Monday, April 12, 2010

On the office of Shepherd

Offered for your meditation... We shall talk more about St. Albert as time permits.
--Dr. Thursday.

When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its corner-stone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward - in a word, a man. [see Mt 16:22, 26:33, 26:69-74] And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. [Mt 16:18] All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.
[GKC Heretics CW1:70]

The Peter whom popular Church teaching presents is very rightly the Peter to whom Christ said in forgiveness, "Feed my lambs." [Jn 21:15] He is not the Peter upon whom Christ turned as if he were the devil, crying in that obscure wrath, "Get thee behind me, Satan." [Mt 16:23]
[GKC The Everlasting Man CW2:320]

Christ founded the Church with two great figures of speech; in the final words to the Apostles who received authority to found it. The first was the phrase about founding it on Peter as on a rock, the second was the symbol of the keys. About the meaning of the former there is naturally no doubt in my own case; but it does not directly affect the argument here save in two more secondary aspects. It is yet another example of a thing that could only fully expand and explain itself afterwards, and even long afterwards. And it is yet another example of something the very reverse of simple and self-evident even in the language, in so far as it described a man as a rock when he had much more the appearance of a reed.

But the other image of the keys has an exactitude that has hardly been exactly noticed. The keys have been conspicuous enough in the art and heraldry of Christendom; but not everyone has noted the peculiar aptness of the allegory. ... The Early Christian was very precisely a person carrying about a key, or what he said was a key. The whole Christian movement consisted in claiming to possess that key. It was not merely a vague forward movement, which might be better represented by a battering-ram. It was not something that swept along with it similar or dissimilar things, as does a modern social movement. As we shall see in a moment, it rather definitely refused to do so. It definitely asserted that there was a key and that it possessed that key and that no other key was like it; in that sense it was as narrow as you please. Only it happened to be the key that could unlock the prison of the whole world; and let in the white daylight of liberty.
[GKC The Everlasting Man CW2:346]

[on the papacy:] It is true that as yet large numbers of such social reformers would shrink from the idea of the institution being an individual. But even that prejudice is weakening under the wear and tear of real political experience. We may be attached, as many of us are, to the democratic ideal; but most of us have already realized that direct democracy, the only true democracy which satisfies a true democrat, is a thing applicable to some things and not others; and not at all to a question such as this. The actual speaking voice of a vast international civilization, or of a vast international religion, will not in any case be the actual articulate distinguishable voices or cries of all the millions of the faithful. It is not the people who would be the heirs of a dethroned Pope; it is some synod or bench of bishops. It is not an alternative between monarchy and democracy, but an alternative between monarchy and oligarchy. And, being myself one of the democratic idealists, I have not the faintest hesitation in my choice between the two latter forms of privilege. A monarch is a man; but an oligarchy is not men; it is a few men forming a group small enough to be insolent and large enough to be irresponsible. A man in the position of a Pope, unless he is literally mad, must be responsible. But aristocrats can always throw the responsibility on each other; and yet create a common and corporate society from which is shut out the very vision of the rest of the world. These are conclusions to which many people in the world are coming; and many who would still be much astonished and horrified to find where those conclusions lead. But the point here is that even if our civilization does not rediscover the need of a Papacy, it is extremely likely that sooner or later it will try to supply the need of something like a Papacy; even if it tries to do it on its own account. That will be indeed an ironical situation. The modern world will have set up a new Anti-Pope, even if, as in Monsignor Benson's romance, [The Lord of the World] the Anti-Pope has rather the character of an Antichrist. The point is that men will attempt to put some sort of moral power out of the reach of material powers.
[GKC The Thing CW3:326-7]

... in commenting on St. John's words, "Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me," he [st. Albert the Great] have given in advance the ideal of a pastor which he would seek to realize in the immediate future. Albert says:
"It is the test of those to whom the pastoral office is confided. They are not examined with regard to knowledge, for they ought to receive this from the Holy Ghosst, but with respect to live, for it is love which is the measure of life, merit, and reward; as it is the cause of fidelity toward the flock. But why is the question put three times? It is because the love of our neighbor exacts three things: first, the ardor of charity, which enables us to love with strength and zeal. Hence it is said, 'The lamps thereof (love) are fire and flames.' Secondly, discernment in love, which causes us to lo9ve what ought to be loved, and to know the reason and the means of loving. This is the meaning of the word love (Latin dilectio from dis and legere [to choose].) It is also said, 'I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope.' Thirdly, the order in charity, so as to know in what degree each sheep of the flok ought to be loved. 'He set in order charity in me.' Divine love possesses also three characteristics, since it is written, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, with thy whole mind, and with thy whole soul': With the whole heart, so that nothing may turn us from the Sovereign Good; with entire submission of mind, in order that we may never be deceived; with our whole soul, so as to be screened from every distraction. When the sacred writer adds: with all the strength of thy soul, it means the same thing, because the powers of the soul must be used in order to love perfectly."
[Thomas M. Schwertner, O.P., St. Albert the Great 105-6]

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