dimanche, décembre 04, 2011

Vertebras and Shellfishes

Report from the Chronicles of the Fortress of Heaven

When Captain Hugues de Beautrad from the Alpine troops arrived in Solvanie, a French Province lost in the Mountains of the East and far from the Métropole, to take his command, he already knew the region, as he had served there as a young lieutenant several years before. But he did not know that Providence would soon make him the “Governor” of what was left of the western civilization. A few months after his arrival, the decree of a state of emergency put him at the head of the last bastion which resisted the global anarchy that followed the fall of the West. Deprived of means of communication, cut off from the rest of the world, the young Governor, heir of his predecessors of the seventeenth century, carried out his mission, which was to maintain and to save what could be saved.

Baudoin Forjoucq invites us, in his two books that form the Chronicles of the Fortress of Heaven, to follow the young officer. In the first volume, Twenty-one Steps of Black Marble, we discover the fortress of Saint Romuald in the imaginary Province of Solvanie, where the young Lieutenant meets with the tough reality of the field in a difficult social and cultural context. In the second volume, The Duke of the Apocalypse, Captain de Beautrad and his men try to maintain what is left of our civilization. To help him in his task, he can count on his friend, Father Mounot, alias “the captain of the Angels,” the young Pastor who reestablished the old liturgy of the Church in his parish at the ends of the earth. The prayers of the Benedictine monks of Bédonic, led by their Abbot, Dom Mayeul, will appear soon to be of crucial importance. It is simply the harmony of many centuries of Christendom, when the temporal order meets the spiritual order, which the warriors of the last times will preserve against all odds.

But is this book really a fiction? In fact, Baudoin Forjoucq affirms that the men described in his book truly exist, which I have no doubt. “This book is also a story of men and of virile friendship, also a love story, a story of these selfless sentiments that many people have forgotten nowadays,” he says. It is a book for those who “love the one who stands while others snigger or give up.” It is a book for those who believe that “the silence of a cloister is filled,” for those who are “attracted by the wide horizons,” or those who “know how to be moved by the look of a young woman whose words are neat.”

It is a book dedicated to the soldiers, to those who gave up their ambitions to serve their country, to those who still believe in our civilization, and, finally, to “the Benedictine monks, soldiers of heaven and roots of the West,” who offered the author hospitality to write his book. I would recommend you to read this book if there were not a little problem: it is only in French! Nevertheless, I translated a passage for you. It is a discussion between Captain de Beautrad and one of his lieutenants, Imbarek, about vertebras and shellfishes. Yes, it is a novel, but not so far from the reality!

- “Well, Captain, you can do whatever you like here; truly, whatever you like!”
- “It is true that I have a great autonomy. Some would say a total autonomy. But as a matter of fact, I do what the circumstances command me to do, according to the conscience that I have of my duties. Nothing more!”
- “This is what I say, Captain. So, you could make a little fief to yourself and live as a despot and take many wives.”
With a roar of laughter, the Captain answers: “These are interesting perspectives, my dear. I did not think about that. No, more seriously, you see, it is in extraordinary circumstances that we collect the fruits of the education we have received.”
“Do you really believe that it is a matter of education?”
“In the original sense of the word, yes. This has nothing to do with the social level, as I have already noticed. You know, there are two kinds of men: vertebras and shellfishes.”
“Vertebras and shellfishes? Explain, Captain…”
“Imbarek, one day you will be amazed to see how the behavior of men can be really different from what you thought. I have often noticed, in operations or overseas, that many quiet fathers of families, faithful to their wives and honest in Métropole, became some kind of hoods when they were far away from their usual surroundings. They are shellfishes, who need an external carapace: the social pressure to restrain their flabby flesh. On the other hand, the vertebras rely on the principles received from their parents or masters. Whatever are the circumstances, a vertebra stands. He does not deviate from the right way because he is well-built from inside, and less than others, he needs formal and positive laws.”
“Do you believe that the law is almost useless for vertebras?”
“This is my conviction! Did Saint Louis ever need formal laws in addition to the natural law and the Decalogue in order to act with uprightness? And look at so many others who used their power only for the common good: Lyautey, Sonis, hundreds of administrators, of prefects, of governors, of engineers, of family leaders throughout our long history!”
“Why, then, all these laws, all these piles of legislative texts? Is this because shellfishes are in greater numbers?”
“Probably. I do not remember the exact numbers, but I read a few months ago an article that basically said that we need to find a solution against the proliferation of legislative texts and rules in our country. There were in 2004 more than 7,500 laws in force, more than 15,000 texts of general scope, 200,000 regulations and instructions, and I even do not mention the 80,000 additional European texts. Another example: in 1980, the Journal Official de la République Française had 7,000 pages, and 17,000 in 2000…”
“That’s chilling! What can be the reason of this inflation?”
“It is because of the refusal of a superior and transcendent reference, because of the loss of the moral sense of our fellow citizens and a part of the ruling class. The negation of the natural law, the rejection of the Decalogue, the inversion of the principle of subsidiarity, as well as the desire to bring the law into line with the mores which have led the ruling class, that is even unable to govern itself, to draw up more and more texts. They were regulating everything, and thus they thought they could make up for their refusal of a moral order. But refusing a moral order was the proof that they desired moral disorder, and moral disorder does not allow men to live in harmony. Therefore, it was necessary to regulate everything in order to limit the consequences of this disorder. Just consider the avalanche of the texts of law during the first years of the Republic at the end of the eighteenth century! While this Republic was pretending to fight against the arbitrary, it fell into the Terror and revolutionary tribunals. These were instituted by laws that created an even greater arbitrary system. The more laws there are, the more the shellfishes are tempted to beat the game, and, therefore, they make more laws.”
“But then, there is no end to this. We are condemned to legislate always more.”
“Yes, and this is what happened! A soon as a problem arose, they immediately made a new law instead of referring to an inviolable rule. My conclusion is that nothing is more important for social man than having a moral; and the worst is to put rights first instead of duties. If one day I were asked about a code or a declaration of universal range, I would propose to begin this text with this simple sentence: Any right is the counterpart of a duty. You would see that the consequences of such an assertion would be enormous. Truly, it would be a new revolution.”
“Nothing would be framed by the law?”
“Yes, of course. We cannot do without the law, and rights are precisely a mark of a civilization. Without them, it would be a ‘law of the jungle’, the law of the strongest, and this is what we are going to fight against in the following days. In the field of the law, as for anything else, we only have to see reason. For instance, we need the right of ownership, the right to trade, or even fiscal right. In fact, these are but developments of the Seventh Commandment of God. But we need a right that is clear and laws that are brief, like the Napoleonic Code, and not this recent inflation of texts of circumstances. I am convinced that this proliferation of laws and of rules has contributed to the fall of our civilization. And what about the laws against nature we recently had?”
“Are you thinking about something in particular?”
“Sure, I am thinking about the law that authorizes abortion.”
“Why this one?”
“Because it is the most serious illustration of what I mean to say. In all times, in all the civilizations, even the roughest, the law consists in protecting the weakest against the strongest. Is there anyone weaker than an unborn child? Everywhere and in all times, abortion has been prohibited, from Sumer to China, where they still count the age of man by adding nine months to the date of his birth. In our own country, without mentioning the Christian ages, even the First Republic decreed that abortion was a “crime against the nation,” which truly it is. And suddenly, in 1975, it is decriminalized, and even since then it is reimbursed by Social Security. Hence millions of dead children! Authorizing abortion even became an imperative condition for a country to join the European Politic! This terrible example shows that when a law is not founded on the natural law, it can lead to the worst excess, and, first of all, to the loss of moral sense of entire people that killed their children because “Madame,” who happened to be pregnant without planning this, wanted to go to winter sports.”
“And we were defending this society, Captain?”
“We were not defending this society, Imbarek, but France, the synthesis of the West.”
“But you said that our country was living under the empire of criminal laws!”
“Not all the laws, but many were criminal, yes. And many young men who remained straight concluded that it was no longer worthy to serve our country. Then, they refrained from taking up civil services, like these aristocrats of the nineteenth century who did not want to take any responsibility in the service of the new regimes, because the Republic had guillotined their ancestors and drove God out of the country.”
“In my opinion, they were right!”
“No, Imbarek, they were wrong! How can you complain that things are bad when you do nothing to make them better, except only criticize? The “empty chair” policy had never been a good policy. Those who are absent always get the blame, and chairs do not remain empty for a long time. A post of responsibility that is not occupied by a good person will be by a bad one. We had to wait until the Great War and the invasion of the national territory to see these “exiles of the inland” accepting to be engaged in politics and taking again their natural positions in the society.”
“Captain, the aristocrats and other monarchists got involved, they shed their blood, and in 1918, the Republic that many of them detested came out from this trial politically stronger with almost all the population of our country behind it.”
“This is a very interesting objection. For all that, should we have let Wilhelm II take Paris? Certainly not! What would have been France under a German occupation? The example of what happened twenty years later, when this time the French could not stop the invasion, makes us think. Also, we should keep in mind, when a soldier puts politics in the first place of his preoccupations instead of the defense of the country, he can be quickly tempted by treason, or he can excuse it under the pretext that he does not like the regime of the country. In this area, the only solid and military thing that I know is this British saying that Captain Porral told me once: Right or wrong, my country!”
Imbarek was pensive. He paused a while before answering.
“Well, after the war, it seems that things went from bad to worse, and everything led us to where we are now. So, the rallying to the Republic did not change a thing.”
“Yes, it did. A part of the descendants of those who had contributed to build our country for thirteen centuries took their places again under the roof of France. It is already something to not live as a foreigner in your own country. But let us go further, if you would like. Things were disastrous on a moral level prior to the events of this summer. Let us imagine what would have happened if nobody among those who kept a traditional thought had loyally served in the army or the public services. Who would stand now in order to limit the damages?”
“I guess nobody.”
“Indeed! It is worth thinking about that. It is good that many young people did not despair at the awful sight of our country and did not throw away everything.”
“Don’t you think, Captain, that we might be deceived once again, as has happened so many times in our history?”
“You miss a crucial point. In 1918, nothing regarding the regime or the institutions had changed. Only God knows what the future will be, but today, when everything is shattered, I think that we should invent something new or come back to institutions that proved themselves. Nevertheless, we should remember the mistakes of the past. For instance, Louis XVIII believed that he could reestablish a traditional monarchy after Napoleon. In exile for fifteen years, he did not understand how much our country had changed. It was a fiasco, as the ideas of the Revolution made their way into public opinion, and the people did not remember the crimes of the Terror, but the ideas of liberty and of equality. The old aristocracy had lost its position of the ruling elite in the country, and the aristocrats, who looked with condescension upon the new nobility of the Empire, gained with arms, did not understand the situation.”
“What should we do then, once the order will be reestablished? Shall we need to build a new regime? I mean somebody will have to build a new regime, to establish a new system. But which one?”
“This somebody can only be one of us, the survivors. Concerning this regime, I have no idea, but I already know some of the mistakes that we should not do again. Basically, we know what to not do, but we do not know yet what to do. Besides, shall we be consulted, you and me?”
Imbarek steadfastly looked at his Captain and smiled while retorting:
- “Forgive my insolence, Captain, but don’t you think that you do not see further than the end of your nose if you think that you are out of touch, considering your present responsibilities?”
- “This insolence suits you very well! After all, it is a privilege of your rank, since in the French Army, lieutenants are traditionally “insolent, scrawny and hopeless”… Concerning my responsibilities, they only command me to preserve what can be preserved, here and now, in other words, to maintain.”
The darkness had already enveloped the old building and swarms of braises carried out by the wind were rising in a serene sky. The two officers had in common the peace of the soul given by the sentiment of carrying out their duties in spite of the difficulty.

lundi, juillet 25, 2011

Sermon for 6th Sundat after Pentecost

You certainly remember, dear Brethren our meditation during Lent when we were considering the Cross of Jesus Christ as the main source of our faith and therefore as the main inspiration for our lives. You certainly remember the great proclamation of faith of the Apostle Saint Paul who wants to know only Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

After Lent, Easter came, and we put behind us the austerity of this holy time and the rigor of penance in order to celebrate the great mystery of the Resurrection of Our Savior and to rejoice in it. The feast of Pentecost ended a liturgical cycle and we have been now for 6 weeks in this time after Pentecost that will lead us to the end of the liturgical year. It is the time that is given to us in order to continue in our own lives the mysteries of the life and of the death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is no longer the life of Jesus that we directly contemplate during the Liturgy but rather His teaching that we listen to and that we try to assimilate, though we can hardy separate the life of Jesus from His teaching. Living the life of Christ, according to His own teaching is now our program and Saint Paul reminds us today that we have been baptized in Christ Jesus and in His death.

Therefore our Baptism makes sense only if we accept to crucify our old man and to destroy the body of sin, because it is the necessary condition to live unto God. The Gospel shows us that following Jesus means accepting certain privations and inconveniences, like this crowd that followed Him for three days and had nothing to eat. Christian life is basically a life of renunciation and of abandon: renunciation to Satan first, as the rite of Baptism invites us to do, and therefore renunciation to sin; renunciation to the world; finally renunciation to ourselves. But these renunciations would be unbearable without a total abandon to God’s Providence who provides for all our need, provided that we accept our condition and fulfill our duties according to our state of life. Renunciation and abandon certainly does not mean passivity; it rather means that we put all our heart, our energy, our strength to love and serve God. And we do that we the confidence that our sacrifices, our renunciations, and even persecutions, when they come, are not vain, but are rather the beginnings of eternal life, the life unto God.

Renouncing to sin requires training and a discipline of the will that can more easily be gained when renouncing ourselves, especially with the virtue of obedience. Discipline and obedience have always been, even on a mere natural level, the mark of the strong, and a key to success. It is true in many fields such as education, sport, army, etc…. And when these virtues are elevated by the Divine grace, it is a key that opens the gates of heaven. Renouncing the world is more delicate, as we have to renounce its spirit but not its physical reality. In fact, unless you have a particular vocation such as monastic life, you have to sanctify yourself in the world and there are many ways of doing that.

First, it supposes that you are not afraid of it. The world is indeed a large field of apostolate in which you should be comfortable; you should be aware of its danger, yes, but also comfortable. Do not be afraid to be involved in its life so that you can bring the testimony of your faith in all your activities: at work, in your neighborhood, in the different association in which you may be involved, in your sport teams, at school, at university, wherever you go, whatever you do. Bring always with you the light of Christ and His love. Do not remain entrenched at home, but participate in the mission of the Church. The Church is visible, but it is not only visible by her churches, but also by her schools – and I can never emphasize enough about their necessity today – and different associations and activities. Be involved in the life of your town, your county, your state, your country. If you do not, then you may complain about the evilness of our times in vain. Abandoning the battlefield means giving the victory to the enemies of Christ. If you have the required abilities, run for positions in the world, not for yourself but for Christ. The more good Catholics are in charge in the many areas of social and public life, the better it will be for the common good of our societies. This can be done as well on the smallest local level as well as on a national or even international level. Do not let someone else take the place you can have in this world!

Yes there are many wrong and bad things in the world today. But there would be certainly less if we all would take our responsibility in the society and even in the Church. And what we certainly need first is to know the teaching of the Church on many subjects and issues that regard the social life; what we call the social doctrine of the Church and that regard many areas such as education, politics, economy or arts.

With the Grace of God, we shall try to expose this beautiful doctrine in other sermons and conference soon.

mercredi, avril 27, 2011

An invitation from Saint John Bosco Academy

St. John Bosco Academy is presenting a dinner theatre “Summer Comes to the Diamond-O” on May 14th at St. Patrick's Catholic Church (North Little Rock, AR), in the Gym. 6:00 dinner, 7:00 show.
Tickets are $20.00 for a family or $10.00 individual. Tickets will be sold at the door.

Please call for reservations: Lorri Sonnier at (870) 834-8993 or Colleen Strandquist at (417) 284-3987.

jeudi, avril 21, 2011

Sermon for Lent

Sermon VIII: Continuation on the Truth

Si veritatem dico vobis, quare non creditis mihi? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me?

The truth is a queen who has her eternal throne in heaven, the seat of her sovereignty in the bosom of God. Nothing is nobler than truth because everything comes under its governance. It should reign over the reason which is intended to govern all things. Nothing is stronger and nothing is more powerful than the truth, especially the truth of the Gospel which has been established on facts, and which is proposed by faith, in our present condition, and which openly appears uncovered in heaven. Even the devils believe in it, as Saint James says, and not only do they believe, but they also tremble as the truth stands out to them in its whole dramatic and terrible dimension. It is certainly not the least of the pains of the devils and damned souls to realize that the truth that was offered to them, and which could have freed them, now enchains them, keeping them captive in infernal and eternal torment. The truth is known and respected in heaven, and there it is loved. But the truth is also known and respected in hell – respected, or at least observed – although it is hated there. Yes, the truth is known and observed in heaven and in hell, but between heaven and hell, here on earth is the only place where truth is despised. In heaven and in hell, the truth cannot leave you indifferent: you love it or you hate it with your whole heart and your whole mind. Here, on earth, you may find such sentiments toward the truth, but you also find a lot of indifference and a great lack of concern for it. Very often, it simply leaves men with a great coldness. We have already given the reasons for this in the beginning of this Lenten season’s sermons.

Let us continue our reflection with the help of Bossuet, and let us try to take a closer look at the reasons that push men to despise or to hate the truth. First, we say with Saint Thomas that “truth in general cannot be the object of hatred.” You certainly remember, dear brethren, that good, truth, and being are the same in reality. They just differ as considered by reason. So, “truth in general cannot be the object of hatred because disagreement is the cause of hatred, and agreement is the cause of love, while being and truth are common to all things. But nothing hinders some particular being or some particular truth from being an object of hatred, in so far as it is considered as hurtful and repugnant, since hurtfulness and repugnance are not incompatible with the notion of being and truth, as they are with the notion of good.” (Ia IIae Q 29 Art 5)

Bossuet develops the thought of Saint Thomas, and he says that men can hate the truth in three different ways, in three different subjects, wherein truth dwells, when truth is considered as it is in God, as it appears in men, or as we feel it in ourselves. In each case, truth hurts the sinful man. In God, the immutable laws of truth condemn man. In man, who is the present witness of the laws of truth, they correct him. Within himself, in the secret of his conscience, the laws of truth trouble and make him worry. In each case they displease the sinful man. The pride of his mind does not accept that truth condemns him. The obstinacy of the sinner prevents him from being corrected. The blind love for his vices cannot permit him consent to be bothered. Therefore the sinner hates truth, or at least he pretends to ignore it, by enclosing himself in a state of indifference towards it.

The Gospel of Saint John that we have been reading at Mass for the last few days, and which we continue to read during the Passion time, is extremely affirmative in this regard, as it shows us the increasing antinomy between the Jews and Jesus, and the indifference of the Gentiles. Jesus gives testimony to the truths that He saw in the bosom of His Father, and the Father gives testimony to Jesus. These truths condemn those who do not receive them. Furthermore, it is on behalf of these truths that Jesus is put to death.

Jesus corrects their vices, and while His words convince them, their hatred of truth makes them hate the One who announces it,” Bossuet says. “They get angrier at Him; they call Him a Samaritan and a demonic person. They take stones to throw at Him. Yet, He presses them more and brings to the depth of their hearts the light of truth: ‘Yet a little while, the light is among you.’ (John 12:35) But they hate the adorable truth so much that they extinguish the feeble ray of light that was still in them. They look for the dark night that covers their bad works.” In a last attempt, as the ultimate resort, He asks them: “If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me?” (John 8:46)

The sinners hate the law of God, even when they pretend to follow it. It is a religious tribunal that condemns Jesus to death; a tribunal of men who pride themselves of being the faithful observers of the law. Yes, Saint Paul is absolutely right when he says that the letter kills, but it does not only kill metaphorically; it also kills literally. It kills first the One who gives it to men. The sinners hate the law of God and the truth. And they know that it is precisely this truth that condemns them. “Miserable men,” Saint Augustine says, “who, because wishing to be wicked, deny that to be the truth whereby the wicked are condemned.”

Therefore, they try to abolish the law and to kill the legislator. The sinners are revolutionaries by nature. They organize themselves in impious assemblies in order to free themselves from God. They establish a structured system that denies the truth and, when it is necessary, they eliminate the heralds and the heroes of the truth. When sin is not simply tolerated, but rather encouraged, in a society, it can only generate a secular or even an atheist environment where people may be still free to give themselves a god, provided that it is a god who does not come to recall to them that they have duties and obligations to him, or toward the truth.

We said in the beginning of Lent that faith has two kinds of enemies: ignorance and corruption. We showed how a life of sins leads a soul astray from God. What was said about individuals is true for societies, too. We have been witnessing the apostasy of the old Christian nations for the past two centuries, in spite of the solemn and repeated warnings from the Popes since the Revolution. Today, human rights have replaced the commandments of God, even sometimes in the minds and the hearts of many members of the clergy. After all, it was not said that the clergy would be immunized against the errors of our time, which are the errors of any time. It is even the clergy that often leads the faithful toward rebellion, as it was the clergy that condemned Jesus to death. But once again, we do not have to be surprised. It was announced by Jesus that wolves would come to scatter and cast the sheep.

Now, dear brethren, we could go on and on about this subject. It can be very comforting for some Catholics who are still faithful in these times of apostasy to contemplate the pathetic state of our society and even of our Church, to pronounce solemn anathemas, to condemn everything and everyone that is not entirely Catholic, and to think that, after all, they are not so bad since they are faithful to the authentic teaching of Jesus Christ. Well, it is precisely to these faithful that I am speaking now, as I do not see among our congregation many atheists or modernists.

Certainly, you have not rejected Christ, and you receive the truth of His speech. But let me ask you again the same question I asked last week. Have you received the entire truth of the Gospel? You would say that you do not hate the truth, but we have just said that the truth in general cannot be the object of hatred. Are you sure that there is no particular truth that you don’t like? Have you taken great care, since the beginning of Lent, to examine your conscience in detail? You think that you hear the truth, and you do not want to be counted among the enemies of Christ who crucifies Him. But where were the friends of Jesus during His Passion? You claim to be a friend of Jesus, but are you better than all his friends who abandoned Him, who ran away when He was arrested, judged, and crucified?

When Jesus speaks about the truth, He does not speak only to the Jews who condemn Him. He also intends to teach His disciples to love and to respect His holy truth, so that when they contemplate it in their Judge, they can be corrected; when they hear it from others, they can receive it with humility; when they listen to it in their conscience, they can be enlightened, changed, and converted by it. And conversion is precisely a permanent process which is never achieved in this life, but which requires a deep, serious, and ongoing investigation of your conscience.

Let us bring some light on one point. The Fifth Commandment forbids us to kill. You think that you have not broken this Commandment since you have never killed anybody. This is your conclusion after your own reflection, based upon your own interpretation of the law. But are you in the truth? Being in the truth is not the same thing as thinking you are in the truth! Saint John says that whosoever hates his brother is a murderer.

Hatred pushes men to destroy what they hate, what they have already destroyed in their heart, and, therefore, when the object of hatred is a person, it generates a secret intention to murder. You can recognize that you hate someone when his presence hurts your feelings, when you have a kind of repulsion for anything that comes from him, when you consider that meeting him is something grievous, when you take any opportunity to speak behind his back to denigrate him, to lower him, to mock him. Now, if you include all these elements in your examination of conscience, are you still certain that you have not broken the Fifth Commandment? Are you still certain that you are truly a friend of Jesus who says as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me? And then, are you still certain that you are not like the Jews who condemned Jesus to death? If you hate your neighbor, you are guilty of murder. And if you murder your neighbor, you murder Christ Himself. You do not hate the whole truth since you cannot, but you still hate a particular truth that bothers you, hurts your feeling, or displeases you. And you try to forget this, and to hide this sin in a dark corner of your conscience, comforting yourself in the observance of the other commandments, forgetting that, in fact, you have broken all of them, according to Saint James: “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, but offend in one point, has become guilty of all.” (James 2:10)

Again, dear brethren, it is the whole truth that we have to hear and to accept, and not only the particular truths that are more convenient to us. The truth will be our judge, and there will be no way to escape this. Please God that we may tremble more often in front of the truth, instead of hiding ourselves behind it, or using it for our own convenience and satisfaction.

mardi, avril 19, 2011

Sermon for Lent

Sermon VII: Hearing the whole Truth

We usually prefer to hear things that we like rather than things that displease us, and, therefore, we have a tendency to be evasive when it is time to tackle certain uncomfortable subjects. But burying our heads in the sand cannot be of any use in order to solve a problem, or simply to comprehend the truth. And when the truth regards our eternal destiny, it would be a great madness to refuse to face it. The Apostles refused to consider the whole truth about Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us repeat it. This was before their third conversion, prior to the effusion of the Holy Ghost in their souls. At this point, they had already accepted Jesus Christ, but not yet His Cross. Refusing to hear the integral truth, they were still remaining in the darkness, and they could not understand certain words of Jesus.

You remember, dear brethren, that we expounded in our previous sermons several reasons that prevent us from hearing the words of God. Haste and rashness of mind were two of them. We also mentioned last Friday the scandal of social and personal prejudices, how they only make us deaf to the word of God, and, in this regard, we had also denounced the occasion of prejudice with Bossuet as “an insolent enterprise toward the rights of God and against public liberty.” Prejudice is a social plague which can be very harmful to the true spirit of religion, affecting and infecting many souls, namely the souls who are guilty of such prejudices, and who may believe that they are religious when they are not.

There are souls of good will, but still too weak or too shy, who may suffer from prejudices. They feel confined or even incarcerated in a social fabric governed by rules and codes. They fear the reproachful look of their peers and neighbors, and unless they finally find the courage to break the institutional rigidity that surrounds them, they blend in with the masses like sheep. From the way people dress, to the kind of music to which they listen, from the food they eat to the people with whom they associate, everything is closely examined. The poor “trespasser” is already judged by the tribunal of the dominant ideology, and there is no appeal for the sentence, because “in our traditional community, we do not do such a thing.” But people are not always fooled by the hypocritical smiles of the public prosecutors, and since we cannot expect everyone to live the beatitudes and to be heroic in the practice of the virtues, it is not surprising to see people who turn away in order to escape the sectarian spirit of prejudice.

Let us leave this spirit to the Mormons, to the Amish, to the Quakers, to all these sects that have forgotten that among the gifts of God there is liberty, and that liberty is a condition to love God. Faith is not imposed on others by means of protocols and conventions, but it is proposed to the intelligence and to the heart. There is a true education in the Faith, an education that speaks to the intelligence and which moves the heart. Far from being indoctrination, it is rather a culture, and as such, it involves many fields of human life, like academics, arts, a certain enjoyment of life, and good taste, and some values and virtues like courtesy, civility, and urbanity, where refinement should not be excluded. These are Catholic, and, therefore, are universal marks of true Christianity, and we can see them flourish everywhere in the world where the Faith is sincerely lived. They flourish with different tastes, different colors, and different scents in different cultures, and they comprise a beautiful bouquet made of a great variety of flowers which embellish the society of men, and render honor and glory to God. When faith is truly received in a person or in a society, it does not confine men in a pharisaic system, but rather frees them from any system, and makes the society of men more enjoyable.

Finally, prejudices affect non-believers. Certainly, many of them may have their own prejudices toward religion and toward the Church, but this must not be cause to enable further prejudice. The prejudices of the faithful can only give more weight to the prejudices of non-believers.

Haste, rashness of mind, and prejudices are substantially the many obstacles that prevent us from receiving the full message of the Gospel. Let us add now the weakness of the will, which beckons us to refuse the Cross. Bossuet points out that the Apostles usually ask Jesus many questions regarding the mysteries of which He speaks. You remember that they did not understand the words of Jesus concerning His Passion: “But they understood not this word, and it was hid from them, so that they perceived it not.” But this time, instead of asking for some explanations as they usually do, Saint Luke reports that “they were afraid to ask him concerning this word.” Bossuet says that “one cause of their ignorance is that they were fleeing from the light, and did not want to hear what Jesus was saying about His humiliations.

Yes, they had a true love for Jesus, but a love that was still human and sensible, to the extent that they refused to hear anything about His sufferings. Indeed, they knew that they were supposed to partake in His sufferings, and this hurt their feelings. Such is our human nature that we accept easily the greatness and the glory of Jesus, but we are reluctant when we hear about the Passion, the sufferings, and the death of Jesus. The contrast is huge between the crowd that welcomes with palms the King of Glory, who enters Jerusalem in triumph, and the few souls who accompany the man of sorrow on the Cross.

Let us take a look at Saint Mark, Chapter 10. The Apostles, who had followed their Master for three years, were thinking about their reward. Peter attracts the attention of Jesus on this point: “Behold, we have left all things and have followed you.” And, yes, Jesus promises a reward to those who leave house and family for His sake and for the Gospel. They shall receive a hundred times as much. But, He adds, with persecutions. (Mark 10:28-30) And right after, we see Jesus going up to Jerusalem. The Apostles are astonished, and, following Him, are afraid.

In Saint Matthew, Chapter 20, Jesus speaks again about His Passion: “And Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples apart and said to them, ‘Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and the third day He shall rise again’.” And they still don’t want to hear this speech. James and John come right away, with their mother, and ask for the first place in the Kingdom of Christ. Then Jesus presents the Chalice.

Dear brethren, we have to understand that we cannot partake in the greatness and the glory of Jesus if we do not participate in His Passion. Again, we have to suffer, and we have to die. After Pentecost, the Apostles again hear these words. They hear them so well that they want to suffer for the love of God, and now they rejoice in their sufferings.

Christians, children of the Cross and of the wounds of Jesus Christ, do you hear these words? Do you understand that these words are spoken to all men, and not only to the religious? Open the Gospel and read: “And he said to all, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me’.” (Luke 9:23) He said to all!

Alas, many Christians want to be the disciples of Jesus, and yet refuse the Cross. They make their own Gospel that is a compromise with the world. “All take counsel of Thee on whatever point they wish, though they do not always hear what they wish,” Saint Augustine says. “He is Thy best servant who does not look to hear from Thee what he himself wills, but who wills rather to will what he hears from Thee.”

May the Blessed Virgin Mary teach us how to hear and to accept the whole truth!

vendredi, avril 15, 2011

Sermon for Lent

Sermon VI: Prejudices

The purpose of this Lenten Season, dear brethren, is nothing else than to increase our interior life, which is, according to Father Garrigou Lagrange, the knowledge of the truth and the love of good, or if you like, the knowledge and the love of God, who is the supreme Truth and the supreme Good. The interior life is also the knowledge and the love of anything true and good that proceeds from God. We already see, from this definition, that the interior life cannot germinate, develop, and blossom without faith and charity. It is by faith that we love the truth, and by charity that we love the good. Therefore, anyone who hears the word of God, and who wants to answer His call to holiness, will have to work on both virtues, which are distinct, but should not be separated.

As a matter of fact, as much as we progress in the spiritual life, we are more and more united with God, but we also are more and more united with ourselves. Original sin first, and then our personal sins, have dislocated us, and unless we work diligently toward rebuilding ourselves, there always remains certain anarchy within us. By seeking union with God, we seek to restore His image in us. We polish the mirror of our intelligence in order to find in it the undistorted reflection of the eternal truths.

Jesus has compared the Kingdom of God to a seed that grows and becomes a high tree. This comparison applies to the interior life, which is the Kingdom of God in a soul. The growth of our spiritual tree supposes three stages that are necessary. First, it has to come to life, to germinate. This is the first conversion, the one that we call justification, when a soul passes from the state of sin to the state of grace. The second stage is when the tree develops and becomes visible. “It is a state of life,” as Father Garrigou Lagrange says, “when we begin seriously to surpass ourselves, and when we begin to relate everything to God and not to ourselves. It is the admission into the reign of God, where a docile soul begins to reign with Him over its passions, over the spirit of the world, and over the spirit of evil.” Let us note, dear brethren, that at this stage, it is still only a beginning. The third stage is finally when the tree blossoms and when we can see its fruits and flowers. This is when a soul has no other desires other than pleasing God in everything, existing in a perfect union with God, reigning over its passions and faculties.

We said last week that the laws of spiritual life are the same for everybody. We can see in the New Testament the progress, and sometimes the decline, of the interior lives of the Apostles. Bossuet invited us last Sunday to consider three different spiritual states in the Apostles since their vocations began, which was precisely their first conversion. Their second conversion certainly happened during the Passion of the Savior. At least it appears to be the case for Saint Peter, when after having denied Him, Jesus looked upon him. “Peter, going out, wept bitterly,” Saint Luke reports. That look of Jesus, accompanied with His grace, moved the heart of Peter, and his contrition was the principle of a new life, though his faith was not yet definitively and strongly established. The grace of the Resurrection, and finally of Pentecost, will achieve and complete the renovation of the new man within each of the Apostles, with the notorious exception of Judas, whose example should always remain in our memory. If such a man, one of the Twelve who had received so many graces, who lived in the intimacy of Jesus for three years, who had been a privileged witness of the miracles and all the deeds of the Savior, and a close listener of His magnificent doctrine, could fall, and who most certainly damned himself, why should I be so sure that I will persevere in the service of God? It is not rare to see Christians who boast in knowing the truth! Did not Judas know it better than all of these, he who was a close friend of the Incarnate Truth?

But let us return to the Apostles, and to their lack of understanding of the words of Jesus. Haste and rashness of mind explain the lack of understanding of God’s mysterious intentions. Another reason is certainly the great difficulty we have in accepting the Cross. The Lord is our God and our Redeemer. For those who have faith, this is not hard to believe. We admire Jesus Christ for His celestial doctrine, for His great authority when He teaches: “Never did man speak like this man.” (John 7:46) We admire Jesus Christ for His miracles, but when He speaks about His Passion, the spirit of darkness comes again to envelop our minds.

Jesus Christ does not redeem us by showing His divinity and performing powerful miracles, but by demeaning Himself and suffering like the least of men. And what does He want us to remember and to consider? After He rebukes an evil spirit from a boy, the crowd marveled at His power. And what did He say? “Lay you up in your hearts these words, for it shall come to pass that the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.” (Luke 9:44)

As Bossuet explains, the Lord asks the disciples to lay these words in their hearts, because it is an incomprehensible thing to the spirit, especially when our minds are too preoccupied with the things of the world, as it is usually the case. Again, faith is not only a matter of intelligence, but is also a matter of the heart. “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.”

Faith cannot grow in a corrupted soul; we have already explained this. Vices and sins are the greatest obstacles to the understanding of God’s mysteries, but there are still other stains of the mind that we need to remove, which are the prejudices and preoccupations of the world. Therefore, it is necessary to come in front of God with a spirit totally dispossessed of itself and free, which is, dear brethren – let us admit it – something rare.

A prejudice is something that has already been judged utilizing a lack of knowledge and of wisdom, because of an element of narrow-mindedness, and/or certain habits, individual and/or social. It is the judgment of people who have no other rule than the rule itself, which has too often been established by their own opinion and authority. They judge and condemn out of hand anything and anyone that does not fit their personal and social straitjacket, and they usually induce others to accept their own standards.

If the Apostles tried to do so toward Jesus Himself, it is, after all, not surprising to see among ourselves people who act this way toward others. With Bossuet, we denounce this “rigorous censorship that we exercise over our brothers" and which “is an insolent enterprise toward the rights of God and against public liberty.” Judgment belongs to God only, and he who judges his brother is guilty of disobedience toward God, and guilty of making himself superior to his equal and equal to his superior.

If you look at your neighbor as if he were an incurable sick person, if you move away from him because he is, in your opinion, an incorrigible sinner, you offend God, Saint Augustine explains. You are like the Pharisee of the Gospel who condemns the adulterous woman, and who comes to the Lord with his rule: “Moses, in the law, commanded us to stone such a one.” Like him, you say, or think, “If you knew who this woman is.” Does Jesus condemn her? Does he scrupulously and literally follow the rule? Not only does He forgive her, but He also exposes the hypocrisy of her detractors: “He who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”

Would you say that you do not hear these words, brethren? Of course you hear them, and yet you still judge your neighbor! Are you so ignorant of your own sins that you dare to expose the sins of others? If it is the case, remember that God’s justice will be as rigorous as yours. I beg you to lay up in your heart the words of Saint Paul: “For wherein you judge another, you condemn yourself.” (Rom 2:1)

Let us go further. From where does our inclination to passing judgment come? Man is definitively curious, Bossuet says again. “Everyone wants to see what is hidden, and wants to judge the intentions. This curiosity makes us infer what we cannot see, and since no one likes to be wrong, suspicion quickly becomes certitude. Then we call conviction what is only speculation. And this is an invention of our mind” that we like, and in which we please ourselves. Don’t you see that this is the true scandal, and that this scandal comes only from your own imagination and your own misunderstanding?

Prejudices, dear brethren, lead us away from Jesus and His Cross. Because of them, we crucify our neighbor instead of being crucified. They prevent us of hearing the words of God and putting them into practice. And the worst is that because of our prejudices, we may think that we are just.

mardi, avril 12, 2011

Sermon for Lent

Sermon V: Why do we not understand the Divine things?

And they understood none of these things, and this word was hid from them, and they understood not the things that were said.” (Luke 18:34)

The Eagle of Meaux, Bossuet, says that the sacred history of the Gospel shows the holy Apostles in three different states since their vocation began. We can see them first in a great ignorance of the celestial truths, next in a glaring incredulity, and finally they appear to be filled with lights and knowledge, so enlightened that they proceed to enlighten the whole world. When Jesus Christ was still with them, their gross understanding did not penetrate the mysteries. When He left the world, the scandal of the Cross disconcerted them so much that they lost their faith. When the Holy Ghost descended upon them, their faith was immutably reestablished, and all the darkness that was yet enveloping their spirits vanished. These different changes which we can derive from the Gospel are of great use to us. Do not be tempted to think that they do not concern you. Saint Paul reminds us that “all scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, and to instruct in justice.” (2 Tim 3:16)

We know from the Fathers that the Apostles, chosen by God, do not only instruct us by their holy and salutary doctrine, but they also support us by their doubts, they strengthen our faith by their incredulity, and they teach us by their ignorance.

The sublime doctrine of Jesus Christ is the same for all. The laws of the interior life, an interior life which is absolutely impossible without the knowledge of this doctrine, are the same for all. There is both permanency and some constants not only in our nature, but also at the level of the Divine Grace, which makes our doctrine truly a science, as we have already said. And I beg you not to think for one instant that this science is reserved only for the intellectual elite of erudite persons. This would be totally contrary to the Divine Wisdom that wants to communicate Itself to everyone. Again, the doctrine of Christ is intended for everybody and proposed to everybody, but it is understood only by those who want to hear it and to receive it. Our Lord, who perfectly knows this, does even not deign to answer anyone who has no concern for the truth, and His silence after Pilate asked “what is truth?” is particularly eloquent.

The doctrine of Christ is first speculative, but it is not only speculative. In fact, it is ordained to action, according to the word of Saint James: "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only." (James 1:22)

It is true that among the things we have to believe, there are some that are so mysterious and so high that even faith does not remove all the darkness that envelops them. Faith enlightens our intelligence and enlarges it. It gives it the greatest ability to understand the things of the earth as it gives us the knowledge of their Creator. Yet, faith is always received in a human and, therefore, limited intelligence. The part of darkness that remains even in believers does not come from the objects of faith that are believed, but from the limitation of the intelligences that believe. It is as much as we advance and progress in the interior life that we understand better the things proposed to our intelligence by faith.

When Jesus Christ proposes to the peoples with sublime words the inscrutable secrets that He has seen within His Father,” Bossuet says again, “when He wraps with parables the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, so that the proud and ungrateful men may see and not perceive, and may hear and not understand, it is not surprising that the Apostles do not understand this mysterious speech.” On the other hand, it is quite astounding when the certainly clear words of Jesus are not understood. “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and all things shall be accomplished which were written by the prophets concerning the Son of man; for He shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked and scourged and spit upon, and after they have scourged him, they will put him to death. And on the third day he shall rise again. (Luke 18:31-33) Nothing is clearer than these words, and yet the Apostles do not appreciate them. Saint Luke makes sure that the readers of his Gospel grasp well that the Apostles understood nothing: “And they understood none of these things, and this word was hid from them, and they understood not the things that were said.”

Since all Scripture is for our instruction, we certainly have something to learn from the ignorance of the Apostles. By considering what darkens the minds of the Apostles, even in the presence of the light of the Sun of Justice, we may hopefully find out what darkens our minds to the extent that we sometimes miss the whole point of certain evidences of faith, or certain evidences that are to be learned from the Doctrine of Faith, which affect our life and the morality of our actions, and which will ultimately jeopardize our salvation.

For instance, it is clear that, for whoever reads well the Gospel, Jesus is the Bread of Life, and that one has to eat His flesh in order to have eternal life. He who does not believe at all in the Revelation will not see the necessity of receiving the Body and the Blood of Jesus, which is, after all, logical and coherent. But how is it possible that so many Christians, who claim to follow Jesus Christ, do not understand, or even explicitly reject, the teaching of Christ concerning His body and His blood? Yet, it is a doctrine that He has magnificently expounded with great clarity, found in Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Saint John. All Christians can read these words, and they can see that when they were spoken, there were some disciples who left Jesus. Their reason could not adapt to the brightness of faith, and they remained in or returned to the darkness. And once again, and we will never grow tired of repeating it, those in darkness do not comprehend the light, because they simply cannot.

It is clear for whoever reads well the Scriptures that matrimony is a holy and divine institution, and that divorce is a serious trespass against the Divine Law, as it is clearly explained in any Catechism book. "Are there any reasons that justify divorce? No, divorce is never acceptable. It is a grave offense against the natural law, and it is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents, often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect, which makes it truly a plague to society." Our Lord has made clear once and for all that “what, therefore, God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” It won’t surprise us that the non-believers, who live in a time of enslaving consumerism, of hedonism, and of self-interest, regard marriage from a mere materialistic and practical point of view, and, therefore, marry and divorce as their passions dictate, and when the mood suits them. But how is it possible that so many Christians who read or hear the word of God justify what cannot be justified, if not because of the ignorance of the mind or the corruption of the heart, as we spoke about two weeks ago? Faith is not given to ignorant minds that are ignorant because of their own fault, or to corrupted hearts. Once again, and we will never grow tired of repeating it, those in darkness do not comprehend the light, because they simply cannot.

It is clear to whomever reads well the Scriptures that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination, which even appears to be a result of the denial and disobedience of God, according to Saint Paul. By the way, we can here catch a glimpse of the infernal spiral to which mankind is attracted. We have already explained how corruption is a source of the lack or the loss of faith. We see also that a lack of faith usually generates more corruption. We are not too surprised to see this vice among the pagan people, even though it is against nature, but a careful reading of the first chapter of the epistle to the Romans shows us that it is this kind of thing that we should expect when people reject God. But how do Christians, who are supposed to know the word of God, accept such a shameful defiance? In the name of which Christian principle can they justify it? And here, I do not speak about those who have a disordered attraction, and who struggle and suffer with it while trying to live a good life. I speak about those who justify, and even publicly promote, homosexuality, and who relentlessly try to make everyone believe that it is something normal, just another way of life.

We said that sacred doctrine is first speculative, but then it is ordered to action. Therefore our actions and our way of life depend on how we receive the doctrine of Christ. Saint Thomas compares a well disposed mind to a well polished mirror, on which things appear as they truly are without being altered or distorted. He also explains that an act of intelligence is a movement, and he makes a comparison to corporeal movements. If you have to move, you can do it calmly by being sure you go in the right direction, and by avoiding the dangers you may encounter on your way. You can also rush with haste and, therefore, accept the possibility that you may go in a wrong direction or crash into an obstacle.

As Bossuet points out, it is very often haste and rashness that clouds and stains the mirror of the mind, impeding it from reflecting the true object which the intelligence considers so quickly. It is the source of all the prejudices that darken our intelligence and prevent us from receiving the teaching of Christ, even though it is clear and evident of itself. The truth may stand right in front of us, as simple and clear as it is, and yet, we do not see it, we do not hear it, and we receive it as we want to receive it, not as we should. We prefer to judge rather than consider the things and the facts. We do not penetrate the essence of the things, and we stop our minds at their exterior covers. We judge, and, therefore, we act according to the appearances, and not according to the realities. It is not the intrinsic and objective truth that governs our life, but our own subjective conception of the truth, which is a distorted and false image of it. And although we claim to follow Jesus and His teaching, the Gospel is not really and entirely the supreme and sublime rule of our life.

Look at the Apostles at this stage of their lives. They had already confessed that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the living God. For his profession of faith, Simon even had his name changed to Peter. Yet he dares to contradict his master: “Lord, be it far from you, this shall not be unto you.” Hear the answer of Jesus: “Go behind me, Satan, you are a scandal unto me.”

What about you, Christians, who profess the Divinity of Jesus Christ? Are you sure that you are not a scandal unto Him for not hearing all His words? Are you certain that your minds reflect entirely the shining light of the truth? Are you aware of the stains of your intelligence that may still darken it? Let me ask you again the same questions I asked last week: Do you really accept in your life the scandal of the Cross, or do you desperately, like the Apostles, seek to turn away from the Cross? Or are you sure that the Cross you carry is the one that Christ has made for you, and not the one that you have carved for yourself according to your own will?

As you see, there are still many questions that need to be asked and need to be answered. This Lenten season is the time to ask yourself the right questions, and with the grace of God, to answer them in all objectivity.

This is what we intend to do, and to continue Friday and throughout Lent. May the Mother of God continue to help us to open our intelligence and our heart to the Divine truth! May she help us to understand all the things that are said by her Son!

lundi, avril 04, 2011

Sermon for Lent IV

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 !

Sermon IV: Suffering and Dying!

We tried Friday to see the connection between faith and charity, and we said that the junction of these two virtues has to be found in the Cross of Jesus. We dwelled on the words of Saint Paul, who wanted to know only Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1 Cor 2:2) Yet, we have to go further than a mere intuitive and sentimental comprehension of these words. Yes, these words are the sublime expression of the love that Saint Paul had for Jesus Christ and His Cross, but we still have to explain why the Cross is the point from which everything radiates and toward which everything converges.

We are subjects, in this valley of tears, to different kinds of sufferings and pains, and we are all in the expectation of death, which is the only certitude we have concerning our future. Certainly, we find consolations and comforts when we turn to Christ crucified. He did not simply suffer and die as any other man. As the liturgy of Holy Week will soon remind us, He suffered and died in the most horrible ignominy, relegated to the rank of the criminals of the worst sort, though He was the Just One, par excellence. Do we have to conclude that suffering and death are the whole lot of our existence? Certainly not! It is rather the opposite. The Cross is the proof that we cannot be resigned to the fact that suffering and death are the whole lot of our life. Aroused by an invincible inspiration, we look for more than consolation and comfort. We look for a remedy, and even more than a remedy, we look for a liberating victory.

When we turn to Jesus Christ crucified, if we only contemplate the sorrow of Christ that is beyond compare, according to Isaiah, and if we only contemplate a death that has been so dramatic and so cruel, it would quickly appear to be useless. The sufferings and the death of Christ cannot be the end of everything. But when we turn to Jesus Christ crucified, we learn why He suffered and why He died, and we also learn why we have to suffer and why we have to die. The Cross, that is temporally the end of the life of Christ, is also spiritually its completion, its crowning, and its achievement. When the Savior accepts to carry the Cross as the instrument of His torment, and accepts to be crucified, He also expresses the sense of His suffering and of His death. Thereby He explains what sense we can give to our sufferings and death, through Him, with Him, and in Him, as the great conclusion of the Canon of Mass reminds us every day. If you think for one moment about this, you will understand that everything is said in these words.

It is obvious that it is only insomuch as we make sense of our suffering and our death, and we overcome the incessant scandal of our suffering and our death, that the mystery of our existence becomes clearer. Our religion is the science of life only because the science of suffering and of death exists in the light of the Cross. Our religion teaches us how to recognize in suffering and death some accidents and means by which we are called to find our fulfillment in the fullness of being and of life.

Thus, what Saint Paul means when he says that he wants to know only Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ crucified, becomes now clearer. He tells us in what does the science consist, especially this supreme science without which any other science is not only vain, but also blinding. He who does not know why he suffers and why he dies, which is opposed to the aspiration to life and to happiness that is in our nature, has only a darkened knowledge of the other things. He may bustle, he may move heaven on earth, he may rearrange the world just as he likes, but he only undergoes his own existence after all.

So, again, when Saint Paul says that he wants to know only Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ crucified, he certainly expresses the deep sentiment that attaches him to Jesus. But we have to admit that he also he formulates a doctrine that is inseparable from his sentiment. Saint Paul exclaims that he loves Christ, and that he is bound up with Him, only to teach us that such an adherence is the essential and universal condition of salvation.

Therefore, for the Apostle, the Cross is not only a fact, but it is also an idea. When we say an idea, we do not mean an idea such like the concepts of the Greek philosophy that are abstractions. No, it is an idea as a living principle to which Saint Paul refers in order to explain the living reality that we are, and to propose the idea of salvation that we have to pursue. And the scholastic theology tells us what such an idea means when, with Saint Thomas Aquinas, we contemplate ideas in God. The Divine ideas are, for the great Doctor, the spiritual and intellectual place of theology. In them, there is both a rational and a religious explanation of these things. And of course, when we say rational and religious, we do not oppose the two terms, but we consider the same reality under different points of view.

Saint Paul presents Baptism as a death. It is the death of the old man, or the carnal man, the man of evil or the man of sin. The death of Christ on the Cross is not only the type of this death, but its reason as well as its justification, as the death of Baptism receives from the Cross its whole effectiveness. “Know you not that all we who are baptized in Christ Jesus are baptized in His death?” he writes to the Romans. “In His death” means dying with Him and like Him. And then Saint Paul clarifies his thought: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin may be destroyed to the end that we may serve sin no longer. For he that is dead is justified from sin.”

Thus, dear brethren, at Baptism and by Baptism, the man of pride that we all are is called to die and to be crucified with Christ. But let us not delude ourselves. The man of pride dies at Baptism, but not in a way that he does not have to die again, and not in a way that he does not have to be crucified any longer. By Baptism we can say that this man of pride feels obliged to die, and that he receives the grace of dying, but he still has to actually die by voluntarily renouncing himself. This is what Saint Paul reminds the Colossians when he urges them with these vigorous words: “Mortify therefore your members who are upon the earth.” By members who are on earth, we have to understand fornication, uncleanness, lust, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which are idolatry. It means all the desires and all the actions in which pride manifests itself are the members by which the devil exercises his malice upon us.

It is clear that the task that Saint Paul urges us to perform is a permanent and constant work that will end only with our death freely accepted. So we can summarize the doctrine of Saint Paul in this way. Living in bodies of flesh, which means bodies that comprise carnal appetites, with such a tendency for selfishness, we are inclined to be unaware of God and of others, and to consider ourselves a whole. Therefore, we are doomed to suffering and to death, because our reciprocal selfishness clash with everything else and usually ends in being crushed. No matter what we do, we cannot escape from our condition. But instead of enduring this like powerless slaves, we have to suffer and to die by renouncing the old man, the carnal man, and the man of pride. This is how we accept to be crucified as Christ accepted to be crucified. So, Christian life should be a continual death, and this is why Saint Paul says, “I die daily.” (1 Cor 15:31)

Nevertheless, dear brethren, do not be mistaken. It is only one aspect of Christian life, and you would be completely wrong in pleasing yourself by wallowing in this state. You would give such a negative image of our religion, which has been so many times decried as a religion of suffering and of death, and which glorifies suffering and death for themselves, a religion comprised of faithful who would have to suffer and to die just for the sake of suffering and dying, as if God were a Moloch pleased to see His worshipers struggling in tortures and vanishing in emptiness.

Yes, suffering and death are daily realities. There is no point in negating this. There is no point in diverting oneself in order to forget this. There is no point in trying to eliminate this reality without fighting our selfishness, which is the principle and source of suffering and death. Again, there is no middle. Either you endure suffering and death as slaves, or you accept them and want them by voluntarily suffering and dying. It is precisely through the Cross, as Saint Paul presents it, that Christianity offers us the means to accept and to want suffering and death as free men.

Let us be clearer. It is not a stoical resignation to what is inevitable, suffering and death, without the hope that exceeds them. Such a resignation is nothing else than an enslaving subjection. Along with this kind of resignation, there is always a protest that is more or less admitted. In order to not revolt against suffering and death, and to accept them with a cordial and sincere acceptance, we have to see through them something more, and to believe in something higher than them. This is why Saint Paul says that if we die with Christ, we shall live with Him, and if we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him. Ultimately, the Apostle does not invite us to suffering and death, but to happiness and Divine life. “Buried with Him in Baptism,” he says, “in Whom also you are risen by the faith of the operation of God, who has raised Him up from the dead. (Col 2:12)

So, understand well that if Christian life is a continual death, it is only to our pride and selfishness that we have to die in order to increase daily in the true life. By doing such, we eliminate from our life any miscomprehension in the light of faith. We eliminate any interior conflicts, and we can blossom in the peace of eternity above the tribulations of time and of space.

When you consider the effects of pride that are present everywhere, within ourselves and at all the levels of society, within families and individuals, and when you hear Saint Paul and Christ speak of dying to yourself daily, if you are tempted to say that these words are too hard, please, reject this temptation. These words are too hard only because of the selfishness within and amongst us that only knock against each other. Consider the richness of the words of Christ who says, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For he that will save his life, shall lose it, and he that shall lose his life for My sake, shall find it.” (Matthew 16:24) These words are nothing else than a call for a true, sincere, and total generosity. It is what, in the language of a Christian, we call charity. And charity, as it is something that proceeds from God, is something immense and tremendous like God, Who made man, Who becomes man, and Who dies on the Cross to redeem the sins of the world. To be and to remain in charity requires that we die to ourselves, to get rid of our selfishness, to get away from our individuality as flesh and blood. This is the gift of self, realized in the union to the God Who gives Himself in perfect charity.

And do not believe that God asks you for things that are above your strength, even though these thing might be impossible without the Divine grace. Before even thinking about martyrdom or any great work, simply thing about faithfully persevering in your daily thoughts, words and actions. The victor is the one who keeps the works of God unto the end. (Apo 2,26) To deny yourself means preferring the word of God to your own thinking and preferring the Commandments of God to your own will. This is what we call the new life in the Spirit.

It appears then that when Jesus teaches us how to suffer and to die, he simply teaches us how eternally live. The Cross of Jesus reveals and teaches the value of charity because by offering ourselves we forget ourselves and we can efficiently help to the conversion of sinners, the propagation of faith and to the salvation of the world as much as it depends on us.

In this in this light, dear brethren, that we have to consider during this Lenten season, our penances and mortifications, our public and private prayers, and our works of mercy. If for your own misfortune, you would refuse this high expression of charity that are the exercises of Lent, be aware that because of you, something would lack to the sanctification of the name of God, to the realization of His reign and to the accomplishment of His will. Because of you, the treasure of the Divine grace would become impoverished, while the power of darkness would be stronger in the world.

samedi, avril 02, 2011

Sermon for Lent III

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 !

Sermon III: Knowing Jesus Christ crucified

We speak during this Lenten season about faith, but it would be vain if we were not talking about the works, too, simply because faith without the works is vain. Now, when we speak about the works, we have to understand not the materiality of the acts, but mainly the spirituality that penetrates them, and which makes them the works of Jesus Christ Himself.

The Christians who truly confess Jesus Christ from their heart can be recognized by the fact that they are always unsatisfied with themselves. What they know of the Divine science and of the evangelical knowledge is never enough for them, and they always want to know more. What they do, with regards to the works of mercy and of piety, is never enough, and they always want to do better.

According to a deep thought of Saint Augustine, which they may not have ever read but which they certainly realize in their interior life, is that what they find in the endless field of the truth is for them a new reason to continue their quest. They tell themselves with the great Doctor, whatever we have already found, we still have infinitely more to look for, and as we never stop searching, we are certain of finding. Notice, dear brethren, that it is their faith that tells them that they will find, as Our Lord told them, “For every one that asks, receives, and he that seeks, finds.” (Matthew 7:8) The faithful know that their quest is not vain, and cannot be vain, because God has never and will never deceive anyone.

They never grow tired of listening to the magisterial and apostolic teaching of the Church that unrolls for them the demands and the beauties of the Christian virtues. Since you are here, I can suppose that, dear brethren, you have to be counted among them. And you know with Saint Paul that we can sum up the entire doctrine in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

The Cross is to the true faithful the symbol of the renouncements entailed by Christian life. It is also the supreme revelation of God and the highest expression of His love, the unique secret of His Heart, and finally the triumph through which the disciples of Christ win over the world. The Cross appears to them as wisdom, light, and salvation. In one word, it is the Christian conception of Christian life.

Alas, and very far from it, is the Cross accepted by all the Christians. It is not rare, let us acknowledge it, to see among us some non-Christian perceptions of the Christian religion. Look at those who show the Cross as their emblem, and who refuse it as the principle of their life! Who, among ourselves, has never met one of these Catholics who walk with confidence, and whose soul is free from concerns? By the way, why would they be anxious? They strive, more or less deliberately, to not be involved in the questions, the doubts, and the anxieties that torment their co-religionists. They have certainly learned how to see in the Cross of Christ the symbol of the religion of Christ, but the idea that they form and which they demonstrate by their conduct is totally opposed to the Cross that they wear. If those prideful persons would only take an instant to think, they would immediately abandon the sign of the Cross, which appears to them as a weakness, as a reversal of the values of their life, and this, considered in the extreme, would exist, in their eyes, the disorder. It reminds me of my pastor when I was younger, who said about these sort of Catholics, who we see in various pilgrimages, who are facades of faith, that the banners they carry are often more Catholic than them. Our Lord had already spoken of them when He said, “This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain do they worship me, teaching doctrines and commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8)

The Beatitudes are to them a kind of extravagance for cranks. Listen to them, those lovers of the established situation in which they firmly settle and triumphantly flaunt themselves. They see God and His worshipers absorbed with power, and who have to claim their rights only by force. Listen to them, those poor glorious Catholics, who ensure that their Catholic identity resounds loudly, and who like to claim that they fully possess the truth. Let us ask them, what is the purpose behind the precepts of Christ that they know so well? They can list all of them, but they live their lives far from the light and the spirit of these precepts. They make the religion of Christ one of the elements of their worldly honorability. They take possession of Christ like a suit that they make to their own measure, according to their own manners and tastes, so that they can pride themselves on being in the truth and look down upon those who are not.

Let them be warned! Let them be careful not to be like the Pharisee of the Gospel, he who is pleased with himself, dwells on the misery of others, and finds in it the occasion of exalting himself above them. In fact, he does exactly the opposite of what Christ does for him. Jesus, indeed meek and humble of heart, presses upon our misery out of compassion in order to assume and bear it, as if He has been responsible for it.

What about you, dear brethren? Have you really accepted the dramatic scandal of the Cross where strength once became weakness? From the day when you entered into the life of faith, the Cross was marked on your forehead. You have been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which means in the name of the God of goodness, of light, and of love. And today, do you happen to be a true witness of the One who, on the Cross, gave the supreme proof of His goodness, the One who has made the true light shine, and the One who has manifested His love by the pouring out of all His blood?

Catholics, are you here on earth the imitators of the suffering God who dies on the Cross like a criminal, He who generously and freely became the brother of those for whom He dies? Ask yourselves, in all sincerity, if the Cross of Jesus Christ has not been until this day, maybe even not wittingly and consciously, not only a scandal but also a folly. When asking this question, I do not think only about the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the mount of Calvary, but also about the union we should have with this Divine Sacrifice, which is the scandal and folly. If in reality the Cross is such a scandal and a folly for so many Christians, how can we be surprised that it is only a scandal and a folly to so many unbelievers?

There are not a few, in fact, of those who nowadays turn away from the Cross, like in olden times when the Jews and the Gentiles turned away from it. Nevertheless, we have to make a distinction between those who are decidedly deniers of Christianity and those who live in incertitude and doubt, and who struggle more or less grievously in the darkness. The latter deserve all our compassion, but we have to expose and to relentlessly fight the former. It is not rare that some people, who are dogmatic to the extreme, and who head the field, assume the position of humility in order to disarm us. They are second to none in their claim to be the victims of those that they imperiously despise, raising their aggressive hypocrisy to the sublime level of the defense of mankind. There is not a week when the Holy Father is not the object of such vile attacks. Let them allow us to point out to them that their militant unbelief along with their incontestable savoir-faire, which may impress vain people, could not supplant in souls the faith that they intend to destroy.

We have enough of these new evangelists who have succeeded in destroying, but who cannot manage to build. With the help of the juicy contributions of the money moguls, they have consistently undermined and methodically ruined everything that humanity used to believe, which rendered right reason. But we have to notice that mankind is more than ever morally and spiritually in incertitude and in confusion. All of these fine gentlemen are entirely responsible for this, and have nothing in which to boast. But they forget that they are the adulterous fathers of the silliest superstitions, of the most insane sects, and they haughtily retort that thanks to them, a breeze of pity for human misery came into the world and, for this, the need for great social progress.

Let us say a word about that. This breeze of pity certainly comes from the Gospel, and no one can argue this fact, but mankind has already lost all its benefit. All deniers of faith are responsible for this failure. By rejecting the message of Christ, they made the western man lose the sense of man and his value, which Christ has so clearly and emphatically highlighted. They might be filled with human knowledge, or think that they are, but we have to tell them the facts. We have to tell these people, who set themselves up with so much confidence as the judges of Christianity, that they condemn out of hand, that they have absolutely nothing that can substitute for the Christianity which they have rejected. The real environment that they have imposed upon us, and in which we now struggle, is only a bloody chaos, where we discern at first sight only self-interests that fight against each other. What true sense of life have they given in this social and moral decadence? What ideal have they produced so as to overcome the intellectual and spiritual scandal they have set everywhere? What resolutions have they proposed in order to remedy the solitary and common misery that they have established?

We can see clearly that as much as they have deprived the western man from the Cross of Christ, they have broken the liberating impulse that was in him, they have dried up the source of beneficial and placatory generosities.

What is the Cross of Christ? We do not speak only and mainly about the sufferings of Our Lord Jesus Christ, even though there is nothing dearest to our piety or nothing richer for our instruction. But understand well, that in order to answer such a question, it would not be enough to be moved by the appalling spectacle of the sufferings of Christ. It would neither be enough to be edified by the example of His resignation. Even Saint Paul, who proclaimed that he knew nothing but Jesus, and Jesus crucified, speaks in his epistles about many other things that are not at a first sight directly related to the Cross. Did the Apostle forget the foundation of his profession of faith? Or did the Apostle express himself in such a sudden fervor so as only to tell of his ardent love for Jesus Christ? If you thought so, you would considerably wane the impact of his predication, and to tell the truth, you would roughly misread it. There is absolutely no doubt that the exclusive profession of faith to Jesus Christ crucified is a cry of love from Saint Paul, but it is infinitely more than that. This cry of love knows from where it comes and where it goes. It springs forth from a soul that is entirely irradiated by the integral truth of Christ. Whatever he knows and whatever he teaches, Saint Paul maintains that he understands it only in the light that shines from the Cross. And so can we understand and comprehend things only in the same light.

Since Saint Paul, dear brethren, nothing in this regard has ever changed, and nothing will ever change. Therefore, like Saint Paul, let us take the Cross as the center of our faith. Otherwise we have to renounce our understanding of, in its whole truth, the message of the Gospel. Do not imagine for one second that by wanting to know only Jesus Christ crucified, we have chosen to remain in ignorance. Furthermore, it is by knowing only Jesus Christ crucified that we shall know everything as everything should be known. Is the Cross the center of our faith because the apostolate of Jesus Christ ends on the mount of Calvary in the manner of the most desolate drama and of the most sublime martyrdom? This view is undoubtedly correct, as well as it is undoubtedly incomplete, because it does not show us any essential links between the Cross and the doctrine of Jesus in the way that this doctrine, as it reveals God and explains to us the world, also explains ourselves to us. So, is the Cross the center of our faith because it is the tragic symbol of the suffering of mankind, which only finds in the Cross the strength to not succumb to the temptation of despair and of blasphemy? No, it is not for this reason either.

Yet, we can all testify that the thought of Christ crucified has put back on their feet many cowards. It has provoked so many repentances. It has made so many pains endurable. It has eased so many agonies. But this is not sufficient to explain why the Cross is the point from which everything radiates, and toward which everything converges.

With the help of grace, we shall try to see why Sunday. Meanwhile, let us turn to Our Lady, whose faith, throughout her life, remained unflagging. Like any other believer, she used to see through a glass in a dark manner during her life on earth. Now she sees face to face, and she knows as she is known. Her faith had not been vain, because her charity was great. We said last week, and we maintain still, that it is possible that faith remains in a soul without charity, but it would be vain. This is even an extra motive for condemnation and reprobation, as we know by faith that we should love. It is charity that gives faith its full measure, and this explains the mystery of the Cross, bringing a light to the darkness that remains here, even in faith. It is charity which urges us to work towards our salvation, as it is charity which brought Our Lord to the mount of Calvary. May Our Lady always help us to remember this!