Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

February AD 2009
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

On this page:
"I will not drink henceforth of the fruit of the vine."?
What are Votive Masses?
Secular Spirituality?
Morality of the Great Depression (Continued)

Fruit of the Vine

Question:  In Matthew 26: 29 our Lord said: “And I say to you, I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father..”  How could this be accomplished? or where? or when?  Does Scripture record Him drinking wine during the post resurrection appearances?  A.H.

Answer:  The “I will not drink from henceforth...” is repeated in the three synoptic Gospels.  Mark 14:25 omits the words “with you.”  Luke 22: 15-18, which places these words before the consecration of the bread and wine may shed a little light on the question:

15 And he said to them: With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you, before I suffer. 16 For I say to you, that from this time I will not eat it, till it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. 17 And having taken the chalice, he gave thanks, and said: Take, and divide it among you: 18 For I say to you, that I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, till the kingdom of God come.

The pasch, the sacrifice of a lamb eaten with unleavened bread and wine, was a precursor of the sacrifice that would be “fulfilled in the kingdom of God” by the sacrifice of the true Lamb of God on the Cross.  Some scholars hold that the passage in question refers to the Sacrifice of the Mass as the way in which Christ would be with His Apostles, on earth after His Resurrection, and even after His Ascension.

Luke 24: 13-35 describes a journey on Easter Sunday made by two of the Disciples to the nearby town of Emmaus.  They encountered our Lord along the way, but for some reason were unable to recognize Him until they invited Him to dinner, and He broke bread and gave it to them, and “knew him in the breaking of the bread.”  Some (notably Saint Augustine) suggest that the “breaking of the bread” was the Eucharist, which, of course, would have included the chalice as well.  If they are correct, this would have been the first instance of Jesus eating and drinking the pasch and the fruit of the vine after their fulfillment in the Sacrifice of the Cross.  Others hold that the meal at Emmaus was a normal meal, and that our Lord was recognized either by some characteristic way in which He broke bread, or by the scars of crucifixion on His hands.

The specific references to our Lord eating after the Resurrection include only bread, fish, and a honeycomb (Luke 24:42 and John 21:13).  But it would be foolish to say that something didn’t happen just because it was not recorded in the Bible.  There may have been other meals and other foods and drink—there may even have been other celebrations of the Eucharist, perhaps at Emmaus or elsewhere—we simply don’t know.  But certainly, we can take great consolation in knowing that Jesus is truly with us in the pasch and the fruit of the vine as they are fulfilled in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Votive Masses?

    Question:  What is a “votive” Mass?

    Answer:  Most of the time, the Mass conforms to the Office of the day.  On December 8th, the Office is of the Immaculate Conception, so the Mass is as well.  On April 23rd the Office and Mass are of Saint George.  During Lent, the Office will be of the season except on the most important feast days—the Office of Saint Joseph might still be celebrated, but not that of Saint George.  When two really important Offices occur on the same day, one of them may be transferred to another day.

    But sometimes, due to circumstances like weddings and funerals, or due to personal devotion or necessity, the priest is permitted to offer a Mass not corresponding to the Office of the day.  Such a Mass is called a votive Mass.  There are some moderately complex rules for determining when votive Masses may be offered.  You may have noticed that on calendars a rank is assigned to each day of the year—first, second, third, and fourth class on modern calendars.  The higher the class number (first being highest) the more restrictive are the rules in allowing votive Masses.  The Immaculate Conception displaces even the Sundays in Advent, so a votive Mass would never be celebrated on December 8th—but the Office of Saint George, having a third class rank, might be displaced by a Sunday or seasonal Mass, and even when the Office is that of Saint George, a votive Mass may be celebrated for good reason.

    In 1889 Pope Leo XIII authorized a votive Mass of the Sacred Heart on the first-Friday of each month in conjunction with other devotions to the Sacred Heart, provided that the occurring Office is not a feast of our Lord.  A similar privilege was granted in 1936 for the first-Thursday Mass of Christ as Eternal High Priest..  On most first-Saturdays, the Office is of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so the first-Saturday Masses in her honor are not considered votives.


    Question:  A friend of mine talks about spirituality without God.  Is such a thing possible?

    Answer:  The short answer is that “nothing is possible without God.”  God created all that there is and keeps His creations, spiritual and material, in existence.

    The question might be rephrased to ask whether their can be spiritual experiences that do not have God as their ultimate focus.  (Meditation on the lives of the Saints is ultimately directed toward God.)

    Man is possessed of a spiritual soul, which has the faculties of knowing and willing—the intellect and the will.  In that these two faculties might be directed toward something other than God, it might be possible to speak of a “natural spiritual experience.”  One might consider the composition of music or the creation of artwork as being “spiritual”—one would, then, also have to include things like solving mathematical equations, or devising a strategy for chess, or making plans to build an outhouse as being “spiritual.”  Even though all of the activities mentioned are abstract, and could be conducted only in the intellect, few people would do so without bringing them into physical reality:  notes on an instrument or at least on paper, paint on canvas, numbers on a blackboard, chessmen on a board, or construction with building materials.

    One might also direct the faculty of the will towards things which are attractive, absorbing the beauty of the stars, or being in awe at the power of the waves or quaking before a display of thunder and lightning.  But the will is equally capable of being attracted by a cheeseburger or more profane things.  The will is a characteristic of spirit but it is often attracted to material things.

    Purely philosophical considerations—what is truth? what is beauty? and how do they attract me?—would seem to be the extent of this “natural spirituality.”

    The spiritual life of man with God may employ material things—the Sacraments or the Scriptures for example—but it is directed, ultimately, to the beatific vision of God.  Man prepares for this beatitude in heaven by seeking God through contemplation and love while on earth.  We usually speak of three stages of the spiritual life on earth:  the purgative way, the illuminative way, and the unitive way.[1]  The purgative way is spent in meditation, particularly on the “last things” (death, judgment, heaven, and hell), in order to cease sinning, and to stir up faith, hope, and charity.  The illuminative way is spent in making acts of faith, hope and charity for their own sake.  The unitive way directs attention to union with God and enjoyment of God—Saint Teresa of Ávila describes it as “Spiritual Marriage; Transforming Union; complete surrender to God, desire to suffer for him, zeal for souls.”[2]  This last step is also referred to as “passive contemplation,” suggesting a spirituality initiated more by God than by man—perhaps the closest thing to the Beatific Vision that can take place on earth.

    Ultimately, the spiritual life of man with God is directed away from the material toward the pure spiritual, indeed from all created being to the Creator Himself.  It is a far cry from music, art, mathematics, or any of the limitations of the soul which informs material man.


[Continued from last month:]

Question:  Were there moral aspects to the Great Depression?  A lot of people suffered for well over a decade.  Shouldn’t someone be held responsible?  Can we prevent such a thing from happening again?

 ● Cartels and Monopolies ●

    Many associate the large industrial companies of the 1800s with the concept of “monopoly”—that Standard Oil or U.S. Steel, or the Railroads were single large companies that kept everyone else out of the market, while charging whatever high prices they cared to.  Or, that in the case of the Railroads, they were “cartels” put together by a few wealthy owners, again with the intent of gaining exorbitant profits at the consumer’s expense.

    In a free market, monopolies and cartels rarely exist, and even more rarely, exist for any length of time.  In a free market, the higher prices demanded by monopolies and cartels will attract competitors willing to provide the same goods or services at a lower price in order to enter and gain a share of the market..  If, for example, there is only one widget manufacturer, and he charges $10 for a widget it costs him $2 to produce, he will quickly attract other manufacturers who are willing to accept something less than that five-fold return.  Even a less efficient competitor will be able to make a profit, for example selling for $8 the widget costing him $4 to produce.

    The near monopoly of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil was possible only because it produced petroleum products more efficiently and sold them at lower prices than its competitors.  Standard Oil’s inexpensive kerosene allowed even the poor to light their homes at night for the first time.  Rockefeller’s efficiency enabled him to buy out competitors at agreeable prices, and he tended to keep the old work force in place after an acquisition.

    Even in capital intensive industries like the railroads, competition sprung up against over priced lines.  James J. Hill’s Great Northern Railroad, for example, was built with none of the government land grants and subsidies taken by his competitors, yet profited by offering lower prices than those competitors.  Indeed, the Great Northern remained in business when may of the transcontinental lines went bankrupt with the downturn of 1893.[3]

    Cartels—several companies in collusion to act as a monopoly—often fare worse than the true monopoly.  Each member of the cartel joins with his own self interest at heart.  He may agree to charge an artificially high price, or to sell only to certain customers or in certain territories, or to produce an artificially small supply of the product—all in hopes of a higher return for himself.  But dishonesty often enters into the mix—he may cut prices to gain customers, or produce and sell more than his agreed upon share of the product.  Dishonesty is not uncommon among men trying to steal from consumers by means of unwarranted prices.

    So what is the “poor” monopolist to do if monopoly itself injures business and its profits in a free enterprise market economy?

 ● Regulation ●

    In the 1860s and 70s, J.P. Morgan, one of the most powerful financial magnates in America attempted to form railroad cartels.  He was unsuccessful for the reasons described above—members of the cartel were looking out for themselves, and were not above turning a fast profit by breaking the cartel agreement.

    Morgan was shrewd enough to recognize that there was only one agent that could effectively enforce the rules of a cartel—that agent was the government.  The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was formed in 1887.  The Commission was sensitive to the needs of politically important men like Morgan, often seeking them out for advice in forming regulations.  The financial people were also careful to befriend public opinion molders like journalists and other media people, intellectuals, educators, and other academic types.  Appropriate campaign financing was not to be overlooked.  “Public cartels” soon formed in other industries.[4]

    The government sponsored “public cartel” acted to reduce competition in a number of ways.  The power of the police would now enforce the rates charged, and perhaps the quantity produced.  Not only were the rules made with the help of the large firms, but they were often formulated in incomprehensible terms and requiring volumes of paperwork.  The large firm could employ the armies of lawyers and accountants needed to conform to the rules—Mom and Pop certainly could not, nor could they hire lobbyists, make sizeable contributions to politicians and universities, nor serve on advisory boards to the regulatory commission.

● A Bank Cartel ●

    As the twentieth century began, banks tended to be conservative institutions.  Although fractional banking was permitted, most bankers were cautious about having large dollar amounts loaned out relative to the reserves in their vault.  The bank that kept slim reserves while making large loans could make a greater profit than its more conservative counterpart, but at the cost of greater risk of bank failure.  With fractional reserves, it is always possible for a bank’s customers to come seeking the money they left in demand deposits, taking all of the banks reserves, and leaving nothing for customers who arrive later.  The bank may be able to liquidate its loans to make payments to depositors, but this will take time and complaints by disappointed depositors will further damage confidence in the bank, causing others to come and demand their money as well.  The bank will be, as they say, bankrupt.

    The bank that keeps slim reserves (call it bank “A”) may also face calls on its reserves from other banks.  If a large portion of the customers to whom bank “A” made loans in the form of a check, deposit those checks in banks “B,” “C,” and “D,” it is quite possible that “A” will have to default in payment on some of those checks as “B,” “C,” and “D” demand to clear “A”’s checks in exchange for cash.  Not only is there a possibility of “A” facing bankruptcy or loss of reputation, but the other banks may refuse to accept checks drawn on “A.”

    All of the banks would like to inflate their money by making large loans with low reserves.  They are, after all, in the business of loaning money they don’t have. But they cannot do so safely if they don’t all do it at the same rate.  What they needed was a cartel—a public cartel with powers of enforcement—to fix the interest rates and the reserve percentages, and to loan reserves to those banks that find themselves in unforeseen difficulties.

    At least since the election of President McKinley in 1896, the bankers were determined to have their cartel, a central bank.  But American had already endured three central banks, each unpopular enough to be ended by congress.  Americans were generally suspicious of the Eastern banking establishment, and wanted no new central bank controlled by New Your financiers. But a banking panic in 1907 gave the banks the opportunity to agitate for “banking reform” with the help of their media, academic, and political allies.

    Late in 1910, under the leadership of Senator Nelson Aldrich (a Rockefeller relative), the elite of the nation’s financial community met at Jekyll Island, Georgia at a club owned by J.P. Morgan.  They prepared a bill that Senator Aldrich was to sponsor in Congress with his name on it.  But Aldrich was a Republican, and the House fell to Democrat control in the same year, and it appeared that the White House would go the same way in 1912—so the bill was introduced by Representative Carter Glass of Virginia, a Democrat.  (Bankers tend to make friends on both sides of the aisle.)  The Glass bill, titled the “Federal Reserve Act” was passed on 22 December 1913, signed into law by President Wilson, and went into effect in November 1914.  America now had its most powerful banking cartel.  With the force of the U.S. Government, the bankers would inflate in unison, and the public would be required to accept the “thin air” they repackaged as “money.”

[To be continued]


[2]   St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, Mansion 7

[3]   Thomas E. Woods, Jr.. The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History (Washington: Regnery, 2004)  pp. 94-96

[4]   Murray N. Rothbard, The Case Against the Fed, (Auburn: Mises Institute, 1994) pp. 84-88.





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