The Conversion of St. Paul -Caravaggio
The Crucifixion of St. Peter -Caravaggio
We, just yesterday, had the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, which is a holy day of obligation in most of the world, but for some reason not here in the USofA. Not sure why, apart from the general trend to not disturb people’s comfortable lives by the spectre of going to Mass on a weekday. This year of course that was not a problem.
One of the things I find fascinating is that the very same feast is celebrated in all the Eastern Rites of the Church as well, according to their own liturgical customs and traditions, which is to say they did not copy it from the Roman Rite, the same feast developed organically in their own traditions. Thus, the feast of St. Peter and Paul is also a feast for the unity of the whole Church with its head, which is why it is a holy day of obligation (again, except here).
There is another reason why the Church specifically honors these two saints together in one feast day. In the Neronian persecution they in fact died separately, but nevertheless, together sanctified Rome by their blood. Rome was a great persecutor, and would continue to lay up many martyrs to the faith. Yet, the blood of the two Apostles firmly established the Church in Rome, and provided strength to it while under siege for the next 250 years. The bones of St. Peter and St. Paul were cherished by Christians, and moved into the catacombs to protect them from desecration.
The two paintings above, hang in the Church of Santa Maria del Populo, in Rome, right as pilgrims would traditionally enter the city from the north. They are in a side chapel which has an interesting history. The paintings there were part of a challenge between Caravaggio and a rival artist, Caracci, who painted in what is called the “Mannerist” style, generally loathed by art historians, though it in fact has many good points, especially for faith. Caravaggio was temperamental (to say the least), and annoyed that Caracci got the altar piece, decided to show his displeasure by painting the horse so that its rear end would be facing Carraci’s painting. Nevertheless, he provides a great image, the blinding light. Paul is off of his horse and his eyes are blinded, as the light shines upon him. A light that is too pure to be perceived without an interior light, namely the light of faith.
Now, St. Thomas makes the observation, that a single heresy is sufficient to corrupt the virtue of faith, when he says:
…qui discredit unum articulum fidei non habet habitum fidei neque formatae neque informis.
…one who disbelieves [even] one article of faith does not have the habitus of faith, either formed or unformed.
-Summa Theologiae II-II Q.5 a.3
Now St. Paul, who preached the faith everywhere, was martyred at a place which is now called Tre Fontane, or the Three Fountains. When his head rolled down the hill, three fountains sprang up in the places where it had rolled. Now, I was just in Rome in February, and the fountains were not flowing. You could see clearly that at one time they were because of the moisture in the rock in that part of the Church where the fountains are preserved. I asked a priest who was knowledgeable of it, what happened to the fountains? He said that he was told they stopped flowing in [surprise] 1965.
If true, this is significant because Paul represents the age of the gentiles, but the apostasy of the end times both in the book of the Apocalypse and in private revelation is that the gentiles will give up the faith. Thus we come to the Instrumentum Laboris for yet another synod of bishops. The many issues being discussed center around some pretty serious moral issues, which constitute part of the great upheaval of Western culture, namely divorce and remarriage, or, put another way, using your spouses like used cars, trying to trade them in for a better deal. There are many who would like to see a change in the Church’s praxis to allow for the sanctioning of divorce and remarriage by saying that people who have done this, without a judgment of the Church with respect to the validity of their first marriage, may come to communion. Notably Cardnal Kasper, who demonstrated yet again he hasn’t the faintest idea of what the Orthodox actually teach. This provoked a reaction, even in the curia, with many clarifying what the issue actually is. Nevertheless, going into this synod we have an Instrumentum Laboris, which proposes to give place to those advocating these very things. I haven’t finished the whole document, but certain things stand out as particularly troubling. This first I read yesterday:
Finally, the observations insist that catechesis on marriage and family, in these times, cannot be limited exclusively to the preparation of couples for marriage. Instead, a dynamic catechetical programme is needed — experiential in character — which, through personal testimony, shows the beauty of the family as transmitted by the Gospel and the documents of the Magisterium of the Church. Long before they present themselves for marriage, young people need assistance in coming to know what the Church teaches and why she teaches it. Many responses emphasize the role of parents in the catechesis on the family. As afar as the Gospel of the Family is concerned, they have an irreplaceable role to play in the Christian formation of their children. This task calls for a thorough understanding of their vocation in passing on the Church’s teaching. Their witness in married life is already a living catechesis in not only the Church but society as well. (Instrumentum Laboris, n.19)
There is a big problem here. What is proposed is “more catechesis!” This is ultimately like throwing more money at a problem. The crisis of family is not just a question of shifting values, and false ideologies. The problem of families in the modern western world is that world was built by atheistic capitalism, which has no notion of the common good and scoffs at the traditional resources large families had to support mothers. It overlooks entirely the crisis of fatherhood. It overlooks the fact that authentic Church life requires an authentically Catholic society to function. The atheistic societies that the Vatican has been praising for 50 years cannot support the family, but only tear them down. It doesn’t address that many people actively reject what the Church teaches, and as such don’t have the virtue of faith. What is needed, is more prayer and sacrifice, a liturgy that renews people’s lives, and building holy people to merit grace for the errant. This however will not be found in the document.
The most troubling thing, however, is what I saw quoted on Rorate Caeli, directly from the document:
The difficulties that arise in relation to natural law can be overcome through more attentive reference to the biblical world, to its language and narrative forms, and to “propose bringing the issue to public discussion and developing the idea of biblical inspiration and the ‘order in creation,’ which could permit a re-reading of the concept of the natural law in a more meaningful manner in today’s world.” [Instrumentum laboris, 30]
In other words, the natural law, written on man’s heart, is going to be re-read. This is the type of progressive language that is typical of modernism. Re-read, rediscover, so that something contrary to what came before is now a “harmonious development”, a new fruit of “spiritual riches” to contemplate. In other words, this is more of the same.
The blinding light Caravaggio so powerfully paints cannot be seen by those who are spiritually blind. Yet it seems those are the ones writing these documents!