Today we return to our little series on the seven capital sins. These are the sins from which all others stem. In the second part of The Divine Comedy the great poet Dante describes his journey scaling the Mount of Purgatory. The mountain has seven ledges on each of which one of the seven capital sins is purified. On each of the ledges the Holy Virgin Mary is held up as the example of the opposite virtue. On Dante’s forehead are seven P’s. The P stands for peccato, (sin in Italian or in Latin peccatum). As he scales the mountain on each ledge yet another P is removed until he is cleansed of all sin and then ready to enter into Paradise for the third part of the poem Paradiso. In more recent times the famous Trappist monk of Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky, Thomas Merton, in writing his autobiography called it The Seven Story Mountain. It was a similar theme.
Today we will consider the capital sin of Envy.
Envy is the “culpable sadness or displeasure at the spiritual or temporal good of another. In popular usage envy is often not distinguished from jealousy, but jealousy implies a sense of right, on the part of the jealous person, to the exclusive possession of something (or someone). Jealousy, in spite of the pejorative connotation that it is usually attached to the term, is not necessarily evil, so long as the right is well founded and the reaction to its violation is expressed in a reasonable manner. The desire of exclusive possession appears at first sight to enter into St. Thomas Aquinas’s concept also of envy, for he says that envy makes the good of another evil to one’s self, inasmuch as it lessens one’s own excellence. (Summa Theologicae 2a2ae, 36.1). But the point is that the envious person is saddened not precisely because he feels his exclusive right is violated when another person possesses the good he envies, but because he feels lessened and humiliated when another is more favored than himself.
“Not all displeasure at another’s good is sinful: the good may be undeserved, as when an unworthy person is advanced to a position of trust and responsibility; the good may create a nuisance to others, as when the boy next door acquires a bugle; the good may be harmful to the possessor himself, as when sudden affluence comes to a person lacking the virtue to make good use of it.
“But if it is supposed that the good is a true good, to be pained or displeased at another’s enjoyment of it is sinful. Envy springs from pride, vanity, and ill-regulated self-love. It is sinful because it is opposed to the benevolence essential to charity. Its gravity is dependent on the importance of the good that is envied. The worst envy is that which looks with displeasure upon the spiritual good of another, for such envy has an obviously diabolical character. Envy is a venial sin when it is concerned with rival trivial goods or when, as is often the case, it is indeliberate or imperfectly voluntary. From the time of Origen(185-254), envy has regularly been numbered among the capital sins; from it come hatred, calumny, detraction, and many types of malevolent behavior.
“The vice of envy is best and most radically remedied by the curbing of the pride, vanity, and self-love from which it comes. Growth in fraternal charity will inevitably weaken the disposition to envy.” (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Taking pleasure in someone else’s failure (schadenfreude); needing glory and praise to come to oneself and experiencing sadness when someone else gets it; seeing a lack in oneself when comparing oneself to others, rather than to God - are some examples of envy. The scape-goating and gossiping which result from envy, in addition to being scandalous and harmful to others, are always self-destructive.
The antidote? Thanking and praising God for what we do have; counting blessings; and developing admiration for others’ talents and achievements; acknowledging that all gifts come from God. They are not of our own fashioning. There is no need for comparison. Use the gifts God has given you to your best ability, and then there is nothing of which to be ashamed. Go out of your way to praise, say something legitimately good about another, especially one for whom we are tempted to envy.
Though our gifts are clearly not equal, we are equal in God’s sight. Give credit where credit is due, yet we must also realize that there are many people of whom we can be envious, while not always know the trials, pains, and struggles they might experience. The grass is only greener on God’s side; and that is really the only place to be.
GLENN MOHR CHORALE: Please make every effort to attend the Glenn Mohr Chorale Production of Blessed Hope (see the information elsewhere in the bulletin) which will be today Sunday, December 4th at 4.00PM. The Glenn Mohr Chorale is deservedly world famous and many guests will also be coming to St. Paul’s. We will not have our annual Advent retreat this year so I encourage you to make this beautiful musical your spiritual preparation for Christmas.
EXTRAORDINARY MINISTERS OF HOLY COMMUNION: Last week on the First Sunday in Advent, our Eucharistic ministers began some slight new practices as requested by the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome. They will sit in a reserved section in the pie section near St. Joseph’s Altar. They will enter the sanctuary after the Priest’s Communion to receive the ciboria from the priest. Thus the priest in a certain sense gives Holy Communion to all in the Church but through the assistance of the Extraordinary Ministers. They will vest in the white alb, reminiscent of the baptismal garment, and so associated with the dignity of distributing Holy Communion. Remember, we can never have enough reverence or love for Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. We are grateful to the Knights of Columbus (Mr. James Galante, Grand Knight) for kindly and generously providing the liturgical vestments for the Eucharistic Ministers.
THE SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION: On Thursday of this week we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a HOLY DAY OF OBLIGATION and the patronal feast of the United States of America. (Masses are on Wednesday at 7.30PM and on Thursday at 8.00AM and 12.15PM). On this Feast we celebrate the wondrous mystery that Our Lady never knew the taint of the original sin even from the moment of her conception in the womb of her mother St. Ann. She is all pure and all beautiful. In the words of the poet Wadsworth she is our tainted nature’s solitary boast.
ST. ANDREW NOVENA: Many of you received the beautiful prayer known as the St. Andrew’s Novena in the mail. May I encourage you to pray the novena for all your intentions and may I ask that you pray for St. Paul’s parish as we embark upon our first ever capital campaign.
OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE: Monday December 12th is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Empress of the Americas. It is under that title, the River of Light, that Our Lady is the Protectress of all the peoples of the Americas, both North America and South America. Our Lady appeared to a humble Aztec St. Juan Diego on the Tepeyac Hill outside Mexico City four times between December 9, 1531 and December 12, 1531 – 485 years ago. There she said I have come to make known, to manifest, and to demonstrate my love, for all the peoples of these lands (North and South America). She asked that a Church be built on the Hill and finally she left us the miraculous image that is the most visited object on earth in the Basilica in Mexico City. There will be a Solemn High Mass in the Traditional Latin Rite (Extraordinary Form) at 6.30PM. Visiting clergy will serve as deacon and subdeacon at the Mass and the music will be the traditional Gregorian chant. After the Mass will be the singing of the traditional mananitas in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe by an authentic mariachi singer. Please make every effort to attend. The image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a replica of the one in Mexico City, will be on display in the Church.
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda