who weeps and tells. We read, one day, to our delight, of Lancelot and how love constrained him: we were alone and without suspicion. Often those words urged our eyes to meet, and coloured our cheeks, but it was a single moment that undid us. When we read how that lover kissed the beloved smile, he who will never be separated from me, kissed my mouth all trembling. That book was a Galeotto, a pandar, and he who wrote it: that day we read no more.’
While the one spirit spoke, the other wept, so that I fainted out of pity, and, as if I were dying, fell, as a dead body falls.
We have to decide to live with suffering that is redemptive.
To suffer ssa could make one a great saint.
St. Paul, the Church’s first theologian, is correct. The lack of faith, the lack of relationship with God comes first. And, then sin. Sin clouds the intellect and weakens the will. Let us remember this when we are with our brothers and sisters who need our help to break away from the gay lifestyle. That lifestyle is their occasion of sin.
Dante refers to Aquinas and Aristotle in lines 106-108, Canto VI. “as the soul becomes more perfect, so it is more perfect in its several operations.” This quotation refers to the line in which Virgil states that after the Final Judgement, those already in hell will be more perfected in their view of the justice of their punishment, but will then feel more pain. I apply this to myself, in never being presumptuous, and praying for final perseverance. This must be part of our discussion-the awareness of grace and justice.
to be continued…