Ephemera XIV: Dead Dictator Edition

Alright, despite the title, I really have very little to say about the passing of Fidel Castro except good riddance. While I will not speculate on the final destiny of his immortal soul, the idea that Catholics of any stripe should praise such a man is noxious. Of course, seeing Catholics intoxicated with Americanism celebrating the aged dictator’s demise is also disappointing. Castro, to be clear, was not a bad man because he opposed liberalism and capitalism; he was bad because he was a tyrant who used the understandable rage of his people for his own personal gain. Whatever good he did in Cuba and around the world (and, yes, he did do some good) does not erase the many crimes he carried out. Castro, like so many political leaders of the modern age, was a public sinner who never followed through on his obligation to repent publicly. Even if God, in His infinite mercy, gave this deplorable man the extraordinary grace to make a perfect act of repentance in his final moments on earth, it’s something we’ll never know for sure until we go to our own final reward. Finally, let’s not forget that despite rubbing elbows with three popes (John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis), Fidel Castro was excommunicated from the Church by John XXIII in 1962. To the best of my knowledge, that excommunication has never been lifted.

As a small aside, between the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series and nature doing to Castro what the Central Intelligence Agency could never do, is it wrong to think that perhaps God is tying up some loose ends before the centenary of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima? And before anybody jumps down my throat, please rest assured that I take Our Lord Jesus’s words from Matthew 24:36¬†quite seriously. However, it is hard to shake the idea that¬†something . . . is . . . happening. Were I a better Christian I might resist all temptation to idle speculation and take a thorough spiritual inventory of my own soul. If the events of 2016 (as opposed to all of the events that transpired during my previous 35 years of life) inspire me to do just that, it’ll have been a tremendous year.

A friend of mine who spent many years being schooled by the Jesuits once summarized Ignatian spirituality as “sitting around and imagining Scripture.” I responded by asking, “Is that why Jesuits sit around and imagine doctrine, too?” In all seriousness, I will be honest and admit right now that I have never been particularly fond of Ignatian spirituality or the Jesuit approach to prayer in general. Although he no doubt meant well, St. Ignatius of Loyola’s decision to dispense his order from reciting the Divine Office in choir had mighty ripple effects still felt to this day. Even among traditional Latin Catholics, the liturgical hours of prayer are something for priests to read while they listen to scrupulous confessions. (“How many times did you pick your nose at Mass, my son?”) Today, most Latin Catholic spirituality is private, internalized, and self-focused. Instead of looking upwards and outwards to give praise and thanksgiving to God, interiority reigns supreme. Granted, all Christians should partake in daily self-examination and build-up a robust devotional life outside of the Sunday liturgy, but not at the expense of the Church’s official prayer — or so I believe. However, I am sure there is an argument to be made that I don’t pray the Rosary enough . . .



  1. Tomas
    November 28, 2016

    I really think Ignatius gets too bad a rap – his “Imaginative Meditation” is really only getting one to focus on the scriptures and, in line with St. John of the Cross, is meant only as an aide to contemplation. His 14 rules of discernment of spirits would be recognizable to most any Desert Father.

    The privatization some see coming from the Exercises are really contrary to Ignatius’ spirit as a whole. The order was meant to be the visible arm of the corporate church – the dispensation was because the Jesuits were meant to be an “extraordinary” for of priest in his missionary endeavors. If anything, the current emphasis on interiority is a byproduct of Carmelite influence, especially the Little Flower – though I don’t really blame them, so much as their very messed interpretors.

  2. Does Universal Health Care count as “doing some good”?

    Also,I have Read that Fidel was not Excommunicated “in Personae” because of Communism but because of Religious Persecution.

    1. Dale
      November 29, 2016

      Stalin also had universal health care, and by exterminating over 20 million, he made it affordable as well.

      1. I stand Corrected… ; – )

  3. As someone who was Exposed to the Best of Jesuit and Lazarist(I eschew the Term “Vincentian”) Spiritual Traditions,I myself do not Like Kitschy Popular Piety that is Partially(if not completely) Independent of Sacred Liturgy so I prefer to choose those Private Devotions that Encourage and Engage Me in fully participating in the Holy Sacrifice of The Mass and the Divine Office. At the Height of the Sucess of the Liturgical Movement,The Jesuits and Benedictines had a Spirited Debate on Liturgy vs Popular Piety.

    P.S I am more of Augustinian-Salesian in defining My Personal Spirituality.


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