See Why I am Sharing Fr. Bede Reynolds' Books.
"In the days before the flood people were eating and drinking, marrying and being married, right up to the day Noah entered the ark. They were unconcerned until the flood came and destroyed them" (Matt. 24: 37-39).
The Deluge is ancient history, but Atheistic Communism is a present-day reality, ready to sweep over the world with destructive force. Our so-called Scientific Enlightenment is becoming its chief ally and nobody seems really worried!
There can be little doubt that if all baptized Catholics were to return to a truly fervent practice of their Faith, the world would be revolutionized. But this cannot be on the basis of mass-rallies or wholesale conversions. The life of God must first be a reality in individual hearts. LET'S MEND THE MESS shows how wonderful this life of God is and how all of us, without exception, can play a part in God's great, ongoing work.
LET'S MEND THE MESS!
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 FOREWORD ABOUT THE MEANING OF THE TITLE OF THIS BOOK
LET'S MEND THE MESS!
What a glorious and beautiful setting for peace and plenty God has provided in the resources of this world which He has given to man! And what a colossal mess man's selfishness has made of it throughout his history on Planet Earth!
And the more expert man becomes, the more evil he can make the mess. In each decade of the twentieth century he has increased his ability to cause disaster. We in the nineteen seventies have all the equipment and stockpile we need to kill every member of the human race. And man has given ample proof that, if left alone as at present, he is not able to prevent this disaster. Man's failure to solve even minor problems of living together by means other than wars, revolutions, riots, strikes, bombs and boycotts, shouts the nearness of this threat and shows that man alone has no remedy to offer.
Nearly half the population of the world is clenched in the vise of atheistic Communism. It may be true that only a small minority of the people of Russia and China are bent on enforcing atheistic Communism but their vicious denial of all moral bonds of decency and honesty simply cancels the will of those whom they control.
Furthermore, their influence is not limited by the Iron Curtain or the Bamboo Curtain. Their evil and well-planned strategy brings their most expert and crafty agents into every vital activity in the outside world. There they hope to put an end to the practice of religion and bring all nations under their dominion. Their aim is to allow each nation to wreck itself, with their aid, and thus save the cost of destroying useful materials with missiles.
Their main thrust at the moment is to take advantage of the turmoil which has been blasting the Church since the Second Vatican Council and do all they can to make the Church destroy itself. Their keen minds urged by fiendish fervor have aimed their attack directly against the Catholic Priesthood.
There is a story entitled: THE ANTI-PRIESTS, published in Australia in the magazine WORLD TRENDS. It points up this diabolic mission and shows that as far back as the nineteen-thirties there appeared Communist agents who had survived the long years of study and qualified to be ordained as if they were true Catholic Priests. The story goes on to tell how these ANTI-PRIESTS have been working with sly cunning to wreck the Bark of Peter from within. And indeed, the nature of the internal attack that has occurred makes it almost impossible to suggest any other source than the Anti-Priests described in this story. Their number is, of course, impossible to determine but their cunning and their zeal have served to multiply the venom of their mission.
The Sixteen Documents of the Second Vatican Council form a Declaration of Orthodoxy which would seem to be utterly secure against attack. Yet, since the Council a Babel of quibbling has made havoc of all the efforts of the loyal members of the agencies appointed to bring about true renewal.
Instead, the enemy seems to have had amazing success in poisoning the minds of all too many priests, Religious, parents, vocation candidates, and Catholics in general. A multitude in each category have given up and abandoned their Faith. A greater multitude has continued outwardly to persevere but is utterly indifferent regarding the chaos that has been wrought. But a much more deadly contingent has become fiercely disloyal to the Holy See and has actively promoted not only out-and-out heretical doctrine but, even more dangerously, a twisting confusion of Christian Doctrine as taught to young people and constant little changes of liturgical practice that destroy the dignity and reverence of worship.
It is this army of apathy on one flank and agitation on the other, be they the victims of Anti-Priests or be they agents of evil on their own, that forms a present colossal road-block to the influence that should be the weapon of the Catholic Church to bring PEACE and CHARITY to the world!
There is still, thank God, a great but waning majority of fervent and loyal Catholic priests, Religious and lay people. They are faced right now with an all-important decision.
There can be little doubt that if all baptized Catholics were to return to a truly fervent practice of their Faith, it would bring about a reunion of all Christians into the One True Church founded by Christ and equipped by Him to bring souls to heaven. There can also be little doubt that this return to Faith is now becoming less likely day by day.
Each individual Catholic forms a unit in this waning majority. To the extent that any one individual will curb his laxity and renew his fervor and loyalty, to that extent the waning can be stopped. Then, with every individual increase in fervor and FAITH, God will provide grace to influence others and snowball a mighty recovery. This applies to the most fervent Catholic in the world today and it applies to the most evil fallen-away Catholic in the world today. Each and every one is responsible. The more you are at fault, the more you are responsible.
God is inviting ALL to the task. The prayers and Communions and Rosaries of the already fervent, will be used by God to stir the conscience and "smite" with grace those who are negligent. CHRISTIANS CAN MEND THE MESS or they can allow it to fester into chaos and disaster. LET'S MEND THE MESS!
In the pages that follow I plan to discuss two subjects that I hope will draw candidates for the campaign to MEND THE MESS. First, a discussion of the utter preciousness of the GOAL of the campaign and second: a discussion of the helps needed so that all may know how to make themselves useful as instruments of God's Grace.
God, as always, will "HAVE THE MATTER IN HAND" and will bring about a perfect answer. He is, however, inviting us now to share in the treasure of that answer by our love and cooperation. And He is warning us that if we neglect His invitation we will become victims.
SO - LET'S MEND THE MESS!
A NEW WORLD IS POSSIBLE
There have been many reports of divine communications being granted to mystics in various parts of the world. Their evidence of authenticity has often been debated but some are worthy of attention in view of subsequent events.
On Tuesday, the 19th of June, 1923, at Poitiers, France, the Coadjutrix Sister of the Sacred Heart, Josepha Menendez, reported these words addressed to her by our Divine Savior:
"The world is full of hate, races are in perpetual conflict with one another, so are nations and even individuals, and all this is due to the decay of Faith. Only let Faith reign once more over the world and Peace and Charity will return to it." (The Way of Divine Love - p. 372, ed. 1958.)
The truth of this statement and the default of a remedy were amply proved during the ensuing years which led up to the festival of hate which has glutted races and nations and even individuals ever since the mixed-up victory of World War Two.
These words attributed to Our Lord Jesus Christ are not one whit less true today. Close to fifteen million fallen-away Catholics in North America give a tragic index that the decay of faith has kept pace with the new and ever-growing agencies of hate. Of the forty to fifty million Catholics who remain within the Fold, the faith of far too many is something like that of the members of the Church of Laodicea whom Christ addressed through Saint John, with these words:
"Because thou art lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to vomit thee out of My mouth. For thou sayest, 'I am rich, and have grown wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and knowest not that thou art the wretched and pitiable one, and poor and blind and naked." (Apoc. 3:16-17.)
It is the grave scandal of the lapsed and lukewarm Catholics that brings about the decay of faith and prevents the return of peace and charity to the world.
But why should I open this discussion of the possibility of a NEW WORLD with these very pessimistic thoughts? I will tell you why. It is because the simple formula for peace which I have quoted was addressed to the world through the instrumentality of a very humble nun by Him who is TRUTH. He has said that the remedy must come, not from those who are lukewarm or fallen-away, but for them by those who, although little and weak in the eyes of the world, are strong in faith and so are fortified by Him who is Almighty. It is, therefore, of utmost importance to everyone in the world today, and yet, nine-tenths of the world, including a large percentage of the Catholic world, is desperately seeking peace in ways which ignore or even oppose the consideration of this hint from the lips of God. True, these words of Christ have not come to us as a public revelation, but the abject failure of those who have sought to secure peace without them would give them weight even if they had not come from the Heart of Jesus.
Most of the so-called "Free World" is desperately clinging to the hope of maintaining peace by superior military power. All of Communism, unhampered by any moral curb attached to pledges or promises, is screaming for arbitrary and uninspected total disarmament. Their dupes all over the free world, urged on by their agents, have joined in the same hue and cry. The notion expressed by the words: "Only let Faith reign once more over the world and peace and charity will return to it," is regarded by them as starry-eyed wishful thinking if not just plain nonsense. The tragedy of it is that their thinking, if not their malice, is shared by most of the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, the fragile and deeply dangerous stopgap of superdestructive force is an instrument of God's Providence which He is now using to delay the action of the poison of hate. The very fact that it is just a stopgap which the patient Providence of God is using to serve His plans, is the specific reason why I am urging the sadness of the present situation. In spite of the scoffing disregard of most of the world, the solution of the problem of hate and strife and anxiety, stated by Christ, offers a brilliant alternative of hope at this very time and each one of us can and should enter wholeheartedly into the working of it.
We have been asked repeatedly by our Holy Father, Pope Paul VI, to pray and do penance and make sacrifices for the peace of the world. It is indeed a privilege to be a member of the Catholic Church in this crucial age. There has, perhaps, never been a time when "The Gates of Hell" have been so menacing.
God is, nevertheless, in complete command of the situation. He has told us, moreover, that it is not our part in the campaign to condone propaganda for arbitrary disarmament based on our inexact human calculations of the means of foiling the satanic odds against us. That must be left to those whom we have elected or will hereafter elect to be our civil leaders. Our part, far more important, is to enter with humility and obedience into the greater campaign of our Holy Father and his aides to bring to perfection the fruits of the Second Vatican Council. The Church may then become the true fortress to be used by God against the Gates Of Hell. It is by prayerful and energetic support of the post -conciliar Magisterium and not by unauthorized debate and rebellious innovation that each one of us can contribute to the great arsenal of grace and merit with which the officers of the Church-Militant will present themselves before the Holy Spirit to carry out the will of the Triune God.
The strategy of the campaign is all prepared. This is a crucial point of time. Everyone in the world has a stake in the outcome of this campaign. Everyone in the world could help to make the outcome successful and their share of the spoils plentiful. Only a small part of them, however, will do it. Each one of us, then, is an important unit in that small part. Please believe me, your part is an important one - and why? Because God chooses to make it so.
And whom do I mean by "us"? I mean especially, all those who are worthy of the name of Catholic; those who are not simply drifting along halfheartedly in the faith in which they find themselves. I mean those who are explicitly and actively giving thanks to God that He has given them the grace to share in the protection of an infallible Teaching Authority which might be called the intellect of the Mystical Body of Christ, of which the Holy Spirit is the Soul and guiding principle and we are the healthy cells and members.
But, if this Teaching Authority is infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit, why is there anything left for us fallible, finite and frail little cells to do, howsoever healthy we may be? The answer again is: Because God so wills it. Our part is to give loyal support and acceptance of all that the Council has taught. At this moment, our part lies in promoting the over-all purpose of the Council which was to restore to its rightful perfection the Mystical Body of Christ, or, as Saint Paul puts it: "to re-establish all things in Christ" (Eph. 1:10); to repair every human disorder that may have arisen to mar the perfection of Christ's Church and, in so doing, to promote the reunion of Christendom.
The great battle of Armageddon referred to by Saint John in the Apocalypse is made to sound like a great assembly of men armed for battle with material weapons. This may be part of the truth, but it is equally important to realize that the battle of Armageddon is going on all through the centuries of time; and this present day is one of the most crucial episodes of times. The officers of our army have their headquarters in the fortress of Rome. The little band of Apostles and disciples made their headquarters in the Cenacle at Jerusalem on the day of Christ's Ascension into Heaven. Our situation is no less momentous today!
That this was the belief of our late Holy Father, Pope John, is clearly shown in the prayer he composed in preparation for the meeting of the Second Vatican Council:
"Renew in our time Thy wondrous works, as in a new Pentecost, and grant that Holy Church, gathered together in unanimous, more intense prayer, around Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and guided by Peter, may spread the kingdom of the Divine Savior, which is the kingdom of truth, of justice, of love, and of peace."
The forces of evil are just as clearly mustered and ready for the battle for the souls of men. Their officers are the leaders of atheistic Communism, perhaps no more in number than those of the fortress of Peter. The troops of both are scattered throughout the world. In some places the battle does assume the form of physical violence with active persecution and martyrdom. Everywhere it is being fought with lying propaganda and treachery on one side; with prayer and the example of good living on the other side.
But, just what did this meeting of the Second Vatican Council have to do with this fight against the forces of evil? Remember that this battle between Christ and the Devil is being fought all over the world for the souls of men and women. The assembly of the Council stirred the Devil into a frenzy of action. The evidence of hate and opposition to the Church has been intensified in many places in the world where it has been dormant until recent years. The Iron Curtain and the Bamboo Curtain have been erected by the agents of Satan to steal souls from God.
It is therefore, the first objective of the post-conciliar Church to attack the internal defects of discipline and method which have contributed to the weakness of the faith of millions within the Fold and have failed to prevent the falling away of other millions. It will then clarify and simplify and strengthen the declaration of doctrine at every point where controversial attacks have injured the confidence of the faithful, especially where materialism and pseudo-science have insinuated obstacles that do not exist in fact.
The second great objective of the present Church is to find ways to remove the hostility of those Christians who have been brought up from childhood in an atmosphere of heresy and prejudice which makes return to the Church, at best, a matter of indifference and, at worst, a calamity to be shunned with horror. In other words, the urgent business of the present is to remedy every defect that has hindered in any way the perfection of faith and moral stamina of those within the Fold, or the attraction of those without, to hear the words of Christ from those whom He has commanded to teach all men and to whom He said: "He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me." (Luke 10:16.)
Just what form these works should take is the business of the Holy See to determine but the objective fruit of all of them will be twofold - reinforcement of the faith and moral stamina and loyalty of those within the Fold - winning of all those without the Fold. This is really not a two-fold objective but the exercise of the one basic principle for which Christ founded the Church, to save the souls of all men without exception.
The Second Vatican Council was, perhaps, the most important event that has happened among men in many centuries. Its results should affect the eternal welfare of billions of souls now living and still to be born. It is important to every family in the world. Every father and mother and child has an important stake in the fruits of the Council. And every Catholic father and mother and child has not only a greater stake in the fruits, but a duty to help to make those fruits abundant. There is much that each Catholic can and should do now, and from now on, and there is a big reward for those who do their part well. Do I mean to say that six-year-old Jonny and five-year-old Joanie have a job to do now and a stake in the findings reported in the Documents of the Second Vatican Council? I mean just that, and I think I can prove it!
The appeal of the Catholic Church to those who are lukewarm members of it or to those who have been active members of it and have fallen away, has been pitifully disfigured by a gradual eating away of the motive for belief. No Catholic could fall away from the Faith except one who has become lukewarm but there are two ways in which one may become lukewarm. The first is by half-conversion from unbelief; that is, acceptance of the Faith for a motive which is not a true one. For example, one might enter the Church when his only motive was a desire to contract marriage with a Catholic. The second way of becoming lukewarm is by beginning to doubt after having long held unquestioning faith. In either case the motive for faith has never been free from defect. It has not been the true and necessary motive which should be in the heart of every Catholic.
There is just one true motive for Catholic Faith. That motive stems from the belief, aided by grace, that God has given us a body of truth He has guaranteed as true and has promised to keep it from error for all time. It is not believed, item by item, because the intrinsic truth is perceived by reason, but solely because of the authority of God Who has revealed it.
One item of that body of truth is that the Second Person of the Divine Trinity became Man, founded a Church, chose a group of men to govern that Church, and taught them the doctrine which He wished all men to know. He then commanded them to go out into the world and teach this body of truth to all men. To make this possible He promised to send His Holy Spirit to keep them reminded of all that He had taught them. He also endowed them with power to pass it on to their successors without any change or omission or error. In addition to the promise of His Holy Spirit to protect them from error or omission of any of this body of truth, He promised to protect them by His own invisible presence among them for all time.
That is what and that is why a true Catholic believes all of the "Deposit of Faith" in this twentieth century, just as it has been believed since the first century. Item by item, the intrinsic truth of this Deposit of Faith appeals to my reason, but that is not the reason why I believe it. I believe it solely because God has told me that it is true. Only a Catholic can have that certainty because only he has faith in God's guarantee of an infallible Teaching Authority protected by God from leading him astray. No one else can have that certainty. Furthermore, one who has the Catholic motive for faith, must either be a Catholic or a deliberate resister of God's grace.
How, then, can one become lukewarm or fall away? The final answer is that faith is not vision. Faith is protected by grace and is strengthened by the Sacraments, but it does not compel. As long as we are in this world faith is only maintained by a continuous choice of one's free-will cooperating with grace. God insists that it be that way. He will give us all the help we need with utmost loving tenderness, but the will is always free to turn away from the loving Giver of grace. There are, moreover, two sources of temptation urging even the most fervent Catholic to turn away from his supernatural motive for belief. First, there is the ever-present pressure of those who will to resist grace. Their example and their arguments give occasion for doubt. And make no mistake, Satan suggests to them some very ingenious tricks of argument and bad example which may invite doubt. The second source of pressure is the temptation to sin which also, by the wiles of Satan, may make us question our own motive for faith.
It might seem strange that, once our conviction is lodged firmly in God's guarantee of the truth, it could ever be made to doubt or depart. Indeed, it would not be possible for it to be dislodged except for the blemish in our nature left by the sin of our first parents. And, as a result of this blemish, we do see that many, many souls do turn away from grace. In fact, most of the Catholics of North America live in an atmosphere that is more or less contaminated by these two sources of pressure which are used by the Devil to injure souls.
Our secular schools and universities which should be the great strengtheners of faith, have become particularly dangerous strongholds of indifferentism and materialism. What tragic evidence of this was given by the decision, on June 25th, 1962, of the Supreme Court of the United States which, in effect, prohibits school authorities from recommending to students any acknowledgment of dependence upon God or petition for His blessing of their parents or the nation. Thus atheism, despite the prohibition of the Constitution, becomes a truly established religion of the nation, since it is the only one which can be freely preached everywhere.
We know that God could change this situation in an instant, but we also know that God is so jealous of man's free-will that He will let the whole world fall apart if need be, rather than interfere by force with man's transgressions. But by the same token, we know that God wishes to accomplish the salvation of those who are weak by applying His power and grace through the prayer and example of little ones who are strong because they trust Him utterly. And that is why each one of us can be a very powerful agent against the pressure of doubt and disobedience and thus help to open the door of the sheepfold to admit and welcome our separated brethren and those who have never been united.
The Documents of the Second Vatican Council form a bedrock foundation from which to fight the turmoil in the Church and the world. Obedience to our Holy Father, Pope Paul VI, can guide us to know God's will. But the works of the Council and the guidance of the Holy Father will remain ineffective unless WE the faithful do our part by prayer, by example, and by an ever-watchful cooperation with God's grace to perfect our own faith. And that is a never-ending need. It should begin now in every family, in every group of the faithful, and in every member of every group. Not only should we pray together, but we should learn to will all day long to strengthen our own faith and, by the example of our faith and life, to remove the weakness of those who are lukewarm, to bring contrition in place of the tragic folly of those who have fallen away, and finally, to bring grace to those who are far off so that they too may heed the invitation of the Council.
Let us never forget that the example of each one of us is watched by all the world for good or for evil. The unconscious piety of a little child may lead some great sinner back to the precious Faith; the evil of a lifetime may be overcome by a single sign of the Cross made with trust in God.
Not one of us, young or old, but needs to take action NOW; first for himself; then for a close friend or relative who, perhaps, has weakened; then for the millions whose hearts are yearning for peace and charity, but have lost the way. In these years after the Council God's help is close at hand and His grace will give special power to all our good works. Let us never fail to do our part to reap this rich harvest!
It is impossible to over-estimate the benefit to everyone which would result from the triumph of a reunited Christendom. Not only would the menace of atheism and Communism be overwhelmed, but an era of peace and charity and joy would follow such as has never been dreamed of in the world. A NEW WORLD IS POSSIBLE - BUT ONLY IF EVERY CATHOLIC WILL TURN TO GOD AND HELP!
"The world is full of hate, races are in perpetual conflict with one another, so are nations and even individuals, and all this is due to the decay of Faith. Only let Faith reign once more over the world and peace and charity will return to it."
You and I can be God's instruments to bring that about. LET'S MEND THE MESS!
GOOD FRIDAY PROMPTS A QUESTION
When one reads our daily newspapers or studies the behavior of Communism in such books as the MEMOIRS OF JOZSEF CARDINAL MINDSZENTY, it does indeed make the proposals of the preceding chapter sound like "starry-eyed wishful thinking." There are, however, two basic supports of these proposals which, if properly understood, can remove every shadow of doubt as to their efficacy and necessity. One is the nature of God's relationship to us as demonstrated by what HE did for us on Good Friday. The other is the availability of God's power to those who really and truly put their trust in Him and do all that they do as God's instruments. Our relationship to Christ which was brought about by Him on Good Friday should give INFINITE incentive and supply the needed courage to seek peace by FAITH instead of by conquest.
Good Friday, of all the days of the year should compel each one of us to realize the INFINITE PRECIOUSNESS of our individual Faith and make us ready to go all out to clinch it for ourselves and to promote it as the only valid source of Peace and Charity for the world.
True, March 25th and December 25th, the Annunciation and birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, should rejoice us with the commemoration of the most stupendous event of the history of all creation - the Incarnation of Almighty God as a member of this fickle human race! - and Easter celebrates the all-conclusive miraculous proof that Christmas really was the Incarnation of almighty God - while Pentecost celebrates the marvelous supernatural character of our Faith and shows us how it has come down to us with utter certainty that it all stems from almighty God.
But, without Good Friday, what would it all mean to you and me? We would indeed have an overwhelming certainty of the infinite majesty of God, the power of God, the wisdom of God - we would be well aware of the debt of gratitude we owe to God for giving us existence and for promising us a means of reaching eternal happiness with Him. But without Good Friday, what would we know of God's infinite, yet individual, love for each and every soul He has created?
With Good Friday we can see the evidence of God's love in everything else that He has done. It would be there without Good Friday. God's Incarnation to save us rebels from our evil ways is infinite proof of God's love by itself, but the very event of Good Friday proves how little that love had penetrated until Good Friday! That is the meaning of the words of Jesus when He said: "O you foolish men and slow of heart to believe, after all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should have suffered these things?" (Luke 24:25-26.)
The infinite love of the Triune God for you alone demands a reflection in your heart of utter love, adoration, worship, and submissive seeking after His love. But the contamination of our souls which we have allowed Satan to inflict upon us has made us so obtuse that God let it be necessary that He go the limit that He did to prove to us His love.
The "Exultet" of Easter calls the sin of Adam a happy fault. How infinitely much more, then, is the event of Good Friday a precious and compelling clincher of our adoring love of Christ!
But Good Friday is the climax, the amazing all-but-unbelievable climax to the equally all-but-unbelievable story of the means of our Redemption which the Psalmist puts on our lips as we recite Psalm 39 in the Divine Office: "Thou hast not found any pleasure in burnt sacrifices or sacrifices for sin. Behold, then I said, I am coming to fulfill what is written of Me, where the book lies unrolled; to do Thy will O My God, is all My desire; to carry out that law of thine which is written in My heart." And while Good Friday is the climax of this demonstration of love, we should be reminded that the infinite sacrifice of Jesus Christ began when He made that momentous decision to leave the glory of life with God the Father and said those words.
There is not a better way to learn to appreciate this universality of Christ's sacrifice than to connect it on Good Friday with the Stations of the Cross so that we may wish to repeat this meditation on the Stations throughout the year and thus adapt our hearts to gain a continuous harvest of love from the fruits offered us by Christ on Calvary.
First, then, let us stand with Christ, the God-Man before Pontius Pilate to accept the condemnation to be crucified. How utterly impossible it would be for human minds to fabricate this scene. Who would dare to think of the Creator of the universe, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, standing before His creatures and submitting to their verdict of torture as a recompense for all that He had done for them? And this He did of His own free will as He had said long before it happened: "This is why My Father loves Me - because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, on the contrary I lay it down of My own accord; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again." (John 10:17-18.) And He did this for us when we had made ourselves His enemies by sin. It was this moment that He saw when He said: "Behold, I come to do Thy will, O My God." (Ps. 39:8.)
It is impossible for human nature to comprehend the magnanimity of God that prompted Him to make this KIND of sacrifice for our Redemption. And so it is impossible for us to conjure the gratitude that should fill our hearts with love when we meditate upon it. The few saints to whom grace has been given to see the depth of our debt of gratitude, have, like Saint John of the Cross, spent their lives trying to express it in words which fail them.
It is for us, then, to form our wills as best we can to acknowledge this debt of gratitude and to allow it to form a motive for all our spiritual life. Nothing can possibly draw us closer to Christ than a lively awareness of the truth of His words: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will attract all men to Myself." (John 12:32.)
In receiving the Cross upon His shoulders Christ carries one step further the example of doing all things in conformity with the will of God the Father. We should see in this, not only His partnership with us in fulfilling our share of the demand for reparation for our failings, but above all, to teach us the infinite superiority of finding our Cross in the acceptance of all those things which befall us in accordance with God's will. The trials which He chooses for us, great or small, make crosses for us which can show our love for Him far better than any austerity we could possibly devise for ourselves. Looked at in this light, it can remove the sting from every event in our lives which at first sight might seem unpleasant. Do not laugh when I say: It can make the unpleasant events more pleasant than the pleasant ones! In a very real sense that can be true.
These crosses chosen for us by Christ are better adapted to correct our perversity and so to be pleasing to Him than all the torture we could think of inflicting upon ourselves. And so, let us beg Him to make us truly grateful for all those crosses which He allows to come our way. And let us recognize them as part of His loving discipline for our welfare. The grace to do this well is, perhaps, the most efficacious source of spiritual peace.
The first fall of Christ under His Cross shows that He has chosen for Himself a human nature no less fragile than ours. He is subject to all the same physical trials that beset us. Being God, He could have exempted Himself from the trials of hunger and thirst and heat and cold and fatigue. Instead He chose to share our burdens and our weakness. Nor did He choose an easy life. On the contrary, He sanctified the dignity of manual labor and toil by the utter confidence with which He placed His trust in God the Father, accepting the problem of suffering brought into our lives by our sins and thus taking its fruits upon Himself so as to show us that no unpleasant thing ever happens to us without God's knowledge and consent and under His control.
Let us, then, ask our Savior to give us the same confidence in Him that He had for the protection of the Father in all the trials of our life in this vale of tears.
All of the stations of the Cross represent scenes which are hard for the human mind to reconcile with the majesty of the Godhead of Christ. But the fourth Station is perhaps the most difficult of all to accept without a too human reaction of emotion.
It is difficult indeed to be reconciled to the voluntary submission by Christ, who is God, to the status of outcast and reprobate of His own people for whom He was offering the privileges gained by His Sacrifice. But for His Mother, the Mother of God, the most innocent member of all creation, to be subjected to the contempt due to the mother of a wicked criminal seems more than the human heart can bear.
Yet, these two stand and greet each other on this tragic day as exemplars of all those down the centuries who will face persecution and contempt and martyrdom for confessing the name of a crucified God. Hard as it is to reconcile, we should give thanks for the example they have set for us and should pray with all our hearts that we may be given the grace to meet any contempt and persecution we may be called upon to bear for Christ and to give thanks that we are considered worthy now to be members of His company. Above all, let us be prompt to stand up and be counted as confessors of the Faith under any and all of the situations that God may choose for us.
The Fifth Station, in a sense, comes to our rescue by suggesting something that we can do about the awful situation we are contemplating. Now, we are invited to help to carry the Cross of Christ with Simon of Cyrene. This we can do in many ways, but here again, the way which is least dramatic is the one which is the most precious to Christ. It consists in giving ourselves generously and cheerfully in relieving the burden of our fellows or in leading them by good example. These opportunities come and go quickly. The one who cultivates within himself the virtue of seeing Christ in his fellow man, will never miss a chance. The one who thinks mostly of himself will usually find that he has let them pass him by.
We all have constant opportunity to remember Christ's admonition in the Gospel of the first Monday of Lent: "Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these My least brethren, you did it unto Me!" (Matt. 25:40.) Let us pray that we will always be ready with cheerful cooperation to help others to carry their cross for Christ.
The Sixth Station marks another human episode in which the person who does a service for Christ is the real beneficiary. Saint Veronica, by doing Him a service when He was despised and spit upon by the majority of men, gained for us a relic of His Passion which has brought grace to all generations by its own efficacy and by the lesson of its example. But the greatest help it gives to each one of us personally is the fortification against sin to be derived from contemplation of the image of Christ carrying His Cross to Calvary. There is no better way to cultivate the constant recollection of this image than to ask for it before the Sixth Station of the Cross through the intercession of Saint Veronica. Like ejaculatory prayer, the habit of frequent advertence to the image of Christ's face stamped on one's heart, is an unfailing source of the cardinal virtue of Fortitude. So, let us always be mindful of this powerful weapon against every kind of temptation with its constant suggestion of Christ's love.
The second fall of Christ under the Cross which we are asked to contemplate at the Seventh Station of the Cross, fixes our minds again upon the weakness of our humanity which was shared by Christ. Christ's humanity was indeed true humanity and from its reality spring all the doubts of His divinity which are fostered by the rationalistic and so-called "scientific" heretics of every age, who insist that it is an impossible contradiction to posit God in truly human form.
We may think that our Christology has all been settled a thousand years ago so that no one who is Christian ever doubts that He is true God and true Man. If so, we are sadly unaware of the pseudo-scientific venom that is rampant in most of our colleges today which openly speaks of Christ's Gospel as "The Myth" and brands our Gospel narrative as rubbish on the a-priori principle that all record of the supernatural order must be false.
There are temptations against Faith in every age. But we can resist them when contemplating this fall of Christ by remembering the words of Saint Peter: "Lord, to whom should we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life and we ourselves steadfastly believe and know that Thou art the Holy One of God." (John 6:69.)
Let us learn to frequently repeat these words of Saint Peter. And, by addressing them to Christ fallen under the Cross, we may gain strength from Him to stand firm against every doubting query that may cross our minds. We must, by our example and by our words, always be ready to defend the "little ones" from scandal - those who are ready to believe but are daunted by the scoffing false sophistication of pseudo-science.
At the Eighth Station, Christ, the Victim, consoles those who weep. But note well - He does not say to these, as He said to the widow of Naim: "Weep not!" He says rather: "Weep not for Me, but for yourselves and for your children." These words can be considered as being addressed to every sinner who even begins to repent and be sorry for his sins. And when so addressed, they may be taken to mean: "I have chosen this torment and this humiliation - I am rejoicing because I am doing to the last jot the will of My Father. I am not an object for weeping even though I am suffering - but you are doing this to Me and not these Roman soldiers. Weep, yes; but not for Me! Weep with true contrition for your sins, each one of which has brought about this crime. Weep not with any sentimental sympathy which betrays an utter misconception of My whole Passion and really insults Me with the insinuation that I am not God in command of every item of this situation, but rather, a helpless prisoner being dragged to His death." Let us never forget the complete command of Christ in regard to all the events of His Passion.
The Third Fall of Christ at the Ninth Station brings us to the stark reality of Christ's divine Charity. The utter defeat which He allowed the Jews to think that He had suffered shows the extent of His condescension and mercy and love! We should always have in mind that Christ could have brought about our Redemption without ever leaving the splendor of His heavenly home. And, even when He made the unbelievable decision to take upon Himself our human nature, He could have redeemed us by the slightest act of reparation. Even when it was decreed by the Eternal Godhead that a bloody sacrifice of reparation should be made, He could have satisfied such a decree by shedding one drop of His Precious Blood as the ample price of all the sins of the world. But, why did He choose the abject misery of the Cross? There is just one reason - the infinite love of God to show us the infinite malice of sin and the infinite claim upon our love!
The crescendo of acts of humility represented in the Stations of the Cross reaches a climax at the Tenth Station where Christ, the Eternal High Priest, allows Himself to be stripped of His garments before the insolent gaze of the wicked men who are putting Him to death. His submission to the theft of the last of His earthly possessions by these infidels should make us appraise our goods at their true value which is zero compared with our zeal to comply with the will of God. It should inspire us to say with honest truth: "See, Lord, here is my heart withdrawn from every created thing. With the whole of my will I offer it to Thee, praying Thee to adorn it gloriously with the most precious Blood of Thy sweet Heart. Make it accord perfectly with the sweet fragrance of Thy divine love."
But no! these men are so blinded by their own hate that they proceed with increasing malice to the execution of the Son of God. Every time, we stand before the Eleventh Station of the Cross we should recall the horror of the angels of heaven who never saw Him as other than God, when they beheld this act of men who nailed Him to the Cross in the fulfillment of the prophecy of Psalm twenty-one: "I am become a worm and no man; the outcast and reprobate of the people. I am poured out like water and all My bones are disjointed." (Ps. 21: 7 and 15.) The nasty evil of a sinful heart is such that the Son of the great God - the omnipotent Creator - condescended to suffer the depth of degradation to show us the horror and folly of sin.
As we kneel at the Twelfth Station before Christ on the Cross, it is impossible to conceive the depth of the riches of the love that prompted His generosity, without true compunction of heart and hatred for the sins which brought Him to the Cross. But what are the sins which brought about His Passion? What are the sins for which Christ died on the Cross? True, He died for all the sins of all men of all time. But He died that they might be saved from their sins - so, those who refuse to be saved eliminate themselves and it is the sins of us who hope against hope that our names will not be erased from the Book of Life - it is the relatively fewer sins of the elect which may be said to have nailed Him to the Cross. In fact, one mortal sin which has been forgiven should make one look upon Christ on the Cross as the victim for himself alone!
And so, when we come to the final scenes and witness the Body of Christ taken down from the Cross and laid in the arms of His Sorrowful Mother, then is the time to allow the eyes of faith to call to mind that this defeated, desecrated, dead Body is still inseparably united to the Person of the Word of God. He is not defeated in any sense, but rather, He has overcome the world. He it is who, by accepting the death to which our souls were bound, has liberated His elect forever and in His good time will rise again to open heaven for them and rout forever the former mastery of Satan over the souls of men.
We may then approach the Fourteenth Station of the Cross with the same confidence that we have approached the Altar of Repose, where the victorious Christ awaits our coming and is ready to grant our petitions for a share in the victory of His Passion. Let us always ask for some part with Him in helping to save souls from hell!
And now we have a Fifteenth Station added which pictures Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost all rolled into one and shows us the product of God's love - the God-Man in glory - loving each of us with that love which He has shown us by sacrifice, obedience and suffering, all life long. He has shown us what His love should be worth to us. Realizing this with firm faith and high hope, may it fill our hearts with a charity that is humble - loving Christ for Christ's sake with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.
So, let us try to take stock of what all this means. Good Friday gives you a faint glimpse of the sacrifice that almighty God was willing to make for you alone. He has invited you to try to return that love by making a sacrifice to reflect the sacrifice He has made for you. Should it not make you willing to go ALL OUT to give yourself to Christ in His crusade for PEACE THROUGH FAITH?
CHARITY THE MOTIVE FOR MENDING
Let us now give thought to the question Christ has placed before us on Good Friday. He has given us proof of infinite love and has asked us, if we believe and hope in Him, to respond to the limit of human capacity to LOVE Him and TRUST Him in return. In other words, Good Friday should plant in our hearts the seed of supernatural Charity that will make us fit candidates to work with Christ to mend the mess in the world!
Saint Francis de Sales has expressed this thought in language that should clinch our desire to enter the campaign as "Menders." He says: "Man is the perfection of the universe; the Spirit is the perfection of man, love that of the Spirit, and Charity that of love. Wherefore the love of God is the end, the perfection and the excellence of the universe." (St. Francis de Sales: Treatise on the Love of God. Bk. X, Ch. I.)
To equip ourselves, then, as helpers of Christ, let us examine the nature of this supernatural virtue of Charity.
It is said that true humility is nothing else than a sound appreciation of the truth about ourselves. By the same token, then, true charity is an appreciation of the truth about God. After all, true Charity loves God for what He is, rather than for what we expect to receive from Him.
By that I do not mean that we should be capable of loving God with true Charity without regard to our individual relationship to Him. Quite the contrary, I mean that all love is a reflection of the relationship between the individual and the subject of his love. Between man and God that relationship deserves a reaction on the part of man which is infinite because of God's infinite goodness. This, of course, man is incapable of giving. But the realization of it should give us a clear idea of the principal note of Charity, namely, "the sky is the limit." It means that however much the theological virtue of Faith opens before our eyes the extent of the goodness of God, there is still an infinite incentive to love Him more, which we have not yet grasped.
This should help us to see why it is not only a privilege and a natural response, but a duty in justice to "love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind and with thy whole strength." (Mark 12:30.) And it will become more and more evident why this love is the sovereign love from which every other love takes its source.
As we look about us we see the world with all its beauty, all its perfections, all its orderly capacity to function properly in every detail, all its amazing resources which have been provided for men to utilize and exploit for their own convenience and pleasure.
A huge volume could be written just listing examples of the natural orderliness and perfection of the working of the natural world. From the microscopic cell of a living organism which scientists say is as complicated in its mechanism as a battleship, to the limitless mass of the universe, all works in perfect harmony according to its nature and for its end. Furthermore, every natural science today is beginning to learn that we have only scratched the surface of the discoveries of the how and the why that makes all things work so perfectly, each in its relation to all.
And God's infinity brings it about that no matter how much it may be shared and enjoyed by others, it is as if it were all God's present for each individual "you" alone. It is all made to help you understand that the purpose of your creation is to make you able to rejoice in the lovableness of God for all eternity - to give you a faint idea, from looking at these reflections of God's goodness, what it would be like to see God face to face in the Beatific Vision and enjoy His perfections in the manner that He enjoys them Himself.
But at this point we have only begun to sound the depth of God's infinite love for each one of us. We have spoken of a modicum of disorder in our surroundings - disorder which involves pain, even torture, and many trials for every one of us. The overwhelming preponderance of order, however, even in all that happens to us naturally, suggests the hint that this, too, is in some way a part of the order of God's infinite plan.
Then, wonder of infinite wonders, this hint is turned into certainty by God Himself at a certain moment of time, compared with which all the rest of time is unimportant. In that moment God Himself took our human nature and henceforth shares all the trials and all the suffering any of us have ever known. He does this to teach us for certain that, not only is it a part of God's plan, but a NECESSARY part to make us know the depth of His lovableness.
And here again, He does all this for each one of us as if it were all for us alone. Now, this idea of doing it for each one of us alone is not by any means just rhetorical emphasis. It stems from His infinity and is just as really true as it is that each of us receives Him whole and entire into our soul in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
So! All this should begin to give us a glimpse of what is meant by the expression: "God is all-in-all to each." It should begin to give us a hint as to what is meant by sovereign love. It should begin to give us a taste for those experiences in life which are not naturally pleasant and which had perhaps seemed inconsistent with the sovereignty of the love we owe to God.
It should begin to give us a brand new idea of the nature of Charity. It should give us ability to see why our love for God and God's love for us includes and gives motive to every other love. In short, it should prepare us to understand the definition of the theological virtue of Charity as: "that virtue which causes us to love God above all things for His own sake, in the way in which He loves Himself, and to love the neighbor for God's sake."
Father Tanquery points out that the degree of Charity required to make us helpers of Christ as Menders is not beyond the capacity of us ordinary individuals if we have the will to love God and are aided by His Grace. Nor does it ask the impossible by demanding that we love God as much as He deserves to be loved.
But, realizing this with all humility and learning often to think of the degree of love which God does deserve, God's helpers must be armed with a Charity, as Father Tanquery says, "so well established in the soul as to make us strive earnestly and constantly to avoid even the smallest sin and to unite our will to the will of God out of love for Him."
Where, then, and when and how are we to begin? For God's helpers that question is already answered. We suddenly discover that each of our associates gives us ample opportunity to learn and practice Charity, especially with reference to the things they do which we like the least! When I remember the trivial things that I used to allow to annoy me; and then the self-love that made me stick to what I knew annoyed others, it makes me wonder how I could have been so dumb!
But now, I ought to know the reason why. It is that God allows these imperfections to keep us humble. To make us realize that true Charity can be practiced among us only when it is fired by its supernatural source and by turning to Him, not once in a while, but as a constant, necessary principle of our life in Grace.
If this principle is accepted, we may know that the ability to help God as Menders of the Mess is not a special state reserved for a chosen few, but it can be and is the ideal way of life for everyone. I also want to emphasize that it is not something that we carry along with us as one item of our accomplishments to be practiced together with our other activities as we might practice a hobby during our leisure time. Just as the job of mending is for the sum-total of ordinary people, so is it intimately interwoven with the sum-total of our thoughts and words and acts during all the time we live.
As a matter of fact, this quest as God's helpers is the happiest possible way of life, the only way, one might say, of bringing happiness into a naturally unhappy situation. So, it applies to what we do all day long, what we enjoy doing, and what we do not enjoy. It gives purpose and meaning to all of it. That is the reason why Charity is the all-purpose sparkplug of the whole enterprise. It is the motive force, the intention, that changes it all from hum-drum natural existence into a supernatural treasure-hunt.
Take any day out of the rest of your life in this world. It may be tomorrow or any other day. Your thoughts and words and acts could stem from an intention formed by Faith in God and even with a will to acknowledge responsibility to God, but yet stem from a motive of self-love, and, as Saint Paul warns us, they would profit you nothing. As far as true value is concerned, it would be a day lost.
How, then, can one tell whether his motive is true Charity or is tinged with self-love: The answer to that is contained in the very depth of your soul. Because God is a pure Spirit, He communicates with us and we communicate with Him only in the supernatural part of us. In other words, we cannot help but know our own intention and that is either willingly and purposely aimed in accordance with God's will for love of Him and in appreciation of His goodness, or it is willy-nilly exposed to His calm gaze and sometimes unhappily aware that it is chafing under the knowledge that it is drawn aside from God's will.
This is the most sacred and most intimate part of man's individuality. It is the part which is unique in all creation and which makes man the image of God. It is sacred because it is personal in its very essence. Saint Paul explains this idea beautifully in his first Epistle to the Corinthians: "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive what God has prepared for those who love Him. But to us God has revealed this wisdom through His Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man, except the spirit of man dwelling in him? Just so, no one comprehends the secret things of God except the Spirit of God. But we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit proceeding from God, in order that we might understand the gifts God has freely given us." (I Cor. 2:9-12.)
It is not difficult for each one of us to know his own intentions from moment to moment. In fact, quite the contrary, it is practically impossible to be deceived as to one's own intention. We may deceive others, but we cannot altogether deceive ourselves or God. If your intentions are motivated by love of God, your will is fortified by Grace. Then conformity to the will of God becomes a source of joy even when it involves heroic sacrifice to the will of the flesh. In other words, "If a man loves Me, he will be true to My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him." (John 14:23.)
On the other hand, if our intention is motivated by self-love, we are on our own, facing temptation which invites our intellect to urge a false decision upon the will. The conscience fortified by love is free from anxiety. The conscience which is based upon so-called liberty of free judgment is in constant danger of voluntary self-deception.
The great majority of those around us, including nearly all Non-Catholics, are influenced in some degree by the modern philosophical concepts growing out of Materialism which have sprung from nineteenth century Existentialism and come up with an elastic criterion of behavior only partly determined by moral sanctions and best described as "Situational Ethics."
It does not make the denial of God a matter of explicit doctrine, but it makes each individual situation, here and now, a unique event subject to a decision of the will on the basis of its own particular circumstances. It emphasizes the uniqueness, insisting that the circumstances according to which the conscience must judge and choose, are applicable only once for every human act and therefore cannot be judged by any code of universal law or precept.
This is the distinctive mark of this morality which practically the entire Non-Catholic world follows in some degree. Most of them, it is true, have accepted it as a result of following the example of others, rather than by an examination and approval of its philosophy.
It is not based upon universal moral laws such as the Decalogue, the law of nature, or the explicit code of morality commanded by Christ in the name of the Holy Trinity and imposed upon all men through the agency of a Teaching Authority endowed by Christ with infallible protection from corruption. This precious heritage they regard as "the suffocating climate of the 'moral imperative' which should be cast off as cumbersome baggage."
In doing this they envision, with complacent self-satisfaction, the pleasure God must take, to quote them: "in this exhibition of the free use of the intellect in the manner intended by God for this faculty which He has given to man which is nearest to His own image." They characterize the cowering fear with which they imagine that the Catholic gropes in his memory for the particular stern precept covering some concrete problem of conscience, as "legal bondage that cramps the intellect" (Orchard: Outlook for Religion, p. 136), or: "Obedience to the Roman See of the most unintelligent and paralyzing kind." (ib. p. 255.) Or, as it was expressed in print by the Committee on Doctrine of the Church of England: "Vulgar Roman credulity."
"In the determination of conscience," they say, "each individual finds himself in direct relationship with God, and decides before Him, without the slightest trace of intervention by any law, any authority, any community, any cult or religion. Here there is simply the 'I' of man and the 'I' of God, the personal God, not the God of law, but of God the Father, with whom man must unite himself in filial love."
"The decision of conscience is a personal 'risk' according to one's own knowledge and evaluation, in all sincerity before God. These two things, right intention and sincere response, are what God considers; He is not concerned with the action. Hence, the answer may be to exchange the Catholic Faith for other principles, to seek divorce, to interrupt gestation, to refuse obedience to competent authority in the family, the Church, the State, etc. ...This preserves man from the hypocrisy of pharisaical fidelity to laws; it preserves him both from pathological scruples as well as from flippancy or lack of conscience, because it puts the entire responsibility before God on the Christian personally." (Cath.Doc. VIII, p. 18.)
I have presented this unpleasant subject to you, not to disquiet you, but so that you may understand better the atmosphere in which we, and especially our young people, are facing a double standard of morals, which, were it not for the motives and assistance which we receive, would make it next to impossible for us to persevere.
This moral system parallel to ours and in large part contrary to ours, would be exceedingly disquieting were it not for our clear understanding that the so-called "intellectual liberty" which they enjoy is nothing of the sort. It is a rash assumption of responsibility for decisions concerning which God has made known His will explicitly and definitely to the contrary. Hence, it is a bondage compared with which blindness is only a minor cross.
When viewed in this way, we can see that the "suffocating cumbersome baggage of the moral imperative" which they deplore, is really precious gift from God which is the special privilege of Catholics which should and does provide them with supernatural protection from all anxiety regarding the outcome of every thought and word and act which, as they say, "happens only once."
Instead of being restive under the restraint imposed by moral laws and precepts, we should remember that it is only because their faith has deprived them of the certainty regarding these laws and precepts that they find themselves "rejoicing" in being "on their own." Without this certainty of infallibility the Catholic Faith would indeed be intolerable; with it, it is the citadel described by the Psalmist: "As the hills protect Jerusalem so the Lord protects His people now and forever." (Ps. 124:2.)
Obviously and admittedly, the response of a conscience informed by the infallible Teaching Authority of the Catholic Church will usually direct the will to choose action which is less easy, words which are less haughty, thoughts which are less alluring than will one informed by the uncertain philosophy of Situational Ethics which, because of its refusal to admit the certainty of God's law, feels free to remove it to the remote edge of the consideration of conscience and to substitute for its center the personal individual GOOD, with God looking on, in the distance, if at all.
If the evidence supporting the one and the other were equal, no one would choose the more difficult course. But here is where we who are aware of God's precious invitation to MEND with Charity, have the greatest opportunity to show our love for our neighbor by the steadfast example of our calm certainty that almighty God is the Sponsor and Guarantor of our choice while the rest, howsoever sophisticated they may be, have only the guesses of modern philosophers.
This opportunity is especially urgent for those who are in a position to guide Catholic young people who are so gravely menaced by the flood of contrary example. They cannot but be daunted by the condescending sophistication of those who recommend the easy way. They have not yet learned how to appraise the fragile and unsound instability of these sophisms which have their root in our modern religionless education.
The surest way to clinch our own hold on the certainty and security of our faith and the faith of those who are dear to us is to make it our business to immerse ourselves in the reality of divine charity. Think of it always, in everything we do, and make it the underlying motive of every act of virtue. That is the way to be assured that every single thought and word and act of every day will be converted into an act of Charity the queen of virtues.
And may we take it straight from God in the words of Saint Paul:
"Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never falleth away. ...And now there remain Faith, Hope, and Charity, these three: but the greatest of these is Charity." (I Cor., Ch. 13.)
A MOTTO FOR MENDERS
If the invitation and the plea of the preceding chapters have given the reader a clue that makes MENDING seem worthwhile, let us consider the best way to make ourselves eligible as helpers. In the very first place, let us realize that the odds against the possibility of mending and in favor of disaster are so very great at this time that only God's intervention can bring it to success. And God has made it clear that His intervention must be sought.
Our Lady of Fatima offered God's intervention if enough of us would pray the Rosary. Many have tried faithfully to seek the fulfillment of this promise of Our Lady. Satan has prevented their complete success but God still cherishes all that they have done and the promise still stands. The Rosary is still the perfect means of securing God's intervention to Mend the Mess.
The way things stand at present, however, the Rosary is most needed to beg God to incline more souls as Menders. To try with all my heart to comply with this need, I kneel before the Blessed Sacrament each midnight and offer a Rosary or fifteen decades and then make the Stations of the Cross. When on my way to the Tabernacle, I stop at a window where I can see the light in the chapel of the Poor Clare's Convent about a mile away and say the following prayer:
Dear God, I beg You to unite my prayer with the prayer of those dear Sisters and unite our prayer with all who are now praying in the world; multiply it by a million and use it to make more souls seek to do Your will on earth as it is done in heaven.
Jesus has told us that private prayer should be kept secret if it is to deserve reward from Him. But I think He will forgive me for mentioning this since my reason is to beg others to join me in this plea to God for His perfect answer for the welfare of His people. If only you could know the sense of joy and peace and security that comes from this hour of prayer, you would join it and beg others to join. It would truly snowball into an army of those who wish to supply God with the human plea that He says He needs to let Him do the mending.
This united plea would then become a powerhouse for each individual Mender. It would saturate his being and shout God's presence in everything he does all day every day. And remember, it is union with God that makes every tiny thing useful to Him who must be the final Source of all Mending.
The MOTTO, then, of this army of God's helpers will be:
THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.
Remember, too, that God's will is always done on earth. He asks this army to let Him make it be done as it is in heaven.
This Motto of the army of Menders then becomes God's invitation to complete abandonment to His will and is extended to every single soul in the world whether they be Consecrated Contemplative Virgins or Convicts Condemned to Death!
There is no limit to the pattern of Goodness that is generated by real, honest and complete Abandonment to the Will of God. Saint John Eudes, Founder of the Good Shepherd Sisters, has composed a prayer which names the contents of this pattern and applies it to every soul alive. Here is what he prays:
I prostrate myself at the sacred feet of Jesus and Mary, supplicating them to grant that all your hearts may be so many living images of the most pure love, most exalted charity, most profound humility, most exact obedience, invincible patience, meekness of a child, simplicity of a dove, entire submission to the will of God, complete self-abnegation, most ardent zeal for the salvation of souls, devoted affection for the Cross, and all the other most eminent virtues which reign in the Divine Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary. (Good Shepherd Const., p. 232.)
Do these virtues sound to you to be incompatible with the hum-drum of life in the world? Do they sound like aiming so high that there is no use to try to take them home with you and turn them on when members of your family and all the rest of your associates continue to act in the same old natural pattern? Did it ever occur to you that Christ was addressing the ordinary run of men when He set an even higher standard of virtue as a pleading command from God Himself: "Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect"? (Matt. 5:48.)
Perhaps at first thought, to set such a fantastic goal and propose it for ordinary everyday people living in the world, might seem too discouraging to entice one to even start to try. But let us make it our business to convince ourselves that it is the only sound approach to life for every one of us. It is not only possible, but it can become a fascinating renewal of purpose and a remedy for every present and future trial.
For one who has become lodged in the rut of thoroughly natural living in the world, there are several things that must either be learned or remembered to put us on route to happiness through the practice of virtues such as these. Most important of all and most often dimmed or lost sight of by prolonged contact with worldly pursuits, is the realization of the intimate presence of God during every moment of every life. The second, quite equal in importance, is that God because of His infinity, has a relationship of interest in every soul as if you, or you, or you were the only soul for whom the world was made and for whom Christ was crucified.
Coupled with these concepts and activation both, is the knowledge that the practice of virtue is a supernatural gift so that cooperation with God, and not unaided effort, is the basis of our part in the bargain. If these three things are really understood, we are in possession of the incentive and the means to go all the way to the goal. Let us fix these three essentials in our minds: first, the constant presence of God at every moment to each individual; second, a one to one relationship between God and every soul; third, God, not self, as guide at every moment.
And thus it is that you and I should seek to make ourselves useful to God as helpers in His Mending. Let us aim at the full realization of the virtues sought in the prayer of Saint John Eudes, chiefly by the full exercise of one of them, "entire submission to the will of God" and in cooperation with God's grace.
And I beg God to give each reader the grace to see the immense advantage to be gained by devotion to these virtues as a goal of life to the exclusion of every other motive which may now activate daily life. And let it be understood immediately that this does not necessarily mean any change whatever in the acts of your daily life, except the exclusion of sin and bitterness and meanness and self-love and distrust of God. In other words, the exclusion of all that can be rated as unhappiness in this world.
Perhaps the reader is thinking: "But Father, you just don't understand my situation. You have not had the experiences that I have suffered or you would not be so sure." If you are thinking that, you are the very one who is most in need of the advice I wish to give. You have been trying to run the show yourself. And I doubt if you have been making a first class job of it. You will continue to make a bad job of it as long as you hold the door shut against the flood of God's grace. God will do it all for you if you will but turn with that "profound humility" and "entire submission to the will of God" away from insistence upon your own prescription for meeting the situation. There are no exceptions - there are no situations for which God is not able and willing to provide the remedy, except the ones which you refuse to place entirely in His hands.
You can begin to see, too, that the pursuit of these virtues can hardly be begun before we find ourselves practicing them. Meekness of a child is the inevitable fruit of knowledge of our dependence upon God. This coupled with our realization of His intimate presence and loving anxiety for our welfare, generates complete self-abnegation and entire submission to the will of God.
But, strange to say, the greatest obstacle for most of us is this very thing which St. Paul has said it is "inexcusable" to deny: God's intimate presence and complete control of everything that happens to us. Now, I am no less vulnerable than anyone else to doubt this precious fact, but I have spent a good deal of effort trying to make the realization of it a guiding principle of my life. The amazing results that I have seen have given me enthusiasm for urging everyone into the pattern where each may learn it from his own experience. But please be assured that it is also obvious to me that the weakness of our human understanding and the fickleness of our inherited inclination to evil, make it nothing less than a life-work for each of us which can never be set aside as finished business.
Doubt is, and always has been and always will be the most effective tool of Satan in diverting souls from God. And doubt is today the most sinister enemy of your soul. As Christ has warned us, doubt is a greater menace to the wise and worldly than it is to the "little ones." But doubt is, and always will be the enemy of every soul that ever lived. The fact remains, however, that the objective truth of God's reality and His intimate control of all of our affairs are sufficiently obvious to make doubt inexcusable. God in His wisdom has made faith available to all men, but an act of faith is an act of the will aided by the help of God's grace and so it is meritorious. God wishes it to be that way.
Doubt stems from two principal sources. First, faith involves an obligation of obedience to a way of life which is not always in agreement with the inclination of our fallen nature. Our short-sighted natural inclination prods us with the thought: "If our faith is false, there is no sanction for the moral law. Look at all the 'good people' who do not believe it! Let's take a chance." And so doubt is given a hearing.
Second, God's way of running the universe is certainly very different from that which any finite human being would ever dream of. His way of showing His love for us, for example, is sometimes quite the opposite of what would be accepted from any human being as a token of affection. "Those whom I love I rebuke and chastise." (Apoc. 3:19.)
And certainly God's way of dealing with mortal sin, which has brought upon the world what we call the "Problem of Evil" or the "Problem of Suffering" constitutes the greatest obstacle to acceptance of the faith by Non-Catholics, and one of the greatest sources of doubt for Catholics when, from our tiny human viewpoint, we feel rebellious against God's decisions respecting ourselves.
I have dealt with the Problem of Evil in my book, HOW COME MY FAITH? but I mention it here in connection with our need to learn to trust God's love under all circumstances as the indispensable source of our own happiness.
God has given mankind sufficient revelation to enable man to know the truth about God's love for us, God's presence to us, God's infinite perfection in dealing with us, God's will respecting man's obligation to worship God and to acknowledge God's dominion over him, God's law which is inherent in man's nature and God's law which God has imposed as a pattern for the discipline of the exercise of man's free-will. God has also given mankind sufficient evidence to verify what God has revealed and God always stands by to give each individual sufficient supernatural grace to enable him to make a supernatural act of Faith.
All this is objectively true, yet God always stops short of compulsion. Man can choose not to hear the revelation, not to examine the evidence, not to accept the offer of grace. But these helps are sufficient to prompt Christ Himself to say: "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved and he who believes not shall be condemned." (Mark 16:16.)
Hence, to doubt after learning to believe, is a sin; to refuse to weigh the evidence or to resist the grace of God is to show contempt for Him. God's law, no less than God's love, embraces all men. Refusal to hear it or refusal to accept it exempts no one.
A source of tragic grief to every priest who deals with souls is the discovery that almost every time a soul begins to doubt, it is because Charity has already been driven out by mortal sin. Homes where joy and light and love abound are the homes where God's will is law and no shadow of doubt ever mars the harmony of love.
For many, the sufficiency of revelation, of evidence, and of grace are not so obvious at first sight. The climate of man's response to God varies from century to century and from country to country, but there are obstacles always present. Chief of these seems to be the multitude of good and sincere people who do not ever learn to believe or accept the Faith. Then there is the false notion that God's law is not quite so binding on one who defers investigation of God's law or His revelation. Of course, one does not put it just that way. He says to himself, or perhaps quite loudly to all who are within hearing: "I don't believe that to be God's law."
At first glance, it might seem that if a man could make such a statement in all sincerity, it might relieve him of further immediate responsibility. But God's law is different from every other kind of law. It is eternal. It binds all men. It is infinitely just. It is sufficiently evident so that it can be known by all men who do not resist or arbitrarily refuse to believe it or learn it. But refusal to believe does not erase God's law nor does it limit God's right to legislate. Its objective reality and eternity do not yield to debate.
There are two sources of knowledge of God's law. What may be called the "hard way" is by the exercise of natural reason and natural conscience. It is hard because it is obstructed externally by the manifold example of transgressors of the law and because it excludes the most important part - that which has been revealed by God.
Contrasted to it, the "easy way" is to learn that God has established on earth an infallible and authorized Custodian and Teacher of His law and His revelation. But here too, there is a devastating obstacle to the sufficiency of the evidence for Catholics and Non-Catholics alike; namely, the multitude of those who are nominal believers in the infallible authority of this Custodian of the Deposit of Faith established by God, who by their example and even by their word, deny part of it and so discredit the whole.
All these obstacles, however, will yield to the intention of that prime virtue - entire submission to the will of God.
The first thing to learn is that God's love is not necessarily indicated by worldly pleasantness. In my own experience, probably the greatest evidence of God's love was the greatest unpleasantness that ever came into my life. God had given me a wife whose influence had been the means of bringing my will into the hope of conformity to God's will. That hope had flowered into a bedrock faith which manifested itself in a love of God's will and an appreciation of God's intimate concern with every item of my life. God nourished that faith and that love to enable me to meet the test that He had planned for me. And so it was when at last I knelt by her bedside and saw her life ebb down to just a tiny gleam and then go out, that God taught me to say: "Thy will be done!"
Up to that hour God had never failed me, but I had often failed to be aware of His presence. Since that hour, I have learned to know that He will never fail me - not even in the least detail of my life.
Saint Theresa of Avila made a vow of always doing only what she judged to be the perfect will of Christ. Since the day of my test, I have tried to make Saint Theresa's vow the pattern of my life. There have been many trials since then and there have also been some failures. There will always be some failures, but the thing that amazes me day by day, is the miraculous way that God brings about His purpose in my life whenever, and to the extent that I keep my hands off and keep the ideas of my self-will out of it and stick to doing only what I judge to be God's will.
The best thing about it is that I am at last beginning to learn what I should have known all the time, and what I want the reader to gain more quickly than I have - that God is always available, in fact, right in one's heart! He is there with all His power and all His love, ready for you to turn to Him at the slightest need and with such intimacy that it is as if you were the only soul who had such a privilege.
There may be temptations to sin; there may be temptations to doubt; there may be events which at first seem impossible to attribute to God's love. But Faith says: "No!" And God is immediately present to back that faith with grace which will turn back every temptation, settle every doubt, survive every trial - provided we remember God's presence constantly and turn to Him quickly and trust Him completely.
And so it will always be. In every trial, in every formidable assignment, in every brush with a difficult situation, in every temptation, God will prove His promise made through the Psalmist: "I keep the Lord always in my sight; since He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart rejoices and my soul is glad; even my body will rest secure." (Ps. 15:8-9.)
And so I wish it may be for every reader of these lines. My contribution will be measured by the extent to which each one will resolve to make "Thy will be done" the pattern of his life. There is no sin which cannot be erased. There is no temptation which cannot be conquered. There is no sorrow which cannot be turned to joy. There is no trial which cannot be triumphantly met. There is no problem of Faith which cannot be resolved. Because God is always immediately and intimately at hand for those who intend to unite their wills to His.
And remember too, this is not a matter of feelings or emotions. It is the most sober truth you will ever hear. Your heart will become a living image of Christ's most pure love, most exalted charity, profound humility, most exact obedience, invincible patience, entire submission to the will of God, complete self-abnegation, perfect contempt of the world, IF you will do what you do, suffer what you suffer, in intimate union with God who will be in your heart. Then He will certify you as a Master Mender of the Mess Made by Man!
MENDING THE WOUNDS OF THE MYSTICAL BODY
A multitude of happenings in the world today emphasizes the words of Christ to the mystic Josefa Menendez quoted in Chapter 1: "The world is full of hate." There is a steadily increasing tension between the forces of good and the forces of evil. Satan has indeed been roused to a frenzy in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.
Hatred of God and of the Church is manifest in many quarters, both internationally as in Russia and China and in Communism everywhere, and locally as in the daily news and in the schools and colleges of North America.
Within the Church, both from ANTI-PRIESTS and from their victims, there is terrifying evidence of a rising Protestantism bent on destruction. It manifests the very essence of the MESS that needs mending.
On the other hand, men of good will everywhere are rising to meet the situation. True Ecumenism has been almost wrecked by the rise of Protestantism within the Church, but there is an untold multitude both within and outside the Catholic Church who long for a stabilized return to a true Faith backed by a guarantee of God. They are the ones to whom God will apply the help given by Master Menders.
And so, to fortify the Menders for this task, I wish to show that Christ's Mystical Body still stands firm against the wide open Gates of Hell in spite of the wounds she is receiving. If this is well understood by loyal Catholics, they will be much better equipped to help our "separated brethren" and those who have fallen away, to learn the truth.
It is not necessary for us to attempt to identify the characters portrayed by Saint John in his great prophecy of the Apocalypse to see that "Armageddon" (Ap. 16:16) is a perennial struggle in which Christ in His Mystical Body, comprising the Communion of Saints, is at war with Satan and all the forces of evil, comprising the army of angels and men who have turned away from grace. The booty of this battle is nothing other than the souls of men.
The soul of each and every man, woman, and child alive today is the objective sought by the Powers of Darkness. No one is exempted from this pressure of the Gates of Hell, but there is a vast difference in the equipment of the soldiers on the one side and on the other. And that is the all-important issue.
The battle is fought in the natural setting of this world. The acts of the battle are material and natural and, for those fighting on the side deprived of grace, the whole viewpoint is natural. But for those fighting on the side of Christ the motive, the viewpoint, and the outcome are supernatural. Whatever else they may be doing, they realize that Christ is using them as Menders.
Each one of us is urged to join the army of those who are fighting for the souls of those who are deprived of grace. We are also fighting for the preservation of a state of grace in our own souls and the souls of our neighbors. The forces of Satan have two kinds of weapons to direct against us; those which tempt us to sin and those which furnish obstacles to faith or occasions of doubt. Souls who have been successfully attacked by the former become exceedingly vulnerable to the latter as witnessed by a large percentage of those who have become fallen-away Catholics.
Some of the latter, as well as some who have never had the grace of faith, are active agents of Satan and are fighting with true malice against the Mystical Body of Christ. But by far the greater number of those who exclude themselves from membership in the Mystical Body of Christ are what might be called passive victims of the battle. Their status is closely akin to that of the innocent civilian populations in recent wars. They are tragically exposed to the natural weapons of Satan and, being for the most part starved for grace, their souls are influenced by the arguments of nature rather than those of supernature.
There are very many people in North American society who are fundamentally good people on the plane of natural ethics. They exercise a high degree of natural charity, temperance, and good-will toward God and their neighbors. One often hears such people say: "I have great respect for the Catholic Church and realize that it is the hope of the world against the many evil forces that assail us, but there is much that I cannot accept in her teaching."
It never occurs to these people to realize that they are judging God. They have no notion of the sublime supernatural relationship between God and all of us wayfarers in the world. They judge what they see and hear on a natural basis and, all unconsciously, almost exclude the operation of grace in their souls. Unless and until they can be helped to see the completeness of God's plan for the salvation of souls, and so learn to accept as proof of the doctrine the evidence that it is God's word and not man's word, they have very little chance of learning the truth.
Another, and perhaps more deadly wound in the Mystical Body of Christ, is caused by those whose disloyalty to the Vicar of Christ takes the form of denying his right to carry out the changes in the liturgy which he has approved for renewal. It is the more deadly because they call themselves "orthodox" and pose as defending the Church against those who remain loyal to the recommendations of the Holy See. In defiance of the Holy Father, they call themselves holy defenders of the faith. How Satan licks his lips in glee as they tear souls from true orthodoxy! Their antics achieve some success chiefly because of the still more evil malice of those nominally "within" the Church who flagrantly violate the orders of the Holy Father and tear down reverence in the liturgy.
All this should give infinitely greater incentive to those who remain loyal, to help their neighbors to overcome these diabolic obstacles that stand in his way. With this in mind, then, let us examine the difference between the natural and the supernatural appraisal of the Church of Christ. Every loyal Mender is invited to use this knowledge for the good of souls.
First, then, let us consider the point of view of the person of good-will who has not yet found the true motive for faith. He would state his views about the Catholic Church approximately as follows: "There is in the world today an organization called the Roman Catholic Church which is governed by a self-elected and self-perpetuating hierarchy of Bishops, Archbishops, Patriarchs, etc., headed by the Bishop of Rome who is called the Pope. The Pope claims a direct succession, by election, from the first Bishop of Rome, Saint Peter, who was appointed as head of the Apostles chosen by Jesus of Nazareth. The other Prelates claim succession by appointment and consecration by the Bishop of Rome and the successors of the other Apostles.
"This hierarchy claims exclusive authority to declare to all men what they must believe and what they must do to be admitted to heaven under the dispensation contained in the revelation transmitted to them by the Apostles of Jesus Christ. This revelation is known to them by being handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth and by documents in which most of the revelation has been recorded. The collection of books called the Bible contains much of this record. Other records are found in the writings of the hierarchy and in the minutes of their councils down the centuries.
"These records are available for all men to read, but it is the claim of the Roman hierarchy that they alone have the custody of the body of revelation with authority to make it known to all men and to interpret the meaning of the records all of which have been written by their members. They claim that this authority comes to them directly from Jesus Christ, who is God, and that it includes the right and the command to teach, govern, and sanctify all men of all time in matters of religion. They also claim that this authority is coupled with a divine promise of protection from teaching error. This protection, they claim, makes the College of Bishops, acting with the Pope at their head, or the Pope acting alone as Pastor of the Universal Church, infallible in declaring matters of faith to be believed and moral behavior to be observed.
"The doctrine which they teach contains some things that many men find hard to believe and which they have refused to believe even when they were taught by Christ Himself. The result has been that there was refusal to believe at the very beginning and there is still refusal to believe today. There has also been controversy among those who have believed that has caused many to fall away into disbelief or disunion from the governing hierarchy.
"There are many items of this doctrine which have been the subject of this disbelief. Some prominent ones are the following: The Trinity of Persons in one Divine Nature; the divinity of Christ, and the divinity of the Holy Spirit; the possession of a true human nature by Christ; the Real Presence of God, effected by transubstantiation in the Sacrifice of Mass and preserved in the Eucharist; the necessity of grace for salvation; the sacramental nature of Marriage and the obligations of the married state; the doctrine of eternal punishment - and many more."
Thus far, we have what might be the statement of a man of good-will giving the natural view of Christ's Mystical Body, the Church. All of the foregoing is a matter-of-fact statement of the truth, but it does not invite belief because it is detached from the true motive for belief in the Church as it stands today. It is all detached from the concept of grace as related to faith. Let us try to explain what this means.
In order to understand the Church as it is in the world today, it must be seen in its context with the entire history of the human race, because it exists for the entire human race. It exists in a natural setting because the human race has experienced its history in the natural setting of this world, chosen for it by an all-wise and all-powerful Creator.
Christ, who is God, condescended to become a member of the human race and came to spend a few minutes in this natural setting of ours at what might be called its center-point or its fulcrum. During these few minutes of His sojourn in this natural setting, He connected all the preparatory past and all of the anticipatory future with the supernatural end for which it was created.
Since it was His Father's will that He should remain in this natural setting for only a short time in His visible human form, He worked very hard to establish and perfect the arrangements for the supernatural continuity of His presence among men for the rest of time. This He did by uniting to Himself a group of natural men whose souls He impregnated with supernatural power suited to carry forward His mission to the end of time. This supernatural power was conferred by what we now call the Sacrament of Ordination coupled with the rite of Consecration to the Episcopacy, the fullness of the Priesthood. It was administered at the Last Supper, just before the termination of Christ's natural sojourn on earth.
This power conferred by Christ was accompanied by certain commands and certain promises. First, Christ empowered these first Bishops to effect the marvelous supernatural act of transubstantiation which He had just performed Himself and by which He had caused the substance of bread and wine to be replaced by the substance of His own Body and Blood while the appearance only of the bread and wine remained. This He did, as He said, so that His priests could perpetuate, until the end of time, the Redeeming Sacrifice which He had made possible by taking human nature upon Himself. He then commanded them to continue this act of making present the Sacrifice of the Cross as the central act of Christian worship. This was done so that the men of all time might be present and make Christ's-offering-of-Himself their own and thus share in its fruits.
Christ then gave these first Bishops other powers and commands to complete the organization of His Church which He had been earnestly preparing them for during the three years of His ministry. The first power given for this purpose was the power to ordain successors to provide priests for the future and to consecrate the most able of these priests so that they could continue to ordain successors until the end of time.
To all of them Christ then gave the supernatural power to exercise God's right to forgive sins and to impart grace which would help repentant sinners to avoid future sin through the sacramental power of absolution. Christ also empowered and taught them to administer the Sacrament of Baptism whereby the stain of Adam's sin and the guilt of actual sin could be washed away to make room for the supernatural entrance of the divine indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the soul. He also empowered the Bishops to confer an added strengthening Sacrament of Confirmation to enable the faithful to withstand the opposition which they would be called upon to meet. Christ also amplified the Sacrament of the Eucharistic Sacrifice so that His precious Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, could actually be united to the bodies and souls of the faithful in Holy Communion. He gave to Christian Marriage a supernatural sacramental character which would impart a lifelong fund of supernatural grace to enable the husband and wife who would use it, to meet every obligation, every trial, every joy of married life successfully and with supernatural merit. Lastly, He gave them the Sacrament for the Sick or Aged to restore health or provide safe transit to eternity.
With all this supernatural power and all the knowledge He had imparted to them, Christ then commissioned and commanded them to go forth into the whole world and exercise the continuation of His mission - teaching, governing, and sanctifying in His Name and by His power. He would be present with them as the invisible Head and Saint Peter or Saint Peter's successors would be His Vicar and His visible representative.
All was now in readiness and on the eve of Christ's own departure into heaven He made them the reassuring promise that to guarantee the perpetual unity and integrity and identity of this Church, His Mystical Body, He would not leave them to be a prey to any doubts suggested by the devil, but would remain with them all days even to the consummation of the world. He also promised that they would be given special supernatural protection as to the integrity of the Deposit of Faith that He had revealed to them during the years of their instruction.
To allay their astonishment, He told them how this would happen. They were to go back to Jerusalem and make a retreat, in prayer and meditation, in the Upper Room where they had eaten the Last Supper with Him. He would then send His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to take up a supernatural abode in their souls in a special way which would bring to their minds exactly all that He had commanded them to do and to teach. This Spirit of Truth would remain with them always.
The Apostles followed Christ's instructions and all come to pass as He had promised. It happened on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Christ's Resurrection and ten days after His Ascension into heaven.
What an amazing sequence of events this was as to all of its circumstances! Who would ever imagine that the Creator of this universe would come to this earth and become Man? Or, if He did become Man, that He would be a humble carpenter; or that He would arrange to continue the errand for which He became Man by placing it in the hands of twelve ignorant natives of a despised province of a despised nation; or that He would allow His natural career to end by crucifixion as a malefactor?
Not only did He do all that, but, in His infinite power and wisdom, He chose a time and place for doing it when the population of the world, the progress of human knowledge, the political freedom from strife, the means of communication, were exactly right for the working of these events as He had planned them.
Humanly speaking, the whole affair seemed destined to complete and abject failure. But that is exactly what God had intended! To speak humanly of the Church of Christ is to tell much less than half of the story. It has worked! And the reason that it has worked is precisely because of the fulfillment of Christ's promise to be with it always, to be its Life-Principle in His Holy Spirit, and to preserve its identity free from destruction by the Devil and the "Gates of Hell."
Why did God give His Church such an unpromising start? The answer which He Himself has made known to us is, perhaps, just a little bit terrifying. It is this: During His life on earth He gave sufficient proof that He was God. He also gave sufficient evidence that His Church which came forth at Pentecost was His and only His. The whole history of the Church from this humble beginning until the present day has given a great sequence of evidence that His promises have been fulfilled against odds that would long ago have overwhelmed any natural society. It is still His and only His. But from the very beginning He has insisted that faith in Him and faith in His Church must be accompanied by a free act of the will. There is sufficient natural aid; there is sufficient natural evidence; in every age there has been sufficient supernatural evidence in the form of miracles. But God has always refused to compel belief. He does not want compelled belief. He wants loving, trusting, confident faith in the face of obstacles. He wants faith because He has said that His Church is Himself and because He has promised to keep it true and to keep it safe.
Jesus almost begs us to believe and He offers us supernatural help to believe, but only on His terms. That is, to believe because it is He that is teaching; it is He that promises that it is true. The hearers of some of the things that He has taught have said: "This is a hard saying, who can believe it?" (John 6:61.) They said that of His words: "This is My Body," but instead of modifying what He had said, He turned to His Apostles and said to them: "Do you also wish to go away?" (John 6:68.) And this is the terrifying part - to those who doubt, or demand their own terms for belief, He withdraws His supernatural help and allows them to "go away." And that is happening today on a larger scale than ever before.
So it was when He taught in person, and so it has been ever since. He insists that it is He who speaks to men in the person of His ministers. During the first seventy years, some of what He taught was written down in the Books of the New Testament by those whom He had commanded to go forth and teach; during the next seven centuries, more was written down in the works of those who are called the "Fathers" of the Church. There was much, however, that was not spelled out in full because it was constantly practiced and was not then needed in writing. Such was the practice of devotion to the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven; such was the detail of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
It must never be forgotten that the body of Truth given to men by Christ has been handed down in the way He directed that it should be handed down - by the Teaching Authority of His Church to the believing faithful of His Church, all of whom constitute the Mystical Body of Christ. The true motive for faith is, and always has been, and always will be - the promise of Christ who is God and cannot deceive or be deceived. No other motive is needed by those who wish to put their trust in Christ and His Vicar on earth.
To make this better known, there is very much that every Mender is invited to do!
GOD'S PROMISES A BULWARK FOR MENDERS
A very common prayer among Catholics is the invocation to the Blessed Virgin: "Pray for us O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the Promises of Christ!" Catholic Faith teaches that the Promises of Christ embrace the whole purpose for which God made the world and placed men in it. Their end and meaning is, therefore, more important than anything else that employs the thoughts of men.
There are three essential characteristics of these promises. First, they concern every human being born into the world from the time the promises were made until the end of the world as we know it.
Second, their end is eternal life with God in a state of perfect happiness resulting from a purely supernatural privilege of sharing in some way the divine nature so as to enable one to see God as He is. This privilege is called the "Beatific Vision."
Third, the promises involve the means provided by God whereby the men of all time have equal opportunity to share in them by the exercise of their free-will in cooperation with God's grace. God's grace is absolutely necessary because the means provided, beside being visible and temporal, are invisible and supernatural and are, therefore, beyond the reach of the natural exercise of free-will however steadfast it may be.
There are many texts in the New Testament which contain specific references to these three characteristics of the promises. Not one of them is incapable of being misunderstood. This is witnessed by millions of people who have examined them and have come out with answers differing from each other. This, however, is not inconsistent with the notion that the promises were made by the Creator of the universe who is all-wise and all-powerful. The reason that this is not inconsistent is that the promises themselves declare that the evidence of their truth is sufficient, but that it requires a continuous and enduring act of free-will to bridge by faith the gap between the natural and visible and the supernatural and invisible.
The promises themselves contain the notion that they were not simply stated by Christ, the God-Man, and then left, as it were, to see what man would make of them. On the contrary, they definitely involve the notion that the God-Man has provided a visible means capable of attaining their end. This is precisely because He continues to function in those means with all the power of His divinity. These notions regarding the promises of Christ can hardly be gained by studying and analyzing individual texts of Scripture, item by item, unless one has first acquainted himself with the atmosphere of their presentation which is contained in the entire Bible.
This atmosphere insists that the infinite love and infinite humility of Christ prevails throughout all time and that the Holy Trinity is intimately present in the means made available to all men. This Holy Trinity is present in the Person of Christ, the one best known to us, through the Incarnation; in the Person of the Holy Spirit, the divine Spirit of Love and of Truth, whose presence supernaturalizes the means throughout all time; in the Person of the Father, the Sovereign Source of the life-giving Spirit and the love-giving Incarnate Word. It was only that we might be made sufficiently certain of it all that God came to us as Man and gave us His promises with His own lips in such a way that they can be heard and understood by us in the twentieth century. It is nowhere better expressed than in the words of Christ reported by Saint John:
"If you love Me, observe My commandments; and I will ask the Father and He will give you another Comforter to remain with you for ever - the Spirit of Truth, whom the world is incapable of receiving, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him because He abides with you and shall be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer, and the world shall see Me no more; but you shall see Me, because I live, and you shall live. In that day you shall know that I am in the Father, and you in Me, and I in you." (John 14:15-21.)
This very fact, however, is so far beyond the capacity of human nature to conceive that it has always seemed like folly to the worldly-wise and a stumbling block to the worldly minded. But to those who are receptive of the Spirit of God, the fact that almighty God became Man and submitted to torture at the hands of His creatures in order to provide them with the means of eternal happiness, has always been convincing evidence of the infinite love of God, of the infinite malice of man's sins, and of the infinite incentive to love God and to trust His word without any reservation whatever.
It is, then, only with this whole picture in mind that one can examine the texts which relate to the promises of Christ and hope to reach the answer that He intended and not be led astray by the answer of the millions who detach it all from the ever-present supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit.
First in order, then, comes the knowledge that all of the matter of the promises is contained in a body of truth which was taught orally by Christ to those whom He had chosen for His witnesses. This body of truth embraces all that God has wished to reveal to man. This was stated explicitly by Christ Himself as reported by Saint John: "I have called you friends, because everything that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you; and I ordained that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should be lasting." (John 15:15-16.)
It would be almost impossible to assemble all the texts which give us the knowledge of this oral framing of Christ's Deposit of Truth because it saturates the entire New Testament. But there are certain texts which, as it were, reach out and embrace all the rest. The most comprehensive of these texts is, perhaps, the last of all, in which Saint John summed up the whole story: "This is the disciple who gives this evidence of these events and wrote this narrative; and we know that his evidence is true. But there are many other things also that Jesus did, were every one of which to be recorded, not even the world itself, I imagine, would contain the volumes that should be written." (John 21:24-25.)
Saint John, no doubt, has in mind the announcements made by Christ at the Last Supper which made known to the Apostles the means Christ had chosen to preserve the integrity of the Deposit of Faith and to protect it from error or omissions. At first, Christ made this simple statement: "I have spoken these things to you while remaining with you. But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things and will remind you of all that I have told you." (John 14:25-26.)
This statement Christ then amplified by saying:
"I have still many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the spirit of Truth, comes, He shall guide you into all truth, for He shall not speak from Himself, but whatever He will hear He shall speak, and shall announce to you the events which are to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall receive of what is Mine, and shall announce it to you. All that the Father has is Mine, that is why I said, 'He receives of what is Mine, and shall announce it to you.'" (John 16:12-15.)
This word of Christ's puts beyond doubt for those who do not exclude the supernatural, the constant presence of the three Persons of the Trinity in preserving the integrity of the Deposit of Truth which contains the whole of revelation. This body of truth is first referred to as a "deposit" by Saint Paul in his first letter to Timothy: "O Timothy! Guard the deposit! Avoid the profane and fruitless discussions and disputations of knowledge falsely so styled. By professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith." (I Tim. 6:20-21.) This statement clearly implies that the deposit is self-sufficient in that it is of divine origin and is not subject to any improvisations of profane discussions and disputations.
The next, and perhaps the most important item, in regard to the promises contained in the Deposit of Truth, is the knowledge that they were placed by God in the custody of a central teaching authority which He called His Church. This Church was to be the prolongation of Christ's visible presence among men to teach, govern and sanctify all men until the end of time, when Christ would return in Person for the consummation of the world. It would be staffed by ordinary men whom He would choose from generation to generation. But, because they would be ordinary men, they would be supplied with divine guidance by the constant guiding principle of the Holy Spirit and Christ's abiding presence among them. "And I will send upon you the promise of My Father. But you are to stay in the city, until you are invested with power from on high." (Luke 24:49.)
And, most important of all, since they were to remain mortal men even though guided by the Holy Spirit, their head, who would be chosen always under the special guidance of the Holy Spirit, would be given a special prerogative of divine protection to act as the actual Vicar of Christ with his jurisdiction reaching to the foot of the throne of Christ in heaven thus guaranteeing the perpetual integrity of the Deposit of Faith and safeguarding the government and teaching and worship of the Church against the frailty of the individuals who would, in the future, constitute that far-reaching Teaching Authority.
This guarantee of unity and continuity and the identification of the head of the Church as Christ's Vicar was characterized by Christ when He called him the "rock" upon which His Church would be founded. This astounding and precious promise was embodied in the very first announcement made by Christ of the means He would provide for the salvation of future generations. It was adumbrated in the first words He addressed to the man whom He intended to install as the first representative of that leadership. Andrew brought his brother, Simon, to meet Jesus immediately after he had been hailed by John the Baptist as the Messias, and: "Jesus looked at him closely, and said, 'Thou are Simon the son of Jona; thou shalt be called Cephas which means the same as Rock.'" (John 1:42.)
The words of Jesus, however, that made His intention definitely known for the rest of time, were addressed to the same Peter when he, as spokesman for the Apostles, had declared to Christ that they regarded Him as the divine Son of God. "And Jesus answered him, Blessed art thou Simon son of Jona; it is not flesh and blood, it is My Father in heaven that has revealed this to thee. And I tell thee this in My turn that thou are Peter, and it is upon this rock that I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and I will give thee the keys to the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt. 16:13-20.)
Since the rock of foundation cannot be less permanent than the Church which rests on it, it is obvious that Christ here announces the divinely ratified jurisdiction over the whole Church conferred upon the one chosen by Him to head the Church and Simon was the first one chosen to be that rock of unity.
But, the added prerogative by which the rock was to be the balance-wheel of faith, was not announced until the eve of Christ's Passion. And, paradoxically, it was closely followed by Peter's threefold denial of Christ. This incident was to engrave the acknowledgement of human frailty in the hearts of all future popes and emphasize the necessity of the supernatural quality of the divine protection to be given to them.
Christ's promise of this protection which was to be given to Peter was worded carefully to show that it was not for Peter's own personal benefit, but was a necessary safeguard against the perennial machinations of Satan who would be forever suggesting innovations and departures from the deposit of faith. The decade following the Second Vatican Council has vastly contributed to this feature of the MESS contrived by Satan.
The need for this protection of Peter was coupled with a warning of his fall in these words: "Simon, Simon, behold Satan begged that he might have you all that he might sift you as wheat. But I prayed for thee that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, once thou hast turned back, confirm thy brethren." (Luke 22:31-32.) This promise was acknowledged by Peter with his boast that he would gladly face death rather than desert his Master: "Lord, with Thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death." (Luke 22:33.) But within a few hours Peter's frailty was manifest in his cowardly threefold denial that he had ever known Jesus. It was for this reason that Christ demanded from Peter a threefold protestation of love when He confirmed the promise of infallibility in faith to the head of His Church, after the Resurrection.
The risen Christ, after having completed the revelation of the Deposit of Truth, and having established its divinely protected Teaching Authority, gave the command which would accomplish the end for which He had left His heavenly home to dwell among men, with these words:
"All authority is given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you throughout all time, even until the consummation of the world." (Matt. 28:18-20.)
The fact remains however, that all the evidence of the precious treasures of the promises of Christ, when examined item by item, can be refused belief. Like all of revelation, God demands that room be left for the action of man's freewill to respond in sympathetic recognition of the divine love with which Christ has fulfilled His promise to be with His Church through all these centuries until our own day. Not only that, but He has kept it against odds which would long since have wrecked any man-made society!
Instead of allowing it to be wrecked, He has given it to us; ONE in faith, one in worship, one in government; HOLY in its Founder, holy in its doctrine, and holy in its saints; UNIVERSAL in time, universal in its revelation, universal in its quest for souls; stemming from Christ alone through the APOSTLES in its foundation and head, through the Apostles in all of its teaching, through the Apostles in its transmitted power to teach, govern and sanctify all men.
Those who find difficulty in accepting the meaning of individual texts as they have been handed down to us should be reminded; first, that the meaning which they are now given is the meaning in which they were accepted and acted upon by those who heard them from the lips of Christ. Those who explain them today are, then, those of whom Christ spoke when He said: "He who hears you hears Me." (Luke 10:16.) Secondly, they should be reminded of the words which Christ addressed to the doubting Jews: "Even though you do not believe Me, then let My actions convince you where I cannot." (John 10:38.)
Christ, acting through His Holy Spirit in the fulfillment of His promises, has enabled His original hearers to pass down to us, over nineteen hectic centuries, the Deposit of Truth which He gave to His Apostles, without a single instance of the reversal of any item of its contents. And it will stand today against the Anti-Priests styled as theologians of the New Order. The Church founded on Peter has prevailed against unbelievable odds to withstand the onslaughts of the "Gates of Hell."
Starting with twelve tradesman-bishops for her hierarchy and teaching authority, and three or four thousand converts of a despised race in an outlying province of the Roman Empire, Holy Mother Church has faced and survived three centuries of slaughter bent on extermination, and thereafter has continued to meet Christ's command to carry His message, whole and entire, to every nation until the present day. She has overcome obstacles from within and from without, in a manner which has amazed her enemies and has convinced her loyal children of the ever-present guardianship of the Holy Spirit.
But the survival of the sovereignty of Peter has been even more amazing! His primacy of jurisdiction to govern and teach was immediately accepted by his fellow Apostles since his appointment by Christ was known to all of them. And when Saint Peter met his death by crucifixion in the year 67 A.D., his successor as Pope was Saint Linus, the one chosen to fill the Chair of the Bishop of Rome, and not, as might be expected, one of the surviving Apostles.
But beyond that point, the recognition of the Chair of Peter as the arbitrator of doctrine and universal Pastor, had to fight its way against obstinate heresy and disloyalty from within and against determined political and military opposition from without, to a degree never even approached in the history of the world. Yet it has worked!
It has worked as no other sovereignty has ever even dreamed of working. It has worked in spite of shattering schism, in spite of sharing in the persecutions which drove the Popes into the underground cemeteries or catacombs for almost three hundred years and rendered the first twenty-four of them martyrs. It has worked in spite of the momentary apparent supremacy of heretical factions declaring the "excommunication" of the true Pope and the insinuation of an anti-pope in his place. It has worked in spite of civil domination and imprisonment of the Pope, while one and sometimes two anti-popes held sway. It has worked in spite of the disgraceful immorality of perhaps four Popes between the ninth and the sixteenth centuries.
And out of all this travail there emerges a roster of a continuous line of succession of two hundred and sixty three legitimate occupants of the Chair of Peter, eighty of whom are recognized as saints and not more than twenty are less than eminently good and capable rulers. And, in all that long line, through nineteen centuries of history, there is not one instance of error in a decision from the Chair of Peter sustaining the integrity of the deposit of revealed truth handed down from Christ to the present day. This victorious emergence is in itself nothing short of miraculous evidence that the Gates of Hell never will prevail against the Church founded by Christ on the Rock which He has sustained.
It only now remains to hope for, to pray for, and to expect the fulfillment of that other prayer which Jesus Christ addressed to His Father:
"As Thou didst send Me into the world, so I send them into the world; and for their sake I consecrate Myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth. But I ask not only for them, but also for those who believe in Me through their word, that they all may be one; that, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I am in Thee, they also may be one in Us, in order that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me." (John 17:18-21.)
What a precious opportunity we as Menders are invited by Christ to share with Him. It will be another Gethsemane for His love if we fail to respond!
MARY MOTHER OF MENDERS
It would indeed be a source of inspiration to take each of the titles ascribed to Mary in the Litany of Loretto and apply it to a chapter of this book inviting all men to realize that all mending of the mess-that-man-is-making is planned by Christ to come about, if at all, under the aegis of His Mother. It would emphasize our plea for Menders because it would be in such glaring contrast with all the schemes for mending available to those who are chained to the natural world around us. It would shout our jubilation that God chose Mary to give us access to that supernatural aid.
But among all the titles of that Litany of Loretto, there can be no doubt that the title which places Mary far out above all the rest of creation and the one from which all the rest derive their meaning, is the august title defended for her against the Nestorians and infallibly declared by Pope Saint Celestine I at the Council of Ephesus in the year 431 A.D. This third Ecumenical Council is still recognized, not only by the Catholic Church, but by nearly all of Christendom. This title, placed first in her litany is: "Holy Mother of God."
But, for Mary the Mother of Menders, I wish to use that title in a form which means the same thing but, in one sense, wraps all the titles of her litany into one: Mary, Mother of Divine Love. I believe that this title does combine all the others and identifies her much more intimately in her relationship to each one of those for whom Mary seeks to promote their Project Sainthood as Menders.
It is with humble gratitude and abject devotion that I plead forgiveness of the Mother of Divine Love and Mother of Menders for the indifference and hostility which I displayed toward her for a good part of my life. The reader can understand too, the boundless enthusiasm of my loyalty now that she has obtained for me the grace to see that I have always been under her loving protection even when I was least responsive to her love. She has proved this in countless ways, but chiefly by helping me to learn the importance of her place in the divine economy of love. There is more than coincidence in the fact that I began my Novitiate in 1947, and made Monastic Vows in 1948, and received the Sacrament of Ordination to the Priesthood in 1951, all on the Feast of her Assumption into Heaven.
There is no doubt that all grace, all salvation, all remission of sins, comes from the Holy Trinity through the Incarnation of Christ. But by the very event of the Incarnation ex Maria Virgine, and confirmed by Christ on the Cross, she became the Mother of Divine Love incorporating each one of us into His Mystical Body and His spiritual family whereby these blessings are applied to us one-by-one.
Not only did He tell us on the Cross that our love and worship of Him demands our love and veneration of His Mother, but in these latter days there is constantly increasing evidence of His desire that we should have confidence in, and benefit by the intercession of His Mother.
How else should it have come about that in the constantly rising tide of agnosticism and atheism generated by the faithless pursuit of material science, we have been given the infallible assurance of the Holy Spirit confirming the certainty of her Immaculate Conception and her Assumption, body and soul into heaven? How else should it have come about that she should have been so prominently associated with nearly all of the supernatural manifestations of God's power in these latter days by the many miracles of Lourdes, Fatima and Guadalupe?
It would certainly be fair to say that we are no longer entitled to miracles to prove the divinity of Christ and the authenticity of His Church and His right to the worship of every living soul. The indifferentism and unbelief of the world today is without a vestige of excuse in the face of the evidence that can be known by all. Why else is it then, that God in His infinite mercy and love, continues to give us these proofs, but almost always under the patronage and aegis of His Mother?
It can hardly be explained in any other way than that He is inviting us as Master Menders to HELP Him to bring to fulfillment the promise He made to Adam and Eve to restore peace to the world through the instrumentality of a New Eve whose humility and immaculate purity and worldly frailty would be the weapons chosen by Him to vanquish the hate and pride and treachery and cunning of the Evil One.
As the years of the twentieth century roll on, and more and more of the world's people become engulfed in the satanic idolatry of materialism, it seems that Christ has chosen to withdraw farther and farther from their field of battle and to oppose them only with the worldly-weak armed only with the weapons of love and prayer.
Mankind in general has been lured by Satan during the past hundred years to turn away from God and to go it alone, putting his trust in the discoveries of physical science to enable him to take revenge upon those who menace him.
There is nothing new in this evil tendency of fallen human nature to succumb to the seduction of Satan and to turn from God and trust in worldly power. The only new feature of the present world situation is that the appalling immensity of physical power has turned into a Frankenstein that has gone far beyond the genius of the worldly-minded to control it. The Western World is obviously in a state of terror before the inexorable compulsion of armed power which is taking possession of the world.
All this was fanned into fury by the impact of the Second Vatican Council. It gave Communism a wide opening to contaminate the minds of those within the Church.
The true state of mind of the leaders of Communism is, of course, concealed from the rest of the world. But none of them has given any indication of a change of heart since Khruschev waved his arms and screamed before the Assembly of the United Nations on October 12, 1960, "We live on earth not by the grace of God, or by your grace, but by the strength of the Soviet people."
This reminds us of the concluding verses of the thirty-second Psalm. It is a rather long quotation, but it is so appropriate at the present time that I can hardly leave it unquoted:
"Blessed the nation that calls the Lord its own God...Looking down from heaven He watches all mankind, His dwelling-place has the whole world in view; He has fashioned each man's nature, and weighs the actions of each. There is no protection for kings in powerful armies, for warriors in abundant prowess,...brute strength cannot save. It is the Lord watching over those who fear Him and trust in His mercy that will protect their lives...Patiently we wait for the Lord's help; He is our strength and our shield; in Him our hearts find contentment, in His Holy Name we trust. Lord, let Thy mercy rest upon us, who put all our confidence in Thee." (Ps. 32:12-22.)
How will this confidence in God be rewarded? Perhaps not by allowing our arms to prevail over the Soviet or China. It is true that our motive for entering the race for armed strength is very different from that of the Communists. But, as a group of nations, those in the free world are still very far from the only motive that can draw down the power of God to secure our peace. It is here and now that MENDERS who pray and work and set an example of loving trust in God can do more to protect us from the wrath of God, in whatever form He may choose to let it fall, than anyone else in the world.
And that is no disparagement of those who are working with might and main to protect us from bodily extermination by the atom bomb. I have a nephew who was a General in the inmost depths of the inner sanctum of those who are devising weapons for our defense. But for the work that he and his colleagues have done, we would probably not be on earth today. But it is not their work with weapons that can bring us to the peace of God which passeth all understanding. It is only their participation in the same approach which I am urging all Menders to follow that can bring us to the goal that the whole world longs for, but will not use the means demanded by Him who has the power to bring it about.
And what is the approach that I speak of? It is "The Way of Divine Love" - our Project Sainthood in nothingness before the power of almighty God. The more fierce and devastating armed might becomes, the more clearly does Christ put forward the cult of Our Lady and the power of those who, like her and following her example, storm heaven with prayer and sacrifices and the Sacraments in the spirit of divine love under the protection of our Mother of Divine Love.
Many of those who are doing their best to protect us with weapons would cast aside this advice as starry-eyed nonsense and that is the saddest part of our predicament. We should indeed be grateful to them for giving us time to do our part, but we should remind them that Christ and Our Lady have left no doubt that it is the sacrifices and acts of love made by those who are closest to God which do more to ward off the awful execution of God's justice which the world is earning by its prideful worship of Matter.
Of the amazing messages given to the world by Christ and Our Lady during the three brief years of religious life of the obscure coadjutrix sister, Josefa Menendez, of the Society of The Sacred Heart of Jesus, by no means the least important were those in which Christ told her that her utter nothingness was what attracted Him to use her love and suffering to postpone the inexorable demands of God's justice. He said to her: "If I were unable to find souls to solace Me and draw down mercy, justice could no longer be restrained...However, I still have many souls who love Me and belong to Me. A single one of them can purchase pardon for a great many others who are cold and ungrateful." (Way of Divine Love - 9-1-'21.)
It is true that these messages are contained in private revelations, but they were so well attested that they were received with approval by no less authority than our late Holy Father, Pope Pius XII.
In any case, they are parallel to the evidence given by our Lord Himself throughout His life on earth. He always met strong-arm power with humility and meekness. And so, following His example, we may rest utterly secure in accepting the will of God, however difficult it may be to reconcile with worldly standards.
As Our Lady said to Josefa when she was terrified by the sacrifices asked of her: "My Child, why be afraid? The work of Jesus must be founded on much pain and love. 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 depths of all hearts and it is He who permits circumstances to be as they are. If His plans often seem to you to be hindered, it is because He wants to keep you very humble and very lowly." (ibid. 1-21-'23.)
And this same advice applies to each one of us and is intended by Our Mother of Divine Love to be addressed to us. If we could only realize the true value of this humble work of love for souls, we would cease utterly to be anxious about the race of the world for armed strength and would enter with perfect confidence into the ranks of the meek and humble Menders fighting in Christ's way against the power of evil under the leadership of Our Lady of Divine Love with her weapons of prayer, especially the Rosary, and acts of sacrifice and love.
And why should we hesitate to meet the world in Christ's way? Do we not believe that He is omnipotent? The past two decades have marked the beginning of man's entry into outer space. With the expenditure of billions of dollars and many years of most scholarly research, we have made several trips to the moon and have established satellite air-laboratories to promote communication and fortify our armed forces who are doing their utmost to protect us.
But, to appreciate God's share in all this work, we should be reminded that this earth we live on is also a satellite launched by our Master Protector some billions of years ago. It shows no evidence of having failed to perform exactly in accordance with the plan of its Builder. Not only does it utilize the poser of the sun in many more ways than our satellites, but it has literally millions of functions which have unfolded in perfect order during the ages of its scheduled flight. Not the least of its functions has been the support of billions of bodies and souls of men, each cell of whose bodies, scientists tell us, is more complicated than a battleship made by man.
One could go on for ever giving examples of God's ability to "do all things well." Why, then, should it be so difficult for us to take His word for it that He really needs the perfect submission of our free wills in love and sacrifice and acceptance of suffering to accomplish the salvation and perfect peace of all men in accordance with His plan? It is really true that there is something lacking in the suffering of Christ. Not because the Passion of God was insufficient, but because, in accordance with His plan, the souls to be saved must unite themselves to His Passion in order to share in its victory.
That does not mean that we must devise more ways to punish ourselves with physical pain. It only means that we must realize that armed might is only a stop-gap offered to us Menders to give each of us time to do our little part to bring to completion the spiritual barricade which can stop the forces of evil. God could end the dreadful peril in which the human race is now suffering, by supernatural intervention, but we should know by now that that is not the way God chooses to work.
Quite the contrary, He has shown us for almost two thousand years that He chooses to take the little and the weak and the humble as His instruments to confound the strong. And each one of us is as important before God in this regard as is our nation's armed protection. The physical outcome of the strife in the world is, of course, completely under God's control at every moment of time. It is as true now as it was when it was voiced by the Prophet Amos that: "At His glance falls ruin on the strong, devastation on the fortified." (5:9.) But that is of less importance to us than His call for our generosity in uniting our will to His in prayer and sacrifice and acceptance of suffering, if that be His will, for the sake of souls.
He told us through Our Lady of Fatima that Russia would be converted if enough of us would pray the Rosary. Not enough of us took Our Lady's word seriously. But those Rosaries were not wasted. God still has them in His keeping and the invitation still stands with far greater urgency today! Each one of us should still regard this as a present invitation from Christ to face the issue single-handed. That is all that counts with Him. He is interested in individual souls whether they be at war or at peace. He solicits the help of every one of us for this victory for souls and assures us that we are all eligible and useful as Menders!
He made this very clear to Josefa Menendez when she was frightened by the little things He asked of her. "Do not worry," He says, "about what you can do and what you cannot do. You know very well that you can do nothing. But I am He who can and will do all. All I need is to possess your will, of this I cannot find a substitute, since will is each particular soul's own property and possession." (Way of Divine Love 7-16-'23.) And again He encouraged Josefa when He said, "Every soul can be instrumental in this sublime work...Nothing great is required, the smallest acts suffice: a step taken, a straw picked up, a glance restrained, a service rendered, a cordial smile...all this offered to Love are in reality of great profit to souls and draw down great floods of grace on them." (ib. 5-27-'23.)
If these are the things that we can do that really count, we need have no fear whatever for the future, but only confidence in the all-wise Providence of God. Let us then resolve to enroll ourselves as Menders among those loved by Christ.
To give us utter assurance that God heeds the service offered by each of us, He gave us the record of His promise to Abraham who sought to be the single-handed mender-of-the-mess at Sodom and Gomorrha. He begged God to spare those cities from God's wrath if fifty innocent citizens could be found there. When God granted this request Abraham was emboldened to plead again and again until finally God promised to spare these cities if ten men were found to be innocent. (cf. Gen. 18:23-33.) So there is no limit to the generosity of God in giving power to honest Menders to seek His miracles of grace. This should indeed inspire millions more to be Menders in God's service. And this includes most specially the little and the humble children of our Mother of Divine Love as she described herself to Josefa Menendez in the year 1923 on the Feast of Her Immaculate Conception.
"My child," she said, "the Church honors me today by contemplating My Immaculate Conception. Men admire in me the wonders wrought by God, and the beauty with which He clothed me even before original sin could stain my soul. He who is the Eternal God chose me as His Mother and overwhelmed my soul with graces greater than any bestowed on any other creature. All the beauty you see in me is a reflection of the divine perfections, and the praises given to me glorify Him who, being my Creator, willed to make me His Mother.
"My choicest title to glory is that of being immaculate at the same time as being Mother of God. But my greatest joy is to add to this title that of Mother of Mercy, and Mother of Sinners."
I ask you: Do we need a second invitation to welcome her as the MOTHER OF MENDERS?
THE SACRED HEART SEEKS MENDERS
In every chapter of this book it is my earnest wish to place before the reader the pleading wish of Our Lord Jesus Christ that every one may become an apostle of His Sacred Heart to the extent and in the manner that His grace will inspire each one. There has perhaps never been a time in the history of the Church when the urgency of that plea has been as vital as it is now in the eighth decade of the twentieth century. And to be still more specific, if every reader of this paragraph could begin to realize the urgency of this plea and the potency of the help of each individual Mender when united as-one with the Sacred Heart, it would mark the beginning of the most colossal miracle of grace that the world has ever witnessed.
Perhaps that sounds like a rash exaggeration that deserves nothing but laughter. Well, if it were taken as such by every one who reads it, it would become rash exaggeration. But if every Catholic and Non-Catholic Christian throughout the world heard it and acted on it with anything like the faith that Divine Providence and the Sacred Heart deserve, it would become a reality that would truly re-make the world.
The beloved Shepherd, Pope John XXIII, who started all this urgency, voiced it in his prayer for the success of the Second Vatican Council:
"We beseech Thee, O God, on behalf of those sheep who no longer belong to the one Fold of Jesus Christ that they also, glorying as they do in the name of Christian, may finally regain unity under one Shepherd."
We Catholics believe in Divine Providence and we believe in God's omnipotence. In other words, we believe that God could bring about the instantaneous conversion to the Catholic Faith of every men, woman and child in the world. But, we also know that such a conversion and the subsequent salvation of souls that would result from it which, indeed, is the cherished objective of the Incarnation, has been made subject by Him to the composite operation of the free-will of all mankind.
Does this mean that God has, in effect, tied His own hands? Has God placed the success of His cherished plan of salvation at the disposal of the weak and fallen human race? A clear understanding of the answers to these two questions is essential for each one of us to enable us to profit most by the love that underlies this manifestation of God's plan.
In a sense, the answer to each of these questions is: "Yes" - in a sense, God has tied His own hands. In a sense, God has placed the success of His cherished plan of salvation at the disposal of the weak and fallen human race. We must admit this sense for without it there could be no souls in hell. And that is why the affirmative answer in this sense is most important to individual souls, since it is because of this constraint which God has placed upon Himself that He withholds His hand when individual souls choose to make themselves candidates for hell or to give scandal which may draw other souls to hell.
But in a larger sense, every tiny detail is under God's complete control and even every venial sin of yours and mine, as well as all the hate and harm that leads to hell is made by God to take its place in a more perfect pattern for the eternal welfare of the elect.
This does not mean that God is the cause of sin and the harm that stems from sin. It does, however, mean that from all eternity and to all eternity, God knows every sin that man has chosen and every sin that men will choose and all the harm attached to those sins. It also means that because of His knowledge and because of His power, He is able to make heaven more perfect than it would have been if those sins had not been allowed to occur.
And in this larger and more perfect sense the answers to those two questions are also of infinite importance to individual souls because it is in this sense that the final destiny of every soul fits into the pattern of God's plan; the acts of those who hate, to an evil end; the acts of those who love, to a better end than would be theirs if there were no hate. As Saint Augustine so simply puts it: "Almighty God preferred to bring good out of evil than never to allow evil to occur."
The truth of this statement of Saint Augustine is probably most obvious in the most evil event that has occurred in the history of the world. The hateful murder of God-Incarnate undoubtedly cast many sinners into hell, but by their freely chosen malice, heaven was opened and offered to the entire human race on a basis of love which would have been utterly beyond their comprehension if they had not seen the extent to which God was willing to got to show them the depth of His love. God did not cause His crucifixion, but He gave Himself to it and He came into the world knowing and controlling all the circumstances under which it would occur.
He explained this to us when He said: "It must be that scandals come," (Matt. 18:7), but He made it clear to those who were to become guilty of God-murder that the scandal was their own free choice, when He added: "but woe to that man by whom the scandal comes." It is not only true that the greatest good that ever happened to the human race - the Redemption - derives from the greatest evil ever perpetrated by man - the Crucifixion, but the same is also true of every tiny evil that you or I may do. Every evil act of ours will injure us and may injure others, but God brings good out of all of it in the end.
But here is another and, perhaps, happier angle to this great mystery of the ultimate good that God derives from evil. God not only allows each individual, if he so chooses, to be an instrument of evil, but - and here is the paradox of God's love - He also allows each one of us to be His instruments to draw greater good out of every evil, great or small. And to the extent that we choose this course, we bring that greater good upon ourselves and as Menders, we may bring the greatest good upon others.
Every evil act is punished by the justice of God, but by the mercy of God, every evil act offers an opportunity for reparation that brings a greater good to the doer of the reparation and may even bring salvation to the doer of the evil or to some other soul. And that is what I have been aiming at in this chapter! God uses every good act, and especially every act of prayer and sacrifice in reparation, to offset the harm of evil and to rescue the victims of evil and to immensely build up charity in this starving world.
The disunity of Christians is probably the most tragic evil in the world today. This is not to say that all of those who are victims of the disunity are guilty of the evil. Many of them may not be guilty of any evil imputable to themselves, but still they are objects of the deepest sorrow to the Heart of Christ.
The devastation wrought by disunity is ALL that hinders the triumph of the Church launched by Christ for the salvation of the world. Schism and heresy have shouted their own defects all down the history of the Church. Either one is a choice for self instead of "taking God's word for it." And of its very nature it invites further schism and heresy because it is man's choice and not God's choice. Every departure from Holy Mother Church has spawned division until now there are hundreds of sects that consider themselves Christian, whose continuity hinges on no other foundation than current agreement with doctrine which stems from human disagreement!
The climax of tragedy in this state of affairs is manifest in every attempt to preach the word of Christ in mission territory. Every missionary is faced with the fiasco of a divided Christendom. It invites martyrdom rather than conversion. Its expression is varied but the pattern is always the same as that reported by a friend of mine regarding the natives in the Congo: "How," they say, "can we believe your Christian missionaries when, while they all claim to represent Christ, they disagree among themselves?" That is indeed THE great challenge to Menders.
There has been tragic disunity from the very beginning of Christ's ministry, continuously to the present day. It was the disunity stubbornly maintained by the leaders of the Jewish people that caused Him, in the Garden of Gethsemane to be "sorrowful unto death." (Matt. 26:38.) It was the disunity of most of the Jews after the Resurrection that caused Him to say to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus: "Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute Me?" (Acts 9:4.) It was the disunity of the Arian heresy that almost wrecked the Church during the crucial early centuries. It was the political disunity of the Roman Empire that tore the Eastern Church from the Church of Rome in the later centuries. It was disunity nursed by political dissension and lust and greed within and without the Church that split the Church in the sixteenth century. It was the same disunity which tore with sorrow the Heart of Christ only a few centuries ago when Englishmen hanged and disemboweled, while still alive, some of their own countrymen, solely because they had come to them as ministers of Christ to try to win them back to His love.
It was at a time when that type of hatred coupled with disunity, was at its height that Christ chose to make known the agony of His sorrow to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque - and, above all, to show through her the mysterious decree of God's plan that the remedy would depend upon the acts of love and reparation of those who had not deserted Him.
It is that same disunity which continues today in an ever-widening circle; disunity that has bred disunity within itself and within the true Church until many hearts are beginning to be sick with discouragement and uncertainty. True, much hate continues to aggravate disunity, but the awful inconsistency of hate and disunity separating the very believers in Christ is beginning to cause many to turn with hope in search of a solution.
As a prelude to the evidence of this budding hope, Christ has chosen another very humble messenger of His Sacred Heart, Sister Josefa Menendez, to show us that the inactive complacency of those who have been blessed with the grace of faith, is at least partly responsible for the continuance of this evil of sin and disunity. By God's own decree He needs our help. And by His decree also, every little thing we do, every little sacrifice we make, every prayer we utter in love and reparation for this evil, is multiplied a thousandfold in efficacy because of the comfort it brings to His Heart.
The message that Christ has given to us through this obscure coadjutrix Sister of His Sacred Heart applies to every one of us throughout our lives, but it is especially an invitation at this present crucial time to enter into Christ's campaign to convert the world in the manner which He has imposed upon Himself and upon us. That is, by consciously and intentionally uniting our individual will with His to make every thought and word and act a plea for grace and an offering in reparation which will help to atone for the disunity of the past and to bring grace to souls who are separated from Christ in the present; those who are separated from Him by sin and those who, we might say, have inherited separation from Him.
This invitation applies especially to tiny offerings made day-by-day and hour-by-hour. It is, of course, an important part of the professional assignment of the priests and Religious of the world, but the need is so great at the present time that Christ offers unheard-of profit to every man or woman who will enter with Him and share in this great redemptive work of His.
Christ expressed Himself of this longing desire of His to Josefa Menendez in 1922 and 1923 when Satan was making such havoc in the turmoil of rehabilitation following World War One. But Christ's plea of 1922 is timeless in its nature. In fact, the need has become greater year by year since He voiced it. I will mention special reasons for its urgent application now.
But first, let us see how Christ expressed this wish for our cooperation in His redemptive life. He wants those who really love Him to act as His intermediaries for the saving of souls. He asks of all of them the spirit of sacrifice in love. He does not ask for extraordinary suffering, but emphasizes the importance of ordinary actions however insignificant, if done in union with Him, in a spirit of sacrifice and love. He stresses the value of the tiniest offerings which not only lead one on in sanctity, but will effect the salvation of many souls.
Christ's own words should help us to hear His plea: "I want them to know," He says, "how much I desire their perfection, and that consists in doing their ordinary actions in intimate union with Me. If they once grasped this, they would divinize their lives and all their activities by this close union with My Heart...and how great is the value of a divinized day! I desire souls to unite themselves to Me not only in a general way. I long for this union to be constant and intimate as it is between friends who live together, for even if they are not talking all the time, at least they look at each other and their mutual affectionate little kindnesses are the fruit of their love."
So, there is Christ's estimate of the immense usefulness - I might say the urgent necessity - of the part that each one of us can do here and now for the welfare of souls in general, your own and the souls of countless others who desperately need your help and, more especially, to take advantage of this crucial moment of history to help to mend the tragic disunity of Christendom.
I know of no better way to help the reader to see that this is a crucial moment of history than to quote from a communiqué sent from Rome by Archbishop Thomas A. Connolly to his people in Seattle while the Second Vatican Council was in session. Among many other things, Archbishop Connolly described a reception held for the Non-Catholic observers and the American Bishops of the Council. The principal speaker was Dr. Albert Outler, Professor of Theology at Southern Methodist University, one of the most NON non-Catholic institutions in America. Dr. Outler spoke very frankly of the miracle that has already taken place in the relationship between the Catholic church and the rest of Christendom. His words themselves have a truly miraculous connotation.
Speaking of the wholly unprecedented change of climate in the Christian world, Dr. Outler continued: "But deeper than these external signs of real Christian fellowship, significant as they are, are the inner motions of the Holy Spirit within our hearts and yours, where He had begin to break down the old encrusted barriers of ignorance, prejudice and enmity that have so long divided us and has awakened a new disposition in us all of mutual recognition, of genuine interest and dialogue, fellowship and affection.
And here follows the really amazing kernel of Dr. Outler's comment: "The first great miracle," he said, "of ecumenical reality has been wrought in our midst and who will deny that this is God's doing and marvelous in our eyes. It is the miracle of our mutual recognition of each other as Christians. All this, however, is only the first fruits. Full Christian communion would not be worth having at the price of compromise on your part or abjuration on ours. It is painfully clear that another miracle will be required before full unity as one people, one household of the faith, can be attained. Our task is that of discovering and appraising the richness of the treasures of the deposit of faith which you have conserved in the course of the tragic centuries of our separation. It is as we discover your real catholicity and as you manifest it that we shall be moved forward toward eventual union."
There is real spiritual dynamite in the contents of these last words. It is very doubtful if even our optimistic dear Holy Father, Pope John XXIII, would have dreamed that they would be forthcoming at such an early date. But please note well that they are quoted as a longed-for outcome of another miracle of grace! And that is where we come in, and that is why they are most important to us here and now, twelve years later.
From the very first announcement, on January 25th, 1959, of his intention to call the Second Vatican Council, and until the eve of his death, Pope John XXIII called upon all the faithful of the world to pray for and work for the success of the Council and for Christian Unity. Pope John, however, was never deceived as to the colossal difficulties in the quest for unity. He emphasized many times that it could only come about as a result of the operation of the Holy Spirit both within the Council and among the Separated Brethren.
As we have learned from experience and as we know from revelation, it is the infallible decree of God's will that the power exerted by the Holy Spirit will always be in proportion to the cooperation offered by the members of Christ in the Church Militant. Prayer and human effort have brought us far beyond what originally seemed possible. We are now at the cross-roads. Superhuman effort and superhuman prayer are needed now in trainloads not in cupfuls.
As I write these lines, twelve years have passed since Dr. Outler made his plea for a second miracle of grace. Instead of manifesting our Catholicity during these twelve years, all too many have been inspired by Satan or his ANTI-PRIESTS to do all they can to botch the declaration of true Catholicity contained in every paragraph of the sixteen final Documents promulgated by the Council. The pattern of true Catholic Faith offered by these Documents has been disfigured by strife and discord within the Church. Instead of promoting a second miracle of example, the disloyal members within the Church have produced apathy and doubt and loss of faith within, and have cancelled Dr. Outler's invitation to those without!
God asks our wills to reverse this trend. A still greater miracle is needed now. And, like all miracles, God lets them depend upon our Faith, that is, upon our manifestation of our real Catholicity. This we can do in every act of our lives which is done with trusting confidence in Christ. The woman who touched the hem of His garment, manifested faith. As Christ said to her, it was not so much the act as the faith that wrought the miracle by the power of Christ. And so it is by the prayer of Faith that we can do the most to bring about that second miracle.
I have said that if every Catholic and non-Catholic Christian in the world would hear and heed the plea to join in the prayers of the Chair of Unity Octave each January, with anything like the faith that Divine Providence and the Sacred Heart deserve, it would become a reality that would truly re-make the world. Now, I want to change that statement, however true it may be, and say that if you, and you, and you, will heed that plea for earnest, trusting, constant prayer here and now and from now on until the miracle is complete, Christ will multiply the power of your prayer a thousandfold and bring about a degree of reunion which, without your prayer and your little works of sacrifice, would otherwise be lost. What you will do, each one of you, will bring concrete help to souls; what you leave undone will diminish our manifestation of Catholicity.
Pope Paul's visits to the Holy Land and to the United Nations and to India and Australia have set the stage for action all over the world. The Holy Father has repeatedly urged the plea of his beloved predecessor for the continual prayers of the faithful. The part that each one can do cannot be done for you by anyone else in the world. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is calling you to be a Mender of the present colossal mess. He is calling you - not someone else.
There are six hundred million Catholics who are asked to pray for this second miracle. There are four hundred million Christians who do not yet fully share in the message of love that Christ has addressed to them. And so, they contribute to His sorrow since each one of them furnishes an example of disunity to the non-Christian world. If you will offer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus the consolation of your prayers and sacrifices, He will use them to begin that colossal second miracle of grace - "on behalf of those sheep who no longer belong to the one Fold of Jesus Christ that they also, glorying as they do in the name of Christian, may finally regain unity under one Shepherd." Now is the time to begin. Tomorrow may be too late!
MENDERS SCUTTLE SCANDAL
In an address to workers in the spring of 1959, our beloved Holy Father of happy memory, Pope John XXIII gave a plea for service as Menders that reminds one of the words of Christ Himself:
"With each one in the place assigned to him by God, it is our vocation to help one another and to serve one another in charity, with patience and with gentleness, following the example of our Savior Jesus." (Pope John to workers, 4-5-59.)
These words of our late Holy Father more nearly reflect Our Lord's zeal for the good example we owe to each other than any text which I have been able to find in the New Testament itself.
Every text book of Sociology opens with a chapter to emphasize the interdependence of the human race. The classical expression is: "Man is essentially a social being." Man cannot exercise the faculties which distinguish him as a rational animal except in community with others of his kind. If this is true for the perfection of his physical well-being, it is equally true if not more so, for his spiritual perfection.
Of course God could bring a solitary man to physical or spiritual perfection if He chose to do so. But, aside from the revealed declaration of God that: "It is not good for man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18), everything about man's nature as well as what God has revealed about man's super-nature, emphasizes man's need to be helped by others.
In the material and intellectual field this mutually cooperative need takes the form of division of labor and specialization in all intellectual pursuits. But in the spiritual field the whole scheme of God's plan and purpose in creation takes the form of a collective enterprise of each for all and all for each. And when we think of the importance of our spiritual end as compared with all the rest put together, we can easily see that each individual has an obligation in conscience before God to further the common good in the manner ordained by God as his particular share.
For everyone of us this means work and prayer in conformity with the will of God. Conformity with the will of God is the only sure way to perfection. It involves all of the virtues, but in its social aspect which we are not considering, it has two chief requirements: First, the obligation to avoid scandal, which means any act that leads another into sin, and: Second, the obligation to give an example which leads others into goodness.
This obligation rests upon every single member of society equally. No one can detach himself from the rest and say, in effect: "It is nobody's business how I behave, that is my own affair." It is, of course, quite easy to see that such an attitude is wrong when it is voiced with respect to the laws with which the police are interested. And so it follows that every society has laws which inflict penalties of fine or imprisonment or both upon those who are found guilty of injuring the welfare of others by cheating, deceiving, seducing, exploiting, jeopardizing physical welfare, or otherwise injuring the rights of others.
To the extent that the prohibition of these acts has no other sanction than the penalties of fine and imprisonment, they are called and are "merely penal laws." The criterion as to "mereness" of the penal nature of any specific law has been aptly pin-pointed by Father Francis McGarrigle, S.J. in the title of his article which appeared in the American Ecclesiastical Review: "It's All Right If You Can Get Away With It." In other words, "merely penal" means no moral obligation to obey the law beyond a willingness to suffer the consequences if you are caught and convicted.
Now there is a perennial and very heated difference of opinion among moralists as to the possibility of the existence of a merely penal law with no moral obligation beyond the payment of the penalty. I do not propose to enter into that controversy. There are, however, at least two flaws in the argument for the broad extension of the purely penal nature of law. These are vital to the object of this chapter which is: To plead for Menders to promote goodness on the one hand by good example and to suppress badness on the other hand, by opposing bad example and scandal.
The first of these flaws is the practical impossibility of determining a standard which will give certainty as to when a moral obligation inheres in the law itself aside from the penalty. This is said to depend upon the intention of the law-maker. But this criterion is not sufficient to stop the debate which seems to range over the whole gamut of acts amenable to legislation and beyond.
It may perhaps be debatable whether there is a moral obligation in justice which is violated by the individual who hunts or fishes out of season or without a license. It may even be debatable whether evasion of income tax by adding peculiar items of deductible expenses, or evasion of customs duty by equivocation, are merely penal violations. Surely, however, the debate should stop at a point somewhat short of first degree murder, but not one has yet suggested a way to determine precisely where that point lies. The actual operation, however, of law-enforcement and the concomitant evolution of public opinion have almost enthroned the criterion: "It's All Right If You Can Get Away With It" as a basic principle of moral law.
And that brings up a second flaw in the broad application of the theory of merely penal law which is demonstrated by the actual experience of a century of operation. The past century in North America has witnessed a constant decrease in the percentage of those who recognize a spiritual and supernatural sanction for the moral law, entirely detached from the penal sanction. This constant decrease has been accompanied by an overwhelming increase in the percentage of those who violate the moral law. There can be only one conclusion, namely; the penal sanction alone is tragically inadequate to preserve, or perhaps even to avoid the complete collapse of moral order.
There is a third result of the application of the theory of the sufficiency of the penal sanction which cannot be called a flaw in the argument because its effect is beyond the scope of penal law. But its devastating injury to moral order make it of first importance in our consideration of the need for Menders to scuttle scandal.
It appears in the vast field of private moral behavior which cannot be made the subject of penal law because it has little to do with the material relationships of men. Far more vicious than any crimes against man's bodily welfare are the crimes against his soul; the crimes involving mortal sin against divine and ecclesiastical law which are not of interest to the police.
The atmosphere or irresponsibility generated by the break-down of the effectiveness of penal sanction, has sadly contaminated the judgment of many who still do have some principle of morality other than penal sanction. This urge to goodness is, thank God, a basic quality of human nature. Even among many of those who are indifferent to religion it still manifests itself in an ethical appreciation of the Golden Rule and some of the other precepts of Christ's Sermon On The Mount, even though Christ's right to command may be given little weight.
It is the break-down of the motive for goodness caused by over-emphasis on the theory that it is "All Right If You Can Get Away With It," that has eaten its way in some degree into the conscience of almost every one of us and placed us in danger with respect to those sins which have no prohibition except the command of God made known by man's reason or revealed by God and committed to the custody of His Church.
These crimes have no ultimate sanction except THE LOSS OF GOD'S LOVE and the penalty of eternal punishment. What a sad commentary upon the dullness of our perception that such a statement does not shock us with the madness of our stark complacency. It is just as preposterous to be apathetic about the loss of God's love and the penalty of eternal punishment as it would be to try to console the relatives of a man killed in a fall by saying: "He would have been perfectly safe except for the Law of Gravity!"
The reason we are so blind is that the multiform scandal of evasion of civil law has begun to erase from our hearts the only really important reason for goodness, namely; First, the love of God and the fear of offending Him and; Second, the recognition of the fact that there is no such thing as "getting away with it" as far as sin is concerned.
One of the really terrifying things about God's goodness is the combination of His mercy and His justice; the combination of His patience and His majesty; the knowledge that God is never mocked, not even when He allowed man to spit in His face, to scourge Him, to nail Him to a Cross!
Every word of revelation has placed beyond the possibility of doubt these facts so vividly conceived by Saint Paul when he said: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God" (Heb. 10:31) - and the pleading warning of Christ Himself when He said: "It is impossible that scandals should not come; but woe to him by whom they come! It were better for him if a mill-stone were hung about his neck, and he were flung into the sea, than that he would occasion the ruin of one of these little ones. (Luke 17:1-2.)
Without a doubt scandal is the most deadly tool in the hands of Satan in the world today. Christian Faith, aided by God's grace, is the only force that can stem the presently growing tide of scandal. Is it not time for every Christian who knows the real true sanction for the moral law, to realize also the importance and far reaching effect of our individual example for good or evil?
Young people, as is natural to them, are particularly prone to copy what they see elders do. And perhaps even more dangerously, to copy what they see other young people do in copying their elders. This reminds me of the little rhyme:
The crab one day his son reproved
For crooked awkward gait.
"We all do this" was answer made
"I never saw you walk straight."
J. Edgar Hoover, the great observer of human behavior, has put it this way: "...when youth commits a crime it is usually because older persons have committed a greater crime. When a youngster begins to show a disregard for law and order, you can be sure he has learned something of that attitude at home or that those in his home failed to keep him in the right company." (Building for America.)
Let's face it, right now a considerable percentage of the things we do and say and think about are copied from those around us. No habit of vice springs full-fledged into existence either in the individual or in society.
There are always those in any group who think that they show their superiority and independence when they see how far they can go in the direction of evil. These, whether maliciously or blindly, are the tools of Satan who help little-by-little to turn away the thoughts of all of us from the stark folly of our abuse of this little fragment of eternity which is given to us to determine our share of the enjoyment of the rest of eternity.
God makes it easy to know His law and His right to command. He always stands ready to make His will easy to follow for those who turn quickly to Him for help. But instead of visiting immediate punishment on those who refuse to obey, He tells us plainly what the penalty is and stands by for us to choose.
Too many of us are like the little child whose hands have been slapped for reaching into the forbidden dish. We move nearer and nearer to the edge of sin and finally, merely because God does not choose to intervene, we plunge in while those around us stand by and allow themselves to think that it is prudish to hold out against what has become the general practice of society.
And so, by failing to set the opposite example of good behavior, we allow ourselves to have a certain share in the vices which we lament when we make the Act of Reparation To The Sacred Heart on a First Friday, and say: "For the manifold offenses against Christian modesty in unbecoming dress and behavior, for all foul seductions laid to ensnare the feet of the innocent, for the frequent violation of Sundays and Holy Days, and the shocking blasphemies uttered against Thee and Thy saints...The terrible acts of sacrilege, of the very Sacrament of Thy divine love..."
In this prayer we apply adjectives which are only mild in comparison with the evil of the sins, and yet, what is being done about the shocking immodesty which is rampant all summer long everywhere in North America; or the foul seductions which lurk behind the excessive drinking and drug taking of young men and women together at parties; or the terrible acts of sacrilege which are sometimes even boasted of in public by those who expect to be treated as Christians!
A precise example was mentioned recently in the Sunday Bulletin of one of our parish churches. Quoting from the Sunday Gospel the command of Christ for obedience to God's law and the anarchy involved in scandal, it mentioned the following remark of a man in a gathering of Catholic married people: "I had two children early in my married life, and during the rest of the time I have practiced contraception. This has never stopped me from going to Communion; I have received every Sunday of my life. I refuse to believe that contraception is a sin, and I won't let any priest or pope tell me different."
Into this boasted cesspool of mortal sin this man pours, week by week, not only the most evil form of self-abuse which contraception is, but adds the double crime of sacrilegious confession and Communion. But worse even than any of these abominable sacrileges against God Himself, is the multiple sin of scandal by which weak souls are given a vestige of encouragement in sin and others are invited to add to the scandal by acquiescence or silence. It is because such maneuvers and much cooperators are all too common that Satan has succeeded in making sinful birth-control one of the greatest enemies of souls today.
It is not priest or pope that these men defy, because it is not mere Church Law, but the unmistakable law of God, which binds every man in the world whether Catholic or non-Catholic and whether they subscribe to it or not. This was made known long before there was any Pope or Church. Of this law of His, God said: "It is not a secret laid up in heaven, that thou must find someone to scale heaven and bring it down to thee before thou canst hear what it is and obey it...No, this message of Mine is close to thy side; it rises to thy lips, it is printed on thy memory; thou hast only to fulfill it." (Deut. 30:12-14.) No priest or pope can change the perennial law of God; neither will any man's denial undo it!
It is futile to remind men guilty of such sins that there are degrees of depth in hell just as there are degrees of felicity in heaven. It is, however, our duty to pray unceasingly that God will give them grace to see in time how empty their contempt of God will sound when it is repeated before His Judgment Seat!
We can and must do our best to offset by the example of our lives those who make themselves a blight and a cancer in the Mystical Body of Christ. Perhaps only the power of God can effect a cure of these most evil forms of scandal, but just as God often uses the weak to confound the strong, so there is not one of us who lacks the opportunity to offer ourselves as Menders in God's hand - as Saint Paul says to Saint Timothy - "to be a model for the faithful in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chastity" (I Tim. 4:12), and Father Tanquery adds: "Words may touch the heart, but examples rule our lives." (Tanq. par. 400.)
PENANCE A MUST FOR MENDERS
Do you often think with joy of the Sacrament of Penance? Does it often occur to you to give thanks to God for the privilege of Confession? Would you be prepared to say that, of the treasures which Christ has given to make Catholics the richest people in the world, the grace of Penance is second only to the Real Presence of God in our Mass and our Eucharist? Or do you, with far too many Catholics, look upon Confession as an evil burden to be dreaded and avoided as long as possible, even at the cost of spending several days, or even months, in a state of sin?
If you do, it is because you have never learned the truth about the Sacrament of Penance. If you do, it can only be because you think of Confession in the same way that most non-Catholics do. They, in ignorance of the truth about it, hate and despise it and are repelled by it.
And why are they repelled by it; and what could make you dread it? It is because their impression of it is that Confession means nothing more than that Catholics have to go and tell their sins, even their most secret thoughts and words and acts, to a priest who is no different from themselves.
I know that this is true because I am telling you how I looked at it for more than half of my married life, while I was the non-Catholic husband of a good Catholic wife. It filled me with distress and depression every time I knew that my wife intended to go to Confession. I looked at it as an utterly human and detestable transaction which should have no place in the lives of decent people.
I had no notion of the utterly spiritual and supernatural and holy atmosphere with which God surrounds this blessed institution which He has prepared for those whom He has made His own, because they believe what He has asked them to believe, and have placed themselves in His keeping with Faith and Hope and Love. How I would have been astonished to know that, thirty years hence, I would be sitting in the priest's closet of a confessional, perhaps trying to guess whether the whispered voice coming from the darkness on the other side of a cloth screen was coming from a child, a young woman or an old man, and sometimes guessing wrong!
The preciousness of the Sacrament of Penance and the paternal love with which it has been brought into being, reminds me of the words in the Canticle of Moses spoken when he was about to go up into Mount Nebo to die. This was the last act of his leadership of the perverse Children of Israel. He was trying desperately to show them the truth of God's loving watchfulness over them. He was trying to convince them of God's infinite superiority over all the worldly and temporal idols and customs through which they were beginning for the Nth time to depart from the law of God. And this is what Moses said to them: "The Lord kept them as the apple of His eye, as the eagle enticing her young to fly, and hovering over them, He spread His wings, and hath taken one and carried him upon His shoulders." (Deut. 32:10-11.) There is no more beautiful comparison of the relationship between God and the individual soul than this one which Moses used, that of the eagle teaching its young to fly.
You may never have thought of yourself as having anything in common with a young eaglet sitting in a nest at the very top of a dizzy pinnacle of rock, and wondering what would happen if he found that he was unable to master the art of flight if he should let himself fall over the side of the nest. You might do well to think it over the next time you see a picture of a particularly high cliff that would make a good location for an eagle's nest.
At this point it might be worth a moment to imagine a strange eaglet in the nest who has no claim on the protecting wing of the parent bird hovering overhead. He is on his own. Perhaps he will be able to fly. Perhaps his first attempt to run things alone will not be too successful. Perhaps it will end in disaster. He cannot be very sure. How would you like to try a power dive if you were in his feathers?
Perhaps it has occurred to you to think of him as one who, by birth or by choice, has been deprived of the treasure of the Sacrament of Penance. Materially, he is equipped with human nature. That nature has been surrounded by God with certain laws which bind all humans or eagles whether they subscribe to them or not. Eagles obey the laws which God has prescribed and made a part of their nature because they have no other choice. God has provided them with instinct, not with free-will. They behave as God wishes them to behave because they cannot do otherwise.
Part of this behavior is the beautiful provision whereby God protects them from death if they are clumsy in their first flight off the next. The parent bird first pushes the little one out of the nest and then swoops below to catch it on its back if the little one should fail to respond in time to the instinct for the proper use of its wings.
But, of all the creatures God has made, men and angels alone have been given that God-like quality of free-will. It is by the proper exercise of this precious quality of free-will that they can become lovable to God. They can know the laws which God has attached to their nature and those which God has commanded them to obey because of this special love of His. They can choose whether they will be obedient to the laws of their nature and the commands of God, or whether they will abuse this privilege and ruin their souls.
The first parents of all mankind, tempted by the devil, chose to turn against the command of God and so they forfeited for all of us that integrity of will which God had given them as a special gift. And so, each one born into the world and heir to this gift of free-will and the blemish which was imposed by the sin of the first parents, is very much in need of help. He needs the help of grace to help him to exercise this privilege of choosing without debasing the nature which is his inheritance, and without disobedience to the Creator whose right it is to command.
Let us recall a little of the theology of free-will. Man, unlike the angels, is what we call a composite creature; that is, he is composed of body and soul. The body is all material. The soul is all spiritual. It is the soul, acting as the life-principle of the body, that gives the body the capacity of knowing and willing. The words and acts of the body have the character of human acts only insofar as they stem from a choice of the will and the guidance of the intellect. And so, their quality as good acts or words, or bad acts or words, is determined entirely by that spiritual movement of the soul which stems from knowledge of the will of God.
Man can know how to behave in accordance with the dignity of his divinely gifted nature, and he can know when his thoughts and words and acts abuse or frustrate the dignity of his nature. He can also know exactly what God has commanded him to do in acknowledgment of his dependence upon God, his Creator. He can know when his acts are disobedient to God's law. In fact, he cannot be deliberately disobedient to God's law without knowing that he is guilty of sin.
And so we see that, while sin may be performed by the bodily faculties of man, its nature as sin all stems from the misuse of the spiritual faculties of the soul.
But what is the connection of all this with the Sacrament of Penance and the illustration of the eagle learning to fly? It is this: Man's tendency to sin is the result of this inherited weakness or perversion of the spiritual part of his nature, just as his tendency to be sick and to die is the result of the same inherited weakness of the bodily part of his nature. He needs help to get well from the sickness of either part, but, by far the most important part, is the spiritual help needed to maintain the spiritual health of his immortal soul.
It is by means of the spiritual tonic of the Sacrament of Penance that God has promised to restore the health of the soul. It is the spiritual element of the Sacrament of Penance which makes it a most prized possession of the Catholic Faith. It is the Spirit of God hovering in the Confessional that catches the fallen fledgling soul and restores it to the state where it can start anew to fly upward toward the Sun of Justice instead of continuing to fall toward the abyss of perdition.
It is this ineffable goodness of God which should make Catholics eternally grateful for the Sacrament of Penance. It would also be one of the strongest inducements to the non-Catholic to come under the wing of the Divine Eagle, if he had a glimpse of the risk he takes when he lacks that guarantee of God.
But, you may say, as many lay people do, if it is precious because it is a spiritual remedy, why not perform it by a spiritual approach as the non-Catholic believes he does, instead of dragging the body into the presence of a live priest and making a confession by a physical act of the body? This is precisely because we are composed of body and soul. Penance, like every other Sacrament, takes us as we are and provides a God-given remedy for the only real evil that can befall us; namely, the loss of God's grace.
The remedy is spiritual, but the application of it is by means of the part of us that attaches us to the material world in which God has placed us. God has mercifully chosen to prove to us this restoration to a state of grace, or increase of grace, by the sacramental sign which, as He has promised us, does effect what it signifies.
And so the Sacrament of Penance is given to us to make us morally certain of reinstatement if we fulfill those very mild requirements of Confession, that is: to mention all mortal sins and to have sorrow which includes a purpose of amendment and acceptance of a penance, utterly insignificant compared with the evil of the offense against God, even the offense of the smallest venial sin.
If all Catholics only fully appreciated the true spiritual and supernatural benefit of the Sacrament of Penance as they certainly do of the Eucharist, it would go very far toward removing all the sting from this precious Sacrament for them.
Obviously, if one continues, week-by-week to commit mortal sin, he will not look forward to the duty of Confession with relish. But the shame of Confession is changed in character and the deterrent effect and power to resist temptation is immeasurably increased if one learns that the human ear which records his words is only the very incidental instrument of God's Spirit, which really receive the intention of the penitent. To refrain from sin because God is looking on, is a far more potent deterrent than is the thought of required confession.
As a matter of fact, as every Catholic should know, God's forgiveness and reinstatement to grace occurs immediately upon our turning away from sin and back to God with perfect contrition for having offended Him and a firm purpose of amendment and Confession. But, the proof to us of our contrition and the moral certainty of our reinstatement is guaranteed by the Sacrament and the fulfillment of the physical act of turning back to God and admitting our guilt, which we can know that we have performed in the confessional.
But there is still greater blessing contained in the Sacrament of Penance for those who do not have unforgiven mortal sins on their souls. This blessing which enables the soul to become progressively strengthened toward resistance to temptation is found in the sacramental grace which accompanies valid absolution and performance of penance. This two-fold effect of the Sacrament is too often under-estimated. Absolution cancels the past, but sacramental grace looks entirely to the future.
The grace infused with absolution fortifies the soul to meet the future with greater confidence and greater help to resist temptation. By far the greatest of these helps is the moral certainty of the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ Himself within the Soul. This indwelling presence guarantees His help, immediate and strong, whenever temptation comes, provided only that one learns to turn to Him in time.
It is this constant assurance of divine help and the need of Sacramental Grace for the future, that urges the priest or the Religious, Brother or Sister, to go to Confession every week. This has always been recommended for them, not because they are suspected of a weekly probability of mortal sin, but because weekly Confession is second only to daily Communion as a most potent protection against any mortal sin. Weekly Confession and daily Communion, moreover, form the proper setting and atmosphere for the State of Perfection in which Religious are placed by their profession. They are the most potent helps toward the goal of the Way of Perfection toward which everyone else is invited to travel and into which they may enter for the asking.
It is the habit of attention to the indwelling Spirit of Christ, and trust in the reality of the words: "Go in peace" that the penitent hears from the priest, that should make the privilege of Confession prized by every Catholic. It should eliminate entirely the person-to-person repugnance which is , after all, the only thing that can possibly interfere with the inclination to seek this Sacrament with the same relish that one feels toward the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.
On June 30th, 1958, I celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving at the Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene, Oregon. It was the twenty-fifth anniversary of my profession of Faith in the Catholic Church. Afterward, I went to the fifth floor to visit a dear friend who was very ill. As I stepped out of the elevator I stopped almost breathless before a large oil painting on the opposite wall. The picture, painted by the devout Chaplain, Father Pius, portrayed Christ, crouching on a tiny ledge over an almost bottomless abyss, and stretching His arm down where, almost out of reach, a fallen sheep clings to a mere shred of a shelf on the sheer face of the cliff, pleading with its eyes for Him to hurry to its rescue.
That picture should hang near the door of every Confessional to remind us of the utter goodness of Christ in providing us with that certain assurance of rescue, whatever may be our predicament, provided we know that it is He who is to be addressed with our lips, and heard with our ears, and sought with our hearts in this blessed Sacrament of Penance.
And so, whether you have persevered all your life in Baptismal Innocence, or whether you have been pestered all life long with innumerable indeliberate venial sins, or whether you find yourself scarred in battle with temptation to mortal sin, I beg you, each one of you, to make yourself an apostle of the Sacrament of Penance, first for yourself, and then to all those souls, Catholic and non-Catholic, who lack the instruction and the grace to prize this Sacrament for what it is: the gateway to heaven for souls who, acting alone, can so easily fall.
It is beyond the shadow of a doubt, a must for those who wish to be God's instruments as MENDERS!
THE HOLY SPIRIT BACKS ALL MENDERS
The theme and message of this book are of such deadly importance in these days of turmoil within the Church that I sought some guidance from the publisher in regard to the title and the approach. The reply filled me with glee when I read it on the day I began to assemble the material for this chapter designed to clinch our appreciation of the fact that our efforts at mending mean nothing unless they are backed by the infinite power of the Holy Spirit who is the backer of all mending.
The letter contained these comforting words: "That's an excellent title for your next book...You might find a wee place for the Holy Spirit. Actually HE will do the mending!"
It is most important, however, to have a clear understanding of the meaning of this comment in these days when there is altogether too much boasting of individual prowess in supernatural performance because of special access to the power of the Holy Spirit. The campaign for Menders which I am seeking has no part in this presumptuous special privilege notion. Every baptized person who is free from mortal sin is eligible and needed among the Menders I seek.
The prime function of the Menders of the mess man is now making in the world is to open the eyes of the billions who are blinded to the truth of the supernatural reality that is staring them in the face. The material world that meets our eyes presents an infinite panorama of supernatural grandeur to a child of God endowed with His gift of natural intelligence and accepting His invitation to the freely offered gift of grace. The tiny act of pride which refuses that invitation blinds the eyes of the soul and gives credence to the preposterous miracle proposed by atheism, that it is all here by chance.
This pitiful blindness of atheism, nourished by Satan and his ANTI-PRIESTS within the Church and the prideful pseudo-science which saturates the communications media of the world, has created an atmosphere of darkness. It has seeped into the souls of millions of baptized Christians and rendered dormant the indwelling Spirit of the Triune God and deprived them of the infinite treasure of His power.
Unless we Menders can awaken in their souls a return to a living awareness of the supernatural, we are headed for disaster. And the terrifying evidence of this need floods the world about us today.
Two letters in my mail this morning furnish a tiny example of this failure of the baptized to appreciate their treasure.
One letter is from a Religious begging my prayers for an attractive lady, daughter of an outstanding Catholic family and prepared for womanhood in so-called Catholic schools.
And the result? The letter explains: "She is moving in with two boys and a girl (Hippy) - she is trying out everything - and I mean everything and thinks nothing of it - thinks it is real smart and cute - she won't listen to any of us - has even told us that she intends to do as she pleases - and does. We have tried to reason with her and get no where!"
This is a somewhat terrifying but not uncommon sample of the product of "Catholic" education of the young in North America. It is indeed smart and cute and logical in a world that is here by chance - utterly destitute and pitiful in the world of supernatural reality which this young lady has allowed herself to defy!
The second letter is from a devout Catholic wife who has pleaded with her otherwise admirable Catholic husband to make perpetual his successful year of abstinence from alcohol. Instead, he has proven his utter incapacity to "handle it" in a way that could cause death. Her pleading having failed again, she has taken the only alternative for the safety of herself and her little daughter and has moved out. Here again, the infinite power available in the possession of supernatural grace is set aside in blindness.
And what is God's answer?
"If you have any love for Me, you must keep the Commandments which I give you; and then I will ask the Father, and He will give you another to befriend you, one who is to dwell continually with you for ever. It is the Truth-Giving Spirit for whom the world can find no room, because it cannot see Him, cannot recognize Him; He will be continually at your side, nay, He will be in you." (Jn. 14:15-16.)
No Catholic has any doubt about the meaning of the Feast of Christmas. The smallest child quickly enters into the atmosphere of love exemplified by the arrival of our Infant Savior. Devotion to the tiny God-The-Son and to His Blessed Mother lead us quickly to a sense of love and gratitude toward God-The-Father.
But the above words of Christ invite us to translate this love and gratitude into appreciation of the power of the Spirit of the Triune God and give the true meaning of Pentecost for each of us here and now.
These words of Christ tell us very definitely that the Divine Person who embodies the infinite love within the Holy Trinity is called the "Sanctifier," that is, the "Saint-Maker" because of His intimate and loving importance to us here and now in our pilgrimage through this world.
When Christ said that His "Truth-Giving-Spirit" would dwell continually and forever in those who show their love for Him by obedience to His will, His words could have no meaning unless they did include for ever all those who love Him and keep the commandments He gives them. In other words, those who, in accordance with the promise of Christ, were "baptized with the Holy Spirit" at Pentecost, received no more and no less than we in the twentieth century when the Holy Spirit comes into our souls with Sanctifying Grace at Baptism or in the Sacrament of Penance.
We, however, are not entitled to the miraculous evidence that was given to those who received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Nor are we entitled to the added Gift of Tongues or of Prophecy which they needed to supply certainty in place of the centuries of evidence which we can know for the asking. We are, however, possessed of the same treasure and should learn to know what it means to us that Pentecost is for ever.
In an infant, not yet capable of the slightest venial sin, the atmosphere in the soul is as congenial to the presence of God as in the most holy saint that ever lived. That is why early Baptism is so important, because it enables the development of the whole personality, fortified from the very beginning, with the help of supernatural grace.
All this and more occurs at Baptism and remains throughout life, unless, by deliberate action of the will, the temple is desecrated and made untenable for God. Is it any wonder, then, that the Church treats the bodies of our dead with such tender reverence, especially of Baptized little children who are most like the little consecrated vessels of the Sacrament?
Can we not, then, learn to prize the reverent love and awe this precious treasure of God's love which is continuous in our souls from the moment of Baptism until death, unless He is expelled by an act of our will? The effect of His presence is intensified in the Sacramental Grace which accompanies all the other sacraments beside Baptism. It is by means of this Sacramental Grace that the Holy Spirit fortifies the soul to perform with merit the function for which each sacrament is given. Each one of us may experience the thrill of a new capacity to please God which accompanies the new mode of inhabitation in the Sacrament of Confirmation, and of Penance, Marriage, the Eucharist, and finally, the Anointing of the Sick.
All of these precious experiences are part of the effects of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our souls. But most specially are we accustomed to credit the Holy Spirit with the seven Gifts of the Spirit and the Fruits appropriate to them. They are variously called the infused virtues, the Gifts, the Fruits, and the Beatitudes, but for our understanding of them they may all be very properly called the "Tools of Perfection" to be useful for all Menders in the exercise of Project Sainthood.
The items of every set of these tools are the same for every individual soul and the workmanship is precisely the same in the sets given by God to you and to me as in the sets He has given to the canonized saints. The results we obtain with them depend, not on our individual special know-how or dexterity, but on our capacity to be completely docile to God's guidance in the selection and use of each and every one, and our constant attention and practice under God's expert care.
I had a close friend once who was a wealthy and successful business man. He had a hobby for collecting fine precision tools. He had metal-working tools and wood-working tools that were the finest that money could buy. Every time he received a new catalogue he would buy new tools and discard old ones. He took delight in the possession of the best, but to the annoyance of those of his friends who were mechanically inclined, he made very little use of this wonderful equipment. Most of his extra-choice hunting and fishing equipment was made for him by experts in other shops.
Now, I am very reluctant to admit it, but I am beginning to see that my behavior with the supernatural set of tools which God in His mercy has given to me has been all too much like that of my friend with comparatively trivial use of his fine natural tools and instruments. Oh yes, I can mean it when I make an act of Faith. In fact, I have staked my whole life on that act of Faith. But here is the hitch: Up until more recently than I care to admit, I have felt that my faith must be inadequate because God has never given me the faintest supernatural evidence perceptible to my senses that I am on the right track.
Please do not misunderstand me. I have not been pining for "inner voices" or ecstasies or rapture. I have always known that they are not fitting objects of petition. Neither have I been downcast for the lack of God's pleasure to grant me experiences of infused contemplation.
But between those experiences and the purely natural sense reactions there is a vast field which spiritual writers describe as steps in supernatural spiritual progress which can be acquired by all who apply themselves with sufficient cooperation, to the grace of God. It is the discovery of a misconception of the proper manifestation of this spiritual progress which I have learned to see in myself, that leads me to believe that it is shared by very many people who honestly wish to do what it takes to pursue the Way of Perfection toward Project Sainthood.
Perhaps the reader is in both of these categories with me. That is, you have felt a certain sense of bafflement at the inadequacy of your efforts to cooperate with grace and yet you are willing to try hard to do what it takes to be saints if you can be told just what steps to take.
In the first place, I want to insist that spiritual progress can never be gauged by tangible supernatural experiences. In fact, that is contrary to what we have been taught by Christ as the ordinary course of the Way of Perfection or the road to sanctification. "Blessed are they," He said to Saint Thomas, "who have not seen and yet have believed." (Jn. 20:29.) It is an act of weakness such as Christ rebuked in Saint Thomas to wish for some personal experience to clinch one's faith. When Sister Magdalena-of-the-Cross reported a vision to her spiritual director, he remarked: "My child, how weak must be your faith, how small your love, when the Lord must make use of such extraordinary means!"
In other words, the first thing for us to learn with regard to the use of these beautiful supernatural tools that are supplied with Sanctifying Grace, is that the use of all of them must be learned with our hands firmly clasped within the hand of God. It takes constant practice coupled with deliberate docility to make each of these supernatural gifts and graces become, as it were, natural to us.
Think of a little boy learning to speak. How many times he will say the word "Mother" over and over again. He knows what it means every time, but he keeps on repeating till he does not have to think of it to make it natural. And so it is with us in the exercise of faith. We know the truth that Christ has taught us through His Church, but when a trial of faith comes, then, if we have not become expert, we are inclined to fall away.
What I mean is this: We must deliberately keep ourselves aware that, by God's help, these supernatural faculties are working within us. When we have learned this, there is profit in every moment of our work-a-day natural life. Whatever we do, rising in the morning, taking our meals, doing the day's work, enjoying recreation, praying in Church or out of Church, and lying down to sleep, our intellect and will and memory and all our bodily activities move in an atmosphere of supernatural at-homeness that makes every single event an item in the mosaic of God's loving attention.
Most of us have reached a stage on the Way of Perfection quite far beyond that of the little fellow learning to speak. Even so, we may at times have a flash of a wish that we could be made more sure of our faith or that we could have a little more definite guidance as to just what God wishes us to do to please Him. Then is the time for us to be reminded to look within ourselves and see that we have all that we need for an answer on both counts.
Even with most elemental faith we know that God does not need any particular precise action on our part to accomplish the perfection of His will. He can and does bring about the perfect fulfillment of His purpose out of our mistakes and failures or even our sins if we are so evil as to try to take matters into our own hands.
On the other hand, the Spirit of God indwelling within our souls will prompt us if we will allow this at-one-ment a free rein. Thus we can be certain at any and every moment, that we are doing what pleases Him if, with all the evidence He has given us, we detach our wishes from consideration and do what seems to be what He would choose for us. If we always act with this motive, our choice will always be right, whatever may be the results.
And we cannot possibly over-estimate the value to us of our precious treasure-house of supernatural helps. The inspired words of the late Archbishop Luis Martinez of Mexico, in this regard are so apt that I must quote them: "If only we knew the gift of God; if only we knew what a marvelous world we carry within our soul! If only we realized the incomparable and divine beauty of the supernatural world!" (The Sanctifier, p. 140.)
We are, perhaps, too apt to think of the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit collectively, if we think of them at all. We should rather see in them a superbly beautiful set of faculties which, if properly exercised, will lead us to perfection. The Gift of Wisdom opens our minds to the infinite beauty and goodness and love of God. Understanding gives us insight to God's nearness to ourselves. Knowledge works on both of these to ripen our facility to profit by them. Then Counsel wisely, and understandingly, and knowledgeably chooses the answer most pleasing to God. These four are the supernatural assets of our intellect to enable us to know the will of God always; - to KNOW what it takes to be saints. Then come the three stalwart aids to the will that enable us to DO what it takes to be saints.
Fortitude is that precious treasure, purely supernatural, that fires the will to make us "fools for Christ." Nourished by Charity, it is Fortitude that gives the martyrs true joy in their folly. Piety, that much misunderstood gift, starts with us as children when we learn the love and gratitude we owe to our parents. It becomes infinitely enlarged and supernaturalized as the other gifts open to our minds the infinitely greater gratitude we owe to God. Then, these all together generate that awesome gift of Filial Fear. Not a selfish fear of being deprived of God's love, but a humble fear which stems from the thought that it is utterly beyond our human power to return to Him the love that He constantly bestows upon us.
The Gifts, when directed by the Holy Spirit within us, produce the most perfect resemblance to Jesus Christ, and with that resemblance there is united the secret of making the pain and evil of this world into good for ourselves. It makes pain and suffering the inseparable companions of love. That should remind us that it was man, and not God, who made this world a "Vale of Tears." But God, in His infinite love, has turned man's malice into man's greatest good by making all the pain and suffering a chance to share with Him the victory over death which His love has won.
And so, let us even rejoice to go forth into this world of pain and evil fortified with these Gifts and Beatitudes of Christ's bounty and happy to share with Him, to use again the words of Archbishop Martinez, "the Dove of eternal Love and the Cross of immortal pain united with the Divine Heart of Christ." (The Sanctifier, p. 267.)
With this appreciation of the power within us, let us constantly ask the Holy Spirit, the Divine Mender, to make helpers of all those in whom He dwells!
VATICAN II WAS MEANT FOR MENDING
It is, of course, futile to speculate as to what was the hope and expectation of the nature of the renewal for which good Pope John was inspired to call the Second Vatican Council into being. Judging, however, from the words of his prayer for renewal and his admonitions to the Council and to the world, it is safe to say that it was very far removed from the spectacle that the Church presents to the world today.
God brought it about that the sixteen Documents promulgated by the Council produced a perfect pattern for the highest type of spiritual renewal that Pope John could have hoped for. But the devilish work of ANTI-PRIESTS, other Communists, and other Atheists, aided by a thoroughly secularized contingent within the Church, has brought misinterpretation of the Documents to a state of false renewal that has made the Church even seem ridiculous to outsiders and has daunted the faith and loyalty of all too many who had been faithful and devout before.
It makes one think that God in His mercy took Pope John to Himself to save the dear soul from utter heart-break. This indeed, is not a hint that Pope Paul VI has made insufficient effort to quench the evil of false renewal, nor is it the faintest hint that the evil of it is a frustration of God's hopeful desire. The reader must be aware by now of my utter certainty that everything that happens is exactly in accord with God's perfect plan for the consummation of the world.
The evil in the situation as it stands today has come about as a result of circumstances allowed by God to promote unprecedented disloyalty to the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI. The enemies of the Church within and without have made this a major objective.
The world-wide upsurge of moral depravity made it necessary in 1968 to declare again for the Nth time the law of God with respect to artificial birth control, abortion and sterilization. These sins had reached such world-wide acceptance as to create a psychological blurring of their grave intrinsic evil in the minds of many priests and even some bishops.
As a result, the Encyclical HUMANAE VITAE met with unprecedented dissent although it voiced nothing that had not been taught throughout the life of the Church. The cliché was invented - "It is not infallible" as if that gave every priest and layman the right in conscience to decide for himself.
The over-all result has been a snowballing of grave sin, a widespread discounting of the Teaching Authority of the Church, and grave disobedience and disloyalty to the Holy Father and a general rejection of authority in the Church which parallels the anarchy in the world.
All this may seem to be a harsh appraisal of the situation for which I am seeking an army of Menders. I hope, however, that many will be shocked into a realization of the need for action to replace the apathy which has allowed it to come about. I admit that I am amazed at the dimness of the faith of so many "good" Catholics. Being a convert and a late-vocation to the priesthood, it terrifies me to see how the devil can obscure the faith of so many!
It follows, then, that the first and all-important mission of Menders must be to plead with the Holy Spirit to bring the People of God back to an appreciation of the preciousness of their Faith. Above all, this means a cherishing of the privilege of sharing in the daily Sacrifice of Mass and Communion and a renewal of appreciation of the Sacrament of Penance.
If this is successful, there will follow a renewal of loyalty to the Holy Father, exposure of ANTI-PRIESTS, real action toward sound religious education of young people, a campaign against degraded public morals and an example that will bring back those who have fallen away.
Then, at last, there will be a real healthy upsurge of vocations to the priesthood and to a sisterhood where nuns can be recognized as Religious wherever they may be engaged. The change of attitude toward their Faith exemplified by priests and Religious who disguise themselves in secular clothes is perhaps the most obvious evidence of misinterpretation of the Spirit of Renewal!
God has allowed it all to come about and there is every indication that God is about to "Take The Matter In Hand." This does not mean that I am certain that God plans to make my campaign to Mend The Mess successful. It does mean, however, that I am certain that God loves to make successful a love-inspired campaign to bring about the results that God wants. God is saddened that lack of love often requires Him to take the alternative of punishment. He always invites the incentive of love just as He did through Our Lady at Fatima in 1917. He most certainly is inviting us now and I believe He will welcome every one who asks to be a Mender.
The counterfeit renewal that has resulted from misinterpretation of the Documents of Vatican II must be erased before a reunion of Christendom can be thought of. But the fact remains that the reunion of Christendom was one of the principal aims of the Council which was close to the heart of Pope John. So, even this preliminary work of Mending is all aimed at the final utterly necessary objective of Christian Unity. It is, then, for us as Menders to enter the campaign with this ultimate objective in view and plan what we can do to comply with the constantly repeated plea of our Popes to the faithful of the world to promote the fruits of this great Ecumenical Council and, most particularly, to work for the reunion of Christendom.
Perhaps the most evident characteristic of God's dealings with us wayfarers in the world has been His jealous refusal to interfere with the independence of that quality which makes man lovable to God - our precious treasure of free-will. Almost never has God taken coercive action to compel man's obedience or to take away the voluntary nature of faith in God. In fact, the only thing that makes sense out of the doctrine of Original Sin and all its concomitant trials, is that the acceptance of these trials with loving confidence in God and in union with Christ, without coercion, is what makes us lovable to God and fit candidates for heaven. It is disconcerting, however, to observe the cantankerous misuse of God's generosity which man has made, and still makes, in the exercise of this privilege which God has given him. In fact, the history of the human race from its very beginning, has been a constant repetition of the cycle of rebellion, punishment and repentance on the part of fallen man.
It is also disconcerting to read the Old Testament with particular attention to the recurrence of this cycle. At first sight it seems almost incredible to observe the constant lapses into idolatry and sin of those who had so much evidence of the power and predilection which God had shown for His chosen people, the Jews. The mediation of Moses during the long period of the Exodus from Egypt seemed constantly to alternate between prodigies of God's favor, defection, and prodigies of punishment.
Viewed against this background, the shocking disobedience of those who have initiated heresy and schism in recent centuries, while no less reprehensible than the defections of the Jews, is at least less difficult to understand. God has always given sufficient evidence to merit the confidence and faith of all men of goodwill. It may seem to us that God gave the Jews more tangible proof of His dominion than we have today. On the contrary, however, there has never been any evidence more patent and compelling than that furnished by the Incarnate God Himself, which marked the final tragic defection of the Jews, and for which they are still experiencing trials.
All of this is consistent with God's demand that faith be an act of man's free-will. We should know by now, from experience as well as from the word of Christ Himself, that it is through the word of His minister guided by the Holy Spirit that God wishes to teach us, and not through visible signs and wonders. Before Christ, God spoke to man through the prophets. In Christ, He gave man the "Deposit of Faith" and only used miracles to the extent necessary to establish His right to their loyalty and to their trust in His revelation. Since Christ completed His personal ministry on earth, God speaks to man in the manner which Christ established and promised to protect until the end of time; that is, by means of the Teaching Authority of the Church presided over by the Holy Spirit.
This Teaching Authority established by Christ is unique in all the world today. It guards as jealously as ever the responsibility of man to exercise his free-will in choosing his loyalty to God. But once that loyalty is given, it is anchored on its God-given foundation of truth.
And so it has come about that the convocation of the Second Vatican Council was planned to enlist the immediate power of the Holy Spirit to repair every human disorder that may have arisen to mar the perfection of Christ's Church, and in so doing, to promote the reunion of Christendom.
This is nowhere better expressed than in the words of the prayer addressed to the Holy Spirit composed by Pope John himself:
"Renew in our time Thy wondrous works as in a new Pentecost, and grant that Holy Church, gathered together in unanimous, more intense prayer, around Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and guided by Peter, may spread the kingdom of the Divine Savior, which is the kingdom of truth, of justice, of love, and of peace."
The need for this "New Pentecost" was painfully evident as stressed by Pope John in his first address. The forces of evil are battering the fortress of salvation to an extent perhaps never before equaled in the history of the Church. Millions have fallen away seduced by the materialism which has eaten into the very foundations of their faith. And the attraction of materialism has been fortified as a result of the ugliness of the counterfeit renewal which has sprung up in the years since the Council.
This false renewal has caused millions of others to become lukewarm Catholics. The anomaly of lukewarmness in the Catholic Faith is denounced by Christ Himself in His message to the Church of Laodicea reported by Saint John in the Apocalypse: "Because you are lukewarm," says the Savior, "and neither hot nor cold, I am about to vomit thee out of My mouth." (Apoc. 3:16.)
And so, the first objective of the Council has been to heal all these wounds of the Mystical Body of Christ from within and then to promote and pave the way for the secondary purpose of the Council - the external perfection of the Mystical Body of Christ, which will end in the reunion of Christendom. This objective is, of course, secondary only in time, since the healing of the wounds within is necessary before there can be an appeal to the wandering sheep without the Fold. Christ calls them all His sheep. Separation from the Fold is much the gravest wound of all.
The need for reunion is greater today than it has ever been in the history of the world. The eternal welfare of billions of souls is now involved. Reunion will benefit Catholics quite as much as those without the Fold who believe in Christ, since it will immensely reinforce the faith of all. A still greater benefit to souls would be realized in the mission field, where a disunited Christendom now presents a sorry plea to the infidel in lands dominated by Islam and the ancient cults of Asia.
But the greatest urge of all for union under that banner of the Cross is the menace of atheistic Communism which now threatens to engulf the world. Communism recognizes the Catholic Church as its arch-enemy. The threat of destruction of the world by nuclear power is as nothing compared with this threat of destruction of the souls of men. Only a united Christendom can hope to survive this awful curse.
The present state of the Church, however, does not give promise of any extensive corporate reunion with the Catholic Church in our day, except always, by a major miracle of grace. Miracles of grace, however, have happened before and can happen now if an army of Menders really goes into action.
The one outstanding difference of outlook which stands in the way of any large scale corporate reunion is that basic stand of Protestantism which hinges upon a denial of any infallible teaching authority. Every separation from the Catholic Church does, in fact, involve an explicit denial of that God-given protection of the Truth and sets up private judgment as the only criterion of truth.
On the other had, the doctrine of Infallibility furnishes one of the strongest inducements toward individual or small group conversion to the true Church. Every such conversion of a baptized non-Catholic is a reunion in miniature. When we consider the infinite value before God of every immortal soul, such a reunion is a major objective toward which each Mender should strive to mend the way!
This thought of the objective of the Council in terms of its effect upon individual souls, within and without the Fold, should bring each one of us face to face with our individual responsibility for its success. We should realize that we cannot regard ourselves as mere spectators of this great work.
This is an affair of the entire Mystical Body of Christ and intimately concerns every one of its members. The healing of all internal wounds is the necessary preliminary toward renewing and vivifying our invitation for the rest of the world to join us. The influence of the Church as a whole hinges, as I have said, upon the strengthening of the faith, the ordering of the discipline, and the fostering of the good example of every member of the clergy and laity alike. The success of the application of the Documents of the Council, which is a principal intention of every prayer of our Holy Father, Pope Paul VI, will be directly proportioned to its effect upon each one of us as a part of the whole Body. Its aim is to make each one of us perfect members of the Mystical Body of Christ. If our cooperation and obedience is sufficiently docile to bring this about, the effect of our collective example will do much to convert the world.
What, then, is our part, here and now, and from day to day in these post-conciliar years? Our Holy Father Pope John and his successor, Pope Paul, have been wonderfully explicit in giving us the answer. In almost every address and on almost every occasion, they have begged us for our prayers. Not just prayers for our individual benefit, but prayers in the supernatural spirit of union, inspired by the ideal which Pope John called: "Above all, the ideal of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church - the triumph of Jesus Christ." (T.P.S. 6, p. 25.) And that is what each one of us must aim at if we are to be true beneficiaries of the graces flowing from this great work of love.
In appealing for our prayers for this intention, Pope John almost always attached it to our union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of the Mystical Body, whom he was pleased to honor also as Our Lady of the Atonement.
It is under this appropriate title that she has been designated as the Patroness of the League of Prayer for Unity, established by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement. The purposes of this league of prayer are all included in the aims of the Vatican Council and seek specifically, among other things, to offer prayer and sacrifice for the conversion of non-Catholics, the return of lapsed Catholics to the Faith; the speedy realization of the missionary objectives of the Catholic Church; the strengthening of the virtues of faith, hope and charity - the internal bonds of unity - among the faithful.
To this end you are invited to pray daily for unity; to pray for the Church and souls; to beg Our Lady that "All-May-Be-One." Furthermore, if you wish to unite your efforts in this regard with the throng of members of the League of Prayer for Unity, your prayers will be enriched by many indulgences. Which one of us has not some non-Catholic or some lapsed Catholic in mind for whose conversion he would earnestly solicit the prayers for the great League storming heaven for all?
Is it not worth the effort, then, to intensify our resolve to furnish an outstanding example of the solidarity of the Catholic Faithful and join our prayers in confidence that He to whom we pray may be pleased to "restore all things both in heaven and on earth, under the Headship of Christ"? What better way could be found for each one of us to pursue our own individual Project Sainthood?
MENDERS WILL NEED HUMILITY
The Mending of the false renewal which has blocked the aims of the Second Vatican Council, will require much tact and undaunted courage. But above all, it will need the advice given by Saint Paul to the Ephesians. After assuring them that God has the power to "carry out His purposes beyond our hopes and dreams," Saint Paul solicits their cooperation saying: "I therefore entreat you...conduct yourselves with all humility and mildness...bearing with one another in love, solicitous to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one spirit...one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism; one God and Father of all." (Eph. 4:1-6.)
And so, let us examine this essential need for humility to promote the Mending of the Mess.
Many people upon reading what we Monks call THE HOLY RULE OF SAINT BENEDICT, are quite astonished by the importance which our Holy Father Benedict attaches to the degree of humility to be sought by those who make themselves his disciples. And please note that I say the degree of humility, rather than the practice of the virtue of humility. True, humility is usually dealt with as a virtue related to temperance and justice, since it moderates the sense we have of our own worth and inclines us to make a just appraisal of that worth in the light of our knowledge of our dependence upon God for all that we have and are.
But in a certain sense, humility is not exactly like a virtue; is not practiced; is not learned. It is rather a quality of character which forms a foundation for the practice of all other virtues. We come into the possession of humility by degrees, just as we come into the possession of maturity by degrees as we experience the various happenings in our particular place in the world of men. Humility, however, is not gained by the experience of happenings, but rather, by coming to know and to admit the truth about self and the truth about God.
There is a natural humility which springs from a true appraisal of the relationship between the individual human being and the world in which he lives. But there is an infinitely superior supernatural humility which springs from a true appraisal of the relationship between my soul and the surroundings which constitute the vehicle in which I am to live my life before God. It is this supernatural humility which leads us by degrees up along the way of perfection to sainthood.
Now, the twelve degrees of humility described by Saint Benedict are not arranged in an order which indicates that the twelfth degree represents a possession of humility twelve times as perfect as the first degree. It is more accurate to say that each degree represents a different way in which humility shows itself as it grows in one's soul. And so, I have chosen Saint Benedict's second degree of humility to recommend to Menders because it suggests ideas which, to my mind, give the greatest impetus to that knowledge of the truth about self and knowledge of the truth about God which make perfect humility inevitable.
The second degree of humility as Saint Benedict has given it to us is as follows:
"That a person love not his own will, nor delight in gratifying his own desires; but model his actions on the saying of the Lord, 'I came not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent Me.' It is written also, 'Self-will has its punishment but constraint wins a crown.'"
Saint Benedict expresses almost the same idea among what he calls the "Instruments of Good Works," when he recommends that one who is seeking to run in the Way of Perfection should "Deny one's self in order to follow Christ."
This aspect of humility is especially important for Menders in these days when self-love and supernatural blindness have led all too many priests and people to broadcast their revolt against the teaching of the Holy Father in Rome. I say "supernatural blindness" because there is no other explanation, unless it be malice, for the disobedience which tosses away the one essential gift of God which embraces all the Marks of our Church and identifies it as from God. God's guarantee of our infallible Magisterium is all that keeps our Church One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. As I have said in several other places, I am a convert from Protestantism and I know enough to pity those in our Church whose private interpretation of God's law would deprive us of the one things that makes our Church impregnable.
This revolt stems from pride and we need protection from it as never before in our generation. That protection comes from the knowledge of the truth about God which makes us humbly grateful that we can depend upon Him in these times of stress.
Now, to deny oneself to follow Christ is not to suggest that one should think up austerities and penances and extra discipline to prove his love for Christ. As a matter of fact, such a procedure is far more likely to cultivate complacency and pride and to kill whatever natural humility one might possess. No, to deny oneself in order to follow Christ is far more conducive to the cultivation of humility when it is taken to mean to deny reliance on one's own sufficiency and to learning to know that all power, all good, all right action, stems from Christ and is at hand for the asking to one who does not appropriate it as his own. To deny oneself is to admit that all that one does which is weak, or bad, or unChristlike stems from self; to follow Christ is to place one's whole and unwavering confidence in Christ's intimate management of all that we do that is good or successful or Christlike.
Humility is sometimes spoken of as the quality of having a deep contempt for oneself. In fact, Saint Benedict's seventh degree of humility expresses it thus:
"He should not only call himself with his tongue lower and viler than all, but also believe himself in his inmost heart to be so."
Now, that idea when taken out of context is certainly not a natural concept for any human being. In fact, by itself it is illogical and is unworthy of the dignity that God has given to man, and in that sense it would be impossible to arrive at with sincerity. But when considered in the context of the denial of self and the following of Christ, it becomes a welcome solution for a devastating feeling of inadequacy.
Compared with Christ, everyone is lower and viler than all that is not Christ. And when it is remembered that, in spite of this fact, Christ gives Himself to such a creature without reserve, it becomes a privilege to affirm it and to believe it in one's inmost heart. This negation of self and confidence in Christ is necessary as a sequel to meditation on the love which Christ exhibits in His Sacred Heart. It builds humility automatically when it is honestly studied.
The Heart of God, opened on the Cross, poured out His life's blood as if for each one of us alone; as if I alone had made it necessary for Him to suffer; as if God's love for me had cost Him His life; as if my behavior toward those He loved had to be paid for with His life. And His love made Him do it; made Him accept the Cross for me! When viewed from this angle, how can one fail to believe in his inmost heart that he is lower and viler than all?
When the humble Saint Francis was asked how he could consistently and with truth call himself the greatest sinner in the world, he replied: "Had God given to even the most wicked man the graces and favors He has bestowed upon me, he would have been far better and more grateful. Nor do I doubt but that, were God to withdraw His hand, I should do things more absurd and monstrous than all other men and be the greatest of sinners. For this reason I judge myself to be the most ungrateful of mortals." (Ullathorne: G. of Ch. Virt. p. 14.)
If, then, I have reached that degree of knowledge of the truth about myself which compels me to deny - honestly and sincerely deny - myself any credit for the goodness there may be in me, I am indeed ready to profit most by that other precious builder of humility - knowledge of the truth about God. The denying of self breeds the humility of detachment from the world. The following of Christ breeds the humility of attachment to His Heart.
Humility builds itself within us without our knowing it or expressly seeking it. In fact, it is almost impossible to intentionally practice humility. If I should say to myself, "I will accept this because it humiliates me," I am not really exhibiting humility. On the other hand, when I think, "I deserve this humiliation, and yet Christ always treats me so much better than I deserve," I am unconsciously exhibiting true humility. It was this kind of humility which shown forth in the Blessed Virgin Mary when she exclaimed: "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." (Luke 1:47-48.)
Starting, then, with this low estimate of my self, humility begins to take possession of my whole soul when I think of the immensity of the love God has for me. It is increased when I realize how His Heart suffers because of my perversity and my weak appreciation of His love. His wounded love must inflame my soul with love whenever I think of it with real attention.
With this distrust of self and awareness of the immensity of the love of the Sacred Heart, humility, of its very nature, draws the soul into the milieu of Divine Providence as its natural habitat. Everyday life begins to be seen, with the eye of faith, as a delightful series of supernatural and miraculous events sweetly ordered with divine harmony. The "world" would still call them ordinary and everyday events, but the humble soul, enlightened by the radiance of the Sacred Heart, sees them in a truer light and accepts and rejoices in them all, even those which the world would call tragedies; they are all directed by the hand of God for the soul immersed in the knowledge of the intimacy of God with each and every soul.
Monsignor Romano Guardini expresses this idea exactly as it should be expressed by the humble soul; that is to say, a statement of the most stupendous fact of existence as matter-of-factly as if to say: "Doesn't everybody know that?" Here is the way he puts it: "In the message of Christ there is one doctrine - that of Divine Providence - which embraces the whole of existence and at the same time concerns each person individually. According to this, everything that happens in the world is directed by the love, wisdom, and might of the Father for the benefit of the faithful." (Prayer in Prac. p. 157.)
This familiar acceptance of Divine Providence by the humble soul has nothing in common with the fatalism which is the materialist's counterfeit of humility. It is also at war with that all too common tendency to resent the failure of our efforts, either spiritual or temporal, to produce the results that we would have liked. Such resentment or despair or lack of trust in God springs from pride, which is belittled when our management of our affairs or our direction of souls ends in failure.
The humble soul is never daunted by apparent defeat. He sees all things in the light of that wonderful confidence in Divine Providence eulogized by Saint Paul in his Epistle to the Romans: "We know also that all things work together for good to those who love God...If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare even His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all - how will He not freely give us all things along with Him?...Who, then, shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall affliction, or difficulty, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?" (Rom. 8:28-35.)
Let us not think that this wonderful passage from Saint Paul applies only to the faith and confidence in God of those martyrs of Saint Paul's day who were constantly in danger of affliction, or difficulty, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword. No! Saint Paul's words are indeed vehement and extreme, but we, instead of considering ourselves outside the scope of this admonition, should realize that if these most evil examples of the "Problem of Evil" are to be met with peace and confidence, how much more earnestly are we urged to meet all the evils that need Mending in the world today!
If humility causes martyrs to meet their fate with patience, how much more readily should it enable us to meet each and every event of our lives which heretofore has caused us to forget God's nearness for the few seconds that it takes to become guilty of uncharitable words or thoughts, or impatience, or a hostile silence, or a sarcastic reply, or a thousand-and-one little things that make us fall short of perfection!
The love Christ has for us is not satisfied with mediocre goodness. His words are not: "Try to be passably good," but rather, "Be ye therefore perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5:48.) These words form the climax of a passage which sets forth the essence of the power of the humble soul to deny himself to follow Christ, "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who revile you and for those who persecute you." (Matt. 5:44.) Does that seem hopelessly difficult? Please listen to me! - true humility, true appreciation of the treasure of Christ's love, true appraisal of the futility of anything short of perfection as the goal, brings Christ as a permanent Partner with whom all things are possible.
To accomplish this successfully and in partnership with Christ is truly to deny oneself to follow Christ and to exhibit that humility which instinctively turns to Christ and, with Him, meets successfully all the greater problems of life as they are presented to us in accordance with the design of Divine Providence. The great problems come seldom, but the lesser trials and temptations are legion. It is the daily wrestling with imperfection and venial sin in partnership with Christ all day long that builds that awareness of His love and His power and His immediate presence which is the stronghold of humility.
Carelessness or lack of success in making some progress toward curbing our tendency to be indifferent to a constant succession of small faults or sins is a sure sign that we lack that humility which springs from a true appraisal of our relationship to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Monsignor John S. Vaughan, in his precious book of sermons entitled: Thoughts for All Times, has a chapter which deals with the inconsistency between our faith and our practice. Every word of it is appropriate at this point, but I shall have to be content with one brief reference.
Commenting on the casual indifference of most of us, he says: "The plain statement of our position is that we do believe but we do not realize the truth. If we are to be converted from a tepid, careless, listless life, we must not merely believe, but our faith must be lively, bright, clear, and penetrating - we must accustom ourselves to think, to ponder over the invisible truths, and to meditate...The invisible can never influence our conduct or be a motive of action while it remains invisible. It must be made visible - visible to the eyes of faith by meditation." (p. 26.)
Let us, then approach the problem of MENDING that lies before us with a determination to make it our business, day by day and hour by hour, to meet all the events of life, happy or not-so-happy, in loving partnership with the Sacred Heart of Jesus; ready always to deny self for His sake and to work in humble gratitude in the ever-present knowledge of His love and His power to make all things work together for good to those who love God. (Rom. 8:28.) Let us not be satisfied by merely trying to avoid sin, but let us use His power to quench every urge toward imperfection. "I therefore entreat you...conduct yourselves with all humility and mildness...bearing with one another in love." (Eph. 4:1-.)
INFINITE LOVE - IS CALLING MENDERS
In Chapter 2 we were given an opportunity to consider what Christ was willing to do on Good Friday to Mend The Mess That Man Was Making Of The World Of His Time. What God did for us then when Mending was needed, has removed every vestige of alibi from our responsibility for the mending needed today.
And so, having fortified ourselves with the spirit of humility in partnership with personified Infinite Love, let us respond, each from the depth of his own heart.
We often hear quoted the Scripture text: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to the end that those who believe in Him should not perish, but should possess eternal life." (John 3:16.) How often does it occur to us to think through all that this text implies? Is it too much to say that those twenty-nine words embody the answer to all the mysteries of the Incarnation, the Redemptive Passion of Christ, His Resurrection and Ascension, all that has been, all that is, and all that ever will be - in fact, the creation and history of the world and of the saints forever? I believe that to say "yes" to this question is only a mild response. And the reason that it is only putting it mildly is contained in the first five words of the text, which give the cause of it all: "God so loved the world."
One of those five words, however, has connotations which must be sorted out and particularized in order to be properly understood. That word, you have no doubt guessed, is "World." We are so accustomed to the unfavorable connotation of that word, derived from its use in expressing that triumvirate of evil, "The World, the Flesh, and the Devil," that we tend to associate it with things hateful to God rather than with the objects of His love. Another only slightly less unfavorable connotation is found in the use of the word to designate the surroundings of those fervent souls who seek to find sanctification in the world and not away from the world.
Again, however, and in a favorable light, the "world" may mean all that God has made, and we have God's word for it that it is "very good." And, to the extent that it reflects His goodness, it is the object of His love. But the world of all creation is only the object of God's love because it is useful for the world for whom He gave His Only-Begotten Son. That world is the world of the souls and bodies of all the men and women and children of the human race from its beginning until the end of time.
It was the world of souls and their abject poverty that prompted the Second Person of the Divine Trinity to respond to the will of the Father and leave His heavenly home to humble Himself as one of the least of men, to live in poverty and submit to torture and death at the hands of those who had made themselves His enemies. And He did all that without any gain for himself save the finite pittance of gratitude and the human counterpart of His love reflected in the hearts of a tiny part of the fallen human race: "to the end that those who believe in Him should not perish but should possess eternal life." (John 3:16.)
Not long ago a young man who had been coming to me for some months to be instructed in Catholic Faith, asked the question, "Can you explain to me why God made us?" And when one looks at the mass-production of evil in the world around us, one is very much inclined to shrug and say - "Why - Oh Why?" - or to recall the words of Christ in distress over the weakness of the people's trust in Him: "Oh you unbelieving and perverted generation!...how long shall I bear with you?" (Matt. 17:17.) And again, the same cry of anguish voiced by the Prophet Isaias and quoted by Christ of the hypocritical Pharisees: "This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me." (Matt. 15:8.)
Why, then, did God make us? This question and an answer used to appear on page one of almost every catechism. The answer given was as follows: "God made me, to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world so that I may be happy through Him in this life, and with Him forever in heaven." When one considers that answer carefully it soon becomes very clear that, while it quite accurately expresses the teaching of the Church, it does not really answer the question, "Why did God make me?" The true answer to this question, must be found, not in the effect upon me of having been made, but in the Heart of God. Why did God make us? is answered, I believe, in the first words of the title which I have chosen for this chapter: LOVE, INFINITE LOVE is all.
Not only is infinite love the total answer to the question "Why did God make us?" but it is the answer to all the rest of creation. When William Shakespeare put on the lips of his character in the comedy "As You Like It" the delightful aphorism: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players" (Act 2 - sc.7), he unknowingly voiced a truth far beyond his own comprehension. This world is, in a true sense, a stage which has been placed for us by God for the sole purpose of giving each of us an opportunity to learn to act in the setting of God's infinite love. We are here, not to act in imitation of characters other than ourselves, but to act with others in a setting which reflects and manifests God's love and invites us to appreciate and return that love with faith and trust and confidence in God.
Such faith transcends the obscurity which is inherent in the material world and so develops in us a capacity to enjoy the blinding intensity of the infinite love which is veiled now beneath the substances of nature. We are here on this stage prepared by God and we are given the cues which are sufficient to teach us the reality of the Infinite Love which is the Cause of it all and which, at bottom, is the life-principle of ourselves and all that is.
There are degrees of reality, but only the Infinite Love which is God's is absolutely real. All else - the strutting claims of science to the contrary notwithstanding - is only the setting of one episode in eternity and has reality only while kept in being for the purposes of God's Infinite Love.
Our sojourn in this world has every appearance of being thoroughly natural and temporal. We are equipped by God to take our places on the stage and do our part in accordance with a pattern every tiny detail of which is planned and managed by God's loving Providence. The pattern is different for every individual, and success, as estimated by the world, is equally varied, but the true purpose of our being here, the reality of our lives as distinguished from their temporality with its incidental successes and failures, is that two-way exchange of love which culminates in heaven. On God's part it is infinite, sublime, penetrating to the inmost depths of being; on our part, as fragile receivers of God's gift, it is imperfect, halting, very often wavering, wondering, even doubting. How it must sadden the Heart of God to see in so many of us, and I include myself with "us" - to see in so many of us such a poor reflection to the love which He has shown us in so many ways.
Perhaps you are thinking: "Why should God be saddened when He keeps Himself so hidden and allows so many things to happen to us which seem so hard to reconcile with His infinite love?" The answer to that question lies at the border line between the two "worlds" which I have tried to call to your minds. The Providence of God in the temporal world is, as a part of His love for us, sometimes very hard for us to understand, and, if it were not for that other world in which we are invited to be living now, it might justify our wavering, wondering, even doubting. But it is for that other world that we are made and it is by means of that other world that God's love shines through all the obscurity that His wisdom has allowed to come into the picture before our five senses and the words and acts and thoughts which make up the interplay between ourselves and our neighbors.
And the bond that cements these two worlds together is that supernatural gift from God - the infused supernatural virtue of Faith. Faith, we might say, is a transparent bond which allows infinite divine love to shine through into the world of sense and burn away the wavering and wondering and doubt from every kind of obscurity.
In the thirty odd years that Jesus Christ dwelt among us, He built for us that transparent bond and invited all men to step through into the light of His love. He proved that He was God and then asked those who heard Him speak to take God's word for it that LOVE: INFINITE LOVE IS ALL.
And when He was about to prove that truth by His Passion and Death-upon-the-Cross, the ingenuity of God contrived to bring that same invitation down to us as we approach the third millennium A.D. He did it by means no human being could ever have dreamed of; by the Blessed Sacrament of His Love which shines through all obscurity and invites us to let it burn away all that can stand between us and His love.
Faith was not vision when Jesus Christ preached in Palestine in the first century. Only a small part of the people who heard Him were willing to "take God's word for it" then. Nor is faith vision in the twentieth century when Jesus Christ asks to come into our hearts in the Blessed Sacrament. Only a small part of the people who hear those whom He has sent to them are willing to "take God's word for it" now. Nevertheless, He is there, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, just as He was when He first gave us the Sacrament, and He still offers us the same infinite Divine Love - by Faith.
Did you ever stop to think that if faith were vision, this world of time would make no sense at all? God could have omitted the creation of this world and, after creating and testing the angels, He could have made only the elect of the human race who will share the Beatific Vision with Him for all eternity. But what would they know, then, of God's love? What would they know of the length to which God was willing to go to share His love with them? If we had only that as a beginning, we could never be the kind of people God wants with Him in heaven. We have to see Him, our Creator, accept suffering, and we have to share His suffering in order to have a real notion of what His love means. And that is the whole reason for this world.
We might also get a faint idea of what our love, our understanding love, means to God when we remember this: God could have avoided the necessity of hell by creating and keeping all souls perfect, but only theoretically aware of His love. God could also have prevented all sin and all of the physical evil and suffering that stems from sin, in the same way by creating all souls perfect and knowing nothing of the infinite love that prompted Jesus Christ to be our Savior.
Saint Augustine merely says that God preferred to bring good out of evil than never to allow evil to occur. But that, however true it may be, only tells a quarter of the story. It is the nature of the good that makes it precious. It is the nature of the good that explains why God permitted the evil. It is the nature of the good that explains why God made the world and gave it to us. That good is our understanding of God's love as far as it is humanly possible to understand an infinite thing.
And here again, the ingenuity of God has devised the means whereby He can remain with us and continually show us the humility that proves His love. How true it is that "The Charity of Christ urges us!" But it is faith, not vision, that brings the Charity of Christ to urge us. We have God with us here in our churches. He is here, but to profit by His presence, we must "take God's word for it." And there is the whole of our sanctification.
He is there the way He is because the world is the way it is and the world is the way it is because it is the best possible world to satisfy God's plan; and God's plan is our sanctification. It is there for the asking, this Faith; it is there for the believing, this Love. There is not one of us who cannot profit immensely by allowing the one to build the other. And God has wonderfully made it possible for us to do so by His presence abiding among us to increase our grasp of His presence dwelling in us.
And how should we go about it to share in that profit? Simply give God a chance to work in us. Faith and love are supernatural gifts, but God gives them infallibly in response to acts of our will. Take God's word for it! Are you tired of having me use that expression? If so, please explain how it is possible for us to appear to be so mild in our adoration of the love He is showing us.
To the extent that we let that dazzling light of Faith reach into our souls from the tabernacle and from the monstrance and from the ciborium and, above all, from the Sacred Host placed on your tongue in Holy Communion; to that extent God will build an understanding of His love in our hearts. If our faith went all the way, we would be overwhelmed with adoration and love. It is to build that faith that God has placed each one of us in this world. We are here to learn of His love, and that is all - everything else is incidental.
A reader who has experienced or witnessed much suffering may sometimes think - what a strange way God has of showing us His love. It is true, God's ways are so far beyond us that we cannot understand them, but again, if we take God's word for it, we know that His own acceptance of the trials of this world was an expression of His love - can we not see that trials accepted in gratitude for His expression of love will generate love in us? And that is God's reason for giving us that way of learning His love.
Not the least of God's expressions of love through trials is His presence here among us in all the tabernacles of the world. He has imprisoned Himself there to remind us of His love. His suffering there is not precisely from being locked up in the dark. No, it is from being neglected, from having His love rejected, from having so many fall away when He gives them the slightest opportunity to suffer for Him.
Most Religious men and women are well aware of this and try to make up for the indifference of others by extra adoration and gratitude for His presence in the Blessed Sacrament. So do many priests and a precious number of the laity. But not one of us begins to adore enough! It is not that we do not want to adore Him, but that, being finite, we are not able even to grasp the meaning of "enough."
If you would like to get a better idea of what I mean, stop before Station Number Nine of the Stations of the Cross and consider the truth it represents - Almighty God suffering His third fall under the Cross for love of you! Then remember that He could have saved all men by a simple "fiat" from heaven. But instead, this God of love came to take our human nature and reduce Himself to this pitiful humiliation to show us the infinite malice of sin offset by the infinite love of God, but, above all, to show us the infinite debt of love that we owe to Him.
I do not mean to imply that you should take more time away from sleep or from your duties to kneel in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, although most of us could do at least a little more without making it a burden. Nor do I mean that perpetual adoration is not most pleasing to God. But I do mean that each one of us should learn to keep the center of his soul adoring God all day, every day, in loving union with Him who is in the tabernacle or exposed at Benediction, or at Forty Hours Devotion, or, and above all, at daily Mass all over the world.
He is God and He is there only because He is Love, Infinite Love, and that is all. He is there to teach us to reflect in our frail human way, the love that He is pouring out upon us. It is His love that can make ours sufficient.
The Forty Hours Devotion is given to us to tell us this story and to renew our utter gratitude that it is so. Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament is repeated throughout the year to reassure us of this precious treasure. It is a calamity that both devotions are being discounted by the influence of ANTI-PRIESTS and their victims.
But, the adoration which means most of all to God is that union of our humble frailty with His humble and compassionate offering of Himself for us each day at Holy Mass. It is this union that we should strive to perpetuate all day, every day, as we do all of the things that make up our life in this world. We should remember that our hearts may be united with Him at Mass in which we may share somewhere in the world at every hour of every day even though it may be unseen. He is in the tabernacle or in the monstrance to give us the setting which our senses can perceive, but it is in the Mass that He carries our love united with His own and offers it before the throne of the Holy Trinity on high. There is no worship which can be offered by men to God which equals the union of our intention with His at Holy Mass.
To show you that I am not alone in the ideas which I am expressing here, I should like to close this chapter with two quotations; one from Father Raoul Plus, author of "God Within Us." He says: "Our Lady's chief adornment was not so much the mission she was called upon to fulfill, as her heart. And so it is with us. What alone really matters is not our outward actions, or our mission in life, but the divine life within our hearts. God reads our hearts and that is all He cares about. He sees, in a glance, if there is room for Him there, and how much room we will give Him." (p. 165.)
And Saint Paul long ago reminded us of the fellowship of our frailty with the majesty of Christ. He says: "For we have not a High Priest who is not able to realize in Himself our weaknesses, but rather one who hath been tried in every way like ourselves, short of sin. Let us, therefore, approach with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy, and find grace to help us in due season." (Heb. 4:14-16.)
TRUE ECUMENISM THE GOAL OF MENDING
Saint Paul addresses the people of Corinth in words precisely in context with the plea of all the Documents of the Second Vatican Council to every person in the world today. These were his words: "We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us. We implore you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God!" (2 Cor. 5:20.)
It is for us, if we are successful in assembling an army of Menders to make Saint Paul's words our own! The Council urges each of us to share the responsibility for an active dialogue of love. If each of us were to respond in full, the reunion of Christendom would be altogether possible in this generation. Unfortunately, however, it is not at all probable that it will come about for many decades longer unless, as I have said before, God gives the Menders a miracle of grace.
And Why? Why can it be that an event so obviously important to the whole human race should be so slow in coming? The answer is that God has made the unity of Christendom a partnership affair in which God is by far the major Partner. Furthermore, He has heaped up evidence that He has the power and the means and the love to bring it about in an instant. He has made it equally evident, however, that it is worthless to Him unless mankind will respond with that tiny part which He insists upon - a thoroughgoing commitment of love in response to God's infinite demonstration of love on the Cross.
Our beloved Holy Father of happy memory, Pope John XXIII, said it all when he said there must be a change of heart on all sides. Unity of faith is an acknowledgement of love far more than it is agreement to argument. From the moment of Christ's arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane until the present day, believers as well as unbelievers have made a pretty poor showing in response to His love.
If every Catholic had lived his faith right up to the hilt, there would have been no Eastern Schism and no Reformation. And the same may be said in regard to the divisions of Christendom today. And so, it is in order to repeat - if every Catholic would live his Faith right up to the hilt today, reunion could certainly come about in this generation. And, while I did add that such a happy outcome is not probable, my part in this project in partnership with God makes it follow that, to the extent that I personally fail to fulfill my part in it, I personally am responsible for the failure of the whole project!
This means that our only hope of success must stem from the accumulation of the wholehearted tiny push of each individual one of us in union with God. The well-known Christopher motto: "It is far better to light one candle than to curse the darkness," applies definitely here.
You and I are each individually benefited and also made responsible by Christ's prayer for unity. He was urging us as well as helping us when He prayed: "But I ask not only for them, but also for all those who believe in Me through their word, that they all may be one; that as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I am in Thee, they also may be one in Us, in order that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me." (Jn. 17:20-21.)
Christ's plea is not yet answered. The "world" does not yet fully believe the "Thou hast sent Me." This failure is the measure of the individual failure of each of us. We who have believed in Him "through their word," have not yet fully reached the internal unity of love which God's abiding presence should provide. Every schism and every reformation, great or small, is evidence of accumulated individual failure to respond to the unifying power of God's love.
Christ's prayer is still not answered, but not through any fault of God. It is our individual tiny share in the total fault that brings Christ's anguish of Gethsemane into the present day. This sad fact is poignantly expressed in a little poem written by the Sacred Heart Nun, Sister Katherine Hargrove at Manhattanville College, New York. The opening and closing verses give a hint that we can still do something about Gethsemane:
You say I can forget the night of pain,
If I but take this day's delight,
Ignoring specters that remain,
You say I can forget the night.
And why should I forget? If there
A Cross I could. But here, today,
The past is now, no matter what
You say. (K. Hargrove, St. and Cr. p. 71.)
True, Christ's greatest sorrow stems from those who will not see the truth and those who, having seen have turned away from His love. And Christ has chosen to leave His case in our hands to remind us that we are "ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us."
Our part, then, is precisely what the Council urges of each one of us who is seeking God. And this applies equally to priests and religious and laity. It is the urgent call of True Ecumenism and Dialogue. Let each of us try to realize how much we can do for Christ at this very time to hasten the day when Christ can say to the Father, "They are one as We are One; they in Us and We in them!"
All that I have said thus far is compressed into two powerful paragraphs in the Council's Decree on Ecumenism. Here is what we should strive to answer in full:
"In ecumenical work, Catholics must assuredly be concerned for their separated brethren, praying for them, keeping them informed about the Church, making the first approaches towards them. But their primary duty is to make an honest and careful appraisal of whatever needs to be renewed and achieved in the Catholic household itself in order that its life may bear witness more loyally and luminously to the teachings and ordinances which have been handed down from Christ through the Apostles.
"For although the Catholic Church has been endowed with all divinely revealed truth and with all means of grace, her members fail to live by them with all the fervor they should." (Abbott, p. 48.)
All this represents a very considerable break with the past. The admonition of the first Holy Father, Saint Peter, to his Catholic flock was this: "Be of the same mind all of you, and share the same feelings; be lovers of your brethren. I would see you tender hearted, modest, and humble, not repaying injury with injury, or hard words with hard words, but blessing those who curse you. This God's call demands of you, and you will inherit a blessing in your turn." (I Pet. 3:8-9.)
If this admonition had been lived in full there would be no disunion today and Christ would be all in all. But, sad to say, the nineteen hundred years that lie between have been filled with such strife that it is hard to say whether Jews, or Orthodox, or Protestants, or Catholics have contributed the most. But now the admonition of Pope John and Pope Paul is the same as that of Saint Peter. It will mean almost an about-face from the past and it will be harder now because of the past, but it is the only course that bears resemblance to Christ!
But to avoid sad disillusionment as we enter this dialogue of love, most Catholics, and especially "cradle-Catholics," have much to learn about the nature of the enterprise we face. And I say "especially cradle-Catholics" because, as I have said many times, I find it almost impossible to understand how I could have scorned the Catholic Church as I did right up to the time I "fell away" from Protestantism.
But, before we attempt to understand the attitudes of those with whom we wish to establish dialogue, let us try to see why we, the People of God, have at long last been guided by the Council, our Holy Popes, and the Holy Spirit, to return to Christ's call for a dialogue of love to lead men to Him. The appetites of fallen men urge them to a pattern of life which is very different from the way of love that Christ brought into the world. When all is said and done, the only real bedrock motive to adopt Christ's pattern of life stems from an appreciation of what it means to be loved by almighty God! And this we only know and do by Faith.
We know by faith that the union with God called Beatific Vision which God has in store for those who respond to His love, is such an overwhelming good that every other appetite vanishes as nothing before it. I say we know it by faith. That means that we have taken God's word for it based on the evidence that He has chosen to give us. As a result we have voluntarily responded with love, to do what it takes to win that gift from God.
And that is the whole economy of salvation! The love of faith is what God asks for from us. Love compelled by vision would be detestable to Him. If He had wanted that kind of love, He would have started with Adam and Eve. Instead, He gave them evidence to prove His love, but not to compel. Adam and Eve failed to respond with the trust and confidence which His love deserved. They chose what pleased the senses at the present moment.
And so the human race began its long history in a state of rebellion saddled with what we call the "Problem of Evil." As I have recounted in another place, Time Magazine once published a letter from an East Indian saying that, to a non-Christian, it does not make sense to affirm that an all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God could botch His work of creation in the manner taught by the Catholic Church. And from the viewpoint of human planning, especially fallen-human planning, it does look rather dim. But, on the other hand, the way God did do it could hardly be surpassed as a means of showing that "God's ways are not our ways." For one thing, it utterly passes human understanding that God could love us as He does.
But just let us try to think this thing through assuming God's infinite power, and His infinite wisdom, and His infinite love, and the worthlessness to Him of our compelled love. How better could it have been done than the way He actually did do it? He allowed Original Sin and the connivance of Satan to put mankind in a state of rebellion. This gave the setting for the utterly unbelievable way He had in mind to prove His love.
Of course, as we observed in Chapter 2, it is beyond man's comprehension that God's love would prompt Him to leave the splendor of His heavenly glory to become a humble workman and allow Himself to be tortured to death by His rebellious creatures just to prove His love. But if He had not done it, how could we possibly have known the extent of His love? And so He told us that it was necessary that the Son of God should suffer as He did. And that is the key to the whole history of the relationship between God and His cherished creature, man.
God's reason for creating the universe and man was to share His beatitude with a creature able to appreciate it and to respond with voluntary love. A complete manifestation of God's reality would compel a selfish attraction of the creature which would have been repulsive to God. And so it took the amazing ingenuity of God to devise a program which began with the creation of Adam and Eve and will end on Judgment Day, to people heaven with souls schooled to love God as He wishes to be loved for eternity.
And now, one more detail is needed to bring us to a better understanding of the possibilities and the limitations of the dialogue which God inspired His Vicar, Pope John XXIII to initiate in 1959. And that detail is the most amazing of them all and the one which climaxes all the rest. Between the most exalted heights of adoration possible to the created spirit of man and the supernatural magnificence of the Spirit of God there is an abyss utterly impassable to natural man. It is here, then, that God must step in with an utterly free gift involving His own presence within the soul which we call Sanctifying, or saint-making, Grace. And even the preparation for this supernatural state is impossible to man alone but requires supernatural help from God which we call actual grace.
In fact, every natural act of man requires help from God. The infinite majesty of God is intimately present to every soul that lives for every second of every minute of his life. God is present and stands ready with every actual grace needed to make that soul apt for God's abiding presence in Sanctifying Grace. Then God chooses the evidence which He considers sufficient to invite but not compel each soul to trust Him enough to cooperate with the grace He offers.
It is this voluntary act of the will which God demands before He will give the grace to make the soul apt for the love He expects from it. Once armed with that grace, the soul can receive the impulse for the supernatural act of faith that leads one to the rest of the helps and means of salvation which God chooses His way of making known.
And so we see the fantastic scheme of things that God has chosen as the best possible world to satisfy His plan to people heaven for eternity. From the very beginning, God has managed and, without infringing on man's free-will, has brought about every tiny detail of it. That is another way of saying that God's Providence embraces everything that happens and is right. It is right even though it involves the Problem of Evil stemming from Original Sin and manfully carried on by every one of us!
And how does God's Providence make good out of the Problem of Evil? Looked at entirely aside from one's own contact with it, it is reasonably easy to see that God uses it as His great classifier of souls. From the very beginning, every human being has been exposed to it. Also, from the very beginning God has given to every soul just enough evidence to invite confidence in God in spite of it. Those who have responded have received grace to belong to God by means of it.
To be sure, we know very little of this interaction of Providence and evil up to the biblical narrative of Abraham, but the stories such as those of Cain and Abel and Noe tell us that it was there. With Abraham, however, we begin to see the pattern of God's presentation of evidence sufficient to invite the trust which He rewards. Of Abraham, Saint Paul writes: "By faith Abraham, when put to trial presented his son Isaac for sacrifice...For he reasoned that God was able to raise him even from the dead." (Heb. 11:17-19.)
It was in Abraham, then, that God very gradually and gently began to reveal His mighty plan of Redemption and Salvation. One people, the descendants of Abraham, would be the "People of God" to bring to fruition "in the fullness of time," the purpose and meaning of it all. From then on, God gave, little by little, the revelation of His plan which was so prodigious that it could not possibly have been understood if revealed in full. Nevertheless, God gave sufficient evidence revealed in full. Nevertheless, God gave sufficient evidence that everything was safe in His hands if they would only trust Him.
And what do we find? One would think that the rescue from slavery in Egypt and the destruction of the Egyptian army before their eyes would verge on compelling evidence that they owed God their trust and love forever. But no; the history of the Jewish people from that time forward, records a series of lapses into rebellion and idolatry followed by punishment and contrition only to break out again in rebellion. A very few, however, remained loyal to God and trusted Him and believed the prophets He sent to them. But for the most part they continued to be of the same mind as those who finally rushed upon Saint Stephen and proved the truth of his words when he said to them:
"You stiff-necked race, your heart and ears are still uncircumcised, you are forever resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your fathers did. There was not one of the prophets they did not persecute; it was death to foretell the coming of that just man, whom you in these times have betrayed and murdered; you who received the law dictated by angels and did not keep it." (Acts 7:51-53.)
To us it seems impossible that they could have been so impervious to the evidence heaped up by Christ during the three years of His public life. He complete the "Deposit of Faith," proved that He was God, and established His Church which He guaranteed forever against the attack of the "Gates of Hell." We must remember, however, that the Jews had been battered by other nations to a point at which human nature in any race would be inclined to respond with a desire for revenge.
The Jews gave us the God-Man who offered salvation to all, but the resentment in the hearts of most of them blinded them to the complete fulfillment of the prophecies which God had furnished for them. The few thousand who had the humility to accept God's evidence in Christ, gave us the heritage we have today. Many of them paid for it with martyrdom. But the majority who looked for a military leader to reinstate them as a world power and strike down the detested yoke of Rome could not possibly accept God's way of inviting them to Him. And so it has been ever since!
The Jews simply bypassed the greatest event in history and went on exactly as they had done before except for the fact that their non-acceptance of the final stage of revelation deprived them of part at least of the help they had received from God to know and accept His will. For them there is only one Covenant or Testament and it is still unfulfilled. The verification of it by God's Providence has, from all appearances, gone into reverse. They have experienced even greater persecution since their rejection of Christ and only now does there seem to be some hope of mitigation.
The Jews had their long history of revelation prior to that presented by Jesus Christ. The rest of men have had only the evidence furnished by natural reason and conscience to draw them to God until the Christian Gospel reached them. And we are all aware of the obstacles which the Christian message has faced. It started with three hundred years of exterminating persecution and has continued with all sorts of variations until the present day. Persecution has led to counter-persecution and this together with antagonisms of non-religious origin such as political, national, and racial strife, has posed tremendous obstacles in the way of the presentation of the evidence which God has chosen to furnish.
Failure from within to live Christianity as Christ lived it has caused endless schisms and sects to wound the Body of Christ. This has generated mutual hostility that has kept a very large section of Christendom alienated from the life-giving source which Christ provided. In fact, the survival and immense vitality of the Church under this adversity has become a potent miracle of additional evidence that she is the means of salvation provided by God.
All these vicissitudes and all this hostility is the product of the Problem of Evil which God has allowed. Very many souls have been side-tracked by various phases of this Problem of Evil from giving attention to the evidence that God has furnished to prove the divinity of Christ and the identity of the Church which brings that evidence to all men. But very many millions of others have found faith from the very trials the Church has suffered. Shall we question God's wisdom in the working of His plan?
For those of us who have been given the blessed grace of faith, it seems so obvious that it is very difficult for us to understand why it seems so opaque to others. Indeed anyone who will patiently listen to the whole story of the Catholic motive for faith will almost surely be convinced by it. The Problem of Evil has kept them away. Now we are asked to assault that Problem of Evil and win them with love to give the evidence a hearing.
This is the setting for the dialogue. In the chapter which follows, I want to study with you the attitudes of the presently very numerous "won't-believers" who must be won by love to listen to the evidence furnished by our loving God. We need an army of Menders who will try to become better "ambassadors on behalf of Christ"!
MENDING DONE - DIALOGUE MAY BEGIN
I know of no better advice to give to Menders who are ready to begin dialogue, than that given by Saint Paul to his protégé, Saint Timothy, when the latter was consecrated Bishop for the presentation of Christ's message to the world. These were his words: "Train thyself to grow up in holiness...for holiness is of universal profit, as it holds promise for the present life and for that which is to come." (cf. I Tim. 4:7-10.)
The setting in which our dialogue must begin demands that holiness be demonstrated from within before it can hope to have much of a hearing from those without.
In the previous chapter I warned that Catholics, and especially "cradle" Catholics, are too often unaware of the appraisal of our faith and our Church which characterizes non-Catholic Christians and makes them Protestants. I also implied that we must all become aware of this appraisal if we wish our dialogue to have any hope of success. I said that the reason I believe that this need applies especially to cradle-Catholics stems from my own amazement, after forty-one years as a Protestant and forty-two years as a Catholic, to recall how definitely Protestant I was right up to the time that God gave me the grace to want to weigh the evidence which now seems to me to be so persuasive and abundant.
That I was not an exception to the ordinary run of Protestants has been very definitely brought home to me in the experience of my priestly life and in comments which have become very numerous in the present infant stage of the art of dialogue. And so, in this chapter, I want to discuss my own case and one or two other examples to try to show that the first step in dialogue must be to try to inspire an interest in the treasure before parading the evidence that the treasure is there. This will involve some repetition from my previous writing but I hope that will be forgiven in view of its usefulness in the present context.
An unsuspecting devout Catholic may do more harm than good by volunteering inducements to seek the treasure before creating the suspicion that there is a treasure worth considering. If there is one thing that is "anathema" to the otherwise docile Protestant, it is the impression that Catholics have the smug conviction that they have all the answers.
This was brought home to me in no uncertain terms in a letter I received the day after an interview with a well-intentioned Episcopalian woman who had come to me because I was a convert and so should be able to advise her how to live at peace while sharing an apartment with a cradle-Catholic who was precious because of their mutual interest in music but a great trial because of their opposing religions. She wrote: "I should have known better than to expect any help from a priest. Your only suggestion for a solution was that I should become a Catholic, which you should have known is no answer at all. The Catholic notion of being completely right and brooking no disagreement with their opinions is intolerance of the worst kind and far from a Christian attitude!" As a matter of fact, I had not suggested that she should become a Catholic; I merely stated that the reason I was a Catholic was that I had finally come to see that my belief that Christ is God demanded that I believe that His promises had not failed. But she got the point very literally.
In my reply I frankly confessed that I would very likely have expressed the same idea in the same terms when I myself attended the same parish church to which this Lady belonged. I invited her to come back once more but she never did. That interview taught me a lesson that I should have been smart enough to know from my own experience - don't recommend the Catholic Faith until you have given your client some notion that it is worth looking into.
I say I should have known, because it took almost twenty years of the saintly Catholic example of the girl I married before I was ready to go to a priest whom I very much admired and say: "I don't think that there is a chance that I will ever become a Catholic, but the claims of the Catholic Church are so prodigious that it seems stupid not to learn the doctrine and examine the evidence." It took another year-and-a-half before the grace of God took over and let me see that it is Christ who has all the answers and that He gives them to us in His Church plus the Sacraments to clinch them.
As I have said elsewhere, it is easy for us to see that Christ's guarantee of infallible protection makes the answers His and not ours, but one must be far along in the realm of grace before he begins to see that faith is not concerned with the balancing of opinions. It is a strange paradox that infallibility which we regard as the indispensable ingredient of unity is without doubt one of the greatest obstacles to union.
But before dealing with the answer to that one, I want to continue with two other examples of Protestant thinking similar to my own. Both were well educated prosperous men of good-will. Both considered themselves quite safe before God in the practice of Christianity although neither really worked at the practice of his nominal Anglican Faith. And neither of them would ever have dreamed of the switch to Catholicism were it not for an exterior conditioning incentive. You and I would recognize these incentives as external graces that brought these two men individually to me for instructions.
The inherited Anglicanism of the first one to come had practically lapsed into a thoroughgoing acceptance of existentialism, situational ethics, rationalism, and Darwinian Evolution. He submitted to taking instructions to please his fiancée who was a good practicing Catholic. While he had no notion of becoming a Catholic, he wished to know much more about his intended wife's religion than the mere superficial instruction required for a dispensation to marry.
I was a little startled to find that while he was not exactly atheistic, he felt no urgency to posit the immortality of his soul or the probability of a future life. He could see no reason to argue that his soul had any characteristics that might not be shared by a good smart hunting dog.
So, with considerable misgiving, I started at the grassroots to expound, not Catholic doctrine, but the Catholic motive for faith. The doctrine itself has only academic interest for such a man until he is given some reason to think that it might apply to him. The only source of hope lay in the fact that he had sufficient respect for his fiancée to make him willing to give up all of every free Saturday afternoon and drive a hundred-mile round trip to spend two or more hours listening to my effort to enlist his interest.
It was about the middle of his third visit when, in a slightly embarrassed and therefore absolutely sincere manner, he said: "Father Bede, it is only fair to you that we should understand each other better - I don't believe anything that you have told me thus far and I see no reason to believe in immortality of the soul or the purpose of creation which you describe. I think creation is God's continuing experiment." He then went on to affirm pretty much the philosophy of situational ethics as appealing to his reason.
My thought was: "what a dismal prospect for a mixed-marriage with a good Catholic woman!" but my reply was, "Well, what I have been telling you, if true, would be important enough to give it a further try and if you are willing to continue to come, I will continue to try to offer evidence." He agreed, and so we went on with no ray of hope that I could see until, at the sixteenth meeting, after we had really become good personal friends, he remarked: "Father Bede, I can't understand how you managed to be so patient with me at our early meetings when I was voicing all my notions about God looking on while man works out his destiny in this world."
That remark was the first inkling of his budding humility that at last permitted God to take over with grace and come to the rescue of his almost despairing instructor. From then on, the leaven of grace was almost tangible. The man felt bound in charity to consult his Anglican Pastor at this point, and came next time with a report of a two-hour session which resulted in nine main reasons why he should not become a Catholic. His acquiescence on the following Saturday to my nine answers was almost laughable as a demonstration of the change of heart which occurs when God's grace takes over.
Two weeks later he made his Profession of Faith and one week after that it was my privilege to assist at their nuptial Mass. Their obvious happiness and gratitude to God has continued to grow year after year and to clinch my conviction that, given an external motive to study the evidence with perseverance, the grace of faith is almost certainly assured.
I have dwelt at length on this example because it is rather an extreme case of "starting from scratch" although this young man's attitude is repeated in a very large percentage of our so-called "best people" today. I am sure, too, that there is no starting background, even though it be pure atheism or materialism, that will not yield to grace if there is an outside motive to see it through to the end. My thesis is: that the only hope of success in dialogue between Catholics and non-Catholics, be they Christian or non-Christian, lies in a universal Catholic undertaking to gradually create that outside motive to see it through to the end. I have sat in on much dialogue which merely attempts to explain doctrine or listen to the same attempts from others. I am convinced that, except for those who already have an outside personal motive other than just an urge for union, such dialogue is almost useless.
The reason for my conviction is that such dialogue is all too likely to strengthen that almost universal notion put in words by the correspondent I have mentioned who maintained that Catholics have the "attitude of being completely right and brooking no disagreement with their opinions." And if this were really true, it would certainly justify her further comment that such an attitude is "intolerance of the worst kind and far from a Christian attitude."
The truth is that our faith is not at all a matter of opinion arrived at, as theirs must be, by a study of the Bible and an appraisal of tradition and history. Our faith rests solely on the evidence that the teaching which Christ gave to the Apostles has been handed down to us without change or addition or omission in accordance with the promise of Christ. It is not an opinion but God's word and to merely compare it with other opinions is more apt to provide occasion for impatience rather than agreement.
The doctrine itself may almost be said to be incidental. If it is the word of God, it must be true; if not, it is meaningless. The motive for accepting it as the word of God is a very different thing from the appraisal of the doctrine itself. God in His wisdom has given sufficient evidence to support this motive for acceptance as the word of God. Acceptance itself is a supernatural act of faith and is a gift from God. But aptness for this gift stems from a submissive trust in God and a reflection of His love. It is this trust and this love that our dialogue must seek to build.
Christ and His Mother and His Apostles offered it from the very beginning and the response was sufficient to launch the Church in spite of the most determined persecution that the world has ever seen. But while the persecution produced saints and martyrs who continued to offer the invitation to love, it also produced in fallen man a deep-seated opposition and hostility which left a very sorry record of counter-opposition and hostility right up to the present day.
The saints have presented the Church as Christ presented it, the Custodian of a treasure beyond comparison with any other to be found in the world. Far too many others, however, have prolonged hostility that has killed the Charity of Christ and with it the motive to listen to the evidence that Christ has given. It is only a change of heart in ourselves that will right the wrong that has undoubtedly been done through all too many centuries and bring a willingness to listen such as I have described in one instructee who surrendered to grace after a start as unpromising as any of those whom we wish to win.
As I had said, I wish to tell you of one other convert who was conditioned by an external motive to examine the evidence. And then I wish to examine the comments of some who, I think you will agree, are equally unpromising but who cannot be persuaded to listen to the evidence until we can contrive to give them an external motive. After that I will suggest a way of doing it.
The other convert was no less "tough" in that he required twenty-nine two-hour sessions before God took over with grace. But he had the same indispensable ingredient of determination to persevere in examining the evidence for the motive for faith. He himself said several times that he would stay with it till he saw the answer or saw why the answer was wrong. And that, of course, we know is all that is needed for success because the answer is not wrong.
In a way, however, it was more difficult to guide him than the man who admitted that he did not believe anything I had told him after five hours of instruction. This man spent much time between lessons reading whatever I recommended and agreed with much of it, but his chief difficulty was utter inability to attach any meaning to prayer. It seemed that his contact with the supernatural was utterly blank.
And so his understanding of my explanation of Grace baffled him and required many hours of re-explanation as did the concept of the law of man's nature as a law imposed by God. It gradually began to be clear to me that most of his difficulty stemmed from intellectual pride, the great enemy of those who are best educated and most sophisticated.
In my notes regarding our twelfth meeting I jotted down the following: "He admits that his trouble may be pride and seems to take a little secret complexity in the fact that his superiority makes it difficult for him to submit to an admission of inadequacy." Intellectual pride is probably the most difficult obstacle to grace, but at long last, God again took over and pride yielded with amazing generosity. Again it was almost laughable to note the reversal of stance when grace began to work.
These two men have been claimed by grace because they had the incentive to examine the Catholic motive for faith however long it might require. There are thousands, however, of equally good-will who are even closer to the faith at the start, who do not have this incentive and who are not being drawn to it by our present form of dialogue. The reason is that in spite of super good-will and almost painful friendliness, the discussion is about items of doctrine and usually takes the form of defending one's own and stating objections without ever adverting to an incompatible basis for belief.
When one item is supported by individual interpretation of the "Bible-only" theory and its opposite stems from the word of God handed down for two thousand years by the Holy Spirit, no progress can result. For example, another thousand years of this type of dialogue will never resolve opposite viewpoints regarding the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Infallibility of the Holy Father. This latter item is, of course, as I have said, the key to all the rest and is an obstacle as a result of misunderstanding of its meaning almost more than from a misunderstanding of its source.
Reverend Robert McAfee Brown, Professor of Theology at Stanford University, exemplified the difficulty as to all three of these items according to a press report of his Ecumenical Workshop at Trinity College, Washington. He was quoted approximately as follows:
"We can't accept infallibility. The basic hard-core difference centers on authority, and in particular on the infallibility of the papal office.
"To state it bluntly, for the Catholic the doctrine of papal infallibility guarantees that the Holy Spirit will not forsake the Church, while for the Protestant, the doctrine seems to suggest that the Church has forsaken the Holy Spirit rather than living in subjection to Him...
"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, but he does so agonizingly for he realizes that in so doing he accentuates the difficulties on the road to reunion.
"Protestants, taking Scripture as their doctrinal norm, find no justification in the New Testament for such dogmas as that of the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption of the Virgin into heaven. They fear that such doctrinal developments are gradually leading the Roman Catholic Church toward a greater and greater exaltation of Mary at the expense of her Son."
Dr. Brown's comment of infallibility shows a misunderstanding of the doctrine as to both counts of his objection. "The basic hard-core difference," he said, "centers on authority and in particular of the infallibility of the papal office." This, of course, is a common mistake.
Papal Infallibility is not even remotely connected with Papal Authority. Both come directly from God but they work in opposite directions. Papal Authority is positive and involves the primary jurisdiction over the whole Church given by Jesus Christ to Saint Peter and symbolized by Christ's promise of the "Keys" given to Peter. Papal Infallibility is negative and amounts to a promise from Christ that if the Holy Father, through human frailty, were prepared to certify wrongly as to revealed doctrine, he would be prevented from doing so by the Holy Spirit. To associate infallibility with authority and to call it a forsaking of the Holy Spirit rather than living in subjection to Him, is to imply that Catholics believe that God has promised to make true whatever the Holy Father may choose to declare, which is absurd and heartbreaking as an approach to dialogue.
But that this is what Reverend Brown intended to imply, is very hard to detach from his next statement. "To state it bluntly," he continues, "for the Catholic the doctrine of papal infallibility guarantees that the Holy Spirit will not forsake the Church, while for the Protestant, the doctrine seems to suggest that the Church has forsaken the Holy Spirit rather than living in subjection to Him." There is a tiny impulse to reply sharply to this move to state it bluntly. That, however, would be the very opposite of the kind of ecumenical dialogue which I believe is absolutely essential if there is to be any hope of success.
It would not be unfair, however, to comment that history discloses events that show quite the opposite to be true. Submission to the guidance of the Holy Spirit has brought it about that the Teaching Authority of the Catholic Church has continued without a single addition or omission or change in the teaching handed down by Christ, not by writing it in the New Testament, but by telling it to the Apostles and their successors until the present day. And that includes and proves, not only papal protection from error, but also the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.
On the other hand, the very meaning of Protestantism has been to make a departure from this divinely protected deposit of faith by addition to, omission from, or non-submission to the perennial teaching of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And this alone accounts for the present division which is the shame of Christendom before the non-Christian world.
It is, of course futile to debate these questions when one takes his stand on "Scripture as a doctrinal norm," and "his own understanding of how God works through men," and the other takes his stand on Christ's promise to He chosen teachers.
Not finding the answer in Scripture is a very inadequate proof that the answer was not well known to those for whom the New Testament was first written, since they had already been practicing it for a whole lifetime of adult converts. Furthermore, as Saint John so plainly states in his Gospel and Epistles, persecution had made it dangerous to put some of the items of revelation in writing. And still further, it is very obvious that none of the New Testament was written as a handbook of doctrine but rather as an impassioned invitation to love what Christ loved and to share in His love.
We should never refuse to be sharers of whatever dialogue is offered or accepted by our brothers who do not have our precious gift of Faith, but our aim should always be to create an understanding for the motive for faith and to point out in a friendly way the futility of debating opinions based on opposing foundations. This can best be nourished by fervent and constant prayer and by heeding Saint Paul's admonition to: "Train thyself to grow up in holiness." The only fruitful dialogue is that in which the sharers can embrace each other in the "Kiss of Peace" and really mean it!
CHRIST'S COUNSEL FOR MENDERS
In preparing the pages of this book, I have become ever more emphatically impressed by the pleading message of Christ to each and every member of the Catholic Church. Those who have fallen away or have become lukewarm or have abandoned the Blessed Sacrament because of sin or disloyalty of any kind - the Christ of Gethsemane is begging you to come back to Him and to love His Church. He is suffering because of your individual failure to be loyal to Him.
He is not in a far-off heaven but He is more present to you than you are to yourself. And your disloyalty proves that very thing. He reads every thought in you heart and His infinite Godhood makes Him yearn for your love and your loyalty as if you were the only one for whom this world was created. And above all, as if He had submitted to the torture of the Cross to save you alone from the danger of hell.
Christ is earnestly calling every single one who has ever been a member of the Church or who has ever heard the message He has given to the Church. He wants you to know that He needs you and not someone else, but you! He wants you to realize the precious treasure He is offering to you and to turn back to Him. He begs you to turn away from the MESS that laxity and malice have contrived to bring upon His Church in counterfeit and false renewal.
And all this makes me know that Christ is calling me to plead with every Catholic who has remained loyal to Him. I say this, not that I think myself to be an inspired prophet, but as reporting something that Christ has made so obvious that it shouts to be heard by every ear. He wants every loyal Catholic to become an active Mender of the Mess! He wants each of you to call the rest to TRUST Him and to come close to Him. He wants each active Mender to pray for His Church. Above all, give an example of seeking perfection. Be active in any movement that seeks to mend what is wrong. Give yourself to Him as His instrument in all that you do.
Priests, Religious, and lay men and women! Christ is asking me to beg for an army of real true Menders. And I want to prove all this in Christ's own words!
Back in the days before World War Two there was a gay, carefree, wealthy woman in France by the name of Gabrielle Bossis. She was well known because she was very successful in writing and acting in amateur theatricals and she was invited all over Europe because of her skill. When she died in 1950, her many friends were utterly amazed to learn that she had been the source of a fascinating series of interviews with Christ now reported in a pair of little paperbacks entitled LUI et MOI or He and I, and published in English or French by Editions Paulines, of Sherbrooke, Province of Quebec.
These words of Christ were spoken in secret to the mystic but they are so obviously addressed to every person in the world that they all but compel a change of heart, no matter who you are!
God interrupted my last reading of HE AND I with a message from Father Regis Barwig in his book, WAITING FOR THE RAIN, just published by the Benziger Sisters. The message reads, "No Christian can genuinely claim to serve God in the Church if he is oblivious of his role of participating in its life and in the protection of its doctrinal integrity. This is obedience to Christ." (p. 81.)
Then, upon opening HE AND I, Christ clinched these words by saying: "The most beautiful gift you can give Me is your joy in serving Me." (2-18-47.)
And with that, I started jotting down the parts of Christ's message which especially calls to Menders. The theme of them all is the intimate love of Christ for each one to whom He speaks. So, I will start with one that is typical:
"I walk along the same path with you, the path I chose for you from all eternity - in this family, in this country where you live. It is I who placed you there with special love. So live there, full of faith, remembering that that is where you will win heaven, where you will win eternal love for this brief moment of time." (9-12-40.)
And here is one that should be read at least twice by those who fail to appreciate the need for prayer:
"It seems strange to you, but there is grace that I cannot give unless you ask for it." (10-11-40.)
Then, Christ wants to let you know that every minute of every day is apt for Mending:
"You know that you must give great importance to the very little things of every passing moment because, in My eyes, the eyes of God, only your love will give value to what you do...Work in order to please Me more and in order to make up for past flaws. Do you realize that a single one of such moments can make amends for an entire life? Whatever you do, do it well, looking at Me and asking Me for My Glory. And God will bless you." (5-8-41.)
"Entrust yourself to Me constantly. And always give Me each moment as it passes. Isn't it better in My hands? (8-28-41.)
In the Gospels we sometimes hear Christ say, "Oh you of little faith." Here is a message that says there is no limit to the FAITH and TRUST He asks of us:
"Always trust. Trust more and more - even to the point of expecting a miracle. Don't stop half way or you will set limits to My love. When you have unfolded your confidence you will unfold it still more without ever being able to exceed what I expect of you." (8-28-41.)
The next one has helped me to pray the Rosary with much better attention:
"When you pray, keep your eyes on Me. Enter into My eternal thoughts, otherwise you will find your own thoughts wandering. Keep in mind that you are all dependent upon one another, so that if one of you does something perfectly, it adds to the treasure of the whole Church." (2-12-42.)
Here is one that struck home to me! Christ says that we will even wish that we could come back to earth from heaven so we would know how we ought to yearn for heaven while we are here. This supports my claim that we ought to rejoice as the close of each day brings "Graduation" nearer.
"Later on when you understand My love, you will be ready to return to earth for the sole purpose of yearning for Me even for a single instant. Ready to suffer, too, to the very end of time. Don't refuse Me anything. Say: 'My beloved, just as you wish.' This will make Me happy, and the thought of My happiness will help you. Do your very utmost to be one with Me." (5-21-42.)
Next, Christ asks the same question that I have been asking Menders to think about. It is really the most important part of the work of Mending!
"Could any work be more beautiful in your life on earth than to help Me save sinners? There are so very many. Wasn't that what made Me suffer most in Gethsemane?" (1-14-43.)
The need for humble, patient stick-to-itiveness is a requirement for Menders. But Christ makes it worthwhile!
"I can sanctify you in an instant. But I love your long and patient work; it keeps you humble. Acquire loving humility - it will exalt you. Discouragement never elevates anyone." (8-26-43.)
Christ then gives a reason for His counsel to Menders:
"Get used to living for eternity, for nothing has the slightest importance in time that does not count for eternity. Judge everything in Me and by Me. My judgments are not always yours. Let the compassion of My Heart flow through you to all who come near you. Let them see it in your smile, in your way of welcoming them. Oh! these contacts with others, how much good can come from them. But implant My Name in your heart like a banner." (10-7-43.)
"Each one of your thoughts and feelings and actions has its repercussion for good or evil. These are great truths. Ponder them on My Heart. Picture yourself always before My watchful eyes." (1-13-44.)
Did it ever occur to you that trials can be an asset?
"Offer Me all the crosses of the world. There are so many just now and few think of offering them to Me in expiation for sins. You who do know, help, so that nothing may be lost. Give Me hearts. Give Me souls. I am thirsty. Always." (10-15-43.)
Then comes a little bedrock advice reminiscent of Saint Paul's plea for holiness for Menders.
"You remember what I said: 'If I go away I shall send Him to you.' So call the Holy Spirit often. Holiness is His kingdom. Ask frequently. Why should you be ashamed? Aren't you all made to be saints, and can you be filled with light without divine help? What a joy it would be for Me if all people became holy.
"If you love to please Me, then why not aim at holiness? Seek the help of the Holy Spirit often for this. Let Him possess you; ask Him to do so in My Name.
"Do everything out of love for your ever-present God. Think of your neighbor's welfare. Seize every opportunity of doing good, for this is the same as to lay hold of Me.
"Oh! this work of purification! Begin. Begin. Make use of My merits since they are yours. Take them and offer them to the Father. They are your adorning jewels. They are your beauty." (5-5-44.)
"Your trust and your joy honor Him. Expect everything from Him and everything will come to you." (6-22-44.)
How can these words fail to plant in us a desire to use the tremendous power for good that He places at our disposal and invites us to use in union with His Holy Spirit for our good and for the good of the world? Too many of us are, perhaps unconsciously, blinded from the intimacy of this union with Him by the utter blank that the supernatural is allowed to register in the heart of the atheist and materialist. Their minds are artificially sealed against the obvious by acts of their own will.
And God will not change their wills involuntarily. But He begs us to make it possible for Him to give them external graces by our steadfast example. He asks so little of us, but whenever and whatever we give, He spreads the efficacy of our help in ways that we can only faintly guess. So, never stop trying, and be mindful of His counsel to heed the supernatural. He reminds us especially of the supernatural trust with which we should accept the crosses He chooses for us and so enhances our example:
"Don't ever think that anything comes by chance; it is always I, Love itself, in everything...How much sweeter than chance it will be for you, less cold too. Your great Friend directing your life! Just think of it. Your daily cross, your nightly cross - hold it close to your heart, for it comes from Me. It is not just any cross; it is yours, the one I wanted you to have. Kiss the hand that gives it to you and go patiently on you way with it. With Me." (7-27-44.)
If you find yourself consoled by this reason for accepting crosses, take advantage of the progress you have made and heed His next request:
"Say to Him, again and again, 'I realize that I know nothing about you. But with faith and confidence I give myself lovingly and without reserve in life and death, for You are more and more present, more and more loving, more and more mine.'" (8-3-44.)
Then, if you find that you really have begun to make Him more and more present to you, more and more yours, stop and think how much more you belong to Him:
"I want My children to be wholly and utterly Mine at every moment. So don't withhold a thing. Don't take anything of yourselves away. You would steal from Me if you did, because everything is Mine." (4-20-45.)
"Ask more often that My kingdom come. The hour of the Father's kingdom can be hastened if His children only plead with Him more earnestly." (9-1-44.)
All this emphasizes the infinite treasure we have in the help that this oneness with Him places at our disposal. And again, He calls on us to use this power He offers to us:
"But My close friends, why, why don't they call louder to Me from their heart's deeps? If only their belief were less like unbelief!" (4-26-45.)
But if we are thoroughly clinched in this oneness with Him, we are ready to be of service to Him by bringing others to Him:
"Love - not only those who are kind, but those who would snub you. Try to counter-balance the fearful weight of opposition to My desire for kindness and love. Very few are My truly loving friends - those who love Me for the sake of My love." (9-12-45.)
"Examine yourself often. See if you play the part I have assigned to you with regard to others. I mean the role of giving Me to others." (9-20-45.)
This preliminary work of bringing souls to Christ paves the way for World-Mending. It is bound to meet with some disappointment and trials even though it is practiced in union with Him. We cannot forget the utter failure of some of God's own appeals which made Him suffer in Gethsemane. So, He reminds us that we must share Gethsemane with Him; for this is still, and always will be, a "Vale of Tears," until the end:
"Do you fully realize that you need trials in the spiritual life, our life together? Life on earth is not yet life in heaven. It's only love's beginning. Love grows in trial - even the very little ones, but it doesn't notice this; its hunger is never satisfied. What joy it gives Me to help you!" (10-4-45.)
"I love to live My life again on earth through My children. If you knew how few allow Me to do this!" (11-22-45.)
As long as we are immersed in the natural, material atmosphere of the world, we need to be reminded that it takes FAITH to make us always aware of the infinitely more real supernatural eternity in which all this takes place:
"Faith should permeate everything you do. Faith in My acting Presence in you. Faith in the love that is leading. When you are very sure of the love living in you, what a change in your life!" (1-17-46.)
"If only you knew who God is...and how much He deserves to have you study His unsearchable riches, His generosity, His extreme goodness, His love, and again - yes, and always - His love, for love is the essence of His being." (5-23-46.)
Now, if you really believe what He asks you to believe, you will be more than ready to give yourself to Him:
"All I ask of you is the will to give yourself to Me at all times, in cloud or sunshine. And I'll take you into the happy Upper Room of My servants and My friends." (7-25-46.)
And when all Menders are assembled in that Upper Room, Christ will give us many words of Good Counsel:
"When will you realize that time - the span of earthly life - is too short, that I need all eternity to love you? That this present life of yours is not your goal, but only a means given to you to earn the other life?" (2-6-47.)
"I need each one of you as if you were the only person in the world, as though the cosmos had been created for you alone, and My love is greater than the cosmos. So let this thought be a strength to you in your smiling calm." (3-6-47.)
"Don't seek Me far from yourself. you have Me right within you as a candle has its flame." (4-25-47.)
"You don't have enough trust. Who will give Me this look of abandonment that I am looking for?" (5-3-47.)
"What pains love is indifference, apathy, stagnation. When it comes to Me, many people act as if I were still dead. But My child, I am alive and I'm near them, in them, waiting for them to talk to Me, to smile at Me. Waiting for their heart to beat a little for Me." (1-3-48.)
"And how can My joy be described? The joy of your Christ who yearns so much for oneness with His children that He invented the Eucharist in order to merge with them. Oh, new Spirit, freeing God's people from the old yoke of fear!" (1-10-48.)
"You receive Me in Communion in the morning. What is there to prevent you from giving thanks all day long?" (6-9-47.)
"And yet you are my creation - My children. Your life should be one continual thanksgiving for all that I have done for you." (1-29-48.)
And when our local Mending is in full swing, Christ turns to His Mother, Queen of Angels and Queen of Men, and asks us to go forth to the world with her and in her loving care:
"Never leave your Immaculate Mother. She won't leave you either. She loves you even more than your own dear mother. She suffered more to give birth to you, for she bore My death. Queen of Martyrs! If suffering increases love, just imagine the tenderness she feels for you. Nothing could ever quench it, not even your ingratitude. Thank her. Love her. Above all, speak to her about your love, and this will draw you nearer to Me. Where else would she lead you if not to Me? She is much too humble to take for herself what belongs to Me, she who lived for God alone. Ask her to teach you to live for Me. Put all your trust in her. She will help you on your uphill climb; it is strenuous work climbing the mountain of perfection...Live simply with us as at Nazareth. Nothing in our intimate life will be kept from you. I give everything I have, even the love of My Mother. When you feel weak or alone, come to us. You don't need any introduction. We've known you for a long time and better than you know yourself. Our poor little child, humble yourself before our great love for you. Love to comfort us for those who do not!" (12-9-43.)
Our Lady of Fatima offered us relief in 1917 if enough of us would pray the Rosary for the conversion of Russia. Many did respond and some have been Menders ever since then. Their prayers and works and Communions are still in God's eternal treasury. But apathy, laxity, and malice, all nourished by Satan, have opened wide the Gates of Hell for a showdown in these days.
Christ is asking all the hearers of these words of His to join the hosts of those enlisted under the Queen of Angel And Men. She asks for millions more to volunteer NOW! Your weapons will be prayers, Rosaries, the Sacrament of Penance, frequent week-day Mass and Communion, and example of true Catholic living. With these she asks you to storm heaven to close these Gates of Hell. If we fail, God has alternative means but, if we had the faintest notion of their nature, not one of us would fail to heed the present call. I beg you to believe me! LET'S MEND THE MESS!
Read Fr. Bede Reynolds' other books:
A Rebel from Riches
How Come My Faith?
Project Sainthood: Your Business
Draw Your Strength from the Lord
Help Us O God