Sunday, 25 July 2021

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost : 'your enemies will throw up a rampart about you.'


“For days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a rampart about you, and surround you and shut you in on every side, and will dash you to the ground and your children within you, and will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you have not known the time of your visitation.” These stern and foreboding words are taken from St. Luke’s Gospel, used on this ninth Sunday after Pentecost.

They are all too clear in meaning, and serve as a striking reminder of the hatred which the enemies of Christ have for Him and His Church. Indeed, He warns in John’s Gospel that the servant cannot expect better treatment than the master: “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:20) The passages presented today by Holy Mother Church are not gentle, but are rather a firm teaching of the faith to Her children. She wishes to ensure that Catholics are constantly reminded of the fleeting nature of life, and to be prepared for persecution, rather than be caught unawares.

An athlete prepares constantly for his race, training himself in every aspect that will improve his performance on the day, visualising the course, predicting any obstacles, and steeling himself for them accordingly. He is aware of the pain he must endure in his training, and the pain he will undergo on the race day itself, but because he is desirous of the goal he is able to bear with these hardships. It is likewise in the spiritual life and in the spiritual battle which all are called to partake in by virtue of their baptism, and given the strength to do so by virtue of Confession, Confirmation, and regular Holy Communion. Just as with an athlete’s fitness, a soul is either progressing or regressing in virtue, for one cannot remain stagnant in the pursuit of God. Hence, the Church is not a Church of softness and laxity, but rather, like a good coach, She constantly guides, encourages, and prepares Her children for their trials. 

In this way, therefore, the words of today’s Gospel have an import which, while perhaps initially foreboding upon first glance, are important to dwell on. The day will certainly come when the enemies of God, who are the enemies of all His followers, will present themselves around the faithful souls in the Church, “and will dash you to the ground.” Such a thought is not a hypothesis, nor the words of some crazed fear-mongering doomsday prophet. Rather they are the words of Christ, God-Incarnate, who came down to earth to die for man’s sin. They must, as such, be taken seriously. 

Indeed, in the same passage, the Redeemer warns against the misuse of the Church. “And He entered the temple, and began to cast out those who were selling and buying in it, saying to them, It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of thieves.” 

The admonition which Christ gives to the tradesmen is one which applies in every age also: the Church is a house of prayer. If those inside the Church neglect this aspect, peopling the Church with noise, scandal, desire for money or power, instead of offering true and worthy homage to God, then in truth the very ramparts of the Church which ought to be a defending wall, will seem to be the walls which oppress Her children. The Church is full of sinners and wayward men, yet in Herself is the spotless bride of Christ. Such wayward men will seek to besmirch the spotless garment She wears, tearing down the stones of the Church – “will not leave in you one stone upon another” – out of hatred for God and for His truth.

When this persecution from within is coupled with persecution from the world also, and the protecting walls of a God-centred society are turned into the in-prisoning walls of a satanic-centred society, then the persecution of faithful souls will be most grievous. 

In such moments, all might seem lost, the battle over, and resistance of no merit. Yet it is not so. The great act of redemption came about through the terrible passion and death of Christ, and so too the Church must undergo this passion in faithful imitation of Her Spouse. Nor will Her members be left unassisted, for God does not turn His ears away from those who seek Him. We are reminded of this in the words of the Introit: “Behold, God is my helper, the Lord sustains my life. Turn back the evil upon my foes; in Your faithfulness destroy them, O Lord, my protector. O God, by Your name save me, and by Your might deliver me.”

Almost by means of a training plan, the Church also presents on this day also the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians, in which he outlines the steps necessary for the pursuit of virtue, in order to prepare for the attacks against the faith. The great Apostle warns against the follies and pleasures enjoyed by those amongst the world, in order that faithful souls might wean themselves away from such things, and be drawn only to those which are of God. 

“Brethren: We should not lust after evil things even as they lusted. And do not become idolaters, even as some of them were, as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, even as some of them committed fornication, and there fell in one day twenty-three thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them tempted, and perished by the serpents. Neither murmur, as some of them murmured, and perished at the hands of the destroyer.”

St. Paul clearly states how such words are to serve as a warning for those desirous of seeking God, noting that “they were written for our correction, upon whom the final age of the world has come.” He warns against undue pride and presumption, which is a sure path away from the spiritual life: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

But the Apostle also ends with a word of encouragement, reassuring the Church that no matter the trials which God permits to befall us, they are not unconquerable. God ensures that the graces offered to each soul are sufficient to defeat the temptation or trial which the soul is undergoing. This is a great reassurance, for no matter how heavily the stones are torn down around us, God will not permit His Church to be defeated: “May no temptation take hold of you but such as man is equal to. God is faithful and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also give you a way out that you may be able to bear it.”

Thus, the Church presents a harsh, but necessary passage from Sacred Scripture, designed to ensure that Her children are presented with the tools to equip themselves in the spiritual battles which they are to face. Like a good coach would for an athlete, the Church 

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost - 'Make an accounting of your stewardship'

    

(Elevation at a traditional Mass: Shalone Cason/Unsplash)    

     The Catholic world has been torn apart in the last number of days, with one of the most severe attacks on Tradition which has been made in recent years. The innovators seek to do away with all that is not conformed to their ideals, and such ideals are by no means conformed to the law of God. It is perhaps fortuitous that the Gospel for today bears upon this subject, for St. Luke’s Gospel contains the warning from Christ: “Make an accounting of your stewardship, for you can be steward no longer.” Such a time comes to all on earth – that time when death is nigh, and the pleasures and hardships of this life fade away into nothingness, when faced with the prospect of eternity. 

    In this moment, each soul, faithful or not, will be called before the judgement of God and asked to make an account of his life. Woe to each one who has not followed the law of God; woe to each shepherd who has led his flock away from God. Woe to those also who do not withstand the false teaching of such shepherds. In modern society, morals and values are so depleted, that one can easily lose the horror which should naturally occur when faced with violations of the law of God, and when faced with attacks upon the faith. Yet one useful way to re-learn the horror which should spring naturally in such times – such as when the Pope might attack the faith and Mass of ages – is by dwelling on the moment of particular judgement which occurs after death. 

    For that moment is one of reckoning, in which excuses and reasons are of no use anymore, and one’s life is measured in terms of a simple question: ‘Did you follow Me even unto the cross?’ This question is involved, for it bears upon every aspect of life, every day, every moment. One’s life either tends towards God, or it moves away from Him: there is no room for remaining stagnant in the spiritual life. Consequently, each action can either serve as a stepping stone to align a soul closer with God or to move the soul further away. 

    It is the responsibility of each person to form his conscience well, to seek to know the Truth and to draw closer to Him, so that one might be able to use the precious moments of earthly life to reach the goal that is Heaven. The ‘race’ of which St. Paul speaks is not to be underestimated, for it is one in which every man is called to follow God and to work towards his salvation. The importance of seeking one’s own salvation must remain paramount in every soul. Hence it is that one’s actions must be in accord with that goal. 

    Those in positions of authority have the great burden not only of pursuing their salvation, but also of guiding those of their flock. For these shepherds, the burdens faced but also necessary graces offered, are numerous. There have indeed been many holy, canonised priests, bishops, popes and religious. But there have also been many evil clerics, more interested in power and prestige than the matter of saving their soul, let alone that of the flock entrusted to them. Such false shepherds can cause untold damage, as the have the appearance of sheep but are in reality wolves, who hunger for everything that they ought not.

    Such false shepherds, instead of promoting the faith, seek only to undermine it, to weaken and corrupt it. They do not consider the moment of their judgement, at which point they will have to answer how they heeded the call to the cross and safeguarded the faith of their flock. Each attack upon the Church is an attack upon God, but when the attack comes from within, by one of His anointed ministers, the attack is all the more egregious. 

    When these wolves turn their back upon the faith and seek only to promote their own novel teaching, they reject the duty which they accepted on the day of ordination. They take sides with the devil instead of their Captain, the Eternal High Priest, and scorn the faithful in their charge. Their punishment will undoubtedly come at the time of judgement. 

    St. Alphonsus de Ligouri has this to say about that moment: “Beloved Christians, of all the goods of nature, of fortune, and of grace, which we have received from God, we are not the masters, neither can we dispose of them as we please; we are but the administrators of them; and therefore we should employ them according to the will of God, who is our Lord. Hence, at the hour of death, we must render a strict account of them to Jesus Christ, our Judge. ‘For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body as he hath done, whether it be good or evil.’ (2 Cor. v. 10.) This is the precise meaning of that ‘give an account of thy stewardship,’ in the gospel of this day. ‘You are not,’ says St. Bonaventure, in his comment on these words, ‘a master, but a steward over the things committed to you; and therefore you are to render an account of them’.”

    Each soul has the duty to follow Christ in such a manner that he might answer in the affirmative when he is asked if he heeded the invitation to follow Christ. Yet, following Christ does not simply mean a quiet acceptance of all the sufferings of this life. One can indeed do so for injustices which are made against oneself, but any injustice against the faith, against the Church, against God, must be resisted firmly. The modernists have for so long proposed a form of ‘white heresy,’ whereby they preach love and acceptance, instead of adherence to doctrine. They pretend that following God means that one must be accepting of all, when in fact faithful adherence to the Gospel demands rejection of sin, wherever and whenever it is found.

    In the face of the constant, yet now severe, attacks on the faith by the fake shepherds, every soul is called upon to follow Christ so as to be able to give a worthy account of his actions at the particular judgement. Such a following of Christ demands adherence to the faith which He imparted to His Church, and if many of His ministers have abandoned this faith, it falls to the faithful souls to preserve it, to resist the attacks of the devil made through unfaithful clerics, and to stay true to God.

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost - The danger of false shepherds


    “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Such is the opening line of today’s Gospel, drawn from that of St. Matthew. In many ways, the text needs little expansion, for its meaning is clear: there are many in the world who seek to tempt souls away from the true faith, under the guise of being faithful shepherds themselves. Indeed, their sheep-like clothing is often all too convincing, and their error so subtle so as not to cause alarm. 

    Thus it is perhaps this last aspect which deserves more attention, for while many false prophets are easy to spot, those who cause the most damage are those who align themselves closest to the faith, yet deviate on even just one issue.

    Pope Leo XIII recalls this point in his encyclical Satis Cognitum: “Hence she [the Church] regarded as rebels and expelled from the ranks of her children all who held beliefs on any point of doctrine different from her own. The Arians, the Montanists, the Novatians, the Quartodecimans, the Eutychians, did not certainly reject all Catholic doctrine: they abandoned only a certain portion of it. Still who does not know that they were declared heretics and banished from the bosom of the Church? In like manner were condemned all authors of heretical tenets who followed them in subsequent ages. ‘There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic tradition’ (Auctor Tract. de Fide Orthodoxa contra Arianos).”

    In these current days of laxity, where modernism instead of traditional Catholicism, is more often the policy of priests and bishops, Pope Leo’s words must be read carefully in conjunction with Christ’s warning in the Gospel. 

    “Beware of false prophets,” for they come in all guises, even in clerical ones. The devil rejoices for every soul he manages to lead astray through the lax, false, or ‘dodgy’ teaching of such false shepherds. How many bishops and priests across the world purport to lead their flock, yet resolutely avoid speaking out on issues such as abortion, LGBT ideology, the crisis of faith, corruption of the clergy, promotion of homosexuality and abortion by the Vatican, the immense scandal given by Pope Francis in his regular statements and actions.

Furthermore, how many are there, who are not content with merely silently avoiding these topics, but actively speak in favour of them. Stories abound of priests who inform their congregation that moral issues are a thing of the past, that the Church is an “accompanying Church” rather than a teaching Church, that God does not judge you, that Holy Communion should not be withheld even if you are in serious sin…. The list of examples continues almost endlessly, and comes form every level within the Church. 

    Until such “false prophets” are exposed and denounced, then lies and a misinterpretation of the faith will continue to run rampant within the Catholic Church, spread by those who are called to defend the faith. 

    But some might comment that this accusation is too harsh, and that such clergy are well-meaning and merely confused on particular, minor issues. The Gospel contains the answer to such questions however: “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit.” If such clergy continue to be supported or promoted, they will continue to spread evil fruit. Christ does not entrust His Church with the mission of loosely guarding the Church, and simply watching as its doctrine is relentlessly undermined. No! He gave commands for His disciples to go forth and convert all nations. Even out of simple regard for one’s own soul, such dangerous shepherds must be avoided, so that one does not put himself in danger of being led astray. 

    Christ’s call is full of love, yet it is the love of the cross, which requires similar complete self-oblation in return. If a soul seeks to return a false form of love to Him, then he does not respond to the call issue by the crucified Redeemer. 

    “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them. Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

    It is based on these principles that St. Alphonsus de Ligouri writes on this Sunday concerning the care which must be taken as to the education of children in the faith. Though his words are directed more to the care of children, they can also be understood as pertaining to all souls desirous of learning and pursuing the fullness of the faith. The saint writes about the importance of cultivating habits of virtue so as to form the bedrock of the spiritual life, and equip one for the trials of life, which include the attacks made by false prophets. 

    His principles and admonitions must be applied to souls of every age. The saint teaches that the chief care of parents must be to nurture the faith in their children, and such a responsibility applies to all, whether with children or without. To this end, care must be taken to safeguard oneself against the attacks of the false prophets, of which the Gospel warns. Armed with a ready and firm knowledge of the faith, along with a healthy spiritual life, a soul is more able to see through the wiles and cunning of wolves in sheep’s clothing, those bishops and priests who mislead countless souls. 

    Such faithful souls must seek out the faithful shepherds, those who can bring forth good fruit instead of evil, and whose primary concern is to lead souls to heaven in the fullness of the faith. 

    So widespread is the effect of modernism that it can indeed be hard to find shepherds who do not turn out to be wolves in disguise. But despite this, one must not settle for mediocrity in the matter of one’s path to salvation. For if a soul attaches himself to a false prophet, thinking that the few points of doctrine in which the priest errs are not going to be an issue, then such a soul give due priority to the safety of his path to salvation. Such false prophets, if they are not sound, cannot be a sure guide to bringing forth the good fruit of knowledge of the faith, a fervent spiritual life, and adherence to the doctrine and teachings of the faith as taught by Christ.

    For this reason then, Holy Mother Church presents also the words of St. Paul to the Romans in today’s Epistle, highlighting the importance of avoidance of sin, and seeking ought shepherds who will instruct their flock in the path of grace. “But now being made free from sin and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end life everlasting. For the wages of sin is death. But the grace of God, life everlasting in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Sunday, 4 July 2021

6th Sunday after Pentecost - Devotion to the Precious Blood

 The month of the Precious Blood follows directly on from the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart, which itself follows Mary’s month of May. The union of the Sacred Heart to the Passion is thus made abundantly clear in the devotion of the Church, as is the union of the two hearts of Jesus and Mary.

There is perhaps no better manner in which to embark into the month of the Precious Blood, than by taking the text of the hymn the Church provides for Lauds on the first day of the month, which is the feast of the Precious Blood itself. Praying and meditating upon the stanzas which Holy Mother Church provides for Her children is a sure way to grow in knowledge and love of the Precious Blood, for it is a devotion which is not so commonly found.


Hail, holy wounds of Jesus, hail,

Sweet pledges of the saving rood,

Whence flow the streams that never fail,

The purple streams of his dear blood.


Brighter than brightest stars ye show,

Than sweetest rose your scent more rare,

No Indian gem may match your glow,

No honey’s taste with yours compare.


Portals ye are to that dear home

Wherein our wearied souls may hide,

Whereto no angry foe can come,

The heart of Jesus crucified.


What countless stripes our Jesus bore,

All naked left in Pilate’s hall!

From his torn flesh how red a shower

Did round his sacred person fall!


His beauteous brow, oh, shame and grief,

By the sharp thorny crown is riven;

Through hands and feet, without relief,

The cruel nails are rudely driven.


But when for our poor sakes he died,

A willing priest by love subdued,

The soldiers lance transfixed his side,

Forth flowed the water and the blood.


In full atonement of our guilt,

Careless of self, the Saviour trod—

E’en till his heart’s best blood was spilt—

The wine-press of the wrath of God.


Come, bathe you in the healing flood,

All ye who mourn, by sin opprest;

Your only hope is Jesus’ blood,

His sacred heart your only rest.


All praise to him, the Eternal Son,

At God’s right hand enthroned above,

Whose blood our full redemption won,

Whose Spirit seals the gift of love.

Amen.”


This blog has already mentioned how the love which the Sacred Heart has for men, leads ultimately to the passion, which is the most supreme act of love. How fitting therefore, that after moving Her children to dwell on the Sacred Heart, the Church now moves them to dwell on the Precious Blood of that same Saviour. She is ever keen that Her members be always fixed on the events which won for them salvation, and so even after the period of Lent and the glorious season of Easter, the Church continues to present the passion and death of Christ before Her children, so that they may learn to grow ever closer to the way of the cross. 

Dom Gueranger points to this aspect in his own commentary for the feast: “The Church, it is true, has already made known to the sons of the New Covenant, and in a much more solemn manner, the price of the Blood that redeemed them, its nutritive strength, and the adoring homage which is its due. Yes; on Good Friday, earth and heaven beheld all sin drowned in the saving stream, whose eternal flood-gates at last gave way, beneath the combined effort of man’s violence and of the love of the divine Heart.

The festival of Corpus Christi witnessed our prostrate worship before the altars whereon is perpetuated the Sacrifice of Calvary, and where the outpouring of the Precious Blood affords drink to the humblest little ones, as well as to the mightiest potentates of earth, lowly bowed in adoration before it. How is it, then, that Holy Church is now inviting all Christians to hail, in a particular manner, the stream of life ever gushing from the sacred fount? What else can this mean, but that the preceding solemnities have by no means exhausted the mystery? 

The peace which the Blood has made to reign in the high places as well as in the low; the impetus of its wave bearing back the sons of Adam from the yawning gulf, purified, renewed, and dazzling white in the radiance of their heavenly apparel; the Sacred Table outspread before them, on the waters’ brink, and the Chalice brimful of inebriation; all this preparation and display would be objectless, if man were not brought to see therein the wooings of a Love that could never endure its advances to be outdone by the pretensions of any other. 

Therefore, the Blood of Jesus is set before our eyes, at this moment, as the Blood of the Testament; the pledge of the alliance proposed to us by God; (Exodus 24:8, Hebrews 9:20) the dower stipulated upon by Eternal Wisdom for this divine union to which he is inviting all men, and whereof the consummation in our soul is being urged forward with such vehemence by the Holy Ghost. This is why the present festival, fixed as it is upon a day that must necessarily be one of the Sundays after Pentecost, does not interrupt, in any way, the teaching which these Sundays are particularly meant to convey, but tends rather to confirm it.


What tender words the good abbott uses in order to highlight the importance of the feast of the Precious Blood! “The Blood of Jesus is set before our eyes, at this moment,” he writes calling on all his readers to increase their love of the Blood of the Saviour - that blood which was shed in the brutal agonies of the passion, paying the price for man’s sins.

This same Precious Blood is present on the altars of the world every day, as each alter Christus pronounces the solemn words of transubstantiation, and the sacrifice of Calvary is repeated in an unbloody manner. If one has not taken the time to dwell on this Blood, each drop of which was more than enough to merit for us salvation, then this month provides a perfect opportunity to do so, as Catholics are called on to renew their love of their Saviour, who died and rose again. 


“Come, bathe you in the healing flood,

All ye who mourn, by sin opprest;

Your only hope is Jesus’ blood,

His sacred heart your only rest.” 


How is it that one can afford to ignore such a devotion, for in truth it is not a ‘mere’ devotion, but rather a required response of love, from man to his Redeemer. He who shed His blood so completely and so willingly, deserves our love as a mere act of justice. How much more then, should faithful souls desirous of salvation, learn to love and honour each drop of that Precious Blood, not out of mere duty, but out of filial love for the God-man, who still each day, comes onto the altars and offers Himself under the appearances of bread and wine. 

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost: Imitate St Paul to effect the reign of Christ the King

  Dom Gueranger writes in his commentary for the twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, that the Mass has references to the “days of the anti...