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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Virtues and Defects

"I wish also that thou shouldest know that every virtue is obtained by means of thy neighbour, and likewise, every defect..."

"I have told thee how all sins are accomplished by means of thy neighbour...Self-love, which destroys charity and affection towards the neighbour, is the principle and foundation of every evil. All scandals, hatred, cruelty, and every sort of trouble proceed from this perverse root of self-love, which has poisoned the entire world..."

~ St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue, revelations received from the Eternal Father.

Spending time with my family is something that, above all makes me realize how far away I am from God. When we come together for holidays or special occasions, we also are joined in our shared history, in all the pain, with all the memories that go with that, and thankfully, even with the joy. I know that my family has seen me at my very worst, and I've seen them at their worst.

It's so odd, though, how sometimes that history is made present when we gather. It's harder to be patient with my family that it is with others, and I constantly discover that old resentments are still present and taint my reactions to the most innocent of things.

In our fallen humanity, even as we seek holiness, we can't seem to get ourselves out of these pits. We are forced to look at ourselves as we have been, and as we remain, and see how far we really have to go.

As God the Father revealed to St. Catherine, our virtues are obtained in this very painful manner. In Dialogue, there is lengthy discussion on how the sins of others make us grow in virtue. Perhaps Christmas is one of those times, for we can't "fake" ourselves. The veneer comes down, our defects are brought forth, and therin, charity is put to the test.

So often, I fail. This very week I sat and chastized myself for my attitude, my impatience, and my obstinance in persisting in defects I recognized, and yet didn't quash by an act of the will. I could have; I just didn't. And I didn't apologize. Yes, there is still time, and perhaps my own slights are already forgotten by my family. Certainly, as of right now, I can't remembr any of theirs.

Yet I often see more charity out of my family members than I do of myself. Perhaps it is that, in them I see the uncondemning gaze of Christ, as they refuse to react to my selfishness or petty misbehaviors. And in that lack of response, I find I can condemn myself perfectly, and that is what brings me to contrition.

Yet it is painful to look upon that gaze and see my failures. Knowing that they see my failures, too, and just choose to do nothing in reaction to them.

Our sins, as St. Catherine tells us, come about through our neighbors, and therein is the key; it is how we react to their sins. Perhaps we have been "victimized" by someone we love. That gives us an option to respond in charity, or to bite back in battle. If we choose the latter, we sin as well, especially if we are aware of what we are doing. If we choose to take the path of love, we grow in virtue.

So perhaps I should be grateful that this week maybe I was the unwitting catalyst for my family's growth in virtue. Perhaps I reacted to things they did with more charity than I realize for myself.

One of the sneaky things about growing in virtue is that we really don't realize we're doing it. God's grace aids us, but He doesn't give anything away.

I am grateful to recognize my failings, and even with those, recognize that in the past, maybe they were even greater. Were it not for those who love me, and whom I love, it would not be so. The greatest acts of charity are most often provided wordlessly so that neither party can recognize that the moment has passed. Yet therein, paradoxically, we can see the hidden hand of God and the depths of His love.

"Now I wish to tell thee further, that a man proves his patience on his neighbor, when he receives injuries from him. Similarly, he proves his humility on a proud man, his faith on an infidel, his true hope on one who despairs, his justice on the unjust, his kidness on the cruel, his gentleness and benignity on the irascible."
~ St. Catherine, Dialogue


Anonymous said...


Which translation of "The Dialogue" are you reading and re-reading? I use Sr. Suzanne Noffke, OP's translation from the Classics of Western Spirituality Series.

Adoro said...

Brother Juniper ~ Merry Christmas!

I'm using the Algar Thorold translation, which was not the one recommended by my Prof., but which he said was fine for our class. He recommended E. Allison Peers' translation, which I hope to pick up somewhere.

I learned in writing my paper on this book that other translators don't format in the same way. Are you familiar with Thorold or Peers? What is your impression of Nofke's?

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas to you, too, Adoro!

I haven't looked at Thorold or Peers' translation.

I like Noffke's translation because Sr. Suzanne has studied St. Catherine of Siena's life and writings for many decades. She uses contemporary language so that there are no "thou" and "thine" there. Rather, it is just "you." I find that it makes the words of Our Lord more personal.

I don't how Thorold divides the book, but Noffke divides the book into 10 different chapters. Then she separates them into different numbered sections just as you would divide the books of the Bible into chapters and verses.

Also, Noffke provides lots of footnotes and has an excellent introduction to St. Catherine and her ideas.

I haven't read the whole book from cover to cover, but I will one of these days.

Brother Juniper

Adoro said...

Well...Thorlod breaks the book into 4 treatists: The Treatise on Divine Providence, on Discretion, on Prayer, and on Obedience. Each section of dialogue is separated by italics by the heading, and only the pages are numbered. So when I wrote my paper, I gave the page number for the quote if used, or for the footnote if I used one.

It would have been nice to have paragraph numbers (as in the Vatican II documents, or in the Bible.)

I'm not sure how Peers divids his.

As far as "contemporary language", while I generally don't have too much of an opinion of it, at times it concerns me because it reminds me of how some pray the Hail Mary. I learned and continue to pray thus:

"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with THEE. Blessed art THOU among women, and Blessed is the fruit of THY womb, Jesus."

But some pray it this way:

"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with YOU. Blessed are YOU among women, and Blessed is the fruit of YOUR womb, Jesus."

The latter grates on me in a way I can't even find words to describe. The meaning isn't changed at all, but there's something in the formation of the prayer that is somehow lost, in my opinion, by the "updated" translation.

Maybe I just prefer a translation true to form, as much as possible. That way it gives me intellectual comfort that the translation is accurate. In our day and age, those who "update" things also use "inclusive language" which OFTEN majorly changes the actual significance of the sentence.

Not saying your favored translation does that, but it makes me suspicious. However, it does sound like it also has some benefits.

It would be nice to be able to compare all the translations. If only I could study Italian, I could read this for myself and truly choose the best translation! lol!

Anonymous said...

Yes, it would be nice to compare translation notes. Who knows, there might be such a thing as bilingual edition of "The Dialogue" somewhere out there.

owenswain said...

Family, we don't choose it, God does.
Family, God's sandpaper.

God bless you Adoro

Art | Faith | Souls

Adoro said...

Guaranteed, my family would not have chosen me!

God bless you, too!

Anonymous said...

Beautifuland well said! Merry Christmas, Adoro!