The Gospel Truth

Uncertain Truths II

March 23, 2015
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My original rendition of Uncertain Truths created some interesting feedback! It was my treatment of salvation that caused the greatest concern.   My main critic erroneously thought that I had stated that one could be saved even after death. I never said or wrote that anywhere, not have I ever believed that!

I think I said that I hoped everybody went to Heaven eventually…even Adolph Hitler. I can easily make a case for that based on the complicity of the human mind and all the factors, genetic and cultural that go into the formation of the individual conscience. According to the Catholic Church to think otherwise is to be guilty of the negative sin of presumption.

I will admit that there was one ambiguity that I need to address. My Jesuit friend told me the story just after his ordination in 1969 as Catholics we had to only believe that there was a Hell but did not have to believe that anyone was there except the Fallen Angels. It’s a plausible statement but it did not clarify things well enough.   What he should have said was that while we can hope that all men are saved, we have to allow for the distinct possibility that some or even many souls will not be saved.

My understanding of salvation was seriously expanded while reading Fr. Hans Urs Von Balthasar’s marvelous book, DARE WE HOPE THAT ALL MEN BE SAVED. The book jacket contends that his was one of the most misunderstood works of Catholic theology in our times.

His critics falsely accuse him of universalism, which holds with certainly that all men will be saved.   However he does not actually say that.

He allows for the possibility that some or even many men will not be saved. But he adds that as Christians we may hope and I would add but also pray that all men may be saved.  This is the full extent of loving one’s neighbor.

In 1 Timothy 2:4 God wills that all men be saved. Can even sinful man thwart the will of God and contradict divine providence? Isn’t it reasonable to think that this just may be the case?

In the  DARE WE‘s Preface Father Robert Barron quotes a vision of St. Catherine of Siena where she suffered in her soul to even think that one of God’s creatures would be damned for all eternity.   She said she did not know how to reconcile even one of your creatures made in his image and likeness should be lost and slip from your hands.

The bottom line is that we can never know exactly what happened at that precise moment just BEFORE death. That is not ours to know with certitude but allows for the hope that God’s Mercy will win over His justice.

There was an article in the Wanderer many years ago that I think quoted where a 13th or 14th friar was so concerned with the salvation of all his fellow men that he reasoned that it was possible that on the precise second before the rope tied on the bridge snapped his neck God intervened and worked his divine mercy and saved the man.

He did not say it was certain only that we can never know that it didn’t happen… especially if God is not just a judge but also one of infinite and unconditional mercy. That’s the God I have to believe in. THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE…an underrated virtue if ever there was one.

At the focal point of this disagreement is that my friend has both feet deeply implanted in the Church before Vatican II and I have only one foot planted there as I try to straddle the distance between the two different approaches to the Catholic Church.   I think I am more of a reformed traditionalist because I like some things of the old way of thinking but have accepted some of the new way of thinking since 1963.

There are some things that we were taught then that perverted the old Orthodoxy. It had become a church based on laws…dos and don’ts that had sacrificed some of the true virtues necessary for loving our neighbor.

With regard to morality it was still beholden to an Augustinian stoicism that jaded its perception of sex and marriage.   This Augustinian aura wounded millions of Catholics.   I can hear it in most of my fellow Bible study men–subtlety but it is there— I had a priest threaten me with eternal damnation in the Confessional because I could not explain something I had done.

I was 10 years old!

This particular priest was turned on by Almighty God and would shout those words from the pulpit every Sunday. Cotton Mather could not have done a better job of scaring a congregation to death.

Had I been proud like my paternal grandfather, I would have walked out of the Catholic Church forever…but thanks to the grace of God, pride is not one of my major failings.

Today I see dozens of other Catholics from that era…daily communicants that seem to have no joy or internal happiness (peace) that their religious devotion and abundance of grace is supposed to instill. They summarily judge other people and can be rude and even nasty to the small people around them.

At a meeting a while back one them snapped at me when I did not clearly hear what she had said to me. She said loudly what are you deaf?   I said…Yeeeaaah! Her late husband once yelled at me in a Parish Council meeting because I questioned something about the Serra Society he ran.

To me their religious faith seems more akin to pride and arrogance than it does holiness. That’s what the Orthodoxy of the old Church has done to many. It seems devoid of charity and compassion for their fellow man.

While the new Church has its serious faults, with its remote emphasis on sin and salvation and large emphasis on the horizontal love of neighbor, I have been trying my level best to eliminate the negative from both churches and stress the positive of both.

The old  church was a virtual dictatorship while the new one seems almost anarchistic at times.  The first provided necessary structure and moral order while the other has added love, charity and hope.

My religious belief is in there some place.  While I laugh a lot and feel, not warm and fuzzy but the warmth of having something special inside my soul…and I try to pass it on through my humor, stories and genuine friendliness, I still have a dark dread of the judgment to come.

One of my new acquaintances is a young waitress at Lester’s.  She made my day a few months ago when she told me I was the coolest guy she had met in her nine months on the job. That can do wonders for a 71-year old man.

One time we started talking about Philosophy and Faith and she told me she was still searching—aren’t most people just trying to get along–the basis of the very first Vitae Foundation ad 20 years ago.

I recommended Fulton J. Sheen’s Life is Worth Living to her. I said it was a better tip than the money I left her. As I was leaving I also told her I would put her on my nice list The people on this list are special people–mostly all female for whom I pray.   One candle at a time—.that’s all any of us can hope for.

I think we are all called to be messengers of grace and in today’s world that will not happen by preaching the Orthodoxy of the old Church— but by extending the warm hand of friendship and hope so they can see the glow in our souls that points to an all-loving, an all-forgiving God.

If we are all good beacons of these virtues legions will make that connection and follow Him in an instant! Weren’t people attracted to the early Christians by the way that they love each other?

The Catholic Church is not one of just laws and judgments. It is the Church of love and mercy. But it is one pregnant with paradoxes and deep esoteric truths that most cannot fathom.  God’s infinite mercy is irreconcilable with His absolute justice.  It is the ultimate squared circle.  We can’t understand it because it contradicts our human logic.

It is akin to the story I was told as a child about St. Augustine’s attempt to fully understand and explain the Triune God.   He was wandering one of the beaches in North Africa when he encountered a young boy who was digging a hole and putting seawater in it. When asked what he was doing the lad responded that he was trying to put the sea into his hole. Augustine understood immediately the futility of his own search.

I also read a story about a priest who quipped while I am alive, I am all for God’s Justice but when I die, I am all for His mercy! A resounding Rush Limbaughesque Dittos to him!!

Look for another similar post I will call Dead Certainties and follow me on Twitter @Savant28.


An Irish Legend

March 4, 2015
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There is nothing on this earth more important than family. The one thing I learned from my Introductory Sociology course in sophomore year at the Cross was that the family was most important building block in any civilization. I think that’s why that along with private property and Christianity it has been on the hot-list of all leftist ideologies since the French Revolution.

The clan or the tribe is just an extended family. I don’t think any nationality or race values its extended family more than the Irish. I know that is a fact because my wife tells me that almost every day. She is an O’Rourke through and through. In fact she also tells me that I should happy that she did not change my name to hers after we got married several years ago.

The O Rourke family surname is thought to be one of the oldest in the world, originating in the 10th Century following the death of a young prince named Ruarc.  The name Ruarc was a name originating with the Old Norse Hrothekr, meaning ‘famous king

We have been to her heartland four times—all in the 1990s. We went with a tour in 1992 and 1998. In 1994 we went with her brother, Michael O’Rourke and his wife. But instead of taking another tour we hired a driver to create our own itinerary.

The trip I will remember the most was the third trip, the one in 1996. Our daughter, Michelle had been to Ireland in 1994 to attend a two-week course on W. B. Yeats in his childhood vacation home of Sligo as part of a Ph.D. program in 19th century European Lit.

She brought her mother a wooden sculpture of her clan’s namesake, Brian O’Rourke, the last of the Irish chieftains. The wood-carver knew all about the O’Rourkes, a warrior clan that was very important in developing that western region, especially their home base in ground County Leitrim for several generations. Sir Brian had a castle seven miles outside of Sligo.

Two years later her brother was studying at the University of Dublin as part of a program through St. Louis University. We decided to take his sister and visit Matthew in Dublin. The visit would not have been complete without a side trip to the O’Rourke castle.

We took the three-hour train to Sligo where our first stop was to see the wood-carver, Michael Quirke who had made the woodcarving and told our daughter of the famed legend of Brian O’Rourke.

Michael repeated the story of Brian O’Rourke for us. After the Spanish Armada was devastated during its failed attack on England in 1588, Sir Brian and many members of the O Rourke family were thought to have helped many surviving members of the Spanish fleet.

The Spanish galleons out-numbered the English flight but were outgunned by the superiority of the latter’s large cannons.

Michael said that when one of the officers got back to Spain he later wrote his memoirs that depicted the supreme hospitality of the Irish chieftain.  When word of O’Rourke’s “treason” got back to Queen Elizabeth she sent an army to capture Sir Brian and bring him back to London in 1591 where he was drawn and quarter, a most brutal form of capital punishment. The English did the same thing to Scottish hero, William Wallace in the 14th century.  His execution was graphically portrayed in the Mel Gibson movie, Braveheart in 1995.

The “official” Irish history fills in many of the gaps. Sir Brian O’Rourke claimed descent from one of the ancient kings of Ireland, and was remarked upon as a handsome and unusually learned Gaelic chieftain. He assumed leadership of his family in the mid-1560s, having assassinated his elder brothers, but his territory of west Bréifne on the border of Ulster soon came under the administration of the newly created Presidency of Connacht. His territory was centered on the banks of Lough Gill and in the area of Dromahair. Foundations of an O’Rourke tower house can be seen today at Parke’s Castle, close to Dromahair. (This is probably the ruins we visited in 1996.)

Although the English knighted Ó Rourke’s, in time they became unsettled by him. The English lord deputy, Sir Henry Sidney, described him in 1575 as the proudest man he had dealt with in Ireland. (That is saying something since all the Irish are proud!) Similarly, the president of Connacht, Sir Nicholas Malby, put him down as, the proudest man this day living on the earth. A decade later Sir Edward Waterhouse thought of him as, being somewhat learned but of an insolent and proud nature and no further obedient than is constrained by her Majesty’s forces.

Ó Rourke’s remained unhappy with English interference in his territories, and he was also content to be described as a leading Catholic lord. After Perrot’s departure, he assisted at least eighty survivors of the Spanish Armada – including Francisco de Cuellar – to depart the country in the winter of 1588, and was regarded as friendly to future receptions of Spanish forces. Although not proclaimed as a rebel, he put up a forcible resistance to the presidency – again under Binghams’s command – and would not be bridled.

Ó Rourke’s demands against the government grew with the violence on the borders of west Breifne. In peace talks in 1589, he did accept the terms of a crown tribute that had been agreed by his grandfather, but resisted the composition terms of 1585 and refused to allow the formation of a crown administration in the new county Leitrim.

Instead, he sought appointment as seneschal, or medieval steward who managed the retainers of a noble house. He was under the direct authority of the Dublin government, leaving him independent of Bingham. He also sought safe possession of his lands, a safe-conduct for life, and a guarantee of freedom from harassment by the president’s forces of any merchants entering his territory.

In return, the only pledge he was willing to give was his word. A member of the Dublin council, Robert Dillon of the Meath family, advised him to stay out – intimating that Ó Rourke would be taken into custody if he came in and submitted to crown authority – and Ó Rourke declined the government’s offers.

Sir Brian was arrested in Glasgow, where the townsmen sought a stay on his delivery into custody, fearing for their Irish trade. The denial of their request caused an outcry, and the king’s officers were cursed as knights of Elizabeth with the allegation that the Scottish king had been bought with English angels (a reference to the pension the king received from England).”

On the 3rd of November 1591, O’Rourke was drawn to Tyburn. On the scaffold Miler Magrath, Archbishop of Cashel, sought the repentance of the condemned man’s sins. In response, he was abused by O’Rourke with jibes over his uncertain faith and credit and dismissed as a man of depraved life who had broken his vow by abjuring the rule of the Franciscans. O’Rourke then suffered execution of sentence by hanging and quartering.

Stories like the legend of Brian O’Rourke and his clan go a long way to help understand why the Irish have always felt oppressed by their English Masters.  All this led to the bloody Easter Rebellion in 1916 and Irish Independence six years later because like William Wallace and Brian O’Rourke all men long to be free.

The O’Rourke legend will live as long as there are O’Rourkes to proclaim it.  Their family motto reads Serviendo Guberno, which translates to GOVERN BY SERVING.  My wife seems to fulfills that motto perfectly.

Editor’s note:  My mother told me her mother was a Dolan.  So I guess that makes me one-quarter Irish…though some true-hearted  Irish imply that I really am a Dolanski.


About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at bbprof@sbcglobal.net

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