Love Is the Law, The Rest Is Commentary

‘Yes, all the commandments flow from loving God. And since God loves our neighbors and cares for their welfare, so do we.’
‘Yes, all the commandments flow from loving God. And since God loves our neighbors and cares for their welfare, so do we.’ (photo: Unsplash)

There is a famous story told of Rabbi Hillel, who lived shortly before Jesus’ time, in which he was challenged by a potential convert to teach him the entire Torah while “standing on one foot.” It’s a Jewish way of saying, “Be brief.”

That same theme may be behind the question that is raised today by the scholar of law who asks, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” In answering while “standing on foot,” Jesus recites the traditional Jewish Shema: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6).

Jesus then adds, in common Rabbinic tradition, “The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Thus, when asked about the law, the Lord says that we should love. Yes, love God passionately, with your whole heart, soul and strength. As you do this, you will love what God loves and whom he loves, for this is the natural fruit of love. The more one loves God, the more one begins to love his laws, his vision, what he values.

Yes, all the commandments flow from loving God. And since God loves our neighbors and cares for their welfare, so do we.

The saints say, “If God wants it, then I want it. If God doesn’t want it, then I don’t want it.” Is that the way most of us talk? Many of us say, “How come I can’t have it? It’s not so bad; everyone else does it.” That doesn’t really sound like lovers talking, does it? Somehow the saints knew the law of God and could say it standing on one foot. How about us?

Here, then, is the whole law, standing on one foot: Love God. Let his love permeate you completely, and every other commandment will implicitly flow from this love.

Love does not ask if we have to go to Mass or confession. Love wants to be with God and express joyful gratitude. Love does not wonder whether we must respect each other enough to speak the truth in love or to be men and women of our word. It does not wonder whether it is acceptable to steal from others or to fail to give them what is justly due. It does not wonder whether we should be generous to the poor rather than greedy or whether to be appreciative and satisfied rather than covetous. Love already knows the answer and lives it.

Love is the law, standing on one foot, and all the rest is commentary.

English Cardinal Ordains Former Anglican Bishop as Catholic Priest

‘A Moment of Great Joy’

Michael Nazir-Ali was ordained at an Oct. 30 Mass at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory, Warwick Street, London.

The ordination of Michael Nazir-Ali to the Catholic priesthood takes place in London on Oct. 30.
The ordination of Michael Nazir-Ali to the Catholic priesthood takes place in London on Oct. 30. (photo: Screenshot from the UK Ordinariate Twitter account; last visited 10/30/21)

English Cardinal Vincent Nichols on Saturday ordained a former Anglican bishop as a Catholic priest.

The archbishop of Westminster described the ordination of Michael Nazir-Ali at an Oct. 30 Mass at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory, Warwick Street, London, as “a moment of great joy.”

Screenshot from Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church YouTube channel.

Screenshot from Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church YouTube channel

“The Church places such trust and confidence in the effectiveness of the ordained ministry. So that is why this ordination is a moment of great joy,” the cardinal said in his homily at the livestreamed Mass.

“It is a moment in which we ask the Lord to effect in you, Michael, a full inclusion into the ordained ministry of the Catholic Church. As the prayer we have just offered stated, here we seek to build on the fruitfulness of the priestly ministry you have faithfully exercised for so many years now.”

Nazir-Ali, the former Anglican bishop of Rochester, England, entered into full communion with Rome within the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham on Sept. 29.

The personal ordinariate was created by Benedict XVI in 2011 for groups of former Anglicans seeking to preserve elements of their patrimony.

The 72-year-old who was once considered a possible future archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the world’s 85 million Anglicans, was ordained as a Catholic deacon on Oct. 28 by Archbishop Kevin McDonald, the emeritus archbishop of Southwark.

“For you, Michael, this journey has been rich indeed, in its geography, in your journey of learning, of prayer, of public ministry, and of decision,” Cardinal Nichols said.

Why Ghosts Rarely Visit Us

ELDERLY WOMAN,

Jacob Lund | Shutterstock

Philip Kosloski10/31/21

St. Thomas Aquinas believed in ghosts and explains why they do not appear more often.

For Catholics, ghosts are real, though they don’t always fit the mold of familiar ghost stories.

In Catholicism, the word “ghost” can refer to a departed soul, whether they are in Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. St. Thomas Aquinas elaborates on these separated souls in a supplement to his Summa Theologiae.

[A]ccording to the disposition of Divine providence separated souls sometimes come forth from their abode and appear to men, as Augustine, in the book quoted above, relates of the martyr Felix who appeared visibly to the people of Nola when they were besieged by the barbarians. It is also credible that this may occur sometimes to the damned, and that for man’s instruction and intimidation they be permitted to appear to the living; or again in order to seek our suffrages, as to those who are detained in purgatory, as evidenced by many instances related in the fourth book of the Dialogues.

Souls from purgatory may appear to us to ask us for our prayers, while souls in Hell may also appear, to instruct us or put the fear of God in our hearts. Those in Heaven can appear to us as well, for our spiritual benefit.

Aquinas notes that there is a major difference between saints in Heaven and the damned in Hell.

There is, however, this difference between the saints and the damned, that the saints can appear when they will to the living, but not the damned; for even as the saints while living in the flesh are able by the gifts of gratuitous grace to heal and work wonders, which can only be done miraculously by the Divine power, and cannot be done by those who lack this gift, so it is not unfitting for the souls of the saints to be endowed with a power in virtue of their glory, so that they are able to appear wondrously to the living, when they will: while others are unable to do so unless they be sometimes permitted.

Essentially, saints in Heaven are fully united to God and are allowed to appear to us whenever it is most fitting. Those in Hell do not have that same union and are only allowed to frighten us when God deems it necessary.

These types of ghosts are not to be confused with demonic spirits, who may appear as ghosts in order to intimidate us and lead us away from God.

While Halloween may seem like fun and games, in truth ghosts are real, though their appearance to us only occurs when it is in the will of God.

How To React When You Encounter A Ghost

SPIRIT

Bruce Rolff | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro10/31/21

“What they need is our spiritual help.”

As Catholics, we believe that God, the maker of all things visible and invisible, created the world around us with more going on than what lies on the surface. On a normal day, this brings to mind the presence of the divine or saintly intercession. As Halloween approaches, however, this line of the Nicene Creed makes us ponder the most popular of spooky invisible phenomena: ghosts.

Ghost history

The concept of ghosts is nothing new to the world. In fact, even in the biblical days people had a notion that uneasy spirits could return to the corporeal world. In a post for National Catholic Register, Tom McDonald points to instances in the Old and New Testament where ghosts are referenced.

In the Old Testament, in 1 Samuel, the Witch of Endor summons the spirit of Samuel to predict the fate of Saul. In the New Testament, after the Resurrection, the apostles mistake the Risen Christ for a ghost as he walks across the water. 

These references are hardly spooky, but they demonstrate that the concept of ghosts is one that humanity has grappled with for thousands of years. In that time, many of the greatest minds of the Church have tried their hand at explaining the phenomenon.

Church Fathers

St. Augustine was one Catholic thinker who broached the topic, and he attributed Saul’s encounter to a demonic entity. According to Catholic.com, St. Augustine considered most ghostly sightings to be angelic visions. It is worth noting, however, that Augustine’s thoughts on the matter were written with the intention to draw the faithful away from pagan practices.

St. Thomas Aquinas, on the other hand, thought that ghosts were a reality. In fact, St. Thomas Aquinas is said to have had several encounters with ghosts in his time. On one occasion he reported being visited by the spirit of a close friend, one he did not even know had passed away yet. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote of ghosts:

“… according to the disposition of divine providence, separated souls sometimes come forth from their abode and appear to men … It is also credible that this may occur sometimes to the damned, and that for man’s instruction and intimidation they be permitted to appear to the living.”

Modern views

The Catholic perspective on ghosts has continued to develop in the centuries since these Doctors of the Church penned their thoughts. In more recent times Catholic theologian and philosophy professor Peter Kreeft has categorized the different types of ghosts. Kreeft posits that there are three different types of ghost:

  • “Sad, wispy”: The “sad, wispy” ghost is a purgatorial spirit that suffers until it is released from its remaining earthly business. These ghosts remain behind to learn a lesson from their mistakes made during life. 
  • “Malicious and deceptive spirits”: These are entities that come “from hell,” and are most often conjured haphazardly during séances or using a ouija board.
  • “Bright, happy”: These spirits are those of deceased friends or family members. Kreeft notes that these spirits appear at God’s behest, in order to bring messages of hope and love.

U.S. Catholic notes that Kreeft reasoned that there is no contradiction between ghosts and Catholic theology. Ghosts may exist in heaven, purgatory, or hell, while subsequently being able to appear on Earth. Kreeft went so far as to posit that ghosts could corroborate Catholic teaching on the afterlife. He wrote:

“Ghosts confirm, rather than refute or disturb, Catholic theology of the afterlife,” says Kreeft. “Especially the very existence of a life after death, which is the main point skeptics dispute.”

Catholic reaction

As for whether or not it is right for a Catholic to believe in ghosts, it is perhaps best to seek the advice of a priest. Father Tim Plavac, of Ohio’s St. Bede the Venerable Parish, says that Catholics can indeed acknowledge the existence of ghosts and spirits around us. He does, however, caution that this acknowledgement should never lead the faithful towards the occult.

Fr. Plavac writes:

“When ‘ghosts’ make their presence felt in people’s homes and lives, I see them as needy spirits. They make themselves a pain to us because they are in pain, just like a person who is so disturbed inside, they can’t help but be a pain in other people’s lives, in spite of themselves. What they want and need is our spiritual help.”

In the end, as Fr. Plavac so astutely points out, the things that go bump in the night may well be cries for help.

If this is indeed the case, then prayer stands as the merciful tool of the faithful to send restless spirits towards peace. When faced with a possible haunting, it would seem that the best course of action is to turn to prayer.

Finding hope on All Saints Day

All the bad news cannot hamper the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Are your eyes open to see?

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles wrote this week, “There is a spiritual awakening going on in America, underneath all the controversy of our politics, the continued clouds of the pandemic, all the uncertainty about where our country is heading.”

The archbishop’s words struck a chord with me. I have to say, I agree with him.

The words of the Book of Wisdom come to mind: “Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself” (Wis 3:5-6). Not to be Pollyannaish, but it’s been proven that time and time again, trial and suffering leads to renewal. Like gold in the furnace.

With that in mind, I’d like to expand a bit on the archbishop’s instinct, offering some evidence of what I’ve seen.

This past week, the Church has witnessed marvelous conversions. These happen quietly, often without being widely celebrated or discussed. One woman was received into the Church just yesterday here in my religious community’s chapel in Washington, D.C. Other conversions are more widely discussed, to give us hope! In England, the Church witnessed the priestly ordination of Michael Nazir-Ali, a former Anglican bishop once considered a candidate for Canterbury! Nazir-Ali entered into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church on September 29.

I’ve also seen a groundswell for the pro-life movement. With important legal battles just around the corner, America’s increasingly public and ever-growing pro-life movement is bringing attention to the fundamental right of every human person: the right to life.

Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have been filled with pictures of children dressed up as saints! The sight of so many families learning about, depicting, and sharing the stories of holiness and heroism of the saints is fantastic. I wish social media would always be filled with so many pictures of the saints!

Speaking of saints, we have some marvelous new saints capturing public attention. If you missed the beatification of Blessed Sandra Sabbatini, you’ve got to take a dive into her story. Her life (she died in 1984 in a car accident) is an incredible story of a Christian living out the Gospel in the modern world. Another great saint, the American priest Fr. Michael McGivney was beatified just one year ago today! And we recently celebrated the feast day of Blessed Carlo Acutis, our first great millennial saint! Check out this interview with his mother, which took place with Aleteia just a few days ago.

As the Christmas holidays draw near, a time known for generosity and charitable giving, there’s reason to believe we’ll see continued kindness and expressions of support for the most vulnerable among us. Last year, charitable giving in the US increased 3.8% (when adjusted for inflation), reaching a record $471.44 billion.

Political unrest, economic instability, even ordeals suffered in the Church cannot hamper the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Archbishop Gomez says, “The bargain of our secular society and consumer economy has always been empty and false. It could never satisfy our deepest longings or answer the questions that we all hold in our hearts: Who am I? What kind of person should I be? What should I be living for, and why? What happens when I die?”

When these questions are asked, let us be armed and ready, with stories of the good things we’ve seen. There is, and will always be, evidence of our Lord’s work around us. This All Saints Day, let us pray to the host of heaven, that our eyes may be opened to see ever more clearly.