Sunday, December 31, 2006

Augustine's Handbook of Catholic Faith 1

As promised, here's my first installment as I blog my way through Saint Augustine's "Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love."

Prolegomena (words that come before):

We can understand the essence of a virtue if we think about them as dispositions of the soul. A disposition is a tendency to behave in a certain way. Having a disposition toward some behavior does not mean that it will always happen, but it can't just happen by chance and still be called a disposition. They are like good habits.

Faith, Hope, and Love are called the "Three Theological Virtues". This contrasts with the "Four Cardinal Virtues" of Courage, Moderation, Prudence, and Justice. They are called "cardinal" because the Latin word *cardines* means "hinges". Thus metaphorically the Cardinal Virtues are the virtues upon which all else pertaining to virtue hinges. This the Church has accepted for man's natural orientation. But man also has a supernatural orientation and thus the Three Theological Virtues are hinges upon which our divine life hinges. In fact, sometimes they are called the Divine Virtues.

They are called "theological" virtues not because of any direct connection to theological studies (though of course there *is* such a connection and Augustine treats it in detail), but rather because they requires special divine assistance to acquire, they are infused by God (theos). So that's the essence of a Divine Virtue: a disposition toward acts of Faith, Hope, and Love infused into the soul by God. Sometimes the term "Divine Virtue" refers to God's own virtues, but I'm going to use that term for the present subject frequently anyway. In the context there is no worry of confusion.

The work is called "The Enchiridion." That's a transliteration of a Greek word. A transliteration is different from a translation. A transliteration is where the word is just transferred into a new language "whole". So even though the Greek alphabet has different letters than ours it has most of the same sounds. And the Greek word for "Enchiridion" is pronounced the same.

The word breaks down like this: En-chir-idon. The last part is just a suffix that tells you the grammar of the word (Greek is an "inflected" language, it uses changes in the word endings to tell you about the grammar of the word and what adjectives go with it). In this case it's a "diminutive" suffix which means "little". En = "in" and "chir" = hand, so a literal translation is "in the hand". It's what we now call a "handbook," a little quick-reference guide to have at hand. It's much nicer to call it a Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love rather than Enchiridion on Theological Virtue. The former is much more inviting, eh?

It also explains both the origin and the use of the book. The book is apparently written in response to a request by one Laurentius of Rome for a summary of the main teachings of the Church. So it's not mean to go into a great deal of nuance or detail. Rather, it is intended to lay out the basics in a quick and comprehensible manner. As such, being written by the most influential theologian there has ever been, it is sad that the work is not better known. I hope by blogging through it to contribute to the reversal of its neglect.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Year's Resolution

Last night we celebrated the third day of Christmas. The three French hens represent the Three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love.

I made an early New Year's Resolution to use this space to finish blogging through Saint Augustine's Enchiridion thereon.

So I hope to get started this Sunday.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Matthew 9:36 (American Standard Version)

But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd.

Exhibit A:

The excerpt is heart-wrenching. And the Q&A doesn't help. Yes, this is from the world of Calvinism, but we have our examples as well.

Is it as wide-spread as Big Media would have us believe? No. Has it effected enough lives to be a multi-generational cultural disaster? Yes.

I don't care how many people are exaggerating, I do care about the people in my own life who are distressed by being "raised Catholic".

It is our solemn responsibility not to repeat the mistakes of the past. If John Paul the Great is right, then it is our responsibility to stand in solidarity with those in distress and to make penance for the sins of Catholics past.

Friday, December 01, 2006

ut unum sint

In a compelling story entitled "Pope demonstrates diplomacy skills" in the Chicago Tribune today Tom Hundley accurately describes BXVI's mad people skills.

The bulk of the article is about the Holy Father's mending relations to global Islam (his praying with an Imam will no doubt enrage some of our "Tranditionalist" bretheren), but he was originally going there to seek unity with the Eastern Patriarch.

I thought this observation poignant.

"The divide between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy is not about theology. The differences are coming from historical memories, and you can't overcome those by sitting down at a table and talking," Wauck said. "You have to build a different set of historical memories, and this has to be done over a long period of time."

It's not *intirely* true that it's not about theology, but I do think it's now less about theology than historical memory and I do think JPG could work miracles from beside the thrown of God in this regard.

(Full Story)

Related books by the Pontiff:

*Truth And Tolerance: Christian Belief And World Religions

*Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the Church, and the World