These are the sermons I give on Fridays and Sundays during this Lenten season. The four firsts sermons are not really mines, but a translation of sermons given by Father Chanut, then Pastor of Saulx-les- Chartreux (France), in 1997 at Notre Dame des Armees (Versailles). These first sermons were originally two. I translated them and reordered them in 4 sermons with some minor adaptations and changes for our Community of Cherokee Village. To the Highest Glory of God !
The other enemy of Faith: Corruption
Last Friday, we were contemplating ignorance as a major enemy of Faith. We said, with Pope Benedict XIV, that most of the souls perish because of ignorance, and we were deploring the lack of knowledge of so many faithful regarding the object of faith and the reasons that support the Faith. Today, we focus on another and more pernicious enemy of the Faith, namely corruption. Corruption also, corruption above all, I should say, conspires against the Faith.
You all remember, dear brethren, that the Son of God has revealed a very deep truth when He said, “Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God.” With these words, He does not only tell us that those who have a pure heart will see God face to face at the light of glory, but He also tells us that those people will see God in our present condition with the light of Faith, which is like the dawn of the light of glory. The soiled souls do not have this privilege; the perverted hearts do not receive such an honor. Or, if they actually do, it is in a limited measure with a restricted grace.
It is not that the loss of Charity always leads to the loss of Faith. Losing the friendship with God does not always mean losing His light. Faith can subsist without the works. It can still shine through the darkness of a corrupted soul. But it is not less certain that corruption is often more than an obstacle to the Faith. It is often its ruin because a guilty life makes man unworthy of Faith, and also makes him its enemy.
Corruption makes man unworthy of Faith. There is no need to demonstrate this, as you all know, at least since Friday, that Faith is not only a science that one can acquire by studying, or lose by a lack of culture, but that it is first a gift from God, a particular grace that He offers to men, and a supernatural virtue that enriches them. God is Master of His gifts, the free dispenser of His grace. God gives to whomever it pleases Him the virtue that makes the believers so as to make them Saints. But to whom does He give such favors? For whom does He keep such a treasure? Is it for those who have no respect and no consideration for such a gift? For those who fear it instead of desiring it? For those who respond to this gift only by abusing or neglecting it? It would be a weird and bizarre idea in God’s wisdom, mercy, and justice to think that He is as liberal and magnificent toward those who have no other laws than His will, and no other rules than His word, as He would be for those who despise His will and His word, and who claim to be the disciples of the free-thought and of the independent moral. We read in the Gospel that He orders those who announce His doctrine to go forth from those who refuse to hear it, to shake off the dust from their feet. He acts in the same way when He is not heard. He withdraws from an unfaithful soul and takes with Him His despised gifts. According to the word of Jesus, the Kingdom of God shall be taken from them. When Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of God, we have to understand first the Faith that shows its way and that is the principle of justification.
It is the effect of sin to envelop with darkness the pervert souls. Sin puts between God and a sinner a distance that increases as much as the prevarications multiply. Saint Augustine remembered the state of his soul when he wrote in the Second book of His Confessions: “Instead, the mists of passion steamed up out of the puddly concupiscence of the flesh, and the hot imagination of puberty, and they so obscured and overcast my heart that I was unable to distinguish pure affection from unholy desire. Both boiled confusedly within me, and dragged my unstable youth down over the cliffs of unchaste desires and plunged me into a gulf of infamy. Thy anger had come upon me, and I knew it not. I had been deafened by the clanking of the chains of my mortality, the punishment for my soul's pride, and I wandered farther from Thee, and thou didst permit me to do so. I was tossed to and fro, and wasted, and poured out, and I boiled over in my fornications.”
To those who do not have Faith any longer, or who have just a flagging Faith, we can ask what they have done in order to prove themselves unworthy of the Divine grace. After all, we can wonder: You had Faith once! And now you have ceased to believe? But when did you stop believing? I bet you did not lose Faith as an inattentive person loses his keys. It happens - and we have examples - that Faith becomes suddenly established in a soul but there is no way that Faith can abruptly disappear. Let us take a closer look! Did you lose your Faith when you were becoming better, and when your determination for virtue was growing? I’d rather reckon that you noticed the extinction of your Faith only after a more or less long period of its fading, when little by little you became more and more oblivious of God and of His Law, more and more an enemy towards yourself and towards your duties.
It is the old story of an adolescent, who is bothered by disordered desires, and who finally decides one day that God does not exist, or at least that the Religion is not God, so that he can free himself and abandon himself to the temptations that gnaw at him, unless it is simply to laze better and to run away from the fight. All the priests have seen such a weak and prideful person, who, after a life of piety and of observance, walks away slowly but surely from the altar and the confessional, moves back to the last pew of the church, and finally end by passing the door to sink into the darkness of apostasy. After that, because of a certain concern for convenience, and in order to give a good image of themselves, these souls would readily add to their apostasy a sacrilege of the day of their marriage, and often a perjury later, as they will certainly not keep the promises of their marriage.
Do not believe that they lost their Faith on the day of their defection, or even during the following days. God is so good! God is so good and so constant in His love that He cannot abandon His poor creature so quickly. It is as deliberately as they multiplied revolts and prevarications that they eventually lost their Faith. It is only after they had despised so many times and for a long time the Master, who called them back, that the Divine light could no longer shine before their eyes, or that it could shine only in the midst of the darkness, and they were unable to understand it. The darkness did not comprehend it, Saint John says in his prologue.
Thus, dear brethren, unbelief comes slowly, on a way that is not the way of virtue, nor the way of honor. It is a sinister ghost who slips in during the middle of the night. It is an unhealthy plant that grows in the muck of revolt.
That explains why, alas, the Faith remains languid, if not dead, in so many souls. Look where our contemporary generation is now, if we consider it at all the ages and all the levels. Look at the youth, deceived by bad masters and flattered by vile seducers! They get carried away by their passions, and they rush headlong into depravation while being too busy deifying themselves through the fleeting idols that the media like to incense. Some statistics published in 2007 say that 62% of the population in the country had their first sexual intercourse by the age of 18. The media, which we were denouncing Friday for participating in the work of the destruction of the Faith, would tell you that this is normal. There is no doubt, for whoever is a little bit lucid and aware of the situation, that television is one of the greatest means of corruption in our society. It is unfortunately not the only one.
Look at the middle-aged, manipulated by ignoble, ambitious people, and deceived by incapable liars! Blinded by their interests, they blithely run after their fervid greed, while being too busy deifying themselves through the terrible idols of the enslaving consumerism.
Look at the elderly, dazed by fiddled mirages and reassured by costly artifices! Blinded by indifference, they leisurely damn themselves in a sacrilegious oblivion, while being too busy deifying themselves behind an immoral minstrel of criminal betrayal.
Weep over these living dead! Weep over these living dead of every age who fall asleep in the arms of indifference, where everything fades and everything is forgotten. Listen to them who mutually lead each other toward perdition and live a life of pleasure. They claim to be irreproachable because they have some principles. Their principles are vaguely generous, covered by the mask of tolerance, the great universal virtue of our time that allows them to hide their betrayal. Listen to them who justify themselves in the name of guilty prejudices! Listen to these harbingers of the evil spirit whose pride serves the virtues that they give themselves!
Pride! This is what is certainly contrary to the spirit of religion. A proud person is unable to receive the gifts of God, and first of all, the gift of Faith, which is hidden from the wise and prudent of the world but revealed to the little ones, according to Jesus. The primary condition required of a soul to receive and to keep the Divine light is first to feel its need, which means to confess one’s own darkness and insufficiencies. Without this confession, and if you think yourself wise and savant, and if you remain filled with the sentiment of your own excellence, then you are for sure one of these proud people who will be scattered by God Almighty, and one of these mighty dethroned, as the Blessed Virgin reminds us in her Magnificat.
Lent calls us to a detailed examination of conscience and to different kinds of penance, so that we can spotlight what we still lack in order to remain children of light, or to be better and better children of God. It is not enough to sing out loudly Attende Domine. We have to pray it with our whole heart. It is one of the best remedies against pride. You tell the Lord that He is your King. Be sure that He truly reigns over you by keeping His laws. You tell Him that He is your Redeemer. Be sure that He really saves you by accepting His graces. You tell Him that you weep and groan. Be sure that He listens to you by weeping over your sins. You ask Him to wash away the stains of your sins. Be sure that He forgives you by going to the confessional and doing penance.
Vice cannot come to an agreement with the truth that repudiates it. A guilty life does not ally with a faith that disturbs its false peace and condemns its shameful distractions. There are between the heart and the spirit such connections that if one is unhealthy, so is the other. When the heart is in evil, the spirit remains rarely in the truth.
Most of those who believe no longer have some interests for not believing. They reject religion less because it lacks of proofs to support it, and more because it lacks of tolerance for their guilty passions. The truth of religion is banished from their convictions only because its moral is banished from their lives. When you believe, you feel obligated to do good and you suffer from doing evil, because after the Creed that imposes on us to believe in the dogmas, there are the Commandments that impose on us to carry out our duties.
Certain of the formerly faithful, before they deserted and perjured themselves, tried to keep to some external marks of respect, and changed only little by little their sentiments and their habits. How long did this hypocrisy last? Faith does not accept any compromises of this sort. It blackens all hypocrisies, tears off all the masks, and accepts nothing without the reform of morals. This is what troubles and exasperates, or at least what frightens, so many souls. We would be less timid concerning the Faith if we would be less corrupted. We would feel stronger if we would be more virtuous. But corruption costs little while virtue costs a lot. Then we prefer self satisfaction rather than sacrifice, and thereby apostasy rather than faith.
It is today as it was at the time of Saint Augustine, and as it will ever be. Faith has two kinds of enemies, the ignoramus and the pervert. The first reject faith because they don’t know, or they have forgotten, that it is salutary. The latter reject it because they know that it is hostile to their passions.
What about you, dear brethren, who have the joy to possess the Divine Faith? You can be saintly proud of it and keep it as a treasure. However, be well aware that this treasure can escape you, if, by any chance, you do not apply your intelligence and your will, always enriched by grace, to it. Remember that you will escape the misfortune of others only if you take care to keep in you the treasure of Faith by the observance and the practice of the Commandments and of the virtues. Lent reminds us that among these practices, there are penance and alms.
Now that you know that you can lose your faith because of ignorance and of corruption, make sure that you fight against them within yourself, and never think that you are definitely safe and protected from either of them. Take great care to always know more and more the science of God, while hunting down the darkness that overshadows it, and seeking the light that makes it radiant. Be attentive to receive the graces that God has prepared for you in His great goodness. Try to practice the Christian virtues the best you can by applying yourself to the observances that support them, and by running away from the occasions that weaken them. The more we become worthy of the Faith by a holy life, the more we believe in its truths.