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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, S.J.: Six Key Excerpts

Aside from the men and women of heroic virtue who have been canonized as Saints by the Church over the centuries, there are others whose lives are under close examination by the Church for the purpose of considering that they also may be recognized as Saints. We say that for such men and women, the cause is open for their canonization. The stages for canonization include designation of the individual as a Servant of God (e.g., Fr. Michael J. McGivney (1852-1890), founder of the Knights of Columbus), as Venerable (e.g., Archbishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979)), as Blessed (Beatification) (e.g., Mother Teresa (1910-1997)), and finally as a Saint (Canonization) (e.g., Thomas More (1478-1535)).

It is worth considering the lives of the men and women whose causes are open but who are in the earlier stages of the investigation. Part of the canonization process is the detailed examination of miracles alleged to have occurred following an individual or group requesting a certain individual's intercession, so it is worth the time to consider requesting the intercession of individuals who are recognized by the Church as having lived particularly holy lives. Note that it is, in some cases, centuries before the Vatican finally determines that an individual should be beatified or canonized. Consider the case of Bl. John Duns Scotus -- known for his famous defense of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception -- who died in 1308 but was not beatified until 1993 (it is apparent that the Vatican is diligent in the study of its long-kept records of certain individuals' lives!).

Among the individuals whose causes are open is the Jesuit priest Fr. John Hardon (1914-2000), currently designated as a Servant of God. As will be more frequently the case for men and women with open causes, many of Fr. Hardon's writings and lectures are available online for our study and edification. Those interested in getting to know Fr. Hardon through his own works can visit the archives over at therealpresence.org to browse the texts, audio recordings, and videos.

After listening to a small portion of the lectures posted, I came across a few excerpts that I thought were especially worthy of being written down and shared here. I will offer a brief thought before each clip.

First are two excerpts from a men's retreat Fr. Hardon gave in 1999. He speaks here on the importance of our own personal spiritual writing.

As you know, during the retreat, it is customary to make a good confession. ... Also, I recommend that those who make the retreat do some writing. What you write is more surely remembered than what you just think about in your mind.

— Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, S.J., from A Retreat for Men, July 14-18, 1999.

...we go on with this important, shall I call it, an exultation. I urge every one of you to do some writing: maybe your daily reflections; maybe your spiritual insights; something you read or heard. During my four years of undergraduate theology, I would write down what I thought from books I was reading deserved to be remembered. By the time I was ordained, I had over five thousand quotations.

Now we get closer to our subject: What is spiritual reading? We can begin by describing it in terms of what it is not. That's easy. Spiritual reading is not secular reading. And more positively, spiritual reading is that reading whose purpose as writing is to assist the believer to better know, love, and serve God and thereby become more God-like, which means more holy, especially in his life of prayer and the practice of Christian virtue.

Whatever I would recommend during these, I'll say, four days of the retreat: in God's name, write. That's the imperative: write.

— Fr. John Hardon, S.J., from A Retreat for Men, July 14-18, 1999.

The remaining clips are from a two-semester course on the Catholic Faith Fr. Hardon gave beginning in 1978. In the first clip, he offers a story to illustrate the difficulty that we all must face as a result of original sin: detachment from the things of this world and the willingness to sacrifice anything if it is God's will. I suspect that many, if not most of us struggle often with the specific temptation that the woman in the story was able to overcome through heroic fortitude: namely, the temptation to put affection for another person over one's devotion to God.

...and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Whether it was a physical apple is not important, but it seems somehow Adam took a piece of what she gave him -- whatever it was. He loved Eve more than God. All I know is one of the hardest responsibilities in life is to sacrifice human affection for God -- that's hard. The hardest thing in life is to give up what or especially whom you love when it's God's will that you do so.

Like the woman in Indianapolis: I came a week after the event on supply at a parish -- a week after one of my Jesuit confreres had been on supply, as we say, at that church. And it seems after the eleven o'clock Mass as he was going into the rectory though the front door -- from the church to the front door, he just stepped inside, when the woman was running up the rectory steps, rang the doorbell in great distress, and just as he opened the door, two shots rang, and the woman fell into his arms. She was killed. She was taking instructions for the Catholic Faith, was living in adultery with another man -- or the husband, well, of another woman's, in other words, another wife: he had another wife. She was told she'd have to give up this man to become a Catholic. You have a man who was divorced and felt he wanted this woman. "But I'm becoming a Catholic." He threatened her life. So during the course of instruction, she was going from church to church in Indianapolis to try to avoid him, because she was scared. She realized he meant business. This Sunday he saw her coming out of the church. Instead of shooting into the crowd, at the risk of killing somebody else, he waited till she was alone. And luckily for him, she -- well, she saw him, and she panicked. She was killed. ... And how often -- how very often -- in our lives this lesson has got to be lived: to give up what we love because we love God more.

The consequence, therefore, was not only for Adam, but, as we know, for the rest of the human race.

— Fr. John Hardon, S.J., from A Course on the Catholic Faith, 1978-9.

We live in a world today in which the consecrated religious life of Catholicism, from the perspective of the mainstream culture with its egocentric principles likely seems impractical or even nonsensical. I try to make it a point to recall often that in the Catholic Faith, the consecrated religious are indispensable -- are necessary. Fr. Hardon emphasizes this point beautifully here. Let us consider these words carefully and continue to pray for those who have given nothing less than their entire earthly existence to know, love, serve, and grow in deeper union with Our Lord.

...the Christianization of Europe is unintelligible without a flourishing monastic life. It is not only that the monks and nuns were the ones who both evangelized and prayed Europe, you might say, into the Faith, but that ever since, a good barometer of the strength of the Church in a given country or part of the world is the strength of its religious institutes. The Church is no stronger or weaker in any given period or place than are Her religious institutes: which, by the way, says something very serious and significant about the condition of the Church in our country.

— Fr. John Hardon, S.J., from A Course on the Catholic Faith, 1978-9.

Fr. Hardon next highlights the necessity of devout women for the preservation of the Faith, especially in nations such as ours that are in spiritual and moral decline.

...my Jesuit brethren ask me, "Whatever possessed you to get so involved with sisters, with nuns?" Well -- humanly speaking -- speaking mainly to sisters: this would not have been my choice. But, I know that if we can keep the women in the Catholic Church sound, we can preserve the Faith. If you let the Church down, even God -- barring a miracle -- will not save it. The Church needs you.

— Fr. John Hardon, S.J., from A Course on the Catholic Faith, 1978-9.

In the lectures, Fr. Hardon sets forth detailed expositions of several of the various mysteries pertaining to Mary, Our Mother. The veneration of Mary expounded upon in the lectures, along with the material such as that given in the previous quotation, emphasize important aspects of the Catholic teaching on the special dignity -- or "genius," to quote Blessed Pope (soon to be Saint) John Paul II -- of women that would likely be foreign to many in the mainstream.

Absolutely speaking, Christ might have been conceived by carnal intercourse. It is not absolutely impossible, of course, for God. Nevertheless, in order to both emphasize Christ having only a divine paternity -- to emphasize Christ's divine eternity -- to show that those who are conceived and born in sin are conceived and born in sin through paternal generation: it's the father who is the source of the sinful contagion with which the rest of us are conceived and born. Mary, then, conceived Christ virginally, and miraculously she gave him birth...

— Fr. John Hardon, S.J., from A Course on the Catholic Faith, 1978-9.

Could an institution that is considering for veneration a man who has taught such things be justly labeled as misogynistic? I will leave that to you to decide.

Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, pray for us.

July 24 is the feast day of Sts. Christina of Bolsena († 3rd century) and Christina the Astonishing († 1224).

Orate pro nobis.


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