Homily for the Memorial of St. Pius X

Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Pius X, one of the great popes of the 20th century. He was born in 1835, Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, and he grew up in poverty. His father was the village postman and little Giuseppe walked six kilometers to school everyday. This poverty characterized his whole life, and it was not just a matter of physical poverty. St. Pius X was a man who was truly poor in spirit. Our Lord said: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Throughout his life as simple priest and Franciscan tertiary, then as bishop of Mantua, later as cardinal archbishop of Milan and finally as supreme pontiff of the universal Church, Giuseppe Sarto, remained a simple man and a lover of poverty. His last will and testament gives witness to this with the words: “I was born poor, I have lived in poverty, and I wish to die poor.”

Thus, this great man was single minded throughout his life and placed himself at the dispositions of Christ and His Church, without consideration for himself. This was his poverty in spirit. His whole life was to serve Christ and the Church.

Continue reading

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The Calculus of the Children of Light: Updated

Sermon for the Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
https://maryvictrix.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/vrp-20130714-182749-1.mp3

Udate: File fixed: it runs full length now.

The Cost of Making War

Continue to pray the Rosary in order to obtain an end of the war.

—Our Lady of Fatima, September 13, 1917

In her spiritual commentary on these words of Our Lady of Fatima, Sr. Lucia dos Santos, the eldest of the three seers at Fatima, states that war can only be brought to an end by prayer and sacrifice. Of, course the “war” Our Lady is speaking of is the First World War. However, Sr. Lucia’s ties the praying of the Rosary to the end of all war. Her reflection about “the end of the war” is a long disquisition on the existence of evil spirits and our combat with them.  Salvation is a matter of spiritual combat.  Its weapons and tactics are not those of this world.  The prayer of the Rosary is, so to speak, the weapon of choice in the conflict at which our souls are at stake.

The Church Militant is the term used to identify the life of Christ’s followers on earth.  It is a general term that situates us between heaven (the Church Triumphant) and purgatory (the Church Suffering) in a state of crisis and combat.  St. Paul’s exhortation to put on the armor of God urges us to act like we are at war, to be aware of the “enmity” that exists between God and Satan and how that conflict is played out in our souls and in the history of men. St. Paul is clear about distinguishing this war from general human conflict:

For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places (Eph 6:12). Continue reading

The End is Near

In honor of all the rapturists:

On a serious note, modern Marian prophecy, approved by the Church, has given us a few things to do that are pretty simple and which many good Catholics are not doing, such as

  1. Getting to confession monthly
  2. Frequent (and worthy) reception of Holy Communion
  3. Praying the Rosary Daily

Here is Pope Benedict last year at Fatima:

We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete. Here there takes on new life the plan of God which asks humanity from the beginning: “Where is your brother Abel […] Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!” (Gen 4:9). Mankind has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end… In sacred Scripture we often find that God seeks righteous men and women in order to save the city of man and he does the same here, in Fatima, when Our Lady asks: “Do you want to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the sufferings which he will send you, in an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?” (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 162).

Fundamentals, boys and girls, fundamentals.

Fatima and Priestly Chivalry

The Holy Father has been taking a beating lately on behalf of his sinful sons in the priesthood.  “The pope will have much to suffer,” Our Lady told the children at Fatima.  This has been realized in every pope since the time of the apparitions, but we wonder if Our Lady had these days and this pope particularly in mind.

None of us should be particularly surprised or even disturbed by the assaults of the enemies of the Church.  This is nothing new or unexpected.  For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry? Our Lord said on the day he died (Lk23:31).  History has played itself out, just as he predicted.

It is the height of hypocrisy for secularists to act horrified by unnatural vice within the Church when they are its biggest advocates.  But it is even worse for a wolf to cloth himself in the robes of a shepherd.  We have put the rope in our enemies’ hands.

En route to Portugal on Tuesday, Benedict was asked if the suffering of John Paul contained in Fatima’s third secret could be extended to encompass the suffering of the church today concerning the clerical abuse scandal.

Benedict affirmed it could, arguing that the Fatima message doesn’t respond to a particular situation or time but offers a “fundamental response” to the constant need for penance and prayer.

“In terms of what we today can discover in this message, attacks against the pope or the church don’t come just from outside the church,” he told reporters. “The suffering of the church also comes from within the church, because sin exists in the church. This, too, has always been known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way.”

The evil within the Church is especially terrifying because it has not done more to restore our militancy.  Where has been the outrage?  Why did the Church not protect the innocent once pastors knew what was happening?  Leon Podles has written on the subject of anger and the sex scandal.  Katie van Schaijik at The Linde has an interesting commentary on Podles’ article.

The ethics of chivalry originally arose out of the need to moderate the ferociousness of masculine aggressiveness.  Today it needs to be restored in order to validate masculine authority and the role of fathers.  This is not to say that the moderation of chivalry is not necessary today.  Militancy and Chivalry are not necessarily identical and there are many divisions within the Church that exist because of arrogance and a lack of charity.  But child molestation is a no-brainer.

The way of Chivarly is the hard road.  It admits of no extremes and makes demands on all sides.  No rest for the weary.  No convalescing for the wounded.  On your feet and fight.  On your feet and tend to the needy.

Here is an interesting take on the culture of Twitter which is appropriate to this subject.  Fight the good fight, with the emphasis on good.

Guarding Hearts

The Kingdom of God is both an internal and external reality, the walls and ramparts of which need to be watched and guarded.  Internally that kingdom is the heart of man.  Externally it is the Church, the Christian family and, hopefully, an evangelized society.  The protection of that larger external kingdom, however, depends on the transformation of individual hearts.

Holes are torn into the walls of the Church only because the sanctuaries of individual hearts have been breached. Even though the Church is a social, external reality that communicates supernatural life to individual souls, it has no life at all unless it is animated by the interior life of the Savior.  During the itinerary of this life, the paradox remains that we cannot live without the grace of the Church, but the Church will not thrive unless we guard the grace within us.  All of this depends on our connection with the Heart of Christ.

Heart to Heart Talk

We speak of the heart as though it was the whole person.  For example, we personify Our Blessed Lord and His Mother in terms of their Hearts when we say:  “Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!  Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.”  The heart represents the moral and spiritual center, source of unity, and principle of organization and life.  It is, again, an internal reality.  Just as the physical organ is literally at the center of the body, so as a symbol the heart represents all that is central to supernatural life, the interior life of prayer and union with God.  It represents the highest part of man’s spirit that is most completely “transubstantiated” into the Trinitarian Communion by means of his cooperation with grace.

We freely personify the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, because the heart is also symbolic of an enclosed vessel in which all the treasure of life and grace are contained.  The abundance of life, promised to us by the Lord himself, is nothing other than the fullness of His own life (cf. Jn 10:10).  The fullness of grace by which the angel Gabriel names the Blessed Virgin is poured out for us in the mystery of the Incarnation and our own rebirth as children of God (Lk 1:28).  At Fatima, for instance, Our Lady makes grace-filled promise to Lucia: “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that leads you to God.”

By means of the Church that Christ established, there is an open path from the fullness of grace in Christ through Mary to the vessel of our own hearts.  For those who have not yet found that grace, or who perchance, have lost it, the task is to make room, by casting out from the heart the refuse deposited there by the world, the flesh and the devil.  This is the necessary prerequisite for receiving the sacraments worthily and fruitfully.  For those have experienced that grace and seen it grown, unworthy though they are, their work is by no means over, for the Kingdom of God, which is the heart of man, is under constant attack.

Heart Attack

Spiritually, the enclosed space of our hearts is not protected by flesh and bone, but by the heavenly host and by the sword of the spirit (cf. Ep. 6:17).  Our Lord warns us:  Fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell (Mt. 10:28).  At the Cross, the enemy of hearts mockingly executes the transfixion of the Heart of Christ and the Soul of His Mother, believing falsely that in so doing he violated the very sanctum of the House of God.  But in reality what he did was to open the floodgates of grace.

One of the paradoxes of the Cross is that the Hearts of Jesus and Mary secure the Kingdom of God by suffering and seemingly succumb to the assault of the enemy.  But in reality to suffer is not to be conquered.  For the enemy, death, shall be destroyed last (1 Cor 15:26), and even now in the death of Christ we are brought to life.  The heart of man is protected, then, by incorporation into the mystery of the sacrificial love of Christ and the coredemptive love of the Immaculate.

Custody of the Heart

In The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard (1858– 1935), we are counseled to practice custody of the heart, that is, to guard our hearts, by means of cultivating purity of intention and the practice of the presence of God.  Religious people often find themselves “swarming like an anthill with venial sins,” or justifying their own tepidity with the righteous outrage about the state of the Church, society and “sinners,” because their deep motives for practicing religion are tainted by so much self-love and self-deception (part 5, section 4).  How often do we need to stop and center ourselves on the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, begging for the strength to stay focused solely on them, to remain in their presence and to shut out every other voice to the contrary.

It is this vigilance of the heart, and only it, that brings about the rebuilding of the larger Kingdom of God.  Dom Chautard makes little of grand schemes and apostolic gimmicks as means of appealing to the masses of modern men. Together with the Church he says that “God is a hidden God, Deus absconditus,” and that deep transformations among men take place by means of the revelation of that hidden supernatural character of holiness through those already so transformed.    “How does this diffusion of the supernatural come about?” asks Dom Chautard:

It is the visible brilliance of sanctity, the shining-forth of that divine influx which theology commonly calls sanctifying grace; or, better still perhaps, we may say it is the result of the unutterable presence of the Divine Persons within those who They sanctify (part 4, section c.).

Radio-contemplative-active

Dom Chautard calls this effulgence of holiness “supernatural radiation.”  By means of its blast wave, the enemies of the heart and of the Church are flung back to hell.  Thus, real and effective vigilance on behalf of Christ’s Church and all the souls entrusted to Her care will always depend on the defenses of our own individual hearts.

Dom Chautard was a contemplative monk, who, at the behest of Holy Mother Church, left his monastery in order to conduct Church’s work of saving souls, but he was always so wary of allowing the ego to supplant the grace of Christ.  May we never fall into that trap.  May we, rather, remain vigilant in the custody of our hearts, which is the only way to place the fortification of grace around the larger, external Kingdom of God.

The Knights of Christ

My last full day in Fatima, Father Peter, Father Andre, Fra Solanus and a local Fatima friend of the friars, Leo Madigan had an opportunity to visit the Convento de Cristo, a very imposing Knights Templar Castle less than an hour away from Fatima.  In 1319, few years after the papal suppression of the Templars, the knights were re-founded in Portugal as the Knights of Christ, and retained possession of the monastery fortress.

The Templar Church architecture is very notable.  The original construction of the Church was round to which a later rectangular nave was added.  This pattern is seen also in the Church of the Temple in London and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Cambrige, and all of these examples are based on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the focus of the whole crusading spirit.

All Is Not Fair in Love and War

Some time ago, I posted a poll about whether the proverb All is fair in love and war is true or not. At the time, I did not say that I was posting on the subject because it was part of my discussion in the paper I had been working on. In any case, most of you agreed with me.

That being said, I post below the introduction to the paper that I will be giving in about 20 minutes in Fatima.  I will be reading an abbreviated version due to time constraints.  More excerpts to follow.

*****

All is fair in love and war.

Traced back to the 16th century work, Euphues written by the Englishman John Lyly, this proverb expresses the rejection of the standard of fair play where matters of the greatest importance are concerned.  It also conveys the paradox, or coincidence of opposites, concerning love and war, viz. that while the one connotes a state of peace and the other conflict, the two are never really far apart.  In fact, the very Prince of Peace came not to bring peace, but to bring the sword.  In other words, the unity of love is never attained by man after the Fall without conflict.  On the cross, Christ is both Warrior and Bridegroom.

But the question is whether or not “all” is really fair in love and war.  It seems to me, in this respect Lyly’s proverb is more or less in accord with the present zeitgeist.  At least there is no universally accepted standard by which to determine what, in the main, the common good actually is, so we bump around in the dark until we arrive at some measure of tolerance for one another—a very utilitarian standard of fair play, indeed.  The very same feminists, for example, who in the 1960’s and 70’s wished to deliver themselves from the disparity of subjugation to men as sex objects and insisted on birth-control and abortion in order to accomplish this, now affirm their right to be sex objects as long as they are in control and have something to gain.  Birth-control and abortion have assured that everyone gets what they want, everyone, that is, except the victims of the silent holocaust.  In this way, without an objective measure of fair play, the battle of the sexes has reached a sort of precarious détente, which some of us might argue is more like the threat of “mutually assured destruction.”

Cervantes took up the proverb and put it on the lips of Don Quixote who finds himself breaking up a brawl caused by an absurd romantic trick.  The maiden Quiteria has consented to marry the rich Camacho solely for his wealth and in so doing jilts her true love Basilio.  At the wedding before the vows have been exchanged, Basilio shows up and throws himself upon his own rapier in front of the wedding couple.  As he lay dying, Basilio refuses to confess to the priest unless Quiteria agrees to marry him.  As soon as he has obtained her consent Basilio jumps to his feet and reveals his “suicide” to be a trick, and in spite of the deceit Quiteria remains firm in her intention to have him.  A brawl between the parties of Camacho and Basilio ensue and Quixote intervenes, crying:

“Hold, sirs, hold! . . . we have no right to take vengeance for wrongs that love may do to us: remember love and war are the same thing, and as in war it is allowable and common to make use of wiles and stratagems to overcome the enemy, so in the contests and rivalries of love the tricks and devices employed to attain the desired end are justifiable, provided they be not to the discredit or dishonour of the loved object.

Cervantes never tires in poking fun at the literature of chivalry, which often promulgated a code of ethics for love and war that mandated contradictory behavior; Don Quixote speaks of rights but in the same breath denies rules of fair play.  In fact, foolish, romantic sentimentalism by definition discredits and dishonors the loved object.

But it is not only the fictional literature of chivalry that reveals the contradiction.  The 12th century work In The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Capellanus, written at the request of the Marie de Champagne, daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and followed by many of the courtiers of Europe, we are given an adulterous mandate as the first rule of love:  “Marriage is no real excuse for not loving.”  Then, having said this, Capellanus absurdly exhorts his readers that they should “be mindful to completely avoid falsehood.” So much for the Lancelots and Guineveres of the world.

But love and war have always been pretty much the same thing, at least since the Fall.  God created Man, male and female.  Marriage is the first sacrament established by God.  Theologians call it a sacrament of nature.  In America, where the battle over same-sex marriage rages (more love and war), the proponents of sodomy assert that it is solely the State, not the Church, that creates and has the right to define and regulate marriage.  In fact, marriage arises from neither the Church nor the State.  Marriage exists because man is male and female; it is a sacrament of nature.  Both the Church and the State take in interest in marriage because it is a fundamental good for both, but it pre-exists both the Church and the State.  (Relative to the Church, of course, the solemnization of the union is also Sacrament of the New Testament established by Christ, but that does not change the fact that neither the Church nor the State has created marriage).

Again, without universal standards we bump around in the dark unable to perceive any objective definition of our fundamental institutions and settle on dogmatizing a standard of tolerance which is intolerant of everything but tolerance.  Nothing has really changed since the garden of paradise.  Fallen man is still a usurper.  He reaches out for love, but by denying the source of love the result is war.

The temptation of the serpent is an act of consummate violence.  The sin of our first parents is an arrogant and petty assault on heaven.  The subsequent history of mankind is a family feud, whose body-count is virtually numberless.  The primordial prophecy and promise of our redemption reveals that human history will be the recounting of a nearly endless war, in which finally victory will only come at the end of the world, when the Immaculate foot of the Woman will have stamped out the last efforts of the serpent to win over souls to his lie.  The Father of Lies knows of no code of ethics in regard to either love or war.  And from his point of view, love and war are the same because lust and hatred are espoused in the darkling rites of the netherworld.  But, in some sense, they are the same also from God’s point of view because both courtesy and courage will be forever united by the bond of a brotherhood in arms against all that is godless.

Our first and fallen parents are types of the new man and woman, by which the rest of us are recreated—not only in the image of God, but also in the image of the new and true Adam and Eve.  Christ and Our Lady are the new couple, the heads of the new family that is the Church.  Their story is an adventure of the most epic proportions and it concerns entirely the working out of ultimate love and ultimate war.  If we are honest we will have to admit that our salvation is all about love, but it is also all about war.  There is no use in living in denial, by pretending that some fuzzy and warm concept of the universal brotherhood of man will save us, but neither will we get away with fighting our way out of the mess we are in without a code of warfare.  Love and war are close allies, but all is not fair in love and war.

Triumph or Triumphalism

Today at the “9th International Conference on Marian Coredemption” here in Fatima, the first four papers were read, including one by Msgr. Arthur Calkins, renowned Mariologist.  His paper is entitled “Mary and the Church in the Papal Magisterium before and After the Second Vatican Council.”  One would think that in the many years since the council some theologian would have written on the subject of Mary’s relation to the Church in papal magisterium, but apparently not.

In a particular, a remark of Msgr. Calkins made about what he calls “Vatican II triumphalism” struck me:

“Vatican II triumphalism” is virtually always a partial and one-sided interpretation of council documents which favors a position espoused by one party at the time of the council and studiously avoids mention of any conciliar statements which would counterbalance the “favored” position.

Boy, that nails it for me.  This has been particularly true in the case of Mariology, which is the exact context in which the monsignor presents this observation.  But this VII-T Syndrome has been adopted in many other respectes as well.  Without belaboring the point, I think there is a robust TOB-T (Theology of the Body Triumphalism) at work here in the United States as well.

One instance of this problem in Mariology has been the way in which the relative place of Mary in the Church in respect to the magisterium has been minimized.  The ancient title of  Our Lady, Doctrix Apostolororum (Teacher of the Apostles) is not a very popular idea among the VII-triumphalists and has been judged by them to be an “outmoded form of theological attribution and piety.”  Yet both John Paul II (see note 8 at this link for quote) and Benedict XVI (March 22, 2006) have acknowledged that the Marian dimension of the Church is prior and more fundamental than the petrine (having to do with the office of Peter).  The triumphalists will say that on these points the popes are out of step with Vatican II, just as they did when John Paul II used the title Coredemptrix six times during his pontificate.

But the idea of Doctrix Apostolorum, is neither a post-Vatican II innovation, nor is it an idea that has been condemned or discouraged by Vatican II.  Msgr. Calkins quotes Pius XII at length on the same subject.  I will just give a bit of it here:

More exalted than St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Mother of our Lord Jesus yet has in common with Peter in a manner all her own a dignity, an authority, a power which associates her with the Apostolic College as its Queen.

This Marian office does not supplant the petrine or apostolic, but it is, nevertheless, superior to it.  Pope Pius goes on:

While Peter has the key of heaven, Mary has the key to God’s heart;  while Peter binds and looses, Mary also binds with the chain of love and looses with the gift of pardon (address to pilgrims from Genoa, April 21, 1940).

Another speaker today, Father Etienne Richer, pointed out that in the eithgth chapter of Lumen Gentium which treats of the Blessed Virgin, the council fathers write that the council

does not, however, have it in mind to give a complete doctrine on Mary, nor does it wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified. Those opinions therefore may be lawfully retained which are propounded in Catholic schools concerning her, who occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after Christ and yet very close to us.

Thus VII triumphalism has gone way too far.  It is time to stop presuming that the Church woke up to the modern age in the 1960’s.  It is just not true.  In particular, in respect to Marian doctrine and devotion, we should be cooperating with the Queen of Apostles to bring about the Triumph of Her Immaculate Heart and not hindering it by misguided triumphalism.

Still On Planet

No, I have not been kidnapped by aliens.  I have been working on the paper I am supposed to deliver in Fatima next week.  I will post the introduction before I leave on Monday Morning.  Meanwhile, here is a tidbit from the King of the United States, regarding his meeting with Pope Benedict;

Denis McDonough, a deputy White House national security aide, said of the pope and Obama, “They discussed a range of those issues, and I think the president was eager to listen to the Holy Father.” He said Obama was “eager to find common ground on these issues and to work aggressively to do that.”

How does the culture of death “aggressively” find common ground the culture of life except by either getting us to use their talking points, or by talking us to death, or by shutting us up?