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 enemy of Faith: Ignorance
God has revealed Himself through Our Lord Jesus, and He has given the mission to His Church to teach the truth to all men. But God did not promise that all men would be faithful to His teaching. On the contrary, when going to Jerusalem, and right after He told the parable of the unjust judge and of the troublesome widow, Our Lord announced bad days when Faith would be so flagging that He wondered if the Son of man will find faith on earth when again He would come. Most certainly, these days of universal defection have not yet come, since you are here present at the foot of the altar, and, throughout the world, many Christians desperately try to remain inviolably faithful to the Faith and to the promises of their Baptism. Yet, if it is true that faith is not extinct in all, no one would deny that it is weakened in most of the people.
The splendor of the revealed truth is too often mixed with obscure opinions that have been invented, that is, when they are simply not otherwise destroyed by some aggressive impious negations. It seems that these terrible days predicted by the Son of God are now approaching. There will be only miscreant hearts with blasphemy on the lips.
What are the reasons for such a situation? Is it because the Divine truth, the object of faith, would have ceased to be true, and therefore it could no longer earn men’s respect? Or, is it because the Divine truth, the object of faith, would have changed, and therefore no longer establish itself in the spirit of men with its sovereign authority? To say this, or simply to think it, would be an outrage against God’s authority. We profess that the truth comes from God who is the source of any truth, that it has descended from eternity, and that it is as immutable and permanent as eternity. It cannot be distorted in its source or in the organs that deliver it to us, because God did not want His Gift to be derisive. Indeed, it would have been a derisive gift if God would have permitted that the truth could have been corrupted by those whose have received the deposit of truth, and by those who are its organs in the Church.
Now, you could say that there might be some hybrid theologians whose theories infest all the levels of the teaching of the Church. But should we be surprised? Did not Our Lord warn us when He denounced them? Have you forgotten that many false prophets shall rise and shall seduce many? And that because iniquity has abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold?
We all know that the stewards of the truth can fail. But we also know from our personal experiences that Sacred Scripture and Grace always keep the fullness of truth’s strength in those who want to adore in spirit and in truth. We all know that the truth cannot change toward men, but that, on the other hand, men can change in regard to the truth, and actually, they do. They can despise it because they know it no longer. They can fear it because it accuses them. The worst is that they can ridicule it when it no longer satisfies their desires. Ignorance on one hand and corruption on the other: this is what diverts them from the way of truth and puts them on a wrong path that always leads to a lie.
The most illustrious and enlightened Pope of the eighteenth century, Benedict XIV Lambertini, said that most of the souls perish because of ignorance. It is even truer nowadays when ignorance in matters of faith has become such a common evil and a quasi-general wound. There are certainly lights in the beginning of this century, and nobody in this congregation would deny the scientific and technological progresses since. But men have extended their knowledge in temporal things as much as they have limited it in the things that pertain to eternity. It is now an incontestable fact that in matters of religion, ignorance is almost universal. Some people even consider religion as the enemy of progress, but this is an old chimera from the philosophers of the eighteenth century. It is not worth to speak about this, as I don’t see any people in this congregation who prefer to ride a horse instead of driving a car, or who have candles instead of electric lighting.
Faith is first of all a supernatural virtue, and as such it has for an enemy corruption, as we shall address later. But faith is also a science: the science of God. In this regard, its enemy is ignorance, since science and ignorance are two incompatible things, because they are contrary. The science of faith has two objects: the doctrine itself, and the reasons upon which this doctrine is based. The doctrine bears its own justification within itself, and it is already a proof of its divinity, an intrinsic proof. The motive of credibility on which it is based justifies it, too, and this is the second proof of its divinity, an extrinsic proof. These two proofs are the two flying buttresses that support the edifice of Christianity. To whomever ignores them, Christianity is but an edifice without solidity, simply good as a shelter for simple and credulous souls.
Let us say at this point that the knowledge of the proofs that support the faith must be proportionate to the degree of the fitness and culture of the mind, and that unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required. God proportions His demands to His giving, as we can hear from the parable of the talents. For the humble and little people who can lend to the faith only a straight mind and a sincere heart, the God of goodness has particular attentions and truly paternal considerations. For them, He gives sudden illuminations and intimate lights that compensate for many things. Their faith, that we unjustly sometimes call blind faith, is as valuable as the faith given to the great genius.
On the other hand, let us be well aware that this special grace from God - faith - is not given to those who are guilty of serious negligence. It is refused to those who can learn more and who actually content themselves with learning less. This negligence can concern the doctrine itself. The doctrine comes from God, and nothing comes from above without the lights that flow from such a source. For that reason, the Catholic doctrine has always delighted those who study it, who appreciate its cohesion, who penetrate in its depth and discover the Divine secrets that make it a doctrine entirely different than any other, the most sublime that has ever been proposed to men. In just a few lines, the Creed tells much more than all the philosophies of the earth. The Decalogue teaches with its ten precepts much more than all the codes issued from the hands of men. The Gospel, to one who knows how to read it, is such a Divine book, that a ravished soul has no more words to say than the Apostle Thomas, my Lord and my God!
Hopefully, dear brethren, you do not receive these words without thinking, and you do not cover an intellectual laziness with the sumptuous dress of the simple hearts. Whoever can learn the heavenly things must learn them. There is no indulgence for those who can read, and yet do not know by heart their Creed and the Ten Commandments, and who do not read frequently the New Testament, especially if they claim to follow the ancient Latin liturgy. If we go further, and if we strain our ears to the words of the Doctors, we penetrate with them into the intimate depth of the sacred doctrine where a dazzling light shines, the Divine light that shines into the eyes of the soul and uncovers for it the most ineffable marvels of God. And yet, who, among the great thinkers who are in vogue, even thinks about these Divine and sublime things? Who, among them, try to discover them with a studious desire? And even among those who still pretend to be Christians, do we have to mention those who do not have any more religious knowledge than that which they acquired during their childhood, especially in our time, when for more than thirty years, the initiation to the Christian doctrine has been too often reduced to sensations and feelings? Whoever can learn the heavenly things must learn them. There is no indulgence for those who have been to college, and yet balk at referring regularly to the great spiritual authors, especially if they claim to follow the ancient Latin liturgy.
Our generation is dealing with everything except the science of God. The life of most of our contemporaries passes in the preoccupations of their personal interests, in the agitations of business, in the inebriations of pleasures, in the aspirations for glory or fortune, and sometimes in the fear or the hatred of the truths of the Faith. This is where so many Christians are today, puppets of the lies and errors of the world. Too often they have just been able to put up some contestations that were as weak as their religious instruction, and ended by lowering their flags and capitulating in front of the spirit of the world. In these Christians, ignorance is great, and is graver as it is deliberate. Because they did not know the doctrine, or simply because they had but insufficient notions of it, this doctrine has perished in their souls.
It has also perished for another reason. They have ignored the truths of faith, but their ignorance of the reasons that support these Divine truths was not less. God indeed did not speak to men without proving that the word that they heard was His word, and, therefore, they must listen to Him. He took great care to teach men about this, as He knows very well, He who knows very well our nature, that if faith would remain in the state of a teaching without any other proof than the ones drawn from its own truth, this truth would be perpetually contested insomuch as man’s spirit is subtle and ingenious when the truth is at stake. We can incessantly argue about truths, even when they are evident. When the spirit lacks of rectitude and of sincerity, and above all, when the heart lacks of honesty and of generosity, there is only one thing that cannot be held in honest discussion, and this thing is the well established fact. Facts are obvious by themselves, and nothing is starker than a fact. God has established the truth on facts, and these facts have filled the world. They have moved it. They have changed it. And their marks remain still visible to the eyes of everybody. In spite of all, the Church exists. She exists even sometimes in spite of herself, as Pope Pius VII pointed it out with keenness in front of Napoleon, but she still exists. The Church, established over the ruins of the ancient world that she had vanquished, that appears in the midst of the new world as a visible phenomenon, throughout all times and history, always close to her end but always re-emergent, still exists. Jesus Christ is the center of all these facts and it is toward Him that they all converge, from the prophecies that had announced Him, to the prodigies that have accompanied Him during His life, and that have been repeated after Him by His Saints. They give the most authentic and the most striking testimony of the divinity and authority of Christ and of His doctrine. It is a whole story that is History, which began in the Garden of Eden and will end on the shards of the universe. All its pages have been written by God, either composed by His own hand or by His using the hands of the Prophets, the Apostles, the Martyrs, or the faithful. Brethren, do you know well the Holy History and the History of the Church, or even the profane history, insofar as it is related to the economy of salvation? What are your usual readings and favorites books? Is it the Bible? Is it any serious work on Christianity and its mysteries that may enlighten and strengthen your faith? When did you last read the Scriptures on your own accord? When did you last read the catechism? When was the last time you read the life of a Saint? Which authentically Catholic magazine or newspaper do you regularly read? This Lenten season is certainly a good time to put aside profane books and magazines and to open some that would be beneficial to your souls.
Such is our contemporary generation, indifferent, or even hostile, to the faith. Yet neither indifference nor hostility leads toward truth and universal happiness. Ignorance comes often from the environment in which we live, where religion is often the butt of jokes, mockeries, contempt, and sarcasms. It comes from education that is often not enough serious or enough Christian, and that which is often provided by unworthy mercenaries and agents of the enemy. It comes from the teaching of history that is so often distorted and falsified to the point that we can say for the last two centuries it has been a flagrant lie. Finally, it comes from philosophy that has forgotten what it owes to Christianity and has brought back the crassest errors of the pagan centuries by adding all the subtleties of cluttered and messed-up metaphysics, wrapped with sophism as much despicable as they are perfidious. Thus we can hear so many alleged scholars and savants who blaspheme. They blaspheme what they ignore, and they don’t forget to object that our predication is awkward, as our generation is enriched with so many new experiences, intoxicated by so many scientific progresses, and altered by important moral innovations. They tell us that our doctrine, conceived in the distant time of antiquity that has now vanished, was maybe suitable for the past ages of the Christian society, but it cannot interest our current society when thousand of upheavals have changed the lives of everyone. They maintain that all these social, cultural, technological, and moral changes compel our contemporaries to turn toward a future of evolutions that we cannot even imagine. This doctrine eventually expose them, and they consider the past as a period of childhood, which might be still susceptible of arousing the curiosity of some erudite persons, but certainly not capable of enlightening the conscience of modern men. They would demonstrate, with certainty, that we are doomed to failure, and that the only thing we can arouse is the same sarcasm that the Athenians of the Areopagus once threw in the face of the Holy Apostle Paul: We will hear you again concerning this matter.
They do not content themselves with fighting the religion. You also have, dear brethren, to feel guilty for their rejection. In the old days, they just had to make people laugh with some caricatures or jokes, or to make people cry with pathetic examples in order to attack the religion with success. But today, in a time when the religion becomes almost invisible and silent on matters that concern it, it requires more effort and cleverness to touch the faithful. Almost every week they present certain prestigious brains in vogue imbued with science, philosophy, and history, who declare with pride to the good people that like everything flashy and new, that they repudiate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. They bring instead new beliefs that are finally not so new, since they have been running in the world forever. The New Age is certainly more ancient than Christianity.
The loose and carefree multitude receive without discernment all the inanities, the lies, and nonsense words that are chucked everyday on the television, the radio, the newspapers, the internet, and so forth. We all know what the Evil Genius has already done with the media. Common people engage without effort the so called “information.” The periodic dissemination of the scandal and of the poisoning of souls is very well managed. You may be startled by a book or alarmed by a newspaper, but it is not enough. Then there are radio and television, which tell, narrate, entertain, and amuse. They slip in the midst of their programs scandalous narratives, perfidious insinuations, odious lies, and impious and subversive doctrines. Once the news or so called information programs are over, they deliver, under the cover of fiction, things that are as surprising as they are painful. The more expert they are in the art of impiousness, the more they have an audience. Evil becomes in our modern society an object of speculation.
How can religion not be shaken and weakened in so many souls in such a context? Religion assures first and mainly the eternal interests of men, but the great majority of men is not concerned with religion until they pass the door of death. In such an environment, it is not surprising that faith is weakened. It would be the greatest of miracles if faith would conserve all its vigor in the faithful at a time when the powers of hell are more than ever stirred. We should rather marvel at the fact that the Divine truth still subsists in so many faithful even though they are only a remnant. It is such an admirable thing to see that this Divine truth continues to reign, victorious and triumphant, over the spirit of the faithful. How strong it is in their souls, so strong that it cannot be shaken by so many attacks! It is because God is there to defend it and to guard it. God makes Himself its invisible Protector after He made Himself its infallible Revealer. God does not permit that the gates of hell prevail against this Divine Truth, and avenges this Divine Truth on all its enemies. God makes from the multitude of the true faithful a guard of honor of the Divine truth, as worthy of it as much they are faithful and generous.
Brethren, let us thank God for our faith if it is still strong in our souls. Let us beg His mercy if it has weakened, and let us think about what we should do to invigorate it again. Let us not accept ignorance and do what it takes to learn more and more our faith. Ignorance is certainly one of the greatest enemies of faith, and, therefore, of men. We still have to deal with another and certainly more pernicious enemy: corruption.