New Article (Posted below on August 4, 2019): Our Chastisement, Our Blessing.
Other recent articles are linked immediately below. Previous articles are all linked on the Menu on the left, the most recent at the bottom.
Article (Posted July 26,, 2019): Receiving the Kingdom of God as a Little Child.
Article (Posted July 20, 2019): Science: Original and Final Sin.
Article (Posted July 9, 2019): The Amazonian Synod and Teilhardian Evolution: A Journey into the Heart of Antichrist.* Also: Pope Francis and Teilhardian Theology: Program for the Amazonian Synod.*
* These are our most important articles penetrating into the iniquity of Teilhardian evolutionary theology and its planned incorporation into Catholic belief and worship through the coming Amazonian Synod.
Please read our Original Proposal
Our Chastisement, Our Blessing
Woe to you who build the monuments of the prophets: and your fathers killed them….That the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation. (Luke 11: 47-50)
While reading the Gospels, it might often appear that the Pharisees present themselves to us as proverbial “deer in the headlights”. Much of the time, their subterranean betrayal and malice were hidden behind real incomprehension. Theirs was the “What have we done wrong? – we have only been faithful to God’s tradition” look. Their unconscious betrayal was the result of building centuries of “monuments” (both physical and spiritual) that appeared God-like, but which in reality dulled, obscured, and finally profoundly falsified the Spirit of God’s Truth and Life. In so doing – in not having kept careful “watch” over their own spiritual integrity – their failure to understand was truly culpable, and therefore the blood of all the Old Testament prophets was upon their generation.
We are now experiencing a chastisement, come to fruition in the Papacy of Francis, which might leave us in a similar “what have we done to deserve this” bewilderment and confusion. We stand on thin ice if we attempt to claim that this is not a deserved punishment from God. The necessary question therefore is: Is it conceivable that we have been so whittled down through a long historical betrayal of the Gospel that we now stand, uncomprehending, in the face of a severe chastisement which we deserve, and which is a necessary blessing inflicted for our return?
Jesus’ words condemning the “monument-building” Jews occurred at a dinner to which he was invited by a Pharisee, who had earlier heard the following words spoken by Jesus:
“The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body will be lightsome: but if it be evil, thy body also will be darksome. Take heed therefore, that the light which is in thee, be not darkness. If then thy whole body be lightsome, having no part of darkness; the whole shall be lightsome; and as a bright lamp, shall enlighten thee.”
This passage speaks of a unity of spirit and flesh, each dependent upon one another for integrity, which is single in intention. The nature of this singleness of intention is more fully elaborated in a parallel passage in Matthew 6:
“Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures of heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also. The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome. But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be! No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
After these words of Jesus comes the “Lilies of the Field” passage, which ends with the equally famous: “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
In the light of the above scriptures, we would like to pose, and attempt to answer, three questions: First, was there a “single eye” present in the first Christians (and not excluding other individuals and groups down through the centuries), but which has now been almost universally abandoned, and which has become virtually incomprehensible to the modern Catholic consciousness? Second, as the fruits of this betrayal, have we built monuments to Christianity at the expense of living it? And, finally, is it the Blood of Jesus that may be required of this generation because of this betrayal?
If we seek an absolutely reliable account of how the first Christians lived, we inevitably are pointed to the Book of Acts, and to the two passages which are brief, but most telling, in this regard:
“They therefore that received his word, were baptized; and there were added in that day about three thousand souls. And they were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles, and in the communication of the breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: many wonders also and signs were done by the apostles in Jerusalem, and there was great fear in all. And all they that believed, were together, and had all things common. Their possessions and goods they sold, and divided them to all, according as every one had need. And continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they took their meat with gladness and simplicity of heart; praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord increased daily together such as should be saved.” (2: 42-47).
“And the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul: neither did any one say that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but all things were common unto them. And with great power did the apostles give testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord; and great grace was in them all. For neither was there any one needy among them. For as many as were owners of lands or houses, sold them, and brought the price of the things they sold, and laid it down before the feet of the apostles. And distribution was made to every one, according as he had need. (Acts 4: 32-35).
We ask the reader to consider whether he has ever heard or read any contemporary preacher or writer offer an analysis of these passages, or take them seriously in any way. It is as though they are incomprehensible – a conclusion which must certainly be false, given the specificities offered in St. Luke’s description.
In the first place, these first Christians were baptized into the Faith, and were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles. There can be here no de-emphasis of doctrine at the price of a false mercy. Twice, in fact, it is said that holy Fear was upon them all. To culpably transgress the faith which they had received was impossible as long as this fear of the Lord was operative in their hearts.
Second, there was a bond of unity, founded upon true poverty and the rejection of worldly possessions, which St. Luke describes as “having all things in common” – they sold their possessions, and laid the money which they received at the feet of the apostles, so that distribution could be made where needed. It is this particular “specificity”, of course, which is the primary reason these two passages of scripture are virtually totally ignored. As St. John Chrysostom pointed out in his commentary on Acts, it is this “having all things in common” that we fear above all, and avoid taking seriously. We must therefore look more closely.
These passages have been employed as an argument for Communism. This is ludicrous. Communism totally rejects God, and any communal living involved in its system is founded upon the elevation of collective man, and the state, over God, the rejection of individual dignity and freedom, and the rejection of the right to private property itself. Any communal living proposed by the Gospel or the Church, on the other hand, involves voluntary giving of the members of the Mystical Body of Christ. It is not in any way a tyranny.
It is equally false to exaggerate the degree to which this “having all things in common” was external. There could be endless, useless speculation in this regard. It is clear, however, that these first Christians broke bread “from house to house”, and therefore probably possessed their own homes. We in fact need speculate no further in this regard than did the writer of the Epistle to Diognetes, writing almost 100 years later (130 A.D.): “They have a common table, but not a common bed.” It was the spirit that mattered – the externals obviously had their limits. As the passage from Acts 4 states, “Neither did any one say that aught of the things which he possessed was his own”. Their physical poverty was real, but not absolute. Their “spirit of poverty”, on the other hand, was quite absolute indeed. This Christian heart in which this spirit was operative was aptly described in the following passage from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (7: 29-31):
“This therefore I say, brethren; the time is short; it remaineth, that they also who have wives, be as if they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice as if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as if they used it not: for the fashion of this world passeth away.”
And what makes this spirit possible?
In our article on St. Francis (St. Francis of Assisi: They Pretended to Love You So That They Might Leave You), we quoted the above passages from Acts in order to exemplify the simplicity and poverty which was the core charism of St. Francis. But these passages also expose to our vision something deeper within the human heart, which makes such simplicity and poverty both possible and necessary. There would seem to be one word which best expresses this “something”: Immediacy. It is immediacy – defined as “the quality of bringing one into direct and instant involvement with something, giving rise to a sense of urgency or excitement” – which most characterizes the heart of these first Christians, and their relationship to Christ and the Gospel. And this immediacy is at the same time always present – it penetrated into all that these first Christians did, and every moment and part of their existence.
Interestingly, God’s demand that man recognize the immediacy of His presence, and be constantly preoccupied with his presence, is not something which only became possible after the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Possibly the greatest passage in all of scripture depicting this “spirit” is to be found in Deuteronomy:
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart: and thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising. And thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be and shall move between the eyes.” Deut 6:4-8).
This image of the constant presence of God “moving between the eyes” is possibly the greatest mystical image in all of Christian literature. We are dealing here with human hearts and minds possessed by God in all their thoughts and activities.
It is this immediacy of the human heart among these first Christians which made possible the “single eye” which directed everything towards Christ. Further, this immediacy made possible not only this singular relationship with Christ, but with others who were members of His Body, and it also enabled true charity towards all other human beings (both friends and enemies) simply because they were all created “by Him, and in Him” (Colossians 1:16).
This profoundly “common” union of hearts with Christ and one another merited the grace that “the Lord increased daily such as should be saved”. This is why we see so many miracles among the early Christians, why we see the fulfillment of Our Lord’s words that “you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7), why 3,000 would be converted one day, and 5,000 another, and that there could be such astonishingly rapid conversions of whole people and nations to Christ.
It is not at all necessary to be utopian in order to understand the unique spirit of these first Christians. Where there is human nature, there is always sin. We see these sins in the story of Ananias and Saphira, who sold land, gave part while hypocritically pretending to give all, and were punished by God. We see it present in the various churches as revealed in the letters of St. Paul, especially those to the Corinthians, in regard to the unseemly behavior indulged in at Agape Feasts, the adulterous behavior of a son with his Father’s wife, the competition of various factions who claimed to be followers of one teacher in opposition to others, etc. We explore the lives of these early Christians not because the perfection of human beings was across-the board accomplished, but because it was indeed present and visible in a way which it is not now – present to such an extent as to merit all sorts of extraordinary graces from God, and in a way which can clearly be contrasted with our present nakedness in this regard.
And so, we are compelled to ask the inevitable question: What happened within the depths of the souls of Catholics during the early decades and centuries of the Christian era which compromised this immediacy of Christ presence within the followers of Christ, and profoundly diminished the visible evidence of the power of God’s grace operative through them? Again, the answer is to be found in scripture – this time most aptly expressed in the Letter of St. James:
“You ask, and receive not; because you ask amiss: that you may consume it on your concupiscences.” (4:3).
Everything we have is a gift from God. To see the life of Christ which is “the light of men” (John 1: 4), and to follow this life and light with an upright heart is to remain in the immediacy and presence of God’s Truth and Life. Sin, both original and personal, is the turning aside the gifts of God in order to possess and use them as our own possessions: “All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way….” (Isaiah 53: 6). We all tend to do it. The extent to which we do it, corresponds to the degree to which God’s immediacy and presence is lost to us, and we become immersed in hypocrisy and duplicity. At a certain point such hypocrisy almost inevitably leads to spiritual death through mortal sin. But even short of mortal sin, it has the effect of depriving both individual Catholics and the Church as a whole of the power of the Holy Spirit necessary, not only for the conversion of the world, but also for the protection of the Church itself from invasion by the spirit of Antichrist.
The “turning aside into their own way” of the truth and light which God had given through the prophets is therefore perfectly expressed in the reality of the Pharisees having built their “monuments”, but denying the spirit of God present in their teachings: “This people honoureth me with their lips but their heart is far from me.” (Mat. 15: 8).The word “monument” is also properly translated as “tomb” or “sepulchre”. The Pharisees themselves were therefore described by Jesus as being “whited sepulchres”, appearing just to men, but inwardly full of hypocrisy and iniquity (Mat. 23-27-28). The “building of monuments” is therefore the pre-eminent metaphor employed by Jesus for the falsification of the true spirit of religion while retaining its appearance – beauty on the surface, spiritual death within.
This is the deepest tendency within fallen human nature – that point where “turning aside” begins. We must not conceive of it as always being fully developed, or accompanied by intense malice as exhibited by the Pharisees. It is most often an evolutionary progression with small but deadly beginnings initiating a process of growing compromise and falsification. Many events and persons – sinners and saints – contribute to this process. Because persons may have contributed in some way to this decay does not mean that they are in Hell, does not entail that they were evil men, and does not contradict the fact that they may even be canonized saints. All men fall short in certain areas, Satan is able to add all these failures to his conspiratorial mix, the world waxes old and more deceitful in the web which it spins, and Christianity decays. What we have now is the product of a long historical process, with many twists and turns, progressions and regressions, but with an overall trend of deepening falsification and obscuration of God’s immanence to the human heart.
In our article on St. Francis, we discussed the Portiuncula of St. Francis as an “icon of betrayal”. It seems appropriate to mention it again here.
Four kilometers from Assisi is the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the seventh largest church in Christendom, built over and around the original home of the Franciscan Order. Within this magnificent and massive structure, and directly under the cupola, stands a tiny church (only 22’ X 13’6”) called the Portiuncula (the word translates as “little portion of land” – it is also called “Mary of the Angels”). The Portiuncula is the singular place on this earth most beloved to St. Francis; it is where he founded his Order, and where he passionately desired the most perfect preservation of his ideal.
Because St. Francis considered the Portiuncula to be “holy, beloved, and chosen before all others by Christ and the glorious Virgin” (Mirror of Perfection, 55), and because he intensely desired that the Portiuncula be the example and model for all the rest of the order, he gave minute instructions before his death for the preservation of this ideal. These instructions applied first of all to all those practices which cultivate the interior life of holiness – silence, prayer, holy conversation, physical labor, fasting and other forms of physical mortification. Especially, he sought to keep this place free from worldly conversation and news, and free from all that is not edifying. He gave specific instructions as to the qualities needed in the clergy and friars who were to reside and serve here, and he stated, “I do not wish anyone else, whether layfolk or friars, to enter this place, except the Minister General and the lay-brothers who serve them.” (Ibid.).
The Portiuncula is now entombed within the grandiosity of the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, and is a prominent tourist site with all the noise, commotion, irreverence, etc. which this entails.
Many Popes have born witness to the fact that St. Francis was an extraordinary gift of God sent in order to turn mankind away from a long immersion in the concupiscenses of this world, and back towards Christ and the living of His Gospel. He has been called by at least two Popes “the Second Christ”. And yet it was a canonized Saint, Pope Pius V, who ordered that the Portiuncula, and all that it meant to Francis and his ideal, be entombed within the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The Basilica, as beautiful as it is, therefore represents a monument to the killing of the spirit of St. Francis – the culmination, as it were, of many betrayals of Francis’ ideal of Gospel poverty by saints (including St. Bonaventure) and sinners alike (all of this is discussed extensively in our article on Francis). Again, this does not make Saint Pius V (or Bonaventure) into evil men. It makes them out to have been human, with certain actions, unbeknownst to them, playing into the hands of all that wages against Christ’s presence and immanence in the heart of man.
Little escapes from such decay. Even the development of the forms in which the Mass is offered may be mentioned in this regard.
The early Christians, whose intimacy with Christ we have examined, “broke bread from house to house”. It is almost certain that there was no incensing, ornate vestments, elaborate altars, statuary, developed chant, magnificent architectural monuments, etc. There certainly was a distinct order, comprised by scripture readings, sermon, prayers for the people, kiss of peace, offering of bread and wine and thanksgiving, consecration of the bread and wine, intercessions, etc., all very much reflected in our Mass. But as Adrian Fortescue (highly respected in Traditionalist circles) states in his article on the Liturgy in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1910), even as late as the fourth century the Roman Rite “had practically no ritual beyond the most necessary actions”.
And yet it was the “breaking of bread…in simplicity of heart”, and the “great grace” which was received in the hearts of these first Christians, which produced the charity, massive conversions, and miracles which confront our own poverty in this regard. The question needs to be asked as to what extent the evolution of the form of the Mass into “the most beautiful thing this side of heaven” masked an historical process in which the collective Christian heart (with many exceptions) drew further and further away from the immediacy and simplicity of Christ, and in so doing violated the deepest reality of Christ’s Sacrifice. The deep divisions which now exist in the Traditionalist movement would seem ample evidence of this decay, to say nothing of all the banalities, irreverence, and extraordinary lack of unity in truth which exists under the reign of the New Mass.
We realize that in writing about the spirituality of the early Church, and casting it in a light more favorable than those later developments in Christian spirituality which built the monuments of Christendom, we might be accused of Modernist leanings. Anyone who has read the rest of our writings should be able to understand the unfairness of such an accusation. It is certainly true that Modernism is often accompanied by a resourcement theology which rejects scholasticism (especially St. Thomas), undermines the development of dogma, and promotes a return to the early Fathers and a “simpler”, much less-developed and confrontational intellectual tradition. We, on the other hand, believe in the absolute necessity of both Thomism and defined dogma in order to counter Modernist errors in the Church and in the world. The simplicity and immediacy of which we speak in this article is a return of the heart to living the immediacy of God, and is in no way constituted by retreat of the mind away from the Deposit of Faith or the grace of Thomism.
Another icon of our times comes to mind. At the beginning of the pontificate of Pope Francis a prominent, traditional Catholic website offered two photographs in opposition to one another. The one was of Francis in his simple white vestments, the other of Cardinal Burke processing down the aisle in his red cappa magna vestment with its forty-foot train. The message, of course was that we had a choice – either the “phony” simplicity of Pope Francis or the magnificence of the traditional characterized by Cardinal Burke in his cappa magna. However, irrespective of whether Francis’ motivations were phony or not, there is much to be said for a beauty and nobility in worship which is reflected by simplicity rather than such opulence and grandiosity Further, and again irrespective of Francis’ sincerity or lack of it, there is much to be said for the idea that we need a poor Church, and a Church of the poor, which journeys out to the peripheries and seeks out souls who are “outside the camp”. That we tend to view almsgiving and the other temporal and spiritual works of mercy as a sort of minimalist duty which accompanies our pursuit of the “good life”, rather than a real passion, might be a pre-eminent sign of the loss of the immediacy of Christ’s Truth and Mercy in our own hearts.
In other words, the Papacy of Francis might just be a message, and chastisement, from God. The fact that he uses these concepts to undermine doctrine, deny the Church’s mission to convert all these peoples, and to promote pastoral practices which represent a false mercy and charity, and which at least implicitly violate dogma and encourage sacrilege, does not mean that we should entrench ourselves in a kind of pharisaism embodied in a “monumental” traditionalism which masks the loss of the simplicity and urgency of the Gospel. We might well consider that something like the cappa magna is a very worldly effort (the garb of kings) to imitate an unworldly majesty. God’s majesty on this earth is most adequately mirrored and represented by the union of human hearts with His Truth, Love, and Mercy. Beautiful things are of course appropriate to the worship of God, but they too should reflect the sanctity and majesty of Christ through a holy modesty and simplicity, rather than through a Renaissance-inspired, or even pagan, garishness.
Again, we find it necessary to repeat that all of this criticism of “Traditionalism” does not mean that we do not recognize the horror of things which Pope Francis says and does. The whole point of this analysis is that “the center will not hold”; falsification and duplicity seem to reign “on all sides”; and the temptation towards taking refuge in one or more extremes seems almost overwhelming.
The conversion of Emperor Constantine and embrace of Christianity by the Roman Empire in the fourth century was accompanied by a vast expansion in the building of the monuments of Christian civilization – the building of Churches, spinning of a complex legal system, ritualization of the Liturgy, creation of a complex organization within the Church itself with all the various gradations of rights and privileges of various Sees, the establishment of the Church as a political, diplomatic, and economic power, etc. All of this tends to speak of a Christ Who, while not having abandoned us, is yet no longer the object of a single-minded immediacy and presence to the human mind and heart.
Running parallel to these developments within the Church, all Christians were now free to engage fully with the world in all aspects of its evolutionary progression towards what we now have with us. And what we now have with us is an extraordinarily complex web of both intellectual and physical structures which seem almost perfectly designed to sap any consciousness of Christ’s presence out of our lives. As recent polls indicate, at least in this country, Catholics appear to be just as immersed in these structures and their pagan roots as is the general public.
We would like to propose three qualities of human life that must be present in order for the mind and heart of man to adequately respond to the immediate presence of Christ to his soul: mystery, simplicity, and insecurity.
We have written much in other articles about what is necessary in order that the quality of mystery be present to our consciousness, and we have also analyzed the scientific reductionism which has made the perception of such mystery virtually impossible for modern man. Suffice to say here that once we understand that science is totally impotent to penetrate to the substantial nature or essence of any created thing, and that the substantial reality of any created thing is simply what it is because God has created it out of nothing and sustains it in being every instant of its existence, then we become intellectually capable of understanding the presence of this mystery. But this does not mean that the apprehension of the mystery of all of creation is fully restored to our daily lives. Almost inevitably, our perception has been so blunted by the effect of scientific thinking that we have been largely sapped of the ability to fully experience this mystery. God has effectively and affectively been billeted outside of creation.
In regard to simplicity, this quality of life has virtually been destroyed for the vast majority of human beings, especially those living in developed countries. God, in a sense, “incarnated” all sorts of values and truths in nature and in the simple life of toil and craftsmanship. Much of this has been obliterated in a world of concrete, factories and offices, contrived recreation, passive entertainment through all the various forms of media, and a host of other things which constitute the unnatural pulsations of modern life (especially of city life). It has been said that there are a great many people in cities that have never seen a cow. It is even more likely that they have never seen anyone born or die.
Finally, in order that God be effectively present to the human heart, there must be a great insecurity present in our lives. After all, there can be no Christian spirituality where there is not prayer; and the most fundamental form of prayer is asking. If we feel secure in this world, there is little motivation for asking of God. And since insecurity in regard to the things of this world is considered a deficiency, it is almost inevitable that any prayer that we do offer for such things will be directed towards “consuming them in our concupiscences”.
It is astounding the degree to which we have surrounded ourselves with institutions which generate a false sense of security in regard to the things of this world. We only need to consider, as an example, the omnipresence of insurance policies in all the areas of our lives: life, liability, damage, health, car, home, business, etc. There is no area or activity of our lives that cannot be, and often must be, insured. There is even an Alien Abduction Insurance. One company in England alone has sold 30,000 of these policies. Why should we ask of God if we are already “covered” by man?
There is no escape from all of this except in spiritual childhood: “Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18: 3). Herein lies the “foolishness” that overcomes the world.
There is one great advantage which the present generation possesses over all previous generations. All the monuments of man are now being rent asunder, and the rottenness within revealed. The chaos which the world now experiences reaches more deeply into souls than anything previously experienced by mankind. It is not primarily the brutality of war, the terror of plague or other sicknesses, or the agonies of torture (although all these things certainly exist). Rather, it is an overwhelming insecurity as to whether life has any meaning at all. It is in the depth of this total insecurity – this nakedness – that the cry of a child may still come forth. With such a cry, God can work: “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to sorrow. Be humbled in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4: 9-10).
For those who weep and cry already, their nakedness is a blessing and a way that can lead them to God. A path has been prepared: “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge, and the way that will lead you to God.” We must, however, treat this prophesy not as something we own because we are Catholics and “possess” the Faith, but as a passion to be lived in the simplicity of a child’s cry. Our Lady has in fact given us the words and grace of this cry in the Hail Mary and the Rosary. It must be prayed with the immediacy of a child’s heart, and not the automated rapidity and rhythms of hearts grown cold and remote.
Please read our article The Rosary: The Way of Perfection.
Please also read our article The Third Glorious Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit. We consider it a companion-piece to the above article in understanding why the power of the Holy Spirit seems to be so inoperative in the contemporary Church. It is especially necessary for those who in any way might be tempted to feel that Christ has abandoned His Church.
The Rosary: The Way of Perfection
“To Mary alone God gave the keys to the cellar of divine love and the ability to enter the most sublime and secret ways of perfection, and lead others along them.”
(St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, #45)
Our Lady of Fatima said that her Immaculate Heart would be our refuge and the way that would lead us to God. She also clearly designated the praying of the Rosary as the Way by which this interior fulfillment of our hearts in union with God should be accomplished.
Just as all Truth, Holiness, and Perfection came to us in the Incarnation of Christ through the Angelic Salutation, so the Hail Mary provides the way for each of our hearts to be fully immersed in Mary in order that we may be transformed into the likeness of her Son Jesus.
Those who have prayed the Rosary faithfully can testify to the mysterious power it has over the human soul, especially in terms of instilling a deep security in their faith. This is something which seems to occur even in the midst of all sorts of distractions, inadequate concentration on the words we are saying, or the equally frustrating failures to focus on the mysteries themselves. But few seem to consider that the Rosary itself, embodying the very words with which God became man, might equally be the means by which Our Lord and Our Lady desire that we be drawn into the highest realms of love and union with God.
Throughout the history of Catholic spiritual writings, there has traditionally been proposed a threefold hierarchical division of types of prayer: oral prayer, discursive meditation, and the higher states of contemplative prayer in which one is drawn into deeper union with God. The Rosary has almost always been seen as operating exclusively in the realm of the first two types of prayer. The third type, usually considered as an exalted mystical state experienced only by very rarely chosen souls, has been viewed as something to which oral prayer like the Rosary cannot usually provide a “Way”. In light of what has been written above, this makes little sense. The Hail Mary being the Word by which God came to us, it should also be considered the “cellar of divine love” (using St. Louis de Montfort’s expression), which contains all that is necessary in order that we may be drawn up through all the stages of prayer into union with the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
St. Teresa of Avila, one of the greatest mystics in the history of the Church, tells us that the deepest experiences of prayer through which we reach union with God, are not at all intended by God to be reserved only for a few select souls. She tells us, in fact, that a very large number of souls in this world hover on the edge of such deeper union with God, and never manage to cross over into this marvelous world, solely because of one very tragic mistake which they commit in their spiritual lives.
These souls, described by St. Teresa, have reached a state where mortal sin is truly abhorrent to them, and they even are committed to waging war against venial sin. They are firmly established in the faith, are committed to the practice of virtue, and have spent much time and effort in meditating upon the mysteries of Our Lord and His Mother, and the truths of the Gospel. And all this has been reflected in a devotion to prayer and discursive meditation.
But they come to a point where all of this is not enough – something much deeper seems to place a demand upon their souls. Their former practices of prayer and meditation, which had seemed such fruitful sources of joy and enlightenment, now seem to have become profoundly permeated by temptations, aridity, distraction, and lack of consolation. It is at this point that such persons might experience a great deal of anxiety, restlessness, melancholia, and discouragement – all of this posing the threat that they might even abandon prayer altogether. It is here, according to St. Teresa, that so many souls falter because they lack understanding – most specifically, they lack self-knowledge.
What St. Teresa means by this lack of self-knowledge is not the kind of self-knowledge which we speak of in regard to unraveling the blindness which we may have acquired concerning our sins and infidelities. Rather, it is that ignorance which fails to understand our makeup as fallen human beings, and how this applies to making progress towards God. Because of this ignorance, the temptations, distractions, discouragement, melancholia, etc. which such persons experience become a threat to their commitment to, and progress in, the spiritual life of prayer. And even though these persons may, in all good will, persevere in prayer, they become resigned to a spiritual state of distraction, dullness, and torpidity – somehow becoming convinced that this is the best that has been willed for them by God. They may even suffer the delusion that such a continual state of torpidity and lack of progress is a meritorious cross of suffering intended for them by God.
It is here, says St. Teresa, that such persons are profoundly mistaken. They are indeed very close to God. But they are led away from being drawn into the depths of His love because they identify all of the distraction and temptations which are raging away in their lower mind (because of the effects of original sin) with the state of their soul. And in “going after” such things, they are simply following in the steps of the very foolish man who thinks he can fight the Devil on his own ground. St. Teresa says that in reality, we can no more stop such things through our own efforts than we can stop the roaring of the sea. In her writings, she describes the extraordinary nature and extent of such temptations which she often experienced even after having attained the highest states of union with God.
The lack of self-knowledge which is the cause of this unfortunate attitude and state is therefore this: it consists in the failure to understand that, at this stage of the spiritual life, deeper union with God is dependent not primarily upon the mind and its operations, but rather upon the will. And this in turn requires that we realize that we are now being called to simplify our prayer into what should consist primarily of simple acts of love and surrender to God. St. Teresa even goes so far as to say that during this descent into the cellar of God’s love, we need to laugh at our temptations and distractions, and count them as nothing. This of course does not in any way mean that discursive thinking and meditation cease entirely, but only that they assume their now proper status as the foundations of Faith from which the soul is called to launch forth into the deeper reaches of God’s light and love.
All of this bears profoundly on our praying of the Rosary.
Probably all readers have either read, or heard it said, that meditations upon the individual Mysteries, and the lives of Jesus and Mary which they depict, are the very soul of the Rosary. This is certainly true. Just as Faith is the absolute foundation of all true Charity, so the Mysteries of the life of Christ and His Mother are the foundations of all that constitutes our growth in love through the Rosary. As St. Teresa also wrote, any devotion or method of prayer which proposes to make progress in the spiritual life by bypassing the humanity of Christ (and therefore the actual Mysteries of the Rosary) is an extremely dangerous deceit of the Devil.
This does not mean, however, that all of our time spent in praying the Rosary must be spent in discursive thought concerning these Mysteries. Anyone who has spent years trying to use something such as a “scriptural rosary” is fully aware of the futility of always trying to keep their attention fixed upon such “thoughts”. Because their prayer is always focused in the realm of discursive thinking and imagination, they also find themselves operating in the playground where all the “demons” of distractions and temptations make their home. They must therefore come to realize that there is truly a path into the heart of all of these mysteries which is profoundly effective in bypassing this “roaring of the sea”. And since the Angelic Salutation occupies what is certainly at least ninety percent of the time of our prayer, and is the heart of the Rosary, we shall begin here (we shall discuss the other prayers of the Rosary afterwards).
While at the beginning of each decade we must certainly try to focus on, and bow our minds and hearts, before the individual mystery which we are about to pray. During the actual recitation of the Hail Mary’s we suggest something very different – a difference which is completely focused on placing our hearts within Mary’s Immaculate Heart in order to enter upon that way of interior transformation that will lead us “affectively” closer to Her and to Jesus.
During the words “Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee”, we should see Our Lord entering in complete spiritual childhood into Mary’s Immaculate Heart and womb at the moment of the Incarnation. It is here that we may be assured that we are in no way attempting to bypass the humanity of Christ or any of the Mysteries of His life, despite the fact that we are not always focused on discursive thinking and meditation upon these Mysteries. As St. Louis de Montfort writes, “The Incarnation is the greatest of the Mysteries of Christ’s life, because it contains the grace and intention of all the rest.” With the very first words of the Angelic Salutation we therefore become united with Our Lord and Our Lady in all of the Mysteries of their lives. And we may be assured that, as deemed necessary by Our Lord Himself, the deeper meaning of these Mysteries will open up to us, not only during the recitation of the Rosary itself, but also through all the further meditations upon and study of the Faith which is incumbent upon all of us during our entire life.
With the words “Blessed art thou among women” we interiorly follow Our Lord in total humility and descent into the Immaculate Heart of Mary our Mother. And with the words “and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus”, we receive Jesus in spiritual communion. It is an extraordinary source of joy to have realized that we can “make” a spiritual communion during each Hail Mary. We might also add a quick “Come into my heart” after saying the name of Jesus. Such an ejaculation “in the back of our mind” is possible even when praying the rosary orally with someone else, and while we are meanwhile responding with the second half.
As for the second half of the Hail Mary, it is easy simply to focus on the words – to pray as sinners for the grace of profound inner purification which can only come through the grace of Mary’s intercession (“Pray for us sinners”), and to also pray especially for what has always been considered the greatest of individual actual graces – the grace of final perseverance (“now and at the hour of our death.”). This second part of Hail Mary amounts to a total consecration to Jesus through Mary for the entirety of our lives on the path towards holiness.
We must realize that when we ask our Holy Mother to pray for us, we are asking for something completely unique in the way of intercession. Mary’s prayer is something much more than the prayer of others. Her union with her Son possesses a power shared by none. Being totally and uniquely united to her Son, her prayer for an individual soul is a total embrace and enfolding of that soul within the depths of love which is her Immaculate Heart. And since her Heart is totally united with the Sacred Heart of her Son in a manner which makes her the mediatrix of all of His graces, the only thing which prevents the total union of such a soul (for whom she prays) with Christ, is the lack of total surrender of that particular person to her love. The second part of the Hail Mary should therefore embody our deepest cry for that state of spiritual childhood which seeks complete surrender to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in order that she might fully form us into the likeness of her Son Jesus.
What is written above might seem rather complicated in print, but after a bit of initial effort and work, it has become something that seems very natural. It does not disturb the pace of the Rosary (unless we are praying it too fast). Even if we become distracted (which still often happens), it is easy, as St. Louis de Montfort says, to “arise with alacrity” and return our hearts to Jesus and Mary. It is the work (the art) of a lifetime.
One of the very noticeable effects of this method of praying the Hail Mary is its effect on the desire and ability to focus on the other prayers of the Rosary. The additional great benefit of this practice is that it does truly bring about a “union” between the “word” that is on our lips and the thought that is in our mind. We are actually intending with our mind and will what we are orally (or silently) praying. One of the primary effects of original sin, stemming from the loss of the gift of integrity between all our faculties, is the now natural (in terms of fallen nature) duplicity ( St. James calls this “double-mindedness”) that runs so deep in each of us between what we are thinking and doing, and especially between what we are thinking and what we are saying. Any restoration of “single-mindedness” is therefore a wonderful thing and a foretaste of Heaven in which this integrity will be fully restored. As Our Lord said, “If thy eye be single, then thy whole body shall be lightsome.”
The recitation of the Apostles Creed seems to be almost immediately affected by the overflow of graces which now flow from this at-least partial restoration of integrity. All of the articles of belief enunciated in the Creed are of course quite specific truths of our faith, and the movement of assent of our minds and hearts to the truths contained therein is penetrated now with new attentiveness and assent.
The “Our Father” is of course “Our Lord’s Prayer”, and therefore pre-eminent over all of creation. When we pray “Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be they name; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven”, it might therefore indeed be seen as appropriate to make the simple intention of surrendering to God’s absolute sovereignty over all the world, especially as expressed in the Kingship of Christ over all individual souls, all nations, and all aspects of our individual and collective lives. And even though entire books have been written on the Our Father, the simple requests that follow should present no problem for the attention of those who pray them. We only need to mention that, as we descend more deeply in to the Heart of Mary, our supplication “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” naturally becomes far more redolent with meaning. Entering into the Heart of Mercy cannot fail in generating the effect of saturating our own hearts with a deeper charity and mercy towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. This of course should also necessarily have the effect of increasing our attention and desire for the salvation of souls which is the essence of the Fatima prayer at the end of each decade.
The “Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end” might indeed be the Rosary prayer which has been said in the most rote matter, and could well rate highest on any scale of double-mindedness and minimal consciousness. This is tragic. It is the prayer which most succinctly expresses the greatest mystery of our Faith – the Holy Trinity – and it should not at all be difficult during its recitation to place our minds in the eternal unchanging knowledge, will, and embrace of God (we wrote on this subject in the article on the Fifth Glorious Mystery). It might even be very appropriate in reciting this prayer to experience a wave of fortitude, and even anger, in militant defense of the eternal, unchanging Nature of God and His Revelation in the face of the world-wide attacks now being made by the forces of Antichrist against all that is contained therein.
We need also consider the intentions for which we pray the Rosary. Anyone who has prayed the Rosary for many years probably has experienced how tedious it can be offering the same intentions over and over, especially if they are numerous. These intentions tend to become very automatic, and profoundly lacking in all that we might imagine to be integral to truly desiring what we ask for, or in loving the very people for whom we are praying. It is one of the wonderful and mysterious effects of praying the Angelic Salutation in the way we have described above that it opens our hearts to the needs and miseries of others:
“And I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh.” (Ez. 36:26).
All that we have offered above in regard to a method for praying the Rosary are suggestions. There is a great deal of richness and variety in human hearts and minds which cannot be placed under any one absolutely- uniform method or rule of prayer.
At the same time, however, we believe that we have offered some principles that are universal. Holding primacy among these principles is the truth that it is a great error and delusion to be in any way satisfied with a practice of praying the Rosary which is beset with distractions, inattentiveness, etc. What is imperative is that each one of us becomes, as was the Old Testament prophet Daniel, a “Man of Desires”, incapable of resting in spiritual mediocrity and duplicity. If none of what is written above is helpful to some particular individual, then we recommend incessant prayer to Our Lady that he be shown his own particular way – like the widow who sought justice from the unjust judge (Luke 18: 1-8). As Our Lord said, “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away (Mt. 11:12). Nothing is more pleasing to Our Lord than the violence within the human heart that refuses to live on the outskirts of His love.
We need only add that what has been written above is the essence of what the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church is all about. There can be no solution to the tidal wave of chaos which is now upon us except through that extraordinary interior purification of our hearts which awaits our descent into the cellars of divine love present within the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and which is accessible through her Rosary. Only thus will the power of the Holy Spirit once again become fruitful within the Church for the conversion, and re-conversion, of peoples and nations to Christ. Let us pursue this love violently, especially for the sake of our children who are faced with a world (and the Prince of this world) which is now in possession of a power to devour souls never before witnessed in Christian history.
Praying At All Times
“Watch ye, therefore, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to come, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Luke 21: 36)
Never in Christian history has it been more imperative that we pay heed to the scripture quoted above. Never have we more needed an escape from the “things to come”, and never, therefore, has it been more incumbent upon us to “pray at all times”.
The five-decade Rosary of course requires a period of extended time. There are therefore many limitations in our over-busy world placed upon how many times we can pray such a Rosary during the day. There would seem to be no such limit placed upon Hail Mary’s prayed according to the method we have described above. A Hail Mary takes about twenty seconds. We all need to think about what this means in terms of the potential for being immersed in the “cellars of divine love” of Our Lord and Our Lady, of receiving Jesus in spiritual communion innumerable times during the day, and of protecting ourselves from evil and all “the things to come”.
One of the most wonderful times to pray Hail Mary’s in this way is when we are in bed and trying to fall asleep. This is especially true if we go to bed with worries on our mind, and enormously so if there is any kind of despair, discouragement, depression, anger, etc. At such times, the truths concerning Mary as being the “Refuge of Sinners” and the Rosary as the “Way of Perfection” are verified beyond any possible doubt.