Br. Tommy Piolata, OFM Cap
Br. Tommy graduated from Saint Louis University summa cum laude in 2012. He majored in Philosophy, Classical Humanities, and Italian Studies. At SLU, he also minored in Theological Studies and received a certificate in Medieval Studies. After graduation, Br. Tommy joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin of the St. Augustine Province. On July 19th, 2014, Br. Tommy professed simple, temporary vows. Currently, Br. Tommy is studying for a M.A. in Philosophy at the Catholic University of America. Br. Tommy interests lie in the writings of Saint Francis of Assisi, as well as the thought of Saint Bonaventure, and the Franciscan intellectual tradition in general. In addition, he is very interested in the theology of Joseph Ratzinger/ Pope Benedict XVI. Topically, Br. Tommy is interested in metaphysics, especially fundamental ontology, powers, and metaphysic of relations; philosophical and systematic theology, especially regarding Christology and the Trinity; philosophical and theological anthropology, especially with respect to intersubjectivity and contemplation.
"The Religious Vision of St. Francis of Assisi as Mission: Entering Into the Experience of the Other," July 2014. http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1119&context=obsculta
Once again, I ask for your forgiveness as I am almost a week late in getting this reflection up. Regardless, I do want to say a few things regarding this last Sunday’s reading as His Holiness puts it in his 2011 Message for Lent. Here is what he says:
On the fifth Sunday, when the resurrection of Lazarus is proclaimed, we are faced with the ultimate mystery of our existence: “I am the resurrection and the life… Do you believe this?” (Jn 11: 25-26). For the Christian community, it is the moment to place with sincerity – together with Martha – all of our hopes in Jesus of Nazareth: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world” (Jn 11: 27). Communion with Christ in this life prepares us to overcome the barrier of death, so that we may live eternally with him. Faith in the resurrection of the dead and hope in eternal life open our eyes to the ultimate meaning of our existence: God created men and women for resurrection and life, and this truth gives an authentic and definitive meaning to human history, to the personal and social lives of men and women, to culture, politics and the economy. Without the light of faith, the entire universe finishes shut within a tomb devoid of any future, any hope.
Please forgive me for being a couple of days late for this reflection. Nonetheless, the Gospel for this past Sunday–the fourth Sunday of Lent–was beautiful. Let us begin with what the words of the Holy Father:
The Sunday of the man born blind presents Christ as the light of the world. The Gospel confronts each one of us with the question: “Do you believe in the Son of man?” “Lord, I believe!” (Jn 9: 35. 38), the man born blind joyfully exclaims, giving voice to all believers. The miracle of this healing is a sign that Christ wants not only to give us sight, but also open our interior vision, so that our faith may become ever deeper and we may recognize him as our only Savior. He illuminates all that is dark in life and leads men and women to live as “children of the light”.
It seems to me that this Gospel reading, the story of Jesus and the blind man, is about freedom–though certainly not limited to that. “He illuminates all that is dark in life and leads men and women to live as ‘children of the light'”. Darkness inhibits life. The inability to interact with reality and to be a receptor of the created order fundamentally separates one from an abundant life. Enter Christ.
Today’s Gospel reading is about Jesus’ dialogue with the Samaritan woman about thirst and water. The Holy Father’s brief synopsis from his lenten reflection is the following:
The question that Jesus puts to the Samaritan woman: “Give me a drink” (Jn 4: 7), is presented to us in the liturgy of the third Sunday; it expresses the passion of God for every man and woman, and wishes to awaken in our hearts the desire for the gift of “a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life” (Jn 4: 14): this is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who transforms Christians into “true worshipers,” capable of praying to the Father “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4: 23). Only this water can extinguish our thirst for goodness, truth and beauty! Only this water, given to us by the Son, can irrigate the deserts of our restless and unsatisfied soul, until it “finds rest in God”, as per the famous words of St. Augustine.
My favorite part of this interpretation is found in the ending, when the Holy Father tells that it is the Holy Spirit alone who can “irrigate the deserts of our restless and unsatisfied soul”. The human person is thirsty. Without a doubt, there is some sort of primeval emptiness in the human heart, a perennial search for completeness. What can satisfy the heart, the core of man?
Continuing on with our journey through Benedict’s Message for Lent this year, we come to the Second Sunday of Lent, which is the Transfiguration. The Holy Father writes:
The Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord puts before our eyes the glory of Christ, which anticipates the resurrection and announces the divinization of man. The Christian community becomes aware that Jesus leads it, like the Apostles Peter, James and John “up a high mountain by themselves” (Mt 17:1), to receive once again in Christ, as sons and daughters in the Son, the gift of the grace of God: “This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favor. Listen to him” (Mt 17:5). It is the invitation to take a distance from the noisiness of everyday life in order to immerse oneself in God’s presence. He desires to hand down to us, each day, a Word that penetrates the depths of our spirit, where we discern good from evil (cf. Heb 4:12), reinforcing our will to follow the Lord.
A few days ago, I posted some quotes and reflections from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. This will likely turn into a series, as I find more and more awesome Lewisian utterances! Consider the following:
What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’–could set up on their own as if they had created themselves–be their own masters–invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside G0d, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–the long terrible story of man trying to find something other God that will make him happy.
This quote by itself could generate a post (if not more) alone. To be brief, let me point out one point that struck me. I think Lewis is suggesting that man will most mess up, when he attempts to be his own author. The self cannot self-construct itself. It may only be discovered in others, and in sum, in the Ultimate Other, namely God who is the Creator.We possess nothing: not ourselves, not the capability to invent or construct the self, and certainly not the power to invent entities of happiness or self-satisfaction. I propose that the most mature self is the emptiest, most kenotic, self. That’s when the “self” is, in fact, most itself: when it is in the hands of God at the service of others.
In Jeffrey Morrow’s recent post, he suggests a prayerful reading of Pope Benedict XVI’s lenten message. I second that suggestion. The Holy Father’s words are touching, beautiful and enlightening. As somewhat a response to Morrow’s post, I have decided to write a brief, personal reflection over the text of the Pope’s lenten message. What I would like to do is develop this into a short series given each week of Lent. I propose this because the Holy Father, in his message, offers a theological synopsis of each Gospel reading on the given Lenten Sundays. Hence, he writes this message with a chronological, theological flow in mind. As best I can on a blog and with my limited theological knowledge, I want to reflect upon and follow the theology weekly. And I invite you, reader, to accompany me on the journey! Let us begin:
The Holy Father begins with an invitation to the Church: to intensify her journey in purifying the spirit, “so as to draw more abundantly from the Mystery of Redemption the new life in Christ the Lord”. Through this invitation, Benedict introduces Baptism, explaining that this life “was already bestowed upon us on the day of our Baptism, when we ‘become sharers in Christ’s death and Resurrection’, and there began for us ‘the joyful and exulting adventure of his disciples'”. After quoting from the writings of Paul, the Holy Father comes to a beautiful conclusion:
A few months ago, I finished reading Mere Christianity. The “book” is a series of talks that Lewis gave on a radio show. However–at least in the edition I have–he did add some points into the book-version so that it read a bit more like a book, and not a mere written speech. Additionally, it is important to take note of the time period: 1942-44 in England. All of this said, I do recommend the book to others. It is a brief look at the basic principles of Christianity, and is a text that is easy to work through. On a personal level, I think what I enjoyed the most from Mere Christianity were the noteworthy statements (i.e., quotes) to pull from Lewis. Without a doubt, C.S. Lewis is a brilliant scholar when it comes to language. I think that this “pseudo”-book (radio broadcast) proves that. In this post, I want to share and discuss some of Lewis’ statements that resonated with me. Lastly, this will be complete in a few posts: there is too much to show in just one!
I highly recommend the reading of Jacopone da Todi, a Franciscan friar born in the 1230s. He was a poet–mystical, spiritual, theological. His Lauds, as they are called, are fascinating. At one level, they are enlightening. Yet, on another level, reading them–speaking the words aloud–prayerfully and reverently leads to song of the heart. It’s beautiful when the words of another become the words of the self that praise God. Jacopone’s Lauds surely evoke reflection and prayer. In this post, I want to go through one of his poems that I have recently spent some time reading. By no means do I intend to act as a scholar on Jacopone or what I will present. I hope that my commentary–inasmuch as it can be called that–simply provokes discussion, and by God’s grace, praise to Him, too!
The Laud examined is: “The Angels Ask the Reason for Christ’s Pilgrimage to This World”.
Reading this poem for the first time, I was struck with the underlying reason of God’s coming to the earth. It was because of love. In the Franciscan tradition, especially within the theology of Bonaventure, Christ came into the world not primarily due to the sin of man, but because in Christ is the fullest actualization of the created order. Now, obviously due to sin, the “form that the incarnation takes will be thoroughly shaped by that fact”; but, the point is that the “one cause of the incarnation…is the limitless love…of God” . Jacopone seems to agree.
Without a doubt, the voice is an integral part of the Divine Liturgy. Whether it be a response, a prayer, or singing, the voice is a part of the Mass. The human voice becomes, especially in the Holy Mass, an instrument through the ministry of the Mystical Body to participate in that beautiful and sacred “exchange of man’s (really Christ’s) homage and Gods life” . It only seems necessary, then, that the voice partakes in the Mass in the most proper way–the most beautiful and majestic way fit for honoring the King of kings. We can come to know what is best through the Spirit that works through the Church. It is this post’s purpose, thence, to present that the most authentic praise and song fit for the Divine Liturgy is founded in the form of Gregorian Chant–as has been taught and continues to be affirmed by Mother Church.
Pope Pius X writes, in his Motu Propio Tra Le Sollecitudini promulgated in 1903, that
[Gregorian Chant is] the Chant proper to the Roman Church, the only chant she has inherited from the ancient fathers, which she has jealously guarded for centuries in her liturgical codices, which she directly proposes to the faithful as her own, which she prescribes exclusively for some parts of the liturgy, and which the most recent studies have so happily restored to their integrity and purity.
Today is the feast day of the great Seraphic Doctor of the Church, Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. Born in a small town near Orvieto in Italy, Bonaventure became a leading figure in the medieval Church. His life can be thought of as a synthesis of deep theological insight, saintly piety, and consistent charity. In fact, a contemporary of Thomas Aquinas, the Dominican scholar used to say that the only time he questioned original sin was when he spent time with Brother Bonaventure.
There is a plethora of remarkable insights within Bonaventure’s theological and philosophical texts. His understanding of the Trinity, Christ, love, the Crucifixion, grace, mysticism, and the virtues is simply fascinating. In this brief post, I would just like to highlight Bonaventure’s insight into humility and poverty as highlighted in the work of Zachary Hayes, O.F.M.
However, it is hard to separate any one part of Bonaventure’s theology because his whole theological structure is so interconnected. The consistency found within his writings is beautiful. For-instance, it is essentially impossible to talk about Bonaventure’s concept of poverty without talking about his Christology. Yet, his Christology cannot be looked at without considering his structure of the Trinity. This is so because, for Bonaventure, his theology is radically trinitarian. But precisely because of its trinitarian source for departure, Bonaventure’s theology is deeply Christocentric. This is so because, for Bonaventure, Christ is the center of the Trinity.