Friday, April 30, 2010
How? As they did throughout the ages, those who fought for Jesus Christ the "good fight" (2 Tim. 4:7).
And you will do it remarkably well if you follow the method defined and justified by Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. It concerns the "slavery of love" to the Most Holy Virgin.
Slavery... a harsh and strange word, especially for modern ears, accustomed to hearing talk at every moment about disalienation and freedom, and increasingly inclined to the grand anarchy which, like the grim reaper with scythe in hand, seems to laugh sinisterly at men as it waits for them at the threshold of the exit from the twentieth century.
Now, there is a slavery that frees, and a freedom that enslaves.
A man fulfilling his obligations was formerly said to be a "slave of duty." In fact, he was a man at the height of his liberty, a man who, through a completely personal act of will, understood the ways that befell him to follow, deliberated with manly vigor to pursue them, and overcame the assaults of the disorderly passions that tried to blind him, weaken his will, and block the way he had freely chosen. Free was the man who, having gained this supreme victory, walked with a firm step in the proper direction.
On the contrary, he who allowed himself to be dragged by the unruly passions in a direction neither approved by his reason nor preferred by his will, was a "slave." These really defeated people were called "slaves of vice." By slavery to vice, they had "liberated" themselves from the wholesome dominion of reason.
With his brilliant skill, Leo XIII explained these concepts of liberty and servitude in his encyclical, "Libertas."
Today everything is inverted. A "hippie" going about aimlessly with a flower in his hand, or spreading terror at his pleasure with a bomb in his hand, is regarded as a model of a "free" man. On the contrary, whoever lives in obedience to the laws of God and of men is considered to be bound rather than free.
In the current perspective, free is one whom the law permits to buy the drugs he wants, to use them as he wishes, and, finally, enslave himself to them. Enslaving and tyrannical is the law forbidding man to become enslaved to drugs.
In this cross-eyed perspective derived from an inversion of values, the religious vow by which a monk, in all awareness and freedom, renounces any step backward and surrenders himself to the abnegated service of the highest Christian ideals, is enslaving. In that act to protect his decision against the tyranny of his own weakness, the monk subjects himself to the authority of vigilant superiors. Today, whoever thus binds himself to conserve himself free from bad passions is liable to be considered a vile slave, as if his superior imposed upon him a yoke that cut off his will. Instead, the superior serves as a handrail for elevated souls that aspire, freely and fearlessly-without yielding to the dangerous vertigo of the heights-to reach the top of the stairways of the highest ideals.
In brief, some consider him free who, with his reason fogged and his will shattered and driven by the madness of his senses, is capable of sliding voluptuously downward in the toboggan of bad manners. And he is a "slave" who serves his own reason, overcomes with his will power his own passions, obeys divine and human laws, and puts order into practice.
In that perspective, "slave," above all, is he who, in order to more completely guarantee his liberty, freely chooses to submit himself to authorities that guide him toward his goal. This is how far we are led by the present atmosphere, impregnated with Freudianism!
It was from another perspective that Saint Louis de Montfort devised the "slavery of love" to Our Lady, a slavery proper to all ages and to all states in life: layman, priest, religious, and so on.
What does the word "love" mean here, joined to the word "slavery" in a surprising way, since the latter is dominion brutally imposed by the strong upon the weak, by the egotistical upon the wretched whom he exploits?
In sound philosophy, "love" is the act by which the will freely wants something. In this way, also in current language, "to want" and "to love" are words that can be used in the same sense. "Slavery of love" is the noble apex of the act by which someone freely gives himself to an ideal or a cause, or, at times, binds himself to another.
The holy affection and the duties of matrimony have something that bind, that join, that ennoble. In Spanish, handcuffs are called "spouses." The metaphor makes us smile; and since it alludes to indissolubility, it can bring a chill to those who believe in divorce. In English we speak of the "bonds" of matrimony. More binding than the state of a married man is that of a priest. And, in a certain sense, still more binding is that of the religious. The higher the state freely chosen, the stronger the bond, and the more authentic the liberty.
So, Saint Louis de Montfort proposes that the faithful consecrate themselves freely to the Blessed Virgin as "slaves of love," giving her their bodies and souls, their goods, both interior and exterior, and even the value of all their good actions, past, present, and future, so that Our Lady might dispose of them for the greater glory of God, in time and in eternity (cf. "Consecration to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, through the Blessed Virgin Mary"). In exchange, as a sublime mother, Our Lady obtains for her "slaves of love" the graces of God that elevate their intellects to the most lucid understanding of the highest themes of the Faith, that grant their wills an angelic strength to rise freely to those ideals and to conquer all the interior and exterior obstacles that unduly oppose themselves to them.
But, someone will ask, how will a monk, already subject under vow to the authority of a superior, be able to begin practicing this diaphanous and angelic liberty?
Nothing is easier. If he is a monk through a call of God (vocation), it is therefore by the will of God that the religious obeys his superiors. The will of God is the will of Our Lady. In this way, whenever a religious is consecrated as a "slave of love" to Our Lady, it is as her slave that he obeys his own superior. The voice of this superior is, for him, like the very voice of Our Lady on earth.
Calling all men to the heights of liberty afforded by the "slavery of love," Saint Louis de Montfort employs terms so prudent that they allow ample room for important nuances. His "slavery of love," so replete with special meaning for the persons bound by vow to the religious state, can be equally practiced by secular priests or laymen because, unlike the religious vows that bind for a certain period or for an entire life, the "slave of love" can leave this most elevated condition at any moment without ipso facto committing sin. And while the religious who disobeys his rule incurs a sin, the lay "slave of love" does not commit any sin by the simple fact of contradicting in something the total generosity of the gift he made. The layman maintains himself in this condition of slavery through a free act, implicitly or explicitly repeated each day, or better, at each instant.
The "slavery of love" is, then, for all the faithful that angelic and supreme liberty with which Our Lady awaits us at the threshold of the twenty-first century, smiling and attractive, inviting us to her reign, according to her promise in Fatima: "Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph."
Come, dear atheist, convert and walk with me, with all the "slaves of love" of Mary, toward that reign of supremely ordered freedom and of supremely free order, to which the Slave of Our Lord, the Queen of Heaven, invites you.
Turn aside from the threshold at which the devil, like the grim reaper with his macabre laugh, holds in his hand the scythe of supremely enslaving freedom and of supremely libertarian enslavement, the scythe of anarchy.
172. Unles you mortify yourself, you'll never be a prayerful soul.
173. The appropriate word you left unsaid; the joke you didn't tell; the cheerful smile for those who bother you; that silence when you're unjutly accused; your kind conversation with people you find boring and tactless; the daily effort to overlook one irritating detail or another in those who live with you...this, with perseverance, is indeed solid interior mortification.
174. Don't say, "That person botehrs me." Think: "That person sanctifies me."
175. No Ideal becomes reality without sacrifice. Deny yourself. It is so beautiful to be a victim!
176. How many times do you resolve to serve God in something and then have to content youself - you are so weak - with offering him that frustarted feeling, the feeling of having failed to keep that easy resolution!
177. Don't miss a chance to "give in". It's hard - but how pleasing in the eyes of GOd!
178. Whenever you see a poor, wooden cross, alone, uncared for, worthless... and without a corpus, don't forget that that cross is your cross - the everyday hidden cross, unattractive and unconsoling - the cross that is waiting for the corpus it lacks: and that corpus must be you.
179.Choose mortifications that dont mortify others.
180.Where there is no mortification, there is no virtue.
181. Interior mortification. I don't belive in your interior mortification if I see that you despise mortification of the senses - that you don't practice it.
182. In our poor present life, let us drink to the last drop from the chalice of pain. What does it matter to suffer for ten, twenty, fifity years, if afterwards there is Heaven for ever, forever....forever!
And above all - even better that for the sake of the reward, propter retributionem - what does suffering matter if we accept it to console, to please God our Lord, with a spirit of reparation united with him on His cross - in a word, if we suffer for Love?
183. The eyes! Through them much wickedness enters into the soul. How many experiences like David's!
If you guard your eyes, you will be assured of guarding your heart.
184. Why should you look around you, if you carry "your world" within you?
185. The world admires only the spectacular sacrifice, becasue it does not realize the value of the sacrifice that is hidden and silent.
186. We must give ourselves in everything, we must deny ourselves in everything. Our sacrifice must be a holocaust.
187. Paradiox: To live, one must die.
188. Remember that the heart is a traitor. Keep it locked with seven bolts.
189. Everything that doesn't lead you to God is an obstacle. Tear it out and cast it far from you.
190. A soul whose immediate superior was bad tempered and irritable was moved by God to say, " Thank you, my God, for this trult divine treasure. Where would I find naother to repay each kindness with a kick?"
191. Conquer yourself each day form the very first moment, getting up on the dot, as a set time, without granting a single minute to laziness.
If, with the help of God, you conquer yourself in that moment, you'll have acomplised a great deal for the rest of the day.
It's so discouraging to find yourself beaten in the first skirmish!
192. YOu always come out beaten. resolve, each time to work for the salvation of a particular soul, or his sanctification, or his vocation to the apostolate. If you do so, I'll be sure of your victory.
193. Don't be "namby pamby"! That's not the way I want you. It's time to get rid of that peculiar pity that you feel for yourself.
194. I'm going to tell you which are man's treasures on earth so you won't slight them: hunger, thirst, heat, cold, pain, dishonour, poverty, lonliness, betrayal, slander, prison...
195. Its true, whoever said it, that the soul and body are two enemies that cannot be separated, and two friends that cannot get along.
196. The body must be given a little less than it needs. Otherwise it will turn traitor.
197. If they have witnessed your weaknesses and faults, does it matter if they witness your penance?
198. if the grain of wheat does not die, it remains unfruitful. Don't you want to be a grain of what, to die through mortification, and to yeild stalks rich in grain? May Jesus bless your wheatfiled!
199. These are the savoury fruits of the mortified soul: tolerance and undersatnding toward the defects of others; intolerance toward his own.
200. You don't conquer youself, you aren't mortified becasue you are proud. YOu lead a life of penance? remeber: pride can exist with penance.
Futhermore: Your sorrow, after your falls, after your failures in generosity, is it really sorrow or is it the frustration of seeing yourself so small and weak?
How far you are from Jesus if you are not humble...even if new roses blossom every day from your disciplines!
Thursday, April 29, 2010
"O dearest daughter! Those miserable persons about whom I spoke to you have no consideration for themselves. If they had, they wouldn’t fall into so many vices, but would live like virtuous persons, who prefer death rather than offend Me, staining their soul or belittling the dignity to which I have raised them, but on the contrary, they increase their souls’ dignity and beauty. The dignity itself of the priest is not increased by virtue nor diminished by any sin, as I have told you. But virtues are an embellishment and give added dignity to the soul beyond what it possesses from the beginning, when I created it in my image and likeness. Those who live thus, know the truth of my goodness, their beauty and dignity, because pride and self-love have not blinded them nor taken away the light of reason. Not having this self-love, they love Me and desire the salvation of souls. But these spoiled persons, completely deprived of light, calmly pass from vice to vice, until they fall into the pit.
They have turned the temple of their soul and the holy Church, which is a garden, into a stable for animals. O dearest daughter! How abominable for Me that their dwellings which ought to be lodging for those who serve Me and for the poor, a place to have as a wife their breviary, and as children the books of Sacred Scripture, to delight in them in order to exhort their neighbour to lead a holy life, but quite to the contrary have turned them into a den of unchaste and wicked persons!
Their spouse is not the breviary. They rather treat this breviary-spouse like an adulterous wife. A devil in the form of a woman’s body unchastely lives with him. His herd of children make up his books, and he shamelessly takes delight in these offspring begotten so indecently and wickedly.
At Easter and solemn Days when he should give glory and praise to My Name with the divine Office and offer Me the incense of humble and devout actions, he spends at gaming and entertainment with these creatures of the devil and has a good time with the laity hunting, as if he were just another lay person or courtier.
O wretched man, to what a level you have dropped! What you ought to hunt are souls for the glory and praise of My Name and be in the garden of the Holy Church, and not to go hunting through the woods. But you have become a beast; within you have the beasts of many mortal sins. For that reason, you are a hunter of beasts and the orchard of your soul is full of weeds and thorns, since you have acquired a liking for barren land seeking wild beasts. Be ashamed and consider your sins. You have cause to be ashamed wherever you turn. But you are not ashamed, because you have lost the holy and true fear of Me. Like the prostitute, who has lost shame, you will brag about your worldly position, your numerous family and your numerous children.
And if you do not have them, you try to have them so to be your heirs. You are a highwayman and a thief, because you know perfectly well you cannot bequeath your wealth to them; your heirs are the poor and the Holy Church.
O incarnate devil, spirit without light! You seek what you ought not seek. You boast and brag about what ought to be for you motive of confusion and shame before Me, who see the innermost of your heart, and before creatures. You are truly blind and the horns of your pride do not permit you to recognize your own blindness.
O dearest daughter! I have placed you on the bridge of the doctrine of my truth so that he might serve you, o pilgrims, and administer you the sacraments of the holy Church, but he stays in the miserable river below the bridge immersed in the pleasures and miseries of the world. There he exercises his ministry, without noticing the wave that drags him to death and he goes with the devils, his masters, whom he has served and by whom he has been openly guided, along the river. If he does not amend his life, he will be eternally condemned with great reprimand and reproach, that your tongue would be incapable of referring. And he, due to his priestly office, much more than any other lay person. For this reason the same sin is punished more in him than in one who would have stayed in the world. At the moment of death his enemies will accuse him more terribly, as I have told you."
St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church: The Dialogue, 130.
O God, You choose the frail and ignorant to confound the wise and mighty. We beseech You to raise up in our times men and women, who following St. Catherine’s example, are full of ardent love for the Church and the Pope. Let them persevere in prayer so that the shepherds of Christ’s flock may be true guardians and not hirelings. We ask you this through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen
You recognize how much foolishness there is in the vast ocean of your bitterness. But now it is forgotten. You see that incommensurably beyond the daily sphere, in which your sorrows rage and multiply, there is a sublime and tranquil order of being which you will finally be able to enter. You perceive that only in this higher order will you find that happiness you sought among the worms but which really dwells beyond the stars.
You increasingly gaze upon the Lady, and it begins to seem that you already knew her. You search her countenance trying to identify what it is that seems so profoundly familiar to you. In something, about her gaze, in a certain loving note of affection, in her smile, in some of the assurance that she radiates - rich in implied expressions of affection - you recognize certain ineffable flashes of soul that you saw in the most generous motions of the soul of the earthly mother you had or, if one of the innumerable forms of orphanhood in today's world should have befallen you, of the mother you would like to have had.
You fix your gaze, and you see still more. Not just a mother, your mother, but someone - Someone - who seems to you the ineffable quintessence, the most complete synthesis of all the mothers that were, are, and will be, of all the motherly virtues that man's intelligence and heart can know. Even more, she seems the complete synthesis of degrees of virtue that only saints, flying on the wings of grace and heroism, know how to imagine and approach. She is the mother of all children and of all mothers. She is the mother of all men. She is the mother of the Man.
Yes, of the God-Man, the God who became Man in her virginal womb, in order to redeem all men. She is a Mother defined by one word - mare (sea) - whence, in turn, comes a name, a name that is a heaven: MARY.
Through Her come to you all graces and favors from the divine sun, infinitely superior but seeming to dwell in her (like the sun's rays seem to dwell in stained glass windows). You beg, and you see yourself heeded. You want, and see yourself satisfied. From the depth of the peace beginning to anoint and envelop you, you sense a kind of happiness emerging that is the radiant opposite of that which, until a short while ago, you frantically sought after. This earthly happiness - if you did possess it - you finally cast aside as worn out, blasé, like a child pushing aside toys that are no longer entertaining.
Like a lily arising in a swamp or a spring welling up in a desert, something new begins to appear in the frustrated egoist that you were. This something new is not egoism, the exclusivistic love of yourself, but it is love; love of eternal principles, of fulgurant ideals, and of lofty and spotless causes, that you see shining in the ineffable Lady and that you begin to desire to serve.
Behold the name of your new happiness: To serve, to dedicate yourself, to immolate yourself, and all that belongs to you. This happiness you will find in every thing you formerly avoided: unrewarded good dedication, misunderstood good will, logic scorned by hypocrites or ignored by ears not wishing to hear, confrontation with calumny which at times howls like a hurricane, then discreetly hisses like a serpent, now, finally, lies like a lukewarm breeze loaded with deadly miasmas. Your joy now consists of resisting so much infamy, advancing and overcoming, even though you be wounded, rejected, or ignored. Everything for the service of the Lady "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Apoc. 12:1), Yes, everything to serve her, and those who follow her.
You thought that happiness was to have everything. Now, on the contrary, you find that happiness consists of giving yourself completely.
Perhaps you fear that I may be dreaming and making you also dream as you read these lines, which, in your kindness, you may have imagined delectable. No, I do not dream, nor do I make you dream, nor are these lines magnificent. How colorless they are in comparison with the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, by Saint Louis Grignion de Montfort. In this work, the famous missionary of the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth (whose followers were the "Chouans," heroes of the fight against the atheistic and egalitarian French Revolution of the late eighteenth century) justified, through an impeccably logical reasoning founded on the most solid truths of the Faith, the profile of the sanctity of Mary. He deeply scrutinized the meaning of her virginal motherhood, her role in the Redemption of the human race, her position as Queen of Heaven and Earth, co-Redemptrix of men, and Universal Mediatrix of the graces that come to us from God as well as of the prayers of suffering humanity to Almighty God. In light of all this, the saint analyzes the providence of Mary and shows how the Mother of God has each man in mind, loving each of us with greater love than all the mothers in the world could concentrate on one child.
It was to attract you to the consideration of these great treasures, these great thoughts, and these great truths, that I resolved to write you. At the same time, I fulfilled the desire of several brothers in the Faith, who want nothing more than to have you in their midst, very close…to her.
If grace has designed to bedew my words, you have felt within yourself something like a distant music, so consonant with yourself and with your liveliest aspirations, that one would say it was composed for you, that you felt a thirst for harmony, and that you were born to give yourself to it.
In a word, you are ordered for her, and without her you are nothing but disorder.
And if, in the great harmony of the universe, even the most insignificant grain of sand, the most obscure drop of water, and the lowest and most contorted worm of the earth have their place and their function, will it not be the same with the order of the universe - or, rather, with its highest peaks - that is, the panorama of truths that I have just presented to you through metaphors and that Saint Louis de Montfort deduces, with most sane and firm consistency, from the Catholic Faith, from that Faith which Saint Paul, in turn, defined as "rationabile obsequium" (Rom. 12, 1)?
If all this panorama that orders you and without which you are only chaos is false, then you, like every man, are out of place, a misfit, a - pardon my prosaism - a wart, a excrescence, a cancer, a catastrophe in this universe so supremely ordered. Can you imagine this being true of yourself, of us, of all men, who, as men, are in reality the royal apex of that order?
To believe that this is so, to believe in such a monstrous contradiction placed at the very apex of so perfect an order, is indeed, irrational. It is the apotheosis of absurdity.
Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) was born March 25 in Siena, Italy, the youngest of 12 children of a wool dyer. When she was six-years-old, she began to have mystical revelations that continued throughout her life. She resisted the efforts of her parents to have her marry. Instead, when she was age 16, she became a third order Dominican. Her confessor and biographer was Blessed Raymond of Capua.
During the Avignon Captivity, She urged Pope Gregory XI to leave Avignon and return to Rome, which he did in 1377. She did not hesitate to reprove the next Pope, Urban VI, who welcomed her reprimands. She died on April 29, was canonized in 1461, and was declared Patron Saint of Italy in 1939.
Comments of Prof. Plinio:
St. Catherine of Siena was a layperson, and one of the greatest saints of the 14th century.
She followed the orientation of Blessed Raymond of Capua, who wrote a very beautiful book about her life. We have, then, the history of a saint written by another saint; the history of a penitent written by her confessor. It is not very frequent one finds this. I read this biography written by Blessed Raymond of Capua and it is a true marvel.
In the late 14th century, the already bad situation of the Church became tragic. Before its end, the Middle Ages was spreading the virus of Humanism and Renaissance that would generate the monster of Protestantism.
In the Church there was no heresy, but there were all kind of abuses by ecclesiastics. The Benedictine Order, which had been the pillar of the Church in Europe, was in a state of degeneration. The abbots took advantage of their positions and privileges to live like grand secular lords. Rather than providing their religious with the tranquility and stability that nourish detachment from worldly goods, such monasteries gave the opposite: a life of luxury that violated the Rule of St. Benedict. The Benedictine Rule requires pomp and richness for Divine Worship and the Church, but demands simplicity for the monks. In that time, however, abuses of earthly pleasures by monks abounded.
The secular [or diocesan] clergy was even more decadent than the regular clergy [priests and Bishops from religious orders]. The sickness extended to the very head of the Church: Cardinals and even the Pope. From it came a schism inside the Church. For a certain period, there were a Pope and two anti-popes creating such confusion that even saints were obeying anti-popes.
To make matters worse, the Popes were in Avignon, a French city that belonged to the Popes, but they were there under the dominion of the Kings of France. The good Catholics missed the Pope’s presence in Rome, which was so abandoned that often cattle could be found grazing inside the churches on the tall grass that had grown up there. This denotes the decadent situation of the center of Christendom.
It was in this epoch that Divine Providence called a laywoman, a semi-religious, who lived like a hermit inside the house of her father. She attracted followers who used to remain in conversation with her until late in the evening. She would discuss the events of the time with them and give them religious instruction. They became enthusiasts of St. Catherine. She was very intelligent and spoke easily and well. She understood how to treat these persons well, even while saying the difficult things they needed to hear.
She also maintained correspondence with several Popes, giving them orientation and transmitting to them the mystical revelations she had received regarding the future. She played a very important role in the affairs of her times. For example, she was chosen to be mediator in a controversy between the city of Florence and Pope Gregory XI. Later, she met the Pope at Avignon and urged him to return to Rome, which he did in 1377. She also strongly supported a crusade he convoked against the Turks. When the schism began under the reign of Urban VI, she publicly supported this Pope and often reprimanded him in private correspondence.
All this gave on her a great fame and considerable influence on the Papacy. You understand, therefore, the good effect she exerted on Christendom at her time. She worked tirelessly for the reunification of the Church, and under her influence, Pope Gregory XI returned to Rome, a big step toward ending the general confusion.
Further, she was an amiable woman who loved to give gifts to her friends. She used to give them flowers and crosses, a very balanced combination. The flowers delighted them, and the crosses reminded them of the suffering they must bear to imitate Our Lord. She was also an enthusiast of indulgences, which she always encouraged her friends to acquire.
What is an indulgence? When a man commits a sin, there are two elements of it: the moral guilt and the corresponding penalty to be paid. The moral guilt for a sin is absolved by the pardon a priest gives in the sacraments of Penance or Extreme Unction. But the penalty still remains to be paid. When the priests were not liberal, they used to impose severe penances on their penitents. These penances greatly helped to remit the punishment due to sin. Today, with the increasingly less rigorous penances that confessors give, almost the entire penalty still remains to be paid.
Now then, an indulgence is a spiritual gift offered by the Church to partially or totally erase the punishment the person deserves. There are, for example, indulgences that free a soul from one year of punishment in Purgatory, others for three years, and even others – the plenary indulgences – that free a sinner from all the past penalties he would have to pay in Purgatory to be on a par with Divine Justice. So, you can understand the importance of indulgences.
In an epoch of faith, Catholics are eager to shorten their time in Purgatory as much as they can by means of indulgences. One reason the medieval people were enthusiasts of pilgrimages was because they went on them in the spirit of penance to shorten their time in Purgatory. They would travel to St. James of Compostella in Spain, to Rome, to the Holy Land, and to many particular places inside their own countries. During these travels, they were exposed to inconveniences, diseases and accidents, to being robbed or beaten by bandits, and even to death. They made those pilgrimages, however, with the principle aim of obtaining indulgences.
At Christmas, St. Catherine of Siena used to send a Papal Bull offering such and such indulgences along with her gifts to her friends. That is, what they could have earned by making a difficult pilgrimage, she gave them in a much simpler way as a special gift. This gave her friends great joy.
St. Catherine was also known for speaking the plain truth to people. When she gave her friends these indulgences, she was sending them an implicit message: “You have debts to pay. Do not forget them. Think about your death.” To give indulgences along with other Christmas gifts is a gracious way to speak this truth.
She also did not spare the truth with Cardinals and Popes, and they would accept her admonishments well. How different from today!
Today the clergy imagines itself above any criticism. They rarely accept any advice a layperson might offer them. Among many other things, Vatican Council II had this curious point. It did not say one word about the internal deterioration of the clergy, which was already terrible in the early ‘60s. Even today the clergy do not admit any lay person to speak about their defects, even though their sins and vices are exploding notoriously everywhere. If someone tries to give a counsel, they take it as an offense.
With this modern attitude of pride, you can understand the difference between the two crises. The crisis of the 14th and 15th centuries was a very grave one that prepared the way for Protestantism. But it is nothing in comparison to the crisis we are witnessing today. The difference is analogous to the gap between the first guns that appeared at that time and today’s atomic bomb. Both are weapons that cause death. But what a difference between an old harquebus and an atomic bomb! How small and insignificant is the effect of the first compared to the degree of destruction caused by the second!
What is this atomic bomb here? It is the spirit of the Revolution that penetrated the clergy and raised great pride in its members: they do not admit correction. Refusing to admit their faults, they fell deeper and deeper into them. As this cycle of vices repeated itself indefinitely, it produced the crisis we are witnessing today.
Since St. Catherine of Siena is a saint who worked to rebuild the Church at her time, it is natural that she should be the Patroness of those who work for the Catholic Church in the general collapse she experiences today. Therefore, let us ask her to help us achieve the victories she attained at her time. Protestantism would have come much sooner if St. Catherine of Siena would not had been faithful. We are much less than she was, but we should desire to do more than she did. We should desire and pray that the Revolution be destroyed, reduced to ruin, and that over its ruins the fortress-palace of the Reign of Mary be built. Let us ask her for this grace. I am sure that she will be pleased to hear this prayer and attend to it.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
God wills the salvation of all men: of the good, so that they may receive the reward of their merits in Heaven; of the bad so that, touched by grace, they may amend and attain Heaven. Therefore, from different standpoints and for different reasons, both the former and the latter are dear to God. Now since they are dear to God, how could they not be so to a Catholic? Yes, dear even when to defend the Church and Christendom, a Catholic fights them. So for example, at the very moment that a crusader was fiercely fighting a Mohammedan during the reconquest of the Holy Sepulcher, he could have addressed the Mohammedan as “dear brother.”
The expression “dear atheist” is therefore valid and includes a range of different nuances; for there are nuances in atheism. Naturally, a specific sense of the word “dear” applies according to the nuance. Thus, there are atheists who rejoice to such an extent over their conviction that “God does not exist” that if some evident fact such as a spectacular miracle should convince them of the contrary, they might easily come to hate God and even to kill Him, if it were possible.
Other atheists are so mired in the things of the earth that their atheism consists not in denying the existence of God, but rather in being completely unconcerned about the matter. If the distinction is permissible, they are not “atheists” in the most radical sense of the word, but rather “a-theists” that is, secularlists. God is not part of their conception of life and the world. Were it proven to them that God exists, they would see Him as being with whom or without whom the world would go on just as it does. Their reaction would be to totally and perpetually banish Him from earthly affairs.
There is still a third kind of atheist who, crushed by the labors and disappointments of life, and seeing clearly, by bitter personal experience, that the things of this world are no more than “vanity and vexation of spirit” (Eccl. 1, 14), desires that God existed. But hobbled by the sophistries of atheism, to which they had formerly opened their souls, and tied by rationalistic mental habits to which they had attached their minds, they are now groping in the darkness unable to find the God whom they once rejected. When I meditate on that apostrophe of Jesus Christ, “Come to Me all you that labor, and are burdened, and I will refresh you” (Matt., 11, 28), I think especially of this kind of atheist and feel especially inclined to call them “dear atheists.”
This explains the kinds of atheists to whom these reflections are particularly directed. Nevertheless, it is not only them that I have in mind, but many other readers who are much more dear to me: some brothers in the Catholic Faith, members, as I am, of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. Having read a reference I made to the spirituality of St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, they wanted me to say something more about the matter.
Now I speak to the especially dear atheists, hoping to touch them to the depth of their souls, in the same text in which I speak to my very dear brothers in the Faith.
Imagine yourself, dear atheist, in one of those intervals of the daily life of yore in whose calm the agreeable and profound impressions — which the labor of the day, charged with the dust of triviality and the sweat of effort, had smothered in the subconscious — would rise to the surface of the spirit. Those were the ample moments of leisure in which the yearnings for a smiling past, the enchantments and hopes of a harsh but luminous present, and the so-often treacherous fantasies would make an agreeable stereoscope for relaxing the soul, “put in peace…in that gay and blind deceit that fortune does not permit to long endure” (Camões, Lusiadas, Canto III, verse 120).
In today's scanty moments of leisure, on the contrary, it is the neurotic tumult of disappointments, worries, wild ambitions and exacerbated weariness that rise to the surface. And over this tumult hovers an overwhelming, leaden, and obscure question: “What am I living for?”
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
In our day, the sword has been surpassed as a weapon of war by far more potent arms. The modern soldier nowadays does not sharpen his sword for battle. Inadequate to defend its bearer against modern lethal weaponry, the sword has been eliminated from twentieth-century arsenals.
Although no longer used in combat, the sword retains such symbolic value that one cannot imagine an officer at a solemn event without it.
Consider, too, that in those countries with academies of letters that use uniforms, the academicians wear swords on special occasions.
The pen may be mightier than the sword, but a distinguished scholar’s peers present him with a majestic sword instead of a pen during the scholar’s honor induction. Furthermore, some diplomats still use swords on formal occasions.
Why does the sword retain such power as a symbol despite its obsolescence as a weapon? It does so because the sword preserves its heroiclegacy as a badge of chivalry and guardian of human dignity. For this reason, a sword is exquisitely crafted with only the very best materials.
It may be embellished with gold, silver and precious gems, but the richest adornment the bearer of ardent faith bestows to any sword is a sacred relic of the bearer’s favorite saint in the sword’s pommel.
During the Middle Ages, the sword assumed legendary proportions it did not possess in antiquity. The people of the Middle Ages regarded the sword with a certain profundity, esteeming it as a symbol of man’s God-given nobility.
When a king is crowned, he always wears a sword. In any solemn ceremony that has not been stripped of all elevation and pomp by the levelers of modern egalitarianism, a sword is used.
What would give a son deeper satisfaction: to say, “My father left me his Cadillac” or “My father left me his sword”? Inheriting a profitable business may enrich one’s purse, but far richer is the soul of the son who can say, “My father left me the sword with which he defended Christian civilization. He died a hero in battle, leaving me only the sword he wielded for Christ.” Such a sword should be kept in a chapel, for that is the home most befitting a relic.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Later St. Peter sent St. Mark to Alexandria, where he was the first to preach the Word of God. According to Simon, an old Jew who witnessed the labors of Mark in that city, an enormous multitude converted there as a consequence of the apostolate of St. Mark.
St. Peter Damian wrote that God gave St. Mark a special grace by which all the people he converted in Alexandria took up monastic customs. He inspired them to this by his miracles and the example of his virtues. After his death, his relics were sent back to Italy, so the land where he wrote his Gospel had the honor of preserving his body.
St. Peter consecrated him Bishop of Alexandria. In this city the zeal of St. Mark attracted the hatred of the priests of the false gods. On Easter in the year 68 AD, they seized him while he said Mass, and tied a rope around his neck. Then they dragged him through the city like an animal to slaughter. His body was lacerated by the rough rocky surface and his blood stained the roads.
In the prison where they threw him, he was consoled by an Angel. Then Our Lord deigned to visit him and told him: “Peace be with you, o Mark, My Disciple and My Evangelist. Fear nothing because I am near you.”
The next day the pagan priests again placed a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets of the city. This time his strength gave out and he died, saying: “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”
The air became turbulent, and lighting and thunder broke through the sky. His assailants, who had planned to burn his body, all fled. Thus Mark’s disciples were able to collect and piously bury his remains.
Comments of Prof. Plinio:
You know that Alexandria was one of the largest cities of Antiquity. It was a city famous for its culture, wealth, and political importance, as well as for the pomp and luxury of its inhabitants. At that time Paganism was different from modern Paganism, which is noted for its vulgarity, banality, and equalitarianism. Paganism then was set in fabulous richness and luxury. It used to make a similar show of an elaborated culture. This pagan display of splendor brought great importance to many of the cities of that time and made them shine before the world.
These important cities were also the most difficult to convert. St. Mark, however, was able to convert many people of Alexandria. Soon after he arrived, many people changed their lives and took up monastic habits. You can easily imagine the sharp contrast this dignified, serious, chaste and austere life made with the dissolute and exorbitant way of life of the local social elites.
The life of those elites was quite censurable. It seems useful to give you an idea of how it was. The Romans had conquered all the countries around the Mediterranean Sea, which they called mare nostrum [our sea]. For this reason those countries had the tendency to adopt Roman customs.
For example, the elites used to have evening banquets and parties in palaces with garden courtyards. With the agreeable evening air of the sea, the doors of the palaces would be open. Such parties frequently lasted all night, ending at dawn with the family members and guests spread throughout the gardens, drunk and unconscious, lying here and there alone or entwined with others in dishonorable postures to be picked up by the servants and taken to their own beds.
At those bacchanals, they used to eat and drink until they were satiated. They would recline in a kind of chaise longue called a triclinium that could accommodate two or three persons. The ambience was what I imagine would be the boîte [night club] of our days. There were performances of music, poetry, songs, sometimes even gladiators for the amusement and enjoyment of the guests. Throughout the party all were eating and drinking.
When someone had gorged himself on food and drink and could take no more, there were places like our restrooms where slaves would tickle their throats with a feather so they could vomit everything. Then they would clean themselves with water and perfumes, dry their hands in the long hair of women slaves who were there for that purpose, and return to the banquet rooms to eat and drink again.
The moral ambience of the lower levels of society was also repugnant. The slaves were very numerous, since almost every free man of the elites or middle classes had more than one slave. But they were not treated as human beings. They were considered the objects of their owners. The slave had no rights to marry or have a family, no rights of parents over children. A child belonged to the owner of his parents like a fruit belongs to the proprietor of the tree. The owner used to take what he wanted from the family of the slaves. He could even kill the slave, which was not considered a crime.
This was the bestial and decadent world of Paganism. The world of the Alexandria when St. Mark came to preach in it.
You have to imagine this opulent city of Alexandria when St. Mark first arrives with his great dignity. He is there for the first time walking through its streets, let’s suppose, at 4 p.m. with the sun still shining. A Jew, with his beard, his stately bearing, his sanctity, his spirit of recollection, he approaches a first group of people, finds them open to him, and begins to preach. Some of the wayfarers laugh of him, others are indifferent, but one here, another there, come to joint the small group that is already listening to him. In a short time he has a circle of people around him. He finishes, bids farewell to his audience, and goes to a modest inn.
People start to talk about the things they heard, about Our Lord Jesus Christ, His cross, the need to follow a way of austerity, chastity, and sanctity. Grace accompanies the words of St. Mark, and those people for the first time contemplate a completely different life. Here is a wife who was abandoned by her husband, there is a young man whose eyes begin to open to the gross immorality of this society, further along is a drunk who stops to see what was going on.
The words of St. Mark open a new perspective of eternal live. He speaks about a spirit that is not material, he speaks of the resurrection of the body, of Heaven and eternal happiness, and also of Hell and Purgatory. He explains that there is a God who is Goodness, Justice and Wisdom Itself to whom we should pray and ask for help. He speaks about Our Lady and the Sacraments, the Holy Eucharist, Confession and the great privilege it is to have our sins forgiven. To a man accustomed to the orgies of Alexandria, these topics cause contradictory reactions. One feels an irresistible attraction, and another a complete repulsion.
This illustrates how the action of grace over the words of St. Mark could have converted many people. It also makes us understand how his words and his presence constituted a problem for the entire city of Alexandria. He gained so many followers that from that time onward the Catholic Faith was established in the city. But he also generated an immense hatred against him, and these people decided to kill him.
It is clear that he came to divide, to separate. He created an unsustainable situation for those who did not want to follow him. The result was that they began to plot to kill him. This explains, until the end of time, what happens to all those who follow the model of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is a similarity between the great mission of St. Mark and our more modest mission, we who fight against the modern world. In many ways, the present day world is much worse than the Alexandria of that time. Today’s immorality, I could sustain, is much worse than it was at that time. But I would focus on another point: the indifference of the modern world. In that time St. Mark was able to convert multitudes, in modern times you can consider the apathy of the world in face of the miracles of Lourdes, the great miracle of the sun at Fatima. The normal modern man doesn’t care about them and doesn’t change.
Another point, St. Mark suffered martyrdom and his body was received with veneration by the Italian people who dedicated a city to him: he became the patron of Venice. Today, the Monophysitist Coptic sect is trying to have the body of St. Mark returned to Alexandria. In 1968 Paul VI already gave the precious relic of the head of St. Mark to that sect. The reaction among the Catholic public was very weak, almost complete indifference.
From this we can see that, worse than the times of St. Mark, today we have doctrinal corruption that has penetrated the Holy Church. She should be the sun of sanctity, and today she is infiltrated by enemies who disfigure her. The Progressivism that controls the Catholic Church today is an expression of the modern world. It is worse than the world of St. Mark.
Just as St. Mark had the obligation to fight against the corrupt world of his time, we have the duty to fight against the enemies who brought this corruption inside the Church. And because we are convinced that we are incomparably less than St. Mark, we should ask him to help us to conquer ourselves, to overcome our own miseries, so that we might be able to defend the Church against her enemies.