Sunday, 29 November 2020

First Sunday of Advent.

 Blessed and happy new liturgical year! The season of Advent hails the commencement of another new year, a year which begins so properly by a period of expectant preparation for the arrival of the Christ Child.

The tone of this season can be a model for the entire year, for what better way to live the remainder of the year, than by continuing in such a spirit of devotion to the Infant King. 

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans in the Mass today presents this theme, which serves as such a guide for Advent in particular but for the year in general: “knowing the season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed.”

“The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.” The night of the previous year is passed indeed, yet the day seems further off than ever before. Instead of a happy advance to the Christmas season, the world is beset on all sides by darkness and evil, the like of which has never been seen. 

Here, the defeatist will say, to what purpose then is any armour of light? How can we hope to cast off the works of darkness, when they crowd out the light? 

Yet, as covered last week, the spirit of the Friend of the Cross is a joyful acceptance of the armour of God, because any fight in His army and for His honour, cannot be in vain. Such a Friend of the Cross even delights in the battle, more than in rest, since only in the spiritual fight can a warrior prove himself in the service of the glorious Captain.

Therefore, now truly is the time to rise from sleep and to take up the armour of light, for it is the duty of all faithful children of God to heed this call. 

Advent marks such a time, in which one can be formed in this kind of ‘spiritual knighthood’, in the manner of the medieval squires. It is the time wherein voluntary penances and pious practices serve to curb the selfish impulses which we all have, so as to be able to better serve the Captain without distraction. Advent also allows one to learn the arts of spiritual battle through reading lives of the saints, practicing daily meditation with renewed zeal and availing of the sacraments more frequently. 

For what purpose then, does the Church today present Her children with a Gospel commencing with such terrifying prospects? “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves; Men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved.”

Is it to terrify the soldiers in formation, so that they never garner the courage to enter the battlefield? Or is it rather to instil a pious and proper fear of the Lord, learning of what faces those who oppose the Heavenly Captain? It is of course, the latter. Indeed this much is alluded to next in the Gospel passage, when we are told “when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.” 

Beginning this new liturgical year with the period of Advent, thus allows us to welcome the Infant King at Christmas time, much more worthily formed and trained in the battle to which He shall lead us, but also to be ready for the time when “your redemption is at hand.”

For even though “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Thus, in order to adhere to the words of the Divine Captain so that one might remain constant in the midst of the “distress of nations”, the period of Advent is crucial. While the world is busy physically preparing for the day of Christmas, without understanding its meaning, the Church is busy also, forming Her members so that on that same day, they might kneel before the Child in the manger, offering their service in the company of the Friends of the Cross.

Dom Gueranger has these words to say regarding the season of Advent, as drawn from his work The Liturgical Year: “Let those, then, who are not touched by the tidings of the coming of the heavenly Physician and the good Shepherd who giveth His life for His sheep, meditate during Advent on the awful yet certain truth, that so many render the redemption unavailable to themselves by refusing to co-operate in their own salvation. They may treat the Child who is to be born (Isaiah 9:6) with disdain; but He is also the mighty God, and do they think they can withstand Him on that day, when He is to come, not to save, as now, but to judge? Would that they knew more of this divine Judge, before whom the very saints tremble! Let these, also, use the liturgy of this season, and they will there learn how much He is to be feared by sinners.”

“We would not imply by this that only sinners need to fear; no, every Christian ought to fear. Fear, when there is no nobler sentiment with it, makes man a slave; when it accompanies love, it is a feeling which fills the heart of a child who has offended his father, yet seeks for pardon; when, at length, love casteth out fear, (1 John 4:18) even then this holy fear will sometimes come, and, like a flash of lightning, pervade the deepest recesses of the soul. It does the soul good. She wakes up afresh to a keener sense of her own misery and of the unmerited mercy of her Redeemer. Let no one, therefore, think that he may safely pass his Advent without taking any share in the holy fear which animates the Church. She, though so beloved by God, prays to Him to give her this fear; and in her Office of Sext, she thus cries out to Him: ‘Pierce my flesh with Thy fear.’ It is, however, to those who are beginning a good life, that this part of the Advent liturgy will be peculiarly serviceable.”

“It is evident, from what we have said, that Advent is a season specially devoted to the exercises of what is called the purgative life, which is implied in that expression of St. John, so continually repeated by the Church during this holy time: Prepare ye the way of the Lord! Let all, therefore, strive earnestly to make straight the path by which Jesus will enter into their souls. Let the just, agreeably to the teaching of the apostle, forget the things that are behind, (Philippians 3:13) and labour to acquire fresh merit. Let sinners begin at once and break the chains which now enslave them. Let them give up those bad habits which they have contracted. Let them weaken the flesh, and enter upon the hard work of subjecting it to the spirit. Let them, above all things, pray with the Church. And when our Lord comes, they may hope that He will not pass them by, but that He will enter and dwell within them; for He spoke of all when He said these words: ‘Behold I stand at the gate and knock: if any man shall hear My voice will open to Me the door, I will come in unto him.’ (Apocalypse 3:20).”

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Last Sunday after Pentecost - Perseverance and hope.



 This Sunday marks the end of the Church’s liturgical year, with the commencement of Advent next Sunday. The secular world hails the turn of the calendar year at the end of December with much noise and excitement and even resolutions. When the festivities have died down, however, these same resolutions appear often too onerous to maintain, and the year quickly becomes akin to the one before, with the same pitfalls as have happened previously.

Yet with Catholics, this can not be so. The close of one liturgical year and the imminent commencement of another, ought to be a period for deep reflection, particularly in light of the upheaval which has occurred in the recent months.

For the last Sunday before Advent marks the passage of yet another year, a year  which is replaced by another in which we are  called to become more fervent in the path of perfection and more devoted to the practice of the spiritual life. But, one might easily say, how can we? Where is the time for such a thing, when the world is in a state of disorder, when governments encroach on the rights of the Church, when tyranny and fear are spread so swiftly and so easily? How am I supposed to make any progress in sanctity during this year, when surrounded by such chaos?

The objections certainly carry weight, at least on an initial examination. For who can really claim that they have remained wholly unaffected by state of the world, and simply advanced steadily in the spiritual life? However, St. Louis-Marie de Montfort notes that it is in fact these very times, that one can make the best advances in sanctity.

Yes indeed, it is not just essential that one does so in these times of trial, but indeed they are most suited to making such advances in the spiritual life. St. Louis-Marie mentions in his Letter to the Friends of the Cross: “Pleasure seekers unite to enjoy themselves; you must be united to suffer.”

In the words of the great Marian saint, we are called to suffer. The Church, the Bride of Christ is enduring a persecution both from within and without. So also are Her members, whose faith is tried by false teaching and wayward shepherds, but also through the as yet un-bloody persecution which is made upon freedom, dignity, natural rights, family life, and even normal existence. All these circumstances can and must be, the catalyst for an increase in the spiritual life of faithful Catholics. 

Thus, in making this spiritual resolution for the new liturgical year, one must turn to the Gospel text to understand the importance of such an action. 

Holy Mother Church places before Her children a passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel, which serves as a perfect encouragement to renew our efforts in the spiritual life at the start of the new year. 

“But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom, shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come. When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that readeth let him understand.”

Perseverance, even until the end! This is the command of Christ in the face of the terrible destruction which is described in the rest of the Gospel. 

Perseverance - even when “they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains: And he that is on the housetop, let him not come down to take any thing out of his house: And he that is in the field, let him not go back to take his coat. And woe to them that are with child, and that give suck in those days. But pray that your flight be not in the winter, or on the sabbath.”

Perseverance and adherence to the Cross, even when “great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be” shall engulf us.

Perseverance, even in a time when “unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved: but for the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened.”

These lines of Sacred Scripture convey a terrifying, and dreadful image. It is an image of utter ruination, of greatest tumult and upheaval. Indeed, we do not have to look far into our imaginations, to envisage such scenes, as they appear all too readily to be occurring before our eyes. But this Gospel is most deliberately placed on this Sunday, so that we might meditate on the dreadful prospect which Christ speaks of, and so properly form ourselves in readiness for the year ahead. 

Perseverance then must be the battle-cry which is carried always in the forefront of our minds, for only by persevering can we maintain the ‘new year spiritual resolutions’ - only by persevering can we hope to stand firm in the days of great tribulation.

St. Louis-Marie writes of this, saying that “a perfect Friend of the Cross is a true Christ-bearer, or rather another Christ, so that he can truly say, I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me.”

“Do you listen to the voice of Jesus who, burdened with his Cross, calls out to you, ‘Come after me; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark; be brave; I have conquered the world,” writes the saint. 

But coupled with this holy perseverance, must be something else, which sustains one through the trials which are visibly before him. Catholics must possess the virtue of hope.

For hope enkindles the fire within, enabling a person to hold fast to the path of virtue, so as still to be termed a friend of the cross.

Hope gives life and meaning to perseverance, so that emboldened by hope, Catholics will truly be able to persevere until the end and so be saved.

Indeed, even in the midst of persecutions, bloody or un-bloody, as long as we have hope, then all is not lost. For hope points back towards God and directs us to the true goal of all. It is the means by which the Cross seems light and sweet, for hope enables us to see past the pain of the cross to the glory beyond. 

When the world might be on the cusp of self-destruction, tyrants rising in every nation, Catholics persecuted for refusing vaccines made at the cost of innocent baby’s lives - hope must enliven our courage. For at these times, the servants of satan will seem to have won the victory and yet even so be confounded by the hope and perseverance displayed by faithful children of the Church.

No matter what the persecution which will be placed upon us in the near and distant future, hope shall carry us along the royal road of the cross, to eventually reach the glorious sight of the Beatific Vision. 

This then is a resolution which is incomparable - a resolution of perseverance and hope, even in the face of the most abject depravities and worldwide laws which are designed specifically to destroy one’s hope. With every new restriction, every unjust, illogical and illegal law, turning nations into  prison camps, so long as we have hope and perseverance, the slaves of satan shall never win. 

To Christ belongs the victory and it is a victory already won! Through His Immaculate Mother Mary we come before Him, placing ourselves in their hands, and allowing the Redeemer and the Co-Redemptrix to lead us along the royal road of the cross, until finally we approach their heavenly thrones. 

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Prayer - the weapon of choice in an apocalyptic world.

                                             


As Archbishop Viganò issues a renewed call to prayer for the sake of the U.S Election, as well as the world, it is perhaps useful to revisit a previous article on this sight concerning the efficacy of prayer. 

The Archbishop states: "American Catholics can and must pray, because faced with such a massive deployment of adverse forces, only the intervention of God can bring the truth to light. Obviously, this does not exclude renewing the coherent witness of Catholics in the social order. But this human action, always inspired by the common good, must not lose sight of the supernatural dimension. Jesus Christ is the Lord of history and the King of nations: He will not abandon his children in the moment of trial, if they faithfully have recourse to Him and to his Most Holy Mother."


Efficacy of prayer.


In order to answer the question of whether prayer is efficacious, we must turn to the words of Sacred Scripture where we find the wonderful promise of Christ: “And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you”. (Luke 11:9) Yet again the Saviour teaches that “Amen, amen I say to you: if you ask the Father any thing in my name, he will give it you”. (John 16:23) The divine promise has been given therefore, that assures us of the efficacy of our prayers. The spiritual authors note however, that the source of the efficacy of prayer is not within us, but rather in God. Fr Garrigou-Lagrange teaches that “the source of its [prayers’] efficacy is in God and in the infinite merits of Christ”. (1) Thus it would be wrong to imagine that our prayers, whilst having received the divine assurance of being heard, are efficacious due to our own power. As members of the mystical body of Christ, our prayers ascend to Him and through Him and it is only from Him that they have efficacy. Hence we can be like the faithful centurion from the Gospels who recognised that the power of prayer came from God Himself: “I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed”. (Matthew 8:8)

 With the divine assurance of the efficacy of prayer it is no surprise that the Church, through her magisterium, doctors, fathers and theologians, has constantly urged her members to turn to prayer. We have been given such a wondrous gift by which we can communicate with God in this manner and it would be more than foolish not to make use of it. St. Therese likens the gift of prayer as to being a queen who has constant access to her king and is able to receive all that she asks. We can be full of the greatest confidence in the true efficacy of prayer, for God can neither deceive nor be deceived and His words contain no falsehoods. St. Alphonsus Ligouri, in a sermon preached upon this very topic, recalls the words of St. John Chrysostom, who said that “the princes of the earth give audience only to a few; but God grants it to every one that wishes for it”.


Unanswered prayer?


 But there remains the tricky issue of the many prayers which have been made to God and are as yet apparently unanswered. Perhaps this is something which is even an issue for us at the present moment in a time of upheaval. How can we combine the promise of God to hear our prayer, with those prayers which seem to be unanswered?

 Firstly, we must examine whether the object of our prayer is truly worthy of prayer itself. This will be discussed below under the conditions of prayer. But in short, we should not belittle God by praying earnestly that our favourite sports team might win the next game! We ought never to forget Who it is we converse with when we pray. But secondly, we must remember that whilst our prayers may not have been answered yet, this is only because God in His infinite wisdom, does not see fit to do so. We must recall the many saints who prayed for years before their prayers were answered. St. Monica beseeched God for seventeen years for the conversion of St. Augustine! We can only see our immediate needs, whilst God knows exactly when it is best for our prayer to be answered. By allowing us to continue in trial and having constant recourse to prayer, He allows us to draw closer to Him. Indeed, “the simple fact that we continue to pray shows that God is helping us for without a new actual grace we would not continue to pray”. (2) God never responds to our prayers, if they be true prayers, with a simple refusal. It may be the case due our limited knowledge, that whatever we are praying for might not in actuality be good for us, and God is answering our prayer by providing us with something that is better for our spiritual life.

 Such a period of trial, or spiritual dryness, is a special gift from God, granted to those souls whom He knows will eventually flourish under such circumstances. It was the state in which many of the great mystics spent a number of years: saints such as Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross. Just as we receive spiritual consolation and joy in prayer, we should not be surprised if we also receive trial and hardship in our prayer.

 Thus, even if our prayers seem to go unanswered, we must not deduce from this that God has broken his word to us. If they are real prayers, then either God is permitting us to continue in a state of trial or He is answering them in a way which we do not yet see or understand.


The Conditions of prayer.


In what regard then can we say that prayer is efficacious, for we pray for a variety of things, some of which are far less worthy and noble than others? There are certain conditions which must be met for the thing prayed for as well as by the person praying in order to prayer to be true prayer.


Conditions of the object prayed for.


 Prayer must not be seen as some magic card, by which we can attain whatever goal we desire. It is a direct conversation with God and as such should be treated with the dignity it requires. For instance, if one were to meet the Queen, it would be extremely unfitting to ask her to provide the money to buy a favourite car or gadget. It is just so with prayer: prayer is a requisite for attaining Heaven and as such we must pray for supernatural goods which will lead us to heaven, as well as those temporal goods which will assist us in this regard. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange teaches that ultimately, the object of all our prayer must be to have a greater love of God. Whatever is thus not in accord with that end does not meet the condition for being a worthy prayer. Hence we should ask for the spiritual goods we need in order to attain Heaven, but only in so far as they bring us closer to God. No matter what the spiritual good prayed for is, it cannot be bad in itself, but can be bad if prayed for with the wrong intention. For instance, praying for the virtue of humility only so that we might be known as humble, would not be a fitting prayer. Accordingly then, we must submit all our prayers to the will of God, praying that no matter our own desires, His will be done.

 But we should not think that we must avoid praying for anything apart from spiritual goods. Whilst temporal goods are too lowly to be the chief object of our prayers, they are a necessity of our earthly life. Consequently we can and ought to petition God for all those temporal goods which are necessary for us to live well and to attain salvation. With these kinds of prayers especially, the spiritual authors counsel us to be particularly wary of selfish desires dominating our prayer and clouding our judgement as to the object of our prayer. They recommend dedicating these prayers to the will of God particularly, always asking for temporal goods only in so far as is in accord with providence.


Conditions of the person praying.


 With regard to ourselves too there are certain conditions which must be met, in order to pray worthily. These can be summarised in the chief conditions of confidence or faith, humility, attention and perseverance.

 It is here that we turn our attention back to the very start of this discussion and bring faith once more before our minds, for the relation between faith and prayer is, as mentioned, crucial. Faith is essential when praying because to pray without faith in God is pointless. If we lack faith in our prayer then we firstly insult God, who has promised that He hears and answers our prayers. If we pray whilst being full of doubt that He can indeed do so, then we also express a certain lack of belief in God and in His attributes. Such an action merits the words of God to satan, when Christ said “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God”. (Matthew 4:7) In fact, faith in our prayer is an essential element in it being effective as mentioned in the Gospel: “all things, whatsoever you ask when ye pray, believe that you shall receive; and they shall come unto you”. (Mark 11:24) Thus when we pray, if we do so worthily, we should not be surprised to find our prayers answered. Prayer is not some dealing with an unreliable and unknown being. Rather, worthy prayer is conversing with God, a God who has promised to hear and answer our prayers. We can and ought to approach Him with the utmost confidence and faith. Indeed, it would be less surprising if the sun and moon suddenly ceased to be than if God did not answer a prayer. 

 Humility is another condition which must be met, since it would be wrong to misuse the promise of God in such a way as to almost demand to have our wishes heeded. We do not have the right to approach God in the intimate manner in which we can do in prayer, since through our own sinfulness we have infinitely offended Him. Yet in His goodness He has deigned to grant us the grace of such an intimate union with Him. St. James warns that “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble”. (James 4:6) Pride in prayer twists the relation between God and man, and seeks to conform God’s will to ours instead of aligning our will with His.

 Giving proper attention to those around us is part of normal, polite behaviour, yet it is often something which we fail to give to God in our daily prayers. If one examines ones own prayers throughout the day, it will be surprising to recall just how many were full of distractions, or made only half heartedly whilst our minds were otherwise occupied. Hence the spiritual authors teach that we must at least have a serious desire to mean what we say to God. Involuntary distractions are not a fault in our prayers and can even lead to prayer being more meritorious. Such involuntary thoughts are part of human nature, and as long as we resist them when they arise, they form no obstacle to prayer. It is the voluntary distractions which give rise to an impediment to prayer, for through these distractions we make clear the desire to be engaged in something other than conversing with God.

 Finally, we must be persevering in praying, seeking not to have a speedy answer to prayer, but instead uniting ourselves with the will of God. If we do not have perseverance for the object of our prayer, it would seem that we were not particularly bothered as to its attainment. Even in temporal society we must wait up to several years for certain things such as a degree or promotion. As children we were taught that our desires cannot be satisfied immediately, because in this manner we would swiftly become spoiled. It is just so with prayer, for we must demonstrate our devotion and ardent desire through persevering and unfailing prayer.


 To summarise, prayer is not a senseless petitioning of an untrusted being, which bears no relation to the real world. Nor is prayer a form of magic by which we can have all our wishes answered, as if by some legendary genie. Prayer is the very real and personal conversation with an almighty God, who hears and answers us. Prayer, if done worthily according to the conditions set out, is always efficacious. If we have a true and lively faith, which is necessary in order to have a lively spiritual life, then we truly can turn to God in full confidence in constant prayer, and await His aid.

 

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you”. (John 15:7)






  1. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange. The Three Ages of the Interior Life - Volume One, (Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2019), 434.
  2. Ibid, 436.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Archbishop Vigano's call to hope.



This Sunday’s post is a deviation from the norm, however I make no apologies for temporarily abandoning the customary style of this site, in favour of something particularly poignant. 

At present, President Trump fights against the powers of both deep state and deep church combined, who are desperately trying to wrestle the White House out of his hands. His win in 2016 taught the architects of evil a lesson which they were determined not to have repeated. 

Hence, the country that is hailed of the land of the free is now in the midst of the most fraudulent election in its history. More and more evidence appears with every hour, documenting the manner in which votes have been illegally, deceitfully, or falsely cast for Biden, whilst those for Trump have often been discarded.

For the past number of months, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano has been issuing letters, both to President Trump and to Catholics across the world, warning of the terrible consequences of a Biden presidency. Only last month, the Archbishop wrote these words: “If Trump loses the presidential elections, the final kathèkon [withholder] will fail (2 Thess 2:6-7), that which prevents the “mystery of iniquity” from revealing itself, and the dictatorship of the New World Order, which has already won Bergoglio over to its cause, will have an ally in the new American President.”

Archbishop Vigano makes no pretence about the horrors of the situation which the entire world would be plunged into - he speaks the truth with utmost clarity, for all those who wish to see: “We would find ourselves facing an Orwellian dictatorship desired by both the “Deep State” and the “Deep Church,” in which the rights that today are considered fundamental and inalienable would be trampled with the complicity of mainstream media.”

This election is not something which can be ignored by Catholics: it is an election between the most pro-life president America has seen, and a man who wishes to support abortion right up to birth and beyond. Biden’s actions would promulgate a crime so heinous, that the very earth would cry out to God for His justice to come and swiftly end the abomination. 

This is the battle which now rages in the United States of America, a battle between life and death, both physical and spiritual.

On the traditional feast of Christ the King, Vigano once more took pen in hand to warn the world just what was at stake in the upcoming U.S presidential election. He warned of the Great Reset, a termed scorned by many as being a conspiracy theory, yet which is now being promoted in the public sphere: “Its architect is a global élite that wants to subdue all of humanity, imposing coercive measures with which to drastically limit individual freedoms and those of entire populations. In several nations this plan has already been approved and financed; in others it is still in an early stage. Behind the world leaders who are the accomplices and executors of this infernal project, there are unscrupulous characters who finance the World Economic Forum and Event 201, promoting their agenda.”

He issued a warning particularly for those who wish to scornfully ignore such words as hyped-up exaggerations: “Until a few months ago, it was easy to smear as “conspiracy theorists” those who denounced these terrible plans, which we now see being carried out down to the smallest detail. No one, up until last February, would ever have thought that, in all of our cities, citizens would be arrested simply for wanting to walk down the street, to breathe, to want to keep their business open, to want to go to church on Sunday. Yet now it is happening all over the world, even in picture-postcard Italy that many Americans consider to be a small enchanted country, with its ancient monuments, its churches, its charming cities, its characteristic villages.”

The Archbishop noted that it was America which was “the defending wall against which the war declared by the advocates of globalism has been unleashed.” 

It is for this reason that the forces of evil, personified by the deep state and deep church, have concentrated their efforts so majorly upon America and this 2020 election. They could not, and would not accept defeat by Trump once more, and so for this reason took measures to ensure that the votes would make certain of his defeat. 

Now, Archbishop Vigano has written once more, when darkness seems to be closing in on the world and Biden is pre-emptively hailed as president by the liberal elites. I urge all readers to take a few minutes to read the Archbishop’s short letter in full, as it contains both a call to arms and a sign of hope in the face of almost overwhelming evil.

A downloadable version can be found here or it can be read online on LifeSiteNews.

I shall focus on one paragraph only, leaving readers to study the letter in full for themselves.

This section needs special attention in these days, because whilst the forces of evil may try to conquer all before them, they can never succeed if Catholics stay close to the practice of the true faith, and keep hope in God. Once we lose hope, then we have abandoned ourselves to the folly and despair of the world.

“Do not allow yourselves to be discouraged by the deceptions of the Enemy, even more so in this terrible hour in which the impudence of lying and fraud dares to challenge Heaven. Our adversaries’ hours are numbered if you will pray, if we will all pray with Faith and with the true ardor of Charity. May the Lord grant that one single devout and faithful voice rise from your homes, your churches, and your streets! This voice will not remain unheard, because it will be the voice of a people that cries out, in the moment when the storm rages most fiercely, “Save us, Lord, we are perishing!” (Mt 8:25).”


Sunday, 1 November 2020

All Saints.


  

   The great feast of All Saints offers us the chance to dwell on two striking passages from Sacred Scripture - the Epistle being taken from the Apocalypse, and the Gospel being the sermon on the mount, regarding the beatitudes. The Church calls on Her members in the Church Militant, to set aside this particular day, to honour all those souls who have attained the crown of glory but are yet unknown to us by name. It is also a day on which to dwell on the goal of all men, namely, to attain heaven. 

    The French author, Abbe Tanqueray, offers an explanation of the beatitudes in relation to the spiritual life. He divides them between each of the three ways, or stages, of perfection, noting which are proper to each state in the spiritual life. The great spiritual writers and doctors of the Church denote three specific stages or degrees in the spiritual life, the purgative, illuminative and unitive. These are not three contradictory or even different ways, but merely stages of progression in the same spiritual life. Tanqueray thus bases these three ages upon the beatitudes, as a guide for all souls who wish to advance in the spiritual life and achieve the prize which Christ offers. 

Whilst this piece is not devoted to an explanation of the three ways, we can nevertheless avail of Tanqueray’s words regarding the beatitudes, since they are originally presented as a guide to holiness.

He notes the first three beatitudes in relation to the purgative way, or way of beginners. This way is akin to a spiritual childhood, which is the necessary preparation for any advancement in the spiritual life. It is focussed on purification of oneself and mortification, in order to subdue our passions and desires. Such a purification entails that we purify the senses, the passions, the will and intellect. This is effected by further mortifications and prayer, for all means must be made use of in order to purge the soul from its attachment to sin and to strengthen it against temptations.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”: this beatitude calls us to be poor in all manner of riches or honour, and instead seek only God who is the greatest treasure of all. It even counsels against being desirous of great virtue, in case we begin to seek virtue due to a form of spiritual pride. We should instead humbly resign ourselves to seeking the level of perfection which God has ordained for us, firm in the knowledge that any pursuit of perfection will entail great hardship. 

“Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land”: here we are called to practice a spiritual meekness, to control our own desires and outbursts of selfish passions and to unite ourselves to the meek and humble heart of Christ. “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted”: it is better to suffer the ills of the world and endure these sorrows for the love of God, than to be filled with the joys and comforts of the world. The spiritual life is marked by suffering, both through personal mortification and through abnegation of the world. It is this persecution from the world which Christ warned of: “the servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you”.(John 15:20)

Moving forward, Tanqueray denotes the next two beatitudes to the illuminative way. The souls in the illuminative way, having gained mastery of the passions, seek to practice the virtues more fully, in order to imitate Christ. The prayers and virtues which they practice are clearly those which stem from a deeper union with God. “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill”: justice demands that man give to God the honour which is properly His due, hence those who are filled with the desire for justice are called to love God for His own sake more perfectly. “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy”: the fathers teach that justice and mercy must always be united, that man should forgive his fellow man, just as God pardons the repentant sinner.

Abbe Tanqueray then uses the final three beatitudes with particular reference to the unitive way, the highest degree of perfection. It is a way of contemplation, eminent charity and the practice of virtue to a heroic degree. “Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God”: the temple of God cannot be impure, and only the clean of heart are those who can see God, for they have proved themselves worthy despite the temptations of life. “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God”: it is the peacemakers who have subdued all earthly desires and made themselves into the dwelling place of God, since God moves in peace and order. “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”: just as Christ suffered death, taking on Him the sins of man, so we are called to suffer likewise.

This feast of All Saints presents us with the opportunity to properly dwell on this exposition of the beatitudes as they pertain to the spiritual life, for today we honour all saints, but especially those unknown souls who practiced these very beatitudes and virtues to a saintly degree. The Church offers this Gospel for such a reason, providing Her children with the prompts on how to attain heaven whilst pointing them to the intercession of those who have already done so. 

In fact, All Saints represents in a special manner, the true Catholicity of the Church. That is to say, that often the path to sainthood can seem untenable, and reserved only for the great saints, whom are well known and loved, and serve as models of heroic virtue. Yet, on this day, we are called to contemplate on the fact that Christ calls all, has given the means to answer to this call, and assists countless souls to do so, even if they are not known by name. The path to sanctity is not reserved for a special few, but is offered to all.

It should be a feast day of great pomp and circumstance, but also of great hope - hope because we can call upon the many unknown saints in heaven to be our guide on the path to sanctity. Those men and women who were perhaps but ‘normal’ in the eyes of the world, and possibly even the Church, but who cultivated the practice of the virtues and the beatitudes to a high degree, can be our guides and intercessors and exemplars. 

In the very first lessons in studying the Catechism, we learned the answer to the question of why God made us. He did so out of pure love and “to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next”. The language seems somewhat simplistic, but it captures the essence of the call to perfection, which the saints grasped so well. 

The more we know God, the more we love Him, and the greater our love for Him then the more we will wish to follow Him in all things. This love is manifested by serving Him in our daily actions and prayers, which will ultimately lead to being united with God in heavenly beatitude should we remain faithful to Him. This is our final end, the goal which must be ever present in our mind throughout our life, orienting our choices so that we may one day achieve union with the Divine.

Consequently, on this great feast of All Saints, may it be an occasion for Catholics everywhere to renew the practice of the virtues and to take the beatitudes especially to heart, emulating the saints, both known and unknown.


Related posts: The Practice of the Spiritual Life.


                        The Desire for Perfection.

The love of the Sacred Heart

Regular readers will have noted the absence of any post on this blog last Sunday. Many apologies for this unannounced break; normal service ...