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    Josephine Augusta
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  1. The Princess Imperial sighs "I always knew something was off about Simon. The only small blessing in all of this is that my dear sister is free of that scaly yoke around her neck," she says incautiously to @lillyeveans. "These floral cigarettes-- ah, what a delight."
  2. The Princess Imperial loathes to see the patrimony of her great ancestors claimed by sycophants and servants of dwarven pagans. “To think that those bearing the name Carrion would stoop to such lows,” she remarks to her sister @Fie “Ex. Sigismund’s great legacy of driving back the dwarven invaders is besmirched.”
  3. The Director of Civil Affairs looks forward to an easier election cycle, a more vigorous Diet, and more reforms to come.
  4. The Aegisian See An Exposé On the Particular Churches of Distant Lands By Msgra. Josephine Augusta Any Canonist of a certain age is familiar with our people’s collective curse, which was delivered after the incurable corruption of the Kingdom of Oren: that we shall never live long in one continent (Silence 5:50). However, it may not occur to laymen (or even theologians) that this curse appears to apply only to the group of descendants who trace their lineage to Aegis at the time of its fall. Aeldin, for example, has been wracked by as many wars and depredations as Asulon or Almaris, but still remains continuously inhabited since the time of its first colonization. It is beyond the scope of this essay to theorize on God’s purpose for our generational curse. Instead, I seek to record what little information we have about the relationship of distant Canonists with our own Church. First, a matter of terminology: in relation to foreign continents, our own native Church can be referred to as the Aegisian See. It is the church with the most proximate connection to the original High Priesthood from Aegis, the cradle of mankind. Further, without exception, the title of High Pontiff has passed from priest-to-priest among the Aegisian nomads; Aegisian High Pontiffs have occasionally visited other continents, but they have never permanently moved their administration to them. This is probably helped by the fact that to do so would be considered an implicit abdication by the colleagues whom they left behind. It is also salient that all foreign Canonists of any significant population still recognize that apostolic relationship with Ex. Owyn’s High Priesthood and our own High Pontificate; groups contesting the Aegisian descendants’ right to the title High Pontiff are extremely rare, and because they are inherently hostile, they tend not to last long. As a side note, the author counts immigrants from other continents to our home as ‘Aegisian’. The generational nomadic curse appears to apply to the population as a whole, not to each Aegisian individually. Even when a High Pontiff has been foreign-born, the Aegisian See still suffered the generational curse of exile (see: St. Lucien of Ulmsbottom). It is difficult to speak definitively about these distant Canonists because most have had no contact with the Aegisian See in decades. They tend to organize themselves along similar lines to the mainline Canonist Church, and to accept the same Holy Scrolls and Prophets as us. If they acknowledge being part of the Church of the Canon, then it is necessary for them to have a theoretical administrative connection with her; namely, they must have a representative of the High Pontiff to preside over the local pastors. Our own Church refers to that representative as a Pontiff (not the Pontiff), but he may take any number of titles according to the local rite. When it is necessary to speak of the collective parishioners of these Pontiffs, the term ‘particular church’ is appropriate. The Holy See has historically declined to appoint such Pontiffs or interfere too much with their administrations, because they often die of old age before their reign can even be announced to the Aegisian See. It is considered a matter of form to simply assume that they acquired authority by appropriate processes. The most orthodox and familiar of the particular churches is the Aeldinic Church, which has had the most significant (relatively speaking) contact with Aegisian descendants; Aeldin was once subject to a mass migration and conquest by Anthosian exiles shortly before that continent’s fall. As recent and somewhat zealous exiles, the colonists tried for longer than normal to stay in lockstep with their home church. This attitude had the consequence that, as the exiles conquered Aeldin, they enforced orthodoxy upon local cults of the True Faith. Unfortunately, it was simply not possible to maintain regular contact with Aeldin in the long term-- both for reasons of distance and of our own frequent migration. The Aeldinic Church’s absolute harmony with the Aegisian See ended only two or three generations after the annunciation of the last prophet, Ex. Sigismund. Perhaps, having received all the books of scripture they were promised, the local pastors decided they were capable of governing themselves without the inconvenience of decades-long missions to our nomadic church. Nevertheless, the coasts of Aeldin tend to be more orthodox than inland regions, as do the areas ruled by descendants of Anthosian exiles. Aside from Aeldin, there is also the particular church of Rhen, which is the second-most orthodox of the larger particular churches (potentially, there may be others so nearby that they are effectively an extension of the mainline Church, but they are ill-recorded). Probably the Rhenyari Church’s most familiar variance is that it encourages the practice of magick among laymen and clerics alike; many Rhenyari priests are mages, using their talents to the benefit of their flock. This church also expresses the most interest in maintaining contact with our own Aegisian See, likely because Aegisian Rhenyari are the ethnicity who most commonly travel between our continents and their own native land. e.g. During the reign of St. James II, Fr. Griffith of Gwynon (an Aeldinian, notably), wrote a letter requesting that the Holy See issue an official cause for veneration of certain individuals with local cults in Rhen. Among these were V. Fyodor Carrion and Bl. Seraphim; the former was originally Aegisian but died in Rhen, while the latter was from Rhen but traveled as a missionary to our continent. While the Holy See has traditionally declined to venerate informal saints of distant churches, in this case, the individuals were apparently familiar enough to be venerated. St. James II further took a specific interest in Bl. Seraphim because he had acquired a copy of the Aengulica Hierarchia, one of the lost works of Ex. Sigismund. This text was recognized as a deuterocanon during his reign. Outside these two major groupings, the story becomes less clear. As a consequence of our constant migration, it is often difficult to tell whether other inhabited continents actually exist, or whether they are merely mythical homelands created by fanciful children of immigrants. If such continents do exist, it is probable that their churches differ very greatly from our own, as they would have had no bilateral contact with the Aegisian See since they were first colonized. Some of these may still practice the original True Faith from before the last two prophets were revealed, and others may recognize an entirely different set of prophets. Certainly, we have seen similar groups in our own homeland, such as the Rashidun, who venerate multiple revelators in addition to the four Exalted. For these distant cousins of our faith, we must trust that God has some place for them in the divine plan; there may yet be many more centuries before the last battle, and we may someday be reunited with our brethren for long enough to evangelize them of all they have missed. MAIOR E LONGINQUO REVERENTIA “Greater Reverence from Afar”
  5. Msgra. Josephine Augusta takes a well-deserved rest after contributing to the commission's report, wondering if perhaps she had erred in recommending the consecration of wine be permitted; after all, the Church is occasionally infiltrated by pagan practices, particularly by pastors in distant backwaters who do not have the benefit of a good education. She prays to St. Julia for intercession that Fr. Paul, who was the impetus for this report, is a true believer in the Holy Scrolls and the Church.
  6. Haiku from Providence A collection of five poems in observance of the Oyashiman format of the 'haiku', written by HIH Josephine Augusta as a gift to the Jade State. "Thousand bamboo stalks form slats for the rising sun: little golden swords." "Southern Vista" "Little ladybug waltzes between fat raindrops. What a dire dance!" "Joy" "Grey kings in grey shrouds, their glories in gilt settings: splendor of the grave." "Grief" "Silent battlefield— a broken spear stands erect: lonely monument." "Remembrance" "Numberless snowflakes twirl and settle, one by one. But all melt in time." "Eternity"
  7. Josephine Augusta receives her father's lifelong title with delight and deep reverence; she is now longer Duchess-Consort of Sunholdt, but the Duchess of Crestfall in her own right.
  8. ON CANONDOM A Mirror for Princes by Msgra. Josephine Augusta Foreword IN NECESSARIIS UNITAS, IN DUBIIS LIBERTAS, IN OMNIBUS CARITAS “In necessary things unity, in doubtful things liberty, in all things charity” I should note first that in this thesis I speak neither as a representative of His Holiness’ Curia nor as one of my imperial father’s household, but rather as a student of the Holy Scrolls and an author of histories. My perspective is limited, and unless God is willing, it will remain so until He takes me away; I find my solace in the Church and in the words of the Church. Second, I offer my regret to anyone who may read this document hoping for a devotional text or an exegesis. It is, in the larger part, an examination of political philosophy—or better, of political theology. I seek here to advocate for the righteousness of a multiplicity of states within Canondom, and to offer a mirror for princes who would instruct their subjects in Virtue. This is, in its own way, my love letter to GOD and the prophets: an affirmation that we down here in terra still strive for that mission with which they entrusted us. It is also a method of thanking my father, Philip II, and my tutor, Fr. Johan, for their loving dedication to my catechesis. To you who may read it, please pray for my soul, and I will continue to pray for yours. Section I: Ab Aeterno “From Eternity” There is a tendency among the very zealous to assume that the world inexorably becomes more and more wicked by the day—that yesterday must always be better than tomorrow, and that the world, simply by nature of the prophecy of Auspice, is edging ever closer to the last battle with Iblees. These praisers of things past are right that the world approaches GOD’s glorious victory more closely every day; that is prophecy. But they are wrong to think that the world cannot grow in Virtue beforehand. Who can truly chart GOD’s course, except Ex. Sigismund who saw the bind of time? The last battle may begin tomorrow or we may yet wait another thousand years, as our ancestors did. Whenever the Lord may plan His victory, it is shown in the Gospel that mankind’s path to perfection is not a straight one, although it may be narrow. In particular, I have heard such men cite the Holy Orenian Empire’s voluntary relinquishment of political unity within humanity as a sign of the end times. Indeed, when reading the Gospel, it is easy to draw this conclusion. After all, do not the Scrolls mourn when humanity is divided? “You betray man with your wrath, and once again Horen’s sons are divided.” (Gospel 4:53) "Thus it was that Horen’s people were scattered in all directions, and it fell upon Horen’s sons to gather them.” (Gospel 3:22) And do not they rejoice when the Sons of Horen are in one Empire? “Thus mankind was united in virtue, in the highlands and the heartlands, and in the farthest homes of the sons of Horen.” (Gospel 6:33) “You will know him, for with peace he gathers the sons of Horen, where the sword has divided them” (Gospel 7:53) This attitude is correct, that humanity is best when she is together. But I argue that it is wrong to believe this oneness must be within the Holy Orenian Empire, or any state for that matter. Our common faith must unite us, before any government comes into it. To use the language of the logicians, a virtuous and panhuman government is sufficient to achieve unity in mankind, but it is not necessary. In support of this point, let us note some particular words in the verses I have cited: “Thus mankind was united in Virtue” (Partial, Gospel 6:33) “With peace he gathers the Sons of Horen, where the sword has divided them” (Partial, Gospel 7:53) A closer reading implies that the method by which political unity is won, and the nature of that unity once it is achieved, are relevant to whether GOD wishes it of us. Let us also review the story of Ex. Owyn, the only prophet not to rule over a united humanity: Here we see Ex. Owyn’s royal uncle advise his nephew that he could not realistically achieve unity with his lost cousins in Edel. As GOD had earlier said, “that which is done is not undone,” (Gospel 4:55). As the lords of mixed blood had now seen Ex. Owyn kill Harren Horenson, thereby violating a command of GOD spoken before their very eyes, he could not hope to instruct them in Virtue through conquest. The prophet, then, is enjoined to rule over only what land he has at his disposal, and not to seek more. This is the first instance in the Gospel where it is implied that the secular authority of even a prophet is limited by the strictures of practicality; if Ex. Owyn were to wage a hopeless war of reconquest, he would only bring more iniquity, not less. In contrast, his spiritual authority was unharmed: at GOD’s command he anointed servants in his lineage (Gospel 4:61), these becoming the priesthood, and set up leaders among them (Gospel 5:4). We know from our history that these priests did go forth into Edel, and indeed all the world, for the True Faith—albeit in a form very corrupted by the ages—was practiced throughout humanity by the time of Ex. Godfrey. Thus scripture acknowledges periods exist where political unity among humanity is impractical, and in those instances, it is permitted to relinquish it. However, the religious obligation to remain united in the Church is ab aeterno, ‘from outside of time’, and it remains regardless. The spiritual world is not subject to the same vulgar limitations as this lowly terra. Just as the kingdoms of Horen’s sons were several yet co-equal, so may be the Canonist princes. Although it is widely accepted, we would be remiss if we did not briefly verify that political unity remains a religious commandment where it is possible. The Holy Scrolls state there is a Throne of Man, and that it is the office of the heirs of Horen and of the old kingdom of Oren. The following passage should suffice: Section II: In Illo Tempore “In That Time” Having established that political and religious unity among mankind are separate obligations, I now present to the reader a recent case study of this relationship. I have occasionally heard lamentations in my country (in only the most private forums, as such an opinion disparages both the late Empress and our Haeseni allies) that Empress Anne erred in issuing the Edict of Separation, which established the Holy Orenian Empire and the Kingdom of Hanseti-Ruska as co-equal sovereign states. Indeed, I have even heard similar lamentations among a few clergymen, although in their case it is because they perceive a religious error, rather than a mere political one. I have always been more sympathetic to the latter objections than the former, simply because being motivated by an interest in the spiritual welfare of Canonists, they are more selfless. To the amateur politicians, however, I say that it is very clear (to most) that there was no true victory to be won in subjugating the Haeseni by force. Even if imperial forces could have triumphed in a theoretical civil war—make no mistake that with their army comprising a third to half of all armed men in Oren, the Haeseni had an at least equal chance of winning—the Holy Orenian Empire would not have been worth that appellation if it had done so. Unlike previous secessionist movements within united mankind, the Dual Crown was in most respects a healthy, functional, and pious government. Whatever difficulties the contemporary Aulic government caused their imperial overlords were almost solely in respect to their desire to govern themselves, rather than in any effort to preserve corrupt practices. Even those aforementioned difficulties only very rarely strayed into the kind of active disobedience we would call sin, and a ruler is well-advised to occasionally tolerate his subjects’ failings. Haense’s passive secessionist movement, then, was not comparable to that of e.g. Courland. It did not stray into irreligious disobedience to a rightful ruler. I say all of this not to disparage bygone imperial statesmen, who spilled a great deal of ink on the subject of Haeseni resistance to their government. I truly sympathize and mourn with them that they witnessed the loss of their politically united humanity; I would also joyously celebrate if, in some distant future, the Holy Orenian Emperor, the King of Haense, the Prince of Savoy, the Duke of Rozania, etc., all willingly united into a single country. However, this is similar to saying that I would joyously celebrate if all the prophets returned or if Iblees was destroyed forever. i.e. It is a promise of GOD which we cannot hurry along. He ordains the estates of the world according to His own plan. For us, we merely live in virtuous and obedient anticipation. Therefore, Empress Anne and Emperor Joseph II acted in the most virtuous way possible in the circumstances: they recognized the desires of their Haeseni subjects, and seeing their own presence could only result in needless discontent that may lead to iniquity, they returned the sovereignty of the Dual Crown into the care of King Josef. To quote St. James II’s pontifical address on the event: Section III: Imperium Sine Fine “An Empire Without End” We have discussed the distinction between the religious and secular obligations towards united humanity, and we have just seen an example of this commandment being observed in years past. Let us speak in saeculo, or ‘in the times’. Though circumstances may change and humanity may voluntarily unite, let us assume they will not for some decades or perhaps even centuries. As men, our foresight is limited, and so we must acknowledge the circumstances in which we find ourselves, or spiritual pride may lead us into error. One of the great questions of our age is the nature of the title ‘Holy Orenian Emperor’. This question has been asked before in times when the Emperor reigns alongside other sovereigns, e.g. the Johannian Empire, when John I reigned alongside the King of Vandoria. Indeed, the title may seem to presuppose secular authority over all other monarchs, as it is the highest dignity afforded to any mortal outside of the priesthood. However, we must look to the example of Ex. Owyn: even before the crown (secular) and laurel (spiritual) were divided by Ex. Sigismund, the second prophet still recognized some distinction between his authorities. i.e. While Ex. Owyn served as seneschal in Harren’s court, he submitted to him as his own king in matters secular; but in matters spiritual, we need only to read the Scroll of Spirit to see they differed. Now that the prophets’ spiritual authority is vested in the High Pontiff through the laurel, in what way does the Holy Orenian Emperor receive the authority of the prophets’ crown? The crown of prophets is, foremost, a duty rather than a dignity or a privilege. The Holy Orenian Emperor, as inheritor of the patrimony of Ex. Godfrey, receives the obligation of committing all of his attentions and the resources of his realm to the purpose of harmony within mankind. In matters of sovereignty, he might charitably be called ‘first among equals’, but he must also remember that even this small acknowledgement may threaten his effectiveness coordinating with his fellow sovereigns. In this, he is called to model humility; he must exercise this authority only in the gravest of circumstances, and only in concert with a willing High Pontiff. It would be a greater sacrilege for an Emperor to misuse the Throne of Man than it would be for another to disparage it. The High Pontiff, in turn, is enjoined to recognize the co-equality of other Canonist sovereigns with the Holy Orenian Emperor—to do otherwise would imperil the health of the Church, which cannot become an evangelist of anything so base as a world government. The two men should strive to be in the closest brotherhood and friendship, but never to the detriment of those within their care. Section IV: Virtus Unita Fortior “Virtue United Is Stronger” We have reached the final point, to which all others of this thesis have led. Lacking political unity under a Holy Orenian Empire, mankind yet maintains a religious unity in the Church. This unity we may call ‘Canondom’, the collective dominions of the Canonist sovereigns. Canondom, as a term distinct from the Holy Orenian Empire (for the reasons aforementioned), implies a broader cultural and religious polity—in this arrangement, the sovereign states are not united in a king or emperor, but in the Church. Therefore their affairs with their coreligionists are in some ways more ‘domestic’ than ‘foreign’, as compared to pagan states. It is expected, for example, that states within Canondom will offer mutual recognition of each other’s laws and peerages, that they will negotiate as friends rather than strangers, and that they will generally act with the best interests of each other in mind. Unlike in the secular international arena, in a spiritual one it is not tolerable that Canonist princes should be adversaries for longer than can be avoided. To use an analogy, the Canonist princes are similar to members of a legislature or privy council (this analogy only applies in their collegial and theoretically selfless method of coordination, not in their actual sovereignty, which I do not deny); they implicitly agree that the spiritual welfare of the body politic is of paramount importance, and thus they should advocate for certain interests without intention of advancing selfish personal or local goals, but rather because they believe that the course they propose is for the betterment of all. Naturally, we should anticipate that men will tend to believe that what is best for them is what is best for everyone—this is, however, a form of uncharity, and we should seek to stifle it with GOD’s help. In this, we must trust the princes to rule themselves. This grand concert is (relatively) easy to conduct when it comes to spiritual matters, as the High Pontiff and sometimes even local pastors are a Canonist prince’s rightful superior when it comes to such things. However, secular contentions between sovereign princes are difficult because they have no superior in those matters. In such disputes, His Holiness is advised to mediate with only the utmost care in order to ensure justice is achieved—where he can avert open conflict between princes he must, for war between confessing Canonists leads to great iniquity. But he also maintains a religious obligation to guarantee that “the crown and the laurel are two in harmony, like unto Evaristus and Clement.” (Gospel 7:60). Thus he must strive to arrange that his own authority, and that of the princes for whom he mediates, are kept in the strictest accord; it is not acceptable that a Canonist prince should subvert the authority of another, unless it be in a form of higher obedience. This is a weighty duty for the High Pontiff, who is the judge of last resort regarding matters of higher obedience: he makes judgements of jus ad bellum, ‘the right to war’. On that subject, note this verse of scripture, in which Ex. Godfrey speaks to High Pontiff James I: Thus, it is the duty of the High Pontiff and the Church through him to be a builder of bridges among the Canonist princes, acknowledging their temporal authority while affirming his role as their shepherd. Together, we shall all one day be reunited in one kingdom of GOD. LEX PACIFERIT “The Law Shall Bring Peace”
  9. Josephine Augusta celebrates the election of her elder brother as Duke of Adria at the true Duma. “I’ll have to find another way to celebrate such occasions without tobacco,” she remarks.
  10. Josephine Augusta hums the catchy birthday melody to herself, appreciating it as a spark of light that brightened her late uncle’s last hours.
  11. The Monsignora reads Everard VI's encyclical in her office, resisting the urge to smoke a cigarette as she does so (this being her own little way of fasting, although hopefully permanent). She later remarks to Fr. Johan, the Auditor of the Tribunal @Harald "I am glad to see St. Pius' works cited by His Holiness-- gladder still to see he does not rise to occasions of incitement, but responds in a fatherly and careful way."
  12. Josephine Augusta smiles the sun's smile. "We must all rely upon the High Pontiff to mediate such contests; we did not win what we wanted in the beginning, but we have reached a peaceful compromise. There is no greater victory to be won in Canondom," she reports to her imperial father.
  13. ON FAITH BY ST. HIGH PONTIFF JAMES II FOREWORD AND POSTHUMOUS PUBLICATION BY JOSEPHINE AUGUSTA, DUCHESS OF SUNHOLDT Though no one has ever been bold enough to tell me, I suspect that I cut an unusual figure for a canon lawyer. This is not a traditional occupation for an aristocratic laywoman, and particularly not so for a princess. But my imperial father is quite a devout man, and he has tried his best to instill that in me, employing the most qualified tutors and insisting upon many visits to holy places. For the greater part of my life I felt he had failed-- while I had a scholar’s knowledge of the legalisms and juridic doctrines surrounding Canonism, I could not find in my heart that special spark of faith. But while I was reviewing the annotated Holy Scrolls of the recently-canonized St. Pius of Sutica, I encountered reference to a specific document of which I could find no other record. It was entitled On Faith, supposedly by James II, and it was referenced several times through St. Pius’ work. I expressed my frustration to my devoted teacher, Fr. Johan, who gave to me this unfinished essay of his dear departed brother. Evidently the Pontiff passed away while authoring it, but the drafts had already been circulated among his closer companions. Admittedly, I already had some connection to His Late Holiness: he taught my imperial father, and after the Pontiff’s passing, I co-authored the second volume of his series, the Epochs of the Empire. When I first read his works, I found that our authorial tones were similar, but I still could not feel that special light of faith of which he spoke so lovingly. However, the scattered notes of this particular paper (which incidentally form a sequel to his polemic The Age of Reason) gave me great strength. Perhaps it is because the message is so warm; Fr. Johan tells me that in his later years, St. James II became extremely tolerant, where in his early reign he often struck out with fierce judgement. Or perhaps it is simply that I have grown older now. I have begun to feel that when we are young, faith is difficult because we are full of fresh-faced optimism and ambition. Accustomed to relying on this seemingly endless font of inner strength, we may hesitate to rely upon something so ‘external’ as God for strength. Regardless of the reason, after reading this paper, I have found that spark of faith which evaded me. It is not as strong as I perhaps would like; I continue to doubt that I will ever achieve the holiness of the saints. But for the first time, I feel that it is a goal to which I can aspire. My intent in collating and publishing this incomplete work is twofold: first, to honor and thank St. James II, St. Pius of Sutica, Fr. Johan, and my beloved father for their efforts to bring me lasting contentment; and second, if God is willing, perhaps I may share with you some of that sweet medicine of faith which has alleviated my pains. FIDES QUAERENS INTELLECTUM, JOSEPHINE AUGUSTA Postscript: I have neither added nor taken anything away from this document in its original form, but I have made slight grammatical edits to His Holiness’ work where his hand seemed unsteady. For the reader’s convenience, I have divided the text into sections according to the pre-existing organization of the late Pontiff’s notes. The first section is by far the most complete; as the work progresses, there are occasional repeated phrases and incomplete thoughts. I had thought at first to annotate where necessary, but it seems most righteous to preserve the text as it was. If you find this work spiritually fortifying, please read the Age of Reason, and the ensuing epistolary dialogue between St. James II and St. Pius of Sutica. ON FAITH By High Pontiff James II In my recent polemic, The Age of Reason, I criticized the dangerous tendency to prefer Reason to Faith. I give thanks that this essay was so well-received. However, my colleague Fr. Pius admonished me that its attitude may risk leading others into error. This essay will not be principally concerned with The Age of Reason, but it is inspired by Fr. Pius’ response, for which I also thank him. For On Faith we will adopt a moderate and logical tone, and you may thus notice a more methodical progression of points. Here is not a fiery polemic against sin, but a healing salve for the sinner. As I advised you, I now offer my own faith as medicine for the spiritual struggles of my brothers--struggles which I have also experienced. I pray that as God permitted these words to heal me, they will also heal you. In spiritual matters, we often treat doubt with apprehension. This is a fine defense mechanism; doubt that is ill-informed or self-interested is truly harmful. But, as with Reason, here is an issue of intent rather than of substance. When used correctly, referring to the scriptures and our loving brothers in the Church, doubt strengthens our faith. Such is the divine mystery of the Virtue, that it brings contentment even when our own mind cannot. Doubt is a natural skill for understanding the world and one that is vital in avoiding error. If we have not been raised in the Church, it is quite normal to struggle with doubt, and even lifelong Canonists contend with our understanding of God’s infinity. Such doubt is not sinful on its own; I tell you now that doubt is not the enemy of faith. Truly, we take the bad out of our doubt by treating it not as faith’s opponent, but as its complement. We use it to spur a search for spiritual truth, and faithfully we rely that God has that Truth. Faith, then, is the heartfelt belief that an underlying Truth exists, even if it is not always accessible to our limited senses. Doubt alone does not lead us to this conclusion; it is neither the enemy nor substitute of faith, but a tool which is used either to our detriment or to our benefit. If doubt is not faith’s enemy, what is? It is despair. In despair, a man seeks to resolve his moral struggle by coming down firmly on the side of amorality; it is a tragic and fruitless type of sloth that wants to cast off the innate, but often difficult, desire for good. One who fully accepts despair seeks to empty himself of the fruits of Virtue. He no longer wishes to believe there is a moral foundation to the universe, whereby selflessness leads to good and selfishness to evil. He thus tries to remedy his guilt over his doubting Supreme Good; incorrectly, he does so by removing the guilt and not the doubt. At first, this causes a hollow, black depression. What a terrible world to believe in, where nothing truly matters? If allowed to progress, such an attitude causes moral relativism and eventually an intentional, pointed kind of selfishness. He might begin to indulge in things that feel wrong even after long thought, not because he wants to do them, but because he wishes to prove to himself he can. He considers God not to be a merciful companion, always with us and offering us something better, but a jailor--such a man deceives himself into choosing evil out of spite, rather than admitting his desperate need for relief. We should also note, for those who seek to apply reason properly to their faith, that despair is actually an unreasonable choice, that is, there is no strong logic behind it. It is a passion--one so addictive and self-destructive that it brooks no companion. So let us obey Fr. Pius’ advice and take the opportunity to show how reason is applied to faith, redirecting doubt and resisting despair. The faithful are rightly sorrowful when we sin. Though careful not to let this sorrow become despair, we may still need guidance from our peers to find solid ground again. Thus when we weep for our sins, we often hear our fellows say “Why are you so upset? Everyone sins, and God forgives you.” This is a misleadingly pious statement, and it is almost always well-meaning. We do not need to suspect the intentions of one who says such a thing; he is probably trying to help us, and it is probably what we needed to hear. We do not even need to correct him, because if he cares enough to instruct us, he likely understands what he is saying better than we know. This is not written to chastise those who say “Why are you so upset? Everyone sins, and God forgives you,” but instead, as a spiritual medicine for those who still feel doubt and possibly despair upon hearing it. Now, if we are not consoled by our friend’s reminder, it is likely because sinning begat within us a very confusing mix of emotions. We feel grief, which is righteous and proper: for a moment, we had just turned away from He who loves us most. But we also feel a little fear mixed with our grief. This can be an upsetting experience for one who places his trust in God--if we are truly seeking Virtue, and God promises to forgive our sins, and we clearly regret our sin, what is it we have to fear in Him? This fear, however, is not properly directed at God. The fear we feel after a sin is a product of experiencing sin, which is choosing evil. In this, we have just felt a brush with death itself. By turning away from God, we have just had a glance at the Void, which is death eternal. Yet still, why do we fear? We have just brushed with spiritual death, but we survived it. We repented of our sin and received forgiveness. This is because, in choosing to sin, we risked becoming the kind of man who refuses to accept God’s forgiveness: the unrepentant sinner, who believes “If God forgives me every time I sin, my sins must not be so great--perhaps it is not a sin, perhaps I do not even need His forgiveness.” Too proud to repent, such a man will not sacrifice pitiable sin even in exchange for the joy of salvation. So there is nothing wrong with this, fearing and therefore rejecting sin. Fear of sin becomes problematic only when, consumed by our fear, we fail to reject evil and instead accept it entirely. In this, we make the deluded and tragic decision to deny faith, deny all hope of God’s aid, seeking to escape further spiritual struggle. That is despair; losing our faith in God and therefore in His infinite mercy. Out of this sin comes a flurry of other sins, each reinforcing the last. First, we begin to hate the gift of free will, for without a merciful God who leads us into Virtue, free will’s temptations are a horrible curse. Over time, we then hate He who gave us that gift. Once we have achieved such a thorough rejection of God, our heart is very hardened indeed. Despair, because it is so single-minded, can become a nearly insurmountable challenge to restoring faith. In his first disobedience, in the first sin, Iblees said to God, “Now my touch is the touch of the Void, and it is with everything in your creation.” (Gospel 1:24) This is the original sin from which all other sins draw their lineage. In choosing to depart from God’s will, Iblees revealed a path into the Void. This is evil, then: not the Void itself, which is harmless and God-ordained if unsought, but rather the seeking of the Void’s oblivion and the leading of others into it. We fear sin because it leads us and others to death eternal. But the tragic irony in Iblees’ choice is, though he hated God, he could not escape His gifts. “And he fled into the Void, for he hated the glory of GOD, and by his own will was shackled there from the Lord.” (Gospel 1:26) God had given free will to Iblees, and the Denier used that will to forge chains that held him away from God. Thus we rightly fear any time we choose sin, because each time we have risked finally forging our chains. We have risked deciding to never again seek God’s forgiveness. Only Virtue, which is God’s promise of salvation for all who seek it, can preserve us from this fate. God is the Most Merciful, however, and no one shall suffer forever. In the end of days, Ex. Owyn’s holy flame will consume those who still suffer in a state of iniquity. The waters of Gamesh will spill even into the Void, and it will be cleansed and made anew. Thus the unrepentant sinner condemns himself (though this is little comfort to us faithful) not to an eternal and incurable rejection of God, but to a singular and final escape from Him. God loves and trusts us so much that if we would refuse Him forever, He allows even that final, awful, ignorant desire: oblivion. In the last days, everyone will be free of evil, either the evil we suffer in ourselves or the evil we inflict upon others. So, while we rightly fear sin for its consequences, this is not why we should destroy it. We should destroy sin because we feel compassion. First, we are compassionate for bystanders, who may be led to evil through it. More importantly, we are compassionate for the one who commits this evil, because he loves wickedness so greatly that he would rather enter oblivion than resist its temptation. That is terrifying. We are right to fear that someone might despair in that way. Each man who perishes forever because of his love of sin is a terrible weight on our conscience, unless we have done all we can to prevent it. But--and here is the crucial part--we do not stop evil alone. Evil separates us from God, and so whatever unites us with Him is evil’s defeat. Now, we know God may destroy evil without us if He so chooses. He demonstrates this ability with signs of His power: the Virtue, the arrival of the prophets, the descent of the angels, the miracles of the saints, and all the little comforts and refuges of the faithful. He does not stop evil on His own behalf, however, even though He hates His separation from us. This is because, by restraining Himself, God has given us a gift: free will. Like the prophets, we may devote that gift of free will to God, submitting to Him in Virtue; we thus lead people to the Lord and let them also accept Him through their own free will. Or, like Iblees, we may use that will to forge our chains and reject Him--hating His gift, and yet taking it only to spite Him. This is our final choice: to remain with God or to remain without Him. We should also note, for those who seek to apply reason properly to their faith, that despair is actually an unreasonable choice, that is, there is no strong logic behind it. One who truly struggles with doubting God cannot actively disbelieve Him--to take that attitude is to assert Reason has some higher purpose over Good. Despite having both an innate desire to understand the world as well as an innate desire for a real moral foundation, such a man elevates his desire for understanding over his desire for good; he claims that any definitive moral foundation is an illusion, and he further claims he has discovered this through reason. But why should he trust Reason if there is no underlying Truth, no Supreme Good? If this were the case, Reason would be an empty faculty serving only to confuse or mislead; there is no attitude it could justify that he also couldn’t achieve by mere mental fiat. What is so laudable about the process of discernment if there is nothing to discern? We find again that the cure for despair is faith. We may dispense with the notion that there is any decent logic behind moral relativism, though many self-proclaimed atheists have asserted such. Free of that burden, we begin again, but still supposing we are the extremely skeptical type. Let us choose between two worlds: one with absolutely morality and one without. Why should we not want the former? Again, faith reveals her inner nature. In faith, we choose to trust that beneath all the evils of the world, beneath all the struggles, there is a reason that we should prefer one outcome to another; good is the divine presence and evil is its absence. This is why we hear the theologians say that God is Mercy, God is Justice, God is Faith itself; in the same way, Mercy is also Justice, Justice is also Faith, and Faith is also Mercy. Whenever we speak of these virtues, we are each time speaking of God Himself; the seven virtues not as merely complementary, nor as vague rules of thumb, but a truly identical and divine substance: Good. Thus when Faith is expressed perfectly, it begets all other virtues in an equal abundance. The same is true for Charity, Temperance, Diligence, Patience, Fidelity, and Humility--each begets the others. When we speak of The Virtue, rather than a virtue, we invoke a transcendent unity: the coexistence of all morality not as distinct laws, but as one reality towards which we strive. This reality answers all of our questions, it soothes all of our pains, and it forgives all of our mistakes. This reality is God.
  14. In the Skies, St. James II whiles away a joyful eternity with his friend, St. Pius of Sutica. @thesmellypocket
  15. Josephine Augusta remarks to her aide “I knew this would happen. Didn’t I predict this after my visit to Vortice’s coronation? The dwarven delegation spent the entire ceremony drunkenly swearing and insulting the architecture.” The perceptive princess spends several more minutes like this, complimenting her own formidable foresight.
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