PROJECT SAINTHOOD: YOUR BUSINESS
In this interesting book, Fr. Bede Reynolds, O.S.B. considers the mystery of evil and suffering and the hidden but very real presence of Satan in our modern world. The problems involved are age-old but the final conclusion must always be that God is in complete command.
Fr. Reynolds is concerned at the way genuine Faith is being replaced by man's faith in himself and in his scientific prowess. He invites us to a life of complete trust, founded on God's unfailing control of our destiny and unfailing desire to lead us to eternal happiness.
"It is time for a NEW PENTECOST," he writes, "Let us enter into partnership with the Spirit of Christ." In well-reasoned chapters he explains how this can be done by each of us.
God's Reason for Creating the Universe
by Fr. Bede Reynolds, O.S.B.
Most Rev. James F. Carney, D.D.
Archbishop of Vancouver
Daniel J. Carey, D.P.
Eugene Medved, O.S.B.
Abbot of Westminster
Copyright © 1975
by Alba House Communications, Canfield, Ohio 44406
Reproduced here with permission from ALBA BOOKS
A FORWARD ABOUT THE MEANING OF THE TITLE OF THIS BOOK
PROJECT SAINTHOOD - YOUR BUSINESS
The Catholic Church, from its founding to the present day, has always taught that an all-powerful and all-wise God created the universe and brought mankind into being on the earth for the sole purpose of sharing His love with a creature able to understand it and to unite with God in a state which we have learned to know as Sainthood.
The world as we see it in the here and now seems to our tiny, finite, human comprehension to contain many hints of imperfection in the achievement of this purpose. And yet, there is intrinsic contradiction in the notion that an all-wise all-powerful God could do anything less than perfectly.
If then, we take God's word for it, we begin to see that all the apparent imperfections result from man's abuse of the power God has given him to choose between God and self. We also begin to see that men without this power to choose would be utterly incapable of becoming the kind of saints with whom God wishes to share His love in heaven.
Jesus Christ, who is God-Incarnate, came into the world to clinch our certain knowledge that all this is true. During His sojourn among us He founded His Church which He formed as the mystical continuation of His presence among us as the Way, the Truth, and the Life for Saints. Man then clinched his power to choose by crucifying Jesus for "telling the truth." This set the stage for the world of men as we see it now and as history gives us knowledge of the past.
The twentieth century has seemed to bring this status of mankind to a climax. A superficial appraisal of the findings of secular science has spawned a materialism and atheism which aims to make morality obsolete. All this was magnified when secular science began to ridicule the supernatural. Faith and Sainthood are nonsense without a bedrock trust in the supernatural. The true scientist knows that the supernatural is the only necessary reality. All else is contingent upon the supernatural power of God for its existence from moment to moment. The delving of present-day scientific research into the macrocosm and the microcosm of this universe makes this statement more and more obvious to any observer who is not chained to some a priori denial.
It is refreshing to note that the astronauts of "Skylab III" after forty-eight days of detachment from planet Earth, reported their intuition of the necessity of the supernatural. This is the response of physical science in its very essence, making contact with basic reality.
My daily prayer at the First Station of the Cross is this:
"Lord Jesus Christ, I stand with You before Pontius Pilate and beg You to give me a glimpse of the infinite gratitude we owe to You for creating this universe and giving us being in the world. And, when we had botched our part, You came and submitted to our torture for no other reason than Your infinite love for us. I beg You to give me the grace to respond with the limit of human capacity to love You and trust You."
And that, I believe, is the status of each and every one of us before Christ. He asks each of us to believe in His love. It is aimed at giving us a discipline that will make each of us a candidate for heaven. Whatever else we may do in this life, from its beginning to its end, the underlying business of all of it is your Project Sainthood for you! And the present world, just as it is, is the perfect place for you to carry on this business. It is indeed a time for a new Pentecost for each one of us. Let us enter into partnership with the Spirit of Christ to make Project Sainthood the business of life.
And I must insist that there is no limitation of eligibility for Project Sainthood. One non-Catholic business man remarked to me, "All that is much easier for a Monk than it is for us who have to live in the world." And in reply let me say that there is just one category that may be said to find the pursuit of sainthood "easier" although "easy" is not quite the right word. The pursuit of sainthood will seem easier for anyone who sees it to be infinitely precious. Appreciation of the preciousness of sainthood is proportionate to the intensity of the Supernatural Faith of each individual. And that, alas, is not guaranteed by Monastic Profession or by Catholic Baptism. All are equally eligible for that bedrock Faith and Trust and Confidence that make whatever they do equal Operation Sainthood and make it seem easy for that reason alone!
SAINTS LIVE IN ETERNITY
Saint John, the author of the Book of Revelation speaks to every man, woman and child in the world with words addressed by Christ to one of the ancient Churches, "Thus says the Holy One, the True, who opens and none shall shut, and who shuts and none shall open: 'I know thy words. See! I have placed before thee an opened door which none can shut.'" What a bond of union with the Eternal these words offer! And yet, when a priest is guiding souls in trouble, he sometimes hears a remark like this: "Your ideas are all aimed at eternity, Father. Let's be realistic. I have to live a long time with this situation before eternity begins. Why do I have to be a door-mat and submit to this humiliation?" Since the notion behind such a remark is all too common, I want to look it over with you and try to find out just what it means to be "realistic" between eternity and time, or, to put it bluntly - between God and the things that happen.
What makes time anyway? It is all because God in His infinite wisdom and power and, above all, His goodness, has chosen to make a stage upon which to enact a work of love that is so immense that it makes the difference, to you and me, between eternity and nothingness. The stage is the universe, but it is not really the stage that makes time; it is rather the work of love whereby God has given you and me and all our fellow human beings an open door which none can shut for the passage of our little part on this stage.
It is we who experience time, not God. God lives entirely in eternity, and so do we, at least, that part of us which is the direct subject of God's work of love - our souls. God has fitted our souls with bodies having five senses that give us access to all that goes on in time. These senses enable us to perceive the operation of a tiny part of the universe which marks off what we call time as the earth gives us a passing sight of the sun from day to day and repeats its round of the sun from year to year.
But these five senses do not give us access to the eternity in which we, very much more realistically, are living, always face to face with God. Our access to eternity is approached through those properties of the soul which make us lovable to God, the power to know and to will; and so, to love and to worship. But while we are living in eternity and are more realistically attached to it than we are to time and temporal affairs, it is not natural to us as long as we are on trial on this stage which is the world. Our access, then, through knowing and willing is by means of a supernatural link which God provides and which we know as grace.
Our knowledge in the temporal world comes through our senses. Our knowledge of the eternal world, and God, comes partly through its reflection in the temporal world, as St. Paul says so forcefully in his Epistle to the Romans: "His invisible attributes are plainly observable, being perceived through created things - His eternal power, namely, and divinity." (Rom. 1:20.) But much more certainly do we know of our attachment to eternity and to God, through revelation from God Himself. And this is clinched for us by grace through faith.
And there is the whole source of our distortion of reality by the soul in trouble from worldly trials. We know by means of revelation that these doors of access to eternity and God through intellect and will, have come to us in a badly battered condition because of misuse by our first parents. We know also that their function is still further hampered by our own misuse. It is my degree of faith that determines my truly realistic appraisal of the events of time as compared with the events of eternity. It is because of my frailty of faith and failure to cooperate with grace that I may inflict trials on others and may suffer from trials which others may inflict on me.
I know for certain, however, from God Himself, that nothing whatever happens, not even the cruelty of injustice of those who may afflict me, unless it be with God's permission and under His complete control. I know, moreover, that my only true happiness lies in the conformity of my will to the will of God in every thought and word and act. This, then, should be my theme: The choices of my will which shape my eternity must not be misguided by any of the events of time and space. To heed the Devil now is to pay tribute to time at the cost of eternity.
The whole pattern of one's life is shaped by his reaction to this theme. The pure atheist, if there were one, would have no regard whatever for the reality of eternity in terms of his life; the true saint will have no regard for any temporal value except insofar as it lends itself to loving God. I say, as to the atheist, "if there were one" - because it is doubtful if any one possessed of reason could completely disregard the evidence of his senses, referred to by Saint Paul even though he may say, or even think, that he has convinced himself that it is false that "His invisible attributes are plainly observable through created things." (cf. Rom. 1:20.)
There are, however, very many of us in every shade and degree between these two extremes. But why should any one who has faith in Christ have any hesitancy as to which end to aim at? We are called to be saints and should make it our business to learn to know that the elect of God are, here and now, living in eternity in reality and only incidentally, and in accordance with God's eternal wisdom, making our present sojourn in this "vale of tears." It is this knowledge and the motive that it engenders that can give happiness even to our tears.
Saint Paul's Epistles are saturated with the notion that nothing less than sainthood is, or should be, the motivating goal of each and every one of the faithful. Nearly every one of his Epistles is addressed to "the saints." That this salutation includes all that belong to the household of the faith is made specific in the opening paragraph of this Epistle to the Romans: "To all who are in Rome dear to God, called to be saints." (Rom. 1:7.) St. Paul elaborates and re-emphasizes this same notion in Chapter Eight of the same Epistle: "We know also," he says, "that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son...and whom He calls, these He also justifies; and whom He justifies, these He also glorifies." (Rom. 8:28-30.)
In other words, Saint Paul identifies "the faithful" as "the elect." In the days when to confess the faith meant to put one's life in jeopardy for the faith, such an identification came very near to the truth, but in our day there are all too many who call themselves Catholics, even among Religious and clergy, whose behavior belies the conviction that membership in Christ's Mystical Body means nothing if it does not mean election to eternal sainthood. The elect in the Church in every age are those who are most realistically living in eternity. They are living with Christ in the ever-progressing stream of His Mystical Body which includes those whose election is consummated in heaven, those whose election is confirmed in purgatory, and those whose election is being earned in time on earth. And what does it mean to be earning election if not to be aiming at sainthood?
The Christian who is not consciously aiming at sainthood simply does not understand his faith! The greatest saints are those who best understand the meaning of their faith. Or, perhaps it would be better to say - those who really believe the truth of their faith. This is so because there could hardly be any doubt about the meaning of the promises of Christ. "If any one loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him." (John 14:23.) If everyone who believes that promise would really live that faith, the example of holiness would soon convert the world.
What, then, does one do to make sainthood his "business" and to live here and now in eternity? That question is beautifully answered in a fascinating little volume of the Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism entitled: "What is a Saint?" by Jacques Douillet. The answer of first importance to all of us is that there is absolutely no exclusion within the human race as to the subjects of sainthood. "God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, in order that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but possess eternal life." (John 3:16.) There is no one who is not only eligible for sainthood, but each one is called by God in no uncertain terms to be a saint.
The second answer is of practically equal importance. It is this: Being a saint means living "in Christ" as Saint Paul so often expresses it. Saints are only such because they share in the holiness of Christ - the One All Holy. They try to live as Jesus would have lived their lives. Now, your first thought may be, "That is not much help - how can I know how Jesus would live my life, starting as of now, with all the problems my past mistakes have created?" The answer to that is not as obscure as it may at first seem. All Christ asks of us is the intention and the motive. If the intention is sufficiently sincere, and the will is really and truly placed at Christ's disposal in perfect docility, it is He who does it all and His abiding Spirit creates something fresh in every individual soul.
We should not be confused into thinking that it is an abstract and theoretical notion that all of the elect are living in eternity. On the contrary, we can bring this notion right down to earth in concrete application. The application that I personally like best in this regard is that it makes it very natural for me to feel that I am still working in partnership with my precious wife. I feel that she is the part of our team that is now much closer to "headquarters" than I am and that she is working for the success of the team just as much as she ever did. Of course, I do not overlook the possibility, remote though it be, that she could still be in purgatory and in that case, my part of the team-work is very useful to her. There are not very many women who have husbands that can offer Holy Mass at their graveside every day of the week with a memento for the dead!
So you see, this living in eternity is not theoretical at all. Furthermore, it is important to remember that when we are talking about saints we are not by any means limited to canonized saints. The "Communion of Saints" includes all those in Purgatory as well as the millions in heaven and all of us who are still way-farers in this "saint-factory." The Communion of Saints is another thing that brings eternity right down to earth. Every one of us has something useful to do for the common good at each minute of time. We on earth can make all our temporal duties as well as our joys into fruitful work for sainthood. It is Sanctifying Grace that places the seed of glory in our souls and places us in God's embrace so that all that we do may be pleasing in His sight.
There is no middle ground between "being saved" and "being a saint." The canonized saints are simply the chief witnesses of the preciousness of God's love. They exemplify what every Christian must want to be if he understands his Christian vocation. Everyone is called to be a witness, but certain ones have been the best witnesses and they are, one might say, guaranteed by God as the outstanding models. This does not mean that all of us must attempt to imitate all of them - none of them did that - but each of them can, by intercession and example, help you and me to perfect our own individual pattern and can help us to know how Jesus would have acted under each circumstance of our lives.
A comforting thought with reference to the austerity of trying to be a saint was given by Christ to the mystic Gabrielle Bossis and recorded by her in the little book, HE AND I. I have expressed the problem in a little jingle of verse:
Jesus, I want to be a saint,
But often I detect a taint
in thoughts I cannot keep away;
In spite of me they seem to stay
and I rejoice in the comment of Christ which Gabrielle reports: "Don't get the idea that a saint is a saint at every moment. But there is always My grace." So - while saints are aware of living in eternity, they all admit that they, too, share fallen human nature.
Saint Paul gives us another clue when he says: "Therefore let us also, since we are encompassed by so great a cloud of witnesses, throw aside every encumbrance and the sin which so closely clings to us, and run with perseverance the race set before us, looking toward Jesus the Author and Perfecter of our faith." (Heb. 12:1-2.) To the extent that we show frailty of faith, we are tearing down the great work which the saints are building even in our own time.
The Holy Spirit can be seen to be working in the souls of saints and people admire in them what they more or less consciously desire themselves to be. Too many of us, however, fail to show forth in our daily lives even the radical effect of Sanctifying Grace. If all of us would heed this, it would be no trouble to convert the world. That sounds like a gratuitous exaggeration, but I beg you to believe that it is the very acme of truth. It stems from the exhortation of Saint Peter: "Beloved, I implore you...keep your conduct excellent among the heathens; so that, by observing the nobility of your actions they may glorify God in the day of visitation...For this is the will of God - that you should silence by your good conduct the ignorance of foolish men." (I Pet. 2:11-12 and 15.)
We cannot sufficiently emphasize the importance of the external grace to others and the internal grace to ourselves of our constant advertence to the intention of acting and thinking and saying the part of saints. This begins, and is most important in the bosom of our own homes and families and among our most intimate associates, where it is often opposed by the most difficult temptations to act otherwise. But when we are successful at home, it will be that much easier to carry the same witness of our faith to all those with whom we associate to influence them toward God.
What, then, is the first thing for us to do if we are resolved to make it our business to live as Christ has called us to live - like saints? First: Be convinced that no man or woman can avoid sin by his or her own efforts! That means that the first step toward sainthood is utter repose and confidence in Christ. That is the first characteristic to be observed in the life story of every saint. It is really the whole answer. The more it can be made continuous in our lives - the easier will our trials be met.
"Sin," says Jacques Douillet, "is not material disregard of a prohibition, but a man's rebellion when he refuses to reflect God's righteousness and goodness in his own soul." Neither does minute observance of the law make saints unless it stems from docile bending of the will for love of God - as shown so clearly by Christ's admonition to you and to me to detest in ourselves the self-righteous punctilious pride of the Pharisee and seek earnestly to cultivate the humble yet trusting love of the Publican.
But, how can the Publican be our model of sainthood, for he declares himself to be a sinner? Yes! Every saint, for the very reason that he understands the truth about himself, declares himself to be a sinner. The greatest saints even think themselves to be worse than other men. Are they hypocrites? Far from it! They are not judging others, but they are aware, more than others, of their own frailty - of the infinite gap there is between their response to grace and the perfect holiness of Him who is the Word made Flesh. Of Him of whom we sing in the "Gloria in excelsis Deo": - "For You alone are the Holy One, You alone are the Lord, You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father!"
His proper name in the text which I have quoted at the beginning of this chapter taken from the Apocalypse, is "The Holy One" - Does that infinite gap make us despair of sainthood? By no means! Not when we begin to understand the lesson so often repeated by Saint Paul: "Thanks be to God Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" (I Cor. 15:57.) "For He has chosen us out in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be saints, to be blameless in His sight for love of Him; marking us out beforehand to be His adopted children through Jesus Christ. This was the good pleasure of His will, for the praise of His glorious grace by which He has taken us into His favor in the Person of His beloved Son." (Eph. 1:4-6.)
We have "put on Christ" in Baptism. If we have grown to maturity without learning how to live "in Christ," now is the "acceptable time" to begin! The way to begin is to count on Christ's constant presence to meet each situation as He would meet it, or as Our Lady would meet it, since she, of all our race, rendered perfect docility to His will. And that applies to every situation of our lives today and tomorrow and every day.
Someone once said to me: "I would like to pattern my life after the Blessed Virgin, but she had Saint Joseph for a husband and that does not teach me how to cope with my John." Yes, every individual life has different trials to mark out its Way of Perfection. They can, however, all be met and turned into merit if we never forget that Christ is within us and able to do it all. Let us never forget Our Lady's admonition to Sister Josepha Menendez in the Convent of the Sacred Heart: "Jesus is almighty and it is He who acts. He is strong and He will sustain you. He is merciful and He loves you. He reads the depth of all hearts and it is He who permits circumstances to be as they are." (Way of Divine Love 1-21-'23.)
This admonition was not addressed to Sister Josepha alone. It was intended for you and for me; that we should make it a part of our lives from this day forward. It is the promise of "the Holy One, the True,...who opens and none shall shut, and who shuts and none shall open. I know thy works. See! I have placed before thee an opened door which none can shut; for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My word and not denied My Name." (Apoc. 3:7-8.)
SAINTS KNOW SATAN
Perhaps the greatest menace to the welfare of souls in the world today is the extent to which Satan has succeeded in making himself unknown even to those who are more active in the practice of some forms of Satanism! The present-day anonymity of Satan should be well understood when we consider the warning given by Saint Peter in his First Epistle: "Be sober, be watchful! For your adversary the Devil goeth about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that the same suffering befalls your brethren all over the world." (I Pet. 5:8-9.)
Comparing the devil to a roaring lion is perhaps an apt simile if we are imagining the behavior of the devil or the lion after he has made certain of the death of his victim. Not until then will he roar in triumph or in hate against God. It is, however, very misleading to imagine either the Devil or the lion making himself conspicuous and easily identifiable before he has made a kill. Quite the contrary is the stealthy, unseen sneaking approach of the lion and the plausible, urban and strictly modern suavity of the Devil. The approach of either is made to seem utterly innocuous until it is far too late for escape. Only then does the lion roar and even then the Devil usually keeps well in the background, quite content to let the victim do the roaring in his behalf.
It is for this reason that we who are aiming at the business of sainthood should be made aware of this, the greatest danger to the soul of every Christian in these perilous days - the insidious unreality that the Devil has achieved during the present century.
The urgency of this menace is vividly presented in a masterpiece of spiritual guidance entitled "Who Is The Devil?" by Nicholas Corte. All I can say of this book is that if I were not bound by a Vow of Poverty I would order five hundred copies and send one instead of a Christmas greeting to every one I know.
To those who are good Christians it would bring enlightenment, fortitude, confidence, gratitude and tremendous enthusiasm for the Business of Sainthood. From some of those who are not-so-good Christians it might bring roars of derision. From others it might induce pages of refutation based upon the very latest discoveries of modern science, with none-too-blissful ignorance that they are causing high glee among the Powers and Principalities of darkness and helping to clinch the slavery of a goodly percentage of the people of the world including many of our so-called "best people." It is the anonymity of Satanism that is its sinister and devastating evil. If the Devil and his angels could only be provoked into roaring into their true character, all the smug and sophisticated devotees would fly in abject terror from him whom they are now courting into power.
Never in the history of the world has the reality of Satan been talked down and accepted as myth by so many of the world's population. Never in the history of the world has the power of Satan involved so many individual souls. And so, never in the history of the world has there been a greater need to know the truth, not only of the reality of satanic power, but more important by far, to know the truth of the way to meet it, master it and make capital of it as children of God seeking to run in the Way of Perfection.
So let us study a little of the ways and works of the Devil in order to hasten our progress in the Business of Sainthood. In order to make that knowledge really useful we must start at the beginning of Catholic doctrine and end with a true picture of Satanism as it is practiced in the world today.
At the risk, then, of becoming boresome at the finish, I am going to shout the high point of this chapter at this point in the hope that you will never forget it, either because you are disappointed that it is not more exciting or because you will consider it one of the most important bits of advice you will ever receive. It is this: The most deadly heresy ever foisted upon the human race has been the denial of the existence of the Devil and his angels or the refusal to acknowledge his connection with every vestige of sin and evil that the world has suffered.
An equally important corollary of this truth is this: Its acceptance in the full light of revelation provides the whole answer to God's plan for the salvation of each individual soul by the safe and precious Way of Perfection to Sainthood, in perfect accord with the will of God, or by the less glorious but no less effective way of penance through Purgatory to everlasting bliss.
The strengthening of my understanding of this thesis has given me a brand-new sense of security and gratitude to God in a world which, but for this knowledge, seems to offer nothing but anxiety, obscurity and contradiction. That is why I want to pass this fortifying grace on to you and ask you to remember it always.
Perhaps your first thought has been: "How could denial of the existence of the Devil be a more important heresy than denial of the existence of God?" The answer is derived from the nature of God whose essence is Truth, and the nature of the Devil, whose self-imposed mark of distinction is treachery and deceit. It is a matter of Catholic Faith that we can be certain of the existence of God by reason alone whereas the only certain knowledge of the existence of the Devil must come from God's revelation and that requires cooperation with the supernatural help from God which we call Grace.
Now, from Adam to the present day, the tactics of the Devil have always been to trap men into evil by non-cooperation with God's grace. And the more the Devil can remain in the background the better he likes it because then he can work close in without terrifying his victims. He is well pleased with the complete anonymity of non-existence. This is the perfect atmosphere in which he has contrived to make atheism and materialism a cloak for his evil purposes.
So, as apostles of Project Sainthood, we should arm ourselves with the best possible understanding of the part played by the Devil and his angels in the perfect plan of almighty God for the perfection and salvation of His elect. To do this with profit we must take a brief glance at the basic principles of God's creation as known by revelation.
First, there is no cause for God's act of creation other than God's generosity in wishing to share His infinite and perfect happiness with creatures capable of perceiving it. This purpose demands the creation of spirits capable of knowing and loving. This world of spirits includes, as far as revelation has informed us, only men and angels. The rest of creation is a perfect stage for unfolding the destiny of these creatures of spirit.
The distinguishing quality of this spiritual capacity to share God's happiness is the power of voluntary love. Voluntary love to be genuine must be chosen and choice is not possible without an alternative. In short, voluntary love stems from a meritorious choice made under trial.
It would, of course, have been possible for God to have made us spiritual sharers of His heavenly joy without the steps which I have described. But such untested spiritual creatures would have been infinitely less pleasing to God than those who have experienced the world as God has chosen to make it and have come out victorious in the love-inspired choice between self and God.
God's revelation has made it clear that man, as bad as he is, is nevertheless performing precisely in accordance with God's plan. Furthermore, the necessity of voluntary love for the kind of happiness that God has planned for the elect has brought it about that there are many who knowingly choose for self instead of for God. And that brings us to the consideration of the marvelous coordination of all the forces at work in the unfolding of God's plan.
We know that angels have a very important role in connection with the selection of the human cast of characters for the ultimate heavenly home. Not only are angels necessary in our preparation, but, human nature being what it is, God's great plan includes bad angels as well as good angels so that we will have guardians as well as those who will effect our trial.
This is not to say that God permitted the fall of angels solely to effect the preparation of the elect of mankind. Quite the contrary, the selection of the angels for heaven required a choice under trial quite as much as does the preparation of ourselves. The fact remains, however, that all the evil in the world, all of the sin, all of the suffering stems from the use made by God of the machination of the devil and his fallen angels.
We do not know anything about the trial by which the angels were chosen. We do, however, know that it was a choice between self and God. It was a sin of pride which is at the root of all sin. The selfish desire to be equal with God generated hate and rebellion which, in the acute perception of the pure spirit nature, was incapable of repentance and retraction. And so Satan and all those angelic spirits who chose with him became the hateful deniers of God and were expelled from the society of the elect in a terrific battle with those who chose loyalty to God. The denial of God is the supreme act of pride.
Confirmed in hate and cast down to earth the Devil and his angels then became unwittingly the instruments of that part of God's plan which most men find hardest to understand but which, when looked at honestly and objectively, is the only thing that makes sense out of our sojourn in this world. They provide an infinite variety of trial and test and discipline to give souls the opportunity for the complete purification necessary to make them candidates for heaven.
This reconciles the apparent "omnipotence" of the Devil in this world with the true omnipotence of God. The Devil acts with a certain liberty which is inherent to free will and which God may be said to have guaranteed to all His creatures endowed with free will. Nevertheless, by the true omnipotence of Divine Wisdom all of the malignity of the Devil and all the other evil spirits is turned to this useful purpose of preparing tested and purified souls for heaven.
Considered in this light it gives the only and all-sufficient answer of hopefulness to the mysteries of Original Sin, the torture of God on the Cross and above all, to the current Problem of Evil. Without this explanation, the description voiced by a curtain Hindu advocate of Yoga and published in a letter to the editor of Time Magazine of August 15, 1960, is a perfect repudiation of Christianity. He says: "You leave me no choice but to point out that Hindus find the Biblical concept of God as a vengeful, peeking, bumbling fellow who botched his job so badly that he created man imperfect, then curse the whole race of man for the same imperfection, and could find no better way out of the dilemma than to allow his 'son' to die a tortured death, even more absurd. Such a picture of God is suitable only for the grimmer kind of fairy tales and not for adults with freedom to think and read." (A.L. Ambika Bai, Kusla Lampur, Malaya.)
No Christian may rest until he knows for certain the true answer to this vicious yet subtly evasive denial of the entire fabric of our Faith. We must know for certain, with Saint Paul that: "So much wiser than men is God's foolishness, so much stronger than men is God's weakness." (I Cor. 1:25.) Let us look at the facts made known to us by the revelation which is guaranteed by the Resurrection of that Son of God from His tortured death.
As we have seen, God did make man so perfect as to have that attribute that comes nearest to the likeness of God Himself, the capacity to love which is the capacity for eternal perfect happiness. But we have also seen that this capacity is inert unless it is accompanied by the risk of the power to choose. And that answers the entire appearance of the "botched" job of creation insinuated in the letter which I have quoted.
I get very much annoyed when Original Sin is explained, sometimes even by theologians, to make it sound as if man had upset God's fine plans for his destiny. This plays directly into the hands of those who forge this malicious denial of God's Wisdom. Quite the contrary, God has made it abundantly clear for all who are willing to see, that everything has unfolded in accordance with and necessitated by God's plan for super-perfection which never could have been dreamed of by any creature.
It was ordained that the pure spirits should experience their testing first. It followed that some of them failed. Their original high estate made their sin of pride that much more hateful. Part of their punishment is the frustration of their revenge in that God had planned them and the fruits of their acts as the sole instruments of discipline and trial for the creature of body and soul who is man.
With Adam's special preternatural gifts, the ordinary experiences of Paradise would never have put to the test that choice of love between self and God. That was the special genius of Satan to contrive. But it was that particular trial which was necessary to make man what God wished him to be, a docile creature inspired by pure love to obey God's will. The fact that Satan's approach furnished exactly the right circumstances to offer that particular choice, proves the perfection of God's plan. The fact that Adam fell and that God knew he would fall does not mean that God betrayed Adam. On the contrary, it should teach us the necessity of trial to make love a correlative of freedom.
Satan's three-stage approach to Eve is identical with the experience of any one of us then tempted to mortal sin: First, a question in a kindly manner arousing doubt and criticism of God's law and God's authority. Second, Satan in the familiar role of THE DENIER: "By no means shall you die!" Third, the DECEIVER insults God with the insinuation that God is cheating His creatures of their right to be like Him, knowing good and evil. Thus Satan instilled the venom of malice in setting one's self up against the will of God and making one's own will the criterion of action.
The sin thus committed by Adam and Eve was a sin of the spirit rather than a sin of the flesh. It was similar in nature and malice to the sin of Satan himself from whom they conceived its evil intention. And so sin came into the world through the cooperation of man in the rebellion of the Devil. While, on the face of it, it may seem like a colossal tragedy, we know from Christ that it is the stage which God has chosen for us as the most suitable to make its actors into saints of the caliber He desires.
Each of us must act upon this stage in learning to be saints. The atmosphere is always the same. We must learn to choose. We cannot simply drift. We must choose, not just now and then, but day by day in all the events of our lives.
God has given us a Revelation and a teaching Church to enable us to always choose aright. We are fortified with all the helps we may need as long as our will courageously and continuously and consciously chooses for love to follow the will of God. We know that all which tends away from God's will stems from the Devil and his angels who are always present wandering through the would seeking the ruin of souls. They are still the same as they were at the beginning of the history of the human race.
Christianity soberly proclaims the truth of the present living reality of the tyranny of the Devil over men. The Devil is an actual, living, thinking, personality characterized by Saint John as: "A murderer with no truth in him. It is he who gave falsehood its birth." (John 8:44.) He introduced death into human history by saying: "By no means shall you die." The Father of Death became the Father of Lies.
He is still the leading actor in the drama of concupiscence and sin, lying and death. All our lives we are on the stage, not in the wings or in the audience. There is no middle ground. We must be in one camp or the other. Those who make the Devil their model take him for their master. Those in Christ's camp are not immune from the suffering caused by this evil, but, knowing the truth of the source of their suffering, they need never find anything but joy in meeting it.
Knowing the source, however, is only half of the victory. As we study the matter further we will see that the contemplation of Christ's Cross explains all else and gives us reason to rejoice that God has chosen for us this "Vale of Tears" exactly as it is.
Let us, then, remain steadfast in the assurance given us by Saint John who says: "We know that whoever is born of God keeps himself from sin; that divine origin protects him, and the evil one cannot touch him. And we can be sure that we are God's children, though the whole world about us lies in the power of evil. We can be sure, too, that the Son of God has come to us, and has given us a sense of truth; we were to recognize the true God, and to live in His true Son. He is true God, and eternal life. Beware, little children, of false gods." (I John 5:18-21.)
SAINTS FIGHT SATAN
We learned in Chapter Two that we whose business is sainthood are not immune from the suffering involved in the Problem of Evil which stems from the machinations of Satan among the children of men. In fact, the contemplation of Christ's Cross was suggested as God's way of showing us that the most profitable approach to sainthood is to fight Satan as a soldier of Christ in the Church Militant meeting the Problem of Evil.
Saint Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, shows us that the Cross of Christ does give us reason to rejoice in this Vale of Tears exactly as God has fashioned it: "We also exult in our afflictions; knowing that affliction produces steadfastness, and steadfastness approval, and approval Hope and Hope does not prove false, because the love of God is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Whom we have received. Were that Hope vain, why did Christ in his own appointed time undergo death for us sinners?" (Rom. 5:3-6.)
In other words, we searchers for the Way of Perfection in the business of sainthood can gain a deep and abiding insight into the marvelous perfection of God's plan of creation by studying those features of it which, to our finite minds, seem to be its most mysterious contradictions - sin, sorrow and suffering. These apparent contradictions have covered the entire span of man's existence in this world and there is every indication that they will continue until the end of time.
We have been assured, however, that most of the mystery and all of the contradiction can vanish into the dazzling light of revelation. In this light we saw that the purpose of creation is the sharing of God's perfect happiness; that this happiness can only be shared by creatures capable of voluntary love of God and obedience to His will; that voluntary love demands freedom to choose between love of God and love of self; that this freedom is valid only when a test places the issue squarely on that particular choice, that is, a choice where self-love or pride, if present, is put to the test against the abject love of a creature acknowledging dependence upon God.
And why does this discovery dissolve the mystery and apparent contradiction of sin, sorrow, and suffering in a world created for happiness? It is because these things, evil though they are to human eyes, have been marvelously turned by God into the necessary instruments for the test which leads to perfect happiness for those who choose God before self and so do honestly love Him above all things.
It is true that some mystery remains, but all anxiety is removed for us who have learned to know that the history of angels and men from beginning to end has unfolded and will continue to unfold in exact fulfillment of the plan ordained by the infinite wisdom of almighty God. We have seen that the Problem of Evil first appeared in the world before the creation of mankind. It was then that the pure angelic spirits capable of the highest appreciation of God and hence in the greatest happiness in His love, were put on trial to choose between self and God.
It was then that the Archangel Lucifer, endowed with the highest of angelic powers, chose with a host of angelic followers to rebel against God and set themselves up in pride to deny the dominion of God over every creature. His angelic nature was then deprived by God of all help of grace and he became the Adversary, which is the meaning of the word Satan. He, together with his followers, when cast out of heaven was ripe to be used by God to provide the trial which God's plan required for each member of the human race, starting with the very first pair, Adam and Eve.
The wily three-step approach of Satan to Adam through Eve made the issue a direct invitation to rebel against the dominion of God and so to choose direct cooperation with Satan. This choice, made by Adam and Eve in their Original Sin, had all the malice of the rebellion of Satan himself. It was punished by God in accordance with His own plan by various deprivations which included removal of God's physical protection from pain and hunger and sickness and death; weakening of the supernatural protection against the appetites of man's lower nature; the subjection of the human race to perennial exposure to the deceit and treachery of these principalities and powers of darkness under the leadership of Satan; always, however, strictly within limits of God's ever-watchful control.
And finally, all this apparent tragic misfortune, God promised to swallow up in victory to be shared by man to the extent that man would cast himself completely under God's protection and share with Him the price to be paid for his Redemption. In short, this revelation shows us the pattern God has chosen for the perfected population of heaven in the making.
It shows us that the angels in their original state, and man in his original state of justice and innocence were not sufficiently proof against the notion that some tiny part of their precious gift of free will belonged to them independently of God. The fall of Satan and the sin of Adam have placed beyond the shadow of doubt the fact of man's abject dependence upon God and his utter helplessness against Satan except insofar as he turns to God for help. And that applies to every human being in the world today - and every temptation, great or small.
It remains for us to strengthen our understanding of the meaning of all this by a study of the sequel consisting of our Redemption by the Son of God Himself and our present status in the world which is completely dominated by the Fall of men and angels and the redeeming Resurrection of God.
Our subjection to the tyranny of Satan and our exposure to temptations, falls, hunger, pain, cruelty of our neighbor, death - as well as the tiny vexations of every day, are not by any means evidence of a vindictive, exacting God and Master, bent on punishment for the past.
Quite the contrary, the revelation of God's own willingness to take upon Himself our human nature and to accept all the punishment Himself, proves beyond a doubt His infinite love for each and every one of us. It also proves His intimate sponsorship of this problem of evil and, above all, it proves that our acceptance of it with complete trust and confidence in Him and our wholehearted willingness to enter into it in union with Him is the proof of our love and gratitude which is all He asks of us in return.
And, last but not least, the practice of this acceptance and this love and confidence in Him enters into every act of our daily life not excepting the tiniest. He is present and aware of our every thought as well as every act, so we have the means of making supernatural progress in the Way of Perfection out of every pin-prick, every spot on the table cloth, every temptation, even every fall of our own or of those whom we love, whether great or small.
These unpleasant things as well as all the pleasant things that happen minute-by-minute can all be turned to our spiritual profit. They are not profitable in themselves but they are made profitable as we consciously accept them as opportunities to show our love and gratitude to Christ. It is our conscious intention that turns everything into love and prayer.
When we have learned to do this, then we have really taken to heart the admonition of Saint James who opens his Epistle with these words: "Consider it a matter of all gladness, my brethren, when you fall into various trials; for you know that the proving of your faith produces patience. Let patience, then, have its perfect exercise, in order that you may be perfect and complete, defective in nothing." (James 1:2-4.)
Let us make ourselves certain that this perennial battle against Satan involving each individual soul and every trial and fall and physical pain, is a definite part of God's plan for our salvation. First, let us examine the part played by Satan during the winning of our salvation by the God-Man Himself; then, the part played by Satan during the application of our salvation in this present day and until the end of time.
The cooperation of Adam and Eve in the treachery of Satan has, by the Original Sin, placed the entire human race in a state of subjection to the tyranny of Satan. It has made each one of us a "Child of Wrath" and an exile from God until rescued by the divine regeneration of Baptism which was promised when our first parents were banished from Paradise.
The effect of this tyranny was to subject every descendant of Adam to a blight affecting his body and his surroundings as well as his soul. His body was shorn of divine protection from disease, pain, hunger, death. His surroundings became subject to the curse which involves everything which is less than perfect in our material world, including all the physical evil which men bring upon each other. But most important of all, his immortal soul was deprived of that guarantee of divine help which rendered it proof against the appetites of the body and gave it a clear understanding of the lovableness of God.
Thus our sojourn in the present world is seen to be a march from birth to death through a mortal life of training and discipline and preparation brought about by the tyranny of Satan and his demons. It is made doubly bitter by the acts of men who turn away from God and cooperate with Satan in the battle against salvation.
The odds thus stand heavily against the wounded human soul and it would be open to overwhelming defeat were it not for two merciful circumstances. First, the result of every act of Satan and every act of sin-in-cooperation with Satan is completely and minutely under God's control and cannot injure any soul or body independently of God's will. Second, and all important, God Himself, according to His promise, has dwelt among us and has sealed the victory over Satan and death by assuming to Himself the guilt of all sin and paying by His life and death the ransom that only God could pay.
It only remains to offer this victory and ransom to each individual soul as he goes through life. It is to be shared by every soul who freely wills to use the means provided by Christ. That is, entering by the door of Baptism, and fortified by the other Sacraments, he accepts every trial and experience of this life in union with Christ and in obedience to the will of God, as a part of the Business of Sainthood in training for heaven.
Thus it can be seen that Redemption and Salvation are the spoils of a continuous battle against the powers and principalities of darkness, lasting throughout all time. The outcome was sealed by a sing-handed encounter between the God-Man and Satan. It began with Christ's birth in poverty and misery and ended when Christ rose from the dead thus turning the apparent triumph of Satan into the means planned by God from the beginning of the world for the utter rout of the forces of evil.
Christ, then, is to be seen as the Pivot standing in the midst of time and supporting by His victory the perennial battle against Satan. The outcome for each individual soul rests on union with Christ in meeting trials, which gives a share with Christ in the victory.
Of Christ's childhood all we know is His poverty and persecution by Herod. But at the beginning of His ministry after His Baptism in the Jordan, when the voice from heaven proclaimed Him to be the Son of God, He was driven into the desert for His first momentous direct encounter with Satan.
Here He meets Satan in His human nature, as the New Adam, come to vindicate human nature which Satan has conquered and subjected in the Old Adam, and which will carry those wounds until the end of time. Christ was the only one who could say: "He has no power over Me." The whole purpose of His Incarnation was expressed by Saint John thus: "If the Son of God was revealed to us, it was so that He might undo what the Devil had done." (I John 3:8.)
All the sin and all the evil from the beginning of the world to the present day have come about through the cooperation of men with Satan. So, this first meeting between Satan and Christ marked the focus of the battle. Satan's rout by Christ crystallized his hatred which mounted throughout Christ's ministry and led Satan to instigate the final crime of God-murder which rebounded to his everlasting defeat.
The defeat of Satan in his temptation of Christ is the first episode in the titanic struggle which continued all through Christ's ministry until the final tragic event when "Satan entered into Judas" to put in motion the fatal action ending in the murder of Christ on the Cross which thus became the climax of Satan's career - victorious before the world, utterly defeated before God.
With this picture in mind, it should help us to see that the greatest menace to the welfare of souls in the world today is the extent to which Satan has succeeded in making himself UNKNOWN even to those who are making themselves his most devoted slaves. When we are thoroughly aware of this deceitfulness of Satan in hiding behind the almost universal denial of his existence, it becomes obvious that Christ and union with His will is the necessary and only source of protection against the ever-present personal danger of injury from the power of Satan.
It is true that there are many men and women in the world today who engage in a direct practice of Satanic rites either in forms of spiritism or in sacrilegious desecration of the Catholic Mass. Their sin is deadly and horrible, but their influence is far less dangerous than the overwhelming devotion to the aims of Satan which is fostered by everyone who allows himself to be drawn into the cult of Materialism. And this is precisely true of a large majority of the teachers and research workers in our scientific schools and colleges and laboratories throughout the world and is especially brought into the open in Russia.
Whether the devotees of Matter know it or not, their profession of faith in Matter independent of God is a direct and grievous violation of the First Commandment of God. It is the idolatry of Satanism because its avowed premise promotes the mastery of Satan over the minds and hearts of men. Whether it be called Atheism or Agnosticism or just plain Materialism, its malice lies in the refusal to weigh the evidence furnished by God for belief in His revelation.
The present state of the world furnishes proof that all this is true. Our Lord warned us as definitely as He promised us: "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them." (Matt. 7:16.) And what do the prophets of atheism and agnosticism and materialism offer mankind? - the ease and comfort and delight of the exploitation of the universe which science will solve and present to us. And what are the fruits of this prophecy? - a free rein given to Satan by the denial of his existence. And, as a crowning touch, the atomic bomb from which all men draw back in horror as an instrument capable of exterminating the human race and which no one, without God, can prevent from taking its inexorable toll in the hands of Godless men.
And what is there for us to do? We must use the precious knowledge God has given us to meet this situation with perfect peace and courage and hope. First, let us conform our lives to the will of God in every detail. Then let us respond to the invitation of love directed to the world through the humble Sister of the Sacred Heart, Josepha Menendez. Christ said to her: "Many souls think that love consists only in saying 'My God, I love Thee.' No, love is precious and acts because it loves, and all that it does is done out of love. I want you to love Me in that way in work and rest, in prayer and consolation as in distress and humiliation, constantly giving Me proofs of your love by acts; that is true love. If souls really understood this, they would advance in perfection rapidly." (Way of Divine Love, p. 56.)
With this assurance and with the knowledge that every vestige of sin and evil in the world stems from connivance with Satan, what need we fear even though the world plunges on to the ruin of all that science has devised? We alone can remain at peace and also, as Saint Paul counsels: "Exult in our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces steadfastness and steadfastness approval, and approval hope; and hope does not prove false because the love of God is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Whom we have received." (Rom. 5:3-5.)
PROJECT SAINTHOOD STARTS WITH FAITH
While I think and write about PROJECT SAINTHOOD, it becomes more and more of a wonder to me why so very many people seem to only "sort of" believe in heaven. Even among elderly people, how few seem to have enough faith to welcome the approach of death or to try to work to make it welcome. I am in my eighty-third year and when I say that I can hardly wait for "Graduation Day" most people refuse to believe that I really mean it. After all, heaven is or it isn't. If it is what can this world possibly offer to compare with it or even to come near it? To my mind there is just one reason for making more days desirable - to have time to earn more of what you can take with you when you die.
True, faith is not vision but it is "taking God's word for it" and, as to every item of it, like heaven, it is or it isn't. There is no honest status in the realm of faith for the concept of "maybe"! This notion has tremendously organized my faith and strengthened it. Perhaps the two most difficult concepts of faith for me have been eternity in time and infinity in space. God's word says they are and so they cease to be problems if faith is not a counterfeit.
Nevertheless, history and most human experience is saturated with a tendency to allow "maybe" to creep in. Christ, Who is God said: "The Bread which I will give is My flesh for the life of the world." (John 6:51.) What could be a more definite statement? Most certainly it must be truth or falsehood; most certainly it is or it isn't. And yet, from the hearers of those words to the present day, how many "maybes" have been suggested. God said it; faith accepts it; maybe springs from something other than faith.
As a matter of fact, every problem in the life of a Christian stems from some flaw in the perfection of faith. Not long ago a friend quoted to me four pieces of advice taken from my own letters to her. All of them would find an answer in deeper faith.
1) "The many new difficulties which beset each one of us in the post-conciliar years, you are tending to approach with a concern for self instead of placing it all in God's hands."
2) "I doubt if you have a true notion of the degree of intimacy with which God is inviting you to go into partnership with Him in Project Sainthood. And by that I do not mean any formula for secret supernatural communication. What I do mean is indeed supernatural but it is in the realm of graces which prevent doubts and misgivings once you make the choice which lets you Trust God Come What May."
3) Prayer for consolation is selfish. A much better object of prayer is cooperation in God's plans and a cultivation of His love.
4) Trials accepted for Christ's sake are a tremendous source of merit. And Merit draws Interest for Eternity.
And to clinch the matter, it is appropriate to quote the words of Father Latourelle: "The saint is precisely the person who bears witness to Christ and the Gospel as to an Absolute. ...He is someone who stakes his life on the Gospel." (Christ and the Church, p. 285.) That is why it seems appropriate to entitle this chapter - Project Sainthood Starts With Faith.
Faith is indeed the indispensable foundation of Sainthood but in itself it can never be anything other than foundation or groundwork which, even though perfect, must flower in Charity or it is nothing.
No language expressing this idea can possibly improve upon the thrilling words of Saint Paul in the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians: "And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." (I Cor. 13:2.) Looked at from this presentation of Saint Paul, it might seem that faith, even perfect faith, is rather inadequate material for Project Sainthood. That is why I wish to show not only the adequacy but the absolute necessity of faith as a start for Project Sainthood. This will lead to a study of the virtue of faith with a view to making it as near perfect as possible. The Church today is suffering most because its best people are a little too much inclined to be passive passengers in the Bark of Peter, instead of admitting that it must now be a troop-ship with all hands prepared to fight.
Each one of us is needed to lead the way into more active apostleship for every member of the Church. The situation is little short of desperate and the stake is too precious to admit of delay. The greatest danger to the Church today is the ignorance and indifference of all to many Christians. Each one of us is needed to fight this danger. And the more informed and the more fervent we become, the more useful we will be. Let us begin then, with a review of the circumstances and facts and practices that will clinch the stability of our faith and help us to make it stronger and safer each day that we live.
Let us first consider the ever-present obstacle to faith claimed by the findings of science. In the realm or reality, the truths of faith are far more certain than those ideas which we call the truths of science, This is a fact because the truths of faith come straight from God whereas the truths of science are simply man's observation of the material world which God has created. We are constantly being informed by scientific research that a concept which for centuries has seemed perfectly obvious to our senses, must now be modified by the evidence of deeper knowledge. Yet, who of us can honestly say, deep down in his heart, that he is more certain of the personal love of God for himself than he would have been a few years ago that there was a wire between his telephone and the one to whom he is talking. And yet today, the wire is frequently absent.
The Blessed Virgin Mary received a visit from the Angel Gabriel who told her that she was to become a mother by the power of God. Her reaction was not that she was prepared to believe this message whenever sufficient proof was made evident, but rather, that she was humbly grateful that it was a fact. In this, her reaction was entirely different from that of Zachary, the father of John the Baptist. When Zachary was told by the same Angel Gabriel that his wife, Elizabeth, would conceive a son in her old age, he demanded a sign as proof, as would some of us, perhaps, with weaker faith than that of Mary. Zachary received the proof that he had asked for, but it was in the form of a reproof. He was made dumb until his son was born and given the name of John.
Again, Mary saw her Child in Bethlehem, a helpless Babe, born into poverty, lying in a manger. She believed that He was God, the Creator of all the wealth of the universe. She was warned that this Child was in danger from the jealous hatred of Herod and that she and Joseph should set out on foot, at night, into Egypt. No stretch of the imagination could make the judgment of the senses choose that action in preference to hiding in the Village of Bethlehem. Mary believed the warning solely because it came to her from God through her beloved spouse, Saint Joseph. They fled into Egypt although Mary knew that this Babe supplied the power that gave Herod every breath of his life.
When they returned to Nazareth, Mary worked as a humble housewife to help support this Child who was to grow into a humble laborer who, she knew, had the knowledge and power to create the world. Later, when He started to preach, she heard His doctrine and His miracles reviled by the rulers of the people as the machinations of the Devil; yet Jesus Himself said of her that she was indeed blessed by God to be His Mother, but she was chosen for that exalted state because she was more blessed in that she heard the word of God and believed it. (Luke 11:27.)
She alone never faltered in her faith that He was God. Her faith was steadfast throughout those stormy months that ended only when He stood humbly before Pontius Pilate to receive the sentence of crucifixion. She saw Him die upon the Cross, knowing that, as He said, He could have summoned more than twelve legions of angels to pulverize these puny tyrants who were putting Him to death. As Mary waited under the Cross to receive His shattered body as it was taken down and placed in her arms, all the evidence of the senses pointed to overwhelming and abject defeat. She alone steadfastly believed that this total disaster was willed by God to teach the infinite malice of sin, the infinite love of God, and the infinite incentive to adore Him.
Well had Elizabeth said to her, "Blessed art thou who hast believed." (Luke 1:45.) Mary believed against all the odds of the evidence of the senses; against the scoffing of the worldling whose motto is - "seeing is believing." Her faith cut through all material contradiction and rested solely on the word of God which she had received and believed.
We, today, are in a very similar position. The overwhelming atmosphere of materialism which pervades the world in which we are living may be said to be under pressure to enter the mind and soul of persons of every status of education or social position. It tends to smug agnosticism which rules out the supernatural without even knowing what it means; agnosticism which thinks it is being modern when it laughs at the notion that miracles are any more useful than Santa Claus as evidence of the credibility of the supernatural world. This agnostic scorn of the supernatural has insinuated itself into every stratum of the world of men around us. It has crept into many Catholic homes by way of T.V., radio, magazines, newspapers, not to mention guest and members of the family.
It saturates our secular universities and public schools. There is no sanctuary that is altogether safe from its contamination. Its poison is ready at hand to daunt the faith of any one of us who, in the words of Saint Paul, "thinketh he standeth": (I Cor. 10:12.) That is, one who thinks his faith is proof against attack by virtue of his own power, and does not need constant recourse to Christ.
This agnostic scorn of miracles is by no means confined to those who refuse to call themselves Christians. It is expressed in every conceivable idiom, beginning with the scholarly equivocation of the Commission on Christian Doctrine of the Church of England which calls it "a religious gain" to say the following: "It is impossible in the present state of knowledge to make the same evidential use of the narratives of miracles in the Gospels which appeared possible in the past." (Report of the Commission, p. 51.) The wording is different but the idea is the same when it is expressed in the jargon of the hecklers in Hyde Park, London, and cutely quoted by Dr. Frank Sheed; "Drop this Miracle Nonsense and Concentrate on Christ." The idea of both and all is to promote the notion of the so-called "normal" secularized, desupernaturalized Christ Who can be set aside like any other great man whose opinions may be unpalatable.
The Anglican Commission's assertion that this secularization of the image of Christ is a religious gain is, in their opinion, supported by the action of Christ Himself, since, as they put it, "The use of miracles to force belief appears to have been deliberately rejected by Our Lord." (ibid p. 51.)
This gratuitous assertion leaves the door open to two conflicting interpretations. On the one hand, it would suggest that Our Lord has now rejected the use of miracles because, as a result of the present state of knowledge, so-called miracles would be known to lack true evidential value; on the other hand, it is sometimes interpreted to suggest that, even if God could work true miracles, it would be beneath His dignity to do so.
The truth is, however, that Jesus has by no means ever given justification for these assertions or these interpretations of His having rejected the use of miracles. True, God has never used miracles to compel belief. As He has so often made it known - He does not want compelled belief. He wants loving, trusting, confident faith in the face of many obstacles. He wants this faith to be inspired by the whole complex of evidence which, as He has insisted, has been more than sufficient.
Miracles and prophecies were necessary in the beginning, to give sufficient proof that Jesus of Nazareth was God, as Jesus Himself has said: "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; or at least believe on account of the works themselves." (John 14:12.) In the present day it may very well be said that we are no longer entitled to miracles, since the very survival of the Church is a major miracle in itself. But, by the merciful goodness of God, we do still have a few miracles which are, beyond the shadow of a doubt, evidence of the supernatural power of God.
To insinuate that the miracles recorded in the Gospels, or the miracles recognized by the Church today, are not evidential because of the present state of knowledge, is no less a perversion of the truth than was the assertion of the Pharisees: "This man casts out demons only by the agency of Beelzebub, the prince of demons." (Matt. 12:24.) The nature of many of the miracles reported in the Gospel narrative is such that it is impossible to justify the assertion that they are not evidence of supernatural power. Moreover, the assertion made by some, that the witnesses were ignorant and gullible, is equally absurd. These witnesses had nothing to gain by their pertinacity but torture and martyrdom. Furthermore, they were no less able than today's most eminent scientist to know that the instantaneous raising to life of Lazarus, who was four days dead, was impossible without supernatural power.
But why do I bring up that age-old and never-to-be-settled argument to you here and now? I will tell you why - it is because, frail and finite as we are, we do need to have our faith fortified. And since miracles and prophecies are by all odds the most convincing evidence, and since God in His goodness has given us a generous sequence of incontrovertible miracles right up to the present day, it is important that we should not be deceived or even tempted to doubt their cogency by the sneers of the modern scientists whose obstinate blindness will never be forced by God to open its eyes.
It may seem that I am over-zealous in my fear that the quality of your faith is endangered by these insinuations that saturate the very atmosphere in which we live. If so, let me quote the expression of anxiety voiced by Saint Vincent de Paul lest his own faith should be contaminated by the same sort of super-sophisticated worldliness which threatened France at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
"From my youth," Saint Vincent was heard to say to his Community, "I have always been terrified of finding myself some day, without knowing it, enveloped in the errors of some new-fangled doctrine, and of seeing myself, like those who are in search of novelty, robbed of my faith and wretched in infidelity. But," he added, "we have the Pope. He is the Oracle of Truth; if we remain faithful to his teachings we shall not lose our way. Let us beg God to give us simplicity and submission of judgment in accepting the decisions of the Sovereign Pontiffs; and let us ask Him to preserve us from the spirit of pride and the presumption of those who, having too high an idea of their own capabilities, refuse to submit themselves to the Sovereign Truth." (Virtue and Christian Refinement - by Saint John Bosco, p. 167.)
This should gave pause to anyone who feels anything less than very humble about his constant need to have recourse to God for grace to reinforce his faith. The day in which we are living is not one whit less saturated with the spirit of intellectual pride, of novelty, and of infidelity, than was the France of the Seventeenth Century. And remember, too, that it was Saint Vincent de Paul himself who did more than any one else of his time to quench and offset the pressure of the work of these diabolic innovators who wrought such havoc among the faithful of France.
The aspect of it which rightly terrified Saint Vincent is that this appalling blindness to obvious truth seems to be positively imposed by God as punishment of those who resist grace as a result of intellectual pride or sin of any kind. That is why even the most faithful believer is not immune to this danger. Beware of contamination from the blindness of some of those who are growing to adulthood in North America today.
Not long ago a Professor of Philosophy at one of our major universities had the effrontery to stand before more than one thousand students of the university and offer the spontaneous existence of the world as the only possible, yet adequate, proof that the fabled miracle of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is nonsense. The terrifying thing about it is that he and millions of others fail to see the fallacy of this proposal. Whether this professor of Philosophy proposes the miracle of the self-existence of a grain of sand, or the miracle of the self-existence of the marvelously ordered universe, either one is so far beyond the realm of possibility that the restoration to life of the dead body of Christ pales into insignificance in comparison.
The only proof offered for this stupendous miracle of self-existence is that it cannot be the result of any other source except creation, and that, the atheists gratuitously assert, is impossible. Not one positive proof has ever been offered by these advocates of the theory of eternal matter. The fact is, however, that the entire experience of man contradicts the assertion that the greater can spring from the less. There is not one observable fact to show a single example of existence occurring from nothing, of life occurring from non-living matter, of a spiritual soul coming into being in any animal lower than man. There is not one positive shred of evidence to discredit the self-evident axiom of philosophy: "The less cannot be the cause of the greater." The atheist or the Professor of Philosophy offers no proof of his blasphemy but arbitrary guesses.
Nevertheless, to make their venom binding, the atheists in the Department of Philosophy mentioned above, have succeeded in excluding the Catholic theologians from the faculty on the ground that they are "committed." Yes! thank God, they are committed to the truth. Let us hope moreover, that the Philosophy Faculty is the only one which forbids such commitment, especially those who teach young engineers how to design bridges and elevator cables. Let us hope, too, that they are sufficiently aware of the absurdity of their contention to have a good laugh over it in secret.
On the other hand, let us return to the consideration of that which does have proof. The Risen Christ made Himself known to several hundred witnesses who, though utterly incredulous at first, were forced by the evidence to form convictions that caused them to submit to torture and death rather than to deny what they knew to be true. Make no mistake - "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Heb. 10:31.) The blindness of the atheist is not a product of proof or lack of proof. It is the awful penalty which God has always allowed men to choose when they reject the evidence which God has declared to be sufficient.
This clouding of the intellect against the grace of God is sometimes found in souls who, but for long exposure to this evil fruit of pride, would truly be persons of good-will. If they come to a priest for instruction they may think that they are approaching the study of Catholic doctrine with an open mind. They may even consciously want to be convinced. Indeed, they are ready to believe, but, because of the blighted atmosphere of prejudice in which they have lived, they are open to proof only if it is presented on their own terms. They are like the 19th century atheist, Robert Ingersoll, who stood on the lecture platform, watch in hand, and invited God to strike him dead while he ticked off the seconds of a minute. Yes, they would believe with the Chief Priests who stood before the Cross and challenged Christ to come down and accept their worship.
Faith is the product of grace and fee will. Grace is poured out upon those who cooperate with God's love and submit to His will. Grace is withdrawn from those who wish to make their own terms. Without grace, faith is impossible, without faith, love is impossible, without love, salvation is impossible. This brings to mind the priceless sayings of Cardinal Wyszynski published in OUR DAILY BREAD. On February 3rd he says: "Faith is the crown of the dignity of man. It is inconceivably difficult to regain a lost crown and again to place it upon one's head. How carefully, then, must it be guarded!"
There is a marvelously simple definition of Faith in the introduction to the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of Vatican II: "It is basic to Christian belief that God is a personal God who has spoken to men. He has initiated a dialogue with them, in which they are invited to listen to His words, and to respond. His words are Revelation, and man's response is Faith." (Abbott, p. 108.) And in the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity there is an equally simple sequel: "On all Christians therefore is laid the splendid burden of working to make the divine message of salvation known and accepted by all men throughout the world." (Abbott, p. 492.)
It follows that each of us has an important duty to perform as part of the fighting staff of the Communion of Saints. The Devil is flooding our world with invitations to doubt. Not only are we fighting day-by-day and hour-by-hour for our own salvation which depends upon the healthy nourishment of our faith, but we have an obligation as well as a personal stake in the fight, by good example and constant prayer, to remove the fog which clouds the minds of far too many of our neighbors.
The surest way to nourish our faith is to work at it. And working at it means to be an apostle, to give ourselves, ever mindful of the precious treasure at stake, ever thoughtful of new ways to express our love for God. Project Sainthood is a duty as well as a privilege today. Aim to increase in some way the work you are doing for God, and God will reward you a thousandfold with faith, a living faith that will kindle the fire of love in other souls. It will then be by your example that our faith will be spread, perpetuated and multiplied. So - "Whether you eat or drink or do aught else do all for the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the Church of God, even as I myself comply with all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but that of the many, that they may be saved." (I Cor. 10:31.)
THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
POWER-HOUSE OF PROJECT SAINTHOOD
Having satisfied ourselves that Project Sainthood starts with faith, it may be opportune to plunge at once into the consideration of an infinite powerhouse of sainthood which becomes effective if it is entered into with the acceptance of pure faith. I refer to the Partnership with Christ which is brought about by Personal Consecration to the Sacred Heart. A careful study of the intense divine and human love offered to each one of us here and now, by our gracious Savior, can make it the central motive of one's spiritual life and a most powerful urge toward sainthood.
Not long ago I mentioned this idea to one of my clerical friends. His comment was: "Oh, that stuff is all out of date now. Don't you know that the Council frowns on all that devotional innovation!"
I had not come across any such frown in the course of my study of the Council Documents, so I wrote to my very much admired friend who ordained me to the priesthood, Archbishop McGucken of San Francisco, and asked him if the discussions in the Council Chamber had indicated any such opinion. I was much relieved upon receiving his reply, to read as follows:
"I am sure that you will find a very warm response to an exposition of the good Catholic devotion to the Sacred Heart. I am astonished that any priest would indicate that anything in the Council frowns on such essential devotion, which goes to the very center of the Mystery of Christ. There is certainly nothing in the Council Documents to support such a thought.
"I would encourage you with all my heart to inculcate devotion to the Sacred Heart and to our Blessed Mother."
With that support from His Excellency, I feel sure that no one will be impatient with me for choosing texts from the private revelations made by Christ to His various saints. The suspicion and ridicule and persecution to which Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque was subjected as a result of her patient obedience to the communications she received from Jesus Christ is, moreover, almost a compelling endorsement of their genuineness. This is amply supported by the universal acceptance and practice of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that has spread over the whole Catholic world during the three centuries since their disclosure.
For myself, the supernatural nearness of God's hand in every event of my life has become so evident that it seems quite natural to me that He should communicate directly with souls whenever it suits His purpose to do so. In fact, I am convinced that God wishes us all to see His loving guidance in everything, great and small, that marks the passage of our lives from minute to minute. The tragedy of this age is that even those of us who know of the necessity of God's intimate presence in all of His creation, are in danger of contamination from the blindness of the materialists who see Him not at all or with utter indifference. It is that indifference and open hostility toward the infinite love that Christ has so generously poured out upon us throughout the life of His Church, which continues to pierce His Sacred Heart with the same agony of unrequited love which He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane.
We are sometimes told that nothing can possibly mar the perfect happiness of God in the contemplation of His own infinite perfection. While this is perfectly true as to the internal relationship within the adorable Trinity, we must never forget that the God-Man came forth from that exclusive relationship of perfect divine love solely because its expression outside the Trinity had been outraged by the ingratitude, pride, and rebellion of the creature for whom the world was made. Let me hasten to add, however, that this in no way contradicts the former statement nor does it admit an explanation which sometimes appears in catechisms, that man spoiled God's plan for a beautiful world in which there would be no anguish, no hatred, no evil, only a perfect harmony of divine and human love.
It is an item of divine and Catholic faith that God planned this world exactly as it is. He has allowed the evil of fallen man to mar the happiness of the world because the discipline of evil makes those of the elect sufficiently more lovable; that is, sufficiently better able to return God's love in heaven. This more than compensates for the agony imposed upon God and man by the evil misuse of the precious gift of free-will which makes man the image of God.
This is one of the deepest mysteries of faith, perhaps the most mysterious of all, but when squarely faced and accepted in pure faith, trusting God's word alone, it explains everything. Not only does it explain everything but it provides, for those who understand it and accept it, an infinite incentive to love God. In other words, they have an infinite incentive to become saints. If God's love for man's love has been such as to induce God to go through what He has gone through to seek man's love, surely there is no limit to the response of love which we owe to God.
That - as we have at last come to know - is the reason why God has placed us in this world and has not simply created heaven and filled it with perfect souls. We are given the precious privilege of life in this world as it is, in order that we may learn the immensity of God's love and so, by responding to that love, make ourselves lovable candidates for heaven. That sounds like saying that the unhappiness there is in this world is the reason for its creation. And, in a sense, that is true. Love is best shown by willingness to go through trials for the loved one. Love is also deepened by going through trials for the loved one.
God, in His Divinity, could not suffer, could not accept trials to show His love. And so it seems that to accomplish His unimaginable plan to teach us to love by teaching us His love, it was necessary for Him to allow sin, and as a result of sin, suffering, which could be accepted and borne to show and accept love. Saint Paul, aptly as always, expresses it thus: "But where sin abounded, grace superabounded." (Rom 5:21.)
But God, as God in heaven, howsoever much He might heap His love upon us in temporal blessings, could not use this most perfect expression of love. And that is why He became Man; and that is why, in becoming Man, he became the Man of Sorrows. He could just as easily have chosen to take the human nature of a mighty ruler who, by miraculous power, would be easily identified as God and could show His human love by bestowing ease and comfort on all the inhabitants of the world. That would certainly have excited a certain degree of love and adoration in return, especially if He took away suffering from all those who had experienced it.
After a lifetime spent on earth exercising such a beneficent rule, He might have instituted a sacramental means of continuing His presence among us and of communicating His divinity to us. He might then have ascended into heaven for the continuation of the exercise of His love. BUT - can you begin to see how empty such a demonstration of love would be when compared with that which actually happened? I feel rather sheepish that it has taken me over eighty years living in this world to finally bring me to see that any other situation than the situation of this world exactly as God has planned it, just does not make sense. This is especially true when we begin to think carefully just what God has planned the world for; to teach us to love Him enough to make us worthy of heaven.
The method that God has chosen to teach us has been to show us infinite love and to invite us to aim at it. And when I say - to show us infinite love - I mean just that. God has always had infinite love for this creature, man, for whom the world was made. He has always suffered infinite pain, in a sense, over the ingratitude expressed by the prideful misuse of man's free-will. How could He possibly show that love and that pain better than by making Himself the Victim of that ingratitude while at the same time giving sufficient, but not too much, evidence that He was God? And how could that have been done better than it was done in Palestine in or about the year 33 A.D.?
And while we are trying to answer that question, let us also ask ourselves how better could the same expression of love and pain have been planned to have projected itself into the rest of time to be shared by you and me and all the other yous and mes until the consummation of the world? Christ as Victim experienced physical suffering from the poverty of Bethlehem, the misery of Egypt, the drudgery of Nazareth, the torture of Calvary. These, however, did not compare with the anguish He suffered all life long from the stubborn rejection of His love, imposed by pride, which blocked the action of men's free-will to cooperate with the grace He offered them and turned it into hate and envy instead of love.
The torture of Calvary and the scourging lasted less than a day; the torture which culminated at Gethsemane lasted all life long. And here is what I have been leading up to all along - that torture of Gethsemane continues today to afflict the Sacred Heart of Jesus. That was what was meant by the question: how could Christ's expression of infinite love and infinite sorrow have been better planned to project itself into the rest of time than it was done in Palestine in or about the year 33 A.D.?
Christ on Calvary, Christ at the scourging, Christ in Gethsemane, Christ weeping over Jerusalem, Christ in agony over the taunt that He cast out devils by the power of Beelzebub - all these can be almost as real to us today as they were to Saint John when he wrote his Gospel some seventy years after these things happened. So can we see Christ feeding the five thousand, Christ, the Good Shepherd, preaching the Sermon of the Mount, Christ giving the son of the widow of Naim back to his mother, Christ giving His Body and Blood to us at the Last Supper, Christ giving His Mother to us from the Cross.
All these are ours today, in the Mass and in the Eucharist and in the Sacred Heart of Jesus with its crown of thorns, its open wound, its flaming Cross. He begs us to see in this His plea for our compassion and our understanding union with Him in the agony which He suffers still over the blindness of souls who refuse to perceive His love, especially those of His chosen ones whose former love has been chilled by careless laxity and disobedience and sin.
Every one of those who have been chosen by Christ as witnesses of His Sacred Heart has stressed the agony that He still suffers in that Heart over the coldness and indifference and rejection of so many who should respond to His love. This has ever been the same story and we have received it from many witnesses: Saint Gertrude, Saint John Eudes, Blessed Claud la Colombiere, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, Saint Catherine of Sienna, Father Matheo Cawley-Boevey, Sister Josepha Menendez, and others. He asks through all of them for consolation and acts of reparation and especially for union with His Heart in utter confidence in His way of dealing with the world.
When looked at from our point of view, some things are, perhaps, hard to understand. One often hears the skeptic say: "How can you have the effrontery to tell me about the infinite love of God who has allowed my child to be born hopelessly deformed and has allowed my neighbor's innocent baby to be burned to death?" "Don't talk to me about the mercy of God who allowed my wife to lie in agony for five years and finally to die without relief; Christ on the Cross never suffered the torture that He allowed her to suffer. If God loves us as much as you say He does, why does He make it so hard for us to know about it?" These are not imaginary jibes; each one has actually been said to me.
And Jesus Christ Himself answers us on Good Friday: "O My people what wrong have I done to you? When have I ever grieved you? Answer Me! I led you out of the land of Egypt: is this why you have prepared a Cross for your Savior? What more should I have done that I have not done? I planted you to be My very own and My most choice vine, but you have borne Me bitter fruit; for with vinegar you have quenched My thirst, and with a spear you have pierced your Savior's side." (Good Friday reproaches.)
The humanity of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity brings almighty God into our sense knowledge. And what does this sense knowledge tell us of our relationship to Him who gave us ample proof that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life? If He is the Way, then let us learn to follow the way He presented to us. And what is that Way? As He told us and amply proved, He could have summoned more than twelve legions of angels to pulverize these agents of Satan who were putting Him to death. But he did not choose that way. The same is true of most of the events of His life among us. He could have avoided the sorrow and pain and anguish which has been brought into the world by sin; but He did not choose to do it.
Christ accepted what we call "The Problem of Evil" and allowed Himself to become a Victim of it. In other words, He made Himself an outstanding example of the Way which God is inviting us to accept in this world and to follow in His Way. Instead of resenting and fighting against this Problem of Evil, which is all punishment for sin, He made Himself the Victim of it. He shows us the Way God has chosen to express His infinite divine love for those who cut through all the mystery and obscurity of the Problem of Evil and put their trust in Him - Come What May.
Does that make sense? Does God show His infinite divine love for us by imposing the Problem of Evil upon innocent victims, even though He does accept the major share of it Himself? Yes, that is exactly it - except - for one word which changes the meaning of the whole concept. God does not impose the Problem of Evil upon innocent victims. The Problem of Evil is the inexorable and necessary sequel to sin which God allows man to impose upon his fellow-creatures. True, God could have prevented all sin and with it all pain and sorrow, but that would be a very different world from the one God chose for us. Has He not done enough to show us that it would be, in all truth, a very inferior one?
As we look back on this world from heaven, we will very easily see that the Way which is Christ is the necessary Way to make heaven what Christ intended it to be. He told us after His Resurrection that it was "necessary" that the Son of God should suffer, but our inconstancy over the centuries has caused that concept to grow dim. It was to bring that concept back to vivid life again that Christ has chosen our age to bring to full fruition the image of His Sacred Heart.
How better could He have shown this "Burning Furnace of Charity," as it is called in the litany of His Sacred Heart? How better could He have invited us to understand His love? How better could He have invited us to join Him in the Way He has chosen for us? - the Way of love, the Way, too, of suffering, the Way of union with Him who is the Way.
And how may we enter into union with Him who is the Way? First, let us try to understand the meaning of union with the Sacred Heart. It means, first-and-foremost, to see every detail of our life in its relationship to Christ; to see that every minute of it has a relationship to Christ; to see that there is nothing in our life that can be excluded from our relationship to Christ. And when we have made that state of mind a habit, we are in a position to make it bear fruit in relationship to Christ and Project Sainthood.
The form of devotion to the Sacred Heart revealed by Christ to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque was accompanied by twelve amazing promises made for the benefit of those who would share with her in this devotion. The first of these promises declares: "I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life." Now the graces which Christ refers to in this promise may be said to provide an invitation to place our complete trust in His immediate presence and readiness to furnish all the supernatural energy required, not only to meet and defeat every problem and trial in our lives, but to supernaturalize and so make worth while everything we do.
It is a strange thing that most of us can say that we believe and really want to believe in the nearness of this Burning Furnace of Charity, but almost always, when it comes to a showdown, we behave like the father of the boy possessed of a demon as reported by Saint Mark. His petition began with an "if." "If Thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us." (Mark 9:21.) And what was Jesus' reply? It, too, began with an "if." "If thou canst believe," He said, "all things are possible to him who believes." We should all try to take that admonition to heart!
Unbounded confidence in the immediate effectiveness of Christ's management of everything - everything connected with one's life - is an outstanding characteristic of the lives of all of the Saints. Furthermore, it is one characteristic that we can all safely follow and imitate because it is without doubt that unbounded confidence that makes saints. We may not be called upon to become martyrs, but it is the grace received from Christ in response to our confidence in Him which begets readiness for martyrdom, and readiness for martyrdom means readiness for sainthood.
All the graces necessary for one's state of life, then, include this grace of unbounded love and confidence which makes Christ the Way to sainthood. What more do we need, then, to invite us to that devotion to His Sacred Heart to which this promise is attached? Now, devotion to the Sacred Heart is practiced, in part, by certain specific acts of the will expressed in prayers and litanies, but these prayers and litanies are meaningless and useless unless they are powered by a deep-seated recognition in the inmost recesses of the soul that the Sacred Heart is not only the Way, but the Truth and the Life. The Truth and the Life must become supernatural habits of the mind and the will to serve us in place of the actual revelation made to Saint Margaret Mary.
The more real we can make the Truth of the presence of the Sacred Heart of Jesus within us, the more nearly will we be able to practice constantly the devotion which is made explicit in The Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart by the words: "I therefore take Thee, O Sacred Heart, to be the only object of my love, the guardian of my life, my assurance of salvation, the remedy of my weakness and inconstancy, the atonement for all the faults of my life and my sure refuge at the hour of death."
Now, if I take the Sacred Heart as the only object of my love, that does not mean that I cease to have my former love for my dear ones, nor does it mean that I am relieved of the obligation to love my enemies. Far from it! In fact, it furnishes the only way that we can honestly love our enemies because it supernaturalizes all our love. It limits our love outside of God to that which can be realized in God. We then love all people and things and experiences only insofar as they can be loved in God. That love, then, colors our every thought and word and act and makes them all belong to Him. He then becomes truly our Way, our Truth, and our Life and the devotion expressed in our prayers becomes the fuel which continues in our hearts every minute of every day in Project Sainthood.
PROJECT SAINTHOOD BUILDS ON KINDNESS
We saw in the last chapter that unbounded confidence in Christ's management of everything about our lives is an essential first step in Project Sainthood. It is well to observe, however, that this involves far more than a casual recital of the fact might suggest. The scope of this confidence can be better understood if it is considered in the light of Christ's own appraisal of the meaning of Consecration to His Sacred Heart. He views it as a pact between Himself and His devotee whereby He assumes all responsibility for the soul, body, life, health, family, business, everything, without any interference on the part of the one entering the pact. He not only demands a free hand but He cautions that some of His decisions will be quite the opposite of what we might choose ourselves. And that is where the Spirit of Confidence calls for Kindness in response to evils which might otherwise provoke Rash Judgment in our relations with God. Our side of the pact is to work for God's interest in people and leave the rest to Him.
This is beautifully summed up by Christ Himself as reported in Saint Luke's Gospel: "Be compassionate therefore, as your Father is compassionate. Judge no one and you will not be judged; condemn no one and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and gifts will be yours; good measure, pressed down and shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. The measure you award to others is the measure that will be awarded to you." (Luke 6:37-38.)
This is a colossal undertaking for most of us, even in view of the precious reward offered by Christ in this text. Perhaps the best approach for a beginning is to cultivate a habit of kindness secretly by substituting kind thoughts for unkind ones whenever they occur. This is insured if we remember that Christ is right beside us managing the source of every unkind urge.
Opportunities for the practice of kindness and the substitution of kind thoughts for unkind ones are most frequent in the heart of one's own family or community. They are most profitable toward Project Sainthood when practiced between ourselves and those closest in intimacy with us; between husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters and the closest of friends. Its application to those in Religious Communities is even more urgent.
The practice of kindness in our dealings with others is not only meritorious in itself, but is all too often demanded as a remedy for that much under-rated sin of rash judgment. Let us, then, make the study of kindness-and-kind-thoughts-as-a-remedy-for-rash-judgments a basis for the cultivation of humility. As such, may it be a basic operation for each of us in Project Sainthood.
The idea of using the practice of kind thoughts to promote humility and kill rash judgments, brings with it a joyous and potent mode of promoting Project Sainthood and justifies the title of this Chapter as Project Sainthood Builds on Kindness.
The importance of a deeper consideration of the value of kindness from the standpoint of humility and sanctification has been impressed upon me by interviews with people who have suffered really grave trials of unkindness and injustice and even bitter mistreatment within their own families or at the hands of close associates under conditions exceedingly hard to bear.
To preach humility to the victim of such really grave trials cannot but make the preacher himself feel very humble. And yet, humility, in the sense of resignation to the will of God in utter confidence, provides the victim of injustice with a concentrated essence of sanctifying tribulation which is a perfect test of that confidence and which, if successfully mastered, knits the soul to God in indissoluble union of faith and hope and love.
The calendar of saints is fairly bulging with examples of those whose humility has caused them to meet, with kindness and forbearance, the greatest injustice and misjudgment of the part of close associates. Of course, the humility and forbearance and kindness of Christ, who was God and all-powerful, in meeting His betrayal and crucifixion, furnishes all the saints with an infinite example and shows that there is no limit to which its practice may be extended.
Remember, too, that Christ, who is God and able to "read the hearts of men," refrained from judging, as an example to us that even just judgment is rash when it is imposed by one who does not read hearts. "You judge," Christ says, "according to the flesh; I judge no one; yet even if I do judge, My decision is a true one." (John 8:15.) And later, Christ goes on to say: "If anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not judge him; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not accept My words, has that which judges him - the Word which I have declared. That is what shall judge him at the Last Day." (John 12:47-48.)
What a lesson this should be to husbands and wives who, of all people, come nearest to reading hearts. What a tragic number of families are cheated of peace by neglect of the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage and failure to heed the lesson in these words of Christ.
The demand for kindness in Project Sainthood is not, however, confined to the most intimate of human ties, nor to the great tragedies of life, but applies to every trial that stems from living in the society of others. Christ is back of all of them. He has allowed human frailty and the connivance of Satan to bring them about and, great and small, He has allowed them in the wisdom of His loving Providence to give us invitations to Sainthood.
The lives of the saints give us innumerable examples of what we might call the loving connivance of Christ in promoting sainthood by permitting injustice and evil.
An outstanding example of Christ's intimate concern in such affairs is the story of Saint Peter of Verona, a Dominican preacher who was so successful that he aroused the jealousy of others. When the information leaked out that he had received the special grace of an apparition of the Blessed Virgin, it was distorted into an accusation of having admitted women into his cell. As a result he was banished from his monastery and subjected to grave calumny. In his desolation he knelt before a crucifix and exclaimed, "Lord, Thou knowest that I am not guilty. Why dost Thou permit me to be falsely accused?" The answer came, "And I, Peter, what did I do to deserve My passion and death?" This answer brought Peter such great grace that his charity toward his detractors won their remorse. He was reinstated and became one of the most powerful apostles of his time.
Not only does this example show how acceptance of ill treatment in union with Christ earns tremendous merit for the victim, but it is especially important to show how Christ's warning made Peter withdraw his rash judgment, even though it was fully justified. By substituting charity toward his tormentors, Peter won their remorse which he never would have gained by opposition and unkind retaliation. This may well have saved souls who would otherwise have been damned.
An equal injustice was suffered by Saint Alphonsus Liguori, the Founder of the Redemptorists, of whom it was said by the prebendary of Naples: "If I were Pope, I would canonize him without process." He was drafted in his old age to serve as Bishop of Agatha. He pleaded for retirement but this was not granted until, at eighty-one and very ill and crippled, he was allowed to return to his post as superior General of the Redemptorists. He then redoubled his efforts to get royal sanction for his rule which had been approved by the Holy See. He was, however, bitterly opposed by the anti-clericalism of the secular state.
Finally, the King's almoner agreed to present the rule to the King if Alphonsus would renounce his right to own property. Alphonsus agreed to this and submitted the document for the insertion of this alteration, but the treacherous almoner made many other alterations which he concealed from the partially blind old man and, being still further misled by his own Prior, he gave his signature. When the altered rule was made law by the King, the Pope expelled the saint from the Society he had founded, his only fault being that he had allowed himself to be deceived by his own associates.
He endured patiently the disgrace which this treachery had brought upon him and, instead of exposing those who had deceived him, he assumed all the responsibility for having failed to examine the document with sufficient care. His innocence was not discovered by the Pope until after his death ten years later. It was then that the same Pope who had condemned him decreed the introduction of his cause for beatification. What a reward God hastens to bestow upon those who, refusing temptations to rash judgment, substitute kindness and humility in leaving to God the solution of trials in God's own way!
Again, and nearer to our own times, is the example of Mother Cornelia Connelly, foundress of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. She suffered, with humility and consummate kindness, trials the knowledge of which should give courage to all who are subjected to ill treatment today. Converts to the Faith, she and her husband were permitted to separate in order to enter religious life, he becoming a priest and she a nun. Her successful beginnings of the founding of her teaching congregation were shattered when her husband apostatized, taking their two children with him. He then began to hinder the work she was doing and finally attempted to invoke the civil courts of England to evict her from her convent and return her to him as his wife.
Such events as these are numerous in the lives of the saints. The man of the world or we, in our uncareful appraisal of these trials, are too likely to sidestep the candid admission that they are not only allowed by God, but actually form a part of His loving plans for the sanctification of souls who can take it. It is so hard for us to see that God's wisdom and power and knowledge and all that enters into the working of His Providence, so far transcends the tiny horizon of our day-to-day experiences that what seems to our reason to contradict the expression of God's love is in reality of its essence.
To reap a harvest of love out of God's apparent severity demands humility that is able, by faith, to substitute kind thoughts for rash judgments and to enter, by grace, into God's transcendent scheme of things; to ride on the wings of grace into supernatural patience which seems stupid to him who cannot understand humility - to him who, in the words of the Imitation of Christ: "is willing to suffer only so much as he thinketh good and from whom he pleaseth." (Bk. iv, Chap. 19.)
How, then, shall you and I attempt to profit by these stories of heroic sanctity springing from goings-on which, if they happened to us, might seem to be the very opposite of invitations to sainthood? There is just one answer and it can perhaps best be understood if it is expressed in a cryptic statement thus: "Humility is the great secret of the saints," and then clarified thus: Humility is nothing more nor less than a deep understanding of the relationship between God and all that is and all that happens.
The humility that stems from such an understanding, like meekness, is a manifestation of the cardinal virtue of fortitude. It draws all things from God with a sublime trust which transcends doubt, fear, hesitation, and every weakness. Its whole philosophy of life is taken from Christ's words: "Abide in Me and I will abide in you...because apart from Me you can produce nothing" (John 15:4-5), and is utterly certified in the words of Saint Paul: "I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me." (Phil. 3:13.) Without this kind of humility, sainthood is impossible; with it, sainthood is inevitable.
Nor should it seem hopeless to us to set out deliberately to acquire this kind of humility. In fact, one might almost say, it is not a question of acquiring humility as a hard won habit; it is simply a matter of starting here and now to practice it because, even humanly speaking, it is the only course of action that makes sense when all things are considered.
The only flaw in this argument is that the "all things" here considered include the indwelling presence of God and the power with which "He strengtheneth me," and these things are, humanly speaking, invisible. In heaven we will be able to see them and so will automatically glory in our nothingness, but here we have only God's word for it. And there is the rub! We must take God's word for it here. And why should that be difficult? God has never deceived us. Being God, He cannot deceive. It is as simple as that!
A word of caution is needed when we speak of the practice of humility. Humility cannot be practiced as such. If I say, "I will do this because it is humble," it is really an expression of pride. But the acts and words and thoughts inspired by true humility do not have as a motive "because it is humble." The motive of humility, as we are speaking of it here, is an understanding of the truth about God and His relation to us. Our function, then, is to take care to keep God abiding in us and to become constantly aware of that abiding presence in spite of its invisibility. Then we will act as we must when God is present. That is, with utter love and kindness no matter what may be the provocation to act otherwise.
That, of course, is by no means easy, but the only reason that it can be other than easy is that one does not go all the way in admitting and adverting to the abiding presence of God. Once we settle that point, there is opportunity all day long to put it into practice. And, fortunately, most of the things that happen from hour to hour are such that it is not too difficult to put it into practice. We can start immediately to let kindness emerge from the trivial occasions of rash judgment until it becomes second nature. Then we will find ourselves equipped with God's power to meet greater occasions which God may allow to come our way when we are sufficiently close to Him to be candidates for sainthood.
So - let us start with kind thoughts and kind words to quench rash judgment in all our daily doings. We have considered examples of the practice of patience and kindness in an heroic degree. Let us, here and now, prepare ourselves to meet whatever may come our way of trial and injustice by making a clean sweep of all the small occasions which beset us in legions day by day. In this connection, moreover, we should never regard any occasion which elicits criticism or uncharitable comment as a small matter. Almost every item of gossip or criticism or detraction or uncharitable thought is an item of rash judgment even if it happens to be true or justified. As such it is a venial sin and venial sin is never a small matter to one aimed at sainthood since it always makes one vulnerable to greater sin and, by itself, stands as an obstruction to sainthood.
The importance of these temptations stems from the fact that Satan and his emissaries are everywhere active to propagate them. If Satan regards them as worth his effort, we should be doubly alert to turn to the indwelling Spirit of God and frustrate Satan's efforts.
It is sometimes said that women are more prone to gossip than men. This is doubtful but to the extent that it may be true, let us take it as meaning that women have even greater opportunities than men to become expert in the suppression of rash judgment. On the other hand, women are reputed to have far better natural intuitive sense than men. So, it should be that much easier for them to advert to the indwelling presence of God to enable them to meet these sallies of Satan. It will become easier still if we cultivate awareness that in the chit-chat of daily contacts our wrestling is not just against flesh and blood, but even in small matters, it often involves spirits which would terrify us if we were able to see them as they are.
"If we could fully realize the extent to which Satan and his emissaries are sowing the seeds of hatred and rebellion on all occasions and everywhere, we would check our tendency to pass harsh judgments, to nourish hatred against a fellow creature, or to exclude others from our friendship. Perhaps, after all, the clenched fist of our modern days is the clawed talon of Satan." (c.f. T.V. Moore Life of Man with God).
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to sainthood for most of us is that we play into the hand of Satan by discounting the evil of the trivial items of disagreement, criticism, gossip and unkindness resulting in rash judgment between ourselves and our dear ones as well as our neighbors near and far.
We are prone to regard falls of this kind as inevitable. If, however, we cultivate the habit of adverting to the part that Satan may play in all such temptations, it will give us the added incentive of cheating Satan for Christ's sake to stamp out every vestige of rash judgment from our lives. We will then learn to - "Be compassionate, therefore, as your Father in heaven is compassionate. (Luke 6:37.)
PROJECT SAINTHOOD EQUALS LIFE WITH GOD
If we are ready to concede that project Sainthood builds on kindness backed by humility, we are equipped with a basic supernatural principle which should lead our individual project into partnership with the Author of success. It is opportune, then, to clinch our hold on the notion that while Project Sainthood is carried on in wholly natural surroundings, it is wholly supernatural in all its works.
This is doubly important in these days which are poisoned by a counterfeit of faith which is causing the defection of all too many priests, nuns and lay people. This counterfeit is a purely natural human faith and so it is vulnerable to every distortion devised by human frailty.
This may seem very hard to admit, especially when it is said of priests and nuns, but it is equally hard to find any other answer to the situation described a few years ago by the Passionist Father, Arthur McNally in Sign Magazine after a visit to the so-called Ecumenical Institute operating in Chicago. Father McNally voices his own reaction with the opener:
"I came away scared."
"I came away convinced that the Institute in attempting to adapt Christianity to the modern world, has reduced it to a religion whose savior is not God but man - a religion that tells us we live in a one-story universe where there is no heaven to hope for, no hell to fear, and no Divine Providence to trust; a religion tailor-made with admirable precision to fit snugly on scientific, urban, secular-minded, twentieth-century man."
In relating his experiences, Father McNally describes the procedure at the Institute:
"Our goal was to explore the question: 'What does it mean to be a man of faith in the twentieth century?' We got our first exposure to the 'Answer' on Friday evening in the 'God Lecture.' Twentieth Century man, we were told, must take abstract words like God, Christ and the Holy Spirit which 'no longer point to anything,' and invest them with new significance. God for instance, used to point to a transcendent being dwelling on the second story of the universe. But modern man has now outgrown that myth. So we have to point the word at something else,...and that something else is right under our nose. It is 'the on-goingness of things.'
"On Saturday morning the Institute ran the Second Person of the Trinity through the theological wringer. ...As one lecturer put it; 'You know, we haven't a shred of evidence that Christ actually lived. All we know is that two thousand years ago something significant happened, something that moved people and gave them insight into what life is all about.'"
That lecturer might have been asked: What shadow-of-a-shred of evidence can you give that you are reporting accurately? But Father McNally continues:
"It is quite amazing how appealing many people find this religion when the members of the Institute unfold it before them. On the weekend I was there, three hundred people came to be enlightened. ...Many of them were priests, nuns, seminarians and Catholic adults involved in the lay apostolate. Few seemed to grasp fully what they were being fed. I asked one Catholic college girl what she thought of it all. 'Terrific' said she. Her reaction was typical. ...And that," concluded Father McNally, "is precisely what scared me!"
There is just one remedy for all this: a profound commitment to a true supernatural faith and a detestation of naturalism under whatever name it may be masqueraded.
Aware, then, of the danger of naturalism, let us become equally aware of the absolutely certain remedy which is expressed, in the title of this chapter: Project Sainthood Equals Life With God.
The first thing to be said under this title is that it applies to every human being in the world. And that is true, not in the general sense of the dependence of all creatures upon the Providence of God, but in the strictly supernatural sense of the interior life. I emphasize this because it is of the essence of the cult of naturalism to scorn the interior life as vacuous nonsense or to criticize it as hypocritical presumption to deliberately aim at sainthood.
When I meet with this attitude of naturalism, I am reminded of my first real spiritual director, the dear Paulist Father, John Handly. Although I would hesitate to try to imitate the shout of vexation which he voiced, I wish that I could think of a way to startle the reader into an unforgettable realization of the folly of such a way of thinking. To think that this world, from its creation until the end of time, is anything other than God's machinery for peopling heaven, is to fall headlong into the trap so cunningly devised by Satan and so serenely allowed by God because it precisely fits His purpose of culling out those who fail to put their trust one hundred per cent in Him.
All industry, all farming, all food production, all education, all works of charity, all housekeeping, all recreation - all living, in their temporal aspects are merely incidental to the one purpose for which God has created the world and placed us in it. That purpose is to make saints out of every single human being who will make that little act of the will necessary to bend his ego to heed the evidence inviting him to Life With God - and to keep on heeding that evidence all life long, no matter what individual tests God may choose to purify his trust in God.
At this point, then, we cross the threshold from this maze of temporal activities and learn that Life With God does not take them away. On the contrary, it uses them for the setting of a supernatural life of grace grounded in faith. God does not exclude any temporal activity as a proper setting for Life With God. Of course, there is no such thing as life without God. The real question is whether it is lived naturally and, as it were, in spite of the necessity of God's complete supervision, or supernaturally and gracefully aware that all temporal success has value only insofar as it recognizes God's Partnership and God's purpose in the outcome.
It does not follow that good, bad, or indifferent performance of temporal affairs are all one to God, just so the individual is docile to the fact that God is the Boss. By no means! In fact, real supernatural docility to God's plan for sanctification is the surest source of power to make all our worldly doings the very best we can make them. The motive, however, is supernatural love backed by supernatural faith. The result is not appraised on the basis of temporal success or financial profit. In fact, supernaturally lived Life With God is a success - period - because its object is nothing other than conformity to the will of God.
Results then, whatever they may be are merely looked at as a manifestation of God's will which cannot be other than right. Our appraisals of these results, however, when supernatural rather than natural, are really and truly manifestations of our supernatural faith. Remember, though, that as such, they are nonsense to the onlooker whose eyes are closed to faith. Remember, too, that his number is legion. But because his number is legion, this attitude of his is added discipline for our faith and makes it a matter of effort and docility all life long.
Now, the virtue of faith is something different from that which is believed by faith. The latter is the entire body of truth which has been revealed by God and is sometimes called "The Deposit Of Faith." The word "virtue" however, means a power, a facility, a capacity, a docility of the spirit. Using this notion of the meaning of virtue, we may define the supernatural virtue of faith, as does Father Tanquerey, as - "a facility or capacity that inclines the mind under the influence of the will and of grace, to yield a firm assent to revealed truth, because of the authority of God."
So you see, the contents of our faith is held by each one of us in a manner proportionate to our capacity for faith and this may vary all the way from a small thimbleful to that ocean of truth that leads to the Beatific Vision of God as He is in Himself. Our capacity for faith and the contents of our faith are built up by exercise and make for each one of us a very profitable life work.
Faith can be both increased in content and strengthened in conviction and, alas, it can be lost, but not without willful and sinful neglect. God has given sufficient evidence and always supports it with sufficient grace so that no one who truly cooperates with grace could possibly fall away. And yet, the easy-going Catholic majority in England at the beginning of the sixteenth century had little notion that their faith was so shallow that almost all of them did fall away when continued Life With God meant complete abandonment of temporal welfare. How many of us would do what they did if we were subjected to the same decision today? The depth of conviction of our supernatural virtue of faith and its practical docility will determine for each of us the answer to that question. It will also determine the extent to which we may profit by a spiritual aggiornamento of our present life and make it really equal to Life With God and really a part of Project Sainthood.
All of the foregoing comment can be summed up in two propositions. The first is addressed to each of us individually and is this: Whatever your present status may be and whoever you are, you are at the top of the list of apt candidates for entering more fully into Life With God and for furthering Project Sainthood! The second proposition is addressed to all who will accept the first proposition and is this: The way to enter more fully into Life With God is to let your faith guide you or to cultivate your faith so that it will guide you to do what you do and all that you do with the sole motive of pleasing God.
Now, pleasing God means primarily loving God and working for the welfare of souls - your own and those of all whom God brings into your horizon. Life with God means that you are becoming very much more aware of the indwelling presence of God in your soul. It means that you are acting as His instrument in all that you do and that what you do has value only insofar as it is God acting in you and carrying out His plans for your part in promoting the welfare of souls.
This may mean considerable change in some of the things you say and do. It may even mean new projects entered into. If it does, it will be because of an immensely greater incentive stimulated by an appreciation of the immensely greater value of things done solely for God rather than in accordance with one's own advantage and pleasure. It will also very soon mean that one's own pleasure will be derived from that motive and will gradually become greater than it ever could have been from satisfaction on account of one's own achievement or comfort or success.
And, triumphal crown of it all, since it is God acting in you, success is absolutely certain. The results will be what God intended them to be even though they might have looked like dismal failure had your motive been only natural success.
With one more word of caution we should now be ready to enter immediately into Life With God. The caution is this: acting as God's instrument means being docile; it does not mean being inert or passive. Indeed it means being intensely alert to attune all our human energies to God's pleasure and purpose. God could accomplish all His plans with instruments of wood and stone and wax and steel but the value of human instruments is infinitely greater because their human energies lend themselves to God's supernatural ends. The secret, then, of being a proper human instrument in God's hands is to make your human talents the expression of God's will. In other words, to act as if everything depended upon you, but to do it because everything does depend upon God.
It should be easy to see that what I am proposing could mean a considerable change in your life. The change might be zero as to the things you do but great as to the means and the motive. Then again, the change might be considerable as to the things you do as well as in the motive for doing them. In any case, if there is a change, it will bring you happiness out of all proportion to the effort involved in the change. The answer to that is that the only reason for changing will be an appreciation of the immensely greater value of Life as God's Instrument as compared with life merely as God's creature. How could it help but bring immensely greater happiness? In fact, Life with God, by itself excludes every reason for unhappiness.
Does all this sound "too good to be true"? Please do not be insulted if I affirm that your acceptance of what has been said and the action you will take as a result of what has been said, will be exactly proportionate to the realism of your supernatural virtue of Faith. I ask you not to be insulted because I include myself as one with the reader. And the reason why we should not be insulted is that we all know, or should know, that if our Faith were perfect, we would all be saints, because perfect faith would beget perfect love and perfect love would remove the possibility of sin. Every sin or fault or even the slightest imperfection stems from obscurity of faith.
God intends that it should be so; otherwise this world would not serve its purpose of discipline and testing. In Heaven, where faith is replaced by vision, our happiness stems from the absence of sin and the fullness of love. Candidates for that fullness of love are chosen by God here in this world from those who heed His invitation to Life With God even in the obscurity of faith.
A strange thing about all this reasoning is that to the overwhelming majority of souls it means almost nothing at all. And the pity of it is that this overwhelming majority of those who do not take the matter seriously serve as a barrier to daunt the certainty of those of us who do take it seriously. And God allows that, too, because He wants the faith that brings us to Life With God to be unconditional surrender, come what may! But, given that surrender, He will reward it out of all proportion to its cost.
Suppose we state this idea again from another point of view. If we could all see the preciousness of sainthood, we would all be compelled to be saints. But being a saint by compulsion is a contradiction within itself. No one can be compelled to be a saint because, in this life, faith is an essential ingredient of sanctity, and faith and compulsion are opposites. Nevertheless, everyone has access to the faith that furnishes a degree of compulsion proportionate to its integrity!
We in the Catholic Church have a tremendous advantage in that we believe that we have God's guarantee as to the integrity of the Deposit of Faith which God has revealed; that we have infallible certainty as to its contents and meaning. Thus we have no complication of the problem as to what is the truth. What a crippling barrier to faith it could be if we had first to decide what we should believe and then defend it against opposite opinions even among members of our own congregation. It is this very fact, however, and these very souls whose spiritual welfare is our concern, who, in good faith, are propagating the matter for our doubt by their immense number and their apparent good will. This should clinch our determination to stick close to God as His instruments, realizing that by ourselves we are able to produce nothing.
The Book of Wisdom assures us of the security of our Life With God in spite of the scorn of unbelievers - and this a hundred years before it was confirmed by Christ, who is God. The inspired word is this: "But the souls of the just are in God's hands, and no torment, in death itself, has power to reach them. Dead? Fools think so; think their end loss, their leaving as annihilation, but all is well with them. The world sees nothing but the pains they endure; they themselves have eyes only for what is immortal; so light their suffering, so great the gain they win! God all the while did but test them, and testing them found them worthy of Him...Trust Him if thou wilt, true thou shalt find Him, faith waits for Him calmly and lovingly; who claims His gift, who shall attain peace, if not they, His chosen servants?" (Wis. 3:1-5 and 9.)
These words of the Book of Wisdom could easily be the words of Christ Himself and in a nearby chapter of this same Book of Wisdom we have what well might be the thoughts of today's unbelievers if God would only give them a glimpse of the future. Here is what it says: "Inward remorse will wring a groan from those hearts: 'Why, these were the men we made into a laughing stock and by-word! We, poor fools, mistook the life they lived for madness, their death for ignominy; and now they are reckoned as God's own children, now it is among His holy ones that their lot is cast.'" (Wis. 5:3-5.)
What greater evidence do we need to make us see that supernatural Life With God, far removed as it may be from the mind of the worldlings around us, is compatible with our present status and each and every one of its activities, responsibilities, problems, successes or failures, and above all, its tiny irritating details? What greater evidence do we need to make us see that Life With God will change life from a humdrum of daily routine to a supernaturally thrilling treasure-hunt with almighty God as the immediately present Partner? And this is compatible with our present status in all its details, whether naturally happy and successful or naturally drab and laborious. God will heap up profit out of all proportion to our contribution - profit that is eternal, not subject to earthly damage. "Full measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall be poured into your lap; for the measure you meet out shall be the measure given back to you." (Luke 6:38.)
Does this seem worth while? If so, how do we begin? God was dwelling in your soul when you began to read this chapter; God will be in your soul when you finish. But I hope that there will also be a firm resolve to cultivate the Life of God within you.
And to be exact, you can begin the fulfillment of that hope right this minute. You can make yourself very much aware of what Saint Teresa of Avila calls the vestibule of that castle deep in your own soul where your Divine Partner dwells. That vestibule is your mind and body with its five senses, its intellect and will, its memory and its store of infused supernatural virtues - its person who is you. A little tidying up in the vestibule will make sure that nothing will trip you up or block your way to that inner sanctum where God dwells. You may also want to put some flowers in the little vacant spaces where unwelcome memories have been set aside.
If you will make this real beginning now, God will show His pleasure by giving you a supernatural understanding of His presence in your whole being. You will begin to have the joy of being truly God's instrument with all its talents being used by God to work His will for your benefit and the benefit of those around you. Your relationship to those around you will be changed. It will be God looking at them and dealing with them with His instrument, which is you, instead of you looking at them and dealing with them while God is screened away inside of you and not invited to help.
This will be especially noticeable with those you like the least and those who have been the greatest trials to you. You will suddenly realize that the things about them that may annoy you, if they are not actually sinful, and so displeasing to God, have been offering opportunities for you to meet them with patience the way God, who loves these souls, would meet them. If they are sins, God will deal with them, perhaps through your good example or by your admonition.
In all things, however, your approach to all the world around you, its things, its problems, its people, will be you as an instrument of God with whom you live and who is pleased to live with you!
LIFE WITH GOD AND MARY'S PROJECT SAINTHOOD
Some of the readers of the previous chapter may appraise the proposed ease of equating individual Project Sainthood to Life With God as a starry-eyed invitation to a state of life that does not happen. Other readers may have sought and expected this new relationship and have met with disappointment. In either case, the skeptical appraisal or the disappointment was almost certainly caused by the thought that success meant what ascetical theologians call a mystical experience of Life With God rather than a supernatural exercise of the virtue of faith to promote Life with God. In other words, the thought assumed success as a spontaneous change within yourself which would make you feel differently about people and things and problems so that you would automatically find yourself acting as God's instrument lovingly carrying out His will.
The notion that Life With God or Sainthood necessarily involves mystical experience, is the same thing as the notion that saints are not ordinary mortals but are "other people" endowed with special supernatural faculties. Two statements made in the previous chapter did imply a warning against this notion. They will bear repeating here. First I said: "Whatever your present state of life may be and whoever you are, you are at the top of the list of apt candidates for entering more fully into Life With God and for furthering Project Sainthood." Next, I said to those who accept this statement: "The way to enter more fully into Life With God is to let your faith guide you or to cultivate your faith so that it will guide you to do what you do and all that you do with the primary motive of pleasing God."
There is nothing about mystical experience in these statements. Indeed, mystical experience is sometimes given by God to bolster faith that is not quite adequate to meet the opposition which Satan is always contriving and using his many human helpers to push. Mystical experience is a supernatural charism which God in His goodness and wisdom sometimes bestows upon souls for reasons of His own and so it is by no means to be despised, but it cannot be merited and so it is by no means to be expected in this life. In fact, it is presumptuous to ask for it, because asking for mystical experience betrays inadequacy of faith and really asks for a selfish motive for loving God.
No! the change in your relationship with all your surroundings, with the people and events that annoy you, the people you love, the problems of daily life, the joys and sorrows which succeed one another - the change in what you say and do with respect to all these things, must stem from positive acts of your workaday well motivated, to be sure, by supernatural love anchored in faith and helped by grace.
Now, an increase of faith and love and grace can all be merited by cooperation with the grace which God always gives and by prayer and by working at the Business of Life With God and Sainthood. All of the changes in the things you do and say and the changes in the reactions within your own soul must be positively initiated by your will. And God will always help with grace if you do your part. And your part will be much easier if you cultivate a constant increase in your awareness that the God who helps with grace is right within your own soul.
I hope that this helps you to see that Life With God can be consciously practiced by you starting as of now, or becoming better organized as of now. Indeed, by reading these pages with attention, you are practicing Life With God to a degree and these words are only intended to help you make the most of it and to make it continuous all day every day.
You can intensify your Life With God all day every day in two ways: first, by the actual change in your words and acts and spiritual reactions toward those around you who constantly present occasions for exhibiting patience, humility, charity, checking of the tongue, substituting kindness for irritation, controlling the passions, avoiding scandal - and second, by keeping in close touch with God constantly by advertence, by ejaculatory prayer, by regular habits of prayer, by the Rosary and, above all, by weekday Mass and Communion whenever possible.
Again, we can always be helped to make progress in Project Sainthood by observing and copying others who have been successful - and that is why the Church has always recommended to us the veneration of the saints. The saints, every one of them, are saints because they have become thorough believers in, and thorough practicers of, Life With God. It is unfortunate, however, that the stories of the saints as they are handed down to us are usually chosen for the excellence of their examples in unusual circumstances rather than in run-of-the-mill circumstances which we all experience from day to day. And this may lend itself to that alibi that saints are "other people" against which I wish to guard you.
The fact remains, however, that most of the saints have lived their lives with God from day to day or from hour to hour in circumstances no more unusual or exceptional than those in which we all usually find ourselves. It is the practice of Life With God from hour to hour that has equipped them and will equip us to meet the great events if and when they do come upon us, with equal serenity as events in the Life With God.
Our Lord Himself, moreover, gave a very consoling clue to the mystic Gabrielle Bossis regarding the Business of Sainthood for us ordinary mortals. In answer to her distress over small faults, He said, "Don't get the idea that a saint is a saint at every moment. But there is always My grace." (He and I - Apr. 9, 1937.)
With this in mind, then, I ask you not to be surprised if I choose to illustrate the usual and everyday practice of Life With God by quoting the example of the most unusual and exalted human being that ever lived, the Mother of God Herself whose Life With God forms the title of this chapter and who was a saint at every moment.
Following up, then, what I have said thus far, the first thing I want to say about her is that while her Life With God is more perfect than any of us can hope to equal and her status is more exalted than any other human being that ever lived, these very facts make her the best possible example to help us to improve our practice of Life With God because, status and grace notwithstanding, she lived with God in surroundings not one whit less ordinary than those which we all experience today.
Now please do not pounce on me with: What about the appearance of the Angel Gabriel, Father; and what about the Virgin birth, and what about the miracles which she witnessed?! Yes, these things occurred, and Mary turned them into faith that produced far more constant Life With God than did anyone around her including those of the best of will like Saint Joseph and the Apostles. Furthermore, we who have seen these truths withstand the battering of skepticism and doubt for two thousand years, have very little less grounds for faith than did the Mother of God who experienced them with no precedent to fortify her faith.
But even granting all her prerogatives and perfections, her example is still, perhaps, the most useful to inspire us in the immediate and continuous appreciation of the preciousness of Life With God. In order to make the most of her example, we should free our minds of a rather artificial and false picture of her which has come down to us through the centuries. As a matter of fact, we would probably be quite critical of an artist who would picture her exactly correctly as she was and as she went through the affairs of daily life and even as she appeared in the great events in which she figured.
Of course, it is quite natural to picture her in art, to write of her in poetry and prose and to compose songs and prayers in her honor in terms that recognize her spiritual prerogatives. She was, indeed, all life long, the Queen Mother of God and Queen Regent of men and angels, but her spiritual and supernatural queenliness was chiefly exhibited by an amazingly calm serenity in surroundings almost infinitely below her actual dignity.
She behaved truly as a queen should behave. That is, clearly realizing her own prerogatives and her own greatness and knowing full well that "all generations would call her blessed," she accepted with consummate humility the meanest of acknowledgment from those around her. And the thing that makes her the perfect model for every man, woman and child who begins to appreciate the preciousness of Life With God, is that her humility was not the slightest bit affected. It was simply the result of her perfect awareness of the part God was playing in all her affairs.
It is said that humility is nothing other than knowledge of the truth about God and the truth about self. Mary exhibits this perfect humility as the natural result of the fact that "she kept all these things in her heart." She did it under normal everyday living as a poor housewife, doing all the things that a poor housewife did in the Palestine of the first century. And that, the reader will admit, would not be much fun for any of us who know what can be done to make housework easy and convenient.
To picture Mary as our model for practicing Life With God we should realize the utter nonsense, from the standpoint of realism, of her portrayal in art. At the Annunciation, for example, we see her in a pillared palace clothed in a manner that would be quite fitting for the Queen of Heaven at her coronation. And even when she is pictured at the Savior's Manger Crib or on the flight into Egypt, she is usually gowned in a manner that would never be dreamed of among the women with whom she spent her days and years.
No, it is probably better for us to think of what she was and what she did and how she behaved under experiences demanding heroic character, rather than to try to imagine what she looked like. Her character was undoubtedly shown by her appearance, but for us the few episodes in which she is mentioned in the New Testament tell us far better what she was.
Monsignor Knox, in his "Retreat for Lay People" dwells on one quality which I think expresses in one word more than anything else that could be said about her - she was serene. Her serenity was really the manifestation of what she was and what she achieved in Life With God. Serenity really marks the measure of our Life With God and will be exhibited by each one of us in proportion to our success in imitating the behavior of Our Lady. Indeed, serenity is the precious fruit of utter trust in God's concern in all that happens to us.
One of my retreat conferences is entitled: Project Sainthood - A Partnership. It is based on the aphorism which I contrived for my own meditation, "All that happens to me or around me is part of God's discipline for me and is right." This notion of the source of serenity is almost the same idea expressed in slightly different words. This should suggest to us that serenity is not to be sought directly, but rather that it is the precious state of the soul which comes about as a result of that utter trust in God which provides the all-sufficient answer to every phase of our quest for Life With God.
Let us try to see, then, how Our Lady's perfect serenity came about. Let us do this with the definite intention of seeking her serenity by imitating the love and surrender which brought it about.
Perhaps the most obvious demonstration of her submissive trust and its fruit of serenity is the very first event recorded of her, the visit of the Angel Gabriel to announce that she had been chosen by God to be the Mother of His Son. And please note well that her behavior in this encounter with Saint Gabriel shows clearly, not the beginning of her Life With God, but rather the flowering of that Immaculate Life With God which had always possessed her soul.
Let us note carefully how it happened:
"And the angel went in unto her and said, 'Hail, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.' And she was troubled at his word and asked herself what manner of salutation this might be. And the angel said to her, 'Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor before God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in they womb and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God shall give him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his reign there shall be no end.'" (Luke 1:28-33.)
What an overwhelming invitation to sudden grandeur almost inconceivably beyond her state in life! But note, her one thought is not: What will that do for me? but rather, What of the dedication of my life to God which I have already offered to Him in Virginity?
"And Mary said to the angel, 'How shall this be seeing that I know not man?' And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the might of the Most High shall overshadow thee. Therefore, the Holy One to be begotten shall be called the Son of God.'" (Luke 1:34-35.)
Her one question being answered, Mary leaves all else in the hands of God whom she trusts utterly. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to they word." Not one question as to how, when, where, who. "Be it done to me according to thy word."
Compare this with Zachary's reply to the angel's announcement to him of a far less impressive mystery: "Whereby shall I know this? For myself am an old man and my wife is advanced in age." In other words, "You are talking to Zachary, the High Priest - I will take no chances on the personal ridicule that will be heaped upon me for believing you unless you can prove this unlikely message." Cautious? you may say; yes, but where God is to be trusted, Mary placed no conditions.
Zachary got his proof - he was struck dumb! Mary went serenely about the next thing to be done. Unmindful of the infinite dignity that had been bestowed upon herself, she was only concerned with the help that would be needed by her elderly cousin now in her sixth month toward childbirth. And so, instead of daydreaming about herself, she "went with haste into the hill country" to Elizabeth.
Monsignor Knox here comments on the serenity implied in the expression "went with haste" as contrasted with "went in a hurry." Haste was needed to perfectly fulfill this little mission of love which God had given her, but she did it without flurry and with serenity.
The words of Mary's "Magnificat" exhibited the same fixity in God's works rather than her own part. The latter she disposes of in one sentence: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior, because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid: for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." The rest is all devoted to the wonders and the adequacy of God's management of the world He is coming to save. Contrast this with Elizabeth's cry of exultation that - "The Lord hath seen to the removal of my reproach among men" - or Zachary's gleeful "Benedictus" one third of which is devoted to bragging about his son and heir, John the Baptist.
Again, Mary, the most exalted creature in God's universe, when she was refused admission to the shelter of the inn at Bethlehem, serenely accepts without resentment the only alternative and brings the Son of the Most High God into the world in a stable.
There is not one exception in the events reported of Mary which shows any departure from her serene and trusting acceptance from God's hand of the most bitter neglect and injustice and sorrow. The flight into Egypt over two hundred miles of barren desert; the life there as an alien outcast; the acceptance of the enigmatic reply of the Child Jesus after her anxious three-day search for Him in Jerusalem; her utter trust in His capacity to remedy the embarrassment of the host of the marriage feast at Cana - all lead up to her amazing entry into the Passion and Martyrdom of her Son whom she alone never once doubted as the fulfillment of the words of the Angel Gabriel which she had cherished in her heart from the day of His Annunciation until she too was assumed into heaven to reap the everlasting joy which her serene and steadfast love had earned.
And what does all this mean to us? It means that God has given us a perfect example of the triumph of Life With God over any and every obstacle which Satan may devise or which God may plan for our correction. All is in God's hands and we can enter in here and now to the joy - even of sorrows - and above all, we may thereby become saints and apostles of His love to benefit our dear ones as well as those who may scorn or hate us.
Nothing else matters to one who is willing to enter into Life with God. As Father Thomas V. Moore puts it: "One consecrates oneself to God by accepting the will of God. The more perfectly and completely and without reservation of any kind we accept the divine will the more perfect is our charity." (Life with God, p. 219.)
Let us ask Our Lady to help us to follow her example in two ways: First, to exhibit Life With God in all our doings, and second, to intensify our Life With God by daily time consecrated to mental prayer, by frequent confession and frequent or daily Mass and Holy Communion. Then truly will the Blessed Virgin share with us her precious serenity and peace!
LIFE WITH GOD IN LOVE WITH GOD
In developing the theme of Project Sainthood as the principal Business of the life of each individual to whom God has given being, a new concept should by now have come to mind. It is the realization that "Project Sainthood" and "Life With God" are practically synonymous expressions and so are interchangeable in our discourse. The nuance of the wording, however, does suggest that the title of this chapter, Life with God in Love with God has greater depth of meaning.
The reason for this derives, perhaps, from the sublime concept expressed by Saint John in his First Epistle, "Let us love one another, for love is of God...Herein doth lie the love, not in our having loved God, but in His having loved us." (I John 4:4-10.) These words suggest looking at the theme of Project Sainthood as if through bifocal glasses; first, the general and objective view that the over-all purpose of God in creating this world and placing us in it, has been Project Sainthood for everyone; and second, at close range, to see that Life With God, which is Project Sainthood, is intended for each individual soul - not once in a while, not as a Utopian ideal, not confined to the practice of religion, not while being observed by others, but every minute of every day all life long, and under every circumstance and situation, howsoever foreign to sainthood the situation may appear to be.
This last aspect is the most important for us here and now. I want it to become natural to you to see that everything you do can be an item of Life With God. And this close-up view is particularly important in the phase which I wish to develop in this chapter. Up to now I have developed our theme of Project Sainthood as the necessary fruit of maturing faith. It is axiomatic that the more realistic our faith becomes, the more obvious it becomes that Project Sainthood is the object for which God has created us. But the true motive power of Life With God is not faith alone, but love which stems from faith and is, of course, impossible without faith, but which, as Saint John tells us, is the substance of God's relationship with us. "And whoso loveth is born of God and knoweth God." (I John 4:8.)
I do not in any sense wish to de-emphasize the importance of the supernatural virtue of faith given to us by God, but I do wish to re-emphasize that every item of our faith - every item of the revelation brought to us by Christ, every item that we know of the life of Christ, every item of the history of the Mystical Body of Christ, every item of the example of the great saints - all should show us the adoring love that God has a right to expect from us because, again as Saint John tells us: "Herein doth lie the love, not in our having loved God, but in His having loved us."
It is this awesome truth that is at the bottom of Project Sainthood for each of us and that is what I wish to dwell on for each of us. There is no other possible outcome than Life With God for any one of us who really begins to understand God's love for him. And the crux of the whole situation lies in this: for each one of us, God demands absolute monopoly. (Pathways of Love, p. 150.) To have Life With God, your life must be absolutely immersed in Love With God. And again, let me emphasize that you can take that to heart and act on it without becoming "queer" in the eyes of others or in your own estimation.
One can easily become side-tracked by the notion that it is contrary to the nature of work-a-day life to be immersed in Love With God. Love of God is something internal and supernatural and can and should be entirely compatible with absolutely every pattern of life, even in the most unspiritual setting when viewed in the eyes of the world. Once we are convinced of the applicability of this truth to our own particular life with all its apparent obstacles to an interior life, nothing can hinder our quest for union with God.
First, however, we must understand and learn the value and scope of our two sources of light to the human soul. By nature we are equipped with the light of reason which permits us to organize and make use of all the varied concepts that are brought to us by our five senses. But these windows of reality, precious as they are, are very fragile, very finite, and very subject to deception compared with the infinite, mysterious and all-known reality which is God's creation and which He controls with perfect precision and which He shares with us in the light of faith which is infinitely more dependable than the sum-total of material knowledge available to our senses.
Modern science has brought undreamed of knowledge into the useful service of man, but its pompous claim to be the only true access to reality is childish nonsense. This should be obvious to everyone and would be obvious to everyone were it not for the grave impairment of our perceptive apparatus brought about by Original Sin. This wound in our nature is taken advantage of by Satan who plays on the pride of the unbeliever and the won't-believer to make him think that the tiny scratching he has done on the surface of physical reality, with all its obvious blessings given to temporal wellbeing, is the "Open Sesame" of all truth while in reality it is only a tiny fragment of the great complex of God's gifts to man and of less importance than the great realities which are hidden from the senses.
It cannot be over-emphasized that, objectively and intrinsically, atheism and materialism and especially the learned type of agnosticism exhibited by many of our university professors at most of our secular universities, is gratuitous nonsense unworthy of the intellect which God has given to man.
These are strong words, but strong words are needed to call attention to the absolute absence of proof of a single item of the claims of the science-only theory, whereas the evidence of God's complete command over all that is, of which material science may almost be said to be the least important part, is far more nearly compelling today than it was when Saint Paul wrote these equally strong words to the Romans:
"Since His everlasting power and divinity are to be discerned and contemplated through His works, they are without excuse, in as much as having come to know God, they have not glorified Him as God or rendered thanks, but have abandoned themselves to futile speculations, and their witless mind hath been darkened. Proclaiming themselves wise, they are become fools, and they have misrepresented the glory of the immortal God. ...God hath delivered them over to a reprobate mind...being filled with all wickedness, villainy, covetousness, malice; replete with envy, strife, guile, spite...God-haters, insolent, arrogant, braggarts, devisers of evil, without understanding, without honor, without affection, without pity." (cf. 1:20-31.)
Are my words less justified than these? No, the agnostic of today is definitely without excuse, yet it is terrifying that there are so many millions of them. But that is why I have dwelt on this unpleasant fact in the midst of this chapter dedicated to reflection on our part of God's precious love for us. All that is unseen must be clinched by faith and God has told us that faith is necessary for His purposes in creating us.
Faith, by its nature, is not compelling, but God in His goodness abjectly humbled Himself in making His love all-but-compelling, and, with grace available, they are indeed without excuse who cling to their refusal to believe.
But enough of this! I have said all this to make it clear to you that we live in two worlds superimposed one upon the other. The crass mechanical world thrusts itself upon us and offers many glittering allurements. The eternal and God-centered world envelops all that is and invites us but does not compel. It is entered by faith and made intense by love and offers absolutely unlimited depth of participation. It is lived in the material world but is not of it. It is the interior life, the life of Perfection, Life With God In Love With God; it is Project Sainthood - Your Business. It is to be entered by a definite commitment of the will.
This Life With God is dealt with by Father Thomas V. Moore in an entire volume entitled: The Life of Man With God. I wish to deal with it as the most priceless fruit possible for us to obtain as a result of the sacrifices we make in doing good works for God.
I believe the best way to come to a realization of the preciousness and the practicalness of Life With God In Love With God is to study its effect on the lives of others who have entered in perhaps farther than we ourselves.
In the preceding chapter we observed the Life With God In Love With God as lived by the world's one perfect model, the Blessed Virgin Mary. But now, lest we should be tempted to use her perfection as an alibi, I want to resort to the method adopted by Father Moore and show that a true and supernatural life can be essayed interiorly by absolutely every individual member of the Mystical Body of Christ. It does, however, require some positive action and this action demands some physical expenditure of time. The interior life, however, once we learn to prize it, will begin to pervade all that we do outside the specific time dedicated to its exercise.
To begin, it seems that the very first requisite of preparation for interior life is a definite period, perhaps not less than one half hour per day, dedicated to seeking union with God's will in prayer. To one who has never thought about the positive undertaking of the interior life in a practical way, this may seem like a monumental addition to the program of the day. The average North American, however, has learned without the slightest effort to program life so as to devote much more than one-half hour per day to television.
At first, indeed, it might seem like a great sacrifice to substitute prayer for television. Furthermore, a whole half-hour spent in consecutive prayer might also seem to have no end. Indeed, one may need a book of meditations or a method such as that devised by Saint Ignatius. But at the very beginning, the way the time is spent is of less importance than that it is spent. A dogged determination and the will to stay at it and the faith to believe that God will reward it, come what may, is absolutely sure to bear unexpected fruit in the shape of enthusiasm for the whole project that may seem unbelievable at the start.
The reason for the enthusiasm will stem from the startling discovery that God has a far more intimate part in the undertaking than was ever dreamed of at the start. This does not mean that God promptly begins to bestow supernatural mystic graces such as visions and locutions. In fact, lifelong perfection of interior life may be achieved without ever a single supra-sensible manifestation of any kind from God. Moreover, in interior life in such spiritual darkness is perhaps the most meritorious demonstration of love and may be managed by God with that precise end in view.
The acme of interior perfection is the acceptance of all results, or no apparent results, with utter trust that God is giving what is best for the soul. And that takes Faith! As Father Moore puts it: "Faith and love are infinite, natural reason is finite and, lacking the scope of faith, it remains in darkness, but is aware of the living light of truth itself."
The theme of Perfection is this: Love everything that God chooses for you, and know that everything is chosen for you by God. As God reminds us in the Book of Proverbs: "Entrust your works to the Lord and your plans will succeed. The Lord has made everything in accordance with His own plans, even the wicked man destined for the evil day." (16:3-4.)
My daily prayer at the Second Station of the Cross is this: "Lord Jesus Christ, Who accepted the Cross of crucifixion for love of me and because of my infinite need, I beg You to give me the grace to accept with gratitude whatever You choose for me. And if there be trials, may I use them to show my love for You and to build my love for You. Lord Jesus, give me the help I need!"
Let me repeat, then, Faith is the sine qua non of setting out, of going, and of reaching Life With God and union with God. Therefore Life With God is for all, without exception, because Faith is for all. Faith, however, is only the vehicle; it is charity generated by faith that is the motive power. And true charity is the experiencing of union of heart and soul with God in this world and can produce, by the ordinary operation of Sanctifying Grace, what Saint Teresa of Avila calls the "prayer of quiet" and Father Moore calls the "peace experience."
The utter preciousness of these experiences forms an incentive to seek an interior life which can grow into an overwhelming drive and at the same time increase rather than diminish our zeal for doing our active work effectively because it, too, is made an integral part of Life With God In Love With God.
Faith, then, and love furnish the foundation and the motive power for perfect Love of God. They are gifts from God and are nourished by God, but the climate for their growth can be established by ourselves, beginning with mental prayer and being assured that success in mental prayer is made certain by steadfast seeking of all the Sacraments, but most especially and most certainly by the Sacrament of the Eucharist to be found in daily Mass and Communion.
If these considerations make it seem desirable to start toward the interior life, let us reinforce our resolve by an example or two of Life With God In Love With God where we might think it would be least expected.
The first example I have chosen from the responses of several hundred dedicated souls who furnished information about their spiritual lives to Father Moore and about whom he has woven the text of his book: The Life Of Man With God. I heartily recommend this book for your reading because it will reinforce my invitation to combine your life in the world with Life With God In Love With God.
The subject of the first Partnership With God which I wish to look at with you is a woman whose story is chosen because it is especially baffling to any individual who imagines that his particular situation at this particular moment simply does not admit of the luxury of an interior life. And so this dear woman chosen for the first example is introduced by Father Moore as one among those who are "out of the running." A mother of nine children in eighteen years, she came of very poor parents and married a husband whom we would call a no-account-bum, but of whom she says: "My husband was a good man in his way. But if ever I was sick, he was sure to come home so drunk he did not know his name."
"When I married I prayed to Saint Anthony to find us a home near a church and a school. I knew a mother would often be unable to go to Mass if she lived far from a church. I bought a beautiful picture of Saint Anthony and had it put in a costly frame and then hid it away in a closet until he found me a home. It was only three doors from the church. I would get up early, nurse my baby and spend the first forty-five minutes with our Lord at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
"I was the only poor one in the family. I was always pushed aside by all. No one wanted a lot of youngsters around. But Mass every morning made all things easy, even though I had to work from early morning till late at night. ...People used to say to me, 'Why do you have a large family when your husband behaves the way he does?' I always answered, 'When I shall stand before my Judge, I have to answer only for what I do.'
"The world laughs at you when your children are small, but when they are all grown up, how they want to know you. I get the surprises of my life from my children now; two doctors of medicine in my own family. My two girls married and own their own homes. My oldest son is home with me and is my support now. All my daughters-in-law and sons-in-law love me as much as their own parents." (p.27.)
If only we could all of us learn that Life With God by prayer and daily Mass brings peace of soul in any situation and any way of life! And peace of soul is more precious than any riches or any satisfaction to be found in the world.
So, if you are willing to admit that this dear lady's example effectively removes the alibi of too much unfinished business to attempt Life With God In Love With God, let us look at another respondent quoted by Father Moore who would also be promptly classified as "out of the running" for a truly interior spiritual life. He is a pipe-fitter working for a plumbing contractor in a large city. His day begins at six o'clock because as he says, "I have to be on the job at eight and in order to go to seven o'clock Mass this is about the best time to waken. The location of my work changes frequently and I have found it convenient to attend Mass at a church near the job to eliminate the possibility of being late."
His work is exacting, but as he says, "During the day one must naturally keep his mind on what he is doing, but there are little pauses and moments of transition when one can make silent aspirations to keep Christ in the picture. ...And on my way home I stop in at a Catholic Church which is near my home and make a visit. Sometimes I am too tired for formal prayer and then I simply kneel there offering to our Lord my fatigue, discomfort or distraction. At times the same weariness seems to bring forth a simple tender prayer of humility and affection simply trusting Christ."
This pipe-fitter in prayer at his work and at daily Mass cooperates with Christ in the salvation of souls. And in his day's work he offers to God the "sacrifice of the shoulders" contributing his share to the apostolate of good example in the Mystical Body of Christ.
So, it can be done and it pays tremendous dividends. But the start is almost always tedious. The speed of success is the measure of your faith and your utter trust in God and your willingness to give the effort that it takes to enter in. And so I beg you to give it a try and to know that God wants you to share in the joy that only He can give. "For herein doth lie the love, not in our having loved God, but in His having loved us." (I John 4:10.)
PROJECT SAINTHOOD IS EVERY DAY
If the quotes in the preceding chapter from two "out-of-the-running candidates" have given us a clue, let us look further into the practicality of the notion that Project Sainthood is our most important business, here and now. The decade of experience since the Second Vatican Council has made it evident that passive spirituality is definitely unsafe. There is poison in the air which, if met only by coasting along, might end in double-quick retreat into spiritual disaster. And I mean just that. These are perilous days of reconstruction and renewal in civil life as well as in the implementation of the decrees of the Second Vatican Council. The Devil is working frantically and using every possible angle and every possible tool to try to poison souls with doubt as to the absolute adequacy of God's present management of His world and His Church.
The responsibility and the opportunity of every Christian is mounting by leaps and bounds, but so is the danger and the opposition. The "Gates Of Hell" are besieging the Church on a larger scale than ever before in her history. Furthermore, the Council debates could not avoid giving the Devil some openings to enable him to promote doubt during the struggle. This was not because God's arm is weakening. It was because human nature being what it is, and being fallen human nature, God chooses periodically to allow times of stress to weed out the weaklings and to exhibit His detestation of those acts of men which cause the faithful to lose confidence in Him and in His teaching Authority which He has provided.
Aside from the fury of Satan aroused by the opportunities for controversy presented by the meetings of the Council, the trend of the twentieth century has made the world especially vulnerable to his attacks. And this is especially true in North America where the astounding advances of science have created an atmosphere in which men pride themselves on being what they call "realistic," scorning the so-obvious evidence of the hand of God in all the affairs of men and blinding souls by confining them in the dimly-lit prison of purely physical science.
Men's souls are shackled to their frail physical senses and the shades are drawn down tightly over the windows through which God's supernatural grace would shed a glorious luster visible to the eyes of the mind, illuminating all that is, and making man aware of the Spirit of God dwelling in their souls.
This imprisonment of souls within the boundaries of materialism has been Satan's masterpiece of the twentieth century. It has been all the more effective because, in closing men's minds to the spiritual world in which God is inviting them to live, Satan has deftly drawn the curtain to conceal his own identity and thus he is able to work close in without disclosing his presence to his victims.
At first thought, it seems a pity that God does not let these votaries of matter perceive with their physical noses, as occasionally do the saints, the stench which surrounds God's fallen angels in hell. Do not set this aside as an over-zealous dramatization of the evil of hiding God and the Devil behind the crass curtain of atheism. It is a fact of our age that we live in a world that is becoming increasingly pagan, increasingly materialistic, increasingly covetous, increasingly selfish, increasingly disobedient, increasingly indifferent to God - largely because of our increasing facility in exploiting the wonders of God's created handiwork.
The tragedy of it is that these circumstances lend themselves perfectly to the distortion of the plea of our Holy Father of happy memory, Pope John XXIII, for the "renewal" of Catholic doctrine to make it more vital and more understandable to the non-Catholic world. The result has been a hue and cry the world over for the Protestantizing of Catholic doctrine on the pretext of making it appropriate for the reunion of Christendom.
As might be expected, however, the result has been to plunge in without distinction between the positive law of God and the disciplinary law of the Church and, by clamoring for changes in the former, to cast doubt in the minds of the whole world upon the capacity of the Teaching Authority of the Church commissioned by Christ to bring the world to Him. This is doing untold harm to souls and, again, is being allowed by God to weed out those whose faith has never been centered in God, but had been a compromise between selfishness and expediency. There are all too many of those who prefer to take the word of the secular press and the material-minded among the priesthood, to that of the Holy Father, for their spiritual guidance.
Each one of us has a responsibility at this particular time and we can best assume that responsibility by the example of our lives to make it really true for us that Project Sainthood is every day.
Several years ago while I was Chaplain of one of the guilds of women meeting at the Cenacle Convent in Vancouver, I received a letter from one of the members which gave me joy. In this letter she expressed somewhat the following thought:
"Our meetings here lift me right away out of this mad world and I find myself on another planet thinking very deeply on matters concerning my soul. I make all sorts of mental notes and resolutions which last for two or three days and, lo and behold! before I know it I am back in the mad race fully preoccupied with family matters and much more concerned with leaky faucets than leaky souls."
There was some encouragement in knowing our mutual efforts at these meetings aroused sentiments of enthusiasm even for a few days. But, for those Guild members and for us, there is one all-important ingredient of Project sainthood that must be added to make our effort reach out to accomplish its full purpose - and that is the realization that Project Sainthood is a Partnership in which almighty God is present all day, every day, of every month and year. And so leaky faucets must be understood as nothing more than, and nothing less than, items in the mosaic of events which form the background in which leaky souls must be dealt with.
In other words, let us never lose sight of the fact that God is intimately concerned with every tiny item of the happenings of every day. He is also intimately in control of these tiny items and makes them, as well as the great events, have their appropriate part in the mosaic of your Project Sainthood. I cannot possibly over-emphasize the fact that every single item of your daily routine as well as the far-reaching great events, are worth doing, really and truly, because they are done before God, in His presence, and for His glory.
God had allowed us to be born into this world to enable us to heed God's invitation to be saints with His help. This makes each minute of our lives important to the extent that it is used, as expressed by Father T.V. Moore, "in obedience to the law of Christ to love God as much as you possibly can love Him and to love your neighbor as yourself." (Life...With God, p. 11.)
Whether you are receiving Holy Communion in consummation of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, or whether you are adoring the Blessed Sacrament exposed for veneration, or whether you are signing a contract that will yield a million dollars profit, or whether you are trying not to mar the sink while fixing a leaky faucet - the worth of doing it has value only incidentally connected with the temporal objective. Everything you do has real value as a little cell in the Mystical Body of Christ living Christ's life here and in heaven at the same time.
And when I say "everything" I mean that I do not exclude anything. And, willy nilly, that includes our faults. And, in writing that last sentence, my eyes have been opened to a very effective way of appraising faults and of being concerned about them.
The "People of God" is a very old and also a very new expression to designate God's elect living in the world century after century. The People of God now includes the Mystical Body of Christ visible in the Catholic Church, and extends beyond it to include those who, in their hearts, will to do the will of God. Every individual soul among the People of God has more value in God's eyes than all the material universe put together. The progress in eternity of the People of God is as important in God's eyes as the sum of all these infinite values put together.
Everything you do has its insignificant place in the affairs of the material world and its all-important place in the affairs of the People of God. Does that help to show why any faults of yours, be it only a rash judgment within your own heart, has importance to you and importance to God who sees into every heart even better than you can see your own? I must admit that it helps me to cope with faults on a new basis. I can see why even tiny secret sins are injurious to the love that I owe to God and to the loyalty that I owe to the People of God.
And now let us try to realize how very much intensified is this same importance of our acts for good or for ill; especially for those who are visible members before the world of the Mystical Body of Christ. And that involves everything we do.
Every act, even the tiniest, which stems from your love of God and your love of neighbor-and-self because you love God, makes for the well-being of the Mystical Body of Christ. And that includes your inmost thoughts of love as well as all of the things that you do in everyday life that is lived with the intention of being a good example before the world. Every tiny detail of it pleases Christ and is important to Him to the extent that it is done in His sight and with Him implicitly in mind.
Then again, it is equally important to realize the tragic evil of every act of the will that is done, one might say, in spite of the love of God, for some selfish motive. And this, too, includes every act from your inmost secret rash judgment, every venial sin, every imperfection, as well as the external sins that give scandal concerning you as an individual. Does this begin to show that Project Sainthood is Every Day?
The more you are able to have your whole being orientated toward the Divine Partner within you, the more spontaneous will be your example of love so pleasing to Christ, and the more alert you will be in avoiding things displeasing to Him and, above all, the more peaceful, spiritual, and harmonious will be your life in your community.
The most effective way to achieve this state of mind is to cultivate the certain conviction that absolutely everything that happens to, or around you, or in the whole world is one-hundred per cent under the control of Divine Providence. If it seems evil to you or if it inflicts grave and unjust trials upon you, never hesitate in your conviction that it is permitted by God for a valid reason and that no spiritual harm will come to you because of it if you cling to that conviction.
Looked at it this way, every minute of every day is a part of a spiritual treasure-hunt, your Project Sainthood, and it is too important to be wasted. All our days are freighted with opportunities for this kind of treasure. Christ is allowing many things to be voiced in the press and done in our midst which seem to be evil. Christ has His reasons for permitting this to continue. Let us never lose our confidence that this is so and let us guard ourselves always against being tempted to doubt or to follow the example of those who are rebellious.
This warning was rather vehemently expressed in a letter addressed to the members of my Community not log ago:
"May God bless your Community and all your work. We need God's help in these troubled times.
"The Church goes from bad to worse; priests seem to have largely gone crazy, and the Sisters have quite lost their wits. There seems to be a strong tendency now to regard the Religious Life not as a Vocation, but as a profession. As such, it will, of course, not endure. When I read of Sisters hiring a public relations firm, and attending a 'charm school,' I have about had it. I have known many charming Sisters - their charm came from the inside, from character. Not a phony veneer acquired in a charm school."
Let us rather try to follow the examples of our present Holy Father and his lovable predecessor, Pope John XXIII. Our popes, of all men, are most tried in these troubled times. Were it not for their reliance upon the Divine Partner dwelling within them, none of them would be able to face the pressure under which they labor and none would be able to present to the world a life to meet the description of Pope John XXIII voiced by Michael Novak in his book "The Open Church." He says:
"There are many manners of expressing truth. When God wished to reveal to men the secret of their own lives and the nature of His own Life, He spoke a Word; but that Word was not a book or a school of thought but a Life, the Life of His own Son. Thus Pope John, like the Word he served, told us about the mystery of our times and our own destiny, not with a book or a school of thought, but with a life. Life comes before lessons; lessons are only for Life." (Open Church, p. 27.)
Since the Lenten Season of 1937, when I had not yet been four years a Catholic, I have been consciously trying to practice what I am now preaching. It came about as a result of a so-called "Rosary Novena" of twenty-seven days preached by that dear old Paulist Father, John Handly. We who shared in this Novena attended Mass each morning and in the evening we listened to Father Handly's version of Project Sainthood. The morning after the closing talk, I got up the usual hour and said to my wife: "I'm making no promises and setting no precedent, and I don't want you to go with me unless you feel like it on your own, but I'm going to Mass. And from that day until her death in 1945, we never missed Mass a single day except when we were traveling or sick.
And since the death of my wife it has been the same with me. And in those thirty years I have had my share of trials and disappointments and temptations and doubts and have sometimes found it exceedingly hard to take. In fact, I have been no exception to the adage that God allows every religious vow to be tested to the edge of the breaking point. There have been struggles and regrets, but I believe I can truly say that the conviction of the importance of Project Sainthood has held the fort in every battle and, at least in more recent years, the certainty of the indwelling presence of the Divine Partner has given me peace of soul that brooks no adversary, come what may!
As a result, I have said many times that I would not trade places with any other human being in the world or for all the money in the world and all the power that is. Now, I do not mean to imply that the reason I would not trade with anyone else in the world is that I think rather well of my own behavior - but I do mean to imply and to beg the reader to believe me, that your particular status, starting as of now, is the perfect setting for your particular Project Sainthood. It is perfect because you have access to the same help from God that I have and that should make you unwilling to trade with me or anyone else in the world because none of us have what it takes to live your Project Sainthood for you.
PROJECT SAINTHOOD AND POST-VATICAN II
In Chapter Nine we were invited to appreciate the utterly precious nature of Project Sainthood by equating it to Life With God In Love With God. In Chapter Ten we became acquainted with its Every Day and Every Way importance and had some hints of its problems. Hopefully, we are now firmly convinced that Project Sainthood is our bedrock vocation. If that is true, we are prepared to study with serenity some of the trials which are to be expected in the Business of Project Sainthood in the decades following the close of the Vatican Council of the twentieth century.
The decrees of the Council present a magnificent program of stability and expansion of the influence of the Catholic Church in the world. But there is broadcast and very much more publicized than the decrees of the Council, a poison which could bring spiritual disaster upon the world. These are indeed perilous days and months in which the true renewal urged by the Council is opposed by an altogether false renewal which stems from a philosophy deprived of supernatural spirituality.
There have been many influences which have brought this about. Perhaps the most dangerous one has been the pride and disobedience of a few individuals who have made themselves highly newsworthy to the secular press and have even been given some access to a part of the press which undeservedly bears the name of Catholic. It is not given to us to judge the motives of other men, but the harm to souls caused by their actions can and must be dealt with by the Teaching Authority of the Church.
When the harm comes from the acts of a priest it is doubly damaging because he is assumed to be a representative of that Teaching Authority. And so, such incidents will always be exploited by non-Catholic writers in the secular press who, perhaps in good faith, believe that such publicity will help to reconcile differences between the Catholic Church and the rest of Christendom.
In times like these, moreover, the battering is so extensive and its subjects so diverse that decisive action by the Holy See cannot possibly be expected with the promptness and dispatch that an inexperienced person might wish for and be inclined to waver when it does not appear.
For the peace of mind, then, of Catholics and for the most necessary information of non-Catholics, I wish to discuss and illustrate by a few examples the futility of allowing the doubt-inspiring reports of the secular press and especially in the daily newspapers and news weeklies to gain force by becoming a menace to those of fragile faith.
The diversity of attacks makes it virtually impossible to treat them individually, but the greatest source of anxiety to the Catholic faithful stems from those attacks against Catholic doctrine which are proposed in the guise of ecumenism but in reality aim at removing the restraints imposed by God's law and conforming Catholic doctrine to a Protestant consensus. In other words, the greatest source of anxiety to the Catholic faithful today is the apparent determination to seek world acceptance of the Faith by protestantizing it. And this, as Pope Pius XII has so gravely warned, could quite possibly be accomplished but to the inevitable destruction of Christianity.
The poison of this approach is made much more deadly by the support of some Catholics who with every good will but without a true knowledge of the Protestant attitude toward Catholic doctrine, applaud the disobedient crusaders because of the false notion that physical and corporal reunion is the first and principal goal of ecumenism which must be sought at all costs, and first cost being the distortion of Catholic doctrine to make it palatable to those who refuse the doctrine in its present form.
These people are utterly oblivious of the warning of Pope Pius XII that this is precisely the procedure which would bring about the reunion of Christendom at the cost of its destruction. It does seem strange that this warning, given by the Holy Father ten years before the Second Vatican Council was even dreamed of, instead of being heeded should be blatantly denied on a far wider scale than ever before.
Here is what the Holy Father declared in August, 1950:
"Another danger is all the more serious because it is concealed beneath a mask of virtue. Many through imprudent zeal for souls, are urged by the great and ardent desire to do away with the barrier that divides good and honest men by setting aside the questions which divide them, they aim not only at joining forces to repel the attacks of atheism, but also at reconciling things opposed to one another in the field of dogma...and consider as an obstacle to the restoration of fraternal union, things founded on the laws and principles given by Christ and on institutions founded by Him, or which are the defense and support of the integrity of the faith, the removal of which would indeed bring about reunion of all, but only to their destruction." (Hum.Gen. 11-12.)
The true reunion of Christendom and the recognition of Christ as God by all non-Catholics might indeed be the only means of restoring peace to the world. But it would be utter folly to seek such a reunion by rewriting Revelation to destroy those things which make the Catholic Church unacceptable to those who have left her. They are the very items which give her meaning for Catholics, since they are the means of continuity without which she would long since have ceased to be.
It seems incredible, but what it amounts to is the budding of Protestantism all over again within the Fold under the pretext of renewal and reform. Most unbelievable of all, because it is the most important of all, is the attack against the infallible protection from error guaranteed by Christ for the Church He was founding. The very essence of this budding Protestantism seems to urge its pseudo ecumenists to question this precious promise of Christ. They seem pitifully oblivious of the fact that this is the single item of Revelation that clinches the designation of the Church founded by Christ to continue until the end of time. The only true solution lies in mutual study and understanding of the meaning and scope of the doctrine of infallibility so necessary for the continuity of Christianity.
These insinuations against such basic items as the status of the doctrine of infallibility open the door to innumerable other sources of anxiety to those who have at heart the real hope of the world to be derived from honest and purposeful ecumenism.
Catholic Christianity is not easy to believe or practice. It always has been and always will be practiced only to the extent that it is supported by faith and grace. There will always be quick acceptance of ideas discounting its claims from those of weak faith within, and from those without who do not seek grace.
In the quest, then, of true Ecumenism and Project Sainthood, I wish to consider some of these items and then try to relate them to the plea for dialogue from our Holy Father, Pope Paul and his beloved predecessor, Pope John.
The first and most audacious, because its success would shatter the foundation of all Catholic doctrine, is the insinuation of the necessity of reconsidering the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. And closely dependent upon it and sustained by it comes the interpretation of the divine law and especially the divine law regarding the indissolubility of Sacramental Marriage and the divine edict against contraception and abortion.
Before discussing these evils, however, let us hasten to forestall anxiety in the matter by considering the approach through Christ which gives impregnable certainty to our Faith. I think this can best be illustrated by quoting the words of Jesus Himself to His Apostles when even they were beset with anxiety as a result of a natural rather than a polemic cause.
"And suddenly a great storm arose on the Sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves, but He lay asleep. And His disciples came and awoke Him crying, 'Lord, save us! we shall be lost!' And He said to them, 'Why are you afraid you men of little faith?' Then, rising, He rebuked the winds and the Sea, and there was a deep calm. So that all asked in amazement, 'What kind of man is this that even the winds and the Sea obey Him?'" (Matt. 8:24-27.)
It is indeed consoling and appropriate that we should be reminded in these days and years which follow the final closing of the Council, of this dramatic story of the amazement of Christ's very Apostles at this exhibition of His power over the storm which was threatening their lives. And there is a close connection between the storm-harassed Bark of Peter in the eighth decade of the twentieth century and the little boat in which Christ slept while the crew, which would soon become the first College of Bishops, shrank away in terror from the great waves of the Sea of Galilee which were threatening disaster to the then Mystical Body of Christ.
Did it ever occur to you to think through this little story of Christ's miracle of quelling the storm? This little ship in which Christ slept as He was being ferried to the opposite shore was manned by the twelve Apostles whom Christ had chosen for His own. Several of them were experienced fishermen who had grown up on the shores of this great lake and had sailed their boats on it since childhood well able to meet all the vagaries of its fickle storms. Christ could, indeed, rest in confidence of the safety of the ship in their hands. He, Himself, had no sailing experience other than as a passenger. It would never have occurred to any of the crew members of that ship to turn to Him for advice as to the best way to handle the ship to meet this storm which had broken upon them. They did so only as a last resort when the violence of the waves was actually filling the ship to the point of sinking.
They turned to Him, not for help in navigating the ship, but because of their utter faith in Him, their Master, who had so often shown His ability to meet with ease any and every situation which confronted them. And what was the result? Christ immediately worked a stupendous miracle which was exactly what their faith had dared to hope for. And then He turned to them and said, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith!" One cannot help but be a little amused to speculate as to just what would have been the sequel if their faith had been so great that they would not have thought it even necessary to ask Him for help!
No, Christ was not displeased with them for turning to Him. In fact, all this happened just as God intended it to happen to give a lesson to those who were to be His first appointed teachers who could so easily turn to Him who was actually in reach of the sound of their voices. But even more emphatically He intended that it should give a lesson to us who must depend upon utter faith to know that God, who never sleeps, is in absolute command of every storm and every trial and every gust of controversy insinuating the insufficiency of our Church and God's Revelation, which He allows Satan to propagate today.
Christ demands our utter confidence in Him - Come What May! He allows the ignorance, and the pride, and the disobedience of men to stir these storms of doubt in order to test our trust in Him and to show us that there are no exceptions. There never has been and never will be a situation which will justify our anxiety as to the complete adequacy of Christ's Church to see us through in safety if we trust utterly in Him.
Most of the controversy and most of the ill will connected with the controversy stems from a misunderstanding of the thinking of Protestantism as regards the motive for Catholic Faith. How that was impressed upon me in my younger days! I was a militant Protestant, dead sure that the promises of Christ would have been shattered had it not been for the brave souls who exposed the betrayal brought about by the corrupt Catholic hierarchy of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It was a devastating source of anxiety to me to know that the girl whom I loved and proposed to marry was a Roman Catholic.
I shudder now when I remember how confident I was and how hard I tried to persuade her to renounce her out-dated faith and marry me in the modern and adequate Episcopal Church. Instead of punishing my audacity as it deserved, however, God gave her a gift of wisdom which protected her from the risk He allowed her to take when she married a man who scorned the Catholic Church as I did.
God then patiently waited for almost twenty years to let me learn to trust Him and to know that, not excluding the gift of life itself, His gift of a Catholic wife was the best thing that ever happened to me because it finally gave me the Catholic Faith. Then, while in the midst of life enjoying that Faith, He tested my trust in Him again by taking from me her who had been the source of my Faith. But, by that time, as I have said, I had learned to know that all that happens to me and around me is part of God's discipline for me and is right! And so, in exchange for her, He gave me the Priesthood and that leaves me with no more-precious gift possible as long as life lasts.
And so, too, it is today. The members and non-members of the Mystical Body of Christ, even those who are keenly and honestly interested in Ecumenism, are often very far apart in understanding the kind of renewal needed on each side in order to have any hope of effecting reunion.
The reason it has been a source of storm and a cause for anxiety is obvious. Every non-member of the Church, at least in every area where the Church is manifest, is a non-member because of some real or imagined item or items of doctrine, discipline or demands of the Church which is unacceptable to the will of that individual non-member. Many of these items concern opinions which are as opposite to each other as black is to white. And, to make the source of controversy complete, the flexibility of the items as to change, varies from the absolute rigidity of God's perennial Commandments, to the trivial experiment of the current year or month. And all the while the sole motive for acceptance of any of it is a supernaturally clinched guarantee of infallible guidance which the non-member lacks for the very reason that he is a non-member.
The will to accomplish the renovation by removal of all the obstacles, coupled with an inadequate estimate of the means of removal has set the stage for a tempest which has every indication of being formidable for many years to come. And the fact that the human race is still a fallen human race, whether within or without the Fold, has brought it about that malice and evil-will as well as inadequate understanding enters into the controversial issues and fulminates in radio and T.V. broadcasts and in secular press articles with insinuations of the likelihood of revolutionary modification of the doctrine of the Catholic Church as to faith and morals and the accompanying shattering of the meaning of the doctrine of infallibility which this would involve.
And with that, let us see how we stand as to the "Deposit of Faith" in all its ramifications together with its supporting code of Catholic morals. All of it has been entrusted to the Teaching Authority of Christ's Church and guaranteed by Christ to be infallibly protected by the power of God from leading the "Church Believing" into error as to doctrine or moral behavior. The Doctrine of Infallibility declares the Roman Catholic Church to be the beneficiary of a divine guarantee.
It is easy to see that if this doctrine were universally understood and accepted, there would be no such thing as Ecumenism because there would be no disunity. It is therefore equally easy to see that every obstacle to Ecumenism and every problem of Ecumenism involves in some degree the doctrine of infallibility. The one unique feature, then, of the Catholic Faith which guarantees its unchanging unity and continuity is the one thing that makes it unacceptable to most of those who are interested in Ecumenism.
This seems strange when one considers the incentives for believing this doctrine. First and foremost, there is its utter preciousness! For one who will believe, it ends all anxiety and doubt. Second, one might say there is its necessity. No argument is needed other than to look at today's kaleidoscope of Protestantism to demonstrate that continued uniformity of doctrine is impossible without it. Third, there is the unequivocal promise of it recorded in Scripture. Fourth, there is the fact that it has worked for nearly two thousand years. The doctrine taught to Catholics today is substantially the same as that taught by Christ and Christ's Holy Spirit to the Apostles. There is no record of a single item of change in the doctrine which has been taught to us as "of faith."
Of course, all of these items of appeal have been hotly denied and are being denied today, but when we realize why they are being denied, there need be no cause for alarm as to the believer's security. And why are they denied? Because there are very many items in the teaching revealed by Christ and which the Church, therefore, has no choice but to teach, which are unpalatable to fallen human nature and therefore invite opposition. This does not mean that every individual non-Catholic is looking for loopholes for laxity. It merely means that denial of the doctrine of infallibility, at least implicitly, is the sine qua non of being a non-Catholic. To believe that the Catholic Church is the infallible Custodian of the Revelation which almighty God commanded all men to believe and not to be a member of it, poses an intellectual absurdity.
The point is, however, that there are almost as many reasons for not being a Catholic as there are people who are not Catholics. Unwelcome obligations or unaccepted items of faith on the one had, and ignorance of the fact and of the terms of Christ's guarantee of the Catholic Church on the other hand, enter in varying complexity into all these reasons.
In our milieu four people out of five are in this category of not being Catholics for a variable mixture of these reasons. Every one of them could become a Catholic by making that little act which places the will at God's disposal and becomes receptive of God's grace. Most of them would make such an act of the will if they were given a true understanding of the doctrine including the reasons for those items which might seem unpalatable and also including the four kinds of invitation to accept the doctrine of infallibility.
True Ecumenism with respect to the doctrine of the Catholic Church is indeed a responsibility and a grave duty of every candidate for Project Sainthood. God has created each one of us for an absolutely unique life work which one may do well or ill, but which no one else may do for him. Every non-Catholic is unaware of the fact that he lacks a treasure beyond value of all the goods of this world. If every Catholic lived the example of its worth, most of their neighbors would receive it. This would come about by understanding love, not by debate and unbending argument.
PROJECT SAINTHOOD INVOLVES ECUMENISM
In a previous chapter we have discussed a new meaning of the term - The People of God. The atmosphere of previous chapters gives it a meaning to include all those who are using life in this world effectively for God's purpose in creating them. And that is Project Sainthood. In other words, The People of God are those who say from their hearts, Thy Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven.
These eleven words together with the other forty-four words which make up the Lord's Prayer have perhaps been put together with this meaning more times than any other sentence which had been uttered in the past two thousand years. Almost everyone who has ever heard of Jesus Christ has been taught them. Almost everyone who considers himself a Christian uses them frequently in our day.
Not all of them, however, advert to the fact that they were first used by Him who was and is One with the Father. Nor do they advert to the fact that the entire mission of the God-Man who first used them was to teach us to fulfill them. Nor do they realize how He intended this teaching to come to us. As it was His mission, so it was the substance of what He taught to His Apostles during the three years of His public life. What He taught them He teaches us by founding on them a teaching Church divinely powered to bring to all men of all time the Revelation of the Divine Will. The Catholic Church is the Means provided by Christ to bring it about that God's will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The relationship between true ecumenism and Catholic doctrine is poised and founded on that one precious fact. Every Catholic should regard it as a solemn responsibility entrusted to him by Christ to do his part to make it effective. Every thought and word and act of your everyday life should help to bring it about that all men who recite the Lord's Prayer, and eventually, all men who live will understand and mean the same thing by the petition - Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That is the kind of ecumenism which your Project Sainthood involves. That, moreover, is the essence of your mission as Christian.
Furthermore, everyone of us should realize that this responsibility enters into his life in some degree practically all day every day. Each one should rejoice, too, at the marvelous provision which God's Providence has made for us to carry out this function. Each of us, as a cell in the Mystical Body of Christ, is constantly guided by the Holy Spirit to the extent that we advert to that guidance. Far beneath the present atmosphere of anxiety and doubt, the Second Vatican Council has fortified us with help and encouragement that can truly bring the Holy spirit into our lives.
The sixteen documents promulgated by the Council are of vital importance to every person in the world today. They are of interest above all because they are so reassuring, so comprehensive, so inspired and so inspiring. The Holy Spirit has really been at work; the pattern is complete and very nearly perfect - but it is a pattern and not a finished piece of work. Only now begins the work of making present to the word the plea: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven - and of giving it the true meaning that Christ intended. All of it is ecumenism, first between Catholics themselves, then between Catholics and their fellow Christians, and finally between all Christians and mankind!
The more I read and study the work of the Council the more stoutly Catholic I become. I rejoice that these Documents make it so much easier to be firmly rooted in the Faith. They should free us from all anxiety in spite of the furor that has been caused by all the misguided misinterpretation of the purpose and work of the Council and of the Documents themselves.
And that brings us back to our appraisal of these misinterpretations and a few suggestions as to what we should do about them.
The most far-reaching and general of all the objectives of the four years of the Council-activity and certainly the one of greatest importance to every citizen of the world has been the shaping of all the items of renewal so as to promote the invitation into the Fold of every member of the human race. This overriding and universal objective has colored the treatment of every subject considered by the Council without exception. And by the same token it has been the underlying and sometimes hidden source of most of the controversy which has often risen to storm proportions and has brought amazement and anxiety to the Shepherds as well as to the sheep of the Fold.
Unacceptable items of doctrine, discipline or demands of the Church loom large in the minds of non-members and obscure the nature of her treasure. And the pity of it is that all too many Catholics fail to live the example of the worth of this treasure and so disfigure the invitation to their neighbors.
Living the example of its worth, as to doctrine, is effected in four ways: First, by an enlightened understanding of the faith; second, by frank and honest confession of the faith which can enter into almost everything one says or does and even the clothes one wears; third, by doing that unique life work which is your individual Project Sainthood, in accordance with that Faith, and; fourth, by prayer. Prayer is perhaps the most important of all because not only it is a power of doctrinal ecumenism in itself, but it strengthens the individual in the other three ways of being a living example of the worth of his faith.
True Ecumenism, then, with respect to Catholic doctrine makes it a duty to understand and oppose the false ecumenism of which I have spoken which is really not ecumenism at all but Protestantism in the bud all over again.
Let us then try briefly to appraise the situation in which these two forces oppose one another. The great mission of the Church expressed in the plea, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," is made specific in the command of Christ to His first College of Bishops: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations...teaching them to observe all whatever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you throughout all time, even to the consummation of the world." (Matt. 28:18-20.)
The words - "whatever I have commanded you" - taken together with the earlier words of Christ: "He who is to befriend you, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, will in His turn make everything plain, and recall to your minds everything I have said to you." (John 14:26) - refer to and constitute God's guarantee of what Saint Paul calls "The Deposit of Faith." In other words, it is the sum-total of the Revelation which Christ brought from heaven and placed in the custody of His Church. He added the infallible guarantee that it would be kept intact until the end of time.
Thus the Teaching Authority commissioned by Christ was given divine protection against any change, error, or omission. That is all that is meant by the doctrine of Infallibility. It is negative protection and not positive. It is a guarantee that neither the Holy Father nor the College of Bishops working with him will ever add to, subtract from, or misinterpret the teaching entrusted to them by Christ. If they had a mind to try it, God would prevent them - and that's that!
It is made known to us in two ways. The great bulk of it is simply that which has always been taught by the Church and believed by the people. Throughout the centuries, however, there have been times when important items of the Deposit of Faith and the laws which God has attached to human nature have been impugned by active heresy or by false behavior. It is then that God steps in, acting negatively again, to prevent the harm from misleading those who trust him. God condemns the error or corrects the abuse through the agency of His Vicar, the Pope, or in the most grave matters, by the Councils called by the Holy Father.
These corrections or teachings are made known to us by decrees of the councils and encyclical letters and declarations of the Pope. When the matter is sufficiently grave they are voiced in the form called "solemn" or "ex Cathedra." This means that when the Pope speaks as from the Chair of Peter as Supreme Teacher of the Universal Church and defines or declares in matters of or related to Christian faith or morals what is to be believed by the faithful throughout the world, he is protected by God from all liability to err.
The body of truth brought down to us by this divinely protected Teaching Authority is one thing; the setting in which it is presented to us is quite another. The integrity of the former is of necessity to preserve the unity of faith; the flexibility of the latter is of necessity to keep the Church abreast of the fast changing world.
The Council, in fulfilling the inspired vision of Pope John XXIII, has indeed paved the way for placing the Deposit of Faith in a new setting. This new setting is to be orientated to mesh exactly with the complexity of the sophisticated world of scientific achievement and the rather jaded culture which accompanies it.
The task, however, is a huge one. It is immensely hampered by a widespread spirit of mischief stemming from a wide variety of motives. These motives range all the way from malicious self-love to misguided pseudo-altruism all of which complicates the problem by confusing the treasure with the setting. The result has been and still is a welter of battering at the treasure which has been provided by God and protected by Him throughout the ages to provide the only hope of religious unity in the world.
All this battering has slowed down the great renewal of the setting because it has required so much of the attention of the Holy Father and the post-conciliar agencies of aggiornamento now at work. It is a pity that the notion of changing the unchangeable has been allowed to sidetrack the progress of the immense field of legitimate and useful items of renewal which are being put into effect.
I have used the expression, "changing the unchangeable" and that is, of course, only strictly applicable to the solemn so-called "de fide" items declared by Popes and Councils. But even more disastrous to the welfare of souls and the promotion of Christian unity is the nefarious unauthorized criticism of the ordinary teaching of the successors of Saint Peter. The disciplinary laws which popes and councils have made are backed by Christ Himself as He is quoted in the Gospel of the Mass for Popes with these words: "Whatever you shall declare unlawful upon earth shall be held unlawful in heaven; whatever you shall declare lawful upon earth shall be held lawful in heaven." (Matt. 16:19.) True ecumenism is devastated by open attack on either kind of Catholic doctrine. At the moment, however, neither kind is immune.
It would seem that nothing could be more definite than the pronouncements of the First Vatican Council in solemn definition of the Doctrine of Infallibility; yet the secular press quotes a prelate of the Church as saying: "The whole nature of the authority of the Church is changing. Gradually we are re-examining, for instance, the doctrine of the Pope's infallibility." (Roberts, London Times 12-5-65, p. 41.) This sally against the doctrine of papal infallibility is the most damaging of all and is doubly devastating because it indirectly attacks all doctrine whether it is the solemn or ordinary teaching of the Church. It gives support to every kind of malicious attack and ruins the approach of true Ecumenism by nullifying Catholic unity.
Another even more sinister attack on the solemn teaching of the Church was promoted by European theologians to substitute the strictly Protestant notion of "transsignification" meaning "symbolism" for the doctrine of the Real Presence of God in the Sacrifice of Mass and in the Eucharist. This deadly attack upon a central doctrine of the Deposit of Faith would have been so devastating that it demanded immediate condemnation and was scotched by the encyclical letter, Mysterium Fidei of Pope Paul VI dated September 3rd, 1965.
Again, the ecumenical possibilities for renewal of the setting which the Church has provided to insure the stability of God's laws with respect to the Sacrament of Marriage have been hampered by insinuations or open revolt against the unchangeable part which God has provided. Instead of smoothing the setting which offers endless possibilities, there is a futile storm about two essentials which God maintains regardless of what church or state might do about them.
In the first place, Sacramental consummated Marriage is for life. Its violation is sinful. There are other relationships which are not marriage and still others which may be dissolved. But it only does harm to souls to confuse the two. And yet it would be hard to devise greater confusion than that implied in the following questions authored by a Catholic priest and published in one of our Catholic weeklies: "Do we realize," he says, "that marriage, by its nature, is not absolutely indissoluble but can be dissolved due to the fallen state of man and to unfortunate cultural and historical circumstances?" - "And do we know that our Bishops regularly grant permission to Catholics to sue for civil divorce for the sake of the favorable legal effects?" Then, without explaining that this last question has no bearing on the real dissolution of marriage or real divorce, he clinches the implication with another question: "or possibly are we blindfolded by ignorance...and in terror of 'confusing' the uneducated?" (B.C.C. 5-12-66.)
A second essential of the sanctity of Marriage has been still more severely battered in the argument about birth control. God's law provides that the use of marriage in a way intended to prevent conception by artificial means is gravely sinful. It is tragic folly and not Ecumenism to invite denial of this law. But here, too, may Catholics have been misled, and by their example have misled others, when the secular press has reported it as clerical opinion that Catholics know the divine law is in doubt and can follow their consciences. (Archbishop Roberts: London Times 12-5-65, p. 36.)
Untold harm to souls has been done and is being done by insinuations of such devastating departure from the age-long teaching of the Catholic Church. Each one of us has a responsibility as well as a wonderful opportunity for apostleship in true doctrinal Ecumenism by our example of steadfast confidence in God's support of the Council and the Holy Father. As Archbishop George Patrick Dwyer of Birmingham, England, has put it: "It's the dogmatic crusaders who freeze into attitudes who cause all the trouble." (ibid. p. 31.)
How infinitely great is the patience of God who refuses to interfere with these choices of man's free will! Now, as ever, God does demand our trust in Him - come what may. Not one word of the actual decrees of the Council or the words of the Holy Father give support to these dangerous ideas. We have nothing to fear as long as we keep clear of the pride, ignorance, and disobedience of these dogmatic crusaders and stick to the guidance of the Council and the Holy Father.
The true situation is well expressed in a letter of Archbishop G.T. Bergan of Omaha, Nebraska, with reference to the November, 1968 meeting of the Bishops of the United States in Washington, D.C.
He says: "I was in Washington last week and I think, on the whole, the meeting was a success. We remained steadfast with the Holy Father on the question of artificial contraception in our statement that it was always and everywhere and at all times objectively sinful. Of course, the newspapers write up the other side of the question, as it is more sensational."
And to clinch the matter, here is a sample from the Constitution on the Church proclaimed by Pope Paul VI, November 21, 1964. "In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent of soul. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex Cathedra. That is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence - the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. (Const. Par. 25.)
And here is an expression of the mind and will of Pope Pius XII in no uncertain terms. "Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent. ...For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: 'He who heareth you, heareth Me.' (Luke 10:16.)...But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians."
What words can we find, then, to make it more positively certain that the renewal for which the Council was called is not intended to tear down the age-long teaching of the Church but to place it in a new setting? In this new setting it can be presented to the rest of mankind as a treasure to be cherished, a life to be offered to an infinitely loving God, the way provided by God to lead us to everlasting happiness in His embrace. And what is that but Project Sainthood?
It is certainly here that you and I can render the greatest help to ourselves and to our neighbors in two ways: First, by despising utterly the pressures which are being urged to discredit Catholic doctrine in faith and morals, and secondly, by entering wholeheartedly with our bishops and pastors to bring about a renewal of the presentation of that doctrine as our beloved Holy Father Pope John put it: "Do not argue but act: do not malign but love."
There is endless scope for each one of us to help in this regard. It is here that Catholic public opinion can be useful and is sought by our bishops.
It is interesting to note that Karl Rahner in his little book entitled Free Speech In The Church, supports his plea for an enlightened public opinion by a quotation from Pope Pius XII twelve years before we had ever heard of renewal. The Holy Father, in an address to those taking part in an International Catholic Congress in February, 1950 said:
"Public opinion plays a part in every normal society of human beings...wherever no public opinion exists, one is obliged to say that there is a fault, a weakness, a sickness in the social life of that area...Finally, I should like to add a word about public opinion within the fold of the Church - about things that can be left open to discussion, of course. Only people who know little or nothing about the Catholic Church will be surprised to hear this. For she too is a living body, and there would be something missing from her if there were no public opinion within her, a defect for which pastors as well as the faithful would be responsible."
And so let us conclude by bringing the same idea down to the present as it is so well expressed in the Council decree on the Church's Missionary Activity: "Since the whole Church is Missionary, and the work of evangelization is a basic duty of the People of God, this sacred Synod summons all to a deep interior renewal. ...And let all realize that they discharge their duty of spreading the faith first and above all by their living of it in a thoroughly Christian life. For their fervor in the service of God and their charity toward others will cause new spiritual inspiration to sweep over the whole Church." (35, Abbot, p. 623.)
Only then will God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
DIVINE PROVIDENCE PROMOTES PROJECT SAINTHOOD
There is one essential bit of understanding without which Project Sainthood has very little chance of survival in the frantic turmoil of the world today. Acceptance of the complete adequacy of Divine Providence to meet every situation of the day-by-day experience of each individual soul must be, as it were, the password of eligibility for Project Sainthood. One who makes Project Sainthood the true business of his life must be able to say with Saint Paul and with true conviction: "I Can Do All Things In Him Who Strengtheneth Me!" (Phil. 4:13.)
With that conviction firmly embedded in our hearts, let us consider the two kinds of hope now offered to those who must face the turmoil of this troubled world. They differ from each other as the Rock of Gibraltar differs from the fragile sacks of sand with which men are toiling to turn aside the deluge from a badly shattered dam. The one is supernatural and is backed by absolutely nothing that can be seen or touched or measured; the other is natural and men all over the world are swarming into laboratories and factories and libraries and forests and mines to try frantically to be the ones who will survive when "D" Day comes.
The colossal tragedy of this whole pageant on the very fringe of despair is that the great majority of men allow the scientific exploitation of the God-given resources of the world to hide from themselves the real, though unmeasurable, motive for hope which God has provided and invites all men to share. It may almost be said that it is a duty in conscience for every Christian in the world to cultivate and shout from the housetops the one kind of hope that really has hope of bringing peace and social justice to the world.
The fact that such a concept means almost nothing to most of those to whom the Christian might shout does not in the least reduce the need for the shouting - and please do not misunderstand me - by "shouting from the housetops" I do not mean something impractical; I mean living twenty-four hours a day as an outstanding example of the efficacy of supernatural hope; efficient because it puts first things first.
And the very first thing about life in this world is that it is aimed at heaven. And the very first thing about heaven is that it is supernatural as a goal, and while it is earned in this natural setting, the earning is done by supernatural means.
Now, being an example of supernatural hope does not mean separating oneself from the material workaday world, it merely means orienting all of one's activity in accordance with a motive animated by an appreciation of true values and true aims. This will show itself in all our actions and words and attitudes and will have its effect on all of those who surround us.
My thesis, as you know, is this: for every Christian the principal Business of life is Project Sainthood for himself and all of his neighbors; by himself he is powerless to promote this project but by perfect abandonment to Divine Providence he is guaranteed the degree of success that God wills for him.
The words which Abraham Lincoln made immortal in his Gettysburg address may be remembered here. Like Lincoln's "new nation," our Project Sainthood is conceived and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created free and equally eligible for heaven. They are placed in this material world by almighty God for the sole purpose of providing heaven with a glorified human race. Each member of this heavenly race is to be schooled by the world exactly as it is, and as God has intended it to be, to be capable of reflecting God's infinite love as He wishes it to be shown.
Now, the capacity to love demands a mind to understand and a will with freedom to choose. It is that which distinguishes the human person from every other creature in the material world. And there, we may say, is the "rub"! In giving us the capacity to love, God may be said to have tied His own hands against interfering with our abuse of the power to choose. And that accounts for all the evil that ever existed in the world.
Instead, however, of allowing this evil to be a frustration of His loving Providence, God makes it the very means of accomplishing His purpose for the super-perfecting of the souls He is choosing and schooling for heaven. The answer to this seeming contradiction is that perfection in loving God is most effectively gained for us mortals by trusting God in the face of evil; that is, by complete and peaceful abandonment to Divine Providence. And this trust is certainly deserved when we think of the example which God himself gave us of the extent to which He was willing to go to show us His love for those who will trust Him - Come what may!
In other words, perfection in loving God comes to us through utter abandonment to the proposition that the means chosen by God in His wisdom to bring about that love is perfect because God has chosen it. And the clause - "because God has chosen it," when you stop to think of it, involves an amazing renunciation of our own inclination to judge by natural standards.
The so-called "Problem of Evil" judged by most of the people of the world solely on the basis of its natural consequences, and fought against on a natural basis, is probably the greatest obstacle to faith for the non-Christian and even for the non-Catholic. It can also be one of the greatest enemies of the peace of mind of the Catholic who has not fully learned to be truly convinced of the wisdom of Divine Providence.
God-Incarnate, all His life long gave us the most perfect example of the acceptance of the Problem of Evil on the basis of the maxim: "because God has chosen it" as the means of showing us His love. With His example as our incentive, our complete abandonment of everything in our life as commitment to this love can be aided by a realization of the abyss that separates our unaided reason from the wisdom of God. We allow ourselves to be daunted by the thought that evil can be a definite part of God's Providence because of the pitiful smallness of our vision.
Unaided, we can know only what our senses present to us. That makes our knowledge of the future practically zero; our knowledge of the present a tiny little glimpse almost without perspective, as if looking through a key-hole; our knowledge of the past even more restricted to a tiny pin-prick and a flash as of yesterday. On the other hand, God sees and knows the very essence of all eternity. The future lies open before Him as does every thought in the heart of men. All this, guided by God and united with the past, proceeds in complete accordance with His wisdom.
With such a view of things in mind, our reason is invited to recognize the absurdity of our questioning of God's plan or of any detail of it which we may not be able to understand. All this is presented to us in a natural environment - and here we come to the great encounter in which every soul is invited to choose: abandonment on a natural plane is plain enough to see, but abandonment on a purely supernatural plan is what God asks each one of us to choose! And that means taking God's word for it without a shred of evidence except faith.
The Jesuit Father Jean de Caussade has expressed this idea in a manner easy to remember. Under the caption: "The Strength of Simplicity," he says: "The finding of divine action in all that occurs at each moment in and around us, is true science, a continuous revelation of truth, and an unceasingly renewed intercourse with God...It is a fund of peace, of joy, of love and of satisfaction with God who is seen, known, or rather, believed in, living and operating in the most perfect manner in everything that happens." (Abandonment, p. 90.)
The whole trend of the present day leads away from this concept. Technocracy, as it is called, by emphasis on the natural, the reasoned, the "existential" has brought about a waning of the concept of the supernatural to be taken for granted by a great majority of the unthinking, especially among the young. One of its effects is the waning of vocations to the priesthood and the Religious life. And yet, this waning is an effect of a far deeper cause resulting from misunderstanding of the relationship between the natural and the supernatural. And that, when all is said and done, is a misunderstanding of the meaning of Faith. The natural world is only incidentally real and is always transitory. The supernatural world is really God-keeping-all-the-rest-in-being, and it is intrinsically real. But because it eludes our senses, it all too often seems to elude our capacity to believe!
This was made most evident at a recent work-shop on vocations attended by priests, Religious men and women, parents and young people representative of the groups from which religious and priestly vocations should come. These young people and the parents present were almost unanimous in their expression of the opinion that the priesthood and religious life are, as they worded it, "no longer relevant." It was gravely urged that practically everything these people can do is done as well or better by lay people who have even better capacity and versatility because they are not hampered by being subservient to the "system" which deprives clerics and Religious from effectiveness, i.e. the privilege of writing their own ticket instead of taking it from God. The long-term commitment involved also loomed large as a deterring obstacle to most of these lay people.
This sad state of affairs should be dealt with by counseling the adult relatives of candidates for vocations. I mention it here only to show the immense deformity of faith that is at the root of most of the problems faced by the Church today.
This pitiful point of view is by no means confined to the laity. All too many priests look at their own vocation, as one of them put it, as "a rational, reasonable, judgment motivated by a response to a need among the many ways of doing good." Such a travesty of "vocation" would, of course, include among its adherents all of those who become married apostates. It is also at the root of much of the furor opposing priestly celibacy.
I mention all this to help us to re-appraise the status of religion in our lives and to attach it to the reason for our being in this world. True, our bodies and souls are now tied to this material earth, but our religion tells us that our reason for being here is entirely other than the affairs connected with our activities in this world. The motivation, moreover, for engaging in these activities should be that connected with our reason for being here; namely, the supernatural motive of Project Sainthood. The measure of our adherence to this supernatural motive is the measure of our supernatural virtue of Faith. The measure of our adherence to a purely natural motive while neglecting the supernatural motive, is the measure of the deformity of our faith which has come about through the world-wide exploitation of the cult of materialism. The world-wide shortage of vocations to the priesthood and Religious life is only a symptom of this deformity of faith which has affected us all in some degree.
It is to seek a remedy for this deformity; to apply it to us here and now; and to spread this remedy far and wide by our example that this chapter is aimed. It can be accomplished to the extent that we succeed in coupling Divine Providence to Project Sainthood and use the energy of Saint Paul's triumphal cry, "I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me!"
Neither of these sources of success can be proven by anything that we can see, touch, taste or measure. Yet, they are more certain than anything our senses can perceive! How do I know? by supernatural faith! But faith is a gift from God. True, it is a gift, but God has furnished evidence in the Gospel which He says is sufficient to invite us to seek His help to gain that gift. And He has promised to give the help which is sufficient if we will cooperate to use the means which He has provided. These means invite us to abandon ourselves, without any reservation, to the conviction that nothing can happen in this world except in accordance with God's Providence, and that Project Sainthood is assured if we make ourselves instruments of God's will.
And how is this to be done by us ordinary frail mortals here and now? Really, it should not be difficult. We who profess supernatural faith need only to really and truly commit ourselves to what we say we believe.
Father Jean de Caussade wrote a whole volume on the subject in the early part of the eighteenth century and the answer is still the same. It can perhaps be summed up in the following sentences taken from his introduction to the subject in the book, Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence:
"Is there any creature whose action is equal to that of God's? Why, then, should I go to creatures for help since all that happens to me is the work of His uncreated hand? ...All that is necessary is to accept everything, placing no obstacle in the way of its action, ...What this action will effect in you, you will learn by successive experiences, for there is no created heart or mind that can teach it to you. ...Yes, divine love - to what heights of supernatural, sublime, admirable, and incomparable virtue would all souls arrive if they would but be satisfied with your action! ...Every soul possesses in You an infinitely perfect Model, and by Your action which works ceaselessly to this end, is rendered like this model." (p. 32.)
The all-important thing to bear in mind in all of this is that its motivation and its performance is supernatural and therefore tends to be incomprehensible to the modern worldling, be he Catholic or non-Catholic, or heathen. And a still more important facet of this concept to bear in mind is that the word "supernatural" does not mean nebulous or unreal! On the contrary, it is more real than anything than can be seen or measured. It simply means God working intimately and directly in all that is natural and apparent.
And, most important of all, to bear in mind is that this supernatural motivation and this supernatural carrying-on of our daily lives is distinctly not something that is reserved to that nebulous multitude called "the saints" among whom we are not numbered! This way of speaking, or still worse, of thinking, is in all reality a thankless repudiation of our Faith. True, it is not usually said or thought deliberately with its literal implication. But any kind of saying of it or thinking of it is evidence of a tragic hiatus in that part of the soul which should be occupied with genuine pursuit of each individual's Project Sainthood!
The Vocation Work-Shop which I have mentioned showed that many of our post-conciliar young people have somehow become imbued with the idea that it is sophisticated to view the Church with the cold eye of science as one of many organizations devoted to the welfare of the human race, but a rather unprogressive one because of what they call the "system" which still binds it to tradition. And by "tradition" they seem to mean involvement with the supernatural which to them is more or less synonymous with miraculous, if not with magic.
In other words, they and many of their elders, unfortunately including all too many priests, are inclined to evaluate the Church entirely on the basis of its natural and temporal surroundings. And that is the point of view that we should make it our business, each in his individual surroundings, to quench utterly and to replace with an appreciation of what the Church really is, the Mystical Body of Christ, a union of souls, in the world and dealing with the world, but united in Christ, uncreated God, by a supernatural bond more real than all that is in the world.
And here again, "mystical" does not mean nebulous or unreal. It only means that it is beyond our humble, finite, created capacity to fully understand. As a matter of fact, it is closer to the reality of our souls than of our bodies. And it is in our souls that we are united with Christ who is God. It is by our souls that we have access to that infinite power, that infinite wisdom, that infinite love, for which God has placed us in this world. It is the extent to which we appreciate and abandon ourselves to these infinite values that marks the real success of our Project Sainthood.
Christ is the Vine who gives life to each tiny cell of its being. The figure of the Vine, however, is all material. It is given to us to help us see one thing: that each tiny part lives only insofar as it derives its life from that with which it is united. The created world of matter has the marvelous function designed by God to form the setting within which each one of us is invited to learn to appreciate the far greater reality of the uncreated God who has made it all to bring us into eternal union with Himself.
I wish to try to help you to become adept in the practice of abandonment to Divine Providence. I want you to try to realize how utterly simple is its essence which should embrace all our prayer, all our worship, all our Faith. It is the simplest thing in the world. It involves no words, no acts, no resolutions. It is merely the mental acknowledgment of the reality of God's presence in the soul. This presence, this union, is more real than anything our senses can perceive. If you are not used to thinking of it in this way, it may seem unreal. But seeming is not a property of Him who is! True abandonment is the product of acknowledgment of this truth - "I can do all things in Him who stengtheneth me!"
PROJECT SAINTHOOD PRACTICED
We have seen that Divine Providence in promoting Project Sainthood invites the cry "I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me!" Let us now consider this Project Sainthood in practice with a similar cry of the Psalmist: "What need, Lord, for aught but thyself to bring me confidence?" (Ps. 4:9 Knox.)
Every day since the closing of the Second Vatican Council, I pray to God to strengthen in my soul the Gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, and Knowledge so that I may be better able to cope with the epidemic of mis-understanding that seems to be taking possession of the minds of all too many responsible men and women in the world today. Misunderstanding, too, of the notion of what constitutes renewal has caused this epidemic to invade the hearts of Catholics and shatter the faith of some, damage the faith of others, and cause grave anxiety to very many others.
I myself have been among those who have suffered anguish and have shared the distress which is so earnestly expressed by our Holy Father, Pope Paul, in many of his recent pronouncements regretting the grave disobedience which is so prevalent among clergy and laity as well.
In recent weeks and months, however, I believe that God is at least beginning to answer my prayer and to give me a better grasp of the Gift of Understanding and this has brought with it a surprising degree of peace. This is not a fictitious peace derived from under-estimating the evil, but a peace which stems from a better understanding of all these goings-on and, above all, a better understanding of what to do about them and how to meet them.
The very first thing that suggests itself as the most effective way to meet these evils is to try to convey this same peace, stemming from the same understanding, to as many Catholic people as possible and from them to an ever widening circle of those who have found the way to meet the evil and to turn it in the direction of God's design. In other words, the first step is to cultivate and to try to help others to cultivate the Practice of Project Sainthood in Abandonment to Divine Providence and so to find peace of soul. Above all, to try to show that this practice is utterly simple because it stems entirely from an appreciation of the immediate action of God in everything that happens.
On the other hand, I must admit that anxiety about the disobedience and rebellion in the present world can only stem from lack of utter certainty that God does have the matter completely in hand. And perhaps that lack of utter certainty stems from the difference from what would seem to us as a smooth-running world such as we would imagine God would plan, and the world that we see about us. And that difference is the measure of our failure to understand God's purpose in His management of every tiny detail of it.
The title of the first chapter of this book is: Saints Live In Eternity, and that title pretty well expresses what I mean by the difference between God's purpose and our understanding of it. Our idea of the kind of a world that God would be likely to plan is oriented toward peace and comfort and convenience here and now. Whereas God's actual plan is oriented one hundred per cent toward eternity.
In other words, God's management of everything is aimed at peopling Heaven with the kind of friends that God wants around Him in eternity. And that involves the discipline of obedience to God's will under perfect freedom to refuse that obedience with full knowledge that it is refusal. And that is exactly the situation we are in today. And, to help you see that it is a perennial feature of God's plan, I ask you to recall with me the momentous words addressed by the Prophet Samuel to King Saul three thousand years farther back in this kaleidoscope of history repeating itself.
Saul, the arrogant, jealous, self-loving yet very powerful leader of the warriors of Israel, had received from Samuel God's command that Saul should wage a war of extermination against the Amalecites, the very prosperous but very sinful nation that had wrought havoc against the Israelites during their flight from Egypt. Saul mustered his army and, inspired by God's aid, succeeded in gaining complete victory over the Amalecites. But, instead of carrying out God's command to effect complete extermination of all that belonged to them, Saul allowed his soldiers to make spoil of all that was the best and fattest among their herds and possessions, and carry them back to Galgala.
When Samuel overtook Saul at Galgala he found him offering sacrifices of the first fruits of the plunder taken from Amalec. And, as Samuel approached, Saul said: "The Lord's blessing on thee I have fulfilled the divine command." "And this bleating of sheep?" Samuel asked, "This lowing of oxen that I hear?" "Why," answered Saul, "these are what they brought back from Amalec; my men saved the best out of the flock and herd to be offered in sacrifice to the Lord; all the rest we have destroyed."
And Samuel turned to him and said: "The Lord anointed thee King of Israel, and sent thee on an errand; Up, He said, destroy the sinful men of Amalec, smiting them down till none is left. How is it that thou didst not obey the Lord's command? Why didst thou fall to plundering in defiance of the Lord's will?" "Nay," protested Saul, "obey the Lord I did; I went where the Lord's errand took me, and brought back Agag, King of Amalec in chains, and destroyed Amalec utterly. If my men carried off sheep and oxen, these were but first fruits that were saved from the slaughter of all the rest, to be offered up to the Lord their God here in Galgala."
"What," said Samuel, "thinkest thou that the Lord's favor can be won by offering Him sacrifice and victim instead of obeying His divine will? The Lord loves obedience better than sacrifice, the attentive ear better than the fat of rams. Rebellion is sin as witchcraft is sin, all one with idolatry is the unsubmissive heart. Thou hast revoked thy loyalty to the Lord, and He thy kingship." Saul then humbly confessed that he had done it to humor his people and begged to be reinstated, but Samuel only repeated: "The Lord has revoked thy kingship over Israel, since thou hast revoked thy loyalty to Him." (I Kings ch. 15.)
Dear reader, I have made a long digression with this story of Saul's disobedience, but I beg you to let me try to show you how very relevant it is to the goings-on in the world today. God is all-wise, all-powerful, and has complete command over all that happens. But He exercises this command through men, and does it in ways that baffle human understanding. His ways are baffling because He allows so much to be done in disobedience to His will and never seems to interfere with the choices made by men.
And thereby hangs the whole understanding of the meaning of Divine Providence and the gateway inviting you and me to peace and Project Sainthood through abandonment to God's plan in preference to what our human judgment might suggest. The continual harvest of souls in the setting provided by Divine Providence is effected by the continual ripening process of day-by-day and minute-by-minute presentation of situations requiring or inviting decisions of the will of each individual one of us. One might say that this continual ripening and harvesting is PROJECT SAINTHOOD IN PRACTICE.
God provides the garden for the ripening. This is the world and its natural events involving all of us. God also provides what might be called the sunshine and the rain to aid healthy ripening. This sunshine and rain is the means provided by God to let each individual know what choices of the will are pleasing to God and what choices displease Him. This knowledge comes to us through men. It came to King Saul by direct command through the Prophet Samuel; it comes to us in terms no less easy to understand from the Teaching Authority which God has placed in His Church and has provided evidence that it comes from Him and is backed by Him.
But here the analogy of the natural harvest ends. The healthy ripening of the natural crop is controlled one hundred per cent by the natural nourishment received by the individual plants. The maturing of the supernatural crop is, I will not say "controlled," but rather, is "determined" for each individual receiver by the choices he makes with regard to the supernatural nourishment made available by God's Providence.
And it is right at this point that all of the departure from man's way of running affairs takes place. Instead of having a police officer present to punish immediately every act of disobedience and set it right, God chooses to let it run its course and form part of the mosaic of the natural surroundings of the rest of us. And this is even true of choices which we make regarding the evidence furnished by God for the reliability of His Teaching Authority.
I have studied comments made by Dr. Robert McAfee Brown explaining why Protestants refuse to accept the evidence of the Infallibility of this Teaching Authority. Dr. Brown stated it very simply when he said: "The Protestant does not disavow Papal Infallibility to score debating points; he does so in FIDELITY TO His Own UNDERSTANDING OF HOW GOD WORKS THROUGH MEN." And there is the precise statement of the point of departure between God's ways (and by that I mean God's Providence) and man's understanding of God's ways.
The non-Catholic has no alternative but to form his own conclusions based on his own understanding of how God works through men. But God has not left it to man to depend upon his own understanding of how God works through men. He has given evidence which He has said is sufficient, that He does work through men, frail as they may be, by founding His one Church on the men He has chosen and promising the rest of men that they bring His message by saying: "He who hears you hears Me."
There is no possibility of reaching a conclusion about the truth of Papal Infallibility by using man's understanding of how God works through men. It can only be tested by examining the evidence which God has furnished to prove that it comes from Him. Dr. Brown and all non-Catholics must deny the way God has chosen of making His will known, not indeed with malice, but, nevertheless, with non-acceptance of the evidence furnished by God and hence without the grace that would go with the acceptance. And there is the crux of the whole situation. God has His way of working through men. He offers the evidence and leaves it to men to choose. Saul chose his own interpretation of God's will expressed in the command given to him by Samuel. Doctor Brown and all men of good will who are not Catholics choose their interpretation of God's will from their understanding of how God works through men. Sinners make their choices in varying degrees of malice against what God has declared through men to be His will. Catholics of weak faith make their choices in varying degrees of non-submission to the truth made known to them by God. The truly faithful Catholic, alone, can serenely go his way in peace amidst this welter of non-submission in the choices made by men that makes the world look to some as if "God is dead" while all the time God is in complete control of every single item of it.
It is this serenity and peace that I had in mind in urging you to become adept in the practice of Abandonment to Divine Providence. You would then realize that it is utterly simple because it stems from an appreciation of the immediate action of God in everything that happens. After all this seeming digression, however, you are probably beginning to wonder what I mean by something utterly simple and so it is up to me to try to answer that query.
First, I want to ask you to try hard to believe that I am talking about something that is very practical and important in the business of Project Sainthood here and now. It is definitely not something academic and theoretical and piously idealistic! Furthermore, it is definitely not something that is of interest only to cloistered nuns, being too specialized to be compatible with the everyday life of ordinary mortals.
This last notion is utterly false and misleading, but it is all too common and all too difficult to quench. True it may be said to be all-in-all for cloistered nuns, since they make it their business to be totally abandoned to Divine Providence, and their work is futile except insofar as it is made useful by Divine Providence; but, and here is a fact that lies at the very root of Catholic Faith - the same is true of everything that is done or said or thought by every individual Catholic, and for that matter, by every human being in the world. None of it has any value for the doer or for society except insofar as it is incorporated into the ineffable pattern of salvation and made useful by Divine Providence.
And here is the somewhat terrifying corollary of this all-embracing fact - every single human act, good, bad, and indifferent, as well as all the temporal and material goings-on which surround us - every item of what we call the "problem of evil" as well as all that is good - is part of God's pattern of salvation directly under the control of Divine Providence. The informed Catholic or, for that matter, the informed anybody-else, can know that his Project Sainthood and the degree of eternal happiness to be enjoyed by him is determined by the degree of conformity to the Divine Will of his particular part in the kaleidoscope of human actions. But here is where the informed anybody-else is at a disadvantage because he has only his own judgment to guide him. He may be baptized and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in his soul, but his spiritual ear is hindered from hearing Him whom God has sent.
The informed Catholic, on the other hand, can know God's will and can make use of the power of the Spirit of God dwelling in his soul to conform to His will. This does not mean that it is altogether easy. God never intended that it should be altogether easy. In fact, the ripening to maturity almost always demands a proof of perfect trust in God in the face of a certain amount of suffering and frustration. The non-submissive choices that are going on around us make that almost inevitable and it is altogether probable that God insists upon some suffering for the perfection of every soul.
If one's faith were perfect this abandonment would be automatic and would be a joy and a peaceful joy no matter how hectic the natural events might prove to be. The measure, then, of our success at abandonment is the measure of our faith. Let us see, then, just what this would mean in terms of day-by-day living.
The reader may have been wondering: "When is Father Bede going to fulfill the purpose of this chapter and give some advice as how to become adept at the practice of Project Sainthood?" And I will answer that query by saying that every word of this chapter thus far has been intended as a part of that advice. Why? Because every breath you draw, every thought you think, every word you say, everything you do as well as all that goes on around you involves the Practice of Project Sainthood in the atmosphere of Divine Providence.
God's infinitude makes it impossible for you to fully appreciate the intimacy of His relationship to you. Everything in your life from minute to minute is planned by God for your perfection as if it were arranged for you alone in all the world. You can live it and act it as a purely natural life of one human being among a billion others, or you can live it and act it as the most important series of events in all eternity planned by God and assisted by God to give you the very best sharing of His love for all eternity. If you choose the latter, or I should say, to the extent that you choose the latter, you are becoming adept in the practice of Project Sainthood in abandonment to Divine Providence.
Now, I could go on for several chapters discussing the application of this last statement to the various events that may enter into your life from this minute forward. But to do it would only confuse the marrow of my object in this chapter which is to help you to see that the essence of the practice of Project Sainthood is to advert to the fact that it is not a series of events requiring your attention and the application of abandonment time after time. Instead, it is a continuous business engagement with God which goes on whether you are awake or asleep and is utterly simple because it includes simply everything.
God is managing every single second of it including the involuntary physiology of your body, as you sleep or wake, in sickness and in health, in trials and in comfort, in temptation and in consolation. What He asks of you is as nothing compared with the part He plays. But it is a very large and important part in comparison with your ability. It is really a series of choices, some trivial, some momentous, some almost involuntary, some with grave and careful deliberation; all of them having a bearing on your business which is Project Sainthood. The product of this business is the capital of supernatural merit which you will take with you when you die.
The degree to which you learn to become constantly aware of this continuing Business of Project Sainthood is the degree to which you are becoming adept at the practice of Abandonment to Divine Providence. And the more adept you become, the more confident you will be that God is doing His part perfectly regardless of how unpromising or distasteful the choices He offers you may become. In other words, you may remember the maxim I have often suggested: "All that happens to me and around me is part of God's discipline for me and is right!"
Now, I have said that it would confuse the marrow of my object in this chapter if I were to discuss at length its application in detail. But there is one little exception which I want to leave with you as a conclusion. It is the application of abandonment to prayer.
We are taught that prayer has four facets each of which is essential to healthy spiritual life. They are: adoration, thanksgiving, satisfaction, and petition. Each of these facets of prayer involves choices on our part but they vary considerably in the ease with which we leave the outcome to the choice of God.
No one with any faith at all should find difficulty in whole-hearted adoration of almighty God or in giving thanks for all the blessings He bestows. But how about giving thanks for trials, troubles, failures, and our own faults? "They are all part of God's discipline for me and are right!" And when it comes to offering satisfaction and reparation for faults or making petition for goods or graces, is there any one of us who can say with perfect sincerity that he has never undertaken to give God a little advice as to what the outcome should be? The true adept at Project Sainthood trusts God for everything and in every detail especially when God seems to be handling the matter in a way quite different from the way he would choose.
MARRIAGE MAKES PROJECT SAINTHOOD A TEAM
Most of the counsel in the preceding pages has been aimed at individuals in their Partnership with God. There is, however one vast category which adds to ordinary eligibility a grave responsibility to practice Operation Sainthood. Those bound before God by the vows of the Sacrament of Marriage assume equal responsibility, each for the soul of the other, and for their children, in a most precious and privileged vocation for sainthood backed by God and essential to His plan.
It is beyond question that the present turmoil in the world and in the Church contributes to, and is immensely aggravated by, the failure of husbands and wives to give themselves all life long as a team for sainthood in the Sacrament of Marriage. The chief reason for this is forgetfulness of the nature of this Sacrament. It is far more than a legal sanction for cohabitation between the sexes. It is a sacrament provided by God to fortify the Church in its quest for holiness.
The Vatican II DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH leaves no doubt as to this universal need of the Church. In Chapter Five it has this to say to husbands and wives:
"Married couples and Christian parents should follow their own proper path to holiness by faithful love, sustaining one another in grace throughout the entire length of their lives. They should imbue their offspring, lovingly welcomed from God, with Christian truths and evangelical virtues." (Abbott p. 69.)
Perhaps the most important thought in that admonition is contained in the word Grace. Marriage is provided by God with a special Sacramental Grace ample to meet every situation which may occur if it is adverted and used in partnership with Christ Who is always present and ready to take command. If every married person would resolve to use the Grace of the Sacrament, there would be no more strife in families and the children would form a new generation which would renew the Church in very Truth.
Every husband and every wife brings to the altar his or her precious sole partnership of Project Sainthood in the making. These individual partnerships with God are in no way cancelled by the Sacrament of Marriage, but the Grace of the Sacrament brings about a certain coalescence into an overriding three-way partnership which can and should immensely promote the efficacy of the working of the individual partnerships which survive and flourish in a three-way union.
And the same notion holds good when children begin to make their appearance in the family. Each one has an individual partnership with God established as soon as it is baptized, but the whole life history of this partnership can and should be immensely benefited by the atmosphere of Sacramental Grace in which the Major Partner of each unites them all into a saint-building team.
And this, I believe, is a theme that can lift our thoughts a little bit above the run-of-the-mill consideration of the blessings and responsibilities of Marriage. It is true that love, fidelity, unity, mutual help and companionship are treasures of Marriage and that the procreation and education of children are the coequal and primary ends of Marriage. But they are too easily regarded merely as temporal and natural treasures and responsibilities even though they may be supernaturalized by the Grace of the Sacrament.
How very much more precious, infinitely precious, the whole thing becomes when it is understood that the sole and all-sufficient end of Marriage is Project Sainthood for each individual member of a family, all working as a team in partnership with God, for each! Think of it - what a motive and what a responsibility! God had no other purpose in bringing this particular husband and wife together than to promote, vivify, and give definite direction to Project Sainthood for each of them by a new sacred vocation in which they pool their individual projects into one three-way Partnership aimed at sainthood for each of them and each of the children whom God might choose to add to their team.
A deeper knowledge of the nature of this partnership with God brings with it Grace to perform joyfully all of the functions of perfect married life. And this knowledge need be nothing more than a thorough and complete understanding and acceptance of Saint Paul's words to the Ephesians: "Now to Him that is able to accomplish far beyond all that we understand through His power that is at work in us - to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations, world without end. Amen." (3:20.)
These words of Saint Paul give sublime expression to the idea contained in the more prosaic, yet pithy, expression which I have used so often: "All that happens to me and around me is part of God's discipline for me and is right!" In my own particular case, and looked at in the perspective of a lifetime, the perfect truth of this statement makes me utterly ashamed that I have been so obtuse and so slow to respond that God, in His infinite patience, has found it necessary to spare me most of the unpleasant temporal experiences which usually have their place in God's program for individual discipline.
God's gentleness in my case, however, has given me a deep understanding of the individual nature of the working of God's Providence. And the experiences of my priestly life have embedded in my heart the firm conviction that even the most devastating trials as well as the most consoling blessings can be equally beneficial for the soul's welfare if they are accepted or enjoyed in partnership with God.
Two fundamental ideas come immediately to mind in this connection: First, if sainthood is the product of a partnership which necessitates a vital contribution from each partner, it becomes obvious that souls can find their way to hell even though almighty God is one of the partners. But, second, and all-important, if almighty God is one essential Partner, sainthood is not only possible but an absolute certainty to the human partner who learns to cooperate in union with God. In fact, the only reason that Project Sainthood can fail in any individual case is that God is so jealous of that precious human quality that makes Him have a special love for us - the will to choose - that He will never coerce a will that opposes His but always leaves it free to turn away from His love. And that is all that can frustrate your Project Sainthood for you.
Looked at in this light, life can become an utterly fascinating and supernaturally purposeful treasure-hunt, no matter how drab or difficult or distracting it may be from a temporal point of view. To my mind, the notion that our life in this world and its heavenly goal is an individual partnership with Jesus Christ, is the most consoling and inspiring and all-sufficient product of our Faith. It can make life a success and an extremely happy success, no matter how dismal a failure or how filled with misery it may seem in the eyes of the world. It gives that indestructible assurance expressed by Saint Paul everywhere in his Epistles and made unassailable in such words as these: "I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13), and again: "If God is for us who shall be against us?" (Rom. 8:31.)
And here is where the Sacrament of Marriage enters the picture to clinch this treasure-hunt and make it a family affair. If each member of the family has even a faint inkling of the value of the treasure that each is seeking for all, it will make even heroic sacrifice of self-interest seem a small price to pay for the reward offered by God. Again, looked at in this light, parents' role as guardians of the spiritual welfare of their children would inspire absolutely unlimited self-giving, prudence, study, prayer - all backed by the assured guarantee of the Major Partner of each. And the same is true of the mutual opportunity for Mother and Father to further each the other's Project Sainthood.
And that is where Sacramental Grace comes into its own. The Grace of the Sacrament of Marriage is that joint drawing-account for help from the Major Partner to do what it takes to meet successfully every situation which presents itself in the day-to-day unfolding of married life. It is absolutely sure-fire if it is always kept in mind that it is guaranteed by God as long as it is put to use in union with Him. And there are endless, almost countless opportunities to profit by its use.
To begin with, no two people in this world are absolutely one hundred per cent compatible. Courtship conceals that fact, but marriage inevitably brings it out in vivid detail. Many of the items are trivial in themselves but no detail is so unimportant that it can be allowed to interfere with the smooth working of Project Sainthood.
One example stands out in my memory that I would be ashamed to mention were it not for the fact that I know that every spouse can find something almost as trivial that may be hurting the progress of your Project Sainthood. My precious wife was, perhaps, a little careless about leaving her fountain pen uncapped and so she frequently had to borrow mine when hers refused to perform. It makes me shudder now to think that even once I failed to use the Grace of the Sacrament and thereby missed an opportunity to increase her love by gracious understanding. I could have purchased a gross of fountain pens and hired a caddy to keep them capped rather than to allow such a trivial thing to be the cause of impatience. I have that forty-year-old fountain pen in my desk now and I love it because she held it in her hand. I mentioned this incident to a friend not long ago and he said with a laugh: "In my family it's the tooth-paste tube that causes war. Some squeeze it flat and some roll it up from the bottom and the argument never ends!"
But not all items of incompatibility are trivial. They include these nothings and they run the gamut all the way to grave injustices and even mortal sins of disloyalty. But here is the secret of success. Each must know that Sacramental Grace is adequate for the cure of absolutely every difficulty, but it is not automatic; it demands an act of the will to use it; and sometimes an heroic act of sacrifice. Each must also know that God, the Major Partner, looks right into the heart of each and knows every thought before it crystallizes into word or act. If you are doing anything that fails to promote Project Sainthood for another member of your family, God may use your fault to make a saint of the victim, in the hard way, but you are paying for it at a price which will horrify you when you finally see the bill.
So - now let us take stock. It is true that there are sometimes utterly innocent parties who suffer from marriage problems, but almost always there is very much that each can do to settle them or to avoid them. In the first place, husbands and wives should have no occasion for secrets from each other after the day of marriage. Anything kept secret that has happened after the wedding, is almost certain proof that God is displeased with your behavior; that you are cheating on the team. Then if there is a case of grave injustice or grave sin, the injured one should not look upon it from the angle of injury to self but as a grave obstacle to Project Sainthood for the loved one. And this applies all down the line to lesser trials. Cooperation and determination to use Sacramental Grace to promote Project Sainthood for each is the sure way to make the most of your partnership with God.
And here is one last word: if the item of incompatibility is no sin at all as is usually the case, even though it could legitimately rankle, it is immensely profitable to put up with it, and that not in a sullen silence, but with a cute exercise of Grace to let the other know of it with love instead of with hostility. Incidentally, that offers, by all odds, the best chance of a cure. To put it another way - husband, never stop making love to your wife - and wife, cherish that love! My wife and I exchanged love letters everyday that we were separated during thirty years of married life.
So now let us turn back from just you two and look at some things about people in general. Perhaps we can find some fuel for Project Sainthood for your team.
Not long ago, I was serving as Chaplain in a hospital. Each evening I received the cards of all the new patients who were rated as baptized Catholics. It gives me an inkling of what Christ must feel when I ask one of these patients if he would wish me to bring Communion in the morning and he replies, "Oh, I guess not. I've been away from the Church for so long that I wouldn't know how to act." How sick at heart it makes me feel to receive such a reply for Christ.
Of course, the usual hidden reason is a wound in the soul far worse than the malady that has brought the patient to the hospital. Most common of all is contamination from the example of the devilish prostitution of the sacred bond of Marriage so common in the world of materialism about us. These poor souls have lost the awareness of that intimate nearness of God or of the stab at His Heart that is caused by this betrayal of His love.
If I were to step in briskly and offer each of these people a check for a million dollars, they would, of course, be incredulous, but if they knew that it was genuine what heroic measures would they not take to make themselves eligible and yet what they are casting aside is worth a million times as much.
But how it does gladden the heart of the Chaplain and the Heart of Christ to step from such a bedside into the Maternity Ward and be greeted with a smile by a lovely mother who says with a glow of love from her heart: "This little son is our twelfth; do you think the Archbishop will come next week to baptize him according to his custom, even though we have lost one who could not survive a difficult birth?" Oh, if each one could only see into the Heart of Christ at each of these bedsides! What an awakening would come to those who have become utterly benumbed to that close partnership with Christ which He has offered them and they have cast aside as did the Prodigal Son in the parable of Christ.
There is not a single soul in this world who has allowed himself to become enmeshed in a state of sin who would not do what it takes to become reinstated in the Sacramental Bond with Christ if God would allow him to see the true state of his soul without Christ.
There is no temporal sacrifice which one might be called upon to make which can even be compared with the tragic sacrifice of soul made by one who has shut the door to Christ. And the reason is that the possession of the Divine Partner within one's soul makes the difference between omnipotent power to meet any contingency with a heart fortified by God, compared to a helpless human frailty enmeshed in the coils of a monstrous serpent embedded in his flesh and blinding his whole being from God. There is no amount of temporizing or rationalizing or of salving one's conscience with the platitudes of materialism and pragmatism that can effect a cure. There is no cure except the Divine one - cost what it may!
The breaking of a partnership by an act of the human will is a calamity that is mourned deeply in the Heart of God; and that is why there is more joy in heaven over one broken partnership that is restored than over all that have never ceased and have remained dear to God. The joy in heaven over a partnership restored does not mean that God cares less for those who have persevered in loving union with Him, but it is another example of the uniqueness of the relationship between God and each individual soul.
It was once my privilege to witness an example of the everlasting patience with which God pursues a prodigal soul, always inviting but never compelling. A dear old lady, born in 1866, just after the close of the Civil War in the United States, when the Middle West was still a pioneering frontier, was the object of this quest of God's love. Her mother, who had belonged to a stalwart Catholic family, had two sisters who were nuns. These dear aunts saw that the child was baptized and spent a few years in a convent school.
After the death of her mother, however, she drifted away from the Faith and grew to womanhood and motherhood estranged from Catholic belief and made subject to all the Protestant antipathies engendered by scandal-stories of Catholic misbehavior. The Catholic background of her family, however, brought it about that two of her sons were faithful Catholics and among their offspring another devout Religious emerged. The prayers of all these people in a distant city seemed to go unanswered for many, many years...But God was all the while preparing a surprise for them.
Patiently He brought about a fantastic combination of circumstances, all detached from each other, and all involving people who had no idea that they were co-conspirators with God, but each contributing a necessary link to the chain of events which at last brought the dear old lady whole-heartedly back into the arms of God, able to be supremely happy although too feeble to walk and totally blind, but knowing now that God The Son had always been her Partner on the long road to salvation. It was my privilege to give this ninety-nine-year-old child of God her First Communion!
And what is there for us to learn from this history of indifference and its happy ending? Can we not let it teach us that every single individual life is a unique and intricate life history crammed full of details, some tiny, some momentous, involving every moment of night and day from birth, or perhaps we should even say, from conception to death, and every incident having two aspects - its part in our own individual life-history - and its part in relation to other souls.
God, because of His infinite power, infinite wisdom, infinite knowledge, is able to be more intimately aware of each of these parts than we ourselves. Not only is He intimately aware of every detail, but He is intimately in control of every detail in a way that we can only faintly imagine. And being in control, He directs every detail with infinite care, fitting it into the panorama of His love-inspired plan for every soul. We are each of us in the midst of this formation of our own life-history.
From birth to early childhood, our part in the project has been almost entirely in the hands of our parents. What a privilege! What a priceless treasure is the privilege of guiding the preservation of the sainthood of a newly baptized child! If parents could see clearly the value of the project they are permitted, with God's supervision, to undertake, what care they would use to insure its success!
As we emerge from childhood, however, God opens up to each one of us our share in the partnership. He is still - and all life long will be - by far the Major Partner. That is, whatever continues to be passive and external is all God's doing even though much of it is through human instruments. Even most of what is internal belongs to God, but - and here is the gist of my whole message to you - the tiny part that we are called upon to share in the making of our destiny in partnership with God, determines whether that destiny is to be heaven or hell!
God takes care of all the essential part, providing us with life and environment which, even when filled with tragedy, is an apt setting for the goal He has invited us to reach. Our part, however, working within the essentials provided by God, is the part which God allows to determine the outcome. While our tiny part does indeed determine the outcome, we are not alone in managing even that. In fact, God is ready to do it all, but He withholds His hand from forcing that power which He has given us which makes Him love us, the power of free-will to choose.
Some acts of the will are entirely within the secrecy of the partnership with God. Such are our internal acts of prayer and love and thanksgiving. Other acts are only indirectly outgoing from the partnership to form part of the environment of others. Such are the acts of ours which give example or form part of public prayer.
But many of the acts of men very directly and very materially affect the lives of others. These, too, are an important part of the individual's partnership with God and benefit or injure according to his intention, whether he is united with God in Grace, or is acting knowingly in rebellion against God. All such acts, however, without exception, are fitted by God into the mosaic of the lives of those whom they reach, to bring about the perfect fulfillment of God's will for each and every soul. To the extent that each one of us will cultivate that unwavering faith in God's intimate and personal Partnership with those He loves; to that extent is he fulfilling the purpose for which he has been born into this world. And to that extent he is fortifying the foundations of his own Project Sainthood for all eternity.
As Romano Guardini puts it: "My powers are as limited as my being; my knowledge vanishes in the awfulness of God's omniscience; my strength fails utterly before the ineffableness of God's omnipotence; my wisdom faints before the unfathomableness of God's wisdom which controls the immeasurable threads of all existence." - And yet, He condescends to be my Partner and declares Himself to be united with me in that perfect bond of love - my Project Sainthood.
PROJECT SAINTHOOD: A UNIVERSAL MISSION
NOTE: Much of the wording of this chapter may seem to be addressed only to Catholics. This is to avoid confusion as to the Missionary Objective of the Church. The MESSAGE, however, and the INTENTION is directed very definitely to every Christian and indeed to every human being.
The Second Vatican Council emphatically stressed a new concept of the relationship between the Church established by Jesus Christ and the human race now occupying the world. The universal nature of the Mission is expressed in these words:
"Rising from the dead, Christ sent His life-giving Spirit upon His disciples and through this Spirit has established His body, the Church, as a Universal Sacrament of Salvation." (Lumen Gentium, Par. 48.)
Before the Council, the prevailing concept saw the Church as the God-empowered institution providing the exclusive means of salvation into which all men were invited to come and be saved. Now, the tendency is to see the entire human race as the object of God's redemptive mission, the intended personnel of the People of God.
Among all men, then, the present members of the People of God are commanded by Christ their head to recognize a responsibility to strive mightily for their salvation. And thereby hangs a whole new approach reflected in every one of the documents of the Council and especially in the Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity and the Decree on Ecumenism.
In the past, the parish has always been considered as the focal point in which each person's responsibility has centered. Indeed, loyal cooperation between Pastor and people is always to be desired, but the viewpoint can no longer be parochial or diocesan or even national. In fact, the Council decree which concerns the laity is called the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity and its focus is ever world-wide.
The very paragraph which urges parish and diocesan loyalty, immediately recognizes a joint responsibility on a world basis. "Laymen," it says, "should not limit their cooperation to parochial boundaries but strive to extend it to interparochial, interdiocesan, national, and international fields" (Doc. Lay. (10) Abb. p. 501.)..."and be concerned about the needs of the People of God dispersed throughout the world..."
This new concept stems from the Founder's mandate, from the source of its power and, even in a more compelling sense, from the very innermost requirements of the Church's own nature of catholicity which makes her the Mother of every individual soul. "For Christ Himself in explicit terms affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and hence the necessity of the Church." (Doc. Mis. (7) Abb. p. 593.)
God's goodness and infinite love moved Him to create the world and give us the Church to lead us to the ultimate goal for which the world was made. This cannot become known to us without inspiring us to active participation in the Pilgrim nature of the Church which God intends for all men. It is a first responsibility of those who belong, to invite those around them, both near and far, who have not yet fully learned this true message from God.
And God's design for the salvation of all men is not carried out, as it were, secretly within the souls of individuals. "Nor is it confined to that inner urge of human nature which causes men to search for God. On the contrary, God wills that faith should be the product of enlightenment spread from man to man throughout the people of the world."
That this is the mode chosen by God for the enlightenment of the People of God shines forth in its very beginning, the Incarnation. "For God sent His Son, clothed in our flesh, in order that through this Son He might snatch men from the power of darkness and Satan and that in this Son He might reconcile the world to Himself." (Doc. Mis. (3) Abb. p. 586.) For Christ said of Himself: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me; to bring good news to the poor He sent Me, to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim to the captive release, and sight to the blind." (Luke 4:18.)
And from all this the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council go on to remind each of us that: "What was once preached by the Lord or what was once wrought in Him for the saving of the human race, must be proclaimed and spread abroad to the ends of the earth. Thus what He once accomplished for the salvation of all, may in the course of time come to achieve its effect in all."
This precious design of God begun by Christ in the flesh has been continued by Him and His Holy Spirit whereby He has animated the life of His Mystical Body as if by its soul. Beginning at Pentecost and energizing the hearts of the faithful to the same mission spirit which motivated Christ Himself it will continue to make Him present to the men of all time.
In the thirty-odd years between the Annunciation and Christ's Ascension into heaven, the God-Man completed once for all the mysteries of our salvation. But since those mysteries by God's design were planned to include all men, Christ also, during His lifetime provided for the continuance of their application. This He did by choosing from among those who first believed in Him twelve whom He empowered and then commanded to carry on until the end of time. In themselves and in their successors they applied the means of salvation which He had provided and for which He had been sent by His Father.
Thus Christ initiated the perennial missionary activity of the Church. Announcing that He Himself was commissioned with all power in heaven and on earth, He commanded the twelve to: "Go into the whole world; preach the Gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned." (Mark 16:15 ff.)
This command given by Christ was not confined to those who were called to be the first College of Bishops under Saint Peter as their head. It included also every one of those who entered the sheepfold by the door of baptism and so became a cell of Christ's Body. They were all to continue as He had begun and "prompted by the Holy Spirit, to walk the same road that Christ walked: a road of poverty and obedience, of service and self-sacrifice." (Doc. Mis. (5) Abb. p. 590.) This is the mission in which all believers are incorporated.
The fulfillment of this mission is rightly called the essential function of the whole Church. It is of course true that the continued application of the means of salvation to those who are already incorporated into the Mystical Christ, that is, the pastoral activity of the Church is the evident form of its functioning. But everywhere and always, even this pastoral activity has the missionary function of extending grace to those who have not heard or have not understood the good news.
Thus the acme of missionary activity is the expression of the Church's innermost meaning. The time for it is all history; its matter is all that is good in the heart of man. "Missionary activity is nothing else and nothing less than the manifestation of God's will and the working of God's will in the world."
The present status of the world lends urgency to the motives for missionary activity. Modern advances in science and technology have brought about the means and urge for the political and social solidarity of the whole world, but the machinations of Satan have caused men to turn these very means into menaces that threaten the very existence of the human race. And political diplomacy alone has demonstrated in two world-wars its incapacity to meet the menace.
Pope John XXIII in his constitution convoking the Council expressed this urgency most vividly: "Today," he said, "the Church is witnessing a crisis under way within society. While humanity is on the edge of a new era, tasks of immense gravity and amplitude await the Church, as in the most tragic periods of its history. It is a question in fact of bringing the modern world into contact with the vivifying and perennial energies of the Gospel, a world which exalts itself with its conquests in the technical and scientific fields, but which brings also the consequences of a temporal order which some have wished to reorganize excluding God. This is why modern society is earmarked by a great material progress to which there is not a corresponding advance in the moral field." (Hum. Sal. Abb. p. 703.)
As Pope John also pointed out in a radio address on September 11th, 1962, one month before the opening of the Council, peace and social justice are the two objects of heart's desire of every human being and yet the menace to peace and the breach of social justice are everywhere out of control. "The Church," the Holy Father said, "is supremely necessary for the modern world if injustices and unworthy inequalities are to be denounced, and if the true order of affairs and of values is to be restored." (Doc. Abb. p. 6.)
The obvious failure of political power backed by natural motives to bring about the acceptance of the unity which science is urging makes it still more obvious that true unity is possible only in Christ. Humanity not united in Christ lacks His supernatural power which is absolutely necessary for the budding of that unity in which peace and social justice will prevail.
Charity, Sacrifice, the Way of the Cross, are the sources of the supernatural power offered by Christ to draw all men into Project Sainthood which is the universal mission of His Church. Sin expels Christ and rejects this supernatural power which His mission offers. Therefore sin blocks unity and the obvious sinful state of man emphasizes the urgency of the constant missionary activity of everyone who will cast his lot with Christ.
There is need for this missionary activity in every part of the world and its performance is needed by every member of the Church in every part of the world. Its performance must be adjusted to the setting for each individual. Sometimes the setting is very favorable for the direct application of missionary activity, sometimes it hampers or directly opposes missionary activity, but always and everywhere souls must stand ready to step in wherever God in His Providence provides an opening.
And the entire world is the setting for the Christian and his universal Project Sainthood. It can be made successful in accord with the aim of the missionary responsibility voiced by the Council to the extent that each Christian will make himself world-minded. And this emphasizes what I have said about the new concept of the meaning of the term "People of God." Of old, "the People of God" was a term applied to a people set apart by God Himself to carry out His will among the heathen and protected by God from extermination by them. That meaning is still applicable to the Church founded by Christ as "The New People Of God." But in a larger sense, and in terms of the purpose for which God has placed His Pilgrim Church in the world, the People of God embraces the entire human race...
This is made explicit in the Council's Missionary Decree in these words:
"According to God's plan the whole human race is to form one people of God, coalesce into one body of Christ and be built into one temple of the Holy Spirit. This plan will be realized at last when all who share one human nature, regenerated in Christ through the Holy Spirit and beholding together the glory of God, will be able to say "Our Father." (Doc. Mis. (7) Abb. p. 594.)
This means that for each individual, "belonging-to-Christ" calls for furthering Christ-ianity whether one is Catholic or non-Catholic. And the realization of this responsibility should shout the scandal of a divided Christendom and should furnish the greatest ecumenical urge as a preparation for effective missionary activity. To quote again from the Council: "Christ and the Church, which bears witness to Him by preaching the Gospel, transcend every particularity of race or nation and therefore cannot be considered foreign anywhere or to anybody." (Doc. Mis. (8) Abb. p. 594.) So, each Christian is called to be an apostle of Project Sainthood wherever he may be.
It is a solemn and salutary thought to be reminded that each Catholic contains within his soul the tradition of the Church. If atomic disaster annihilated every other Catholic in the world, your soul with its intellect and memory and will would contain tradition as the Church-Believing. And, in that sense, it would be well for each one of us to be always conscious that he or she represents the Church to the world. "Each individual person," says the Council, "must stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and as a sign that God lives. ...In a word, what the soul is to the body, let the Christian be to the world." (Doc. L.G. (38) Abb. p. 65.) In this context every Catholic is a chosen partner of God and must fulfill God's mission by prayer, sacrifice and acts. Priests and Religious should be the first to set the example.
No one is exempted from this partnership in Project Sainthood. Every individual is needed. And, since God is the Major Partner, each individual should take advantage of His supernatural power which almost infinitely multiplies every human effort.
The divine multiplication of the power of each human effort, however, does not minimize the importance of that effort. On the contrary, it definitely emphasizes the importance of each little thing done. God could indeed effect the completion of His mission without human help but He graciously chooses to need each one. Furthermore, your share of the help He needs cannot be done by anyone else.
This is vividly expressed in the Missionary Decree of the Council: "Since the whole Church is missionary, and the work of evangelization is a basic duty of the People of God, this Sacred Synod summons all to a deep interior renewal. Thus from a vivid awareness of their own responsibility for spreading the Gospel, they will do their share in missionary work." (35) Abb. p. 623.)
As a member of the living Christ, each one has been incorporated into Him and made like Him through baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist. All are duty-bound to cooperate in the expansion and growth of His body. Each has a responsibility to all the world and this is linked with all other Christians.
Cultivation of the awareness of this responsibility is one of the most important functions of Catholic Education and that is why Catholic Education has such importance that it cannot be relinquished or diminished. (cf. Doc. Ed. (2) Abb. p. 640.)
The question may come to your mind: "Just how can I, here and now, be concerned so importantly with the missionary activity of the Church?" There are very many ways, but the very first I will answer in the words of the Council: "Let all realize that their first and most important obligation toward the spread of the Faith is this: to lead a profoundly Christian life. For their fervor in the service of God and their charity toward others will cause new spiritual inspiration to sweep over the whole Church. Then she will appear as a sign lifted up among the nations the light of the world and the salt of the earth." (Doc. Mis. (36) Abb. p. 623.)
A definite link is needed between individuals, parishes, and dioceses with the mission units of the church in the world. This can be done in many ways by individual correspondence or by group activity such as mailing books, magazines, pictures, rosaries and clothes to the missions.
Our Bishops, as the Council has emphasized, are consecrated for the salvation of the world and our parish priests are their collaborators for the salvation of the world. They and their parishioners must be or become world-minded.
All Religious Institutes for men and for women as well as the more recently organized Secular Institutes have important parts to play in the mission activities of the world, even those institutes not specifically engaged in foreign missions. So the encouragement of vocations for all of them is an important duty of parents as well as every other person in the Church.
Every person is in a position to cooperate in some degree in the work of evangelization of the world. To quote the Council again: "They serve as witnesses, and at the same time as living instruments they share in her saving mission."
This, of course, is especially true of those who can volunteer as lay apostles or help support apostles in their work. Here again we have an opportunity to take an interest in those who have gone from our midst to spend their lives in the missions. There is no limit to the good they can do with added help which we can give.
All persons who now live in already Christian lands are urged by the Council to nurture in themselves and in others a knowledge and love of the Missions; to stimulate vocations in their families and in Catholic societies and schools and to subsidize those already in mission lands to do every kind of work to aid the Church.
No better closing words can be found than those which conclude the Decree on the Missions: "The Fathers and the Roman Pontiff afire with that same love with which Christ burned toward men,...pour forth their prayers together with all the Christian faithful, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles, the nations may be led to the truth as soon as possible and that the splendor of God which brightens the face of Jesus Christ may shine upon all men through the Holy Spirit." (Doc. Mis. (42) Abb. p. 630.)
PROJECT SAINTHOOD: YOUR BUSINESS AND YOUR APOSTOLATE
No more fitting introduction to this final chapter could be devised than the words Saint Paul addressed to the Corinthians: "There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of ministrations, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all. But to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the profit of all." (I Cor. 12:4-7.)
The only truly successful life in this world is one in which the day-by-day doing of our part in the community in which we live is completely dominated and motivated by an unseen, interior, supernatural power stemming from a partnership with the Spirit of God indwelling in the soul.
Furthermore, the extent to which our day-by-day doings are dominated by the power of this partnership determines the degree of success without regard to what those doings may be. And, most important of all, the temporal and material success or failure of these day-by-day doings in no way increases or diminishes the success of the purpose for which we live, if our doings are dominated and motivated by this power. This does not mean, however, that we should be indifferent to material and temporal success, because the first concern of the power which dominates our doings is attention to proper performance of our particular function as a member, great or small, of the Mystical Body of Christ.
The soul that is truly dominated by the interior Spirit performs its temporal duties as an instrument of the Spirit. The reason that temporal success or failure is incidental is that such a soul knows that his success consists in being a docile instrument and as such the temporal results will be exactly at God intended them to be.
The saints, then, are those who come to know that the real business of this world is Life With God, whether it be as a business man, a housewife, a cook, an artist, a writer, a successful teacher, a priest, brother or sister, a philanthropist, or a hopeless cripple confined to bed. Each one can reach a pinnacle of success in the only profession that matters - Project Sainthood - and in so doing becomes an apostle to aid and encourage every other soul in the Mystical Body of Christ.
God manages all of it and has complete control of all of the results. The composite of all of our temporal activities is managed by God to provide the setting for each one of us to accumulate eternal capital in proportion to the love with which we enter into our apostolate in Project Sainthood. And so, whoever you are and wherever you are and whatever you do, I want you to take the title of this closing chapter and apply it to yourself - Project Sainthood is my Business and my Apostolate!
When one stops to think of it, it seems very strange that it should seem tedious to enter into Life With God or that one should have to be coaxed to do what it takes to share in the treasure that it offers. The answer is found in that mysterious reality, our supernatural faith. It is indeed mysterious because our manifestation of faith is so often very different from our profession of faith. It is awesomely true that the speed of our success in interior life is the measure of our faith.
The Catholic Church has always very plainly taught exactly what Christ taught - that Project Sainthood is the real purpose of our being in this world - yet a majority of Catholic lay people and at least a sizeable percentage of priests and Religious give the lie to what they profess, not with malice, to be sure, but in unconscious half-appreciation of their faith.
Let me cite just one example to show you what I mean. Jesus made this declaration to the whole nation of the Jews without any limitation: "Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have not life in you. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath everlasting life; and I will raise Him up on the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood abideth in Me and I in him. As the living Father hath sent Me, and as I live because of the Father, so he that eateth Me, he also shall live because of Me." (John 6:53 to 57.)
This is indeed a prodigious declaration of God's love and a treasure that is without precedent since the world began. It would certainly be unbelievable from any other lips than those of God Himself. And for that very reason it was "unbelieved" by most of those who heard Jesus say it. And it is still unbelieved by half the Christian world. "Many therefore of His disciples, having heard, said, 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?'" (John 6:60.)
Obviously, Jesus being God, knew exactly what was going on in their minds and if His meaning had been anything less than the precise ordinary meaning of the words He had used He immediately would have given a more exact explanation of His meaning. But what can we think when, instead, we find Him turning to His very Apostles and saying to them: "Do you also wish to depart?" And Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of everlasting life; and we have come to believe and to know that Thou art the Holy One of God."
This declaration of faith made by Simon Peter was in response to Christ's beautiful confirmation that this promise of the gift of the Eucharist was an essential of the faith He was to bequeath to them, with these words: "It is the Spirit which giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing. The words which I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are among you some that believe not." (John 6:63-64.)
These powerful words of Our Lord Jesus Christ mean exactly the same today as they did when He addressed them to His Apostles. They mean that the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the consecrated Host is intended by Him to be the daily nourishment of the souls of those whom He has come to sanctify and to fortify in spirit and in truth. This precious gift is intended to furnish the spiritual life blood of the faithful. It is to fortify them with the daily renewal of that moral certainty of the abiding presence of the Divine Partner. It is to maintain the vigor of the interior life of the soul which is the spirit that gives that life which is eternal.
This gift, then, this priceless certification of the abiding presence of God is offered day by day to each of us who will keep free from mortal sin which closes the door upon the Divine Presence. No true Catholic can be in-doubt of this truth, and yet what do we see as the proof of it in our churches?
Our answer might be emphasized if we imagine an utterly mundane substitution for this gift from God. Suppose, instead that it was made known that every Catholic who kept himself free from mortal sin could go once each day to the communion rail and receive a one-hundred-dollar bill! Of course you smile as you imagine the sequel to such an announcement. God could make it come true to the probable wrecking of the souls of many of the recipients. But, instead, He offers Himself - almighty God within us - of incomparably greater value - and what do we see as the response of the faithful? The answer to this question, instead of a smile, should provoke an appraisal of our motive for faith. It should also give each one of us a clue to the possibilities of preaching Project Sainthood as your Apostolate.
True, it is perhaps unfair to say that every Catholic could receive Communion every day. But each of us in his own milieu and in applying this reasoning to himself, would do well to think - what about that hundred-dollar-bill? - and encourage our people to receive Communion more often.
And that is only one item of the apostleship of good example. Is there any one of us who feels qualified to say: I am doing all I can by word and example to further Project Sainthood for myself and as an apostle to others? I wish with all my heart that I could even say: I am doing all I should do to further Project Sainthood for myself and as an apostle to others. After all, when we realize the true importance of Project Sainthood it might give us a hint that "can" and "should" are equal to each other.
Let us see how it works. I would not trade my Catholic Faith for all the money in the world. That means that I would not trade places with one who does not have the Catholic Faith for all the money in the world. And yet, I lived almost half of my life very much prejudiced against the Catholic Faith. There were, of course, many different influences which contributed to my final realization of its truth and preciousness. But I can say without the slightest hesitation or doubt; the one influence which stands out now above all others was the twenty-year-long apostleship of the example of my wife as she lived her Project Sainthood. That my appraisal of the apostleship of her example is not a biased one is proven by the fact that her Project Sainthood furnished the motive for several other conversions beside my own, including her own mother and father and brother and sister-in-law.
She never aggressively promoted her apostleship and never argued, and yet, she more than preached her Project Sainthood by manifesting in the little acts of her life her perfect confidence in, and perfect love for the indwelling presence of God in her soul. Her day-by-day living of Project Sainthood did more than all else to bring that treasure into my life.
Many non-Catholics go through life unaware of the availability of that treasure for which I would not trade the wealth of the world. How many of them might receive it if every Catholic lived so as to be an example of its worth?
I began to take instructions from a priest because of the obvious preciousness of the Faith to my wife. Even then, I had no notion that I would ever be a Catholic, but I was intrigued by the claim of the Church that its unity of faith, government, and worship had remained constant since it was given to the Apostles by Christ who is God. I was intrigued also by the thought that unless this claim could be verified in some twentieth century teaching body, there could be no possible fulfillment of the promises made by Christ to the Apostles that He would protect them infallibly by His Holy Spirit throughout all time against any change or error or omission from the teaching He had given them.
I studied faithfully and was patiently instructed by a priest for more than a year and was still skeptical that there really had been this unity or that it proved the Church to be God's sole instrument of salvation given to mankind in the fullness of time by God Himself. Finally, it began to dawn on me that all the obscurity that supported my skepticism was the result of the cantankerousness of human reason and human passion and human sin that had battered at the Bark of Peter, chiefly from within, and often even by priests, to make it appear that the Church had failed to fulfill the promises of Christ.
With that as a start, God gradually gave me the supernatural grace to see that all the human battering had been allowed by God because it was absolutely essential to God's purpose to leave the human will free from compulsion and demand a free choice for trust in God's word or for rebellion against God's dominion. This went right to the core of the absolute necessity of infallibility to make God's promise stand against the "Gates of Hell."
It was God's love and God's patience and God's grace that finally clinched my faith, but it was the apostleship of Project Sainthood in my wife that kept me at it. It has been my privilege in recent years to be the priest-instructor of several highly trained men and women. It has fascinated me to see them pass through travail almost identical with mine. After months of hardly concealed skeptical disbelief, it has seemed as if God has suddenly taken the helm and poured out grace which has supplied for the human frailty of His struggling instrument.
It makes me smile a little now, though, to remember my own reaction when God's grace first began to happen to me. It just seemed axiomatic that anyone who would stay with it and patiently study the problem as I had, would without fail reach the same conclusion. And, after forty-two years of additional experience both as a pupil and as a teacher, I must admit that I am definitely of the same opinion still. The only difference in my thinking now is that I realize that non-resistance to God's grace is an absolutely essential ingredient of faith and that resistance from a thousand-and-one, perhaps unconscious drives, is the enemy-in-disguise of very, very many souls.
But in my first enthusiasm I naively felt certain that if I could only persuade my friends and relatives to study these facts as I had studied them, they would be sure to see their truth. I was frankly astonished at their reluctance to even consider the evidence and almost equally astonished to find that the only one who did do so was a seasoned Infantry Officer inured to suffering, cruelty and revolt among the savage insurrections of the first decade of the twentieth century in the Philippine Islands and in the France of World War One.
But there again, it was the apostleship of the patient and loving example of the priest-chaplains in the service of the armed forces that had furnished him with an aptitude for grace. Instruction is certain to yield to grace if it is pursued with docile and determined persistence, but God usually inspires that persistence by means of the external grace of good example. And contrarywise, the evil of bad example keeps many a soul from that priceless treasure that God has prepared for them.
To break into a man's house and steal all his possessions or to deprive him of his life are terrible crimes. The offender, if he is caught, is punished by long imprisonment, but his plight is nothing compared to the wretchedness of one who has given scandal to God's little ones and who goes unrepentant before the judgment seat of God.
It is terrifying to realize that it is scandal that is postponing the reunion of Christendom and the fulfillment of the mission of the Church. But this mission of the Church is no different from the mission of every individual member of it, and it is without doubt that our individual Project Sainthood is the all-sufficient remedy as far as each of us is concerned. The apostleship of your Project Sainthood is all that God asks of you.
Let us look at our individual status from another angle. The popular notion of the meaning of the word "prophet" is one who foretells future events, but while this may be true of some prophets some times, a much more accurate definition of the word is: One who speaks and acts for God. And by the same token, a false prophet is one who speaks and acts in a way that is contrary to the will of God.
Ever since the opening of the Second Vatican Council we have heard much about the rediscovery of the prophetic function in the Church. It is applied in reference to every member of the laity in this very sense of speaking and acting in a way which will teach the modern man to recognize God in his midst.
It is sometimes affirmed that the fantastic advance of modern technology is causing mankind to drift away from God. It may indeed be true that modern man is tending to drift away from God, but it cannot be said that it is because of the gifts of science being harmful in themselves that this is true. The harm that may be in them stems from the fact that they may offer temptations to trust in them independently of God. But it is precisely by means of the prophetic function of Project Sainthood exhibited by every member of the Mystical Body of Christ that modern man can be taught that God is vitally present in all of these things.
Every one of us is, willy nilly, a prophet in this sense of speaking to others within and without the Fold; every one by virtue of his prophecy is an apostle. Those who, by true prophecy, exhibit Project Sainthood by works or by example, are apostles of Christ and live with Him and by Him and make themselves His instruments. Those who, by false prophecy, exhibit selfishness, laxity, and sloth are apostles of the world and impose a hopeless damper on the spiritual progress of those with whom they associate. Those who, by false prophecy, exhibit complaint, criticism, restive hostility, and aptitude for vice are Apostles of Satan ruining their own souls and dragging others down with them.
The infinite power of God is back of those who make themselves His instruments by entering Project Sainthood and leading others to God. I beg God that you and I may thus be apostles of Christ and by the prophetic function of our examples lead others to Him!
Read Fr. Bede Reynolds' other books:
A Rebel from Riches
How Come My Faith?
Let's Mend the Mess!
Draw Your Strength from the Lord
Help Us O God