“Our human family,is presently experiencing something of a turning point in its own history, if we consider the advances made in various areas. We can only praise the positive achievements which contribute to the authentic welfare of mankind, in fields such as those of health, education and communications. At the same time, we must also acknowledge that the majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences. Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences; fear and desperation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so-called rich countries; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident. People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way. One cause of this situation, in my opinion, is in the our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society. Consequently the financial crisis which we are experiencing makes us forget that its ultimate origin is to be found in a profound human crisis. In the denial of the primacy of human beings! We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”
“The worldwide financial and economic crisis, seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces men and women to just one of their needs alone, namely, consumption. Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have started down the path of a disposable culture. This tendency is seen on the level of individuals and whole societies; and it is being promoted! In circumstances like these, solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy. While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good. A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules. Moreover, indebtedness and credit distance countries from their real economy and citizens from their real buying power. Added to this, as if it were needed, is widespread corruption and selfish fiscal evasion which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The will to power and of possession has become limitless.”
“Concealed behind this attitude, is a rejection of ethics, a rejection of God. Ethics, like solidarity, is a nuisance! It is regarded as counterproductive: as something too human, because it relativizes money and power; as a threat, because it rejects manipulation and subjection of people: because ethics leads to God, who is situated outside the categories of the market. These financiers, economists and politicians consider God to be unmanageable, God is unmanageable, even dangerous, because He calls man to his full realization and to independence from any kind of slavery. Ethics—naturally, not the ethics of ideology—makes it possible, in my view, to create a balanced social order that is more humane. In this sense, I encourage the financial experts and the political leaders of your countries to consider the words of Saint John Chrysostom: 'Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs'.”
“There is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone. This would nevertheless require a courageous change of attitude on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and farsightedness, taking account, naturally, of their particular situations. Money has to serve, not to rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ’s name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them. The Pope appeals for disinterested solidarity and for a return to person-centred ethics in the world of finance and economics.”
“For her part, the Church, always works for the integral development of every person. In this sense, she reiterates that the common good should not be simply an extra, simply a conceptual scheme of inferior quality tacked onto political programmes. The Church encourages those in power to be truly at the service of the common good of their peoples. She urges financial leaders to take account of ethics and solidarity. And why should they not turn to God to draw inspiration from his designs? In this way, a new political and economic mindset would arise that would help to transform the absolute dichotomy between the economic and social spheres into a healthy symbiosis.”
"Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, programme, and plan our lives ... This is also the case when it comes to God. ... It is hard to abandon ourselves to him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives ... We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. Yet throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, He brings newness—God always brings newness—and demands our complete trust: Noah, mocked by all, builds an ark and is saved; Abram leaves his land with only a promise in hand; Moses stands up to the might of Pharaoh and leads his people to freedom; the apostles, huddled fearfully in the Upper Room, go forth with courage to proclaim the Gospel. This is not a question of newness for novelty’s sake, the search for something new to relieve our boredom ... The newness which God brings into our life is something that actually brings fulfilment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and desires only our good. Let us ask ourselves today: Are we open to 'God’s surprises'? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which God’s newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new? We would do well to ask ourselves these questions all through the day.”
“The Holy Spirit, would appear to create disorder in the Church, since he brings the diversity of charisms and gifts; yet all this, by his working, is a great source of wealth, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which does not mean uniformity, but which leads everything back to harmony. In the Church, it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony. ... Only the Spirit can awaken diversity, plurality, and multiplicity, while at the same time building unity. Here too, when we are the ones who try to create diversity and close ourselves up in what makes us different and other, we bring division. When we are the ones who want to build unity in accordance with our human plans, we end up creating uniformity, standardization. But if instead we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity never become a source of conflict, because he impels us to experience variety within the communion of the Church. ... Having a sense of the Church is something fundamental for every Christian, every community, and every movement. It is the Church which brings Christ to me, and me to Christ; parallel journeys are very dangerous! When we venture beyond the Church’s teaching and community ... and do not remain in them, we are not one with the God of Jesus Christ.”
“Early theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; He impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the goodness of the Gospel ... The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. ... It is the Paraclete, the 'Comforter', who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel! The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and urges us toward the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ.”
We are living in an age when we are rather sceptical regarding truth.
Benedict XVI spoke many times about relativism, that is, the tendency to believe that there is nothing definitive and to think that truth comes from consensus or from what we desire. … What comes to my mind here is … Pontius Pilate's question when Jesus reveals to him the profound meaning of his mission: 'What is truth?' Pilate is unable to understand that 'the' Truth is in front of him, he is unable to see, in Jesus, the face of truth, which is the face of God. … You cannot grasp truth as if it were a thing; it is encountered. It isn't a possession; it is an encounter with a Person.
But who can make us recognize that Jesus is 'the' Word of truth, the only begotten Son of God the Father? St. Paul teaches us that 'no one can say, “Jesus is Lord”, except by the Holy Spirit. Jesus calls him the 'Paraclete', that is, 'He who comes to our assistance', who is at our side to sustain us in this journey of knowledge.”
So, what then is the Holy Spirit's action? “In the first place, He recalls and seals upon believers' hearts the words that Jesus said and, precisely through those words, God's law … is inscribed upon our hearts and becomes, in us, the principle of judgement in our choices and of guidance in our everyday actions. It becomes the principle of life.”
The Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised, “'guides us to all truth'. He guides us not only to the encounter with Jesus, the fullness of Truth, but He guides us 'within' Truth, that is, makes us to enter into an ever deeper communion with Jesus, giving us knowledge of the things of God. … The Church's tradition affirms that the Spirit of truth acts in our hearts, arousing that 'sense of the faith' (sensus fidei) through which, as Vatican Council II states, the People of God, under the guidance of the Magisterium, unfailingly adheres to the faith that is bequeathed, deepening it with right judgement and applying it more fully in their lives. Let us ask ourselves: 'Am I open to the Holy Spirit's action, do I pray him to give me light, to make me more sensitive to the things of God?'”
“This is a prayer that we need to say every day: 'Holy Spirit, make my heart open to God's Word so that my heart might be open to good, so that my heart might be open to God's beauty every day.' Let me ask you: how many of you pray to the Holy Spirit every day? It will be few of you, but we must satisfy this desire for Jesus and pray every day to the Holy Spirit that He might open our hearts to Jesus.”
“Embracing the words and the truths of faith so that they might become life takes place and grows with the action of the Holy Spirit. In this sense it is helpful to learn from Mary, to relive her 'yes', her total openness to receiving the Son of God in her life, which was transformed from that moment. Through the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son come to reside in us: we live in God and of God.”
“We have to let ourselves be flooded by the Holy Spirit's light, because He introduces us to the Truth of God, who is the only Lord of our life. In this Year of Faith, let us ask ourselves if we have concretely taken some steps to know Christ and the truth of faith more. .. At the same time let us also ask what steps we are taking so that faith might guide our entire existence. You cannot be a 'part time' Christian, [a Christian] in some moments, under some circumstances, for certain decisions. You are a Christian in every moment! The truth of Christ, which the Holy Spirit teaches and gives us, involves, for always and entirely, our daily life. Let us call upon him more often. Let me make this proposition to you: let us call upon the Holy Spirit every day so that He will bring us closer to Jesus Christ.
"Let us think of that moment with the Magdalene, when she washed the feet of Jesus with nard, which was so expensive” – the Pope continued –. “It is a religious moment, a moment of gratitude, a moment of love. And he [Judas] stands apart and criticizes her bitterly: 'But ... this could be used for the poor!'. This is the first reference that I personally found in the Gospel of poverty as an ideology. The ideologue does not know what love is, because they do not know how to gift themselves." “This idolatry has led him to isolate himself from the community of others: this is the drama of the isolated conscience. When a Christian begins to isolate themselves, he or she also insulates his or her conscience from the sense of community, the sense of the Church, from that love that Jesus gives us. Instead, the Christian who gifts his or her life, who loses it, as Jesus says, finds it again, finds it in its fullness. And those who, like Judas, want to keep it for themselves, lose it in the end. John tells us that 'at that moment Satan entered into Judas' heart'. And, we must say: With Satan the payback is rotten. He always rips us off, always!”. - Pope Francis.
One great merit of the devotion to the rosary is that it was revealed by Our Lady to Saint Dominic as a means to revive the Faith in regions ravaged by the Albigensian heresy.
Indeed,the widespread practice of the rosary revived the Faith. With this, the rosary became, in times when there truly was faith in the world, one of the classic Catholic devotions. This led not only to the widespread making of statues of Our Lady of the rosary around the world but the practice of prayingthe rosary also became common among the faithful.Wearing the rosary hanging from the waist became an official component of the habits of many religious orders.
Among the thousand things that we could say about the rosary, I want to emphasize precisely this primary link between the rosary and the virtue of Faith, and between the rosary and the defeat of heretics. The rosary has always been considered an extremely powerful weapon of the Faith. We know that the virtue of Faith is the root of all virtues. Virtues are not true unless they spring from a living faith. Therefore,there is no point cultivating other virtues if one neglects Faith.
This devotion is particularly meaningful to those whose lives are marked by a continuous, legal and doctrinal struggle on behalf of orthodoxy,and who consider the victory of orthodoxy and of the Counter-Revolution in the world the ideal of our lives. This is because it establishes the link between our lives and devotion to Our Lady, who clearly appears here as the one who alone crushed all heresies,as the liturgy says. To a great extent, she has crushed them through the rosary.
Not so long ago, a cocky individual came to me [SaintJohn Bosco—Ed.] and asserted that he could cite many instances when priests had violated the seal of confession. I replied that even if a priest should betray his ministry, this would not lessen the sanctity of the sacrament. Are we to blame all the Apostles because Judas was a traitor?
Since my opponent insisted that he knew what he was talking about,I said:“I will wager five hundred lire that neither you nor any of your friends can prove even one such case.”
“Fine!” he replied.“Put the money down. I’ll be back here Saturday.”‘Wait,”I said.“I’ve been through this sort of thing before!One fellow said he would return, but he never did.”
“I’ll be back without fail,” the man asserted.“I give you my word of honor.”
Well,I never saw the man again! Nor do I expect to see him because he will never be able to prove his claim. Time and again I have found that those who decry confession have no better arguments than vague allegations.
There is not the slightest doubt that our Faith is being bitterly attacked in these tragic times. Since the forces of evil will fail unless they can first persuade Catholics to give up confession,they will direct their major attacks against this wholesome practice. One who abandons confession, if left to himself,will sink deeper in sin;like a frail plant exposed to the fury of the winds,he will fall into most deplorable excesses. To destroy the very idea of confession,Protestant publications are continually telling Catholics that confession is not of Divine institution and must therefore be rejected.
Meanwhile, deeply grieved by the harm daily perpetrated against the Church,I urge all Catholics to be brave and steadfast in the Faith.Yes,dear fellow Catholics, be brave! Let us cling firmly to the Church founded by Jesus Christ, and to His Vicar, the Pope. Let us hold fast to the Church that has been persecuted through the centuries but has always triumphed.
Upon describing organic society, the question remains as to how we might build such a society. The answer is quite simple. We must do it in the same manner as our ancestors did at the dawn of this civilization. We must understand, as they understood,that it is not enough that we follow the Ten Commandments and respect the rights of the Church with all due intransigence and strictness. Above all, we must allow the institutions of society to gradually walk on their own feet.
In our case,this means freeing society from the iron gauntlet of Statist dictatorship(whether it be in its legislative or executive form).The family must be allowed to return once again to the fullness of action and influence it once reached. Professional, social and other intermediary groups that stand between the individual and the State must be free to exercise the activities necessary to fulfill their duties on their own and according to their own procedures.
The State should respect everyone’s autonomy by giving every region the right to organize according to its socio-economic structures, character, and traditions. Finally,the State itself, operating within its own and supreme ambit, should exercise its sovereign power with honor, vigor and efficiency. Someone might ask what the final result would be if these principles are respected. Would it be a return to the Middle Ages? Or would we move toward a new and absolutely unpredictable future society?
Both questions should be answered in the affirmative. Human nature is constant; it is the same in all times and places.The basic principles of Christian civilization are likewise immutable. Thus, this new order of things—this new Christian civilization we envision—obviously will be profoundly similar, or rather identical,to the old one in its essential traits. Since this order is linked to God (Who does not change), its principles are just as applicable in the thirteenth as in the twenty-first century.
On the other hand, such a society would have many new elements.The technical and material conditions of life have profoundly changed since the thirteenth century. Nothing would be more inorganic than to ignore these changes. To build an organic Christian society,we must take care not to make many complex plans. The founders of Christian civilization in the Middle Ages did not make such plans to reach the height of medieval civilization in the thirteenth century. They simply had the general intention of building a Catholic world.For this end, each generation gradually solved, with its own sharp insight and Catholic sense, the problems within its reach.As for the rest,they did not get involved in complicated speculation.
We must do as they did.Generally, the whole framework of this society is already known to us through history and the Magisterium of the Church. As for the details, let us go forward step by step without abstract theoretical plans drawn up in some bureaucratic office, following the Gospel maxim: “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.”
While meditating, we often fail to link the episodes of Our Lord’s life to ourselves and the world around us.
Consequently, we are shocked at the inconsistency, hatred and ingratitude of those who crucified Our Lord, after having honored Him as their Savior, days before.
However, Our Lord’s killers are not alone in their ingratitude and inconsistency. Our Lord still endures this conflicting adoration and hostility in various countries and in the hearts of many faithful.
Thus, we should not merely wince at the infamy of those who killed Our Lord. It is far more useful to contemplate our own infamy and trust in God’s goodness. Only then, can we truly amend our lives.
Reparation for Today’s Offenses
Everyone knows that sin is an insult to God. By committing a mortal sin, a person expels God from his heart, refuses Him the filial respect He deserves as Creator and rejects His grace. If we commit a mortal sin, we crucify Our Lord in our hearts, and thus imitate those who killed Him. Often, we do so shortly after having glorified Him with good deeds. Thus, we reenact the whole of Christ’s Passion, from Palm Sunday to the Crucifixion. How often this happens in men’s souls today!
To repair these offenses, we should become “souls of reparation.” If our virtue is insufficient for the task, we should practice a sincere humility that stems from intelligent, sensible and solid reasoning, not flowery words and emotional chest-beating. This alone will suffice to console Our Lord in His affliction.
During this holy Lenten season, we should strive to become these “souls of reparation,” through the practice of sincere humility, and thus make reparation before the throne of God for the countless offenses committed against Him at every moment.
While commemorating the forty days Our Lord fasted in the desert, we should remember a great and supreme truth that should illuminate all Lenten meditations.
The holy Gospels clearly show how much our merciful Savior pitied our spiritual and physical pains. Hence, He performed spectacular miracles to mitigate them. However, let us not imagine that these healings were the greatest gift He gave mankind.
This would not take into consideration the central aspect of Our Lord’s life: He was our Redeemer, Who willingly endured the cruelest sufferings to carry out His mission.
Even at the height of His Passion, Our Lord could have put an end to all His pains instantly by a mere act of His Divine will. From the first moment of His Passion to the last, He could have ordered His wounds to heal, His precious blood to stop pouring forth and the lacerations on His Divine body to disappear without a scar. He could have overcome the persecution that was dragging Him to death and gained a brilliant and jubilant victory.
However, He did not will this. He wanted to be led along the Via Dolorosa to the height of Golgotha. He willed to see His most holy Mother engulfed in the depths of sorrow and He wanted to cry out in piercing words that will echo until the consummation of the ages: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46).
We understand that by calling each of us to suffer a portion of His Passion, He clearly indicated the unrivaled role of the cross in the history of the world, His glorification and the whole of men’s lives. Thus, we still must pronounce our own consummatum est at death, despite the pains and sorrows of life.
If we misunderstand the role of the cross, refuse to love it and fail to walk along our own Via Dolorosa, we will shirk Providence’s designs for us. We will be unable, with our dying breaths, to repeat the sublime exclamation of Saint Paul: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As for the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord the just judge will render to me in that day” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
Any quality, however exalted, will be useless, unless it is founded on a love of Our Lord’s cross, with which we obtain everything, though weighed down by the holy burden of purity and other virtues, unceasing attacks and mockeries of the Church’s enemies and betrayals of false friends.
The greatest foundation, of Christian civilization is a generous love for the Holy Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ in each and every person.
May Mary help us, and through her omnipotent intercession, we shall reconquer for her Divine Son, the reign of God that flickers so faintly in the hearts of men.
“When Jesus had said these things, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, where there was a garden, into which He entered with His disciples” (John, 18:1).
Jesus went forth from Jerusalem. This was not an ordinary departure followed by a prompt return, but a true and profound separation.
The Messiah loved the Holy City, its walls shrouded with glory, its Temple of the living God proudly standing therein, the Chosen People its inhabitants. It was because of this that, with special fondness, He had preached the Good News within it and contested its vices with an especially ardent vigor. But, He had been rejected. He was, therefore, leaving the accursed city.
It was night. Jerusalem glittered with all its lights. There was warmth and plenty within its houses and liveliness in its streets. A great unconcern hovered over the joyful and tranquil city. About Jesus, with all His beauty, grace, wisdom, and goodness, the city was little concerned. No one noticed the moment that He left the city, no one knew it, save perhaps one or another passerby who glanced at Him with indifference.
The Jews felt no need of Jesus. To guide their souls, they preferred Annas, Caiphas, and their kind. To watch over their national interests, they had Herod. They tolerated Pilate with a deeply resigned ill-humor. Under the care of these spiritual and temporal shepherds they could eat, drink, and enjoy themselves freely, then console their consciences later with a prayer or sacrifice in the Temple. Thus was everything arranged, with a somnolent and conformist outlook.
Jesus had come to disturb this peace. He had spoken about death, judgment, Heaven, and Hell without understanding that the world around Him did not tolerate such preaching and that a rabbi’s first duty lay in adapting himself to the demands of the times. Endowed with a profound understanding of the Sacred Scriptures, skillful in His reasoning, adept at impressing the multitudes and in attracting people into the intimacy of His persuasive colloquies, He seemed resolved to demonstrate the irremediable incompatibility between religion on the one hand and the easygoing, unbridled, and commodious life on the other. He thus pulled on both sides of the bow and sooner or later would reduce everything to ruins. But this did not bother Him, for He was neither balanced nor reasonable.
Accentuating the dangerous effect of His words, He performed miracles and, bolstered by the prestige gained thereby, He further disturbed souls by teaching that the road to Heaven is narrow, thus emphasizing the need of purity, honesty, and uprightness for gaining entry into it. Had He, who so preached mercy, no feeling for the travails of soul, the dramas of conscience He thus created? Did He, who so preached humility, not recognize the need to conform Himself with the example of prudence being given Him by the Chief Priests?
It is true that at one time He seemed to be on the verge of succeeding, but the Sanhedrin had acted in time. Generously opening its coffers, it had sent emissaries amidst the multitude, raising suspicions against the insolent one. These emissaries were agile, and they knew how to strike the right psychological chords. The rabbi’s chances had been eliminated. Jerusalem would not be His. Even more! His death was agreed upon and the people would applaud it. This death was one last and insignificant corollary in the whole affair, a small matter for the police. Yes, the Jesus of Nazareth “case” was closed. The populace could once again plunge itself into pleasure, gold, and the long ceremonies in the Temple. Everything would return to normal. Yes, a great unconcern made the air seem lighter during that tranquil and satisfied night.
Jesus’ preaching was over and He was leaving the city, for there was nothing for Him to do there. To associate with the tepid and drowsy tranquility of the somnolent consciences He had tried to awaken was incompatible with His perfection. The only recourse was to leave. Leave, yes, so as to express a complete estrangement, a complete separation, an undisguised incompatibility. So He departed.
Left behind were the lights as He penetrated the darkness of the night. Left behind was the multitude, as He took with Him only a handful of followers. Left behind was everything of power, of wealth, of human glory as He searched for a solitary and poor place accompanied by only a few foreigners without social standing, without cultural qualifications, with nothing. Behind Him were the joys of life; He was walking towards the desolation of those who are abandoned and the terrible anguishes of those awaiting death.
“And He saith to His disciples: Sit you here, while I pray” (Mark, 14:32).
His isolation was greater than it would seem at first sight. The Apostles followed Him, it is true, but with their souls filled with attachment to everything they were leaving behind in this terrible separation and with dread in face of everything that their hazy perspectives of the future allowed them to foresee. Their souls no longer felt like praying: This was the beginning of their defection, since he who does not pray is tumbling headlong into the abyss. Pray? They “could not.” Return to Jerusalem? They would not. They remained there, “sitting.” And they agreed to let the Master go on further, to leave Him to Himself. The Apostles, for sure, considered themselves heroes for having remained there “sitting.” They felt their own pain so much, that they could not think about the Lord’s. They thus allowed themselves to be crushed by the suffering.
Sitting. Soon they were fast asleep, and soon after they fled!
Not praying, thinking little about Christ’s Passion and much about one’s own sorrows, all of this leads one to “sit down” alongside the road and let Jesus walk on. After this, there is only heaviness, slumber, lukewarmness... and flight.
It is a terrible, terrible lesson for all those who set out on the long journey on the road to perfection!
Jesus had warned them, “Pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40). They did not pray, and so they succumbed.
“And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to grow sorrowful and to be sad.” (Matt. 26:37).
A selection, as some were less dulled by the pain of abandonment, defeat, and total separation from the world. The suffering of Jesus pained them more vividly. They deserved to be called aside and to witness the beginning of the infinitely precious sorrows of the Redeemer.
How many receive the same call! Grace attracts them to a greater piety, a more profound orthodoxy, a more exact understanding of the terrible situation of the Church in our days. To correspond to these graces requires the courage to participate in Our Lord’s sadness, and this requires generosity, strength, and seriousness.
How does one refuse this grace? By refusing the sadness of Our Lord, dwelling on bagatelles, idolizing sports, centering one’s life on radio and television, jesting as the sole theme of one’s conversations; by fleeing from a consideration of the terrible duties our times impose and the gravity of the problems they cause, instead becoming engulfed in petty concerns of daily life.
Such people do not receive the adorable trust of the sorrows of the Heart of Jesus. They are like toads, which live with their bellies hugging the earth, and not like eagles, which penetrate the highest heavens with their powerful flight.
“Then He saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death: stay you here, and watch with Me” (Matt. 26:38).
“My soul is sorrowful,” says the Saviour, not “I am sorrowful.” He wanted to indicate that His torment was an entirely moral torment. That of His body had not yet begun. The pains of His flesh are much dwelt on in the Passion, and this is good. Nevertheless, the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus came to emphasize the sorrows of His soul, and this is excellent, for sorrows of the soul are more profound, more excruciating, and more noble than those of the body; they stand in greater opposition to the defects of soul that most offend God.
And with what was Christ’s soul suffering? With what should we suffer? With seeing the will of the Eternal Father violated and Jesus, Our Lord, rejected, denied, and hated. To ponder this, to measure the scope and gravity of this is to suffer within us the spiritual pains of Our Lord.
Jesus Christ and His Church constitute just one whole. Every time we encounter an immoral advertisement, an unjust statement, an institution or a law opposed to the Church’s doctrine, we should suffer. If not, if for this we have neither zeal nor strength, than we are good for nothing but to remain “sitting” and, when the hour of danger arrives, to flee.
“Sorrowful unto death.” In other words, a supreme sadness. The sadness of seeing God’s law violated, the Church persecuted, the glory of God denied, should be in us a supreme sadness and not just one of those emotional and ephemeral little sadnesses emanating from frivolous and impressionable souls like the ignis fatuus of swamps and cemeteries. It should not be merely a petty sadness, one only skin-deep, that does not wrench from us serious resolutions, profound zeal, effective renunciation of everything so that we live exclusively in the fight. A soul “sorrowful unto death” is not consoled with magazines, with fine clothing or restaurants, with strolls, with trifles, honest... or dishonest! It will live in the mortal sorrow of seeing God’s glory scorned and will find a palliative only, but only, in the interior life and in the apostolate.
“Stay here,” that is, do not mingle with the perfidious sons of Jerusalem, nor with the lukewarm who slumber a few steps away.
“Stay with me.” Yes, participate in My solitude, in My defeat, in My sorrow. And make of this your glory, your joy, your riches.
“And going a little further, He fell upon His face” (Matt. 26:39). Why did He go “a little further” after having told the three Apostles to “stay with Me”?
To stay with Our Lord is to stay close to Him in spirit, it is be united with Him. Staying with Him means standing with the Church with one’s whole heart, one’s whole soul, one’s whole understanding. He who in the hours of agony thinks of Our Lord and not of himself, “stays” with Him. He who thinks only about Our Lord, and not about the world, its spirit and delights, “stays” with Him.
Our Lord advanced just “a little,” a “stone’s cast,” says St. Luke (22:41). Why “go further?” And why just “a little”?
Our Lord wanted to be seen so as to maintain His three chosen Apostles in their fidelity. He wanted to console them and to console Himself by feeling them close by. It was necessary, however, that He “go further” because an hour of special gravity had arrived. He was going to speak with God, and God with Him. Just as in the Jewish worship the priest entered the Holy of Holies alone, so also Our Lord wished to take this first step of His Passion alone.
Have we holy solitudes in our souls such as this one? Peaks upon which only God and we stand, and to which no confidant, no friend, no earthly affection climbs and to which we admit only the gaze of our spiritual director?
Or are we of those souls with no reservation or nobility, open to any wind, any scrutiny, any step, like some dull public square?
“He fell upon His face.” A complete humiliation, a total renunciation; this is the victim prepared for the holocaust.
What preparation for prayer! When we speak with God, do we “fall upon our face” beforehand? In other words, do we approach humbly, ready to obey, desirous of renouncing everything, recognizing our worthlessness? Or do we approach with reservations, with reticence, with sore points in which God cannot ask of us a sacrifice? When we listen to the Church, do we throw ourselves face down on the ground, renouncing all of our opinions, all of our choices, so as to obey? In face of those who edify us, bringing us closer to the Church and the Pope, do we “fall upon our faces,” accepting their influence? Or do we erect barricades, set up restrictions?
“Praying and saying: My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me. Nevertheless not as I will but as Thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39).
To be prostrate on the ground, but at the same time praying, with the body lying on what is most lowly, the ground, and with the soul ascending to the highest of Heaven, the throne of God! In this consists the invincibility of the true Catholic. In the apex of affliction, of humiliation, of abandonment, he has in his hands the weapon that overcomes all adversaries. How true this is for the struggles of the interior life. With no resources for finding the right path, or resisting, we pray... and we end up successfully. And how true this is in the apostolate.
Are we intimidated by the impetus of the paganizing wave? Immediately we think of conceding, in which we sacrifice the accidental because it is accidental, then the secondary essentials because they are secondary, and finally that which is fundamental... “so as to avoid greater harm.” If only we knew the strength of prayer, if only we knew how to throw ourselves face down on the ground and pray, we would understand better the efficacy of our supernatural weapons, the meaning, worth, and usefulness of Christian intransigence. The Divine Saviour suffered here for the pessimists, for those who are discouraged and have no idea of the Church’s triumphant force.
“Let this chalice pass from Me.” What chalice? It was the approaching atrocious, crushing, and unjust suffering that Jesus foresaw. At this moment, the Divine Master suffered for all those who sin through optimism; for all those who, confronted with the perspective of having to fight, with anguish and pain, resort to the ostrich policy and choose to imagine that “all goes well.” To foresee the pain, to prepare courageously for it, this is elevated, most elevated, virtue. And this, whether in our private lives or for the cause of the Holy Church. In this moment in which She is so warred against, let us not have the foolishness to say that all goes well. Let us recognize the gravity of the hour and let us view the threats posed by the future in a manly and Christian manner, with a resolute and confident spirit, ready to react with prayer, combativeness, and full acceptance of the sacrifice.
Such was the example given us by the Divine Master. He withdrew from everyone so that, face to face with God, He could fathom the full depth of the ocean of pain and sorrow into which He was to be immersed and take a stand in face of this perspective.
What stand? “If it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me. Nevertheless not as I will but as Thou wilt.”
Two supplications are comprised here. In one, the God-man asks that these pains and sorrows be removed from Him “if it be possible.” In the other, He accepts them in the event they cannot be avoided.
A holy attitude this, one with no theatrics or vainglory. Pain naturally provokes fear in man, and Our Lord, not only true God but true man as well, dreaded this pain. He asked, therefore, that it pass from Him “if possible.” Avoiding pain is legitimate, wise, holy. But avoiding it at any price, no! -- only “if it be possible.”
“If possible.” What does this mean? It means that, if the Divine Will, in light of the humble plea of a Just One crushed by the anticipation of the pains, would show Itself compassionate by removing the suffering, let it be so. On the contrary, if removing the suffering were to introduce a change in the plans of Providence, with a diminution of God’s glory, of the good of the Church to be founded, and of souls, then it would be better to suffer everything.
“If it be possible....” What a sublime conditional, unknown to our century. And because of this the whole world is in crisis, in distress, in agony. Earthly goods, wealth, glory, health, beauty, all of these are good in the measure in which we give precedence to God’s will. But, if it be necessary for us to renounce everything, because in light of this or that interior or exterior circumstance “it is not possible” to have these things without displeasing God, then let us make the complete renunciation. If all men were to think and feel this way, the world would be another! Because of the absence of this conditional -- which comprises the entirety of order and good -- civilization perishes.
“Not as I will but as Thou wilt.” Upon these words rests the entire life of the Church, of souls, and of nations. Holy, sweet, hard, and terrible words that today’s man chooses not to understand. These words provide a perfect definition of obedience, of that obedience which the world, from Luther’s day until now, has hated with increasing hatred.
Yes, may the will of God be done rather than mine; I will fulfill the Commandments and will not follow my own whims. I will think as the Pope thinks, even if another doctrine seems preferable to me. I will obey everyone who exercises a legitimate authority over me, for he represents God and I will therefore do his will and not mine.
My Jesus, in view of this, how can one explain that Thou art called a revolutionary and that Thou didst come to bring the Revolution to the earth?
After this, there is silence. The Gospels do not tell us what answer He received, nor what Jesus replied to this answer. Why say it? And with what words?
More than likely, only one person on this earth saw, knew, and adored everything: Mary Most Holy, present undoubtedly in spirit and participating in everything.
The matter is too elevated for us to interpret this silence, which not even the Evangelists chose to break. Let us beseech the Mediatrix of all graces that She introduce us into the recollection of the interior life and into the ineffable mysteries of this moment of silence.
Jesus accepted. “And there appeared to Him an angel from Heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed the longer. And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:43-44).
Thus began the Passion. Jesus had foreseen the pain and death and had accepted them. The very foresight of the inevitable placed Him in face of an overwhelming accumulation of torments.
But “an angel strengthened Him.” Yes, His humble prayer had been heard. God was giving Him strength to overcome the invincible torment, to bear the unbearable pain, to accept with conformity the unacceptable injustice.
If only we understood this! The Commandments seem too heavy for us, the wind of unbridled appetites and diabolical temptations roars within us. If only we understood that this is the hour of God. If we only “prayed the longer.” If only we accepted the visit of the angel who strengthens us!
Yes, because for us also, an angel always comes, so long as we pray. At times it is an interior movement of grace, or a good book, or a friend who gives us good example or good advice. But, we do not pray. As a result, we fall.
In the Agony, the angel came, as a fruit of prayer. After the visit, Our Lord continued to pray. Yes, praying the harder is the secret of victory. He who prays, saves himself; he who does not pray, damns himself, St. Alphonsus Liguori used to say. And how right he was!
Jesus sweat blood. The redeeming blood flowed because of the pressure of the moral sorrow. One can say that it was blood from the heart. What a magnificent theme for devotees of the Sacred Heart.
Sweating blood is the utmost of pain. It is the highest pressure point of the moral suffering upon the body. One would say that Our Lord was enduring every suffering possible. Nevertheless, He had not yet taken even the first step of His Via Sacra.
His martyrdom was beginning where that of others reaches its apex. How does one explain this incomparable resistance?
It is because “there appeared to Him an angel from Heaven, strengthening Him,” and because “He prayed the longer.”
Oh, the value of the supernatural! And we dare say that we capitulate in the interior life or in the struggles of the apostolate from lack of strength!
Three times did Our Lord present his ”fiat” (cf. Matt. 26:39-44), returning to His disciples after each time.
After the first, “He found them sleeping” (Matt. 26:40), and He advised them, “Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41).
But they paid no heed. Why? They were drowsy. Theirs was a somnolence stemming from two opposite excesses. On the one hand, despair, on the other, presumption. -- Despair: Faced with the human defeat of Jesus, their dreams of worldly grandeur were undone. What was left them? Only that darkness, that solitude, that hard and ordinary ground on which they rested. Their careers were cut short, O sorrow of sorrows! Under the burden of this sorrow, the only thing to do was sleep. -- Presumption: Nevertheless, they considered themselves strong. They had fought so much; certainly it was an insult to doubt their strength. Convinced of their resistance, unconcerned with their perseverance, they “killed time” by sleeping.
It was a sleep that was rude as well. The Lord suffered and they slept! What could they care about the Lord? Were they not already rendering Him an infinite favor by being there with Him in that abandonment? What else did He want? For them to pray at so late an hour? By no means. He could watch if He wanted to. As for the Apostles, they were going to sleep.
The more one enters into sleep the heavier it becomes. Such also is the progress of lukewarmness. The second time, Jesus “found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy with sleep” (Matt. 26:42), a sleep of mediocrity, of indolence, of softness. Did they still follow the Master? Yes and no. Yes, because after all, they were there. No, because they no longer listened to Him. He would speak and they would disobey. He would suffer and they would sleep. It was the beginning of a rupture.
How do such disastrous falls occur? To sleep while Jesus speaks is, for me, to be inattentive, indifferent, lukewarm when I am spoken to by those who represent the Holy Church, by those who would guide me along the ways of sanctity, by those who personify for me -- because of their example -- orthodoxy, generosity, hunger and thirst of virtue. When I fall into this sleep, what remedy is there, except to wake up, “watching and praying lest I fall into temptation?” And if I do not do so, what is the outcome?
The result is failure in one’s spiritual life and in one’s vocation. The third time, Our Lord’s words are a rebuke: “Sleep ye now and take your rest; behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go: Behold he is at hand that will betray Me” (Matt. 26:45-46).
It was past the hour. Not even the affectionate and doleful supplication, “couldest thou not watch one hour?” (Mark 14:37) had moved them.
Shortly thereafter, “while he was yet speaking, cometh Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve: and with him a great multitude with swords and staves” (Mark, 14:43). And soon afterwards, “his disciples leaving Him, all fled away” (Mark 14:50).
Yes, they fled, for they had been lukewarm, had slept, and had not prayed. If I, Lord, do not wish to flee, I must be steadfast, I cannot sleep, I must pray.
Grant me, Lord, this grace of perseverance in every situation, every anguish, every bitterness; this grace of fidelity in every abandonment, every forsaking, every defeat; this grace of constancy even when all have abandoned Thee, oppressed by sleep or maddened by concupiscence for the things of this world. Otherwise, my God, take me from this life, for there is one thing I do not want, that is, to flee.
Through the omnipotent intercession of Thy Most Holy Mother, Lord Jesus, this is the grace of perseverance I beseech of Thee.
The Crisis of Tolerance - Even the discovery of personality brings its crisis, namely the divergence of interests. This is the civil-war period of marriage. What has happened is not that the personality which was discovered is lost; rather, it is rendered opaque by egotism of each.
The second crisis is due to a series of complex causes, both physical and psychical. There is no longer anything to be revealed; mystery is ended. Discovery and revelation, which were essential for the unfolding of love, are gone; there is nothing left to be told that has not been told. There is not a mood or thought of one that is not known to the other; every idiosyncrasy, deformity, habit, gesture which was once hidden is now placarded and evident. the woman feels herself less beautiful, not only because of years, but also because she is loved less tenderly, for love does help create beauty. The husband, on the other hand, feels that others would be more devoted to him if they were given a chance. There are moments when each wishes that he or she could start life all over again. In the heart of each are the words: "You say that I am not what you thought, but then you yourself are not what I thought."
Love is not transformed into comradeship, union into juxtaposition, and marriage into an exchange of egotism from force of habit. Taine, the French Historian, sarcastically said that marriage was made up of three weeks of curiosity, three weeks of love, three years of argument and 30 years of tolerance. Though this formula is an exaggerations, marriage is really likely to settle down to as state in which husband and wife live independent existences unless there is a purification of love; they may sleep in a common dormitory, they may eat at a common refectory, they may meet their children in a common hall but there is no internal unity. Each agglomeration of atoms demands considerable tolerance, allowing him to do whatever he pleases, this being the surest way for each to preserve his own egotism.
There are many indications when couples are living in the period of tolerance; the one who walks ahead on the street is the one who is mad; in the car, he occupies the front seat, and she sits in the rear; she inquires why he cannot be clean in the house like Mr. Brown; he in turn wonders why she can't be thin like Mrs. Green. Each looks for perfection in the other, though the reason they married was because each confessed to being imperfect without the other. It is curious that when a man buys an automobile he never complains because it does not cut the grass, nor does a woman blame a new hat because it does not sprout a garden. But in the age of tolerance, a man expects a wife to be something which she is not, for example, pretty at forty-eight, when he married her because she was a good cook. And if she married him because he was rich, she still manages to blame him becasue he is not the romantic type.
To escape the tolerance, the indignity of being 'put up with' each goes his separate way, and the escape is generally found in some kind of service away from one another and the home. Egotism is transferred from the individual, where it was in the sex period, to the social arena. This transfer from individual to social egotism makes a man dedicate himself to business, profession and making money and makes a woman devote herself to politics or reform leagues, parties, fashion and bridge clubs. Both have 'expansive feelings', but there really is no charity or love for anybody in them; the expansive feelings is nothing but a boil on the neck of their egotism. Altruism of this kind is an escape from futility; though their deeds may be disguised under the name of philantrophy, there is no sacrifice of ego.
The first crisis is The crisis of sex. The first crisis comes when what was one loved in a dream is at last possessed in reality. One is never thirsty at the border of a well. As soon as we get the things we desire, we begin to take them for granted. As in the mechanical order there is a loss of energy by friction, so, in physical love, constant proximity brings a decline in intensity. Indulgence produces satiety, and purely carnal love begins to exhaust itself in dull repetition. The loneliness from which one sought to escape by communion with another is now more intense than ever. The union one expected has not lasted; the goal of mystic incorporation with the other has not been achieved. Union is replaced by disunion, fragmentation, solitariness.
The passion for a crescendo of intimacy until oneness is achieved cannot be completely satisfied in the physical order, because after the act of unity, two separate personalities remain, each with his or her individual mystery. The paradox is clear: the souls of lovers aspire to unity, but their bodies, which are momentary symbols of that unity, cannot attain it. The flesh is inadequate for that kind of unity which alone can satisfy the spirit. No marriage is free from the tension which this produces.
Physical love does not continue with the same ecstasy. If flesh is the only medium of married love, then marriage must suffer the penalties of flesh: transience and death. As life goes on, a greater stimulus is required to produce and equal reaction to sensation. The eye can soon becomes used to beauty, and the fingers to the touch of a friend. The intimacy which at first was so desirable now becomes at time a burden. The " I wasnt to be alone feeling" and the " I think I will go home to mother feeling" come when the eyes are relieved of their rose -coloured glasses. Bills coming into the kitchen make love fly out of the parlour. The very habit of love becomes boring because it is a habit and not an adventure.
The assumption is that life is a perpetual honeymoon, and that the present moment is eternal. The thrill of holding hands, or watching waves roll on a moonlit beach, will never end. This false romantic idea is fostered in part by movies, where a plot is worked up to an arbitrary climax in which the boy and girl are married. This is assumed to be the end, when actually it is only the beginning. There is not the slightest suggestion that there will ever be bad cooking, too much Irish stew, and diapers to wash.
Marriage is thus interpreted in terms of sex. Love is identified with sex adjustment. rhinoceroses are sexually adjusted, but they do not love. Sex is only the frosting on the cake of love; it is the self-starter on the motor of life, but it is neither the highway nor the voyage.
At this point within two years after marriage, many marriages end. Because the biological side of marriage lacks a thrill, it is assumed that love no longer exists. Even a hot water bottle loses its heat after a time, but we do not throw away the bottle. The purpose of a vow is to enable couples to stay together amidst the emotional changes of love. A soldier may not retreat just because he meets opposition. The law now applies: Love can avoid destruction and death only by surmounting itself. There are certain beautiful things in life which cannot be captured permanently. At the Transfiguration, when he face of Our Lord shone as the sun and His garments were as white as snow, Peter wanted to capture the glory thereof by building a tabernacle round Him. But Our Lord reminded Peter that, before that glory could come in a permanent form, he would have to descend the hill of Transfiguration and mount the hill of sacrifice called Calvary. Love is glorified by pain and sacrifice. In the spiritual order, St. Theresa spoke of the various stages of the spiritual life as mansions; one passed from one mansion to another only after considerable purification. As one does not climb a mountain without passing through various stages of peril and hardship, so one does not mount the peak of love without first enduring succeeding crises.
The crises of sex are transformed by the discovery of personality. The body was leading the soul; now the soul leads the body. the mere fact that the biological becomes less automatic, less violent, less imperative and less animal enables each partner to discover that opposite him is, not sex, nor sexuality, but a personality. Interests is concentrated less in the pleasure, but more in the person who gives the pleasure. new attitudes are directed to the person, such as admiration, esteem, good will, confidence, and friendship. The vital forces are revitalized; each begins to live a different way. Sex is replaceable; but love is irreplaceable. No one can take the place of a mother or a brother, neither can anyone take the place of a wife or a husband. The change in the relationship corresponds to the physical crises of youth and is just as real as what happens when a child becomes a man. The will to love replaced the automatism of love: epidermic conflicts give way to a communion of personalities. before, love was like an electric switch; now it is deliberate, like shaking hands; the will is less passive and more active. gestures, acts of tenderness, sympathy not take on a new meaning - they are bearers of something spiritual, messages from a personality, a soul. There is less libido, and less desire; less selfishness and more consent. Instinct now gives way to the will which supplies a new force, higher than the force which comes from the glands. Love becomes less primitive and more educated.
The Three crises in married love and their resolution - Introduction
The Three crises in married love, which if not conquered lead to decay are:
1 - The crisis of sex
2 - The crisis of tolerance
3 - The crisis of boredom and divorce
Corresponding to these three crises are three elevations of love by which love is lifted to new peaks of peace, serenity and happiness. The three elevations corresponding to each crisis are:
1 - the discovery of personality
2 - the happiness of the beloved
3 - the divine origin of love
Love never mounts to a high level without a death to a lower one
Before applying this law to the crises of marriage, let us see how it applied to the love of Our Lord to His Blessed Mother. There were two phases in their relationship: one from Bethlehem to Cana; the other from Cana to Calvary.
In the first phase Mary was just the Mother of Jesus, Our Lord. But at the marriage feast of Cana she had to decide whether He was to work His first miracle, and thereby reveal Himself as the Messiah and Saviour of the world. This revelation would eventually lead to His Crucifixion. Once Mary had made her decision and had consented to His Ministry and Death, she mounted from the role of being His Mother to being the Mother of all whom He would redeem. To signify that universal womanhood, He called her at Cana and the Cross, not "mother", but "Woman" which typified the motherhood of redeemed humanity. She was the new Eve, just as He was the new Adam.
Applying the law to marriage, we find that crises do not mean the end of love: they are invitations to enjoy it one a higher plane.
A crisis does not mean that one has exhausted love, but only that one has hit the bottom of one's egotism and selfishness.
A crisis should never mean "I love you no more," but "Now i begin to love you in a different way."
Love is not an illusion; the illusion is to believe that one's love will never undergo a crisis.
The apparent emptiness comes, not from the other partner, but from the nature of life itself.
It is precisely by moving [away] from “an integral vision of man and of his vocation, not only his natural and earthly, but also his supernatural and eternal vocation,” that Paul VI affirmed that the teaching of the Church “is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning.” And he concluded by re-emphasizing that there must be excluded as intrinsically immoral “every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible.”
When couples, by means of recourse to contraception, separate these two meanings that God the Creator has inscribed in the being of man and woman and in the dynamism of their sexual communion, they act as “arbiters” of the divine plan and they “manipulate” and degrade human sexuality—and with it themselves and their married partner—by altering its value of “total” self-giving. Thus, the innate language that expresses
the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life, but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality.