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Perfect Joy, Perfect Desire

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Perfect Joy, Perfect Desire

 In our long article titled St. Francis of Assisi: They Pretended to Love You So That They Might Leave You, we explored St. Francis’ ideal of Poverty largely from the perspective of the soul’s possession, pursuit, and use of the things of this world. This “exterior” poverty is, of course, intimately related to that interior “spirit of poverty” and humility which is the first Beatitude and the foundation upon which the entire spiritual life is constructed. As stated in the Prologue to Sacrum Commercium:

“Very properly is the kingdom of heaven said to be the possession of those who keep nothing of the goods of this world through their own will, their inclination towards spiritual things, and their desire for eternal things. For it can only follow that a person will live on heavenly things if he cares nothing for earthly things, and he who renounces all earthly things and ‘counts them as dung’ will taste with pleasure the savory crumbs that fall from the table of the holy angels and will deserve to taste how sweet and how good the Lord is.”

But there is a whole interior realm, existing in itself, and therefore constituting a uniquely spiritual poverty, which deserves our full consideration. And just as it is impossibly hypocritical to live in pursuit of the physical riches, pleasures, and luxuries of this world while claiming to possess the spiritual poverty which is the first Beatitude, so it is impossible to cultivate true detachment from the world unless it flows outward from a genuinely Catholic interior Poverty and Humility. As there are many forms of false mysticisms which have seduced many down through Catholic history, so there are many forms of asceticism practiced by false religions which, while often giving the appearance of something quite spiritual, and even of great holiness, are works of Satan for the seduction and ruin of souls.

We wish to offer here, therefore, two marvelous short pieces of true Catholic spiritual poverty which will hopefully shine a light in our souls so as to guard us from such seduction and ruin. The first constitutes a chapter contained in the Fioretti (The Little Flowers of St. Francis):

One day in winter, as St Francis was going with Brother Leo from Perugia to St Mary of the Angels, and was suffering greatly from the cold, he called to Brother Leo, who was walking on before him, and said to him: “Brother Leo, if it were to please God that the Friars Minor should give, in all lands, a great example of holiness and edification, write down, and note carefully, that this would not be perfect joy.

A little further on, St Francis called to him a second time: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor were to make the lame to walk, if they should make straight the crooked, chase away demons, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and, what is even a far greater work, if they should raise the dead after four days, write that this would not be perfect joy.

Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor knew all languages; if they were versed in all science; if they could explain all Scripture; if they had the gift of prophecy, and could reveal, not only all future things, but likewise the secrets of all consciences and all souls, write that this would not be perfect joy.

After proceeding a few steps farther, he cried out again with a loud voice: “O Brother Leo, thou little lamb of God! if the Friars Minor could speak with the tongues of angels; if they could explain the course of the stars; if they knew the virtues of all plants; if all the treasures of the earth were revealed to them; if they were acquainted with the various qualities of all birds, of all fish, of all animals, of men, of trees, of stones, of roots, and of waters – write that this would not be perfect joy.

Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor had the gift of preaching so as to convert all infidels to the faith of Christ, write that this would not be perfect joy.

Now when this manner of discourse had lasted for the space of two miles, Brother Leo in great amazement asked him: “Father, I beg thee to tell me wherein is perfect joy.

St Francis answered: “If, when we shall arrive at St Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him, `We are two of the brethren’, he should answer angrily, `What ye say is not the truth; ye are but two impostors going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone I say’; if then he refuse to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall – then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who maketh him to speak thus against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy.

And if we knock again, and the porter come out in anger to drive us away with oaths and blows, as if we were vile impostors, saying, `Begone, miserable robbers! Go to the hospital, for here you shall neither eat nor sleep!’ – and if we accept all this with patience, with joy, and with charity, O Brother Leo, write that this indeed is perfect joy.

And if, urged by cold and hunger, we knock again, calling to the porter and entreating him with many tears to open to us and give us shelter, for the love of God, and if he come out more angry than before, exclaiming, `These are but importunate rascals, I will deal with them as they deserve’; and taking a knotted stick, he seize us by the hood, throwing us on the ground, rolling us in the snow, and shall beat and wound us with the knots in the stick – if we bear all these injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for him, write, O Brother Leo, that here, finally, is perfect joy.

And now, brother, listen to the conclusion. Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt; for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, `What hast thou that thou hast not received from God? and if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?’

But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, `I will not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.

We must carefully note that all of St. Francis “joy” and the all spiritual poverty which is the source of this joy is entirely rooted in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. There is absolutely no true Catholic spiritually, of any kind, which attempts to bypass the suffering humanity of Christ.

The second example is The Litany of Humility, most often attributed (although this is disputed) to Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State of the Holy See under Pope St. Pius X:

Litany of Humility

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.

 From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being extolled, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being honored, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus.

 

From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being despised, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being wronged, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being suspected, deliver me, Jesus.

 

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

 

Everything contained in St. Francis’ teaching concerning “Perfect Joy”, and also in the Litany of Humility, target what both Holy Scripture and St. Thomas so aptly delineate as the “beginning of all sin”: Spiritual Pride. The primary effect of original sin in each one of us is love of self and therefore the desire to be “first”. It would seem therefore that what might be most disturbing to us in the depths of our fallen nature is the very last petition in the Litany of Humility: “That others may become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as I should.” If the whole of my Catholic life is directed towards holiness in perfect imitation of Jesus and Our Lady, then how can I possibly pray that others may become holier than I? It would appear to be a stark contradiction to do so.

The answer to this mystery is obtained through understanding, in the depths of one’s soul, the dynamics of the path of holiness itself. It springs forth from seeing with both one’s mind and heart the Infinite Goodness of God, while at the same time seeing the poverty and sinfulness of oneself. Possibly the most succinct and beautiful expression between these two realities is to be found in St. Augustine’s work The City of God:

“Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self.” (14:28).

But it is not just a question of believing in these two absolutely necessary truths of our Faith. It is a matter of such “believing” (faith) descending into that understanding with the heart which springs forth in love. Possibly the greatest barrier to true growth in holiness among those who would consider themselves faithful Catholics is the failure to see and understand with their hearts the very truths which they believe with their faith. Our Lord said to the Pharisees:

For the heart of this people is grown gross, and with their ears they have been dull of hearing, and their eyes they have shut: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” Mt. 13: 15).

It is a matter of faith blossoming into holy and passionate desire. This is why, of course, all the petitions in the second half of the Litany of Humility conclude with the phrase “Grant me the grace to desire it….” It is not enough to believe, we must also desire. And this desire can only be generated through God’s grace. Immersed in the consequence of original sin, it is not something which comes naturally to us, and cannot therefore become the passion of our lives except as a gift from God.

To truly enter upon this path establishes a deep joy within our souls. We come to find St. Francis “joy”, and even to relish, our own nothingness. As self-contradictory as it may sound, we come to hunger after death in Christ, that His Life might become fully present in our souls. St. Paul, beseeching God that he might be delivered from his infirmity, received the following response from Christ:“My grace is sufficient for thee: for power is made perfect in infirmity.” St. Paul therefore concludes:

Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. For which cause I please myself in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ. For when I am weak, then am I powerful. (2 Cor. 12: 8-10).

 We now should be able to see why it is that to pray for the grace to desire “that others may become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as I should” is the petition which would seem to penetrate deeper than all the rest. There is nowhere where our love of self is more encrusted than in our relationships with our fellow man. And of course the ultimate expression of this spiritual pride is to envy the holiness of others, and to equate our own ultimate happiness above all others through possession of that “status” in which we shall receive the reward which the disciples James and John sought after – of receiving the right to sit at the right and left hand of Christ on His throne. Our Lord’s response was to call all the Twelve together and declare to them:

You know that they who seem to rule over the Gentiles, lord it over them: and their princes have power over them. But it is not so among you: but whosoever will be greater, shall be your minister. And whosoever will be first among you, shall be the servant of all. For the Son of man also is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life as redemption for many.” (Mark 10: 35-45)

In the depths of the Cross dwells that perfect joy and power of truly desiring, according to the will of Christ, to gather the crumbs under Our Lord’s table, and to be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. And in this lies that perfect love of the children of God which springs forth as the Life of Christ overcoming and replacing the ravages of self-love. It is here where the motherly care of Our Lady bears fruit in our rendering pure glory to God:

My soul doth magnify the Lord.

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.

Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid

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St. Francis of Assisi: They Pretended to Love You So that They Might Leave You

File:Cimabue (attr.), tavola di san francesco, museo della porziuncola.jpg

Saint Francis of Assisi:

They Pretended to Love You So That They Might Leave You

 “In no one has the image of Christ our Lord and the ideal of Gospel life been more faithfully and strikingly expressed than in Francis. For this reason, while he called himself ‘the Herald of the great King’, he has justly been styled ‘the second Christ’, because he appeared like Christ reborn to his contemporaries no less than to later ages.” (Pope Pius XI, Rite Expiatis)

*(Note): What follows is the first and second installments in a three-part series on St. Francis.

 

I believe that we have to go back to the Thirteenth Century in order to understand the crisis which has now largely decimated the Catholic Church. What happened almost eight hundred years ago instituted a spiraling process of betrayal which culminated in the chastisement from God which we have experienced as the post-Vatican Council II Church. That we now think Vatican II to be the source of this crisis, rather than its fruit, serves to indicate the degree to which self-delusion is the mistress of such betrayal. The darkness which has collectively descended over the Catholic mind, and the resultant ignorance in regard to the roots of its own illness, is now almost universal.

The thirteenth century was “The Greatest of Centuries,” not primarily because it was the century in which there were great Saints, magnificent cathedrals, Catholic monarchs, or even because it was the century in which all the principles of Catholic Faith and Catholic life were, to a significant extent, incarnated into the institutions of society. These “fruits” (to the limited extent to which they were realized) were derivative, rather than causative. Rather, it was the greatest of centuries because it was in this century that God bathed both human intellect and will in the transparent light of His own presence to the world. By so doing, he infused into our cultural “vision” an iconography of the perfect ordering of these two faculties towards both the created and the Divine orders. The two primary vehicles of this revelation were St. Francis and St. Thomas. And this, not primarily because of their personal holiness, but because of the double-vision of life (the living of the Beatitudes) and Truth which God revealed through them.

Correspondingly, the roots of that spiritual decay which has increasingly penetrated Christian civilization over the past 7-8 centuries, and which has now culminated in the virtual death of this civilization, can be identified with two causative factors: 1) the stripping away from St. Francis of his Religious Order through the destruction of the ideal of Poverty, in which the Gospel light of purity of heart [which “sees God”] was manifested to the world in all its fullness; and, 2) the rejection of the purity of Thomistic Metaphysics, which contained the intellectual framework and vision absolutely necessary to our perception of the transparency of all creation, and therefore also integral to this vision of God’s presence in the world. This twofold violation – of Franciscan Poverty and Thomistic Metaphysics – in turn engendered a war between Franciscan and Dominican spirituality which has been perpetuated down through the centuries. Such conflict could only have happened through a falsification of the charisms of both Orders. As Francis and Dominic literally embraced in their own lives, so did God intend the embrace of Franciscan and Dominican (especially in the form of Thomism) spirituality to endure until the end of time.

The Thirteenth century was poised on the cusp of the Renaissance, and the flood of pagan concupiscence and intellectual pride which was about to inundate Christendom. In the heart of this threatened world, God planted the two gifts of Franciscan Poverty and Thomistic Realism as Icons of Love and Truth, the vision of which would infuse every aspect of human culture with all that was necessary to protect it from these evils. These Gifts were rejected, and this rejection initiated a fundamental posture of prostitution towards the world which, like a slow-moving cancer, has eaten away at the heart of the Church for centuries. Wrongly, therefore, do we now wail at the post-Vatican II ruin of our Catholic world as though it were a sudden calamity unjustly inflicted. As we shall see, ours is a chastisement long merited.

In previous articles, we have dealt more extensively with the Gift of Thomas, and its rejection. Most of this article will focus on St. Francis, but with some emphasis on integrating the visions of these two great Saints.

 

St. Francis: The Key to Catholic Restoration

“Here the broad highway of the old world changed into the narrow way to life eternal.”

The above-quoted passage, taken from the early life of St. Francis titled The Mirror of Perfection (Speculum Perfectionis – to be designated here as SC)), speaks of that moment of God’s radical intervention in human history which was the life of St. Francis of Assisi. The great, tragic irony is that, despite the immense popularity of the Saint himself, even during his lifetime, this grace was almost immediately compromised and falsified by many who claimed to be his friends.

It may indeed seem disproportionate to place so much spiritual and historical importance upon one man, and the particular grace to the Church and the world which he represented. It would seem of value therefore to begin with the evaluation of Francis made by Popes in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries who saw in the following of St. Francis the great hope for the restoration of Christian civilization, and the defeat of all those forces which threatened its destruction. In his encyclical Rite Expiatis (On the Seventh Centenary of the Death of St. Francis), Pope Pius XI wrote:

“…in no one has the image of Christ our Lord and the ideal of Gospel life been more faithfully and strikingly expressed than in Francis. For this reason, while he called himself “the Herald of the great King,” he has justly been styled “the second Christ,” because he appeared like Christ reborn to his contemporaries no less than to later ages….”

Pope Benedict XV, in Sacra Propediem, expressed similar sentiments:

The words of St. Paul, ‘Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ,’ we may justly apply to Francis, who by following Christ has become His most perfect image and likeness.”

Popes such as Leo XIII, Pius X, Benedict XV, and Pius XI all saw in this “following” of St. Francis something that was the key to overcoming the crisis of the present age:

“[St. Francis] has been appointed by Our Predecessor [Pope Leo XIII] as heavenly patron of the so-called Catholic Action, being a man destined by God for the reformation not only of his own turbulent age but of Christian society in all times.” (Rite Expiatis).

This translated into a call from these Popes for virtually all Catholics to join the Third Order of St. Francis:

We do urge all Christians not to be behindhand in joining the ranks of this soldiery of Christ.” (Leo XIII, Auspicato).

Urge those who have not yet entered this distinguished militia to do so this year. And let those who are too young become Cordbearers of St. Francis so that even the children may grow accustomed to the life.” (Rite Expiatis).

In other words, the gift of God which is the life and ideal of St. Francis of Assisi is to be seen not only as of a sort of general inspiration and motivation towards holiness, as is the case with all saints, but for a very specific purpose – for salvation of Christian civilization from all those forces which intend its destruction.

We should be startled by this assessment. No one could possibly conclude that the Franciscan Order of today possesses the power or grace to reform or save Christian civilization. The application of such terms as “militia” and “soldier” to the Franciscan Order now seems for the most part laughable, and the notion that children should be “Cordbearers” in such a militia seems even more absurd. Something happened which virtually destroyed the power of this inestimable gift from God. In order to understand this “something”, we need to penetrate to the heart of Francis’ life and ideal, and then unravel the betrayal which ensued.

 

An Icon in Stone

It is appropriate, I think, to begin with an iconographic depiction of this grace and its betrayal.

Four kilometers from Assisi is the Basilica ofSanta 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”). 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. And, in St. Francis’ own words, “Of all the churches in the world that the blessed Virgin loves, she bears the greatest love for this one.” (Legend of Perugia, 9 – hereafter abbreviated LP)).

It is especially important to understand that the Portiuncula was never owned by Francis or the Order. To this day, the Franciscans pay an annual rent of one basket of fish to the Benedictines for its use.

The ideal which St. Francis desired to be preserved in this most holy of Franciscan sites was the Franciscan charism of Poverty. We must realize that Francis’ ideal of Poverty soared far beyond the evangelical counsel of poverty which we associate with the religious life. His “Lady Poverty” extended to all that is human – both interior and exterior. It encompassed the entirety of the Gospel – the mystery of Christ assuming absolute servitude and poverty for our salvation: God, poor in His birth, poor in His life and public ministry, and embracing absolute Poverty in His Death. As emphasized by Popes Pius X, Benedict XV and Pius XI, Francis’ charism of poverty penetrated to the heart of the perfect imitation of Jesus Christ: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58).

Because St. Francis considered the Portiuncula to be “holy, beloved, and chosen before all others by Christ and the glorious Virgin” (SP, 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.).

During St. Francis’ life, the General Chapter was held at the Portiuncula. The only dwelling that the friars had for their gathering was a small, poor hut covered with straw, the walls being constructed of branches and mud. Francis returned from one of the provinces to find that the citizens of Assisi had hastily erected a larger building for their use. Francis’ response was radical and drastic. He ordered his brothers up on the roof, and they began tearing off the tiles and throwing them to the ground, with the intention of demolishing the whole building. The citizens of Assisi finally persuaded Francis to desist from his project of demolition, employing the argument that this particular building belonged to the community of Assisi, and was not in any way to be perceived as the property of the Friars Minor.

At another time, the Minister General (most likely Francis’ Vicar, Brother Elias) decided to build two small houses close to the Church of the Portiuncula because of the increasing number of brothers and general population who came to this place, and because “it was practically impossible for them to provide for the needs of physical health and their spiritual life.” (LP,12)). Upon returning from a journey, and having discovered this construction almost completed, Francis sent for the minister general and said to him: “Brother, this friary is the model and mirror of our Order. So that the brothers of the entire Order who come here may take back to their friaries the good example of poverty, I wish that the brothers of this friary bear with inconvenience and disturbance for the love of the Lord God rather than experience tranquility and consolations.”

There is therefore no question that the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, in all the various dimensions of its physical and spiritual grandiosity, amounts to a profound betrayal of St. Francis. One cannot help but call to mind the words of Our Lord: “Woe to you who build the monuments of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.” (Luke 11:47). The difference here being that with the tragedy which has befallen the Portiuncula, it was not St. Francis himself who was slain, but his ideal.

 

The Franciscan Ideal

Francis knew that what God intended to accomplish through his Order was something radically different from all other religious Orders. In his Testament, written shortly before his death, and designed not as another rule, but “that we may observe in a more Catholic way the Rule we have promised to God, ”St. Francis wrote the following:

When God gave me some friars, there was no one to tell me what I should do; but the Most High himself made it clear to me that I must live the life of the Gospel. I had this written down briefly and simply and his holiness the Pope confirmed it for me [this early Rule has been lost]. Those who embraced this life gave everything to the poor. They were satisfied with one habit which was patched inside and outside, and a cord, and trousers. We refused to have anything more…The friars must be very careful not to accept churches or poor dwellings for themselves, or anything else built for them unless they are in harmony with the poverty which we have promised in the Rule; and they should occupy these places as strangers and pilgrims [no ownership]. In virtue of obedience, I strictly forbid the friars, wherever they may be, to petition the Roman Curia, either personally or through an intermediary, for a papal brief, whether it concerns a church or any other place, or even in order to preach, or because they are being persecuted… They should always have this writing [the Testament] with them as well as the Rule and at the chapters they hold, when the Rule is read, they should read these words also. In virtue of obedience, I strictly forbid any of my friars, clerics or lay brothers, to interpret the Rule or these words, saying, ‘This is what they mean.’ God inspired me to write the Rule and these words plainly and simply, and so you too must understand them plainly and simply, and live by them, doing good to the last.”

St. Francis envisioned such poverty for both individual friars and the Order as a whole. He gave strict orders that all friars must beg, that they must never touch money, that they must labor with their hands, they must never ride an animal unless sickness or old age demands such mercy, that all buildings must be extremely poor and constructed only of mud and wood, that they must not own books or pursue learning, etc.

As the Order grew in numbers, these demands became insupportable to Brother Elias and many of the provincial ministers. The Speculum Perfectionis offers an account of an incident which occurred quite late in life, during the period when he was writing the Rule of 1223. It is worth quoting in full, since it presents to us the Francis that very few wish to know:

“After the second Rule written by blessed Francis had been lost, he went up a mountain (Monte Colombo, near Rieti) with Brother Leo of Assisi and Brother Bonizo of Bologna, to draw up another, and under the guidance of Christ he had it written down. But many Ministers came in a body to Brother Elias, the Vicar of blessed Francis [Francis had resigned], and said, ‘We hear that Brother Francis is drawing up a new Rule, and we fear that he will make it so harsh that it will be impossible for us to keep it. So we would like you to go and tell him that we are not willing to be bound by this Rule. Let him make it for himself, and not for us.’ But Brother Elias feared a rebuke from the holy Father, and refused to go. And when they all pressed him, he said that he would not go without them, so they all went together.

When Brother Elias approached the place where blessed Francis was standing, he called to him. And when he had answered and saw the Ministers, he asked, ‘What do these Brothers want?’ Brother Elias said, ‘They are Ministers, who hear that you are drawing up a new Rule, and they fear that you intend to make it too hard. They refuse to be bound by it, and ask you to make it for yourself, and not for them.’

At this blessed Francis raised his face to heaven and spoke to Christ, saying, ‘Lord, was I not right when I said that they would not believe me?’ And all present heard the voice of Christ answer from heaven, ‘Francis, nothing in this Rule is yours; for all is Mine. I wish the Rule to be obeyed to the letter, to the letter, without a gloss, without a gloss. I know what the frailty of man can achieve, and I know how much I intend to help them. So let those who are not willing to obey the Rule leave the Order.’ [Emphasis mine]

Then blessed Francis turned to the friars and said, ‘You have heard! You have heard! Do you want this to be repeated?’ And the Ministers confessed their fault and went away confused and terrified.” (SP, 1).

Elias and the Ministers of course had a reasonable concern – reasonable at least from the perspective of every worldly concern imaginable. The Order had grown astronomically. There were all the issues of housing, feeding, government, discipline, etc. normally associated with such a large organization. It was only natural for the Church hierarchy, including the Pope, to desire that the Order be established as an efficient organization for ministry and missionary activity. All this seemed impossible under Francis’ radical prohibitions against everything which insured any sort of stability or security for the Order, or which failed to provide security in regard to the “necessities” of life. Over and over again, we find Francis reiterating the same prescription for being a Friar Minor: “I assure you, brother, that it has been and remains my first and last intention and desire – had the brethren only believed me – that no friar should possess anything but a habit, a cord, and an undergarment, as our Rule allows.” [sometimes he would add ‘shoes in the case of necessity’].

It is extremely important to understand that the objections raised by Elias and the Ministers, and the rationale used to justify these objections, were fully understood by St. Francis, and completely rejected by him. Francis received assurance directly from Christ that this extreme ideal of Poverty was the will of God for the Franciscan Order, no matter how large the Order became or what difficulties might be encountered with the increase and spread of the Order. The early life of St. Francis titled Mirror of Perfection recalls the following incident:

When the Friar Ministers urged him to allow the friars to possess something, at least in common, so that so great a company might have some resources, blessed Francis called upon Christ in prayer, and took counsel with Him on the matter. And Christ at once answered him, saying, ‘It is My will to withhold all things from them, both in general and in particular. I will always be ready to provide for the family, however great it may become, and I will always cherish it so long as it shall trust in Me.” (SP, 13).

The simple, historical fact is that many provincial ministers, Minister Generals like Elias and St. Bonaventure, and future Popes, chose to trust neither Francis nor Christ.

The rejection of the Gift of God which was St. Francis and his ideal was not the accomplishment of men who intended evil towards the Franciscan Order, but rather a work of benighted love coming from his friends. Ministers and Popes (except, apparently, Innocent III) simply did not understand what God intended to do through St. Francis, and did not believe that his ideal could be realized on the scale of a large Religious Order. Francis’ response was simply to resign.

It is rationally incontestable that the life of no other Saint has been falsified to the extreme extent as has been the life of St. Francis. As we have seen, the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels is an icon of this betrayal in stone. But the falsification courses deep into every aspect of Francis’ life and message. This is especially true of the conventional rational given for his resignation as head of the Order.

Francis’ illness was certainly a sufficient excuse justifying his resignation, but it was not the determining reason. Responding to a question from one of his friars concerning this matter, Francis said:

I put the Order back in the hands of God and of the ministers. I relinquished my post and resigned, excusing myself at the general chapter because my sickness would not allow me to care for the brothers. And yet, if the brothers had walked and were still walking according to my will, I would prefer that they have no other minister but myself until the day of my death. In fact, when subjects are good and faithful, when they know and fulfill the will of their superior, then the superior has scarcely any anxiety concerning them. What is more, I would experience such joy seeing the quality of the brothers and such comfort at the thought of our progress that I would let them have their own way and I would feel no added burden, even if I were nailed to a bed through sickness.

My duty, my mandate as superior of the brothers, is of a spiritual order because I must repress vices and correct them. But if through my exhortations and my example I can neither suppress nor correct them, I do not wish to become an executioner who punishes and flogs, as the secular arm does. I have confidence in the Lord that they will be punished by invisible enemies (those valets of the Lord in charge of punishing in this world and in the next those who transgress God’s commandments); they will be punished and corrected by the men of this world to their great shame and confusion, and in that way they will return to their profession and vocation.” ( Legend of Perugia, 76).

The Mirror of Perfection relates a similar question from one of the friars, and records the following response of Francis: “For some of the superiors pull them in another direction, holding up to them as patterns the men of long ago, and disregarding warnings. But what they are doing and the way in which they are now acting will appear more clearly in the end.” The author then closes his account of this incident with the following:

And shortly afterwards, when he was burdened with severe illness, he raised himself in bed, and cried out in vehemence of spirit, ‘Who are these who have torn my Order and my friars out of my hands? If I come to the General Chapter I will make my intention clear!’”

Having established the fact of St. Francis’ consuming passion for total Poverty, and its absolute centrality in regard to the Gift which God intended as the Franciscan Order, we need to penetrate to the reasons for this love.

 

Sacrum Commercium

Possibly the most revealing and enchanting of all the early works on the life of St. Francis is a work composed in the year 1227 (one year after Francis’ death), titled Sacrum Commercium. The title literally means “holy commerce or exchange.” It is an allegory depicting Francis’ romance with Lady Poverty, penetrating to the depths of the meaning and centrality of this virtue, and examining its history among men.

The Prologue to Sacrum Commercium begins as follows:

Among all the excellent and excelling virtues that prepares in man a place and a dwelling for God and show man the better and easier way of going to God and of arriving at him, holy poverty stands out above all the rest by a certain precedence and excels the glory of the others by its singular grace, for it is indeed the foundation of all other virtues and their guardian, and it rightly stands first both in place [Poverty stands at the head of the list of Beatitudes] and its name among other evangelical virtues. The other virtues need not fear the pouring down of rain, the coming of floods, and the blowing of winds that threaten destruction, so long as they are solidly established upon this foundation of poverty.

This is indeed as it should be, for the Son of God, ‘the Lord of hosts and the king of glory’, loved this virtue with a special predilection, sought it out, and found it, when he wrought our salvation upon this earth. At the beginning of his preaching he placed this virtue as a light in the hands of those who enter the portal of faith and made it the foundation stone of his house. The other virtues receive the kingdom of heaven only in promise from him; poverty, however, is already invested with it without delay. For ‘blessed are the poor in spirit, he said, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’.

“Very properly is the kingdom of heaven said to be the possession of those who keep nothing of the goods of this world through their own will, their inclination towards spiritual things, and their desire for eternal things. For it can only follow that a person will live on heavenly things if he cares nothing for earthly things, and he who renounces all earthly things and ‘counts them as dung’ will taste with pleasure the savory crumbs that fall from the table of the holy angels and will deserve to taste how sweet and how good the Lord is.”

It is worthwhile noting here that St. Thomas establishes a one-to-one correlation between the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the first seven Beatitudes. The First Beatitude, Poverty, corresponds to the First Gift of the Holy Spirit – Fear of the Lord. And just as Fear of the Lord is “the beginning of wisdom” and therefore the pre-requisite for all further growth in the spirit, so Poverty is the foundation of all the other virtues, and therefore the pre-requisite for all advancement in living the Gospel life of the Beatitudes. We must be poor to all the things of this world if we are to become rich in God.

Sacrum Commercium offers a unique contribution to early Franciscan literature, because of its examination of the history of Poverty among men. Lady Poverty, in her conversation on the top of the “mountain of the Lord” (where St. Francis and his companions had ascended to meet her), stated her intention: “I therefore wish to recount for you, if listening to me will not bore you, the long but none the less useful history of my status, that you might learn how you ought to walk to please God, taking care not to look back once you have willed to put your hand to the plow.”

After examining the creation of man in Paradise, wherein “possessing nothing, he belonged entirely to God,” Lady Poverty then details man’s Fall from innocence, his being clothed with “the skins of the dead,” and his being cast out of Paradise “to multiply his labors that he might become rich,” and to await in tears and sorrow for a Redeemer – “until the Most High came into the world from the bosom of the Father, he who sought me [Lady Poverty] out most graciously.”

In turn, when Christ was to return to the Father, He sent his Apostles and Disciples out into the world in this same spirit of Poverty – “Everyone of you who does not renounce all that he possesses cannot be my disciple” – in order to convert all peoples back to God and the living of the Gospel.

This devotion to Lady Poverty overflowed into all the early followers of Christ. She refers specifically to the passages in the Book of Acts which details the character of their lives;

And all they that believed, were together, and had all things in common. Their possessions and goods they sold, and divided them to all, according as everyone 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.” (Acts 2:44-47).

And:

“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).

It is clear from the above two passages that it was precisely this “commercium” of Poverty among the early followers of Christ that merited the grace for the massive conversions of early peoples to Christ and the Gospel. In the words of Lady Poverty,

The truth of their words [in the Book of Acts] remained for a long time among many, at least as long as the blood of the poor Crucified One was warm in their memory, and the overflowing chalice of his passion filled their hearts unto inebriation…Enduring, this victory lasted for a long time, so that each day a thousand thousands were sealed with the seal of the most high King.”

Lady Poverty then proceeds to recount the great disaster that descended upon early Christianity:

But alas! After not too long a time, peace was made, and that peace was more disastrous than any war. In the beginning few were sealed; toward the middle, still fewer; and at the end, very few indeed. And now certainly in peace is my bitterness most bitter when all flee from me, all drive me away; I am needed by none, I am abandoned by all. Peace was granted me by my enemies, but not by my own; peace from strangers, but not from my own children.”

It is quite revealing that in my 32 years as a Catholic I have never heard the above passages from the Book of Acts given any serious treatment (even though they are part of the cycle of readings during Mass), and never heard any explanation for the disaster which destroyed this early purity of Christian living.

The Early Church Fathers, who lived in these times of decay, were not always so silent. St. Cyprian of Carthage (250 A.D.) wrote a work titled The Unity of the Church. It was quoted extensively in Pope Leo XIII’s own encyclical on The Unity of the Church (Satis Cognitum). In the following passage from St. Cyprian’s work, I would ask the reader to note carefully the extent to which he clearly makes orthodox belief and “unity of mind” dependent upon Poverty, and the Charity which is its “commercium:”

This common mind prevailed once, in the time of the Apostles; this was the spirit in which the new community of the believers obeyed Our Lord’s commands and maintained charity with one another. The Scriptures are witness to it: ‘But the crowd of those who had come to believe acted with one mind and soul.’ And again: ‘They were all persevering with one mind in prayer with the women and Mary who had been the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren’ And that was the reason why their prayers were efficacious, that was why they could be confident of obtaining whatever they asked of God’s mercy.

“But amongst us, that unity of mind has weakened in proportion as the generosity of our charity has crumbled away. In those days, they would sell their houses and estates and lay up to themselves treasure in heaven by giving the money to the Apostles for distribution to those in need. But now, we do not even give tithes on our patrimony, and whereas Our Lord tells us to sell, we buy instead and accumulate. To such an extent have our people lost their old steadfastness in belief. That is why Our Lord says in His Gospel, with an eye on our times: ‘The Son of man, when He cometh, shall He find, think you, faith on earth?’”

We need not get lost in trying to figure the extent 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 that at least some therefore possessed their own homes. We 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?

The above-quoted passages from Acts has been quoted in order to exemplify the simplicity and poverty which was the core charism of the early Christians and St. Francis. But these scriptures also expose to our vision something deeper within the human heart, which makes such simplicity and poverty both possible and necessary. The one word which would seem to best expresses this “something” is “Immediacy”. It is the 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 of St. Francis and his faithful followers. 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. Repeating what Lady Poverty says in Sacrum Commercium, “ “The truth of their words [in the Book of Acts] remained for a long time among many, at least as long as the blood of the poor Crucified One was warm in their memory, and the overflowing chalice of his passion filled their hearts unto inebriation…Enduring, this victory lasted for a long time, so that each day a thousand thousands were sealed with the seal of the most high King.”

Interestingly, God’s demand that man recognize the immediacy of His presence, and be constantly Innebriated 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”> (James 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 we enter into the spiritual death of mortal sin.

 

Lady Poverty and the Beatitude of Society

The nature of the Gift which God intended to give to societies through St. Francis, and which the world (including most of his own Order) rejected, is possibly best seen through St. Francis’ teaching on begging. In the Legend of Perugia, #3, we encounter the following:

My dear brothers and sons, do not be ashamed to go begging for alms, for God became poor for our sake in this world. That is why we have chosen the road of genuine poverty in imitation of his example and that of his holy Mother: this is the inheritance that our Lord Jesus Christ has acquired and left us, to us and to those who, following him, have chosen to live in holy poverty.” Then he added, “In truth I say to you, many nobles and scholars of this world will enter our Order, and will consider themselves highly honored to beg for alms. Go therefore and beg with confidence, with a joyful heart, and with the blessing of God. You ought to ask for alms with more cheerfulness and joy than a man who would offer a hundred pennies for one: in exchange for the alms that you solicit, you will offer the love of God, since you will say: ‘Give us an alms for the love of God!’ and heaven and earth are nothing when compared to this love.”

Francis envisioned a dynamic of charity at the heart of the relationship between his Order and the rest of the world. The Franciscan imitation of Christ’s Poverty was to be lived to the fullest extent by his brothers. The extraordinary graces received through this imitation of Christ were to be communicated to others through example, works of charity, and the preaching of the Gospel. The faithful would merit and receive these graces through their providing the extremely simple necessities of life required by the friars. The fact that the graces received by these early Franciscans were real, extraordinary, and abundant is testified to by the plentiful early accounts of Francis and his companions who were faithful to their Franciscan vocation. The fact that the faithful responded to these graces in vast numbers is testified to by the incredibly rapid spread of the order, the large number of conversions, the early establishment and proliferation of the Third Order, the miracles, healings, miraculous resolution of enmities, etc. And it all came down to a formula of the most startling simplicity: one friar living Absolute Poverty, with all its implications both exterior and interior; and, on the other hand, one person, rich or poor, whose heart was open to receive these graces, and to respond with a slice of bread, bowl of soup, and possibly a humble place to spend the night. Although it is not recorded that St. Francis expressed his ideal in exactly this formula as just stated, it all comes down to this eminently simple, and fully realizable, ideal.

There would be no limit to the number of friars who could realistically follow such a life. Correspondingly, there would be no limit to the graces received by individuals, or by whole societies and nations which opened themselves up to such a living of the Gospel. Sin would, of course, continue to exist. But the graces penetrating into the heart of those societies which had embraced this experiment, would have prevented the growth not only of the unlimited materialism, avarice, usury, consumerism, impurity, murder of the unborn, and the incessant warfares which now scourge mankind in the flesh, but also all the manifestations of intellectual hubris – reductive science, technological oppression, and philosophical and theological error and heresy – which have now reduced the vast majority of men to intellectual and spiritual insanity.

It is also very important to understand that St. Francis founded the first Third Order for lay people. The Rule that he established for the Third Order of course did not require the extreme poverty which was to be the way of his Friars. Rather, it established them in that spirit of poverty which would empower lay people to engage effectively in that battle against the allurements of this world which are the ruin of the spiritual life. It will be worthwhile here to quote a rather long passage from Thomas of Celano’s First Life of St. Francis.

Francis, therefore, Christ’s valiant knight, went round the cities and fortresses proclaiming the Kingdom of God, preaching peace, teaching salvation and repentance for the remission of sins, not with plausible words of human wisdom, but with the learning and power of the Spirit. The Apostolic authority which had been granted him enabled him to act in all things with greater confidence, without using flattery or seducing blandishments. Incapable of caressing the faults of certain men, he could pierce them; incapable of showing favor to the lives of sinners, he could smite them with sharp reproof because he had first persuaded himself by practice of that which he endeavored to commend to others by his words; and without fear of any reprover he uttered the truth most confidently, so that even the most learned men, mighty in renown and dignity, wondered at his discourses and were smitten by his presence with wholesome fear. Men ran, women too ran, clerks hastened, and Religious made speed to see and hear the Saint of God who seemed to all to be a man of another world. People of every age and either sex hastened to behold the wonders which the Lord was newly working in the world by His servant. Surely at that time, whether by Holy Francis’ presence or by the fame [of him], it seemed that, as it were, a new light had been sent from heaven on earth, scattering the universal blackness of darkness which has so seized on well-nigh the whole of that region, that scarce any one knew whither he must go. For such depth of forgetfulness of God and such slumber of neglect of His commandments had oppressed almost all that they could scarce endure to be roused, even slightly, from their old and inveterate sins.”

He darted his beams like a star shining in the gloom of night, and as it were the morning spread over the darkness; and thus it came to pass that in all short time the face of the whole province was changed, and she appeared of more cheerful countenance, the former foulness having everywhere been laid aside. The former dryness was done away and in the field erstwhile hard the crops sprang up quickly; the untended vine began moreover to put forth shoots of divine fragrance, and, after bearing blossoms of sweetness, yielded fruits of honor and virtue together. Everywhere thanksgiving and the voice of praise were resounding in such wise that many cast away the cares of the world, and in the life and teaching of the most blessed father Francis gained knowledge of themselves, and aspired to love of their Creator and reverence for Him. Many among the people, nobles and plebeians, clerks and lay-folk, pierced by God’s inspiration, began to come to holy Francis, longing evermore to fight under his discipline and leadership: all of whom the Saint of God, like a plenteous stream of heavenly grace, watered with anointing showers, and beautified the field of their hearts with flowers of virtue. Truly an excellent craftsman after whose pattern, rule and teaching, heralded with noteworthy proclamation, Christ’s Church is being renewed in either sex, and is triumphing in a threefold army of men who are to be saved. For he assigned to all their rule of life, and pointed out truly the way to be saved in every station.”

True religious poverty is, of course the antidote to all sin. It establishes the soul in the first Beatitude, by which the soul lives in that spiritual simplicity which is poor to all the things of this world, and is thereby enabled to see God in all things: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” It is always tempting to believe that such “spiritual poverty” can be lived in the midst of external affluence, but this is most often a delusion. We are incarnate beings, and the life we live in the flesh necessarily resonates in the spirit.

St. Paul flatly states “For the love of money is the root of all evils.” It is worthwhile here to interject the teaching of St. Thomas on this subject, for it offers a striking confirmation of the necessity of poverty in the life of both individuals and societies.

Analyzing the distinction between the “beginning of all sin” on the one hand, and “the root of all sin” on the other, St. Thomas writes:

We must therefore say that pride, even as denoting a special sin, is the beginning of every sin….On the other hand, in the order of execution, the first place belongs to that which by furnishing the opportunity of fulfilling all desires of sin, has the character of a root, and such are riches; so that, from this point of view, covetousness is said to be the root of all evils…” (ST, I-II, Q.84, a.1)

And since “every sin includes an inordinate turning to a mutable good” (Ibid., Q.72, a.2), it then follows:

Accordingly, we must say that covetousness, as denoting a special sin, is called the root of all sins, in likeness to the root of a tree, in furnishing sustenance to the whole tree. For we see that by riches man acquires the means of committing any sin whatever, and of sating his desire for any sin whatever, since money helps man to obtain all manner of temporal goods, according to Eccles 10:19: All things obey money: so that in this sense desire for riches is the root of all sins.” (Ibid., Q.84, a.1).

A world which played host to vast numbers of Francis’ Friars Minor would be one in which the root of all sin was parched by the heavy cross upon which Christ thirsted. It would bear little resemblance to the world under which we are crushed today. This is true not only of the lower world of luxuries and specific sins of the passions, but also the “higher” realms of man’s social and intellectual activities. It is riches which build modern economies, the unnatural life of cities, and the stilted technological world in which we try to raise our families. It is money which feeds the endless quest of reductive scientific research and the anti-God mentality which is inevitably its concubine. It is the world of finance which constructs the engines and schemes of international warfare. And it is money that maintains the Ivory Towers where modern philosophers and theologians culture their pestilence and perversities.

It need not have happened.

 

Part II

St. Francis of Assisi: They Pretended to Love You So That They Might Leave You

 

Introduction

One of the most difficult things for us to comprehend as faithful Catholics is how it can be possible for good men, even those who might be saints or those whom we might consider to be great Popes or other members of the hierarchy, to teach things which are very wrong (even to the extent of objective heresy), or to pursue pastoral policies and acts of government which produce evil fruits. And yet the history of the Church contains many such examples. Possibly the most succinct formulation of this phenomena is to be found in the words of Our Lady of Good Success to Mother Mariana in the year 1594: ”For the time will come when the devils will try to demolish this Convent, availing themselves of both good and evil persons to achieve that end.”

What we are about to encounter in the following history of the betrayal of St. Francis and his ideal represents what might well be the most profound and extensive example in the Church’s history of Satan successfully using good men to accomplish his designs.

In preparation for examining this history, and in order to pre-empt any attempts to claim that we are engaging in an attempt to denigrate the holiness of some who might even be canonized saints, we must first therefore try here to unravel the apparent mystery as to how such a thing is possible. We also wish to emphasize that, when we speak of “betrayal”, we do not intend to claim that this necessarily involves the sort of betrayal, or “pretention of love”, which involves calculated deceit, maliciousness, loss of faith, or mortal sin. As we shall see, the betrayal which we shall be examining here often involved men who truly believed that they loved St. Francis, and that they were doing what was necessary for the survival of his Order. The “pretention” and ”betrayal” which we are about to unravel is the sort of thing which inevitably happens when faith and grace becomes weakened through trying to amalgamate them to a status of compromise with the “wisdom of this world”. It can and does, in other words, happen to the best of us. It is the plague of the consequences of original sin – what St. Augustine called “the languor of nature” – which has come to rest in the fallen nature of each one of us. We might even conclude that it is the accumulated deposit of 2,000 years of such duplicitous behavior among Catholics that has now brought the Church to such a state of prostitution towards the world as to explain its present crisis.

The key to this mystery lies in unraveling the nature of the act of faith itself. Vatican Council I defined faith in the following words:

“Man being wholly dependent upon God, as upon his Creator and Lord, and created reason    being absolutely subject to uncreated truth, we are bound to yield to God, by faith in His revelation, the full obedience of our intelligence and will. And the Catholic Church teaches that this faith, which is the beginning of man’s salvation, is a supernatural virtue, whereby, inspired and assisted by the grace of God, we believe that the things which He has revealed are true; not because the intrinsic truth of the things is plainly perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself, Who reveals them, and Who can neither be deceived nor deceive.”

We tend to think of faith as predominantly an intellectual phenomenon. Yet, as the Council’s definition of faith indicates, the act of faith is not primarily dependent upon our understanding, but rather upon the act whereby assisted by the grace of God, we “yield the full obedience of our intelligence and will” to God’s Revelation. In other words, the act of faith itself demands, and is constituted by, an intimate relationship between our intellect and will. St. Thomas defines the act of faith as “an act of the intellect assenting to the Divine truth at the command of the will moved by the grace of God….” (ST, II-II, Q. 2, A.9).

This definition might at first seem dense, but it is easily unraveled.

Faith is in itself, of course, a gift of God, and therefore of God’s grace. There can be no supernatural faith without this gift. But faith is at the same time a truly human act, involving both the intellect and will, cooperating with God’s grace.

St. Thomas analysis of this human act centers upon St. Paul’s definition of faith in Heb 11:1:

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.”

Faith is an act of intellectual assent to things that “appear not.” St. Thomas notes that the intellect assents to things in two ways. In the case of things that are actually “seen” (understood by the intellect), the movement of assent is caused by the object itself. But in the case of things that are not seen, or not sufficiently seen (and therefore the objects of faith), the intellect is moved to assent by the will. The will is therefore the causative agent in the act of faith.

Obviously, this act of the will moving the intellect to the assent of faith is not arbitrary. The will does not choose in a vacuum, but is itself dependent on some degree of knowledge. There are certain truths implicit in human nature, and therefore constituting the very structure of the intellectual light of the human mind, which form the foundation of knowledge from which the will chooses to assent to the Christian Faith.

St. Thomas teaches that the proper object of the human intellect is truth, and that therefore its ultimate and final object is the First Truth which is God. At the same time, the proper object of the human will is the good, which entails that it is ordered towards the possession of the Final Good which is God. Intellect and will are therefore united in their ultimate goal.

Along the path towards this goal, however, each of these faculties, intellect and will, is distinct; and each has a unique role to play in the act of faith.

St. Thomas also teaches that there is nothing in the mind that is not first in the senses. We are born with no innate knowledge. But this does not at all mean that the mind is devoid of a specific nature, or that the intellectual light which specifies this nature, is not implicitly and instinctively drawn towards truth. In regard to the “truth” about created things, for instance, St. Thomas writes:

“And thus we must need say that the human soul knows all things in the eternal types, since by participation of these types we know all things. For the intellectual light itself which is in us, is nothing else than a participated likeness of the uncreated light, in which are contained the eternal types.” (ST I, 84, 5).

In other words, God so created us in His image as to possess a created intellectual light which indeed does see created substances as He sees them.

Similarly, the created light within us is also implicitly ordered towards God. St. Thomas writes: “man possesses a natural aptitude for understanding and loving God; and this aptitude consists in the very nature of the mind, which is common to all men.” (ST I, Q. 93, a.4). From the standpoint of the intellect, this entails that “all knowers know God implicitly in all they know.” (De Veritate, Q. 22, a.2). This does not mean that man has any innate knowledge of God, but rather that the human mind, being constituted as a created participation in the uncreated Light of God, the intellectual light that is within us is also ordered towards the structure of causation and design in God’s creation. Every known thing therefore implicitly draws our intelligence towards both the First and Final Cause Who is God. This is why St. Paul proclaimed that unbelief in God is “inexcusable,” because “the invisible things of him [God], from the beginning of the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made….” (Romans 1:20).

When we turn to the question of the will, we see that it also has a “natural aptitude” which directs it towards God as its end. This natural aptitude is rooted in the fact that the human will is created with a nature constituted in such a way as to have “the good” as its proper object, and this in turn reveals a proportion to the Infinite Goodness of God:

This “initial participation” lies precisely in the fact that the “good” to which the will naturally aspires is happiness, and that this desire for happiness can achieve its final rest only in that ultimate reward which is everlasting life in God, and which is constituted by the eternal vision of God. St. Thomas writes: “Final and perfect happiness can consist in nothing else than the vision of the Divine Essence.” (ST, I-II, Q. 3, a.8). Therefore, the will moves the intellect to the act of faith because such faith is the necessary condition for this reward: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb 11:6).

All of this reveals what might indeed seem to be a peculiar relationship between the human mind and its own act of faith. While faith is “certain” because of the act of will, through God’s grace which determines it to be so, it is not at all certain in relation to actual intellectual knowledge or “sight.” In a penetrating passage from De Veritate (XIV, a. 1), St. Thomas unravels this relationship:

“In faith there is some perfection and some imperfection. The firmness which pertains to the assent is a perfection, but the lack of sight, because of which the movement of discursive thought still remains in the mind of one who believes, is an imperfection. The perfection, namely, the assent, is caused by the simple light which is faith. But, since the participation in this light is not perfect, the imperfection of the understanding is not completely removed. For this reason the movement of discursive thought in it stays restless.”

It is precisely the latter “imperfection” and “restlessness” in the act of faith which has been the source of so much error propagated in the name of Christ and Christianity.

Certainly, one of the most fascinating aspects of the history of the lives of the Saints is the degree to which this “restlessness” and darkness on the part of their minds in regard to their faith led them into some quite profound and dangerous doctrinal errors.

For instance, virtually all the “Eastern Fathers” (including the three Cappadocian Fathers – St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Gregory of Nanzianzus) taught that no created intellect will ever see the Essence of God, but rather only His attributes or “Energies.” This, despite the fact that Holy Scripture promises that we shall see God “face to face,” and that “I shall Know [God] even as I am Known.” (1 Cor 13:12).” This denial of the substance of the Beatific Vision would eventually bear fruit in Palamite theology (the dominant theology in Eastern Orthodoxy today), which denies the Absolute Divine Simplicity of God. It is absolutely necessary Catholic theology that God is One – that His Intellect and Will, and all of His attributes such as Truth, Goodness, and Love are absolutely One is His Absolute Divine Simplicity. Any distinction which we make between God and His Attributes or “Energies” (a popular term in Eastern theology) is solely due to the fact that as finite human being we are here on this earth limited to approaching God from finite and limited perspectives. There is no “composition” or “parts” within the Infinite Being of God, and therefore for the saints in Heaven to see God “face to face necessarily entails that they will see the very Essence of God.

Another example of objective heresy (very much savoring of Gnostic influence) is to be found in St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Maximus the Confessor’s teaching that God only created the two sexes of the human species “in pre-vision of sin” – in other words, only because of His foreknowledge of man’s original sin. This, despite the fact that Holy Scripture states that “God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27). Clearly, scripture testifies to the duality of sexes as being in harmony with the image of God, and not as something which is a divine condescension or punishment “in pre-vision of sin.”

St. Maximus the Confessor went much further. In Ad Thalassium 61, he teaches that God did not create sensible pleasure and pain as integral to human nature, and that original sin consisted in the fact that the first man “at the instant he was created” turned towards sensual pleasure and human sexuality as a means for generation of the human race. And, he then concludes that only those “who are mystically reborn by his Spirit and who no longer retain the pleasure of sexual conception derived from Adam” are liberated from the condemnations of original sin.   Not only is this view redolent with the Gnostic view that all of physical creation is a decay away from the spiritual, but it also can be seen as being fully compatible with the Manichaeism belief which views all that is physical as being evil. It logically entails the negation of all that is physical, the degradation of marriage, and the destruction of the family. All of this, of course, is in direct contradiction to Holy Scripture and its teaching concerning the essential goodness of all physical creation, the dignity of human sexuality, and the nobility of marriage as an imitation of Christ and His love for the Church.

I offer these examples simply to illustrate one essential point in our discussion of the concept of faith. We absolutely cannot establish a one-to-one equation between the reality of “manifestly” believing or teaching objective heresy, on the one hand, and “not possessing the faith” on the other. In the case of the Eastern Fathers and saints mentioned above, their quite grave errors in regard to the Faith were expressed before these matters were fully defined by the Church through her Magisterium. We may assume if such had occurred during their lifetime they would have possessed the “good will” to submit to the authority of the Church eventually defining and clarifying these aspects of Divine Revelation.

But it is also true that even further down the historical timeline (even up to the present) “good men” might teach falsely, and yet not be considered to be persons who have lost the faith – either because of the limitations of their intellect, or because of inculpable ignorance. As scripture says, “For Thou [God] only knowest the heart of all the children of men.” (3 Kings 8: 39 – Douay-Rheims Bible). It is, in other words, God’s business to search out the depths of the human heart and ultimately determine whether or not a person possesses the good will towards His Truth which is necessary for salvation.

It simply will not do, therefore, for any individual Catholic to compile all the writings or statements of a particular person that contradict Catholic doctrine, and then presume to make a judgment that this same person is “not in possession of the Catholic Faith” To expose the objective heresy of any person, be he the humblest lay person or Pope, is one thing; to make the claim that the person is a heretic is another. Our Lord said that “Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” It is one thing to point out to our brother that he is acting foolishly; it is an altogether different thing to judge and reduce his humanity by labeling him a Fool, or a Heretic. It is very disturbing indeed, therefore to witness, the name-calling prevalent in conservative and traditional Catholic circles in regard to Pope Francis and others of the hierarchy (not to mention the laity). St. Jude writes: “When Michael the archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses, he durst not bring against him the judgment of railing speech, but said: The Lord command thee.” If such be the case in regard to “railing” judgments against the devil who resides in Hell and is our implacable enemy, what must be our conclusion concerning those who make such railing judgments against their fellow men who are this side of Hell, and towards whom Our Lord demands charity?

It is also true, however, that in the realm of putting our faith into practice in this world, all of us tend to one degree or another to be duplicitous. It is the most constant threat to our spiritual lives, and the most omnipresent presence of the effects of original sin, for each of us to try at the same time to be friends of God while also being “friends of this world” (which, as St. James points out, is “enmity with God” (James 4:4-5). Again, only God can determine when such “double-mindedness” so changes the depths of the human heart that it no longer constitutes only venial, but rather mortal sin. But we may be assured that, to greatly varying extents, this duplicity is the inheritance of all men fallen away from the gift of complete integrity which man possessed before original sin. As scripture says, “For a just man shall fall seven times and shall rise again: but the wicked shall fall down into evil.” (Prov. 24: 16). Thus it is that good, and even holy, men may become tools of the devil for persecution of the good and the accomplishment of evil.

It is especially in this area that those who loved St. Francis betrayed him. It is here where they used their worldly wisdom to compromise and distort his ideal, simply because they did not see and believe the extraordinary thing that God intended to do through this man whom Pope Pius XI called “the second Christ.”

All of this, as we have said, offers no excuse for “railing judgments” against any of the persons discussed in the following analysis. At the same time, however, the work of charity and the pursuit of that Truth which is the Life of Christ and the light for all men, demands that we not be silent about that extraordinary grace of Christ which was given to the world in the 13th century. And this, in turn, requires understanding the depths and sinews of Satan’s work by which this light has been falsified. For it is in this darkness that we are now immersed, and which threatens to drown out even the memory of what constituted Christian civilization.

 

Francis and the Papacy

Any attempt to portray St. Francis as possessing a spirit of independence from, or disobedience to the Papacy amounts to a total falsification. From the very inception of his work he sought to receive complete Papal approval and recognition.

In the year 1209, three years after his own radical conversion, Francis wrote his short First Rule (now lost), and journeyed to Rome with his first 11 companions in order to seek approval for his new way of life from Pope Innocent III. The following account is taken from St. Bonaventure’s Major Life of St. Francis:

“The Pope, Innocent III, was famous for his learning; and when he saw Francis’ wonderful purity of heart, together with his determination, and the fiery eagerness of his will, he felt inclined to give his approval. However, the whole idea seemed so new to some of the cardinals, who thought that the rule was too difficult for any human being, that he hesitated to do what Francis asked. One of the cardinals was His Eminence John of St. Paul, Bishop of Santa Sabina, a man who loved holiness and was dedicated to Christ’s poor. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he addressed the pope and his confreres saying, ‘We must be careful. If we refuse this beggarman’s request because it is new or too difficult, we may be sinning against Christ’s Gospel, because he is only asking us to approve a form of Gospel life. Anyone who says that a vow to live according to the perfection of the Gospel contains something new or unreasonable or too difficult to be observed, is guilty of blasphemy against Christ, the Author of the Gospel.’ At that, the successor of St. Peter turned to St. Francis and told him, ‘My son, pray to Christ that he may show us his will through you. When we are sure of that, we can grant your request without fear.’”

After praying fervently, St. Francis and the Pope received revelations from God, separately, but at the same time. St. Bonaventure relates the following about Francis:

Francis told the pope a story which he had learned from God about a wealthy monarch who voluntarily married a poor but very beautiful woman and had a number of children by her. These resembled him closely, so that they had the right to eat at his table. Then Francis added, by way of explanation, ‘There is no danger that the sons and heirs of the immortal King will die of hunger. They have been born of a poor mother by the power of the Holy Spirit in the image of Christ the King and they will be followed by others who will be brought to birth in our Order by the spirit of poverty. If the King of Heaven promises his followers an eternal kingdom, he certainly will not let them go short of the material goods he bestows on good and bad without distinction.’

And, on the part of Innocent III:

“When the pope heard this story and its explanation, he was amazed and he realized without the slightest doubt that Christ had spoken through Francis. Only a short time before, he had seen a vision from heaven and by divine inspiration he now testified that it would be fulfilled in Francis. As he himself described it, he had a dream in which he saw the Lateran Basilica [the official ecclesiastical seat of the Pope, ranking first among all the Church’s of Christendom, even above St. Peter’s] which was threatening to fall being held up by a poor beggarman who put his back to it. ‘This is certainly the man,’ he added. ‘By his work and teaching, he will uphold Christ’s Church.’”

We do well to keep in mind the words of Cardinal John of St. Paul – “Anyone who says that a vow to live according to the perfection of the Gospel contains something new or unreasonable or too difficult to be observed, is guilty of blasphemy against Christ, the Author of the Gospel.” When we now come to consider what happened during the last 6-10 years of St. Francis’ life, and subsequent to his death, we will see that such “blasphemy” became the norm.

 

Betrayal With a Kiss

Pope Innocent III died on July 16, 1216, to be succeeded by Pope Honorius III. Bishop Giovanni di San Paolo, who had been the liaison between the Pope and the Franciscan Order, died the same year, and was succeeded in this office (as Cardinal Protector of the Franciscan Order) by Cardinal Ugolino, Bishop of Ostia, and the future Pope Gregory IX. There is no question, from the various appearances of Cardinal Ugolino throughout the early lives of Francis, that he deeply loved the Saint. There is also no question that he was the central force and authority behind the compromise and eventual destruction of the ideal of Francis.

In May of 1217, the famous Pentecost “Chapter of the Mats” was held at the Portiuncula. The Speculum Perfectionis, #68 relates what occurred. Nothing in all of the early sources more clearly reveals the web of destructive and falsifying love that was, at this period, being spun around Francis and his ideal:

When blessed Francis was at the Chapter General held at St. Mary of the Portiuncula – known as the Chapter of the Mats, because the only shelters there consisted of rush-mats, which were used by five thousand friars – a number of prudent and learned friars went to the Lord Cardinal of Ostia [Ugolino] who was present, and said to him, ‘My Lord, we wish that you would persuade Brother Francis to follow the advice of the wiser brethren, and allow himself to be guided by them.’ And they quoted the Rules of Saint Benedict, Saint Augustine, and Saint Bernard, which lay down the principles of the regular life.

“The Cardinal repeated all that they had said to blessed Francis in the form of advice; but without making any answer he took the Cardinal by the hand, and led him before the friars assembled in Chapter. And he spoke to the friars in the fervor and power of the Holy Spirit, saying, ‘My brothers! My brothers! God has called me by the way of simplicity and humility, and has in truth revealed this way for me and for all who are willing to trust and follow me. So I do not want you to quote any other Rule to me, whether that of Saint Benedict, Saint Augustine, or Saint Bernard, or to recommend any other way or form of life except this way which God in His mercy has revealed and given to me. The Lord told me that He wished me to be a new kind of simpleton in this world, and he does not wish us to live by any other wisdom but this. God will confound you through your own prudence and learning. And I trust in the constables [the devils, whom Francis called “God’s policemen”] of God, that He will punish you through them. Eventually, whether you wish it or not, you will return with great remorse to your first state.’

“The Cardinal was utterly dumbfounded and said nothing; and all the friars were filled with great fear.”

The pattern here becomes clear. A good number of ministers and friars were working with Cardinal Ugolino to compromise Francis’ ideal. Francis’   final response, after returning from the Holy Land in 1220, was to resign. He was succeeded by Peter Catani, and then by Brother Elias in 1223.

Francis wrote three Rules – the original Rule, which was approved by Innocent III, and has been lost; the Rule of 1221, which is known as the First Rule; and the Rule of 1223, which is called the Regula Bullata, because it was approved by the Pope (Honorius III). There has been much discussion about these Rules – whether, for instance, the Final Rule (Regula Bullata) is really fully in accord with Francis’ thinking and with his original Rule – but it is not necessary to discuss this subject here. The historical fact is that after his death Francis’ ideal was destroyed through Papal legislation, and through the acts, writings, etc. of those like Brother Elias and St. Bonaventure who loved St. Francis and claimed to be his friends. It is this history which we shall here attempt to summarize.

 

A Basic Outline of the Conflict

Even prior to Francis’ death, the Franciscan Order was deeply divided between those who were committed to following the strict observance of poverty laid down by St. Francis, and those who wished to see mitigations in his Rule. The former have come to be called “Spirituals” (or Zelanti –from the Italian word for “zealous”). The latter are known as the “Relaxati”. While Francis was still alive, the Relaxati were to be identified with Elias and those ministers and friars whose actions and words we have already detailed. The term is now most closely identified with that branch of the Order known as the Conventual Franciscans.

The term “Spirituals” identifies many of Francis’ early companions (and those who later followed in their footsteps) such as Brothers Leo, Bernard of Quintavalle, Rufino, Giles, Angelo Tancredi, Masseo da Marignano, Ugolino di Monte Santa Maria (author of the “Little Flowers,” not to be confused with Cardinal Ugolino), and many others. The term is also associated with the names and movements which constitute various efforts down through the centuries aimed at bringing the Order back to a stricter observance of Francis’ ideal (the Capuchins also represent an attempt at this type of reform). All of this involves a very complicated and contentious history, which cannot be detailed here.

To complicate the matter further, there has always existed a tendency, especially among those who cling to a “relaxed” Franciscanism, to identify all “Spirituals” with the “Fraticelli” – those later brothers who in their zeal for the perfection of Francis’ ideal, ended up by embracing (to one extent or another) the heretical ideas of Joachimism (some of these ideas not being attributable to Joachim himself), and established themselves in revolt against the Papacy. On the contrary, there were, in fact, innumerable Spirituals (including early companions of Francis such as Bernard and Leo) who never rebelled in any way against the Papacy, who were persecuted for their fidelity to the ideals of Francis, and died under this persecution.

It also needs mentioning that the early biographies of St. Francis reflect this basic twofold division within the Order. On the one hand, we have “Lives” like those of St. Bonaventure and Thomas of Celano which embody a non-controversial hagiography that ignores these basic divisions and conflicts. On the other side, we have works which profoundly reveal and detail this division: the Speculum Perfectionis, the Legend of Perugia, The Little Flowers of St. Francis (the Fioretti), and the Sacrum Commercium. The works in this second category are sometimes called the “Leo Sources,” from the fact that their actual authorship or inspiration can be traced back to Brother Leo and other early companions of Francis, or their spiritual descendents, who were absolutely committed to living his ideal. As we shall see, it was St. Bonaventure who, as Minister General, ordered all these “divisive” works destroyed, and then enthroned his own “Legend of St. Francis” as the only acceptable biography of Francis.

 

Brother Elias

Many parallels have been rightly observed between the life of St. Francis and the life of Christ. Often this extends to viewing Brother Elias in the role of Judas.

Unquestionably, Brother Elias was a primary agent in the betrayal of the Franciscan ideal. We have already seen him as the spokesman for those ministers who refused to be bound by the Rule that Francis was in the process of writing in 1223, because it was “too hard.” There can be little doubt that Elias was working closely with these ministers, and with Cardinal Ugolino, in order to mitigate the Rule of Francis, and to make those compromises with the world which they saw as necessary in order to turn the Franciscan Order into an effective apostolate for the Church. As Lady Poverty explains in the Sacrum Commercium, this betrayal was all being accomplished under the guise of prudence and discretion.

Francis resigned as head of the Order in 1220, and Peter Catani was elected Vicar. In 1223, almost certainly with the strong support of Cardinal Ugolino, Elias was elected Vicar. Francis died on October 4, 1226. Elias immediately took control, acting as the head of the Order. Pope Honorius III (Innocent III’s successor) died on Mar 18, 1227, and Cardinal Ugolino was elected Pope and chose the name Gregory IX. The Pope gave his blessing to Elias’ great project of building a “monument” to Francis in the form of a great convent and the Basilica of Saint Francis. Pope Gregory gave him authority to receive money, and he began to collect money throughout Christendom for this project (remember that Francis called money “flies,” and absolutely forbade his friars to even touch it).

It was when his intention to build this Basilica (which would house the remains of St. Francis) was published that the Spirituals rose against him. Elias even placed a marble pot for the collection of money conspicuously on the hill of the proposed site of the Basilica. Brother Leo, in protest against this profound violation of the spirit and ideal of Francis, smashed the pot. Upon Elias’ order, Leo was scourged and expelled from Assisi. It was in fact the vehement opposition of Leo and other Spirituals which foiled Elias’ efforts to be elected Minister General at the Chapter in May of 1227. Instead, the friars elected John Parenti, a man incapable or unwilling to present a barrier to Elias’ schemes. Gregory IX, in support of Elias’ designs for the Basilica, in fact accomplished an end-run around Parenti by making Elias “Master of the Works”, with full authority to collect the funds and undertake all that was necessary for the completion of the project.

It all moved incredibly fast. On July 16, 1228, Pope Gregory canonized St. Francis. On May 25, 1230 the remains of St. Francis were secretly (at night) translated to the new Basilica of Saint Francis. Francis now lay entombed beneath a “monument” which rivaled the Portiuncula as the ultimate Icon of the betrayal of his Lady Poverty.

In 1232, Elias was elected Minister General. He obtained permission from Pope Gregory IX to discipline the Spirituals, and he moved with great efficiency and severity. Everywhere the original companions and faithful followers of Francis’ ideal concerning Poverty were persecuted. Elias’ greatest convert had been Caesar of Spires, who was considered by many to be the holiest friar since Francis (he collaborated with Francis in the writing of the Rule of 1223). He was now one of Elias’ strongest opponents. Elias ordered him imprisoned, and he met a violent death at the hands of the lay brother who was appointed to guard him.

Finally, the protests against Elias’ despotism and his violations of the Franciscan ideal became such a storm as to make it impossible for the Pope not to take action. Pope Gregory IX declared the position of Minister General vacant and, in the face of direct defiance on the part of Elias, also excommunicated him (as did Gregory’s successor Innocent IV). Elias eventually aligned himself in friendship and employment with the excommunicated Emperor Frederick II (enemy of Popes, agnostic, known in his own time as “the wonder of the “world,” and called by Nietzsche “the first European”). Upon the death of Frederick in 1250, Elias went into seclusion in Cortona, ever fearful of imprisonment by the Pope. Fearful of the ultimate consequences of being excommunicated, he sought absolution from the local clergy, and received it. Pope Innocent IV sent representatives to minutely examine the sincerity of his repentance and, being satisfied, allowed his burial in Franciscan habit.

Possibly nothing reveals the niggardliness and pathos of Brother Elias’ life as his words while Francis lay dying. The following incident is related in Speculum Perfectionis, #121:

Seeing that blessed Francis was comforted and rejoicing in the Lord in this way [his companions, at his request, were singing the Praises of the Lord night and day] despite his great pain, Brother Elias said to him, ‘Dearest Brother, the great joy shown by you and your companions gives me great comfort and edification. But the people of this city venerate you as a saint, and are well aware that you will soon die of your incurable disease; so when they hear the Praises sung day and night they are likely to say to themselves, ‘How can this man show so much joy when he is about to die? He ought to be preparing himself for death.’”

And Saint Francis answered him (in part):

Brother, allow me in my infirmities to rejoice in the Lord and in His praises, for by the grace and assistance of the Holy Spirit I am so united and conjoined to my Lord that by His mercy I may rightly rejoice in Him, the Most High.”

Elias was not present at Francis’ death.

 

Pope Gregory IX

When we consider the actual life and spirituality of the Franciscan Order, Elias may rightly be seen as the primary Judas-figure. However, the person most responsible for institutionalizing this betrayal on the ecclesiastical and juridical level is Pope Gregory IX (Cardinal Ugolino).

In 1230, four years after Francis’ death, Pope Gregory IX published the Bull Quo elongati. It declared the Testament of St. Francis to be devoid of legal force. In his scholarly work Franciscan Poverty, Malcolm D. Lambert writes the following:

What was the effect of the invalidating of the Testament? Looking back, we can see that, in a sense, 1230 represented the last chance for the order to return as a body to the way of living of Francis and the companions; then, Quo elongati blocked the way, and ever afterwards the weight of precedent and legislation was too great for it to be possible.”

Professor Lambert is in full agreement with the erroneous notion that “to a developing order with its problems of dwelling places, learning, sick friars, and the like….The ideal [of St. Francis] was impossible.” (p. 73). This opinion, as I have clearly shown, was in direct contradiction to the statements of St. Francis and the revelations he received from Christ.

It needs to be emphatically stated that the so-called Spirituals alone held fast to Francis’ ideal. Sometimes, as we shall see, some passed over to the point of embracing heresy (Joachimism – or a bastardized form of it), defying the Papacy, and embracing schism. Such are the Fraticelli. But we must reject the facile identification, popular among the Relaxati or Conventuals, of identifying the Spirituals with the Fraticelli. Friars such as Leo, Giles, Bernard of Quintavalle, Angelus, Rufino, Masseo, John of Parma, Brother Ugolino di Monte, and many others were certainly Spirituals, but are in no way to be considered Fraticelli.

Having made these clarifications, it remains to examine the fundamental betrayal of Francis’ ideal of poverty to be found in Quo elongati.

It is of the very nature of Francis’ ideal of Poverty that it is not subject to strict legislation. Francis’ great love was Lady Poverty, but it is obviously true that “absolute poverty” would simply kill a person. As human beings, we need food, clothes and, quite often, (especially here in Minnesota) shelter from the cold.

It is also true that sometimes the requirement of God’s mercy over-rides strict rules in regard to poverty, fasting, dress, etc. St. Francis fully understood this. Despite his vehement commands against touching or having anything to do with money, he made an exception in the case of severe sickness of a friar. He allowed shoes and riding of a horse or ass where necessity or illness made these things necessary. Following is one of the most enchanting stories, taken from the Legend of Perugia, #1, revealing this “heart of mercy” which is so intimately a part of the Franciscan ideal:

In the early days of the Order, that is to say, at the time when Francis began to group a few brothers around him, he lived with them at Rivo Torto. One night around midnight, when all were sleeping on their poor straw mattresses, one of the brothers began to cry out: ‘I am dying! I am dying!’ Blessed Francis got up and said: ‘Get up, Brothers, bring a light.’ A torch was lit and blessed Francis asked: ‘Who cried out, I am dying?’ One brother said, ‘I did.’ And blessed Francis said to him: ‘What ails you, Brother? What are you dying from?’ ‘I am dying of hunger,’ he answered.

Blessed Francis, a man full of charity and discretion, did not want the brother to blush from eating alone. He had a meal prepared then and there and everyone partook of it. It must be said that this brother and the others were recently converted and inflicted excessive penances on their bodies.

After the meal, blessed Francis said to the other brothers: ‘My brothers, I say to you, let everyone of you take his constitution into consideration. If one of you can do with less food than another, it is not my wish that he who needs to eat more should try to imitate the first. Let each one take his own constitution into account and give his body what it needs. If, in the matter of eating and drinking we are obliged to deny ourselves those superfluous thing which are harmful to the body and the soul, we must forego even more excessive mortification, for God desires loving kindness and mercy not sacrifice.” (this story is also found in Bonaventure’s Major Life, II Celano, and Speculum Perfectionis).

Similarly, if this particular brother had been freezing to death, Francis would have been the first to clothe him in fur; or if he were severely ill, he would have accepted the possible use of money to pay for a doctor. But the same “Rule” of Poverty still remained. Anyone who was to be a    Franciscan friar, as Francis says in his Testament, “gave everything to the poor. They were satisfied with one habit which was patched inside and outside, and a cord, and trousers. We refused to have anything more….The friars must be very careful not to accept churches or poor dwelling for themselves, or anything else built for them unless they are in harmony with the poverty which we have promised in the Rule [any “huts” were to be built of mud and sticks], and they should occupy these places as strangers and pilgrims.” Add to this his absolute proscription against petitioning the Roman Curia for any privileges, and the very important prohibition against pursuing learning or possessing books, we have basically the entire “heart” of Francis’ Rule as it concerns the ideal of Poverty. Francis’ devotion to Poverty was “absolute”, but this absoluteness was not capable of legalistic delineation – any more than specific acts of charity are subject to such legislation. It is this “heart” of Franciscan Poverty which Gregory IX failed to see, and which he essentially destroyed with his legislation.

The destruction came through the employment of a theoretical, legal distinction which Quo elongati enunciates in the following passage:

We say therefore that {the friars} ought not to have proprietas [dominion], either individual or common, but may have the usus alone of the utensils and books and movable goods which they are permitted to have, and the friars, as the minister-general and provincial [ministers] direct, may use them, leaving dominion of their settlements and houses to those to whom it is known to pertain….”

There was a certain amount of truth in the above passage, which could indeed be viewed as applying to St. Francis’ ideal. The brothers did indeed “use” things while not owning them – food, humble dwellings, habit, cord, trousers, breviary, psalter, etc. What is wrong about this passage only comes to light when seen in the light of its further context within the Pope’s Bull.

Quo elongati established a sophistry at the very heart of Franciscan self-understanding in regard to Poverty by introducing a new “office” for the reception of money and other ”necessities” into the Order. This official, called the nuntius, ostensibly acting on the part of the almsgiver (which can certainly be looked on as a “Jesuitical” distinction), insured that the Franciscan Order could be the recipient of virtually anything, while nominally still being able to claim adherence to the principle of “Absolute Poverty” because they did not possess proprietas, dominion, or actual ownership.

The effect of this sophistry was devastating to Franciscan spirituality. The primary spiritual effect of Francis’ own ideal of Poverty was, on the one hand, to deprive the mind and heart of each Friar of any security in the things of this world, and, on the other hand, to throw this same mind and heart into a fundamental posture of total trust in God and dependence on that “sacrum commercium” of charity with other human beings which we have already delineated. All of this is profoundly vitiated by the security which comes to the Franciscan life with the nuntius. The nuntius, and the resources for whom he was the agent, could always be drawn upon to alleviate any want or insecurity. In other words, the entire charism of the Franciscan Order became vitiated.

According to Lambert, “The greatest single cause of pressure on poverty was building.” (p. 94). In turn, the primary justification for such building was the perceived necessity to pursue learning. Again, from Lambert:

The standard of poverty intended by St. Francis, if appallingly severe, was coherent and, just, observable….But, as I see it, it is incompatible with the regular pursuit of learning. The new entrants to the order were bound to desire the practice of preaching, in the full, learned sense. If learning be adopted then the full poverty must be mitigated.”

This pressure for learning was largely the fruit of the increased clericalization of the Order. Francis, of course, refused the priesthood, and remained a deacon until he died. Although he certainly accepted priests into his Order (such as his early companion Brother Sylvester), he certainly did not envision a clericalized Brotherhood. The Franciscan Order was pre-eminently the Friars Minor – the “little brothers.” Clericalization, learning, building and economic security all go hand-in-hand, and demand mitigation of Francis’ ideal.

As with so many things, Francis was able to peer into the heart of this matter, and see the threat. The following is from the Legend of Perugia, #70:

Not that Francis ever despised or regarded sacred learning with disfavor: on the contrary, he showed a fond respect for the scholars of the Order, and for all scholars, as he himself says in his Testament: ‘We should honor and venerate theologians, too, and the ministers of God’s word, because it is they who give us spirit and life.’

“But, foreseeing the future, he knew through the Holy Spirit and often repeated that many of the brothers, under pretext of edifying others, would abandon their vocation, that is to say, pure and holy simplicity, prayer and Lady Poverty; they would consider themselves more fervent and more on fire with the love of God because of their knowledge of the Scriptures, whereas precisely because of it they would not be able to return to their former vocation since they had let the time given them to live in the holy vocation slip by.” (see also SP, #72).

In other words, the primary fruit of such pursuit of learning – necessarily entailing the violation of the Franciscan charism of holy simplicity and poverty – would be an enormous self-deception. Possibly the singularly most often used argument by Elias and the ministers in their attempt to mitigate the Rule was the necessity of making adjustments, so that the Order could become an effective means of Apostolate and preaching for the Church. This, in their minds required learning, books, buildings, and all the rest. Francis’ reply is devastating:

There are many brethren who devote all their energy and zeal to the acquisition of learning, neglecting their holy vocation, and straying from the way of humility and holy prayer both in mind and body. When they have preached to the people, and learn that some have been helped or moved to penitence, they grow conceited and congratulate themselves as though the others’ gain were their own. But they will have preached rather to their own condemnation and hurt, and have really achieved nothing except as the instruments of those through whom God has obtained this result. For those whom they imagined they were edifying and converting through their own learning and preaching have been edified and converted by God Himself through the prayers and tears of holy, poor, humble, and simple brethren….But those who have cared for nothing except to know and point out the way of salvation to others, and have made no effort to follow it themselves, will stand naked and empty-handed before the judgment-seat of Christ, bearing only the sheaves of confusion, shame, and grief. Then shall the truth of holy humility and simplicity, of holy prayer and poverty, which is our vocation, be exalted, glorified, and proclaimed….” (Ibid).

The pursuit of learning, while it certainly is valid for others, was not the Franciscan way. For Francis, it was in fact destructive to the vocation of a Friars Minor:

Many are they who desire to exalt themselves to the heights of knowledge, but blessed is he who prefers to renounce knowledge for love of the Lord God!” (#72).

The campaign for “learning” among the Friars was always accompanied by the “prudence” which claimed it was necessary for preaching and the “apostolate.” It was Francis’ grace to perceive that effective preaching was a matter of grace, that God would provide this “sustenance” to the Friars just as he provided for their physical necessities, and that the virtue of love of God is the true teacher: “Knowledge produces self-importance; love makes the building grow.” (Ibid).The validity of this teaching is to be found in the “proof “of the extraordinary transformations of peoples which occurred in the early days of the Order.

As is so often the case, St. Francis teaching on this particular subject is accompanied by delightful stories of actual incidents which penetrate to the heart of the matter. The Speculum Perfectionis relates several stories concerning a particular friar who was persistent in trying to obtain Francis’ permission to have a psalter:

<And blessed Francis said to him, “Once you have a psalter, you will want a breviary. And when you have a breviary, you will sit in a high chair like a great prelate, and say to your brother, ‘Bring me my breviary!’” As he spoke, blessed Francis in great fervor of spirit took up a handful of ashes and placed them on his head, and rubbing his hand around his head as though he was washing it, he exclaimed, “I a breviary!, I a breviary!” …Many months later, when blessed Francis was at S. Mary of the Porziuncula, this friar spoke to him yet again about the psalter as he stood on the road near his cell beyond the house. And blessed Francis [almost certainly quite weary of this pestering) told him, “Go and do as your Minister says on this matter.” When he heard this, the friar turned back along the road, while blessed Francis stood thinking over what he had said to the friar. Suddenly he called after him, saying, “Wait for me, brother, wait for me!” Overtaking him, he said, “Come back and show me the place where I told you to do so as your Minister directs about the Psalter.” So when they had arrived at the place, blessed Francis knelt down before the friar and said, “Mea culpa, brother, mea culpa; for whoever wishes to be a Friar Minor should possess nothing but a habit with a cord and undergarment, as the Rule allows him. And those whom need obliges to do so may have sandals.”>

Two other points need mentioning if we are to understand this incident. First, at certain times a psalter did indeed circulate among the Friars, and Francis would not have had objection to this particular Friar using it. Secondly, if some very poor lady came along begging, and Francis had nothing else to offer her, he would have gladly given her the psalter to sell in order to provide some sustenance for herself and her family.

What all this demonstrates is that Francis’ devotion to poverty was total, but that this “absoluteness” could not be regulated by legal formulas (involving distinctions, for instance, between dominion and use) or encapsulated in some sort of formulated theology (as we shall see St. Bonaventure attempting in his theology of “Absolute Poverty”). It could only be found in a heart devoted to total simplicity and renunciation of all the things of this world, while at the same time always leaving room for the exercise of God’s mercy. The attempt to legislate such a dynamic was bound to kill it, as was any attempt to formulate it theologically.

 

Pope Innocent IV

In 1245, with Crescenzio da Jesi (a Relaxati) functioning as Minister General, Pope Gregory’s successor Innocent IV issued a new Bull, titled Ordinem vestrum, which constituted a significant “relaxation” of Pope Gregory’s Quo elongati. The legal sophistry was in need of further sophistries. In the words of Lambert,

Where Gregory had permitted recourse to intermediaries (the nuntius) for the sake of buying necessities alone, Innocent allowed such recourse for ‘commodities’ as well, thus giving carte blanche to superiors to use agents to take money alms whenever they wished.” (p. 101).

The ultimate effect of all this was to place all ownership of Franciscan property into the hands of the Pope, who could give the Order anything they wanted, and still maintain the fiction of “Absolute Poverty” of dominion on the part of the Franciscan Order. Francis’ fear of, and proscription against, petitioning the Papacy or Curia for any prerogatives had thus blossomed into nightmarish fulfillment.

 

St. Bonaventure’s Doctrine of Absolute Poverty

That which the Papal Bulls Quo elongati and Ordinem vestrum accomplished in the ecclesial and legal realms as to the destruction of Franciscan Poverty, St. Bonaventure blessed in the theological domain. While Minister General, he wrote his work Apologia pauperum, which offers the following definition of Absolute Poverty:

Since there are two things to be considered with regard to the possession of temporal goods, dominion and usus, and usus is necessarily annexed to the present life; it is the nature of evangelical poverty to renounce earthly possession in respect of dominion and proprietas, and, not to reject usus utterly, but to restrain it….”

Any Catholic who possesses some depth of familiarity with St. Francis’ life and teaching should sense the total failure of the above definition to capture St. Francis’ ideal of Poverty. Francis’ ideal of Lady Poverty was entirely established in an imitation of Christ Who, though being God, became nothing. Christ did something much more than merely “restrain himself “when He took human form and sacrificed Himself on the Cross. Therefore, when transposed to human life, and the sincere attempt to follow this Way, the reality of Christ’s Poverty cannot be delineated or bifurcated into legal distinctions between dominion and use, or subjected to doctrinal formulation. St. Francis never formulated it as a doctrine, but only as a way of imitation, to which he appended some rules protecting that way from self-deceit and falsification. The attempt to formulate this Way with a doctrine of “Absolute Poverty” is therefore bound to involve an incompleteness, duplicity, self-deceit, and betrayal which is subject to eventual exposition and ridicule. As we shall see, this is precisely what will occur during the Papacy of John XXII.

St. Bonaventure’s doctrine of Absolute Poverty amounted to a virtual mirror reflection of the definition of Franciscan Poverty which was formulated in Gregory IX’s Bull Quo elongati in 1234. But Bonaventure’s exposition of Absolute Poverty had gone much further. It had applied this same doctrine, and these same legal distinctions, to Christ. In other words, Christ also practiced “Absolute Poverty” – this entailing the renunciation of all dominion (proprietas) over any possessions whatsoever, and also therefore absolutely possessing no right to sell or give away anything which might be in their use.

In the year 1276, Pope Nicholas III issued the Bull Exiit qui seminat which gave official sanction to this “Absolute Poverty of Christ” doctrine. In part it read:

“…we say that such renunciation of proprietas [dominion] of all things, both individually and in common, for God, is meritorious and holy, and taught in word and confirmed in example by Christ showing the way of perfection, and channeled on by the first founders of the church militant, as they had drawn it from that fount, through the streams of their doctrine and life.” (Lambert, p. 151).

I have stated that this entire effort to legally formulate a doctrine of “Absolute Poverty” involved duplicity. It was necessitated by the posture of the Franciscan “Community,” which claimed to follow Francis in his love of Lady Poverty, while at the same time working to mitigate Francis’ strict rules in regard to the use of the things of this world. It in fact allowed them to pose before the world under the guise of “Absolute Poverty” (of dominion) while in fact being neither poor in use or in spirit (in accord with the ideal of Francis). Once again, from Sacrum Commercium, “They pretended to love you so that they might leave you.”

Duplicity, by its very nature, requires obscurity. The Spirituals, despite whatever excesses they may have succumbed to, were always in the position of exposing the lie and they themselves appeared to be living lives much more in accord with Francis’ ideal. All through the period since Francis’ resignation, this witness invited persecution. The reign of St. Bonaventure as Minister General offers a unique example of such persecution. In the Fioretti (Little Flowers of St. Francis), we read the following:

Now this is what Brother Matthew told me: “I know a brother to whom the Lord has made known that which will take place in our Order; for Brother James della Massa had told me that, after the Lord had revealed to him many things concerning the Church militant, he saw in a vision a large and beautiful tree, the root of which was of gold, and all the branches were men, and these men were all Friars Minor; and there were as many large branches as there were provinces in the Order, and each branch was composed of as many brethren as there were friars in each province; and he was informed of the number of friars in the Order, and in each province – with their names, their ages, their rank, and the different offices they filled – also their various merits and defects. And he saw Brother John of Parma at the summit of the highest branch of the tree, and round him were the ministers of each province; and he saw Christ, the blessed one, sitting on a throne, who, calling St Francis to him, gave him a chalice full of the spirit of life, saying, `Go to thy brothers, and give them to drink of this spirit of life, as Satan will rise up against them, and many will fall and not rise again.’ And Christ, the blessed one, gave to St Francis two angels to accompany him; and St Francis took the chalice to his brothers, and offered it first to Brother John of Parma, who taking it drank all its contents in haste, but with great reverence, and having done so he became luminous, like the sun. After him St Francis offered it to all the others; and very few there were who took it, and drank with devotion: those who did so, were filled with light, like the sun; but those who took the chalice, and threw away its contents most irreverently, became black and deformed, and horrible to look at; those who drank a part of the contents and threw away the rest, were partly bright and partly dark, in proportion to the quantity they drank or threw away. The brightest of all was the said Brother John, who, having drained to the dregs the cup of life, had seen by the aid of a celestial light the tempests and troubles which were about to rise against the tree, shaking and tearing its branches; for which reason the said Brother John left the top of the tree where he was, and placing himself under its branches hid himself close to the roots. And while giving himself to contemplation there, Brother Bonaventure, who had drunk part of the chalice and had spilled part, went up to the branch and place which Brother John had left. And no sooner was he there, than the nails of his fingers became like points of iron; on seeing this, he hastened to leave the place he had taken, and in his fury he sought to vent his rage on Brother John; and Brother John perceiving his intention, cried out to Christ, the blessed one, who was seated on his throne, to help him; and Christ, hearing his cry, called St Francis, and giving him a sharp stone, said: `Take this stone, and going cut the nails of the brother who seeks to tear Brother John, so that he may not be able to do him any harm.’ And St Francis did as he was ordered. In the meantime a great tempest arose and the wind shook the tree in such a way that all the brethren fell to the ground. First fell those who had thrown away the contents of the chalice of the spirit of life: these were carried by devils to dark regions, full of pain and anguish; but Brother John, and others who had drunk of the chalice, were carried by angels to the regions of life eternal, full of light and splendour. And Brother James, who witnessed the vision, saw clearly the names, the condition and the fate of each brother. And the tempest did not cease till the tree was blown down, and carried away by the wind; and immediately another tree arose out of the golden roots of the old one, and it was entirely composed of gold, with its leaves and fruits; but for the present we will not describe the beauty, the virtues, and the delicious fragrance of this wonderful tree.”

Blessed John of Parma was St. Bonaventure’s predecessor as Minister General of the Franciscan Order. He is certainly to be considered the Minister General most devoted to the original idea of Poverty of Francis, and therefore the enemy of the Relaxati. His election was a source of joy to Francis’ early companions such as Leo, Ruffino, Masseo, and Giles. Upon his election, Giles said to him, “Welcome, father. But, oh, you come late!” John was the sixth Minister General, and the first one who strongly sought a return to Francis’ ideal. It is no wonder that Francis’ original companions and their spiritual successors rejoiced at his coming.

John reigned for 10 years (1247-1257). During that time he did much to bring back the Order to its original observance. His reputation for sanctity and learning was immense, as was his humility and personal observance of poverty. No other Minister General has ever been as zealous in visiting all the Franciscan monasteries, hermitages, etc. He heard every concern and complaint. It is even recorded that he once presided over a dispute as to whether a particular brother should be dismissed because his snoring was so profoundly disruptive of the sleep of others.

He had many friends, and also many enemies. Greatest among his enemies were those many ministers and friars within the Order who resented and feared the actions which he took to remedy relaxations of the Rule. After 10 years of rule, this conflict finally came to a head at the Chapter held at the Ara Coeli Convent in Rome in 1257. The Pope, Alexander IV, had also declared himself the Cardinal Protector of the Order. Constantly embroiled in this conflict, and always subject to the complaints and accusations of the Relaxati, he sent word secretly to John that if he were re-elected that he should not accept.

John promptly obeyed. Beseeched by many friars to recommend his successor, he named Bonaventura da Bagnorea, whom the world now knows as St. Bonaventure. There is every indication that John of Parma desired only to continue to serve the Order and the new Minister General in some humbler capacity. It was not to be allowed. Instead, under the authority and direction of Bonaventure, he was soon sent to a convent in Tuscany to be placed on trial and judged.

There were a number of accusations, including that of being a heretic (Joachimite). John had certainly shown some sympathy for some of the ideas of Joachim of Flora (as did St. Bonaventure), but certainly not for the bastardization of Joachim’s ideas which became known as the heresy of Joachimism, and which prophesied a coming Age of the Holy Spirit which would transcend the law of Christ and supersede the organized Church. John’s obedience and submission to the hierarchy was profound until the day of his death   Unquestionably, the primary motivation for his prosecution lay in the constant campaign to rid the Order of the Spirituals. The condemnation and imprisonment of the former Minister General represented the keystone for their success.

The following is an account taken from Anne Macdonell’s Sons of Francis (p. 241-242):

The scandalous sentence was, indeed, being pronounced, when a letter reached the judges from one too influential to be snubbed. The letter of the Cardinal Ottoboni, afterwards Pope Adrian V, was emphatic. It was almost threatening. He spoke of his sorrow at hearing of the accusation. “A holier and a more loyal man,” he said, “I have never known. I do not hesitate to say that his faith is my faith. Whatever heresy you discover in him abounds in me. His person is my person. In such things as you condemn him, I also am guilty. And with him I would be counted.”

In the face of this “threat” from Cardinal Ottoboni, the decision of the judges altered. Instead of being formally condemned and imprisoned, John was allowed to choose his place of perpetual retreat. He chose Greccio, where Francis had re-enacted the First Christmas. He would spend thirty-two years there. Subsequent examination of his life and teachings resulted in his beatification in 1777, and his Feast is celebrated on March 20.

St. Bonaventure’s efforts to bring unity to the Franciscan Order – which, as we have seen, demanded the suppression of the Spirituals – also required the suppression of any effective memory of the conflict between Francis and the “moderation” which had now become the “Conventual” norm of the Order. Such works as The Legend of Perugia, Speculum Perfectionis, and Sacrum Commercium were indeed sources of acute embarrassment, for they did indeed reveal that such moderation was the source of Francis’ great sorrow, and the reason for his resignation. Thus it came about that in 1266, under the Minister-Generalcy of St. Bonaventure, the General Chapter ordered all other Lives of St. Francis destroyed, and canonized Bonaventure’s Legend as the only permissible and acceptable Life of St. Francis.

None of this, of course, is meant to contradict the Church’s final judgment of St. Bonaventure’s sainthood. The story is told of St. Thomas and a companion visiting the room of St. Bonaventure at the University of Paris. Upon discovering that the latter was working on his life of Francis, St. Thomas said to his companion, “Let us leave a Saint to write about a Saint.” The problem is that St. Bonaventure, like so many Popes, Minister Generals, and other good men of the time, did not understand that St. Francis could not be “moderated” without being destroyed.

The deeper one penetrates into history, and the lives of those who make it, the more one comes to realize that extraordinary sanctity and goodness is not at all to be identified with infallibility or inerrancy, and that the life of great and holy men, including Popes and Saints, yet often contain very many serious errors and mistakes.

The irony, however, is that after having suborned the Papacy to support this betrayal of Francis, and having developed the systematic doctrine of “Absolute Poverty” in order to theologically bless this betrayal, and now being largely triumphant over the Spirituals, the position of the “Community” (a euphemism for the “moderate” majority of Franciscans) was soon to be shown forth in all its self-contradictory nakedness.

The agent of this revelation was to be the Avignon Pope, John XXII.

 

Pope John XXII

The Condemnation of the Doctrine of the Absolute Poverty of Christ

The conflict between the various elements of the Franciscan Order – Relaxati, Conventuals, Spirituals, Fraticelli – is quite complex, involving many personalities, events, injustices, extremes of action and reaction, etc. It is not to our purpose to fully delineate these things here. Suffice to say, it all came to a dramatic climax with the Papacy of John XXII, who resolved to destroy the Spirituals on the one hand, but equally to condemn the doctrine of Absolute Poverty which the “Community” of the Franciscan Order claimed for their unique charism.

We recall that this doctrine of Absolute Poverty, as taught by St. Bonaventure and embraced by a series of previous Popes, applied to common dominion over all property. Its basic principle was that the Franciscan Order did not have dominion (propietas) over its property. It was now the Pope, in fact, who allegedly held all of this property, and allowed the Order the use (administration) over such. Further, in endorsement of Bonaventure’s teaching, this doctrine of Absolute Poverty had, in Exiit qui seminat, also been claimed to apply to Christ and the Apostles.

It was the position of the Franciscan Community that the previous encyclicals of the aforementioned Popes had infallibly defined this doctrine. Pope John’s first step in this contest was to declare in his Bull Qui nonnunquam (March 26, 1322) that this was not true, and that he had the right to alter the Bulls of his predecessors. He wrote:

Because sometimes, what conjecture believed would be of profit, subsequent experience has shown to be harmful, it ought not to be thought reprehensible, if the legislator takes steps to revoke canons issued by himself or his predecessors, if he sees them to be harmful rather than profitable….” (Loomis, p. 244).

This of course opened up Pope Nicholas III’s Bull Exiit qui seminat, which had taught not only the Absolute Poverty of the Franciscan Order but also the Absolute Poverty of Christ, to reconsideration and abrogation.

Approximately 9 months later, John issued a second Bull, Ad conditorem, which reiterated even more strongly his right to abrogate the Bulls of his predecessors. But it did something even more devastating to the presumptions of the Franciscan Community: it cancelled the Pope’s ownership and dominion over all Franciscan property, thereby destroying all pretentions of being able to use these things without ownership. In one stroke, the “Absolute Poverty” of the Franciscan Order had been destroyed.

The final blow came in the Pope’s Bull Cum inter nonnullos. Therein John declared that it was a heresy to teach or claim that Christ and the Apostles did not “have anything either privately or in common,” and equally heretical to assert that they did not possess the right of “selling, giving, or exchanging them [possessions]….” To sell something one must possess legal dominion or ownership. It was obvious therefore to all that John XXII had declared it heretical to deny dominion over property to Christ and the Apostles. The Franciscan “Community” had always claimed that their embrace of Absolute Poverty placed them in the unique position, which they alone occupied among all the Religious Orders, of fully imitating Christ in His Absolute Poverty. John’s condemnation of the doctrine of the Absolute Poverty of Christ amounted, therefore, to the deepest assault upon the existing Order’s dignity, and any claim to a unique charism.

All claims of the Franciscan Order to the Possession of the charism of “Absolute Poverty” had thereby been destroyed, as had any claim to the following of Christ in the imitation of such Absolute Poverty.

The betrayal of St. Francis had now reached its epiphany, and it was time for the so-called “Moderates’ to experience persecution. The current Minister General, Michael of Cesena (who had assisted Pope John XXII in the suppression of Spirituals), fled to the Court of Lewis of Bavaria, along with Bongratio of Bergamo (litigator for the Community, and prosecutor of the Spirituals) and William of Ockham. According to Lambert:

Under his protection they launched attack after attack upon the Bulls of John XXII, whom they accused of having imposed heresy on the Church in Ad Conditorem and Cum inter nonnullos. They were deposed from office, excluded from the order, and excommunicated.”

All three died in schism.

The Great Betrayal had now come full-circle. What Francis had prophesied at the Chapter of the Matts in 1223 had now come to fulfillment. It is worth quoting again.

My brothers! My brothers! God has called me by the way of simplicity and humility, and has in truth revealed this way for me and for all who are willing to trust and follow me. So I do not want you to quote any other Rule to me, whether that of Saint Benedict, Saint Augustine, or Saint Bernard, or to recommend any other way or form of life except this way which God in His mercy has revealed and given to me. The Lord told me that He wished me to be a new kind of simpleton in this world, and he does not wish us to live by any other wisdom but this. God will confound you through your own prudence and learning. And I trust in the constables [the devils, whom Francis called “God’s policemen”] of God, that He will punish you through them. Eventually, whether you wish it or not, you will return with great remorse to your first state.”

The Order has not yet returned. There have of course been movements involving both individuals (Peter of Alcantara for one) and branches (such as the Observants and Capuchins) that have succeeded to various extents. Francis saw that his Order would endure until the end of the world, and that his Friars would eventually return. Again, from the vision of Brother James of Massa:

And the tempest did not cease till the tree was blown down, and carried away by the wind; and immediately another tree arose out of the golden roots of the old one, and it was entirely composed of gold, with its leaves and fruits; but for the present we will not describe the beauty, the virtues, and the delicious fragrance of this wonderful tree.””

The fact remains, however, that the Sacrum Commercium of St. Francis had been rejected. Christian Civilization, despite the appearances of its cultural “monuments,” was in flight from the Beatitudes.

 

Part III

St. Francis of Assisi: They Pretended to Love You So That They Might Leave You

 

A Darksome Light

In His Sermon on the Mount (the whole of which can be seen as an exposition of the meaning of the Beatitudes), Our Lord offered the following:

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.” (Mt 6:21-24).

It might first seem to be a matter of total contradiction, or at least a paradoxical riddle, to speak of a “light that is darkness” – a “Darksome Light,” as it were. All contradiction is removed, however, if we perceive this phrase as referring to the relationship between intellect and will – between Truth, and the actual way in which we live, or fail to live, this truth in the world. “Faith, without works is dead,” proclaims St. James. It is thus entirely possible to “possess” the Faith, while yet denying it in the will, and therefore in what we love and pursue in this world. The possibility of a Darksome Faith is thus the inheritance of original sin, and the unnatural duplicity which is the tendency of all men

We see this “apparent” contradiction most aptly expressed in Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees:

And the prophecy of Isaias is fulfilled in them, who saith: ‘By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand: and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive. For the heart of this people is grown gross, and with their ears they have been dull of hearing, and their eyes they have shut: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I would heal them.” (Mt 13:14-15).

The Sixth Beatitude is “Blessed are the clean [pure] of heart, for they shall see God.” This Beatitude corresponds, in Thomas’ analysis, to the Gift of the Holy Spirit which is called Understanding. It was the great Gift of God to St. Francis that he was able to obtain to the vision that the key to this “understanding with the heart” lies in poverty towards all the things of this world. This, in turn, establishes the soul in that simplicity of intention which is able to see God in all things, and beyond all things. In other words, this poverty and simplicity of intention bears the grace by which all of creation becomes transparent to the presence of God. This is why the “embrace” of St. Francis and St. Thomas (the true successor of St. Dominic) is the key to all return to sanity and integrity of faith in the face of the present Darkness. What Francis was able to directly perceive through Brothers and Sisters Sun, Moon, Stars, Water, Fire, Earth, Death, Birds, Wolves, and even mice and worms, corresponds to Thomas’ metaphysical vision which “sees” that no created thing is reducible to scientific (accidental) analysis, but only to the sustaining, creative action of God from nothing. It is this intellectual understanding which absolutely strips every created substance of its self-sufficiency, and thus necessitates a profound devotion to Lady Poverty as the Sacrum Commercium necessary for the preservation of a living faith. It is the Metaphysics of St. Thomas that is therefore truly Franciscan in spirit, and not that of Bonaventure, Ockham, or duns Scotus – all of whom rejected this Metaphysics.

As I have mentioned previously, the Thirteenth Century was poised on the cusp of that tidal-wave of intellectual hubris and growth of the “mammon of iniquity” which was the Renaissance. There is no necessity here to explore all the manifold areas of commerce, banking, growth of cities, scientific exploration and invention, technological advances, philosophical and theological aberrations, heresies, schisms, political revolutions, etc. by which these betrayals of the Gifts of Francis and Thomas became incarnate in Christian society over the subsequent centuries. The primary effect was to force the Church into retreat from “understanding with the heart.” Two very brief examples of this will hopefully suffice.

Francis, of course, had contempt of money over all things, and named it “Flies.” St. Thomas taught that money was only a medium of exchange for real things, that it was absolutely morally wrong to make it “fruitful” in any way, and that it was intimately linked to the principle that “riches” provide the sustenance for all other sins, and that we are therefore to desire and possess only that which is necessary for leading a simple life. The centuries after the death of Francis and Thomas saw the multiplication of “extrinsic titles’ which made it possible to obtain “interest,” and therefore make “fruitful” in every conceivable way, money issued as a loan. The eventual outcome of this was to totally silence the Church’s teaching on usury, and to involve the Church itself in the worst scandals in regard to her own banking operations. We will soon be posting an article here, titled Usury and the Love of Money, which will deal with the history and structure of this betrayal, St. Paul of tells us that love of money is “the root of all evil,” and therefore the “sustenance” which nourishes all the activities which corrupt the heart and will. If we wish to penetrate to the depths of that almost universal corruption which has now descended upon both the Church and the world, it is absolutely essential therefore that we come to understand how “love of money” has come to dominate not only our own personal lives, but also all the institutions of society, including the Church.

Our second example deals again with the Portiuncula, and the shrine of Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in which it is now enclosed. St. Mary of the Angels was built between the years 1569 and 1579 at the express will of Pope St. Pius V. As we have discussed towards the beginning of Part I, it represents very graphically an icon in stone of the betrayal of St. Francis. Pope St. Pius V was, of course, the “Pope of Trent,” the pontiff responsible for the Catechism of the Council of Trent, and the Mass of Pius V. The content of the Faith was being dogmatized, the unity and solemnity of worship being restored, while the heart of Francis and the life of the Beatitudes was being entombed. Trent restored the faith, but did little or nothing to stem the slide of the faithful into the jaws of the mammon of iniquity. The word “usury,” for instance, never appears in any of its documents. Such is the duplicity, the bifurcation between intellect and will, by which the Faith becomes Darksome.

 

A Darksome Mirror

For if a man be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass. For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was.” (James 1:23-24)

It is difficult for any of us to believe that the above scriptural passage could apply to us. St. James speaks of a “hearer of the word,” which would certainly seem to indicate any of us who have been open to receive the Truth of God, and have given to it the assent of our faith. Is it possible, or even conceivable, that in the midst of all this possession of the Faith, there now exists a darkness in our souls by which, and through which, we have “forgotten what manner of man we were?” Is it conceivable, referring to St. James graphic terminology, that we are so “spotted by the world” that we no longer know who we are, or what it really means to be Christian?

St. James makes “double-mindedness,” or duplicity, to be the primary factor in this loss of self-knowledge. This duplicity finds its most succinct exposition in the following passage of his epistle:

You ask, and receive not: because you ask amiss; that you may consume it on your concupiscences. Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world, is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God.” (4:3-4).

To be a “doer of the word,” is therefore to be identified with renouncing friendship with this world, and with that threefold concupiscence – of the flesh, the eyes, and pride of life – which St. John defines to be the entire substance of this world. The “heart” of this choice of God over the world is a militant devotion and commitment to Poverty, which is the First Beatitude and the foundation of the entire spiritual life:

Very properly is the kingdom of heaven said to be the possession of those who keep nothing of the goods of this world through their own will, their inclination towards spiritual things, and their desire for eternal things. For it can only follow that a person will live on heavenly things if he cares nothing for earthly things, and he who renounces all earthly things and counts them as dung will taste with pleasure the savory crumbs that fall from the table of the holy angels and will deserve to taste how sweet and how good the Lord is.” (Sacrum Commercium, Prologue).

The rejection of the sacrum commercium of St. Francis opened the heart of Christian civilization to that prostitution to the world of concupiscence and hubris, the ascending severity of which is possibly best encapsulated in the popular names which we give to these succeeding ages of history: Renaissance, Enlightenment, Age of Reason, Industrial Age, and our own Information Age. With each succeeding century the penetrating power of money over all the institutions of society was increased; the Church’s teaching on usury was softened, compromised, and finally silenced; international finance and trade come to dominate human relations; life became incredibly more complex and simplicity was lost; the population of cities grew at the expense of rural areas; the grip of reductive scientific thinking became dominant over every “civilized” man; human progress came to be increasingly identified with scientific, economic, technological, and consumeristic growth rather than anything to do with the spiritual life or the growth of Christ’s Kingdom.

The growth of these forces (and more) certainly moved at an accelerating pace through the 14th – 19th centuries. But something happened during the first half of the 20th Century – as though these forces of worldliness reached a critical mass – which enabled the whole process to enter into a geometrical progression. Possibly a few statistics might be of help:

According to the World Health Organization:

For the first time ever, the majority of the world’s population lives in a city, and this proportion continues to grow. One hundred years ago, 2 out of every 10 people lived in an urban area. By 1990, less than 40% of the global population lived in a city, but as of 2010, more than half of all people live in an urban area. By 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in a city, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people.”

Such an increase speaks of a growth of people living profoundly unrelated to the intimacy of God’s natural creation and all its rhythms and realities, a devotion to consumerism, and a loss of any sort of life of simplicity which, in turn, could only lead to a massive loss of all the spiritual truths and realities to be found in Our Lord’s teaching on the Beatitudes and in the entire Sermon on the Mount. One need only look at a demographic map of the voting orientations for the 2016 U.S. Presidential election to see the stark reality. The blue areas (Democrats) are almost entirely confined to urban areas, whereas areas colored red (Republican) are predominantly rural. In translating this into geographical terms this signifies that Obama won 580,000 square miles, while Romney won 2,427,000 square miles, and yet lost the election. I present these statistics not in any way as an endorsement of Romney or the Republican Party, but only to strongly indicate the process of liberalization inherent in the growth of cities.

This urbanization of course means that what the vast majority of people do in order to earn their living has little or nothing to do with anything relating to God’s creation, or anything which Our Lord, St. Francis, or St. Thomas would consider the necessities of life. There are, for instance, approximately 623,800 people employed in Advertising, Marketing, Promotions, Public Relations, and as Sales Managers in the United States. If there are that many actually employed in promoting and selling consumerism, one can barely imagine the disastrous effect upon all of Americans (and elsewhere) of the work of this vast army promoting the destruction of the ideal of Poverty.

Millions work in vocations related to the entertainment industry, which is almost certainly the primary source for spreading violence and sexual impurity in our cultures. Francis’ 1221 Rule for the Franciscan Third Order stated emphatically: “They shall not donate to actors, and shall forbid their household to donate.”

We need consider what this loss of poverty and simplicity of life has done to children. Global toy sales for the year 2011 were reported at 83.3 billion. The vast majority of these toys are almost certainly electronic – things which never seem to satisfy, always demand further growth in complexity and stimulation, and are soon broken or obsolete. Our children and grandchildren are violated by all this in the deepest recesses of their hearts and minds.

Pre-Vatican II American Catholics, in the midst of the twentieth century and during this period of exploding consumerism and secularism, possessed an abundance of the exterior testimonies to Christian civilization: vocations to the priesthood and religious life; the most extensive Catholic school system in the world; all children systematically taught the Baltimore Catechism; magnificent Churches; a vast network of Catholic Universities and Colleges; efficient Charitable Organizations; the Traditional Latin Mass.

And, in the midst of all this monumental Catholicism, they increasingly built up their bank accounts, stock portfolios, and retirement funds. They came to rely on insurance for their security rather than the charity of their family, friends, and Church. They somehow identified their faith with democracy and the American Experiment. They really believed in Religious Pluralism as the foundation of this experiment. They adored Bishop Sheen, and absorbed his embrace of evolutionary theory, which led him to write that Teilhard de Chardin “will appear like John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, as the spiritual genius of the twentieth century.” (Footprints in a Darkened Forest, Meredith Press, 1967, p. 73). They embraced the banal TV entertainment of the 50’s, and prepared themselves to remain glued to their chairs for the flood of impurity that would descend in the 60’s and afterward.

In the intellectual realm, they became concubines of scientific reductionism, and every technological development. Virtually down to every single child and adult they absorbed the spiritual desolation involved in the notion that all physical things are reducible to atomic analysis. They taught, or had their children taught, about their alleged simian ancestry. They turned their faces away from Catholic teaching on “just wars, while this country dropped hydrogen bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which killed over 200,000 innocent civilians; they did the same while we incinerated hundreds of thousands more with the Fire-storm bombing of Tokyo and many European cities (135,000 in Dresden in one night). They raised America and the Constitution to a status parallel to the Chosen People and the Bible.

The examples are almost unlimited. They reach into every nook and cranny of our personal and communal lives.

It is therefore highly superficial to attribute the present chaos and filth in the Church to Vatican Council II. Vatican II and its aftermaths are the fruit, and certainly the facilitator of chastisement, for a much deeper infidelity and betrayal. Why should we believe that we have a right to the Traditional Latin Mass, which re-presents the supreme act of Poverty and Sacrifice by which Christ overcame the same world to which we are now prostituted? Why should we wonder that the leaders of the Church have now embraced an ecumenism which has had the effect of lowering us into the world’s cesspool of pluralism and paganism, which is the very constitutional principle upon which democracy and our country is founded? Why should we find it surprising that our hierarchy is largely immersed in the same sort of avarice, violence, and filth which is often our entertainment? Why should we be horrified by the undermining of Church Doctrine through philosophies and theologies which are the fruit of the same reductive scientism which has thoroughly permeated our own souls?

St. Gregory the Great wrote: “Divine justice provides shepherds according to the just desserts of the faithful.” The Papacy can be employed by God as a means of chastisement, as well as blessing. Any serious study of the history of the Church will prove the veracity of this principle. Vatican Council I taught that Peter, through Christ, “lives, presides and judges to this day, always in his successors the Bishops of the Holy See of Rome,” and that we are obliged to believe therefore that, “The disposition made by Incarnate Truth (dispositio veritatis) therefore remains, and Blessed Peter, abiding in the rock’s strength which he received (in accepta fortitudine petrae perseverans), has not abandoned the direction of the Church.” To believe this is to be Catholic, to believe otherwise is something else. If we choose to be Catholic, then we need to look inward for the real reasons behind Christ’s “direction” through Peter.

If we have a Pope who is in any way sinful or weak, then that infirmity is most likely intimately connected within the Mystical Body of Christ to our own hypocrisy, duplicity, and sinfulness. The same may be said of the hierarchy in general. This, of course, does not excuse Popes, bishops, priests, religious, theologians, catechists, etc. from sins, nor disallow us from combating error and abuses. It does, however, profoundly deepen our understanding of the roots of such sin, and also our proper response to it. Most of all, it forces us to acknowledge our complicity in this immense tragedy; and, hopefully, especially in the light of our exploration and study of St. Francis and his Sacred Commercium of Poverty, it should teach us humility, and destroy some conceits. In such humility, we might begin to find the answer, as did Daniel the Prophet:

“All this evil is come upon us; and we entreated not thy face, O Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and think on thy truth. And the Lord hath watched upon the evil, and hath brought it upon us: the Lord our God is just in all his works which he hath done: for we have not hearkened to his voice…we have sinned, we have committed iniquity…. For by reason of our sins, and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem, and thy people are a reproach to all that are round about us. Now therefore, O our Lord, hear the supplication of thy servant, and his prayers: and shew thy face upon thy sanctuary which is desolate, for thy own sake.”

Daniel has always seemed to be the premier Old Testament image of purity and sainthood – the Old Testament parallel to St. Francis. The scriptures repeatedly call him the “man of desires”, as though to underline the singular way in which his mind and heart were united to God, and therefore possessed that understanding heart which truly “sees God.”

Daniel never says “they have sinned”, but repeatedly “we have sinned, we have committed iniquity.”

The man who becomes Poor for Christ simply attains to such a state of charity with God and all His creation that he sees things very differently. This does not mean that he loses his ability to discern sin, or the lack of fortitude and righteous desire to combat it. It does mean that he penetrates to such a depth into the merciful heart of Christ and also into the poverty of every single human being, including himself, that he cannot help but say we have sinned many more times each day than they have sinned. This seems to me something which those who call themselves traditional Catholics, and consider themselves as a remnant of God in a world turned to general apostasy, have largely yet to learn. I do not know that in any of my reading of contemporary traditionalist literature I have ever seen the questions seriously posed, “What have we done wrong?” or “What have we done to deserve this?”

The dream of Pope Innocent III, in which he saw St. Francis holding up and restoring a Church crumbling into ruins, offers the answer. What is needed today is not another book on the errors of Vatican II. What is needed is not slick, expensive new catechisms, Catholic Universities and Colleges, more Catholic forums and conferences, more Monuments. What is needed most is not even the total restoration of the Traditional Mass. The Mass was the universal possession of all the faithful before Vatican II, and it did not prevent our present infidelity. What is demanded is hearts turned away from the world in poverty, and turned towards Christ in depth of desire and simplicity of intention. What is required is St. Francis, and the life of Poverty which was his Lady.

It is easy for us to dismiss all of this with the excuse that as lay people we cannot possibly live the “extreme” Poverty that Francis demanded of his Friars Minor. In doing so, we would be completely missing the richness of the Sacrum Commercium which was Francis’ love, and which he envisioned as a love for all. As quoted earlier from the I Celano, “For he assigned to all their rule of life, and pointed out truly the way to be saved in every station.”

It is an immense task. The great Cathedrals of Christendom are nothing when compared to the creativity demanded of such a work. Its intricacy is that of the human heart, as compared to stone. What Francis called “Flies,” and all its illegitimate children, have penetrated into every aspect of our lives. The task before us is a heroic undertaking. God will surely honor both our successes and failures, if only we turn back to Him with all our hearts:

“For we, O Lord, are diminished more than any nation, and are brought low in all the earth this day for our sins….And now we follow thee with all our heart, and we fear thee, and seek thy face. Put us not to confusion, but deal with us according to thy meekness, and according to the multitude of thy mercies.” (Dan 3:33, 41-42).

 

Our Lady, Queen of Mercy

In his Second Life of St. Francis, Thomas of Celano offers us the following description of St. Francis’ extraordinary devotion to Our Lady:

Toward the Mother of Jesus he was filled with an inexpressible love, because it was she who made the Lord of Majesty our brother. He sang special Praises to her, poured out prayers to her, offered her his affections, so many and so great that the tongue of man cannot recount them. But what delights us most, he made her the advocate of the order and placed under her wings the sons he was about to leave that she might cherish them and protect them to the end – Hail advocate of the poor! Fulfill toward us your office of protectress until the time set by the Father!”

“Hail advocate of the poor! St. Francis clearly identified Our Lady with Lady Poverty. But there is more. He also identified Mary with the Church. The following, in Francis’ own words, is St. Francis prayer and Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Hail, O Lady, Holy Queen

Mary, Mother of God:

You are the virgin made Church

And the one chosen by the most holy Father in Heaven

Whom He consecrated with His most holy beloved Son

And with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, In whom there was and is

All the fullness of grace and every good.

It is an extraordinary concept that Mary, through the will of the Father, was made Church. We of course can appreciate that this means that she is personally the perfect union of humanity with God, and is therefore the precursor and model, in imitation of her Son, of perfect holiness. She is the perfection of the Mystical Body of Christ.

But there is a second sense in which Mary is “made” Church. She encompasses within Her Immaculate Heart all that constitutes the Church Militant and the Church Suffering. As such, she has received the grace and power to purify the hearts of each one of us that we might come “to see with our eyes, and hear with our ears, and understand with our heart, and be converted”; and that Our Lord might truly heal us of our infidelities and prostitutions to a world plummeting into the luxurious and prideful hands of Satan. It is thus that Our Lady is truly spoken of as Queen of Mercy.

This is the entire purpose of the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church – to place all of us within the Immaculate Heart of Mary in order that we might be purified of that darkness which enshrouds us all. It is of course impossible for any of us to survive in this Babylonian world, even in terms of possessing the simple necessities of this life, in the same way that was possible in the relative simplicity of the 13th Century. But God sees the heart, and it is here where the simplicity and purity of our intentions may receive His grace and fruitfulness. It is here where we may receive the grace of that “single eye” which truly seeks God above all the things of this world, and the power of truly Christian creativity to make this present within our lives and the lives of our families. Most of all, this necessitates that we begin by confessing that we cannot receive or live the richness of God, while pursuing the riches, luxuries, pleasures, and advancements of this world. We cannot claim the first Beatitude and that poverty of spirit which “sees God”, without at the same time possessing a deep love and devotion towards St. Francis’ Lady Poverty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please spread the word about the Rosary!

The World Cometh: Democracy and the Spirit of the Antichrist

The World Cometh:

Democracy and the Spirit of Antichrist

 

“The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God.” (John 16:2 )

 

Almost certainly, the primary source of that darkness of mind and heart which prevents American Catholics from taking seriously the appeal of something like The Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church is Democracy, and the sense of freedom and well-being which it has engendered for over two centuries. It will be our purpose to prove in this article, however, that Democracy not only promotes a false sense of freedom, but that it necessarily degenerates into tyranny, and especially that tyranny which is anti-Christian and is inevitably set to wage total war against the Church.

A line has now been crossed.

It has been a collective delusion in this country, based on the First Article of the Bill of Rights, that there exists a sort of sacred “separation of Church and State” which, while preventing the Church from gaining control over government and its policies, also provides an impenetrable barrier against any sort of invasion of the Church by the State. This barrier has now been breached. And in a post-Christian world, where hostility towards Christ, and especially against the Catholic Church, is growing at a geometric pace, we may expect this breach to be followed by a tidal wave of assaults, not only upon the faith and freedom of individual believers, but upon the very existence of the Church itself.

There are now increasing calls to treat the Church as a “criminal organization” under the RICO laws, or through whatever other means can be found, or newly instituted, to further this agenda. In the wake of the Pennsylvania priestly-abuse scandal involving allegations against over 300 priests and affecting over 1,000 victims, news sources now inform us that the Attorney Generals of 45 states have launched similar investigations into priestly abuse in their respective states. And possibly most ominous, on November 28, 2018 – two weeks after the U.S. Bishops surrendered to Vatican instructions to delay consideration of proposals concerning the investigation of the Cardinal McCarrick scandal, and for holding bishops accountable on issues concerning abuse by themselves and by the priests under their charge – more than 50 law enforcement officials raided the Chancery offices of Cardinal DiNardo (President of the USCCB) searching for secret archives related to clergy sexual abuse and its cover-up.

That many members of the Catholic Church, reaching all the way top, have engaged in criminal activity in regard to sexual abuse and its cover-up cannot be denied. That there therefore exist many legitimate cases in which prosecution by secular authorities is justified also cannot be denied. But it is also true that, in consideration of the general apostasy from Christ and His Rule which has now descended upon almost all nations, such limited legitimacy is almost certainly to become the justification for a reign of evil and terror against Christ and His Catholic Church.

In our articles on the Mysteries of the Rosary, and especially The Third Glorious Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit, we have explored the errors and prostitutions to the world which have so reduced the effective power of the Holy Spirit in the interior life of the Church and its members as to have made inevitable not only the “filth” which has penetrated the Church, but also has now reduced the Church to the status of a relatively helpless victim towards the forces of evil which seek its destruction.

There is also, however, an exterior, historical progression of a religious and political concept which has been the primary means by which this victimhood of the Church to the State has been accomplished. It consists in a progressive surrender of Christian consciousness over the centuries to a kind of messianic belief in universal Democracy. In this country it has largely taken the form of a practical idolatry towards the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. Constitution is founded upon two errors which have consistently worked to erode and destroy the faith of American Catholics for over two centuries. The first of these errors is encapsulated in the first article of the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….” This fundamental rule of American jurisprudence is a direct denial of the Social Kingship of Christ – which entails that only the Catholic Church can build Christian civilization, and that all nations will only be blessed to the extent that they embrace this Kingship under the spiritual guidance of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Catholic Church. For a nation to declare neutrality towards this Kingship is to call down upon itself eventual total chaos and dissolution, which is precisely the fate that now hovers over our nation. For a Catholic to be involved (including voting) in any way in the political life of such a nation involves a kind of continual dialogue and compromise with much that is in direct and indirect denial of his faith, and therefore almost necessarily results in intellectual, moral, and spiritual prostitution and decay.

There is, however, a second error, deeply imbedded in the American system of government, which has a history of deception and captivation of the Christian mind over the past 7 centuries which deserves close examination if we are ever to return as Catholics to an integral understanding of Christ’s Kingship over all individuals and nations. It consists, quite simply, in the formula that government is “of the People, by the People, and for the People”, and is rightly given the name “democracy”, which literally means “people rule” – from the Greek dēmos (the people), and kratia (rule). Many Americans have the erroneous notion that this phrase is to be found in either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. It actually is to be found only in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. But the principle – government of the people and by the people – is certainly the foundation for the Declaration of Independence, and therefore also of the American Constitution: Thus, in the former:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government….” (Declaration of Independence, second paragraph).

There are of course always deficiencies and injustices in government, and the Declaration of Independence does indeed contain a list of grievances against England and her rule of the colonies. When I was a schoolboy, the main grievance of the colonists was always considered to be “taxation without representation”. I remember later in my adult life reading a news story during the Bicentennial Celebration in Boston in 1976 about a man, dressed as King George III, who jumped upon the stage and cried out, “How do you like taxation with representation?” The same story went on to point out that at the time of the Revolution the tax paid by the average American was one-half of 1%, while now it borders upon 50%. Accurate or not, this story points to the fact that there is always excuse for Revolution under democratic forms of government. We need also point out that the Declaration of Independence does indeed have at least one thing right. Governments are certainly instituted for the good of all its citizens, and among the equal rights of all its citizens is the right to life. Under its prescriptions, therefore, there is now a massive amount of justification, in the form of millions of murdered unborn children, for violent Revolution. This does not entail that you or I advocate such Revolution, but rather that the Declaration of Independence does so itself.

It will be the purpose of this article to prove that it is the fundamental principle of democracy – “the rule of the people” – which actually defines the principle of Revolution which has virtually destroyed Christian Civilization, that it has a long history reaching back into the latter Middle Ages, and that it is a heresy which is responsible not only for the decay of nations, but now also threatens the continuing existence of the Church and the Papacy upon which it is founded.

This is a rather large undertaking. And since deception in regard to this subject runs so deep, it would seem that a rather unusual approach is required in examining this subject.

It is very difficult for most Americans to believe that there is not something almost sacred about democracy. This, in turn, is intimately tied to a reverence not only for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but also for what is termed the “Founding Fathers”. There is something almost Biblical about this reverence – almost as though they were Patriarchs of some sort of New Revelation concerning human rights and freedom.

In order to penetrate through this miasma of false reverence, the following structure is intended in this article: 1) To examine the specific errors of democracy in the light of Catholic doctrine and Papal teachings; 2) To penetrate through the myths concerning the Founding Fathers, including the Catholic “Fathers” of the American Church; 3) To then jump back approximately 700 years in order to examine the origin of and growth of this heresy; 4) Finally, to analyze our present crisis in the light of what we have learned.

 

Catholic Doctrine Concerning Democracy

There are numerous encyclicals issued by many Popes, especially since the time of the French Revolution, which condemn certain principles integral to democracy. But it is Pope St. Pius X’s encyclical to the French Bishops titled Notre Charge Apostolique (On the Sillon), and a number of encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII, which contain the most direct examination of the errors of democracy, and the Catholic doctrines which are denied by this form of government. These doctrines are all centered upon a true understanding of the source of authority in all civil societies. The reader should keep in mind that in speaking of the errors of “The Sillon”, Pope Pius X is equating these errors with a false democracy, especially as practiced and promoted by Catholics. The two quotations immediately below are from The Sillon:

“Admittedly, the Sillon holds that authority – which it first places in the people – descends from God, but in such a way: ‘as to return from below upward’…. But besides its being abnormal for the delegation of power to ascend, since it is in its nature to descend, Leo XIII refuted in advance this attempt to reconcile Catholic Doctrine with the error of philosophism. For, he continues: ‘It is necessary to remark here that those who preside over the government of public affairs may indeed, in certain cases, be chosen by the will and judgment of the multitude without repugnance or opposition to Catholic doctrine. But whilst this choice marks out the ruler, it does not confer upon him the authority to govern; it does not delegate the power, it designates the person who will be invested with it.’ For the rest, if the people remain the holders of power, what becomes of authority? A shadow, a myth; there is no more law properly so-called, no more obedience.”

“We do not have to demonstrate here that the advent of universal Democracy is of no concern to the action of the Church in the world.”

Perhaps the most powerful condemnations of the principles of democracy are to be found in Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Immortale Dei (On the Christian Constitution of States). I think it worthwhile to offer several passages from this marvelous work:

“Sad it is to call to mind how the harmful and lamentable rage for innovation which rose to a climax in the sixteenth century, threw first of all into confusion the Christian religion, and next, by natural sequence, invaded the precincts of philosophy, whence it spread amongst all classes of society. From this source, as from a fountain-head, burst forth all those later tenets of unbridled license which, in the midst of the terrible upheavals of the last century, were wildly conceived and boldly proclaimed as the principles and foundation of that new conception of law which was not merely previously unknown, but was at variance on many points with not only the Christian, but even the natural law.

“Amongst these principles the main one lays down that as all men are alike by race and nature, so in like manner all are equal in the control of their life; that each one is so far his own master as to be in no sense under the rule of any other individual; that each is free to think on every subject just as he may choose, and to do whatever he may like to do; that no man has any right to rule over other men. In a society grounded upon such maxims all government is nothing more nor less than the will of the people, and the people, being under the power of itself alone, is alone its own ruler. It does choose, nevertheless, some to whose charge it may commit itself, but in such wise that it makes over to them not the right so much as the business of governing, to be exercised, however, in its name.

“The authority of God is passed over in silence, just as if there were no God; or as if He cared nothing for human society; or as if men, whether in their individual capacity or bound together in social relations, owed nothing to God; or as if there could be a government of which the whole origin and power and authority did not reside in God Himself. Thus, as is evident, a State becomes nothing but a multitude which is its own master and ruler. And since the people is declared to contain within itself the spring-head of all rights and of all power, it follows that the State does not consider itself bound by any kind of duty toward God. Moreover, it believes that it is not obliged to make public profession of any religion; or to inquire which of the very many religions is the only one true; or to prefer one religion to all the rest; or to show to any form of religion special favor; but, on the contrary, is bound to grant equal rights to every creed, so that public order may not be disturbed by any particular form of religious belief.

“And it is a part of this theory that all questions that concern religion are to be referred to private judgment; that every one is to be free to follow whatever religion he prefers, or none at all if he disapprove of all. From this the following consequences logically flow: that the judgment of each one’s conscience is independent of all law; that the most unrestrained opinions may be openly expressed as to the practice or omission of divine worship; and that every one has unbounded license to think whatever he chooses and to publish abroad whatever he thinks.”

“Now, natural reason itself proves convincingly that such concepts of the government of a State are wholly at variance with the truth. Nature itself bears witness that all power, of every kind, has its origin from God, who is its chief and most august source.

“The sovereignty of the people, however, and this without any reference to God, is held to reside in the multitude; which is doubtless a doctrine exceedingly well calculated to flatter and to inflame many passions, but which lacks all reasonable proof, and all power of insuring public safety and preserving order. Indeed, from the prevalence of this teaching, things have come to such a pass that many hold as an axiom of civil jurisprudence that seditions may be rightfully fostered. For the opinion prevails that princes are nothing more than delegates chosen to carry out the will of the people; whence it necessarily follows that all things are as changeable as the will of the people, so that risk of public disturbance is ever hanging over our heads.

I don’t think that we need to elaborate beyond the very evident conclusion that after approximately 225 years of the fruits of democracy in this country, “the risk of public disturbance is ever hanging over our heads.”

We conclude this section therefore with a statement of the two central principles of democracy which are in direct contradiction to Catholic doctrine:

1) Nations (and individuals) have no absolute obligation to embrace the one true religion of Jesus Christ, which is to be found only in the Catholic Church. Religion should in fact be separated from the State, and have no authority over public affairs. This is the heresy commonly called Indifferentism.

2) Political sovereignty and power rests in the people (expressed usually through the Vote). When any of these powers are delegated to be exercised by others (through, for example, an electoral process), the ultimate power and authority continues to rest in the people, and therefore submission to such authorities can be refused and withdrawn by them.

These principles constitute a direct denial of the Kingship of Christ. They are blasphemy against the universal Sovereignty of God over all of His Creation. It should not therefore seem an exaggeration to see democracy as the spirit of Antichrist incarnated in the political life of nations. Nor should it be surprising to us that Secret Societies long ago perceived that it was the vote, and especially the guilt associated with not voting, which would function as a primary means for lowering minds and hearts into this spirit. We shall explore this more fully further on in our analysis.

 

American Delusions

Having established clearly the direct opposition of the fundamental principles of democracy to Catholic doctrine, it yet remains to penetrate through a myth which still might hold minds and hearts in darkness in regard to the evils of democracy. This myth is centered upon the beginnings of this nation, and the views of what are called the “Founding Fathers”. It has been common opinion in this country to consider men such as Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, Hamilton, etc. as virtually on par with Biblical prophets, just as the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are venerated as virtual modern extensions of Biblical Revelation.

Let us begin with some generalities. In twelve out of thirteen of the original colonies the practice of the Catholic faith was outlawed. When the British government passed a law in Canada called the Quebec Act which granted religions freedom to Catholics, it was publicly denounced by John Adams, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Samuel Adams, and Alexander Hamilton. On 21 October 1774, the Continental Congress addressed an open letter to the British people admonishing them for passing this law which tolerated a religion which “has deluged your island in blood, and dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellion through every part of the world.”

Some of the “Fathers” stand out not only as anti-Catholic, but also as universally anti-Christian. We must remember that most of them, being products of the Enlightenment, were Deists. They might have nominally believed in a creator God, but they emphatically did not believe in His direct concern or intervention in human affairs. This means, of course, that they vehemently rejected the Incarnation and the Divinity of Christ. Thomas Jefferson gives profound witness to this rejection in his book called The Jefferson Bible. In this work, he had the audacity to edit the entirety of the Gospels, eliminating all reference to Christ’s Divinity, and also expurgating all of His miracles, including His Resurrection. Jefferson, despite recent revelations regarding his moral integrity, has been almost universally venerated as a man of great wisdom and moral integrity. I would ask the reader to obtain a copy of this book, examine its contents, and then question the integrity of a man who would do this to any other man’s work, not to mention that this is the Work of God. Many of the Deists, including Jefferson, claimed to honour Christ as a great moral teacher, while at the same time rejecting all claims to His Divinity. Jefferson detested St. Paul and viewed him as the major villain in what he considered as the idolatrous divinization of the man, Jesus.

One of Thomas Jefferson’s friends and correspondents was Thomas Paine, who is famous for having written the pamphlet “Common Sense“, which was a powerful piece of propaganda intended to sway public opinion in favor of the American Revolution. Many people do not know that there was at the time a deep division in the colonies over this issue, and that possibly even the majority in the beginning considered this course of action to be highly immoral and treasonous. Paine’s pamphlet, however, worked very effectively to neutralize this opposition, to the extent that virtually all historians today admit that the Revolution would not have occurred without its having been written and widely diffused. Few people also know that Thomas Paine also wrote a book titled The Age of Reason, the expressed purpose of which was to prove that Christianity was false and the Bible deeply self-contradictory. The following passage is taken from Book Two of this work:

But the belief in a God is so weakened by being mixed with the strange fables of the Christian creed, and with the wild adventures related in the Bible, and the obscurity and obscene nonsense of the testament, that the mind of man is bewildered as in a fog ….

“Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying, to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid, or produces only atheists and fanatics. As an engine of power it serves the purpose of despotism and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests; but so far as respects the good of man in general, it leads to nothing here or hereafter.”

It would, of course, be unfair to say that all of the founding fathers were as vehemently or fanatically anti-Christian as were Jefferson and Paine. It would be quite accurate to conclude, howev­er, that the vast majority were not Christian, and were vehemently anti-Catholic. In other words, those who claim that the solution to the present problems of our country is a return to the Christian roots of our founding fathers and the Constitution are somewhat like the man who shoots himself in the foot, and then does it again because it hurt the first time, and he now wants to do it right. He needs desperately to realize that there was no right in the thing from the beginning. In the case under consideration, he needs to admit that this was not a Christian country to begin with, and we are not in need of re-establishment but of primary evangelization.

Nor do we find integrity in regard to Catholic doctrine concerning the Kingship of Christ when we turn to those who might be viewed as the “Fathers” of American Catholicism.

Every bishop in this country, since the Constitution’s ratification, should have known that from that moment onward this nation would be in an accelerating state of falling away from God; and that this in turn would produce that inevitable decay in the spirituality and psychology of its citizenry which would finally descend to those barbarities which seem to be the end point of all such historical degenerations of nations – the destruction of the family, sexual license, homosexuality, and the sacrifice of one’s own children. The corollary of this understanding, of course, is that such a state of social emergency should have produced a militancy in our bishops, all priests, and the laity which fervently pursued the conversion of every soul in this country to Christ and to His Catholic Church.

In fact, just the opposite happened.

From their very first presence in this country (we speak here of the 13 colonies, and exclude the Catholic population of Spanish origin from this generalization), Catholics largely saw no conflict between their faith and the dominant culture. Lord Baltimore proclaimed religions freedom for the original Catholic settlement of Maryland. Charles Carroll signed the Declaration of Independence, and cast the vote that separated Maryland from England. Daniel Carroll helped draw up the Constitution, called it “the best form of Government that has ever been offered to the world”, and was responsible for its adoption by the state of Maryland. John Carroll, ordained a Catholic priest and later the first bishop of the United States, was sent as an agent of the American Revolutionaries to try to convince Canada and Catholic Quebec to support the American Revolution (which support was refused by Bishop Briand of Quebec), despite the fact that there was such strong anti-Catholic sentiment in this country that the Continental Congress officially and vehemently protested to England against the passage of the Quebec Act, by which England granted religions freedom to Catholics in Canada.

Archbishop (later Cardinal) Gibbons (who has been called the “Prince of Democracy”) stated in his Pastoral Letter accompanying the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884) that “there is no antagonism between the laws, institutions and spirit of the Catholic Church, and the laws, institutions, and spirit of this country”; and further, “that our country’s heroes were the instruments of the God of Nations in establishing this home of freedom,” and that it is illogical to think that “there is aught in the free spirit of our American institutions incompatible with perfect docility to the Church of Christ.”

Cardinal Gibbon’s close friend and contemporary, Archbishop John Ireland of St. Paul, was even more rapturous in his unqualified endorsement of the American view of freedom:

“God gives the power; but the people choose those that hold it, and mark out the conditions under which they do hold it. This is supreme democracy: it is the dogma of Catholicism. In America the government is the Republic – the government of the people, by the people, for the people. With you, fellow Catholics, with you fellow Americans, I salute the Republic: I thank God that the people of America are capable of possessing a government of this form. The Republic – it is the fullest recognition of human dignity and human rights, the fullest grant of personal freedom, that due respect for the rights of others and the welfare of the social organism may allow. Alter it to empire or monarchy! Never, so long as our lips may praise it, or our hands wield arms in its defense (address delivered in Milwaukee, Aug 11, 1913).”

This historical betrayal of our bishops, now stained with the blood of many millions of unborn children through the abortion holocaust, the spiritual rape of those already born through sex-education and the destruction of orthodox catechetical instruction, and most recently the “filth” of clergy sexual abuse and its cover-up, is still with us. It has now come down to the pathetic point where we are now supposed to consider our hierarchy in this country as heroic for standing up for “religious freedom”, when it is in fact religious freedom and Indifferentism which got us into our present mess to begin with. And behind it all was the cowardice of Silence – the silence which feared proclaiming the rights of God and of His Church to a society immersed in democratic errors.

Finally, it must be said, that the Church certainly recognizes and demands that man can come to the fullness of truth only through the exercise of his free will, and it also possesses a corpus of teaching concerning a legitimate “toleration” of error, especially when the suppression of such error would cause more evil than it would prevent. But such toleration does not lessen the obligation of confronting error “in its face”, and working diligently for the conversion of souls to the freedom which is only to found in the fullness of Catholic truth. It is this Catholic heroism which men like the Carrolls, Cardinal Gibbons, and Archbishop Ireland surrendered to the Republic.

 

Democracy: The History of Revolution in Church and State

In his analysis of the false principles of democracy in Immortale Dei, Pope Leo XIII spoke of the harmful and lamentable rage for innovation which rose to a climax in the sixteenth century”. The Protestant Revolution was not just an accident or anomaly of history, but rather the climax of an historical process, the origins of which must be sought in the 13th and 14th centuries.

It is of course true that the basic principles of Revolution among mankind are as old as Original Sin, and it is also true that democratic forms of Government reach back to the Greeks (Athenian democracy in the 5th century B.C.). But it is equally true that democracy in relation to Christian civilization possesses it own unique history, and it is here we shall begin our analysis.

It has been the position of many Catholic scholars (and that of many others, including Popes) that Christian civilization reached its highest attainment in the Thirteenth Century. This was due especially to two very great graces – St. Francis and St. Thomas Aquinas – given by God, with the power to effect what could have been a new beginning (a kind of New Pentecost) in the Christian world. The gift of St. Francis was designed to effect a return to living the Beatitudes. The gift of St. Thomas provided an intellectual vision of virtually the entirety of Christian Revelation and philosophical understanding, which was designed to be an unprecedented light for the liberation of both individual souls and nations. Both were betrayed.

Much of what follows in our analysis of the decay which followed the 13th century is indebted to Dr. Ludwig Von Pastor’s work The History of the Popes Since the Close of the Middle Ages. It spans a period of time from the beginning of the 14th Century (the Avignon Papacy) to Napoleon’s entrance into Rome in 1799, and comprises 16 volumes. It is a work immensely important for the understanding of the momentous historical events involving both Church and State during this period, especially considering the fact that Pope Leo XIII, for the first time, gave Von Pastor privileged access to the Secret Vatican Archives, and therefore many hitherto unavailable documents, for his labors.

Von Pastor chose well that point in time in which he was to begin his monumental work. It was at this juncture of time that the Church largely turned its back upon the purity of life and thought to be found in St. Francis and St. Thomas, and opened itself up to that massive influx of Greek and Roman culture through what is called the Renaissance. The Renaissance is usually considered to have its beginning in the 14th Century, but as Von Pastor notes the evil fruit which it produced in State and Church grew from seed planted in the rotting soil of the end of the 13th:

“The period was in many ways a most melancholy one. The prevailing immorality exceeded anything that had been witnessed since the tenth century. Upon a closer inquiry into the causes of this state of things, we shall find that the evil was in a great measure due to the altered conditions of civilized life. Commercial progress, facilities of intercourse, the general well-being and prosperity of all classes of society in Italy, France, Germany and the Low Countries, had greatly increased during the latter part of the thirteenth century. Habits of life changed rapidly, and became more luxurious and pleasure-seeking. The clergy of all degrees, with some honourable exceptions, went with the current.” (Vol. I, p. 97-98 – unless otherwise noted all future references will be from Volume I).

The Way of the Beatitudes (especially Lady Poverty) of St. Francis had been betrayed, and the “Flies” of Renaissance-inspired corruption found ample rot upon which to swarm. This was especially true of everything which touched upon matters relating to the flesh (including, of course, art and literature), but it was also true in the intellectual realm. Most prominent among the latter was the Greek idea of the autonomy of individual man, and the belief in that sovereignty of the people which in the social realm is termed democracy, and in the spiritual realm ultimately produced such phenomena as Concilliarism and the Protestant Revolution.

It is extremely difficult for anyone living in the 21st Century to realize what a radical effect upon the depths of the Catholic soul was produced by any triumph of democratic principles, whether in the realm of the Church or the State. We can, of course, never speak of total unanimity in human affairs, even in the affairs of Catholics. But we may nevertheless say that there certainly was an integral Catholic spirit which, up until this historical point, had simply accepted as a matter of fact the words of St. Paul:

Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation.” (Romans 13: 1-2).

And then there are the words of Peter:

Be ye subject therefore to every human creature for God’s sake: whether it be to    the king as excelling; Or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of the good: For so is the will of God, that by doing well you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not as making liberty a cloak for malice, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if for conscience towards God, a man endures sorrows, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if committing sin, and being buffeted for it, you endure? But if doing well you suffer patiently, this is thankworthy before God. For unto this are you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. Who, when he was reviled, did not revile: when he suffered, he threatened not: but delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly.” (1Pet 2:13-23).

The Church has always qualified such obedience as to make it applicable “in all things but sin”, and it has also recognized that such obedience might be coupled with respectful criticism, etc. But it has always condemned any notion that power and authority of government, whether of Church or State, lies in the people themselves.

It is precisely this latter principle which burst forth in the first half of the 14th Century in relation to both Church and State. It has been with us ever since. Sometimes it has come in the fullness of violent Revolution against both Church and State, as was the case with the French Revolution or the Spanish Civil War. At other times it might focus such violence mainly upon the Church, as in the Protestant Revolts in many countries. Or it might seem to be a revolution almost entirely in the political realm, as in the case of the American Revolution. And, finally, at other times it infiltrates its principles into the consciousness of millions of people through more deceptive and peaceful means, and executes its immense damage not outwardly through physical violence, but by means of ideas, philosophies, theological aberrations, and political ideologies and forms of government which profoundly undermine the sovereignty of God over individuals and nations, and over Church and State.

The Tract Defensor Pacis (The Defender of Peace), which laid the foundations of the modern idea that sovereignty resides in the people, was published in 1324. Its authors were both Professors at the University of Paris: Marsiglio da Padova (English: Marsilius of Padua), and Jean de Jandun. It is often exclusively attributed to Marsiglio.

It would not be appropriate here to enter into discussion of all the factors in Church and State during this period, which immediately provided this document with so powerful a fecundity in the minds and hearts of large segments of people. But two of these deserve special mention.

Defensor Pacis was published under the auspices and protection of Emperor Louis of Bavaria, who was then in a virtual state of war with a severely weakened and compromised Papacy residing in Avignon. He was also protector of that band of Franciscans called “minorities” who refused to submit to Pope John XXII’s condemnation of the doctrine of “the Absolute Poverty of Christ” proposed by St. Bonaventure, and who now produced a good deal of violent literature claiming the Pope to be an antichrist. Add to this a Papacy subject to the good will of the French Monarchy, and a Church living under the aura of corruption and opulence of the French Court, it took little effort to severely undermine whatever claims she made as to her Divine origins and hierarchical structure.

Secondly, the views expressed in Marsiglio’s Tract were not without recent precedence. Also under the protection of the Emperor during this period was the English Franciscan Friar, William of Occam (also Ockham) who, according to Von Pastor, “was deeply imbued with the political ideas of the ancients”. Following is Von Pastor’s summary of Occam’s positions:

“…the Emperor has a right to depose the Pope should he fall into heresy. Both General Councils and Popes may err, Holy Scripture and the beliefs held by the Church at all times and in all places, can alone be taken as the unalterable rule of Faith and Morals. The Primacy and Hierarchical Institutions in general are not necessary or essential to the subsistence of the Church; and the forms of the ecclesiastical, as of the political, constitution ought to vary with the varying needs of the time.” (p. 76).

But it is Marsiglio’s work which would provide the main source of fuel for these errors down through subsequent centuries. It is also full of violent invectives against John XXII, among them being “the great dragon and the old serpent”. The following summary of his positions is taken from Von Pastor:

“[Marsiglio] asserts the unconditional sovereignty of the people. The legislative power which is exercised through their elected representatives, belongs to them, also the appointment of the executive through their delegates. The ruler is merely the instrument of the legislature….If the ruler exceeds his authority, the people are justified in depriving him of his power, and deposing him.

“Still more radical, if possible, are the views regarding the doctrine and government of the Church put forth in this work. The sole foundation of faith and of the Church is Holy Scripture, which does not derive its authority from her, but, on the contrary confers on her that which she possesses. The only true interpretation of Scripture is, not that of the Church, but that of the most intelligent people, so that the University of Paris may very well be superior to the Court of Rome. Questions concerning faith are to be decided, not by the Pope, but by a General Council.

“This General Council is supreme over the whole Church, and is to be summoned by the State. It is to be composed not only of the clergy, but also of laymen elected by the people. As regards their office, all priests are equal; according to Divine right, no one of them is higher than another. The whole question of Church government is one of expediency, not of the faith necessary to salvation. The Primacy of the Pope is not founded on Scripture, nor on Divine right. His authority therefore can only, according to Marsiglio, be derived from a General Council and from the legislature of the State; and for the election of a Pope the authority of the Council requires confirmation from the State.” (p. 76-78).

One of the things that should impress us most in the above passages is the way in which the principle of the “sovereignty of the people” flows like molten lava between State and Church, equally dissolving all claims of divinely established power as residing anywhere else other than in the people. It is, in other words, a myth to believe that such a view of authority and power can be confined to the State, while at the same time preserving a separation between the State and the Church which leaves the latter to possess a form of government which is in diametrical opposition to the former. Human hubris, of which the first is a product, simply will not long endure the existence of the latter. It was a case of incredible obtuseness on the part of American Catholics, and especially the educated hierarchy, to believe such a delusion could be long maintained.

It is equally important to understand that when we confront such proposals as the superiority of a General Council over the Pope, or as having the power to judge a Pope or declare him deposed, we are in reality dealing with the same democratic principle in regard to the affairs of the Church – in the words of Pope Pius X, “power ascending from below, rather than from above”. In other words, Concilliarism is simply another form of thinly-disguised democracy in application to the Divine Constitution of the Church.

So let us proceed with an examination of the effect of such democratic principles upon the Church during the 14th, and into the 15th Centuries.

As the Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) states, “The influence of Defensor pacis was disastrous, and Marsilius may well be reckoned one of the fathers of the Reformation”. We know that Wycliffe was directly influenced by Him, and that 1n 1535 Thomas Cromwell had Defensor Pacis translated into English in order to offer proof and justification for Royal Supremacy over the Church. The following evaluation as to the historical importance of this work is offered by Harvard Professor (Emeritus) of Ecclesiastical Studies Ephraim Emerton in his Critical Study of Defensor Pacis:

Marsiglio’s work penetrates every attempt at church reform made during the five generations between Wycliffe and Luther. It came to be one of the stock charges made against every leader of reform that he was repeating the heresies of Wycliffe and through him those of Marsiglio. Even though the reformer [Luther] himself made no allusion to his fourteenth century predecessor, and may, indeed, have been more or less unconscious of the debt he owed him, the sure instinct of the still dominant but now thoroughly frightened Church pointed unerringly to the essential continuity of ideas from Marsiglio onward.”

 

The Great Western Schism

The Avignon Papacy (including seven French Popes) endured from 1309 until 1377, at which time St. Catherine of Sienna finally managed to persuade Pope Gregory XI to return the Papacy to Rome. Gregory died the following March. On April 8, the Cardinals elected Cardinal Prignano (Italian), who took the name Pope Urban VI. As Von Pastor writes, “It cannot, indeed be denied that the election of Urban VI was canonically valid. The most distinguished lawyers of the day gave their deliberate decisions to this effect.” (p. 120).

Pope Urban was intent upon reform, and he proved to be quite extraordinarily harsh upon the Cardinals who elected him – a harshness which Catherine of Sienna frequently counseled him to temper. Finally, the Cardinals (with the exception of one Italian) could stand it no longer, and while in summer residence at Anagni held another (illegal) conclave and declared the election of Urban VI to be invalid. Thirteen days later (August 22), the eleven French Cardinals, and the Spanish Cardinal Pedro de Luna (who would later become Antipope Benedict XIII) – all of whom had originally elected Urban – now elected Cardinal Robert of Geneva Antipope. He took the name Clement VII. The three Italian Cardinals, who had originally voted for Urban, abstained from this vote, but later that day accepted his Papacy. The Great Western Schism had begun. The Papacy had been somewhat “normal” – without either being in exile in Avignon, or racked by Schism and Antipopes – for approximately one and one-half years.

The Great Western Schism would last 39 years. It divided not only the Church, but also nations. France, Scotland and Spain were allied with the series of Antipopes, while Italy, England, Flanders, Hungary, Poland, and most of Germany were allied with the succession of true Popes. It also divided Saints – Catherine of Sienna of course supported the true Pope, while St. Vincent Ferrer for years was allied with the Spaniard Pedro de Luna who became Antipope Benedict XIII. The false Council of Pisa in 1409 attempted to declare both successors (Pope Gregory XII and Antipope Benedict XIII) of these two lines of Papal claimants deposed, and then proceeded to elect a third – Antipope Alexander V (Alexander V died this same year, and the Cardinals immediately elected Antipope John XXIII as his successor). The schism was finally ended at the Council of Constance, when for the good of the Church, the true Pope Gregory XII, along with Antipope John XXIII, resigned (Pedro de Luna – Antipope Benedict XIII – never did resign, but largely lost his support, including that of St. Vincent Ferrer). Gregory also legitimized the Council, which then proceeded to elect a new Pope, Martin V.

All during this time, however, the heresy of Concilliarism (and worse) cultured and grew in the minds and hearts of Catholics. In 1381, a work was published by Heinrich von Langenstein titled Proposition of Peace for the Union and Reformation of the Church by a General Council. Its proposals are summarized by Von Pastor:

No especial weight is to be attached to our Lord’s institution of the Papacy. The Church would have had a right to appoint a Pope if He had not done so. If the Cardinals should have chosen a Pope who does not suit the Church, she had the right to revise the work of her agents, and even to deprive them of her commission. For the power to elect the Pope rests originally in the Episcopate, and reverts to it if the Cardinals cannot, or will not elect; or if they abuse their right of election. The criterion, by which all acts of Church and State are to be judged, is whether they do, or do not promote the general good. A prince who, instead of preserving the State, would ruin and betray it, is to be resisted as an enemy; the same course should be pursued in the Church. Necessity breaks the law; indeed, even renders its breach a duty….To apply these general notions to the present case, it is not of the essence of a General Council that it should be summoned by the Pope; in extraordinary cases this may be done by temporal princes. The authority of the Council stands higher than that of the Pope and the Sacred College, for of the Church alone is it said that the gates of hell should not prevail against her. These theories, by which Langenstein broke with the whole existing system, soon became widely diffused. Henceforward this most dangerous doctrine of the natural right of necessity was the instrument used in all efforts to put an end to the Schism.” (p. 183-185).

It is worth noting, in regard to recent Church history, that it was precisely this principle – necessity breaks the law” – which, in Archbishop Lefebvre’s mind, provided the justification for his ordaining four bishops expressly against a Papal mandate not to do so.

During this period leading up to the Council of Constance, these sort of tracts proliferated. The celebrated Canonist Zabarella, who afterwards became a Cardinal, wrote a treatise which, according to Von Pastor brought to fullness the Concilliarist heresy. In regard to the Pope, Zabarella wrote, “Should he err, the Church must set him right; should he fall into heresy, or be an obstinate schismatic, or commit a notorious crime, the Council may depose him.” (p. 187).

Nor was this all ended with the Council of Constance, which ended the schism. The Council actually passed a Decree titled Frequens which bound Popes not only to the decisions of General Councils, but also to a kind of constant state of being subject to the vigilance and superior authority of these same Councils. Nine times it uses the word “bound” in reference to such Papal subjections to General Councils. It also declared that in any further instance in which there is a disputed Papacy, all claimants, including the legitimate Pope, are called to judgment by a General Council, are suspended from all administration of Church affairs, and that obedience is not to be given by the faithful to any such claimants until the question has been settled by the Council. This decree was not confirmed by the newly elected Martin V, and flatly contradicted in further documents by Martin and subsequent Popes.

It is enormously important to understand, however, that Concilliarism was not dead, but in fact formed the thinking of the majority of the Council Fathers of Constance. This was especially true of the French faction. Concilliarism would persist over the centuries and would coalesce in a conglomerate of heresies associated with what is called Gallicianism (centered especially in France). It would then be this heresy which formed the opposition to the definitions of Papal Primacy and Infallibility at the First Vatican Council.

It would, of course, be possible to do an exhaustive study of these democratic principles, and their increasing corrosive effect upon Church and State, through the past five centuries. But what has already been provided above in terms of historical analysis should be enough to convince any perceptive reader of the basic thrust and intensity of what has come down to us in the many-faceted forms which incarnate the basic errors of democratic thinking.

However, considering what is happening in regard to the Papacy of Pope Francis, and the attempts being made to find justification for his being declared a heretic and deposed, there is one more stop along the historical timeline which would seem worthy of our consideration.

The writings of four theologians – Thomas Cajetan, Robert Bellarmine, Francisco Suarez, and John of St. Thomas – whose writings on this subject all occur within a one-hundred year period, from the beginning of the 16th to the first half of the 17th centuries – form the central locus of current efforts to justify Papal deposition.

In light of all that has been written above, it would therefore seem legitimate to question the influence of erroneous democratic principles upon these men’s thinking. Here, for the purpose of illustration, we shall limit our examination to two of these men: St. Robert Bellarmine and Suarez.

In De Clericis, Ch. VII, Bellarmine writes:

“In a commonwealth all men are born naturally free; consequently, the people themselves, immediately and directly, hold the political power so long as they have not transferred this power to some king or ruler.”

And, in De Laicis, Cap. VI, he teaches:

“Political power resides immediately in the whole multitude as in an organic unit. The divine law has not given this power to any particular man; therefore, it has given it to the multitude. There being no positive law to this effect, there is no more reason why, among equals, one should have a greater right to rule than another. Therefore, the power belongs to the whole multitude.” (both quotes are taken from “Democracy and Bellarmine,” John C. Rager, S.T.D.,1926).

It is therefore clear that the mind of St. Robert Bellarmine fell prey to the principles of a false democracy.

An important feature of Suárez’s view is that political power does not just reside in the community initially. It always remains there. As he puts it, “after that power has been transferred to some individual person, even if it has been passed on to a number of people through various successions or elections, it is still always regarded as possessed immediately by the community” (DL 3.4.8). Suárez is, of course, aware that the needed stability of political communities would be in question if communities could withdraw their transfer of power to the government at every whim. So even though in some sense the power always remains in the community, Suárez argues that the transferred power may not ordinarily be withdrawn (De legibus 3.4.6). Suárez recognizes exceptions, however. Should the government become tyrannical, the door may be opened to legitimate revolt and even tyrannicide (Defensio fidei catholicae 6.4 and De charitate 13.8). This is the doctrine that gained Suárez the ire of James I of England.

As I said early, the corrosive principles behind the principle of “Popular Sovereignty” flow easily between views of Church and State. We might justly conjecture that the thinking of such men as Robert Bellarmine and Francisco Suarez in regard to Papal deposition are intimately connected to their thinking on secular authority, and are simply a diluted form of the poison which originally formed in the mind of such men as Marsiglio da Padova..

 

The One Thing Necessary

Our Lord asks his disciples an extraordinary question: “”But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?” (Luke 18: 8))

We tend, I think, to take this as a purely rhetorical question. We might reply, “Of course there will be faith. There will always be a Remnant – Scripture promises such.” And yet we are obliged to take Our Lord’s question seriously.

Our Lord’s question comes as the conclusion to a short parable concerning the widow who continually “wearies” an unjust judge in order to receive justice. It ends with the following: “And will not God revenge [a metaphor for God’s justice] his elect who cry to him day and night: and will he have patience in their regard? I say to you, that he will quickly revenge them.”

It may at first seem quite extraordinary that the virtue of faith is here identified with the incessant crying of a widow for justice. We tend to think of faith solely in terms of an intellectual possession. We believe the Truths revealed by God, or we do not. The first constitutes us as being faithful, the second as reprobate.

But both Scripture and Church teaching reveal to us that there is a very real distinction to be made between a dead faith and a faith that is alive: “Faith without charity is dead”. (James 2:20).

We tend to think of this charity, without which faith is dead, exclusively in relation to our neighbor. St. John is clear in his teaching that we cannot claim love of God if we do not also love our brother. But St. John also teaches the reverse: “In this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God, and keep his commandments”. (1 John 5:2). In other words, we cannot possess charity towards our neighbor unless we are first established in the charity of God, which requires obedience to His Commandments.

The First Commandment of God is:

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.”

It is the “heart” which is the organ of human integrity because it is here where human intellect and will meet, where Truth becomes incarnate and faith becomes alive, and therefore where the duplicity, hypocrisy, and the lies of Satan are defeated.

Absolutely central to this love of God is that it be whole, which simply means that we seek first the establishment of the kingdom of God in all things, and not compromise, or be in any way duplicitous, in this work: “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33).

It is the most fundamental characteristic of democracy to secrete a corrosive spirit of duplicity which dissolves this wholeness of the human heart, both on individual and collective levels. It does so because the firstborn child of democracy is pluralism. And pluralism, when it is the fundamental principle of a nation and its Constitution, entails that we are immersed in a culture which is quite literally a spiritual ocean of error. Every moment of our lives in this culture is therefore surrounded by a call, and even demand, to compromise in the pursuit of the work of God. First, it demands of us silence in relation to the “hard” Truths of Christ. Second, it requires of us a participation in the life of this culture which by its very nature is demanding of compromise itself, and therefore a duplicitous life as regards our relationship to God. Such is the act of voting, especially in any national election.

We must always realize that democracy, the first principle of which is the sovereignty (the power and authority) of the people, is always an attack upon the sovereignty of God over all his creation. And this is true whether its principles are proposed and implemented in the political realm, or in the spiritual. It is no wonder therefore that Secret Societies, in pursuit of their ultimate goal, which is the dethronement of God, rightly perceived the vote as the most effective means of injecting their poison into whole peoples. It is the spirit of Antichrist made palpable for the people.

The word vote has its origins in the Latin votum, which means an oath, a vow, or even a prayer (e.g. votive candle). It is meant to express the wholeness of not only the words which come out of our mouth, but also the integrity and depth of our desires. Any duplicity engaged in through the act of voting falsifies the word which comes forth from our heart, and in so doing changes our soul.

This process of decay has been pre-eminently exemplified within the Pro-Life movement. We are silent on contraception, which almost certainly murders many more of God’s little ones than surgical abortion. We vote for a man who is for abortion in the cases of life of the mother, rape, and incest, and we still call him “Pro-life, except in the cases of the life of the mother, rape, and incest”. We vote for a man who says he now accepts the legality of so-called gay-marriage, and we still call him “Pro-Life”. We vote for a man who says he supports the work of Planned Parenthood with the exception of their doing surgical abortions, and we call him “Pro-Life”.

Further, we call those who are for the killing of unborn babies “Pro-Choice”, when in fact such a term is simply a euphemism for “Pro-Abortion” – after all, no one is for killing all babies; it is always a question of choice. If a person were to say that he was personally not for killing black people, but for the right of everyone else to do so, he would certainly not be called “Pro-Choice”, but rather someone who advocates the murdering of black people. And yet “Pro-Lifers” will engage in such duplicity in relation to the unborn, who they allegedly believe have equal dignity and right to life with all other human beings. When we allow our language to be stolen from us, it inevitably means that we have been robbed of the fullness of our Catholic minds and hearts.

We must also recognize that The Pro-Life issue is only one area in which Catholics have been chiseled down to being mere stumps of Christians. The Public Education System, for instance, might be considered to be the number- one means by which the minds and heart of our youth are poisoned by the anti-Christian values and beliefs of the world. Yet no politician could ever conceivably be elected, or even be considered a serious candidate, in any election if he opposed public education. Nor would he stand any better chance if he supported in any serious and effective way censorship of the industries of modern media and entertainment (the other candidates for being considered the primary polluters of the minds and hearts of our children). And yet these same politicians, whose positions are profoundly destructive to the Catholic ideal, might receive enthusiastic endorsement from many voters who would consider themselves traditional, orthodox, or conservative Catholics because of their extraordinarily shallow and inconsistent “Pro-Life” positions.

We have been through this all before, especially during what are called “the Reagan Years”. Expectations were enormously high that during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, Roe vs. Wade would be reversed. President Reagan ended up appointing four Supreme Court Justices: Sandra Day O’Connor, William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Arthur Kennedy. Sandra Day O’Connor was pro-abortion, and it is the Catholic Arthur Kennedy who has so often provided the “swing vote” frustrating any Pro-Life efforts before the Supreme Court. So much for the Reagan legacy. And now President Trump has appointed a man to the Supreme Court (Neil Gorsuch), who is supposedly a Catholic, conservative “stealth candidate”, but who in his 51 years (27 of these as a lawyer and public figure) on this earth has never been caught making a clear statement in opposition to abortion or Roe vs. Wade. We need to ask: How does a man possessing any Catholic integrity accomplish such a thing? So much for an end to the Abortion holocaust through a policy of political compromise.

At this point in history, however, when the Spirit of Antichrist looms over our individual lives and the lives of our nations, the primary destructive effect of being involved in the political process is that it derails us from doing the “one thing necessary”. We place half (or less) of our hope in Our Lady’s plan for our happiness and salvation, and the other half (or more) in a Reagan, Buchanan, or Trump. The prophet Jeremiah proclaims to the nation of Israel: “For on every high hill, and under every green tree thou didst prostitute thyself.” (Jer. 2:20). It is an ever recurring tale, as old as original sin. Man, losing his trust in God, compromises and betrays the integrity of his own faith, and enters into alliances with fallen angels, persons, powers, political parties ,and nations who are ever so ready to receive his prostitutions. This was especially true of Israel to whom God spoke the words quoted in the above passage from Jeremiah. In the midst of imminent death and destruction on the horizon, instead of turning towards God and his promises and towards the prayer and penance necessary for salvation from their enemy, they sought political and military alliances with their pagan neighbors. In the very act of doing so, their minds were darkened and their wills became polluted with every conceivable form of moral perversion which they absorbed through their spiritual and physical adulteries.

Possibly the most destructive effect of such duplicity, even among those who manage to keep their personal and family lives from falling into the moral filth of our times, is the blindness and torpidity which fails to take that action necessary to ward off impending disaster. It is the proverbial “deer-in-the-headlights” syndrome. Our Lord said, “You hypocrites, you know how to discern the face of the heaven and of the earth: but how is it that you do not discern this time?” It is characteristic of almost all great impending spiritual catastrophes that those who should effectively possess the grace from God to see and take the necessary action necessary to avoid the coming storm, instead immerse themselves in business-as-usual:

For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, even till that day in which Noe entered into the ark,. And they knew not till the flood came, and took them all away; so also shall the coming of the Son of man be.” (Mt. 24: 37-39).

The entire purpose of the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church consists in attempting to accomplish an awakening. We must turn our votum away from the Babylonian world around us which has largely been erected upon the false principles of Democracy, and cry to Christ, through the Immaculate Mary, for deliverance. There can be no such deliverance, but only chaos and destruction, if we do not return with great intensity to fulfilling Our Lady’s requests. We therefore beg all serious Catholics to journey to their churches on February 2, 2019, and unite in praying the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church. Our Lady is our Final Hope.

 

Please spread the word about the Rosary!

Spanish Handout

OBSCURIDAD A LA LUZ:

El Rosario Hacia El Interior Para La Purificación De La Iglesia.

 

El Sabado 2 de Febrero del 2020, El día que celebramos la doble fiesta, La Presentacion de Jesus en el Templo y la Purificación de la Santisima Virgen María (tambien llamada día de la Candelaria) Alli volverá actuar en todo Estados Unidos (y con suerte en todas las naciones) La reunión de los fieles y sus propias iglesias parroquiales para rezar el Santo Rosario por la intención  de Purificar la Iglesia, y Triunfo de la Luz de Cristo sobre todos los pecados y errores.

La Presentacion celebra la venida de Cristo Jesus, La Luz de mundo, dentro de su templo. De echo es la principal Fiesta de la Luz y el Triunfo de la Luz sobre la obscuridad del mal. Tradicionalmente llamada día de la Candelaria, que se simboliza “Exito” y Trinfo a la Incarnación, se a celebrado tradicionalmente como una procesión de velas y el día litúrgico a bendecir las velas.

La Purificación en la fiesta de Nuestra Señora es considera hacer la más antigua Marian Fiesta Litúrgica en la Iglesia( teniendo su inicio en la vida litúrgica de la iglesia de Jerusalen),lo que al mismo tiempo significa exteriormente un acto que cumplia la prescripcion de la Antigua Ley, representa interiormente una realidad  completamente nueva. La purificación prescrita en la antigua  ley era consecuencia del pecado original y el dolor  que ahora acompanamos a todo parto. María concibio sin pecado, Fue libre de sus dolores. La Purificación del Nuevo Testamento por lo tanto fue indentificado con el sufrimiento interior de María y el rezo y el sufrimiento de sus hijos espirituales. Lo que es necesario para la Purificación de la Iglesia  para que la Luz de Cristo pueda radiar atravez de la Iglesia y de ahí al mundo.

Y Simon los bendice y le dice a María su Madre; Mirad este niño esta preparando para la caída y para la Resurrección de muchos en Israel y una señal que sera contradecida; Y tu propia alma una espada perforara y que de muchos corazones atravez de muchos se revele.”

La Iglesia a sido penetrada por obscuridades, que posiblemente es mas grande que en cualquier tiempo de la historia – No solo las obscuridades de los pecados sexuales y otros morales “inmundicia.” Pero aquello que consiste en cada forma concebible de error que se enmascara a si misma  como verdad y que la obscuridad se enmascare como la luz. La tarea de desenmascarar estos pensamientos allanando el camino hacia el triunfo de la verdad de Cristo ha sido confiada a María. Mas especialmente ha sido confiada a Nuestra Señora del Rosario. San Pablo escribe. “La noche a pasado y el día cerca. Por lo tanto, desechemos el trabajo de la obscuridad y pongamonos una armadura de Luz.” El Rosario, tal y como revelo el mensaje a Nuestra Señora de Fátima, en la armadura de la Luz  que posee Dios desechar la obra de la obscuridad  que ahora invade la Iglesia del mundo y especialmente las mentes  y los corazones de los católicos individualmente.

Por lo tanto,  les estamos pidiendo a todos los católicos que se acerquen a su pastor y obispo para solicitar que promuevan el Santo Rosario en el Interior: Para la Purificación de la Iglesia acompañada de la Hora Santa,  en sus Iglesias parroquiales locales el 2 de Febrero, 2019(que providencialmente es tambien el Primer Sabado).

Para mas información, visita www.rosarytotheinterior.com .El sitio incluye nuestra propuesta original, una carta de muestra para el pastor. Sugerencias de un programa de Hora Santa. Y series de progreso de meditacion en la tradicional de cada Quince Rosarios. Rosario comendado para los ninos de Fátima.

Please spread the word about the Rosary!

The Fifth Glorious Mystery: The Crowning of Mary as Queen of heaven and Earth

Image result for our lady of guadalupe

The Fifth Glorious Mystery:

The Crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth

(A Meditation Upon the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

“Glory be to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”

 

It is probably the tendency for most of us who pray the Rosary to rattle off the “Glory Be” rather quickly and without much thought. If so, we miss something most profound.

That God is eternally changeless, that what “He was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be”, and that all that has ever existed or will exist is within His infinite knowledge, will, power, and causation for all eternity, is an extraordinary concept. To those who approach this truth with minds and hearts immersed in this world, it calls forth images of that which is static, rigid, restricting to our free will, uninteresting, un-stimulating, and banal. To those who see it with a Catholic heart and mind, however, it reverberates with all that is perfect intelligence and love, immersed in a never-ending and inexhaustible richness of freedom, delight, and peace.

To see reality with the Heart of Christ is, if we may be permitted to use the expression, to begin with eternity. There never was a time when God did not know that He was going to create man “in His Image”; that man, in the full freedom of his will, would sin and fall from grace; that as a result of this first sin, the earth would for millennia be polluted with a vast array and quantity of sins; that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, in order to atone for all this evil and merit the salvation of all men, would incarnate as man, suffer crucifixion, and rise again; and that for the fulfillment of Our Lord’s Incarnation He would create a Woman who would be His perfect Mother, and whose Immaculate Heart would be the portal through which God desires each one of us to pass in order to be able to see and love as does He.

All of this requires that we virtually acquire another dimension to our thinking. I remember as a boy staring at the stars with my mind caught up in what seemed then to be an unsolvable puzzle. Since this starry cosmos, despite its apparent immensity, was composed entirely of finite things, there had to be an end somewhere out there. And yet there could be no end, because there surely had to be something beyond. It took me until I was sixty years old to solve this riddle – to figure out the simple fact that all that has been created is truly finite and has no independent existence outside of the creative action and power of God, and that therefore outside or beyond this starry universe and all that it contains is simply the Infinite Being of God. And further, and most important, none of it is in reality outside or beyond God at all. As St. Paul wrote:

For in him [Christ] were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him.

 The world is now drowning in an ocean of thought and action which views everything in terms of evolutionary Becoming. It is immersed in a philosophical and pseudo-scientific conceit which, with messianic fervor, is at total war with the concepts of the unchangeable Being of God and the substantial being and “fixed” nature of man (see The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns). Nowhere is this worldview more succinctly expressed than in Joseph Ratzinger’s statement that “Being is time; it does not merely have” time. Only in becoming does it exist and unfold into itself.” And, of course, it is also aptly expressed in Pope Francis formula, which he has often used, that “Time is greater than space” (Francis clearly uses the word “space” to refer to fixed dogma and moral truths). In such a world, all that is truly human is subjected to the violence and viciousness of endless evolutionary “progress”. There is no absolute certainty, no peace, no God Who isin the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end”. And because of this poison which has penetrated everywhere, the world now descends into violence, chaos, the darkness of ignorance, and satanic moral depravity.

 But the world possesses a completely miraculous Image in which all of this darkness is refuted – an Icon reflecting the Eternal Plan and Being of God, and containing, for those who have the good will to see, all the essential Truths necessary for the conversion and peace of the human heart. It was impressed by God upon the tilma of a humble native in Mexico in the year 1531. It is the sacred Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In eight years it accomplished the conversion of seven million pagan souls to the Beauty and Truth of Christianity, and it now radiates out to the modern world as a vision of Final Truth and Hope.

 

Our Lady of Guadalupe and The Immaculate Conception

Our Lady’s first appearance to Juan Diego occurred on December 9 (1531), the original date on which the Feast of the Immaculate Conception was informally celebrated within the Church (now celebrated officially on Dec 8). All of Our Lady’s appearances occurred during the octave of this Feast. What is surprising in all this is that the image imprinted on the tilma of Juan Diego by God’s miraculous power does not at first sight appear to have much to do with the Immaculate Conception. Mary appears as a young woman wearing a black sash around her waist, a custom which immediately revealed to the Indians that she was with child. She also identified herself to Juan Diego as “the ever Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the true God from Whom all life has come.” The Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates the day on which Mary was conceived without sin in the womb of her mother Anne, which according to Catholic tradition would have been 14-15 years previous to the conception of Jesus. At first sight, therefore, it does not appear to make much sense that she should make her appearance as the Mother of God on this date.

Three hundred and twenty seven years later, at Lourdes, France, Our Lady did something which would seem almost a perfect inversion of the above. In the year 1858, on March 24 (the day which anticipated the Feast of the Annunciation – the day on which Mary became the Mother of God), Our Lady announced to Bernadette Soubrious, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” This statement posed a dilemma for theologians. They certainly would have understood if she had said, “I was immaculately conceived” – Pope Pius IX had only four years earlier defined this as a dogma of the faith, and had set the date for universal celebration of this Feast on December 8. They could not, however, understand her definition of herself as The Immaculate Conception.

So, we are left with a double mystery. On the one hand, Mary identified herself to Juan Diego as the Mother of God on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. On the other hand, at Lourdes, she defines herself as The Immaculate Conception on the day which anticipated the Feast dedicated to that moment when Mary became the Mother of God

The clue to unraveling this double mystery lies in understanding that to say that Mary was immaculately conceived is not the same as saying that she is The Immaculate Conception. We know that there is a very profound connection, on the one hand, between the fact that Mary was immaculately conceived, and, on the other, the eternal choice of God by which she became the Mother of God. Simply put, Mary was immaculately conceived on December 8 (or the 9th, according to the older tradition) in order that she, in union with the Holy Spirit, might become the Mother of God approximately 15 years later on March 25. In becoming the Mother of God, however, she also became the Mother of all the Members of His Mystical Body, and therefore also Mother of the Church. In other words, when Mary said, “I am the Immaculate Conception”, she was identifying herself both as the Mother of Christ (immaculately conceived) and the Mother of all those who are immaculately conceived (“born again”) through the saving and regenerating waters of baptism. Mary is therefore properly called The Immaculate Conception because she is, in union with the Holy Spirit, and through Christ’s redemptive sacrifice, the source of all immaculate conception in the Church: “Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God.”(Mt. 5: 8). This is simply to say that she truly is both Mother of Christ and Mother of all the redeemed.

The other half of this mystery, however, is that Mary, has been present in the mind and will of God as the Mother of God and the Mother of all men for all eternity, and that all of this became “incarnate” on this earth from the first moment of her own Immaculate Conception within the womb of her mother Anne. On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (in the Old Missal), The Church applies to Mary the following verses from Proverbs: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways, before He made anything, from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old, before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived….I was with Him, forming all things, and was delighted every day, playing before Him at all times, playing in the world: and my delight was to be with the children of men (Prov. 8:23-35).” God’s time, in other words, is not our time. Just as for all eternity Mary was “pre-redeemed” from original sin approximately 45 years before the redemptive sacrifice of Her Son, so Our Lord’s Incarnation and all that followed was present in the Mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

Our Lady appears “clothed with the sun.” The Indians worshipped the sun, and this would certainly show them that her dignity was far superior to that of the physical sun. However, the rays of this sun do not radiate outwardly as do those of the physical sun. Rather, they project and expand inwardly, touching, enfolding and embracing Mary. It would therefore seem much more appropriate to view this “sun” as an image of the Holy Spirit (the “Ray of Heavenly Light”, as in the Litany of the Holy Ghost) overshadowing and surrounding Mary at the very moment of the Incarnation. We may see in this, in other words, the fulfillment of the Angel Gabriel’s words to Mary, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy One which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

Further, this Ray of Heavenly Light gives forth the powerful image of fruitfulness. It has the appearance of the pith of a fruit which surrounds, sustains, and nourishes the growth of what is within. And within this “space” are both Mary who was Immaculately Conceived, and the child Jesus who has been conceived within her womb. The Image therefore shows forth both mysteries at once: of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, and Mary conceiving – both through the power and spousal love of the Holy Spirit.

Equally significant is the fact that the mantle which enshrouds Mary is covered with stars. As was the case in my boyhood imagination, this starry cloak can best be seen as a symbol for the entire universe which, in the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is no longer seen as a vast and impersonal place, but as a beautiful garment of God’s immense love clothing the manifold mysteries of His plan for our salvation and final union with Him.

Most astounding to all who gaze on this image is the face of Mary. There is no image in the world that is as beautiful as this, for there is none other that so captures the soul’s intimate and total union with God in interior prayer and communion. The Indians, of course, immediately knew that she was not God. Her hands are pressed in profound prayer, and gods or goddesses do not pray. It was her face, however, which showed everything and attracted everyone. It was the face of an infinitely tender Mother, as expressed in her own words: “Listen and understand well my son, smallest of all, that you have no cause to be frightened and worried. Let your heart be troubled no longer, have no fear of that sickness, nor of any other sickness or sorrow. Is this not your mother here next to you? Are you not here in the shelter of my loving shadow? Am I not your health? Are you not safe here within my loving bosom? What else has thou need of?” This face showed that, despite recent appearances and history, the universe in which these people lived was one of light and not darkness, love rather than hate, beauty and not chaos – a world in which an Infinitely Good God and His Mother were the victors over the Evil Serpent (Our Lady is, in fact, pictured standing triumphantly on a burnt-out crescent moon – an image of the Serpent). Most important, it was a world in which man was not called just to witness, adore, and sacrifice to this God and His Goodness, but to be drawn into and fully participate in this abundant Life. This was a face of love, of tenderness, of fullness of life, of rest and peace, of Divine participation and knowledge. It was, in other words, the face of Wisdom:

Wisdom shall praise her own self, and shall be honoured in God, and shall glory in the midst of her people…..

Then the creator of all things commanded, and said to me: and he that made me, rested in my tabernacle” (Ecclus 24:1, 12 – Douay-Rheims).

We are now in a position to understand with great simplicity and clarity Mary’s role as Mediatrix of All Graces. In the spiritual marriage between Mary and the Holy Spirit, which has existed in the mind of God for all eternity, we must recognize that whatever graces and life come through the Holy Spirit must also come through Mary. And since, as Maximillian Kolbe said, “all graces come from the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit,” they must also therefore come by way of Mary, and attain to fruition only through her motherly care.

Consequently, the purpose of Mary’s becoming The Immaculate Conception is twofold: the humanization of God (“the Word became flesh”) and the divinization of man. In gazing upon the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we are pre-eminently made aware of the transcendent destiny of the human person: we see, as St. Louis De Montfort says, “the divine Mary.” The divinization of all the predestined therefore comes about through a full sharing, as spiritual children within Her Immaculate Heart, of the spousal love between God and Mary which has existed for all eternity.

The Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe also presents us with an image of the Triumph of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth over Satan. When we think about Our Lady’s Triumph we are tempted to picture this in terms of star-war like battles on a cosmic scale. The Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe offers a very different view. The burnt-out crescent moon upon which Our Lady stands in Triumph is a pathetic thing. Satan, with all his rage and rebellion, and all the rebellion and blasphemies of all men down through the ages, are nothing before the infinite power and majesty of God. The true Triumph and Crowning of Mary is most aptly depicted, therefore, not in grandiose battles, but in the smallness of a human soul which, in the depths of its humility and poverty, has surrendered itself in Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary. It is this which is the final message and call of Our Lady.

Finally, we must realize that the message and Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe calls us to intense love of the Church for the realization of Her Triumph over the hearts of all her children. Immediately after identifying herself to Juan Diego as the “Mother of the True God through Whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near and far, Master of heaven and earth”, she declares, “I wish and intensely desire that in this place my sanctuary be erected. Here I will demonstrate, I will exhibit, I will give all my love, my compassion, my help, and my protection to the people. I am your merciful mother”. Juan Diego became the custodian of this chapel which Bishop Zumárraga ordered to be constructed, and this became the source from which radiated the conversion of millions of souls during the following few years. The aftermath of the appearances of Our Lady of Guadalupe represents the greatest and most “intense” (in terms of the shortness of time involved) mass conversion of souls in the history of the Church – and this among a people who just 10 years previously had lived under the yoke of a regime and culture which was arguably the most Satanic, and the most given to human sacrifice, of any civilization in the history of the world. We therefore have no excuse now for despair, or for cowering in the caves of a private and bitter faith in fear of the apostasy and degradation which surrounds us.

Our Lord guaranteed that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church. And yet Satan now appears to be hammering away at every door and window of that Church, and seeking the ruin of every soul within. It is amply clear that the purification of the Church has been entrusted by Christ to His Mother, and it would seem equally clear that she awaits our militant response in cooperation with the graces which Christ has entrusted to her care for the accomplishment of Her Triumph. It would also seem that the Feast most appropriate for this purification is the double Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple on February 2. As explained in our Original Proposal, it is this Feast which most aptly embodies the mystery of the spiritual life that the Light of Christ can only be made to radiate from the Church for the mass conversion of souls through the suffering love of Mary and the interior purification of all her children.

We therefore ask all those who are Mary’s children to join us on February 2, 2019 in praying the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church. We ask you, with the humility and perseverance of Juan Diego, to contact your priest and bishop in order to persuade them to implement this event in their churches (see our homepage for links to resources). We suggest that if your church is locked on this date that you pray outside, or that you pray it at home. We ask that this be done in all nations throughout the world. And finally, we ask that you print off copies of the one-page Handout concerning this event, and distribute them at all Catholic events and venues between now and February 2. We especially recommend this be done in the United States at the March for Life in Washington, D.C, and in other Pro-Life Marches throughout the country.

If we do not unite, we will almost certainly be driven back into the caves of our own private faith. We will descend further into our own personal and partial agendas, and into the desperation, failure, and bitterness which is the usual fruit of such isolation. In unity there is hope. In unity there are extraordinary graces. In unity there is the seamless and pure Heart of Mary which seeks that we be One in Her Love, Protection, and Power for the conversion of souls.

 

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The Fourth Glorious Mystery: The Assumption

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The Fourth Glorious Mystery:

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven

 

The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made anything from the beginning…. I was with him, forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times. Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men. (Proverbs 8: 22, 30-31).

For we know that every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now. And not only it, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8: 22-23).

The two above-quoted passages from Holy Scripture present absolutely contrasting images of human life on this earth. The first, which is applied by the Church to Mary on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (in the Missal of the Traditional Latin Mass), depicts the delight of spiritual childhood, playing before God with the innocence and purity which began for Mary on this earth with the Immaculate Conception, and which culminated with Her Glorious Assumption, Body and Soul, into Heaven. The second resonates with the loss of this spiritual childhood through both original and actual sin, which is the experience of each one of us. The first speaks of radiant perfection and joy achieved; the second, of painful labor, waiting, and hope.

It is of great significance that St. Paul weds the final answer and solution to all our pains and sorrows in this life not only to our adoption as the sons of God, but also to the redemption of our bodies (which unlike Mary’s Bodily Assumption, will not occur until the Final Judgment). Nor is it an accident of history that Pope Pius XII, in the year 1950, on the cusp of the descent of both the world and the Church into the filth of the sexual revolution, solemnly defined the Bodily Assumption of Mary into Heaven.

We might tend to think that Mary’s Bodily Assumption is merely an additional privilege granted to Her by a merciful God, and we might further possess what is probably a mostly unconscious attitude which considers the presence of our own bodies in Heaven as being a not-all-that- important adjunct to our attaining to the Vision of God’s Essence (the Beatific Vision). In this, we would be very wrong. As St. Paul also writes, “For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake; that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” And lest we are tempted to believe that this “life of Jesus in our mortal flesh” refers only to the soul and its presence in mortal flesh during this life, we also have the following from St. Paul:

Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall all indeed rise again: but we shall not all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible: and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption; and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Cor. 15: 51-53).

What we are dealing with here is an extraordinary work of God’s Mercy, a mercy which applies not only to our souls, but also to our bodies which must eventually be gloriously united to our souls in order to constitute what it means to be fully human.

St. Thomas, in considering the question as to what constitutes the greatest act of God’s Mercy, writes the following:

“A work may be called great in two ways: first, on the part of the mode of action, and thus the work of creation is the greatest work, wherein something is made from nothing; secondly, a work may be called great on account of what is made, and thus the justification of the ungodly, which terminates at the eternal good of a share in the Godhead, is greater than the creation of heaven and earth, which terminates at the good of mutable nature.” (ST I-II, Q. 113. A, 9)

The angels were created, and offered a simple choice – whether to submit to God and His plan for creation, or not. Depending on this single choice – yes, or no – they were either instantly admitted to the Beatific Vision, or were irremediably sentenced for all eternity to Hell. The reason for this is that the angels are pure spirits who apprehend and will “immovably”, and therefore their initial choice, either for or against God and His divine order, was immovable and unchangeable. There could therefore be for them no “justification of the ungodly”.

A very different situation exists with human beings. As long as any man is alive, he exists with a potentiality either to accept or reject God and His Ways. The work of “justification of the ungodly” is therefore exclusively reserved to men. God’s greatest work, His supreme act of Mercy, was therefore reserved for men.

It can be of great profit to us to meditate a bit on the mystery of God’s mysterious creation of such “flesh-bound”, fragile, moveable, changeable creatures as are men. God certainly could have created only purely spiritual creatures (angels) from nothing; and, in St. Thomas’s words, this would have still been the greatest work according to its mode (the creation of something from nothing). But in creating man, he chose to unite an eternal, spiritual soul to what is virtually the smallest, weakest, and inconsequential thing imaginable – a mutable physical body possessing an incredible dependence upon the working of an enormous complexity of fragile and intricate parts and systems with all their growth and change, all of this being integrated with an extraordinarily rich complexity of neurological reactions and sensations, and united to an intellect and will, ever subject to change, and which is called upon to make fundamental free choices in the midst of all this mutability. It might almost seem to us as though God’s mercy could not rest until he reached out and offered Beatitude to the smallest and weakest thing conceivable.

At the very center of this Great Mystery stands Jesus Christ in Whom, for all eternity, was willed the unity of God with man – the Incarnation. And alongside Him, willed and conceived for all eternity in the Heart of the Trinity, was the creation of the Immaculate Body and Soul of a Woman Who was to be His Mother, completely united with Him in His work of redemption, and therefore also the Mother of all men. What began to be on this earth with the Immaculate Conception of Mary within the womb of her mother Anne, was present with God from endless ages. Appropriately, in the first reading for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in the Traditional Latin Mass missal (and tragically omitted from this Feast in the Novus Ordo Mass) is the following description of both this eternal design, and the fundamental choice which inevitably must be made by every human being:

“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived. neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out: The mountains with their huge bulk had not as yet been established: before the hills I was brought forth:

“He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was present: when with a certain law and compass he enclosed the depths: When he established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters: When he compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when be balanced the foundations of the earth; I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times. Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men.

“Now therefore, ye children, hear me: Blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my doors. He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord:

“But he that shall sin against me, shall hurt his own soul. All that hate me love death.” (Proverbs *: 22-36)

The last two paragraphs of this passage of scripture set before us an eternal enmity. On the one hand are those who attain to spiritual childhood, find our Lady (and of course also Wisdom, Our Lord, and the Holy Spirit), keep her ways, and find life; and, on the other hand, are those who sin against her, “hurt” their own souls by so doing, and “love death”. It is the same enmity which we read about in the Garden of Eden between the Woman Who shall crush Satan’s head, and the Serpent who “lies in wait for her heel”. (Genesis 3:15). In Mary this victory is fully accomplished in Her Immaculate Conception and Her Assumption, Body and Soul, into Heaven. In each and every man and woman, and in the Church, this victory awaits those who “keep her ways”, and die to this world and the ways of “fallen flesh” in order “that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”

We might tend to think of this enmity as existing almost exclusively on the level of man’s spiritual faculties – his intellect and will. After all, as St. Thomas taught, original sin consisted in the act of intellectual pride by which man sought to achieve an excellence within himself which was independent of God, and contrary to God’s Will. Original sin was thus truly an act of the will by which he “turned away” from being subject to God.

But St. Thomas also taught that “all actual sins virtually pre-exist in original sin, as in a principle…” (ST, I-II, 82, A.2). This is so because the function of the will is to move all the other powers of the soul to their proper end in subjection to the right order of God. The disorder effected in the human will through original sin necessarily therefore descends into the flesh. As expressed very succinctly by St. Thomas:

The will being turned away from God, all the other powers of the soul become inordinate…Now the inordinateness of the other powers of the soul consists chiefly in their turning inordinately to mutable good; which inordinateness may be called by the general name of concupiscence.” (ST, I-II, Q. 82, A.3).

In consideration of our own bodily existence in this world, the eternal enmity between God and Satan, and between Christ and the Antichrist, may thus be expressed by two very succinct propositions: The Word became flesh in order that “the life of Christ might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” and that we may come to the vision of God. Satan, on the other hand, works that man may descend ever more deeply into the world of fallen flesh, and finally into the depths of Hell.

Alphonsus Liguori said that no one goes to Hell without un-forgiven sexual sin. And as Our Lady of Fatima said, “More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.”

At the very depths of the depravity of the modern world’s descent into the world of the flesh is the sin of homosexuality. Nothing could be in greater polar opposition to Mary’s purity, and the Mysteries of Her Immaculate Conception and Bodily Assumption into Heaven. St. Paul, in delineating the consequences of the descent of man into the world of the flesh which is the consequence of rejecting God, gives the greatest prominence to the sin of homosexuality:

Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves….For this cause God delivered them up to shameful affections. For their women have changed the natural use into that use which is against nature. And in like manner, the men also, having the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error.” (Romans 1: 24, 26-27).

St. Peter Damian writes the following concerning the sin of homosexuality, especially as it was then prevalent within the priesthood:

Truly, this vice is never to be compared with any other vice because it surpasses the enormity of all vices. Indeed this vice is the death of bodies, the destruction of souls. It pollutes the flesh; it extinguishes the light of the mind. It evicts the Holy Spirit from the temple of the human heart; it introduces the devil who incites to lust. It casts into error; it completely removes the truth from the mind that has been deceived…. It opens hell; it closes the door to heaven…. It separates the soul from God to join it with devils. This most pestilential queen of the sodomists makes the followers of her tyrannical laws filthy to men and hateful to God. She commands to join in evil wars against God, to carry the mili­tary burden of a most evil spirit.” (Book of Gomorrah, XVI).

Saint Peter Damian makes of homosexuality a sin of such unsurpassed evil as to constitute a war against the very Being of God Himself. God created man in His own image, “to the image of God He created him: male and female He created them…” The sin of homosexuality, therefore, by which men and women “have changed the natural use into that which is against nature (Ro 1:27)”, constitutes war not only against the nature of man and woman, but also against the very image of God. It is, in other words, the premier sin in the flesh against Being itself – both Supernatural Being, and natural being.

In St. Peter Damian’s day, this war was largely a private matter, practiced in secret. It has now emerged as a full-scale public war conducted openly in both the Church and the world. It has gained almost total victory over all governments in the Western world. It has conquered the minds and hearts of untold numbers of children in our educational systems through such things as “diversity training” and “inclusiveness”. It has befouled almost the entire priesthood and hierarchy within the Catholic Church.

Some, of course, might protest that it is only a small percentage of the clergy who actually commit these sins. But the spiritual defilement goes much deeper – to those members of the hierarchy who have known and been silent; to those have hidden abuse, and retained such abusers in ministry in the Church; to priests and deacons who are silent about this immense evil for fear of persecution, involvement in conflict, or loss of revenue (which would of course be seen as bad “stewardship”); and to the countless number of seminarians who only managed to become priests by remaining silent in the face of this widespread evil in seminaries (the guilt for which may indeed explain their silence as priests). And now, of course, all of this intimidation and silence has now penetrated the hearts and minds of the laity who, if they wish to protest at all against this firestorm of evil within the Church and the world, dare only to do so in private conversation. We used to speak of “closet-homosexuals”. As with so many other beliefs and practices within the modern Church, this has been largely “turned around” or inverted. It would now seem much more appropriate to speak of “closet-Catholics”.

The consequence of all this silence, and its accompanying loss of the virtue of fortitude and commitment to Catholic truth, became overwhelmingly clear during the recent USCCB meeting (Nov 12-14, 2018) and its aftermath. In August of this year Cardinal DiNardo had committed the Conference to addressing the abuse scandal among the hierarchy, and in September the Conference’s Executive Committee released a plan for investigating the Cardinal McCarrick scandal, and also for holding bishops accountable. On the opening day of the Conference, Cardinal DiNardo informed the bishops that he had received instructions from the Vatican insisting that these subjects not be discussed, and that the standards of accountability for bishops, and the formation of a special commission for receiving complaints against bishops, should not be discussed or voted upon during the meetings. On November 28, two weeks after the USCCB meeting, more than 50 law enforcement officials raided the Chancery offices of Cardinal DiNardo searching for secret archives related to clergy sexual abuse. All of this is an ominous sign of what is almost certainly to come.

The line has been crossed. We must expect much more of the same. The State is now poised to take a posture towards the Roman Catholic Church which will treat it as an organization or corporation engaged in criminal activity (under the RICO Laws). We should expect more raids, actions by Attorney Generals in all 50 states against the dioceses under their jurisdiction, passing of laws which will make it a criminal offense to withhold information regarding abuse obtained in the confessional, etc. And now that the Vatican has intervened to silence the bishops in regard to the treatment of abuse among the hierarchy, we may expect attempts to prosecute Vatican officials despite any claims to diplomatic immunity. The one thing most instrumental in preventing the success of such efforts in the past is that Church lawyers have been able to successfully argue that the bishops in this country are not “subjects” of the Vatican. There would seem little credibility left in such a claim after the recent USCCB meeting.

The extraordinary irony is that while the Church is now in the process of being invaded and prosecuted for homosexual abuse, any member of the clergy who preaches against homosexuality or “Gay Marriage” places himself in a position where he is prosecutable under hate-crime legislation. The Church now lies almost totally prostrate before the world.

It is, however, never too late to stand with Christ.

We must begin by fully affirming the truth that God does not create homosexuals, any more than He creates murderers or rapists. Nor does God create people with homosexual “orientation.” Whether due to the cumulative effects of original sin, to upbringing, or to actual sin, homosexual “orientation” is in itself disordered and neither innate or natural to anyone. The temptation to homosexual acts is nothing less than temptation to grave sin, just as is any other serious temptation towards mortal sin. The notion that there can be any such thing as a licit celibate homosexual vocation to the priesthood is therefore absurd. Nor should anyone who is actively homosexual or who claims such “orientation” be allowed any role in any of the ministries of the Church, and this of course includes teaching. All we need to do in order to understand this elementary truth is to imagine trying to justify admitting to such ministries a person with a history or strong inclination towards rape or murder.

The question remains, of course, as to what exactly is our proper response as Catholics to such persons. The answer is simple: charity. We owe charity to all human beings created in God’s image, no matter how great their sin. The problem today, however, is that both within and without the Church charity is equated with a false mercy and inclusiveness. In order to exercise charity, we must therefore come first to a proper understanding of what the very precise concept of Catholic charity actually entails.

St. Thomas defines charity as “the friendship of man for God”. (ST, II-II, Q.1, A.1). At first, this might seem to us a rather dull definition. We tend to think of friendship as something less than love. This is not true of the friendship between God and man. St. Thomas writes:

“It is written (John 15:15): I will not now call you servants…but My friends. Now this was said to them by reason of nothing else than charity. Therefore charity is friendship.” (Ibid).

To read carefully the entirety of John 15 (from which the above passage is taken) is to see the nature of this friendship revealed in depth. It entails the elevation of man to the state of fully abiding in the love and truth of God. To raise man to this friendship is the reason why Christ sacrificed Himself on the Cross: “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). In the light of this teaching to be found in this chapter of John, the concept of friendship takes on a whole new depth of meaning. It reaches to the greatest depths of God’s love for man. When man responds through conversion, it establishes that state which we term “living in the state of sanctifying grace”. In Thomas’ words, “Charity is the life of the soul, even as the soul is the life of the body.” (Ibid, A.2). Correspondingly, the soul that does not possess charity, does not possess sanctifying grace, is not in the state of friendship with God, and is spiritually dead. Satan reigns in his flesh.

What then of mercy, and its relationship to charity?

Posing the question as to “Whether Mercy Is the Greatest of Virtues” (II-II, Q.30, A.4), Thomas offers the following conclusion: “The Apostle after saying (Col. Iii, 12): Put ye on…as the elect of God…the bowels of mercy, etc., adds (verse 14): Above all things have charity. Therefore mercy is not the greatest of virtues.”

In accord with the teaching of St. Thomas, we must carefully distinguish mercy as it is proper to God, from that which is proper to man. Mercy can only be considered the greatest of virtues as it is applied to God Who is “greater than all others, surpassed by none and excelling all”. God’s mercy in creating angels and men from nothingness, and his further act of calling man out of a state of condemnation in order to share in the inner life of the Godhead, can therefore be seen in a light which views mercy as His supreme attribute. This, according to Thomas, is not true for man, “since for him that has anyone above him it is better to be united to that which is above than to supply the defect of that which is beneath. Hence, as regards man who has God above him, charity which unites him to God, is greater than mercy…”

And, Thomas concludes:

“The sum total of the Christian religion consists in mercy, as regards external works: but the inward love of charity whereby we are united to God preponderates over both love and mercy for our neighbor.”

There can therefore be no charity towards homosexuals, or towards any other persons living in objective mortal sin, which does not place above all other considerations their being converted away from sin and into a state of friendship with God. Any concept of mercy or charity which would detract from this supreme truth of the spiritual life embodies Satan’s agenda for the ruin of all human souls

That this false mercy and charity have penetrated to the apex of the Church cannot now be reasonably denied. It is at the very heart of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Constitution Amoris Laetitia. Much has been written about the at-least implicit heresy contained in this document in regard to its proposing of the possibility of receiving communion for the civilly divorced and remarried, or for any others living in a state of objective mortal sin (including homosexuality). But the real heresy contained therein is succinctly stated in the following two passages:

The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for ever; it is to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart…For true charity is always un-merited, unconditional and gratuitous. (296).

“It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community and thus to experience being touched by an ‘unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous’ mercy. No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” (297).

It is clear from the context of Amoris Laetitia that the Pope is here speaking of the individual person, and the state of his soul which determines whether he is justified or condemned. As Catholics, whatever he says therefore must be judged in the light of the Council of Trent’s infallible teaching concerning justification. Chapter VII of the Council’s Decree on Justification is titled What the Justification of the Impious Is, and What Are the Causes Thereof. It contains this crucial passage:

“For, although no one can be just but he to whom the merits of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet is this done in the said justification of the impious, when by the merit of that same most holy Passion, the charity of God is poured forth by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those that are justified and is inherent therein: whence, man, through Jesus Christ, in Whom he is ingrafted, receives, in the said justification, together with the remission of sins, all these (gifts) infused at once, faith, hope, and charity.”

To assert, as does Pope Francis, that such charity is unmerited, unconditional, and gratuitous is simply a form of the Lutheran heresy, which views justification, and the perseverance in God’s friendship as totally unmerited by man, and as not requiring the cooperation of man in virtue and the performance of good works. There are at least 21 Canons of the Council of Trent’s Decree on Justification which condemn Luther’s position, and detail that at every stage of the process of man’s justification – from preparation for conversion up to the grace of final perseverance – there exists the absolute necessity, not only of god’s grace, but also of the cooperation of man’s free will in the attainment and possession of, and perseverance in, that charity which is also called sanctifying or justifying grace. These canons are succinctly summarized in the following two paragraphs from Chapters XI and XV of the Council’s Decree:

But no one, how much soever justified ought to think himself exempt from the observance of the commandments, no one ought to make use of that rash saying, one prohibited by the Fathers under an anathema, that the observance of the commandments of God is impossible for one that is justified. For God commands not impossibilities, but, by commanding, both admonishes thee to do what thou art able, and to pray for what thou art not able (to do), and aids thee that thou mayest be able; whose commandments are not heavy, whose yoke is sweet, and whose burden light. For whoso are the sons of God love Christ; but they who love Him keep His commandments, as Himself testifies; which, assuredly, with the divine help, they can do.”

“In opposition also to the subtle wits of certain men who, by pleasing speeches and good works, seduce the hearts of the innocent, it is to be maintained that the received grace of justification is lost not only by infidelity [loss of faith], whereby even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin whatever, though faith be not lost; thus defending the doctrine of the divine law, which excludes from the kingdom of God not only the unbelieving, but the faithful also (who are) fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liers with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners, and all others who commit deadly sins; from which, with the help of divine grace, they can refrain, and on account of which they are separated from the grace of Christ.”

In direct contradiction to this doctrinal teaching of the Council of Trent, Pope Francis, in paragraph #305 of Amoris Laetitia , states: “Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end. Moreover, in his footnote (#351) to this statement, he writes (the quotes which he uses are from Pope Paul VI):

In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, ‘I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’ (ibid., 47: 1039”).

We must first note that Pope Francis completely distorts the meaning of Pope Paul VI’s statement that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”. The Eucharist is indeed a powerful medicine for overcoming the venial sins that plague us all. It is not a “medicine” to be given to those in objective mortal sin. St. Paul writes:

Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord….But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”

There are indeed “conditioning and mitigating factors” which can affect the degree of culpability of a person living in objective mortal sin. But every person in this world, if he is going to consider receiving Holy Communion, is absolutely obliged to first prove himself – to judge himself – in the light of God’s Truth (both faith and morals). In any “internal forum” existing between priest and individual Catholic, whether during confession or spiritual direction, every priest in the world is obligated to make clear that there are no mitigating factors which will allow a person living in objective mortal sin to receive Holy Communion. Any priest consciously and willfully withholding such truth in situations where it is clearly applicable would be cooperating in sacrilege if the person were to receive communion. He would find himself immersed in a moral quagmire very similar in its parameters to the person who helps facilitate an abortion – only something much worse, since the sin of sacrilege against God, and the spiritual death of a human soul which is a consequence of such sacrilege, is a worse evil than that of killing of the body of a human being, even if the body be that of an innocent, unborn child.

Pope Francis’ invitation to those living in objective mortal sin to receive Holy Communion is therefore not an act of charity. It is not an act of mercy. It is an invitation to judgment and condemnation.

But there truly is a “medicine” which exists for all sinners. It is Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners.

The Church teaches that, no matter how deep into the darkness of evil a man may descend, his human nature created by God in His image cannot be destroyed. No matter how clouded over with sin, the life of Christ is still the light of his soul (John 1:4). As St. John says, the darkness may not “comprehend it”, but it can also never completely erase it. There always remains the call to truth, to innocence, to the delight of “playing before God”. In all periods of history, no matter how debased by error and sin, there has therefore always existed the potentiality for conversion of vast numbers of human souls.

The problem which is upon us now is twofold. On the one hand, what St. Paul calls the “operation of error” has descended upon us with a deceitfulness and spiritual deadliness which has never existed in past errors and heresies. We need only compare the complexity and deceitfulness of Modernism (as explored by Pope Pius X in his encyclical Pascendi) to something like the Arian heresy in order to understand how true is such an assertion.

Secondly, virtually all the powers that be in every sphere of thought and activity in this world – finance, economics, political power, the media, the educational systems, etc. lie prostrate before this “operation of error” (reductive science, physical and spiritual evolution, consumerism, an unending quest for scientific-technological and economic development, the homosexual agenda, etc.), and promote it militantly. What is more, their pervasiveness and influence over the human heart and mind is enormously greater because of such things as modern social communications and the power of government over all the areas of our lives. And, possibly most important, the money is in their hands to do so.

We therefore need to realize that we are virtually powerless in regard to all exterior activity. Even more devastating, however, is the fact that, for the most part, the Church has been deprived of the interior spiritual power which was with her from the beginning (see The Third Glorious Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit). For centuries, Catholics (and the Church) have been subjected to a dialectical process of compromise with the world which has finally led us to a state of almost total impotency in regard to possessing the spiritual power to combat the enemy. As St. James wrote, “The friendship of this world is an enemy of God.” No matter how integral our faith, no matter how free we may be of mortal sin, no matter how many rosaries and other prayers we may recite, or how many hours we spend in Eucharistic Adoration, we cannot be effective vessels of the Holy Spirit and his power if we live in an adulterous relationship with the modern world.

Our Lady of Fatima prophesied the rise of the “errors of Russia” which would spread throughout the world. The extraordinary thing is that someone like Lenin saw quite accurately that the best friends of Communism would be what he is alleged to have called “useful idiots” – the liberals who, despite being ignorant of the full depth, meaning, and evil of Communist ideology, and who almost surely would have been horrified at its ultimate fruits, were yet to constitute an integral part of the dialectical (step-by-step) process of decay of Christian truth and civilization which was necessary for Communism’s triumph. In similar fashion, we might well imagine the delight of Satan with all those who might consider themselves faithful and devout Catholics, and who yet somehow still think and act as though they can be friends of the modern world with all of its advanced forms of affluence, and seduction away from the Cross of Christ. It should be no matter of wonder that such a diluted and divided love allowed the entrance of every form of perverse love, and that such an emasculated Christianity has given rise to the homosexual revolution within the Church.

It is the primary message of Fatima that the Triumph of Mary’s Immaculate Heart over the sins and errors which are besieging our modern world is dependent upon a circle of love which must be completed by the depth of our conversion, prayers, and sacrifice. This is why the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church seeks first, and above all, a unified effort to place all those who consider themselves faithful Catholics before Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, begging for that interior light and grace which will accomplish their own deeper conversion away from the world, the flesh, and the devil, and make them true vessels of the power of the Holy Spirit for the conversion of souls.

We ask everyone to please ask their pastor (and bishop) to implement the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church in their churches on February 2, 2019. Please read the Original Proposal in regard to this event. There is also a one-page Handout on our website which can be duplicated and distributed at all Catholic venues. We especially ask those who will be attending the various Marches for Life in January to make copies and distribute them widely.

Please spread the word about the Rosary!

The Third Glorious Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Ghost

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The Third Glorious Mystery:

The Descent of the Holy Ghost

 “Now we have received not the spirit of this world, but the spirit that is of God. (1Cor. 2:12)

 

In the midst of the present crisis, possibly no question now presents itself with greater urgency to the minds and hearts of those who consider themselves faithful Catholics than the following:

“What has happened to the Holy Spirit and His promised protection of the Church, and His strengthening, sanctification, and confirming it in Truth and Holiness?”

The past 121 years have seen two Papal encyclicals devoted to the Holy Spirit: Pope Leo XIII’s Divinum Illud (1897), and John Paul II’s Dominum Vivicantem (On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World – 1986). Both are replete with detailed examination of the extent to which the work of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity is “appropriated” to all that can be seen as God’s gifts to man. He is the Creator Blessed, the Sanctifier, the Soul’s Delightful Guest, the Comforter, the Spirit of Charity, the source of Heavenly Water, the source of all Spiritual Unction, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of all the Seven Gifts enumerated by the Prophet Isaiah which are especially poured out in the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Spirit of Fire, the Spirit of the adoption of the children of God.

It is the Holy Spirit by Whom Our Lord Jesus Christ was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and, in the words of Pope Leo XIII: “By the operation of the Holy Spirit was not only the conception of Christ accomplished, but also the sanctification of His soul, which, in Holy Scripture is called His anointing. Wherefore all His actions were performed in the Holy Ghost, and especially the sacrifice of Himself: Christ, through the Holy Ghost, offered Himself without spot to God (Heb. 9: 14).” This also means that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the action of Jesus Christ through His priest, is also accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit. Pope John Paul II wrote: “In every celebration of the Eucharist His coming, His salvific presence, is sacramentally realized: in the Sacrifice and in Communion. It is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit, as part of His own mission.” (62).

It should be no matter of wonder, therefore, that the Holy Spirit is considered to be the very Soul of the Church. Pope Leo XIII, in consideration of the birth of the Church on the day of Pentecost, proclaimed “As Christ is the Head of the Church, so is the Holy Ghost her soul.” He quotes St. Augustine: “What the soul is in our body, that is the Holy Ghost in Christ’s body, the Church.”And he continues: “This being so, no further and fuller ‘manifestation and revelation of the divine Spirit’ may be imagined or expected; for that which now takes place in the Church is the most perfect possible, and will last until that day when the Church herself, having passed through her militant career, shall be taken up into the joy of the saints triumphing in heaven.”

It is also not surprising that, as a consequence of this overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit within the Church and the individual souls of the faithful, Popes such as Leo XIII and John Paul II should be effusive in regard to their evaluation of the effects of this presence of the Holy Spirit within the individual souls of Catholics. Thus, Pius Leo XIII:

“The manner and extent of the action of the Holy Ghost in individual souls is no less wonderful, although somewhat more difficult to understand, inasmuch as it is entirely invisible. This outpouring of the Spirit is so abundant, that Christ Himself, from whose gift it proceeds, compares it to an overflowing river, according to those words of St. John: ‘He that believeth in Me, as the Scripture saith, out of his midst shall flow rivers of living water’; to which testimony the Evangelist adds the explanation: Now this He said of the Spirit which they should receive who believed in Him (Jn. 7: 38-39).”

When we study the Book of Acts and the very early history of the Church, we see these “rivers of living water”, which are the life of the Holy Spirit, profoundly active and fruitful. The disciples issued forth from the cenacle at Pentecost with great power in the Holy Spirit, and converted three thousand souls. Then Peter and John went up to the Temple at the ninth hour of prayer and converted 5,000 more. The Book of Acts tells us that that the people “brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that when Peter came, his shadow at the least, might overshadow any of them, and they might be delivered from their infirmities. And there came also together to Jerusalem a multitude out of the neighbouring cities, bringing sick persons, and such as were troubled with unclean spirits; who were all healed.” (Acts 5: 15-16).

But most important, as witnessing to what was the source of this great power and grace of the Holy Spirit of these earliest of Christians, is the description which the Book of Acts gives of their daily lives:

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 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.” (Acts 2: 42-47).

What an extraordinary contrast and sign of contradiction the lives of these people provided in contrast to the world around them. They were truly contra mundum (against the world). Instead of accumulating, they sold their possession and gave the proceeds to the Church for distribution to the poor. They lived in great simplicity with their daily lives centered around the Eucharist. They surrendered completely to God’s revealed truth. And in all of this they possessed a unity of mind and heart almost unimaginable to us today.

While gazing into this mirror in which is reflected this marvelous fruitfulness of the work of the Holy Spirit in the early Church, we now need to look at ourselves and our Church. We shall begin with excerpts from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical on the Holy Spirit, who truly believed that the fruits of the Second Vatican Council would be a “New Springtime” for the Church:

As the Council writes, ‘the Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful as in a temple (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). In them he prays and bears witness to the fact that they are adopted sons (cf. Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15-16:26). The Spirit guides the Church into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 16:13) and gives her a unity of fellowship and service. He furnishes and directs her with various gifts, both hierarchical and charismatic, and adorns her with the fruits of his grace (cf Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:4; Gal. 5:22). By the power of the Gospel he makes the Church grow, perpetually renews her and leads her to perfect union with her Spouse’(#25).”

“For we know that it [Vatican Council II] was in a special way an ‘ecclesiological’ Council: a Council on the theme of the Church. At the same time, the teaching of this Council is essentially ‘pneumatological’: it is permeated by the truth about the Holy Spirit, as the soul of the Church. We can say that in its rich variety of teaching the Second Vatican Council contains precisely all that ‘the Spirit says to the Churches’ with regard to the present phase of the history of salvation…. In a certain sense, the Council has made the Spirit newly ‘present’ in our difficult age. In the light of this conviction one grasps more clearly the great importance of all the initiatives aimed at implementing the Second Vatican Council, its teaching and its pastoral and ecumenical thrust…. This work being done by the Church for the testing and bringing together of the salvific fruits of the Spirit bestowed in the Council is something indispensable. For this purpose one must learn how to ‘discern’ them carefully from everything that may instead come originally from the ‘prince of this world.’ This discernment in implementing the Council’s work is especially necessary in view of the fact that the Council opened itself widely to the contemporary world, as is clearly seen from the important Conciliar Constitutions Gaudium et Spes and Lumen Gentium.”(#26).”

That the Second Vatican Council “opened itself widely to the contemporary world” cannot be questioned. That the World, the Flesh, and the Devil have taken tremendous advantage of this “opening”, and are now ravaging the Church, should also now be obvious to everyone. In light of the current state of the Church, John Paul II’s proposition that “the Council has made the Spirit newly ‘present’ in our difficult age” would seem to be the cruelest of delusions.

We are therefore left with the following question. If the Holy Spirit is truly present to the Church as “rivers of flowing water”, then what has happened within the hearts and minds of the faithful, both hierarchy and laity, which is preventing these graces from bearing fruit?

In several articles we have explored the descent of the Church into the world of the flesh over recent decades. In our article on the First Sorrowful Mystery, for instance, we offered statistics which indicate the extent to which such descent into the world of the flesh has led over 80 % of Catholics to denial of at least one of the Church’s moral doctrines on such things as abortion, contraception, divorce and re-marriage, and homosexuality, and which has almost certainly culminated in the fact that the vast majority of communicants receive Our Lord in objective sacrilege. And in several articles, we have explored the primary causative factor in this descent: the abandonment of the Christian life of simplicity and poverty towards all the things in this world, which according to the Gospel is the foundation of all growth in the spiritual life. As Our Lord declares, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Mt. 6:24).

However, the road between the human mind and the flesh is a two-way street. Just as immersion in the world of the flesh can rise up to poison the mind, and therefore also our faith, so also can errors of the mind, and therefore also errors of our faith, cause us to plummet into the world of the flesh. Above all is this true in regard to the Church’s infallible teaching on the Eucharist. Vatican II’s Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests (#5) states:

But the other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate are bound up with the Eucharist and are directed towards it. For in the most blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself our Pasch and the living bread which is given life and gives life through the Holy Spirit.”

If our faith in regard to the Eucharist becomes poisoned, then everything else in the Church – all the other sacraments and all the ministries and works of the apostolate – enter upon a path of falsification, perversion, and eventual death. Polls indicate that large numbers of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist (without even considering whether or not they believe in the infallibly defined doctrine of Transubstantiation). Our Lord asked His disciples the following question: “But yet the Son of man, when He cometh, shall He find, think you, faith on earth?” (Luke 18: 8). This should now present itself to us as a question to be taken very seriously. St. Paul writes:

Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11: 27-29).

If we therefore truly seek to understand why the Holy Spirit seems to lie hidden and inoperative in the Church, we would do well to ask what has happened to Catholic faith in the Eucharist. And in so doing, we may well uncover the roots of that loss of simplicity, poverty, unity, Fear of the Lord, and deep devotion to all the revealed truths of our Faith which was the source of that unity possessed by the early Christians, and from which proceeded that power in the Holy Spirit which accomplished the conversion of nations.

 

The Eucharist

And the Light that is in Man

In what is often called the Prologue to the Gospel of St. John, we read, “In Him [Christ] was life, and the life was the light of man.” This entails that there is a certain structure to the consciousness of man which should naturally “leap” in response to supernatural truths when they are revealed to him. A remarkable explanation of this relationship between the Truths of God’s Revelation and the human mind is available to us in the writings of Cardinal Henry Edward Manning. His work, The Glories of the Sacred Heart, contains a chapter titled “Dogma the Source of Devotion.” After quoting Our Lord’s words, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” Cardinal Manning offers the following analysis (selected quotes):

Now, first of all, let us see what is dogma….It means the precise enunciation of a divine truth, of a divine fact, or of a divine reality fully known, so far as it is the will of God to reveal it, adequately defined in words chosen and sanctioned by a divine authority.”

“Every divine truth or reality, so far as God has been pleased to reveal it to us, casts its perfect outline and image upon the human intelligence. His own mind, in which dwells all truth in all fullness and in all perfection, so far as He has revealed of His truth, is cast upon the surface of our mind, in the same way as the sun casts its own image upon the surface of the water, and the disc of the sun is perfectly reflected from its surface.”

“If when a divine truth is declared to us, our hearts do not turn to it, as the eye turns to the light; if there be not in us an instinctive yearning, which makes us promptly turn to the sound of the divine voice, the fault is in our hearts; for just in proportion as we know the truth we shall be drawn towards it.”

Finally, we cannot resist offering one more marvelous passage taken from Manning’s work, The Four Great Evils of Our Day:

“God, who is the perfect and infinite intelligence – that is, the infinite and perfect reason – created man to His own likeness, and gave him a reasonable intelligence, like His own. As the face in the mirror answers to the face of the beholder, so the intelligence of man answers to the intelligence of God. It is His own likeness.”

None of this of course means that man is born with explicit natural knowledge of God and His Truths. What it does mean is that man is born with an intellectual light within him which is structured in such a way that each moment of his conscious existence encounters realities which point beyond the finite to the Infinite and make it natural for his intelligence to answer to the intelligence of God. For this reason, St. Thomas could write, “Man naturally knows God in all that he knows.”

Loss of faith in the Eucharist is therefore indicative of a more universal poisoning of the human intellect and its God-given capacity to see the necessary existence of a supernatural world, and to respond to the work of the Holy Spirit in the human soul. And just as the Holy Spirit is the “source of Heavenly Water”, and the supernatural grace which reveals the Mysteries of God, so there now exists a Satanic fountain in this world from which flows a river of darkness which is profoundly obscuring and blocking this work of the Holy Spirit in the souls of modern men, and poisoning their natural disposition for receiving the light of supernatural truth into their minds and hearts.

The source of this evil is reductive science. It is such reductive science which is the primary tool of Satan in his war to destroy the God-created light of human intelligence.

 

Science

Original and Final Sin

In considering what might be called the “collective thinking” of the entire Western world (and beyond), there is no position one can take which elicits more universal disdain than that of being “anti-science.” It immediately calls forth stereotyped images of backwardness, anti-progress, rigidity, and just plain stupidity.

Integral to this world-view is the belief that there is a world of “Science” containing all knowledge of the depths of the physical world, that the human mind has the potential to fully encompass this knowledge, and that it is only in the use of this knowledge that man sins.

It will be our contention here, however, that the scientific weltanschauung (worldview) is integrally constituted by a dominant hubris (pride), which has profoundly altered human consciousness, and constitutes a war against both God and man.

We will explore this subject from three perspectives: 1) in the light of what Scripture has to say in regard to the nature of God’s creation, and the inevitable consequences of man’s attempts to penetrate the nature of God’s “works”; 2) the consequences of original sin upon man’s intellect and will; 3) the overwhelming existential and historical facts concerning the immensely destructive fruits of the scientific enterprise itself.

Before proceeding with this analysis, however, we wish to acknowledge that we may have already alienated some readers. Let us begin, therefore, by offering some very down-to-earth statistics in order to convince the reader of the possibility that there may indeed be a raging fire from which precedes the following smoke.

In the United States, the members of the National Academy of Sciences represent the elite of those on the cutting edge of their corresponding scientific disciplines. Membership is by election only (no applications please), and such membership is considered one of “the highest honors that a scientist can receive.” The total membership is approximately 2,200, with 400 foreign associates. Approximately 200 have received Nobel Prizes.

In the 23 July, 1998 issue of Nature, authors Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham presented the results of a survey of NAS scientists in an article titled Leading Scientists Still Reject God. Their questionnaire duplicated that used by researcher James H. Leuba in his surveys of “leading scientists” in the years 1914 and 1933. The results show in fact that the title of the Nature article understates the significance of their findings – leading scientists do not merely still reject God, but increasingly reject God in what appears to be geometric proportions.

In 1914, “leading scientists” responded with statistics showing that 27.7% believed in a Personal God (“a God in intellectual and affective communication with humankind”). In 1933, this percentage was down to 15%. And, in Larson and Witham’s 1998 study, this belief in a personal God had reached a low of 7.0% (approximately one-fourth of the number found in 1914).

In the words of Larson and Watham, “Disbelief in God [not only a Personal God, but God in any form] and immortality among NAS biological scientists was 65.2% and 69.0%, respectively, and among NAS physical scientists it was 79.0% and 76.3%. Most of the rest were agnostics on both issues, with few believers.” The first sentence of this quote adds another dimension. Obviously, the closer one gets to being the type of scientist (especially physicists) whose pretention is to penetrate to the absolute foundations of physical reality, the less likelihood there is of a belief in God.

We can contrast the above statistics with a Pew Forum survey in 2007 which found 78.4% of Americans professing to be Christians, 4.7% “Other Religions”, and 5.8% identifying themselves as “Unaffiliated Believers” – a total of 88.9% who believe in God.

The contrast revealed here is absolutely stark. Unquestioningly, these statistics (even if we are somewhat skeptical about such polls) reveal that there is something within the scientific enterprise itself which is destructive of faith in God. As we shall see, its destructiveness extends equally to human life and dignity.

We begin with the first perspective mentioned above: the inevitable consequences, from a Biblical perspective, of the scientific enterprise itself.

It is a kind of dogma of modern life that man has the inalienable right, and even responsibility, to the pursuit of unending growth in all the spheres of his secular activity: economic, political (New World Order), scientific knowledge, technological development, etc. Such “unending quest for knowledge and growth” would almost seem to constitute modern man’s definition of his most fundamental dignity. This is fully in accord with the dominant forms of modern philosophy which define him in terms of evolutionary becoming rather than created being.

Such is not the Biblical view, which rather sees such pursuits as wreaking disaster to both individual and society, and to man’s relationship to the Truth of God. The Biblical perspective begins with Original Sin which, according to St. Thomas, was constituted as an intellectual pride by which Adam and Eve sought an intellectual excellence of knowledge independently of God. In the situation of Original Sin, this is described in terms of “knowledge of good and evil.” It is obvious in the light of further Old Testament scriptures, however, that this disorder also extends to the “seeking after an excellence” which would presume to penetrate to the depth of the nature of created things. Thus, we have the following scriptures:

“Nothing may be taken away, nor added, neither is it possible to find out the glorious works of God: When a man hath done, then shall he begin: And when he leaveth off, he shall be at a loss.” (Ecclesiasticus 28:5-6).

“And I understood that man can find no reason of all those works of God that are done under the sun: and the more he shall labor to seek, so much the less shall he find: yea, though the wise man shall say, that he knoweth it, he shall not be able to find it.” (Ecclesiastes 8:17).

“For the works of the Highest only are wonderful, and his works are glorious, secret, and hidden.” (Ecclesiasticus 11:4).

“For great is the power of God alone, and he is honoured by the humble. Seek not the things that are too high for thee, and search not into things above thy ability: but the things that God hath commanded thee, think on them always, and in many of his works be not curious. For it is not necessary for thee to see with thy eyes those things that are hid. In unnecessary matters be not over curious, and in many of his works thou shalt not be inquisitive.                                                                     For many things are shewn to thee above the understanding of men.                                                                                               And the suspicion of them hath deceived man, and hath detained their minds in vanity.” (Ecclesiasticus 3:21-26).

These scripture passages proscribe any effort by man which attempts to penetrate (or even be inquisitive and curious about) the hidden depths of God’s “works.” It is evident that in these scriptures the word “works” refers to the physical world itself – to all those “works of God that are done under the sun.” There is no allegorical interpretation possible here. We are simply faced with a choice between considering these teachings as divinely revealed truth, or merely the product of primitive and ignorant Old Testament human minds.

The last sentence in the final quote offered above is possibly the most revealing. It speaks both of the disordered motivation (“suspicion”) for such a quest, and it also pegs its consequent fruit (vanity).

The “suspicion” which scripture designates as the source for this “seeking” to understand the depths of God’s works must relate not only to God’s works themselves (their substantial reality, and man’s ability to objectively know them with his ordinary perception), but to the trustworthiness of God Himself as revealed through the substantial reality of His creation. In 1996, a book was published titled The End of Science, written by John Horgan, former senior science writer for Scientific American magazine. In this work, Mr. Horgan interviews over 40 of the top scientists in the world (many of them physicists, and Nobel Prize winners) on the subject of “the end of science,” the ultimate meaning of reality, and whether science can ever hope to penetrate to the depths of reality. What is revealed through these interviews is that none of these men is, in even the remotest fashion, a Christian or a believer in a Personal God. Possibly even more revealing is that they have no epistemology whatsoever. In other words, none have the slightest notion of how it is even remotely possible to equate the findings of their “science” with reality as we perceive it. As the first scriptural passage quoted above states; “When a man hath done, then shall he begin: And when he leaveth off, he shall be at a loss.”

None of these scientists, for instance, have any idea as to how to connect the “scientific” understanding of water – of two atoms of Hydrogen compounded with one of Oxygen, constituted by electrons spinning at comparatively enormous distances around nuclei, with the whole thing being comprised of 99.999999999 % void – to the marvelous substance we know as water. They are, in other worlds, and in the most profound sense, “lost” in a world of suspicion in regard to the substantial reality of God’s creation, and therefore also of God Himself. This is why we often see such scientists flirting with Eastern forms of religion which deny the reality of our perceived world.

Further, the fruit of this “suspicion” is described by the scripture as “detainment” in “vanity.” Vanity is, of course, the same as St. Thomas’ “vainglory.” It is an inordinate desire to manifest one’s own excellence, very similar to that original sin of intellectual pride by which Adam and Eve sought an excellence above their nature, with the only significance difference here being its communitarian nature. The scientist becomes, in other words, a kind of Magi, guardian of an esoteric knowledge obtainable only to the elite, and before whom the multitudes must bow in reverence. The scientist, in other words, becomes the ultimate Gnostic Wise Man. In regard to almost any subject under the sun in our modern world, all that is necessary is for some prominent form of the media to declare “Science says”, and the average person is cowed into acceptance.

The Old Testament proscriptions against such Gnostic-inspired “scientific” pursuits come to fruition in the Beatitudes of the Gospel. The Beatitudes demand a simplicity of life, founded upon humility and poverty of spirit, in the exercise of all of man’s faculties in regard to all the things of this world. It demands, “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God….” It demands that we “lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven”, and insists on the truth that “where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.” These demands upon us in the ways we live our lives are absolutely necessary in order that the light of our intelligence may be able to rightly perceive both natural and supernatural realities:

For the light of thy body is thy eye, And if thy eye be single, they whole body shall be lightsome. But if thy eye be evil [double-minded] 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.” (Matthew 6).

There is no way in which we can imagine the living of the simplicity and poverty of spirit demanded by the Beatitudes as being in any way compatible with the development of the modern affluence and complexity of the scientific, technological, consumeristic, economic, and political cultures in which we now are immersed and spiritually poisoned.

But it is especially upon the healthy life of our minds that the effective work of the Holy Spirit depends. It is here where science has accomplished its greatest work of destruction. Just as the entire life of the early Christians was centered upon belief, without duplicity, in Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, and received from this source all of its profound vitality in the Holy Spirit, so the reason for the equally profound decay in regard to the ability of the modern Catholic to live his life in the fecundity and power of the Holy Spirit is largely due either to a complete loss of this belief, or to its dilution in minds and hearts living in duplicity with the corrosive poison of a reductive scientific worldview. And all of this betrayal centers upon the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation. It is here where we encounter the absolute enmity between the Catholic Faith and reductive science. And it is in understanding the nature and depths of this this enmity that our minds may be cleared of the intellectual poison of modernity,

 

Transubstantiation

And the Roots of Catholic Fidelity

What follows will definitely take some intellectual labor on the part of the reader in regard to their faith. It is not a fashionable thing to do in our modern world. We have largely been cowed into the attitude that we are to discipline ourselves with much demanding mental work if we are to become a scientist, a doctor, an engineer, a mechanic, or electrician, but that the world of our Catholic Faith is a world of belief and devotion which does not require this kind of effort. Such sloth in the intellectual realm may be seen as foundational in Satan’s success of “ruining” countless numbers of souls through that “operation of error” which leads to the rise of the Antichrist:

Whose [Antichrist’s] coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders. And in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore, God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying….Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle” (2Thess 2:9-14).

This “operation of error” which causes men to reject the traditions and truths which they have received from God, and “to believe lying”, is also called by St. Paul “the mystery of iniquity” which “already worketh” (2Thess 2:7).” It becomes so intense towards the end of time that Our Lord says that it will have the effect “to deceive (if possible) even the elect (Mt 24:24)”. Our Lord, in fact, poses the question, “But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth (Luke 18:8)?”

We therefore ask the reader to persist (and hopefully read more than once) all that follows.

In its infallible definition of the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, The Council of Trent declares:

“If anyone saith that, in the sacred and holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of

the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood – the species only of the bread and wine remaining – which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation; let him be anathema.”

In order to understand what a contradiction this doctrine represents to reductive science, it is worthwhile to consult the enemy himself. The war between scientific reductionism (atomism) and Thomistic metaphysics always comes down to the Catholic dogma of Transubstantiation. This is something little understood by Catholics, but fully comprehended by many of their enemies. Dr. Bernard Pullman, late Professor of Quantum Chemistry at the Sorbonne, wrote the following in his 1998 book The History of the Atom in Human Thought:

There remains a very specific and quite important disagreement – the most important one in the view of many – dividing Christians and the atomists. It centers on the problem of the Eucharist….As we have seen, the only reality is this theory [Atomic theory, which is the foundation of all modern science] is atoms (and void), and the perception of sense qualities derives solely from the movements of particles, which bring them in contact with our sensory organs and stimulate them. Sense qualities have no independent existence per se. When a substance (bread or wine) disappears, all that is left of these qualities are names. Borrowing the language of Democritus, we might say that they exist only ‘by convention.’ Under these conditions, while sensory effects are produced by atoms, the persistence of these effects in the consecrated wafer implies, of necessity, the persistence of the atoms of the bread. The substance remains, therefore, bread, squarely in contradiction with Church dogma.” (p. 93-95).

The almost universal rejection of Catholicism by “eminent” scientists is therefore not the product of some sort of undefined indifferentism, but rather a very specific necessity of their “science,” which requires rejection of the intellectual contents of Catholic Dogma. And, of course, this rejection is not restricted to the Dogma of Transubstantiation. The Theory of Evolution, for instance, leaves no room for such doctrines as those which posit an original state of Justification for Adam and Eve, the fall of that “Nature” through Original Sin, restoration through Sanctifying Grace, and all the rest of Catholic doctrine which so profoundly relies on the concepts of substantial being and nature, as being distinct from accidental being.

For now, however, we shall focus on the absolute opposition which exists between the theory of reductive “Atomism” and the Catholic Dogma of Transubstantiation. We need point out from the beginning of our discussion concerning this subject that it makes little difference whether one makes the ultimate constituents of all physical things to be atoms, sub-atomic particles, quanta, superstrings, or whatever. In all of these instances, we are dealing with a theory which reduces physical realities to quantification or measurement (at least theoretically). In other words, we face a worldview which reduces everything which exists and happens in this world to a causation which is this world itself. It is a world that is totally self-enclosed, self-caused, and self-explainable. This is diametrically opposed to the Catholic worldview, which sees God not only as having created everything from nothing, but which sees everything in this world as being sustained every moment of its existence by this same creative power of God

We also realize that we have already used two “metaphysical” terms in the definition of the Council of Trent which might pose a threat for some readers: “substance” and “species” (or, as they are more commonly called: “accidents” – which is the term we will employ for the rest of this article). This need not be so, since these terms are simply time-honored terms of genuine Catholic philosophy which, as we intend to show, embody very common-sense concepts of our understanding of reality And what is equally important, since these terms are used in this Dogma in such a way as to apply to how bread and wine are composed as physical substances, what these terms signify must also apply to all physical things in their physical constitution. It is here, in its understanding of all physical reality, and in its understanding of the nature of every physical thing created by God from nothing (the Catholic Dogma Creation Ex Nihilo), where the Catholic Faith stands opposed to the whole world. And it is here where, as we shall see, the vast majority of Catholic minds and hearts (as well as the minds and hearts of virtually everyone else in the civilized world) have been invaded by a poison which is always in the process of eating away at the substantial foundations of their faith.

The word “metaphysics” is the third term which might be intimidating. Most people probably tend to go “blank” when this term is mentioned, and view it as a sort of undefined realm where philosophers deposit things they do not understand. They would certainly believe that it has little or nothing to do with the real physical world. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Metaphysics is the most rigorous of sciences. It deals with the foundations of the substantial reality of all the real world around us.

Metaphysics is defined as the “science of being, considered simply as being”. The word itself is a composition derived from two Greek roots: meta, meaning “beyond” or “after”; and physika, meaning “physical.” But its actual meaning is derived from Aristotle’s philosophical works. After treating of “Physics” – the analyzable and quantifiable aspects of physical things – Aristotle went on to treat of the deeper realities of things (including physical things) which take us beyond quantification and measurement, and therefore beyond all the various analytical empirical sciences. The word “metaphysics” literally means, therefore, “beyond physics.” However, we must be very clear from the beginning of our inquiry that this does not at all mean that metaphysics deals exclusively with things that are beyond the “physical.” In fact we shall begin by stating this primary principle: From the standpoint of the philosopher, if one does not understand the metaphysical being of created things, one is incapable of understanding the substantial nature of any created substance whatsoever. We have already seen this to be true in our examination of John Horgan’s book, The End of Science.

The first thing we need to know about metaphysics, therefore, is that the word itself is dedicated to a science which establishes the truth that no physical substance is reducible to analysis by any physical science. In other words, there is something “beyond” analytical physics, chemistry, etc. in the very composition of every physical substance itself.

Such a notion should be immediately thrilling to any Catholic, and provide a very strong incentive to look into this subject further. The very idea that there is something “transcendent” (in the sense of “transcending” physical analysis and quantification) as the defining essence of every created substance shatters all scientific reductionism and opens up our entire world to the presence of the supernatural. It restores divine poetry (and every other true form of beauty and goodness) to the world. Metaphysics is, in other words, the gateway to the supernatural. It is the gateway to the good, the beautiful, and the true. I therefore ask some patience from the reader while we explore the various steps in this metaphysical journey.

Finally, it might well be a temptation for the reader to pose the question: “Why should we need all this ‘metaphysics stuff’?” After all, for the first 1,200 years of Christianity, the Catholic world did just fine without Thomistic metaphysics. Peter and Paul and the rest of the apostles converted whole nations without it, and we have already admitted that work of the Holy Spirit was much more effective through them than it is now.

In answer to this objection, we only need to point out that the minds and hearts of the people during these centuries had not been assaulted by the reductive scientific thinking with which our modern minds and hearts are poisoned. The world was not a closed-in, materialistic, scientifically explainable, self-caused place. It was full of mystery. This is precisely why paganism was rampant. The very trees, mountains, rivers, and animals, for these people, were inhabited by other-worldly spirits. They were contaminated with superstition and sometimes immense evil, but their minds were open to the supernatural. At the very least, they possessed enough sense of reality to know that their idols could not lie in the reductive constructs of their own materialistic minds.

It is to Thomistic metaphysics that we must turn in order to free us from both the materialism of modern reductive science, and the Paganism which has now re-emerged with vengeance as a reaction to the suffocating spiritual vacuum which has been the over-riding fruit of the scientific enterprise.

 

Thomistic Metaphysics

And the Restoration of the Supernatural

It has often been said that the Church embraces no particular philosophy as her own. This is absolutely false. Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical on St. Thomas titled Studiorum Ducem, wrote:

We so heartily approve the magnificent tribute of praise bestowed upon this most divine genius that We consider that Thomas should be called not only the Angelic, but also the Common or Universal Doctor of the Church; for the Church has adopted his philosophy for her own.

And Pope St. Pius X, in his encyclical on the Angelic Doctor, wrote:

“We therefore desired that all teachers of philosophy and sacred theology should be warned that if they deviate so much as a step, in metaphysics especially, from Aquinas, they exposed themselves to grave risk.” (Pius X, Doctoris Angelici).

The Council of Trent’s definition of the doctrine of Transubstantiation is taken almost verbatim from Thomas’ writing on this subject (ST. III, Q. 75, A.4). In his encyclical Aeterni Patris (On the Restoration of Christian Philosophy, 1879), Pope Leo XIII wrote the following:

“The ecumenical councils, also, where blossoms the flower of all earthly wisdom, have always been careful to hold Thomas Aquinas in singular honor. In the Councils of Lyons [1274], Vienna [1311-1313], Florence [1439], and the Vatican [1869-1870] one might almost say that Thomas took part and presided over the deliberations and decrees of the Fathers, contending against the errors of the Greeks, of heretics and rationalists, with invincible force and with the happiest results. But the chief and special glory of Thomas, one which he has shared with none of the Catholic Doctors, is that the Fathers of Trent [1545-1563] made it part of the order of conclave to lay upon the altar, together with sacred Scripture and the decrees of the supreme Pontiffs, the Summa of Thomas Aquinas, whence to seek counsel, reason, and inspiration.” (22).

There is therefore no question but that the metaphysics of St. Thomas Aquinas is absolutely integral to the Church’s Dogma of Transubstantiation.

As we have seen, it is this doctrine which is the great sign of contradiction to modern science and scientists. And it is the metaphysical distinction between “substance” and “accidents” (or “species”) which is at the heart of this conflict.

Both Aristotle and St. Thomas establish that there exist ten fundamental categories of being: one category of substantial being, and nine categories of accidental being..

Substance is a reality which is “suited to exist as itself, and not as the mark, determinant, or characteristic of some other thing.” We can immediately perceive that there is only one category of substance since all those things which we consider as substance fit under this definition.

Accidents, on the other hand, are realities “which are not suited to exist as themselves, but exist as the mark, determinant, modification, or characteristic of some other thing, and ultimately of a substance.” There are nine categories of accidents: quantity, quality, relation, action, passion, place, time, posture, habit. We can now see why we must be very careful to distinguish scholastic usage of the word “accidents” from its modern English connotations. Accidents are real being, and are not something to be considered “accidental”, unimportant, or non-essential to our understanding of created things. Accidents are said to inhere in substance. Substance is said to “stand under” the accidents of which it is the subject.

If this seems to be getting too complicated, then we should realize that what Aristotle and St. Thomas have put into philosophical terminology is simply common sense. We know that somehow the mature tree possesses identity with the seed or seedling, despite the fact that there have been innumerable “accidental” but very real changes in its being. The only way of explaining this “substantial” identity in the midst of all this change is to philosophically and scientifically posit this distinction between substantial and accidental being. Without this distinction the whole concept of substantial reality is lost, not only to science, but also to simple human experience and values. All notion of substantial reality becomes lost in the ever present reality of change.

At the same time, this real distinction between accidental and substantial being is equally important for us to explain change in the midst of permanence. This is a philosophical problem which paralyzed much of Greek Philosophical thinking up to Aristotle. Such philosophers as Xenophanes, Parmenides, and Zeno taught that all change was an illusion (only immutable Being was real – shades of philosophical Hinduism)), while the philosopher Heraclitus taught the equally absurd doctrine that only change was real – there is no stability or substantiality to anything.

This problem with explaining the relationship between substantial permanence and real change does not, however, reach to the depths of the folly of pre-Aristotelian Greek philosophy. What this philosophy effected was a profound intellectual and spiritual disorder within the soul of Western man, a disorder which has plagued Christianity throughout its 2,000 year history, and which can now be seen to be very much a cause and precursor of modern reductive science. Therefore, it will be much to our advantage to spend some time in examination of this disorder in order to facilitate understanding of its Thomistic remedy.

 

The Greek Perversion

It is part of the intellectual accoutrement of every American school boy and girl that much of what constitutes the modern values which we hold most dear – freedom, democracy, the primacy of respect due to the individual rather than the collective, and the real beginnings of what we recognize as rational thought and philosophy – began with the Greeks. Somehow, according to this popular perspective, it all boils down to the idea that what we owe to the Greeks is some deep internal change within the mind and heart of man by which science began its long march of triumph over superstition.

All serious historians of science and its affects upon modern thought conclude that it all began with the “Greek miracle” over 2500 years ago, specifically with the philosopher Thales and the Milesian School . It is quite wrong to place these early Greek philosophers in a category which only perceives their errors and naivety. What began with them was something radically new and different. It consisted in a proposal to the human spirit that truth was to be found only in that which human reason could discover and confirm. Daniel-Rops put it this way:

Athens and Jerusalem are the epitome of two contradictory attitudes of the spirit: one calls only on the intellect for an explanation of the world, of life, and of man, while the other relies exclusively on faith to reach the same ultimate goal. In the fifth century B.C., these two paths are pursued independently, totally oblivious to each other. They will eventually collide…; the ultimate showdown was to build up through a lengthy journey across history.”

All of this is true enough. Yet, this explanation does not truly penetrate to the real depths of what its admirers call the “Greek Miracle,” but which in fact is more appropriately called the “Greek Inversion” (which is at the same time a profound perversion).

Virtually all of the early Greek philosophers practiced one form or another of a very strange scientific reductionism. Imagine, for instance, gazing at two very different things standing next to one another – let us say, the extraordinary thing that is a fully flowering peach tree and a very large boulder – and concluding that the substantial natures of both of these things are reducible to water. You would then have the “science” of the Greek philosopher Thales. Or, picture a large substantial thing called an elephant, and imagine that its substance is entirely reducible to air, and you would have the science of Anaximenes. Finally, but certainly not exhausting the list, imagine that all things, including water and ice, are reducible to fire, and you have the Greek Perversion as practiced by Heraclitus.

Now, we should realize that something truly extraordinary and perverted has happened to the intellectual soul of man in order for him to do such a thing – something on the scale of that original perversion and inversion by which Adam and Eve attempted to become “like gods” in replacing God as the source of the knowledge of good and evil. The one thing which we should notice that all of these “sciences” have in common is their philosophical monism – the reduction of everything in the universe to a unity of one material substance. The interesting thing is that each of these gentlemen also considered their “One” divine. Heraclitus even identified his “fire” with “logos” – the divine principle of reason in the universe. It is no wonder, therefore, that modern scientists are in pursuit of finding what many call the “God-particle”. All of this would indeed seem to be the ultimate form of that idolatry described by St. Paul in Romans 1, in which man “changed the glory of the incorruptible God” into the likeness of created things. The significant difference, however, is that these new objects of man’s “glorification” are not the idols of birds, beasts, and snakes which we associate with the Old Testament concept of idolatry, but rather idols concocted of his own ideas, conceptualizations, and quantifications. Idolatry, in other words, has been fully internalized, and in this process the entire cosmos has been inverted.

The roots of this fundament inversion – this turning of everything upside down – lie in what might be called a fundamental “philosophical idolatry”: the identification of accidental reality with substance. This might at first be a little difficult to see. Water, for instance, is not an accident, but rather a real substance. But science (or the reductive philosophy that accompanies it) never knows water as water, just as it never knows man as man or atom as atom. If Thales had really known water as water he would never have tried to make it into a peach tree or a boulder. Science can only know the quantification (and the other 8 categories of accidental being) of a thing. Pythagoras, because of this inbuilt reality of the scientific method, even went so far as making “number” the substantial essence of all things. But in identifying the “scientific” analysis of accidents of things with their substantial nature – whether those accidents are of water, air, fire, number, or atoms – and in identifying the accidents of any one of these substances as the unitary substance behind all created reality, reality is perfectly inverted. Such “science” makes accidents into substance, and turns real substance into an accidental appearance for which we have no explanation except the subjectivity of our own minds. Thus we end up in that philosophical idealism which will plague Western man from Plato through all the nightmare of relatively modern Western Philosophy – from the Nominalism of Ockham to contemporary Phenomenalism.

This whole tradition of reductive analytical science can be viewed as sort of a “diabolical transubstantiation.” After engaging in such analysis, as we have noted, the products of accidental analysis remain as the real substance, and our normal perception of substantial reality is reduced to “appearances.” Analytical science then becomes the perfect Anagram of reality, in which the “word” or “logos” of God’s creation is perfectly inverted, turned upside down, and read backward. We may therefore see the “Greek Miracle” and scientific reductionism as germinating from the same force which draws a Man to say the Mass backward or invert a Crucifix.

In other words, what is effected by the Greek Perversion is not, as postulated by Daniel-Rops, merely a substitution of rational knowledge for faith. Rather, what occurs is the most profound perversion of the inner consciousness and intellect (and thus “rationality” itself) of man at a level which is bound eventually to destroy any possibility of faith in God. This, of course, is Satan’s Master Plan. He desires not only the destruction of myriads of individual souls, but also that final alteration of human consciousness which makes it impossible not only to believe in God, but even to desire Him.

In the ancient Greek world, this reductionism reached its pinnacle in the Atomism of Leucippus, Democritus and, most of all, Epicurus, who formulated a logical structure to the theory of Atomism which would remain practically unchanged for the next 2,000 years. With Atomism, philosophical Idealism is in a very real sense completed. Substance becomes totally invisible and unrelated to normal human perception, objective reality ceases to exist as something graspable by the human intellect, subjectivity and idealism triumph, and, matter replaces God as being eternal and infinite.

With some notable exceptions, Atomism was suppressed in the West by Christian realism and the power of the Church from the 1st century AD until the time of the Renaissance. Since the Renaissance consisted largely of the “reawakening” of Greek and Roman culture and thought, the reemergence of Atomism was bound to happen. It exploded upon the scene at the very beginning of the Renaissance in the person of William of Ockham. The great significance of Ockham is that his Atomism was united to his Nominalism, and thus constituted a specific attack upon the metaphysics of St. Thomas. From that point we can gaze upon an ever-increasing tide of Atomism engulfing the West – people like Bruno, Bacon, Galileo, Gassendi, Descartes, and onward through all the empiricists, phenomenologists, etc. We must also include Luther among the Nominalists – he was educated at the University of Erfurt, which was under the control of professors who were Nominalists. Luther himself detested Thomism and opted for the Nominalism of Ockham, which denied the minds ability to grasp universals and the substantial forms of real things.

The immediate victim of the Greek Inversion is the epistemological (epistemology is the branch of philosophy which deals with how we know things, and with the validity of our knowledge) health of man’s mind itself. To convince a man that what he ordinarily perceives as substantive is only subjective, and that what is truly substantive are the reductive formulations, particles, or waves of scientific analysis is to destroy the reliability and objectivity of all of man’s perception and knowledge. The ultimate victim, however, of this intellectual nightmare is faith and trust in God Himself. If God created man to see delusions, then the ultimate delusion must be the trustworthiness of God Himself and His Revelation.

What began as ambrosia for wooly-headed philosophers 2500 years ago is now the daily bread of our children. Every child in the public educational system of this country is taught a reductive scientism which produces in them a state of epistemological schizophrenia. And since one can only will on the basis of what one knows, this also results in increasingly widespread moral inversion and perversion.

If we wish to know why we have with us the wholesale destruction of what was once Christian civilization; if we wish to know why we now have the murders of millions of the unborn every year, wholesale pornography, child-abuse (and yes, priestly pedophilia), rampant homosexuality, children murdering their fellow students and teachers in school shootings, the drug problem, increased suicide rates, a vast loss of civil courtesy and honesty, the virtual total loss of all public morality, and an endless list of other evils, we need only to look at the common link that connects all these evils. Human beings and societies have simply lost that basic spirituality and rationality founded upon belief in the substantial reality of man’s natural perception, which in turn has profoundly undermined man’s ability to believe in any notion of objective, absolute Truth. Consequently, they have also lost the moral will capable of following through upon what the mind perceives to be absolutely true. This loss of mind and will is the absolutely logical fruit of a worldwide scientific “ambience” which reduces all of creation and all human beings and their activities to blind material forces. Nothing is absolute, nothing is substantial, and the human heart and mind react with confusion, despair, irrationality, perversion, and violence.

 

The Thomistic Remedy

The Greek perversion has as its root cause one fundamental metaphysical error: belief that the nature of substance is quantifiable by the human mind. It was the genius of Aristotle and St. Thomas to see that this is not the case. But such a conclusion should not have taken genius. It is really a matter of common sense. The notion, for instance, that the marvelous substance which we call water could in any way be equated with, or reduced to, a particular atomic structure is absolutely absurd. There is simply no reasonable way that the human mind can equate electrons, spinning at comparatively immense distances around protons and neutrons, with what it knows as the substance water.

But there remains one more level to be explored in our attempt to understand the metaphysical constitution of created, material substances. The proper distinction between substantial and accidental being, while freeing us from the absurdity of trying to equate substance with the end results of quantification or measurement, does not yet reveal to us what substance is in itself. It does not reach to the depths of the reality constituted by physical things. It therefore remains for us to look more deeply into the reality of substance itself.

The Thomistic-Aristotelian term which explains the nature of substance is hylemorphism, this word being composed of two Greek words (hyle and morphe), meaning matter and form respectively. In scholastic terminology, we would say that any physical substance is the union of primal matter with substantial form. The philosopher Paul Glenn offers an explanation of these two principles of any physical substance:

Now all bodies – solid, liquid, gaseous, living, non-living – are at one in this point: they are bodies. There is something, therefore, in all bodies, some substratum, some substantial principle, which is common to them: it makes bodies. There is also in bodies something substantial which distinguishes them into different species or essential kinds of bodies. By reason of the first substantial principle each body is a body; by reason of the second substantial principle each body is this essential kind of body. The first substantial principle is called Prime Matter; the second is called Substantial Form.” (The History of Philosophy, p. 90-91).

There is a point to be made here which is absolutely crucial to our discussion concerning the nature of all created things. The reader will remember that in the Aristotelian-Thomistic scheme of things there are only ten categories of being – one of substance and nine of accidents. We are now at the point of analyzing physical substance itself. We are therefore ontologically (or “metaphysically) “below” or “previous” to any category of being. Substantial Form and Prime Matter are not to be considered as in any way independent being, or as in any way “existents” previous to their union in some particular substance. Substantial Form and Primary Matter, while being totally real and necessary to our understanding of the nature of any physical thing, and of God’s creative action, are not in themselves to be considered any sort of being. They are, in the terminology of St. Thomas, principles of being. We might colloquially say, “It is how God works in His creation of things from nothing.”

And yet we know that these principles of being are absolutely necessary to our understanding of any physical thing. It is our everyday experience that when we encounter any substantial thing, we are face to face with something that must have a form which makes it what it is and not something else. A cow is a cow, and not a man or molecule of water, or a banana. Yet this form is not identifiable with anything (including atomic structure) that we can quantify, or with any of the other accidental categories of being. Nor is the problem solved by postulating any particular arrangement (the category of relation) of atoms, such as the DNA arrangements in respect to human beings. In this particular case we are still left with the reduction of the extraordinary substance that we know as a human being to the absurdity which we have already examined in our treatment of atoms and molecules. No amount of complexity of relationships involving structures which involve 99.999999999 % void can be equated with the substantial world around us.

At the same time, we also encounter the fact that this thing is “material”, and that the form itself would not exist without being informed in matter. It is therefore integral to all our knowledge of created, physical things that these two principles of being are real. And since these principles cannot be categorized as any sort of existent being, it is at this point that any created substance devolves upon God’s creation of all things from nothing. It is here that the human intellect hovers over what scripture refers to as the glorious, mysterious, hidden, and secret work of God. We must be clear, however, that these two principles of created being are not in any way to be identified with God’s Being. They are the first principles of being encountered by the human intellect within creation itself. They are fundamental principles in God’s creative action.

With these two principles, we also stand at the source of all integrity and truth in philosophical knowledge. We are at that point where the human mind assents to two truths which are absolutely essential to both human and divine integrity. These two truths are:1) that every created substance is what it is simply because God willed its creation, as such, out of nothing and, 2) that God is absolutely distinct from all created reality. These two truths are encapsulated in one absolutely defined dogma of the Catholic Faith: Creation ex nihilo. It is here where we stand upon the foundation of all true knowledge of both God and all of His Creation.

It is this wondrous, mysterious, and hidden point that human hubris finds so difficult to leave alone. There can be no creation ex nihilo if these two principles of being are denied and yet it is astounding the extent to which Christian philosophers of all sorts of stamps and denominations, who would never have admitted to denying the doctrine of God’s creation from nothing, have violated this point in their metaphysics.

Reductive science is the most destructive heresy of our times. But it is more than a heresy. It an ambience, a poisoned atmosphere, which modern man takes in with virtually every breath. This poison convinces modern man not only that material realities are reducible to accidental and quantifiable being, but it also creates that intellectual poison which convinces him that he himself is reducible to accidental properties – that his love is reducible to hormonal reactions; his aspirations for truth reducible to conditioned responses; his belief in God a neurological reaction to fear and uncertainty.

But its most destructive effect is that it eliminates that fundamental mysteriousness about life and creation which leads a person to think about and hunger after God. It suffocates the work of the Holy Spirit. This is why there is now so much indifference towards God. And this is also why, despite all the scientific and technological advance of our time, man becomes more and more confused not only as to his own nature, but also as to the nature of the smallest substance. It is not that analytical science is intrinsically evil, but rather that it is intrinsically superficial (and yet enormously seductive to the fallen human mind) simply because quantitative analysis can never touch or understand the nature of any substance created by God out of nothing.

This is the world that science has built, and it is the world which now faces a decay and dissolution which will make any previous holocaust appear miniscule. The “scientific” experiments of Communism and Nazism are only mild precursors and foreshadowers of what is yet to come unless the hold is broken upon this “Brave New Scientific World,” and we return to a truly Christian civilization, which achieved perfection of intellectual expression in the great synthesis of St. Thomas Aquinas.

 

Science: The Engine of Destruction

One of the great, collective delusions of both the so-called “conservative” and “traditional” Catholic worlds is the prevalent view that the accomplishments of the West in regard to science, technology, etc. are the glorious fruits of Catholicism, and its embrace of rationality as the handmaid of Faith and Revelation. Few seem to even consider the possibility that true Catholic rationality demands a profound poverty of spirit in relation to any scientific endeavor, a devotion to both material and intellectual humility, and a commitment to material and technological asceticism, etc. No one seems to consider, in other words, that the “Goddess of Reason” which Western Culture has embraced, with its scientific and technological revolutions, represents a profound decay in Catholic civilization. It represents the “worm within”, which has caused the profound destruction of the Christian world which is now upon us. It is not a true reflection of the Holy Spirit of Wisdom, but rather the offspring of that original sin which also sought a knowledge which was prostitute to the temptation of Satan to be “like Gods.”

All this brings us to the third point mentioned above: that the scientific enterprise has predominantly been employed for destruction– in war against both man and God.

There are several good books which delineate the unholy marriage between scientists and mass slaughter of human beings down through history. Possible the best is titled Science Goes to War: The Search for the Ultimate Weapon, from Greek Fire to Star Wars, by Ernest Volkman. It represents a fascinating and terrifying exploration of the degree to which science and scientists, over thousands of years of human history, have been the concubines of the god of War. The Twentieth Century represented, of course, the great zenith of this holocaust conducted by science and “scientific materialism” (which, appropriately, was an often-used name for Communism) against human dignity. The list of such scientific achievements in the torture and murder of human beings during the last century is almost endless.

But it has been so, to varying extents, from the beginning. Let us take, for instance, the example of Alexander the Great, considered by many to be the greatest conqueror of all time. Alexander the Great is famous for establishing the great Library in Alexandria, Egypt. But what is little known is that this Library was actually part of the Museion which, in the words of Volkman, was centered upon the creation of “the penultimate scientific research institute that would join Western and Eastern science in an effort to solve all practical problems of running the Greek Empire and ensuring that it remained supreme over all possible competitors. Its mandate included engineering, navigation, astronomy, geography, road-building, determining land boundaries – and the machines of war….All living expenses of the scientists working at the Museion were underwritten by the state. They learned that they could hardly think of a line of research that would not be funded if it had anything to do with benefitting the state [and especially improving the engines of war], there was a certain guarantee that the state would throw money at it.”

And, it has been the same ever since. Scientific research and the development of its technology always demands an immense amount of money and resources, and the State supplies. Political power- Money- Science-War – these are the Four Horses of the War against Man and Human Dignity. As Heraclitus said, “War is the Father of all things.”

Inevitably, and even right from the beginning, this war against man evolved into a War against God. Scientific reductionism, as we have seen, immerses the human mind in accidental analysis, which inevitably creates the poisoned world-view which identifies substantial reality with the fruits of such reductive analysis. And since accidental being is the basis of all change, then Being becomes identified with Becoming, and God as an Immutable Being must die. Man thus loses his moorings in both the substantial being of created things and in his relationship to the Absolute Being of God. He becomes lost in phenomena. As a philosopher in the modern world he is forced into Nominalism, Empricism, Kantianism, Phenomenalism, Personalism, Modernism, or any of a host of idealistic and subjectivist philosophies by which man is forced to retreat into himself, and away from objective, absolute truth. And this spiritual retreat also necessarily devolves into rejection of any belief in an immutable Natural Law.

All this came home to roost in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Virtually no “serious” philosopher or scientist could hold to Thomistic metaphysics. And if they stayed in the Catholic Church during the 16th or 17th centuries it was usually more from fear of being burned at the stake than because of any faith they still possessed.

Let us briefly look at four famous scientists who, it is often claimed, were “deeply religious men.” We will begin with Galileo.

Scientists will often attempt to dismiss Catholicism using what could be called a “polemical shortcut” – arguing that they cannot have anything to do with a Church that once condemned Galileo and his heliocentrism. As a consequence, an immense volume of Catholic literature and apologetics has issued forth from Catholic pens attempting to justify the Church’s condemnation, make excuses for it, or apologize for it. Such authors fail to comprehend the much deeper issues at stake here in regard to science and faith. Nor do they comprehend the depths of Galileo’s own infidelity.

Recent research in the Vatican archives, resulted in discovery of a document that clearly showed Galileo’s rejection of Transubstantiation. Under the power of his own reductive atomic science, there could no longer exist a real distinction between substance and accidents. It was the contention of Pietro Redondi, in his 1998 book Galileo Heretic, that the real motive for the Holy See’s condemnation of Galileo was his heretical views regarding the Eucharistic Presence, and his rejection of Transubstantiation. Whatever merits one might ascribe to this theory, we cannot deny the almost infinitely greater consequences of such a heresy to the Catholic Faith. Such reductionism in the microcosmic realm, dealing as it does with the very nature of substantial reality itself, is vastly more destructive to Catholic faith than any errors or misunderstandings which might ensue upon rejection of geocentrism. Any honors that the Church now bestows upon Galileo can therefore only be viewed as a self-inflicted wound to Her own integrity.

The delusion endemic among Catholics in regard to the alleged “compatibility of Faith and Science,” is inevitably associated with attempts to offer us instances of “good Catholic scientists.” For instance, in the pre-Vatican II Catholic textbooks for children, Pasteur is often extolled as the premier example of the really great “Catholic” scientist. A serious study of his life, however, reveals that he came to be a modern type of Siger of Brabant, embracing a two-truth epistemological position – one truth for religion and one for science, each in contradiction with the other. Towards the end of his life he quit frequenting the sacraments.

Newton is our third example of a scientist whom Catholic sycophancy has often embraced as a “scientist who believed in God.” Yes, he did believe in God, but it was not our God. Newton was an Arian who totally rejected Christ as God, and considered worship of Christ to be idolatry. For a Catholic to therefore consider him as some sort of spiritual fellow-traveler is simply self-deception.

Finally, we cannot leave this subject without examining the case of Einstein who, in one of his most famous quips, stated, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” He is also credited with quotes about the mysteriousness of the universe requiring intelligence in its origins. But this “intelligence” has nothing to do with a personal God. The following two quotes are from his letters:

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”

“I believe in Spinoza’s God [Spinoza was a pure Pantheist] who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”

This dissolution of Einstein’s intellectual world extended to his moral life, which included divorce and remarriage, abandonment of two of his children (the first, which was conceived illegitimately before his first marriage, to adoption; the second to a sanatorium), and “serial” sexual affairs and adulteries. In The World As I See It, Einstein wrote: “There is nothing divine about morality; it is a purely human affair.” He apparently reaped the benefit of such affairs: it was the conclusion of his personal physician that he died of syphilis (see Robert Sungenis’ Galileo Was Wrong, The Church Was Right, Vol. II, p. 40-48 for a more extensive treatment of this subject).

It also should be noted that Einstein’s position in regard to Catholicism proved to be a prophetic anticipation of President Barack Obama’s HHS mandate which would force Catholic institutions to provide health insurance to cover contraception Thus, the following from a 1954 letter:

“I am convinced that some political and social activities and practices of the Catholic organizations are detrimental and even dangerous for the community as a whole, here and everywhere. I mention here only the fight against birth control at a time when overpopulation in various countries has become a serious threat to the health of people and a grave obstacle to any attempt to organize peace on this planet.”

It is time that we stopped being “useful idiots” in the hands of our enemies. Catholics, for centuries, have been like frogs in the slowly warming water of this universal scientific ambience. It is now virtually impossible for them to perceive the obvious historical truth: that virtually no one could be in any sense on the cutting edge of the scientific endeavor, and remain a faithful Catholic. The practice of science is a vortex which almost inevitably drowns the Catholic intellect. Nor is this effect exclusive to only the Grand Poobahs of science. The world hangs on every word and attitude of the Magi of science, and it reflexively (even if more slowly) absorbs the rejection of the Christian Faith which is the necessary consequence of their Gnosticism. And if some particular scientist does attempt to hold to both science and faith, science almost inevitably ends by being the victor in an even more diabolical manner: through subtle or not-so-subtle distortions and dilutions of his faith. Such constitutes the history of the relationship between science and Christianity over the past several-hundred years.

In other words, the War against God which is integral to scientific reductionism goes much deeper than the seemingly inevitable loss of faith of individuals. As I have said, in rejecting Thomistic metaphysics and embracing the fruits of accidental analysis, scientists and philosophers become immersed in a world which replaces the concept of being with that of becoming. They consequently become the Magi and inculcators of Gnostic- evolutionism in every sphere of human thought and belief. And in so doing, they become the declared enemy of all that is Absolute – Revelation, Dogma, the very idea of a fixed human nature, and God Himself. Such Gnosticism is thus the true spiritual descendant of the Museion of Alexander the Great, and the inevitable fruit of the scientific enterprise itself.

The scientific quest which was initiated by original Sin finds its ultimate expression today in the efforts of genetic engineering to totally transform human nature itself. Under an umbrella of associated names and movements – which is probably best designated by the popular term Transhumanism – it promotes goals such as the following: the overcoming of human disease and even mortality, the uploading of human intelligence and moral consciousness into machines and robots, total access to “rewriting” any part of the human genetic code, the synthetic “writing” of an entirely new genetic code, etc. In other words, the “Scientific Enterprise” believes that it is now on the threshold of gaining full control over what is conceived as the evolutionary process itself, and of enabling man to become “like Gods,” – even to the point of creating “post-humans.” This point of radical transformation in human history and evolution has even been given a name: “Singularity.”

We must not make the mistake of believing that all of this resides only in the world of science fiction. The Museion of Alexander the Great finds its logical fruition in Singularity University, named precisely in honor of, and belief in, this radical transformation. The founding of Singularity University was hosted by NASA in 2007. Its facilities are at NASA’s Research Park in the Silicon Valley, CA. Raymond Kurzwell, co-founder of Singularity University was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Bill Clinton. This is now a main-stream, government-associated agenda.

In looking at the website of Singularity University, one discovers that their oft-repeated mantra is exponential technology, which is, of course, the evolutionary engine by which they expect to transcend the present limitations of humanity. It is clear, even from a purely biographical and historical study of science and scientists, as I have sketched above, that exponential technology effects a corresponding exponential loss of the ability not only to understand the revealed Truths of God, but also Natural Law itself. This makes it to be a Draconian threat to man’s future.

For instance, it was, for many centuries of Christian civilization, a matter of basic moral synderesis concerning the conduct of warfare, embraced by virtually all, that direct killing of innocent civilians was morally unacceptable. In World War I, the civilian casualty rate was 10 %. In World War II, conducted with an exponential growth in science and weaponry, it was 60 %. And lest we are tempted to attribute this loss of basic moral fiber exclusively to Hitler and Nazism, we need only remember Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the fire-storm, phosphorous bombing of civilians in such cities as Tokyo (80,000), Dresden (130,000), Hamburg (80,000), and other German cities, – all this perpetrated by “civilized” western democracies. The civilian casualty rate in all wars conducted since 1980 is now reputed to be 80%. This is just one area which demonstrates that any real, active sense of the natural law diminishes with the growth of science and technology.

In order to provide even more clarity, let us look at the issue of pro-life, specifically from the perspective of the concept of “exponential growth” of human knowledge. In recent decades there has occurred an exponential growth in science and technology in relation to contraception, abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, etc. – everything involved in the destruction of unborn human life. At the same time, however, there has also been an exponential growth in revelation (I won’t say “understanding,” because the “revelation” has been largely rejected) to scientists concerning the facts of embryonic development (think of the models of embryonic development popular with Pro-Life groups or the famous images and genetic information involved in the Carnegie Stages of Human Development). It is abundantly clear from this latter “scientific” knowledge that at all stages of embryonic development the “substantial form” (soul) of a human person is present. Despite this objective knowledge which is rudimentary education for any student of genetics, we know which “exponential” has won – it was not even a real contest. Natural Law, and even obvious scientific “fact,” did not possess a ghost of a chance against the intellectual and moral disintegration which has been accomplished by the engines of science.

We now find ourselves thoroughly ensnared in a world constructed upon the foundation of scientific hubris. Every field of human endeavor – economics, politics, education, communications, recreation, and yes, religion, is enslaved and perverted by the scientific Weltanschauung. There may be little hope for the world – it would seem impossible to conceive a reversal, without total political and economic chaos. The world waxes old, enmeshed in its own sins.

But there is indeed hope for the Church and every individual who will look, see, and be converted. The definitive solution to our present crisis was given to us, in all its clarity, purity, and grace in the Thirteenth Century: through the extraordinary example of simplicity and poverty towards all the things of this world of St. Francis (including his Rule for the Third Order); and the radiant philosophy and theology of St. Thomas. This twofold grace offered a vision of the integrated life of intellect and will (truth and charity) which was to be man’s only solid defense against the rising tide of Renaissance humanism and science that was about to break upon Christian civilization. Both of these gifts from God were almost immediately compromised and distorted by Catholics, and simply denied by the world. We are now bearing the full weight of our betrayal. It is not too late, however, for the Church to revisit and embrace these gifts.

 

Mary and the Holy Spirit in Our Souls

Our Lord proclaimed, “Amen I say to you, whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter into it.” (Mk. 10:15). It is such spiritual childhood which is necessary for the fruition of the Holy Spirit and His work in our souls.

The Christian world has now waxed old and stinted through centuries of betrayal of the infinite Gifts of Our Lord in His Incarnation, Sacrifice on the Cross, and continued presence with us in the Eucharist. The accumulated “wisdom of this world” which has been absorbed into the collective consciousness of Catholics (and of course the rest of the world) through surrender to the threefold concupiscence of this world – the concupiscence of the flesh, of desire, and pride of life (especially false “science) – has produced a false “adulthood”, and a coarseness of perception in the depths of our hearts and minds which threatens the very nature of man created in the image of God and the innocence of spiritual childhood.

It is a coarseness which, no matter how much human effort we may put forth in order to live the simplicity and poverty demanded by the Beatitudes, or no matter how much we may work at regaining philosophical and theological clarity of vision in line with the teachings of St. Thomas, cannot be restored to the depths of our hearts except through extraordinary spiritual graces. It is for this reason that the last great Gift of God to fallen man is Total Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

It is only within the spiritual womb of Mary’s Immaculate Heart that modern man can be reborn into a childhood of true spiritual vision and holy desire. Mary, being the true Spouse of the Holy Spirit, is the source of all fruitfulness in the Holy Spirit, and it is in Mary’s Immaculate Heart that God has established a storehouse of graces for the End Times. It is here we may receive the grace to truly see with the eyes of faith Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. It is here that we may receive the grace to see through creation to God and His ever present action and power. And it is through such spiritual childhood to Mary that we may receive the grace to effectively believe in the truths revealed in the Book of Genesis (please see our article The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion), and all of the Truths revealed through Holy Scripture and the Church’s Infallible Magisterium: “He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord.” (Proverbs 8: 35).

Our embrace of, and surrender to, Mary in total consecration is a grace which must be received into our souls and hearts similar to the act of faith itself. It is a refuge which God has prepared for His children when the “operation of error” spoken of by St. Paul has reached such a state of universal presence in this world that the only real choice of man is between surrendering in simplicity to the childhood of God, or embracing the mock maturity of modern man grown old in service to Satan.

Total Consecration to Mary is not, however, only a one-time effort, or even just something that we renew once a year. It is a posture of mind and heart which demands our constant effort. There is a marvelous passage from the Book of Deuteronomy which encapsulates such a “work”:

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 thy eyes.” (Deut. 6: 5-8).

Our Lady needs to “move between our eyes” if she is to be truly enabled to change our hearts and minds. A once-per-year St. Louis de Montfort Consecration or the Daily Rosary, while indeed being wonderful practices, would not seem to be enough. We would like to therefore suggest that a constant devotion to the Hail Mary itself is what is needed in order that Our Lady might come to possess our whole soul, and be fully active in transforming our hearts while we are “sitting in thy house”, “walking on thy journey” (or travelling in a car), and “sleeping and rising”.

Each Hail Mary, with the simplest mental act, can be made into both a total act of consecration to Mary and a spiritual communion with Jesus. With the words “Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee”, we recognize Jesus really present within Mary through the Incarnation. With the words “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus”, we enter into Her Immaculate Heart in order to receive Jesus in Spiritual Communion. And in the second part of the Hail Mary – “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen”, we rest in this Communion and resolve never to depart from this Refuge.

Praying a Hail Mary takes less than 20 seconds. It is the golden thread of access to the graces of the Holy Spirit through Mary which can be woven into all the activities of our daily lives.

The Rosary and the Hail Mary have been minimized in the past as “mere” vocal and mentally discursive (meditational) prayer which, so it is said, must be eventually surpassed in order that we may draw nearer to God in truly affective and contemplative prayer. This is a cruel delusion – one that is immensely destructive to souls. There can be nothing more inviting to the operation of the graces of the Holy Spirit in our souls than the simple act of the will by which we continually surrender ourselves in spiritual childhood to Mary in order that we may receive Jesus Christ in the fullness of His grace and truth.

Please spread the word about the Rosary!

The Second Glorious Mystery: The Ascension

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The Second Glorious Mystery:

The Ascension

 It is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16: 7).

 

The Mystery of the Ascension is rightly viewed as the beginning of the Christian Interior Life.

For three years, the Apostles (all except Paul) walked alongside Jesus. They experienced the light and power of His presence. They heard all his teachings. They witnessed Him walking on water, turning water into wine, countless miraculous healings, raisings of the dead, and multiplication of fishes and loaves. Peter, James, and John even witnessed His Transfiguration. And yet all during this period when God was physically and visibly with them, the Gospel reveals their ignorance, their slowness to believe and understand, their competitiveness with one another, their lack of mercy and quickness to judge others, their abandonment of Jesus in the time of His sorrows and Passion, and their slowness and skepticism in believing in His Resurrection. And even after He appeared to them in the flesh after the Resurrection, they cowered in the Upper Room.

An extraordinarily different group of men burst forth from the Upper Room after Pentecost, and after the Holy Spirit had descended into their souls. The speech of fishermen became eloquent. They preached with power, and in the tongues of all the various nations. They immediately converted thousands. They raised persons from the dead, performed many miracles, and healed the sick. They converted whole nations, while treating persecution, imprisonment, and torture as naught. All of them, except St. John (and it is not because the world didn’t try), were martyred in love for Christ and their fellow man.

Christ came visibly in the flesh in order to accomplish man’s redemption on the Cross. In order that the grace of redemption might bear fruit, however, it was necessary that man be deprived of the Visible God, and baptized into the Invisible: the Interior life of the Holy Spirit. In order for this life to bear fruit, however, it is required that man, in imitation of Christ, die to this world.

As St. John explains, the fundamental fruit of original sin in human nature is a threefold concupiscence: “the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes [desire], and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). The overall effect of this threefold concupiscence is that man tends to take all that he has received from God and “consume it on his concupiscences.” In his fallen nature, he always leans towards taking that which is high and dragging it down into his lower nature, consuming God’s gifts in a thousand subtle and deceptive ways, and transforming them into every conceivable form of self-love. In so doing, he becomes a spiritual adulterer who chooses to become a “friend of this world” at the price of being “an enemy of God,” (James 4: 3-4). It is for this reason that it is not only “expedient” that Christ be not visibly with us, but that He also deprive us of many consolations, and not alleviate many of our sufferings. At the end of Mary of Agreda’s visions concerning the Mystery of the Ascension, Our Lady says to her:

It is in conformity with the inclinations of His Holy and Perfect Will to regale rather than afflict creatures, to console them rather than cause them sorrow, to reward them rather than to chastise them, to rejoice rather than grieve them. But mortals ignore this Divine Science, because they desire from the hands of the Most High such consolations, delights and rewards, as are earthly and dangerous, and they prefer them to the true and more secure blessings. The Divine Love then corrects this fault by the lessons conveyed in tribulations and punishments. Human nature is slow, coarse and uneducated; and if it is not cultivated and softened, it gives no fruit in season, and on account of its evil inclinations, will never of itself become fit for the most loving and sweet intercourse with The Highest Good. Therefore it must be shaped and reduced by the hammer of adversities, refined in the crucible of tribulation, in order that it may become fit and capable of The Divine gifts and favors and may learn to despise terrestrial and fallacious goods, wherein death is concealed.”

St. Paul writes: “But the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God.”   (1Cor. 2:14). And St. James writes: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners: and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8). What can it mean for God to “draw nigh” unto us except that He answers our prayers and heals our wounds? The work of the Spirit of God within us depends on our not being sensual and double minded. Again, the Apostle James: “You ask, and receive not; because you ask amiss; that you may consume it on your concupiscences.” (Ibid. 4:3).

When, therefore, we consider the present state of the Church – the chaos which exists in relation to such things as the perversions and duplicity of many in the hierarchy, clerical abuse, bad catechetics, widespread denial and perversion of Catholic doctrine – and when we also consider what has seemed to be the ineffectiveness of all our prayers in bringing any sort of solution to this crisis – we should honestly ask ourselves, Why? Pope St. Gregory the Great taught that, “Divine Justice provides Shepherds according to the just desserts of the faithful.” In view of the present crisis among our shepherds, we should therefore logically first ask, “What duplicity, what base sensuality and pride of life, what sort of immersion and attachment to the things of this world, has brought us to such a state that we deserve this sort of punishment and chastisement?

There is a kind of satanic dialectic in the progression of sin in this world which is leading us (and Catholics are very much participants in this dialectic) towards the final ascension of the Antichrist to power. It is similar in many ways to the dialectic which exists in the realm of politics. It might help our understanding of how this dialectical process works if we spend a moment examining this comparison.

One hundred years ago, any Republican who was a Federal representative or senator would have claimed to be “conservative” just as Republicans do now. Back then, this almost universally required a firm public stance against all artificial contraception, against abortion in all cases, against all divorce, against promiscuity, and against homosexuality. The idea of “gay marriage” would have been something so absurd as to not even be a subject for debate. As the world waxed more towards anti-Christian principles in the following decades, the same Republican Party was of course able to continue calling itself “Conservative” (which of course many Catholics equate with “Christian), because the Democratic Party was always two steps ahead of it in its embodiment of the principles of Antichrist. But now we have a Republican Party which is almost universally pro-contraception, weak and divided on abortion (with virtually all members of the senate and congress being pro-abortion in some cases), accepting of divorce, and now increasingly accepting of homosexuality and gay marriage. And yet these members of the senate and congress are still able to call themselves “Conservative”, and even “Christian”. Meanwhile, their leader and President, who claims to be a Christian, proudly proclaims that he has never asked God for forgiveness and has no need to do so.

A very similar process of decay has occurred in Catholic belief and practice. In our article on the First Sorrowful Mystery we quoted all sorts of statistics in regard to current Catholic beliefs concerning abortion, contraception, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, etc., and reached the conclusion that apparently over 80% of Catholics now receive Holy Communion sacrilegiously.

It is therefore tempting for us whose beliefs remain in accord with the traditional doctrine of the Church on these crucial doctrines and moral teachings to assume the posture of the “remnant” who are faithful to Christ, and therefore hopefully assured of salvation. After all, we can rightly claim that we are guilty of none of these individual mortal sins. And we therefore feel fully justified in pointing our fingers at others – those bad members of the hierarchy, or those Catholics who are in explicit denial of the Catholic Faith and its moral teachings.

The question needs to be asked, however, whether there is not a deeper and more all-pervasive adultery to this world existing even among those of us who might consider ourselves faithful Catholics – an adultery which, while not involving guilt in regard to any one of the mortal “sins of the flesh” mentioned above, nor being guilty of rejection of any doctrine of the Faith, has yet sunk us so deeply into the pleasures, possessions, pretentions, and preoccupations of our modern world so as to have it constitute a form of the most severe duplicity towards God. In other words, we also need to ask whether such duplicity can exist even within the souls of those who might pride themselves on fully accepting all of the Catholic Faith, who attend Mass regularly, pray the Rosary daily and participate in all sorts of Catholic devotional practices, including Eucharistic Adoration. Is it possible that even in the midst of so much Catholicity, our hearts might be far from God, and that this is why our requests and prayers to God go unfulfilled? We quote again the words of St. Paul: “But the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God.” Is it possible that through the dialectical process of cultural decay working upon our minds and hearts over the past decades, and even centuries, we have become so immersed in our lower natures through compromise with the sensuality and affluence of the modern world, that it has become virtually impossible that God should draw nigh to us and answer our prayers?

In order to help us answer this question, we wish to offer here an analysis of just one example of such immersion of Catholics in the sensuality and paganism of the modern world. It involves that event which is surely the largest simultaneous and collective mass-descent of persons in this country (including Catholics) into the crudity, vulgarity, and luxury of man’s lower appetites. It occurs this coming year on February 3, 2019, one day after the next Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church. It is the Super Bowl.

It is estimated that in 2018, 188.5 million adult American viewers of the Super Bowl spent 15.3 billion dollars on this event (National Retail Federation). This expenditure included everything from the tickets, travel, hotel, and other expenses incurred by those who actually attended the game, to home TV- parties, attendance at bars and restaurants, etc. in order to view and party during the game. It does not include the expenses of the event itself. Each 30 second commercial, for instance, cost 5 million dollars, and it is estimated that the insurance alone for the Half-Time event cost 100 million dollars.

None of these statistics touch on what interior states of mind and heart motivate such massive enthusiasm and passion for this event. We leave that up to the self-examination of those who participate. There of course can be nothing spiritually elevating in it. It was the Roman poet Juvenal who said that, in the age of the decline of Roman civilization, the people were kept from revolution by providing them with “bread and circuses”. The word “circus” is defined as a “large, oblong, unroofed enclosure used for performances and contests”.

What we do know with a certain amount of accuracy is that 815 million people in the world will go to bed hungry that same Sunday night, and that the next morning 66 million primary school-age children will attend classes hungry in the so-called “developing world”. It is estimated by the WFP (World Food Program) that it would take 3.2 billion dollars per year to insure that these children were fed. This tallies out to the fact that what is spent by consumers on just one Super Bowl would eliminate hunger for all of these 66 million children for slightly less than 5 years.

We also know from statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that, worldwide, 780 million people do not have access to an improved water source, and that 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation, and that because of these privations, 801,000 children under the age of 5 die from diarrhea each year. Meanwhile, according to Nielsen statistics, Americans spent 1.3 billion dollars on beer and cider, 979 million on soft drinks, and 597 million on wine for consumption during the 2018 Super Bowl.

St. Paul writes, “For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die”. (Romans 8: 13). The Super Bowl, while indeed seeming to represent that event which constitutes the most massive and communal descent of Americans into the world of the flesh, is of course only one example of our profound abandonment of that poverty of spirit (and of the flesh) which is the First of the Beatitudes, and the foundation of all spiritual life. This abandonment of the Christian spirit of poverty exists everywhere in developed countries, and in all the various facets of our lives – in economics, in our massive and suffocating system of usury, in all the various forms of money speculation (including the stock market), in the way we recreate and entertain ourselves, in every sector of advertizing, selling, buying, and consumption, and even in such sacramental occasions such as marriages and funerals. We are as immersed in this anti-Christian spirit as fish are in water.

The Gospel demands simplicity both in regard to our living in this world, and simplicity of intention towards God: “If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome.” (Mt. 6: 22). The Christian interior life can only exist where there is exterior mortification. It may indeed be difficult for any of us to see how we can possibly reverse our present immersion in this world “which is an enemy of God”. However, if we do not set our foot on the path of return it is impossible to believe that God will honor our prayers for purification of the Church, no matter how many Masses we offer, Rosaries we pray, or hours we spend in Adoration Chapels.

We therefore propose as a beginning, that all faithful Catholics absolutely resolve not to participate in any way in the upcoming Super Bowl. We cannot expect Our Lord to answer our prayers as long as we continue to participate in such a thing.

We ask that all Catholics participate in, and promote, the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church on the Feast of the Purification and Presentation, February 2, 2019. We are also asking that people copy off the one-page Handout promoting this event, which is available here: http://rosarytotheinterior.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Handout.pdf, and distribute these at every Catholic venue conceivable – parish churches, Rosary Marches, Catholic Conferences, etc.

In addition, we ask that each person consider the following:

 

 Lord, What Wilt Thou Have Me to Do?

After Our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven, and during the nine days preceding the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Mary and the Apostles and other faithful gathered in the Cenacle in prayer. The following is taken from Mary of Agreda concerning this “Novena”:

“They were so unanimous and united in charity, that during all these days none of them had any thought, affection or inclination contrary to those of the rest. They were of one heart and soul in thought and action…into this holy congregation no discord found entrance, because they were united in prayer, in fasting and in the expectation of the Holy Ghost, who does not seek repose in discordant and unyielding hearts. In order that it may be inferred, how powerful was this union in charity, not only for disposing them toward the reception of the Holy Ghost, but for overcoming and dispersing the evil spirits, I will say: that the demons, who since the death of the Savior had lain prostrate in hell, felt in themselves a new kind of oppression and terror, resulting from the virtues of those assembled in the Cenacle. Although they could not explain it to themselves, they perceived a new terrifying force, emanating from that place, and when they perceived the effects of the doctrine and example of Christ in the behavior of the disciples, they feared the ruin of their dominion.”

Through the grace of God we may also become vessels of this “terrifying force” which is capable of driving the demons from ourselves, and out of the Church. But we must begin with ourselves: “Wherefore, Go out from them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” (2 Cor. 6: 17).

It is in such a spirit that we need to prepare for the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church. Providentially, nine days before this event, on January 25, occurs the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. While bathed in the light of Christ, and lying on the ground in confusion and humility, Paul raised his eyes heart to Christ, and said, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” (Acts 9: 6).

In a world now arrayed against us, and in the midst also of our own personal infidelities, we therefore ask that, in preparation for the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church, all of us pray a Novena of Rosaries beginning on January 25 with this simple prayer as our intention: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?

We are convinced that Our Lord does not now expect perfection in order to bless this prayer, and begin the process of our purification. He simply wants us to be honest, and to begin.

 

 

 

 

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The First Glorious Mystery: The Resurrection

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The First Glorious Mystery:

The Resurrection

 “But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21: 28)

 

The Resurrection is the Mystery of our Faith most directly tied to the theological virtue of Hope. St. Paul writes the following:

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, the firsfruits of them that sleep: For by a man came death, and by a man, the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But every one in his own order: the firstfruits Christ, then they that are of Christ, who have believed in his coming. Afterwards the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father, when he shall have brought to nought all principality, and power, and virtue. For he must reign, until he hath put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor. 15: 19-25).

Through the supernatural gift of faith we know that Christ rose from the dead. The virtue of hope on the other hand, is directed towards the future – towards our own resurrection from the dead, and the Triumph of Christ and His Mystical Body the Church over all His enemies. If we do not firmly possess this hope, then our faith itself is under severe threat. If we lose this hope, then we are bound to become, as St. Paul writes, “of all men most miserable”, for then we have also lost our faith..

During historical periods of chaos and confusion both in the world and the Church, this hope can be tried severely. We therefore must begin by repeating the words of Our Lord quoted above:

“But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21: 28).

The above-quoted words of Our Lord were spoken after He had enumerated many of the evils that can befall his faithful followers – both at the end of time, and all those situations and foreshadowings which will prefigure the final confrontation between Christ and Antichrist, and between the City of God and the City of this world.

Jesus begins, appropriately, with a warning against following any of the many false messiahs who will precede His Second Coming: “Take heed you be not seduced; for many will come in my name, saying, I am he; and the time is at hand: go ye not therefore after them.” He then proceeds to enumerate a host of other evils which might indeed, on the natural level, force us to cast our heads downwards in despair and loss of faith: wars between nations and kingdoms; earthquakes, famines, and pestilences; terrors from heaven and other great signs; persecutions; delivering up “to the synagogues and into the prisons”, “dragging before kings and governors”; betrayal by parents, brethren, kinsmen, and friends; being put to death; being hated by all men for His name’s sake. A similar list is offered in Matthew 24.

It matters little whether we choose to apply Our Lord’s words to the Apostles themselves, to the times of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D, to the crisis we now face, or to the time immediately preceding the Final Judgment. Each of these applications is legitimate because the essential truths enumerated herein apply to all generations of Christians: the world necessarily hates Christ and His followers, and will wage unceasing and accelerating war against them until the final confrontation between the Antichrist and Christ.

But it is not necessarily this list of evils, to which the Christian life is subject, which is difficult for us to accept. If we have any knowledge of the Gospel, we must know these things to be inevitable. Rather, it is the “lifting up of our heads” while we are suffering such trials that provides the greatest challenge. Every intense manifestation of the spirit of Antichrist performs its unique seduction upon the faithful of that particular period in human history. It can be easy for us now to place things in perspective that occurred in the past – “How could Judas have been so blind?” – but it can be nigh unto impossible to possess such perspective when a new form of the outpouring of evil is upon us. It can overwhelm us with the sense that what we are now seeing is something entirely new which presents an unsolvable dilemma, that our faith is a chimera, that the Church has failed, and that Christ’s promises have failed. Such is the real work of the spirit of Antichrist down through history, and thus the enormous importance of Our Lord’s words of warning and preparation.

The seduction of this spirit of Antichrist which we now face might seem the most poisonous and insidious in all of Christian history, and therefore presents an enormous temptation not only to despair, but to profound bitterness, loss of charity, schism, and sedevacantism. The following is written, hopefully, as a contribution to strengthen our faith, that we might lift our heads in the midst of the present crisis and rejoice in the promises of Christ and Our Lady.

Possibly the most mysterious passage of the New Testament is to be found in St. Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, in which he discusses the coming of the Antichrist. It reads as follows:

“And now you know what withholdeth [the coming of the Antichrist], that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way(2 Thess 2:6-7).

Irenaeus of Lyons, Tertullian, Hippolytus, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. John of Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Augustine of Hippo all agreed in seeing “he who now holdeth” to be the Roman Empire and the Caesars who ruled this empire. The Roman Empire represented the force of law (despite all its tyrannies, injustices, and immoralities) which prevented the “man of lawlessness” from ascending to power.

The pagan Roman Empire fell in 476 AD. However, the restraining force of the Roman Empire against “the man of lawlessness” did not cease. This principle of continuity in the history of the Roman Empire was delineated with perspicuity by Pope Pius IX in his encyclical Cum Catholica Ecclesia:

“It is therefore, by a particular decree of Divine Providence that, at the fall of the Roman Empire and its partition into separate kingdoms, the Roman Pontiff, whom Christ made the head and center of his entire Church, acquired civil power. Certainly, it was by a most wise design of God Himself that in the midst of so great a multitude and variety of temporal princes, the Sovereign Pontiff enjoyed political liberty, which is so necessary for him to exercise his spiritual power, his authority, and his jurisdiction over the whole world.”

In other words, the “bottom line” behind the rule of law and social order now passed from the realm of physical force into the spiritual realm – the rule of Christian Truth and Charity. This is what built Christian Civilization. And since all of this is a gift of God through His Church, which is built upon the rock of the Papacy, it is the Roman Pontiff who must be seen as the one who “witholdeth” the rise of the Antichrist.

We might be tempted to conclude that such a “taking out of the way” of the Pope should be interpreted physically, but I believe this to be an inadequate explanation. Quite a number of Popes have been taken away from Rome and/or held prisoner by precursors of the Antichrist, and yet the moral force necessary to restrain the ascension of Antichrist remained intact.

Nor can this “taking away” be meant to signify that for a period of time the Chair of Peter is unoccupied. The world has already experienced extended Papal interregnums, and these have not provided the conditions necessary for the ascension of Antichrist.

All of this should tell us that what we are dealing with here is the possibility of the interior intellectual and moral force of the Papacy being eliminated or diminished in such a way as to create a sufficiently pervasive spiritual vacuum into which the Antichrist will be able to gain entrance and ascend to power. It is this spiritual vacuum which we have detailed in previous articles concerning the philosophy and theology of Joseph Ratzinger, and the words and pastoral policies of Pope Francis. We do not intend to repeat all that here. But there is one quote from Joseph Ratzinger early writings which would seem to epitomize the extent to which the once absolutely certain intellectual and moral force of the Church and the Papacy has been reduced to a small, timid, and virtually inconsequential voice:

To say this is to imply that faith must clearly adjust itself to an intellectual pluralism that cannot ever be reversed, and within this intellectual climate must present itself as a comprehensible offer of meaning, even if it can find no prolegomena in a commonly accepted philosophical system. That means, in the end, that the meaning which man needs becomes accessible in any case only through a decision for a meaningful structure. It may not be proved, but can be seen as meaningful.” (Faith and the Future, p. 74-75)”

Can we even begin to imagine any Pope from the time of Peter up until Vatican Council II conceivably making a statement which so reeked of spiritual castration? If this was still the position of Pope Benedict XVI, then it gives ample testimony to a Papacy that was very close to being in that position of philosophical, theological, and moral bankruptcy as to constitute its having been “taken out of the way”.

This bankruptcy has been dramatically accentuated during the Papacy of Francis, not because his philosophical and theological orientation and ideas are much more radical than that of Benedict, but because Francis, unlike Benedict, is a troubadour loudly and crudely acting out these heresies and demonic errors upon the world’s stage. And, contrary to the fantasies of many Traditionalists, it is clear that Benedict approves. At the recent ceremony (June 28, 2016) featuring Pope Francis honoring Benedict on the 65th anniversary of his priesthood, Benedict stated, “Thank you, Holy Father, for your goodness, which from the first moment of your election has struck me every day of my life. We hope that you can go forward with all of us on this path of divine mercy, showing us the path of Jesus, toward Jesus, toward God.” As has been clearly revealed in Pope Francis’s statements and actions during his Papacy, this “path of mercy” is largely constituted by a silence towards Christ’s Truth, which facilitates an inclusiveness towards evil. Pope Benedict’s fulsome embrace of this agenda is proof-positive that his “hermeneutics of continuity” ultimately devolves into a simple prostitution to the evils of this world.

Concerning the “leaven” of the Pharisees, Our Lord said, “For whatsoever things you have spoken in darkness, shall be published in the light: and that which you have spoken in the ear in the chambers, shall be preached on the housetops.” The consequences of what was spoken in the darkness of Joseph Ratzinger’s philosophy and theology are now being shouted, through the words and actions of Pope Francis, from every headline, and carried on every wave of the media. It is a spiritual miasma which penetrates everywhere, and receives from a jubilant world the exclamation, “He is one of us!” – “He has been taken away!”

It is important to admit to ourselves that our present situation is without precedent in the history of the Papacy. The Church has certainly had Popes who were profoundly immoral. It has had Popes who have been wrong in their personal views in regard to some point of doctrine, or who made horrendously bad juridical decisions. But never has it had a Pope who believed that Divine Revelation was itself an evolutionary phenomenon (as does Benedict and, apparently, Francis), and who believes that a bogus mercy trumps Catholic doctrine (as Francis has explicitly expressed), and who loudly and triumphantly proclaims this to be so. We are therefore faced with a situation, which seems to have never been anticipated in all of the sermons and writings of the early Church Fathers (and others down through history) concerning the subject of the Antichrist and his rise to power – that a Pope (or Popes) could become so interiorly corrupted, philosophically and theologically, as to become the cause of his (or their) own being “taken away” as the effective intellectual and moral force which prevents the rise of Antichrist.

We wish to be quite clear in stating here that none of this amounts to predicting the immediate rise of the Antichrist. It has always been acceptable in Christian tradition to view the Second Coming of Christ as immanent, but it has always been folly to claim its immediacy. Our Lady of Fatima prophesied the Triumph of her Immaculate Heart would come first. But it is also true that St. John spoke of “many antichrists” preceding the final “man of lawlessness”, that the spirit of Antichrist has increasingly poisoned and contaminated what might loosely be called the collective and historical consciousness of humanity over the centuries, and that this present infection amounts to a huge step “forward” towards this eventual unfolding of apocalyptic prophesy.

In the latter part of the 19th century, Cardinal Henry Edward Manning gave a series of four lectures titled The Present Crisis of the Holy See: A Warning About Antichrist. While Cardinal Manning did not at all seem to anticipate the present interior crisis of the Papacy (or that such a crisis was possible), he did indeed understand that the “one who holdeth” was the Pope:

We have now come nearly to a solution of that which I stated in the beginning, namely, how it is that the power which hinders the revelation of the lawless one is not only a person but a system, and not only a system but a person. In one word, it is Christendom and its head; and therefore, in the person of the Vicar of Christ, and in that twofold authority with which, by Divine Providence he has been invested, we see the direct antagonist to the principle of disorder. The lawless one, who knows no law, human or divine, nor obeys any but his own will, has no antagonist on earth more direct than n the Vicar of Jesus Christ….”

Cardinal Manning also offers the following remarkable analysis and metaphor for this process of the historical unfolding of the spirit of Antichrist:

I shall hope to show hereafter that the antagonism between two persons [between Antichrist and Christ, with the Pope as the latter’s Vicar] is an antagonism also between two societies, and that as our Divine Lord is the Head and Representative of all the truth and justice of the world from the beginning, so Antichrist, be he who or what he may, will be the head and representative of all the falsehood and wrong, which has been accumulating for these 1800 years, in the heresies, schisms, spiritual seditions, intellectual infidelities, social disorders and political revolutions of the anti-Catholic movement of the world.

“Such is the great deep upon which the Christian society of the world is resting. From time to time it has lifted itself up with preternatural power, and has made the Christian order of Europe vibrate and reel. Then again it has seemed to subside into a calm. But no one with any discernment can fail to see that it is deeper, mightier, and more widely spread now [Manning writes this in the year 1861) than ever. That this antichristian power will one day find its head, and for a time prevail in this world, is certain from prophecy. But this cannot be until ‘he who holdeth’ [the Pope] shall be taken out of the way….”

“But such is the state of the world, and to this end we are rapidly advancing. We are told that [Mount] Etna has one hundred and sixty craters, besides the two vast mouths which, joined together, form the immense crater commonly so called; on all its sides it is perforated and honeycombed by channels and by mouths, from which in centuries past the lava has, from time to time burst forth. I can find no better illustration of the state of Christendom at this moment. The Church of God rests upon the basis of natural society, on the foundations of the old Roman Empire, on the civilization of the heathen nations of the world, which for a time has been consecrated, consolidated, preserved, raised, sanctified; but beneath the Church is working continually the mystery of iniquity which already wrought in the Apostles’ time, and is culminating at this moment to its strength, and gaining the ascendency. What, I ask, was the French revolution of 1789, with all its bloodshed, blasphemy, impiety, and cruelty, in all its masquerade of horror and of mockery – what was it but an outbreak of the antichristian spirit – the lava font beneath the mountain? And what was the outbreak in 1830 and 1848 but precisely the same principle of Antichrist working beneath Christian society, forcing its way upward? In the year 1848 it opened simultaneously [in Revolutions} its many mouths in Berlin, in Vienna, in Turin, in Florence, in Naples, and in Rome itself. In London it heaved and struggled, but its time was not yet. What is all this but the spirit of lawlessness lifting itself against God and man, – the principle of schism, heresy, and infidelity running fused into one mass, and pouring itself forth wherever it can force its way, making craters for its stream wherever the Christian society becomes weak? And this, as it has gone on for centuries, so it will go on until the time shall come when ‘that which holds’ shall be taken out of the way’.”

Cardinal Manning was convinced in 1861 (157 years ago) that Christian Society, the Church, and the Papacy were experiencing attacks by the forces of Antichrist greater than ever before. In the above quote he attributes the intensity of this attack to the Church’s weakness, a weakness which he sees as mainly deriving from depriving the Pope of his temporal sovereignty, and therefore correlating to attacks from without. Cardinal Manning did not seem to anticipate the extraordinary degree to which the Church interiorly would, in the future, be found lying down in spiritual fornication with its enemies, and thus be the source of its own weakness. We need only compare the Papacy of Pius IX to that of Francis in order to understand the difference. But I think we might also conclude that, had he been living in our own time, he would have very likely perceived the providential meaning of what is now occurring with the Papacy of Pope Francis. The “lava” of Antichrist has increased geometrically precisely because the spirit of Antichrist has invaded the thinking and actions of the Pope himself. The same may of course be said of a great many others – clergy, religious, and laity – within the Church. However, there is no greater chastisement which could befall the Church than for God to allow a man to be Pope who, while prevented by God from compromising the indelible Marks of the Church, is yet primarily a natural man – seeped in philosophical and theological error, redolent with the hubris of his own agenda, rejoicing in “making a mess” [Pope Francis’ repeated exhortation to various people, and especially youth], contemptuous of those who hold firmly to absolute truth and defined dogma, enamored of a false mercy, oblivious to the primacy of the concept of God’s Rule, masquerading a false humility, and rejoicing in his own role as a world-wide game-changer.

 

“Truth Shall Be Cast Down on the Ground”

It is clearly taught in Holy Scriptures and confirmed by the unanimous teaching of the early Church Fathers that the Antichrist at the apex of his power will prevail over, and crush (Daniel 7:25), the Church, even to the point of the total suppression of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In Daniel 8: 12, we read:

And strength was given him against the continual sacrifice, because of sins: and truth shall be cast down on the ground….”

Cardinal Manning, commenting on the prophecies of Daniel, concludes:

The holy Fathers who have written upon the subject of Antichrist, and of these prophecies of Daniel, without a single exception, as far as I know, and they are Fathers both of the East and of the West, the Greek and the Latin Church – all of them unanimously – say that in the latter end of the world, during the reign of Antichrist, the holy sacrifice of the altar will cease.”

We may certainly therefore conclude that at this point the Pope is “taken away” even in the physical sense. But it is equally clear from the words of St. Paul in 2Thess 2:3-11 that there is a uniquely different sort of “taking away” of the Pope, which precedes the final triumph of the Antichrist over the Church, and enables his rise to power;

And we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of our gathering together unto him: that you be not easily moved from your sense, nor be terrified, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by epistle, as sent from us, as if the day of the Lord were at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means, for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth, and is lifted up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself as if he were God. Remember you not, that when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now you know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way. And then that wicked one shall be revealed whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth; and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, him, whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: that all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity.

We have purposely rendered the words “And then” in bold in the above passage. There is a sequence of events depicted here in which we must clearly perceive that there is a taking away of “he who now holdeth” preceding the Antichrist’s actual ascent to worldwide dominion. And, especially relevant to our present subject, there is a specific delineation of what constitutes the working of the “mystery of iniquity” that leads to this “weakening” and betrayal of the power of the Papacy which heretofore had prevented the rise to power of Antichrist:

“And then that wicked one shall be revealed whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth; and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, him, whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: that all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity.

It is “love of truth” which is here clearly proposed as the fundamental passion of the human soul which restrains the Antichrist. Jesus Christ is the Word of Truth Who is generated eternally from the Father, and therefore it only makes perfect sense that the path to Anti-Christ should be paved with betrayal of, or silence in regard `toTruth. It is this silence of Pope Francis – this interior “casting down of truth” in the name of a false mercy and inclusiveness – which now facilitates the rise of the man of lawlessness.

This does not mean that the papacy of Francis will lead directly into the reign of Antichrist. Our Lady has promised that her triumph will precede this final chastisement. But it is also true that there is a kind of collective consciousness involved in human history – especially entrenched in the memory and accumulated knowledge of humanity – which has been most profoundly poisoned over the centuries by the hubris of reductive scientific thinking, rejection of leading the life of the Beatitudes, avarice, and technological progress, and which has grown like a massive cancer within the human heart, choking off any real possibility of returning to the full Truth of Christ and the integral living of the Beatitudes. This “lava” of iniquity will likely rise again to the surface shortly after Our Lady’s Triumph, and constitute the final blasphemy and betrayal of the greatest gift of God since Our Lord’s Incarnation – the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

There will then be no recourse left except the direct intervention and victory of Christ. In regard to the present oppression and weakness of the Church, Cardinal Manning writes the following:

There is in store for the Church of God a resurrection and an ascension, a royalty and dominion, a recompense of glory for all it has endured. Like Jesus, it needs must suffer on the way to its crown; yet crowned it shall be with Him eternally. Let no one, then, be scandalized if the prophecy speak of sufferings to come. We are fond of imagining triumphs and glories for the Church on earth – that the Gospel is to be preached to all nations, and the world to be converted, and all enemies subdued, and I know not what, – until some ears are impatient of hearing that there is in store for the Church a time of terrible trial: and so we do as the Jews of old, who looked for a conqueror, a king, and for prosperity; and when their Messiah came in humility and in passion, they did not know Him.”

We must understand, however, that the treachery of the Jews – which it is now our unfortunate role to imitate – was something much more than merely looking for a triumphant and worldly God and kingdom. More deeply, it was rooted in a hypocrisy and betrayal by which God and His Gifts (including Faith itself) were seen as “monuments” to be possessed, rather than passionately and militantly believed and lived. Much of our modern “triumphalism” and Pharisaism, especially in the centuries preceding Vatican II, has been nourished by a mushrooming infidelity to the teachings of Christ (especially the Beatitudes), including the teachings of the great Popes whose absence we now lament. God gave us these men (these gifts), we largely “consumed them and their teachings in our concupiscences”, and continued to prostitute ourselves ever more deeply to the world. And it would seem that God has largely now taken the moral force of the Papacy away in chastisement of our infidelities and prostitutions. At a certain point, this will devolve upon a situation in which the Church is apparently totally crushed and defeated, and then the victory will be seen as Christ’s alone. Again, in the words of Cardinal Manning:

And from whence, I ask, is deliverance to come? Is there on earth any power to intervene? Is there any king, prince, or potentate, that has the power to interpose either his will or his sword for the protection of the Church? Not one; and it is foretold it should be so. Neither need we desire it, for the will of God seems to be otherwise. But there is One Power which will destroy all antagonists; there is One Person who will break down and smite small as the dust of the summer threshing-floor all the enemies of the Church, for it is He who will consume His enemies ‘with the Spirit of His mouth’, and destroy them ‘with the brightness of His coming’. It seems as if the Son of God were jealous lest any one should vindicate His authority. He has claimed the battle to Himself; He has taken up the gage which has been cast down against Him; and prophecy is plain and explicit that the last overthrow of evil will be His; that it will be wrought by no man, but by the Son of God; that all the nations of the world may know that He, and He alone, is King, and that He, and He alone, is God.”

The Triumph of Christ will not be attributable to any earthly king. It will, however, be also attributable to Mary who, from the beginning, has been appointed by God to crush the head of Satan (Gen. 3:15, Apoc. 12: 1). It is in the hearts of all the faithful that She, who has been appointed by God as the Co-Mediatrix of all the graces of redemption for those who are predestined in Christ, must achieve her Triumph. Just as Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and formed as the perfect God-Man within the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so it is that those who are conceived into the life of supernatural grace by the Holy Spirit in Baptism, are destined to be formed within Her Immaculate Heart to the likeness of Her Son. And this is true whether we are speaking of this time of crisis which now precedes the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary spoken of by Our Lady of Fatima, or the final Triumph of Christ at His Second Coming. Total Consecration to Mary is absolutely crucial to the triumph of Christ in our own souls over all those forces of Satan that would lead us into loss of hope. We must be schooled in the Heart of our Mother if faith, hope, and charity are to survive this current outburst of the “lava” of Antichrist upon us. And this entails that all three of these theological virtues must be wedded to the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We must believe in (the midst of) suffering, we must hope in suffering, we must possess charity in suffering.

The problem is that virtually everything in our modern culture mitigates against what Our Lady has to teach us. The very superficiality of modern life is designed to keep us thrashing away on the surface of the present crisis, rather than reaching to the depths of what is wrong. A perfect example is the current explosive revelations concerning homosexuality and abuse, and its cover-up, among members of the hierarchy, including the Papacy. We tend to think that such things as these are at the real root of what is currently wrong in the Church. We fail to understand that these egregious and disgusting sins, and their concealment, must be seen as being like cancerous ulcerations that appear on the surface of the skin, which, while certainly being extremely grave in themselves, are yet only manifestations of a much deeper and all-pervasive evil hidden within. As St. Paul writes in the first chapter of Romans, fornication, homosexuality and all such sins of the flesh are the effect of “being delivered up” to shameful affections because we have not really glorified God as God, have “detained the truth of God in injustice, and have “changed the truth of God into a lie; and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” (Romans 1: 17-32)

As pointed out in our articles on the Third and Fifth Sorrowful Mysteries, this failure to truly glorify God as Creator now comes to us in the realm of our intellects as the almost universal denial of the substantial nature of things created by God, surrender to a reductive scientific view of all created things, and the embrace of evolution – with all of this culminating in the rejection of the immutability of Truth and the infallibility of God’s revealed Truth. This is especially prevalent and dominant in the Catholic intellectual world, and therefore in the world of theologians and the Catholic hierarchy. We should therefore no more wonder at the extent of the homosexual network within the priesthood of the Catholic Church, than we should wonder that thousands of people might die of cancer from a nuclear meltdown.

But this rejection of the primacy of God and His Truth in our lives has also culminated in our present “cultural Catholicism” which is profoundly duplicitous in believing that we can serve both God and Mammon. This is a vast subject, which was dealt with in our article on The Third Joyful Mystery: The Birth of Jesus. The Gospel, and especially the Beatitudes, demands a poverty towards all the things of this world. Without this poverty, and in the context of our possessing fallen natures whose inclination is always to descend into the “concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2: 16), we are bound to pursue lives of duplicity in which our hope is found not in the Cross of Jesus Christ but rather in consuming the gifts of God in our own concupiscences (James 4:3). In the face of any severe manifestation of the outpouring of the spirit of Antichrist, such a duplicitous hope is almost surely to descend into the caves of despair, and die.

In the City of God, Our Lady addresses the following words to Venerable Mary of Agreda:

“By the Divine teaching thou knowest the Mysteries of the Passion and Death of Christ and the one true way of life, which is the Cross; and thou knowest that not all who are called, are chosen. Many there are who wish to follow Christ and very few who truly dispose themselves to imitate Him; for as soon as they feel the sufferings of the Cross they cast it aside….Many imagine that they are following Christ their Master, though they neither suffer affliction nor engage in any exertion or labor. They are content with avoiding boldness in committing sins, and place all their perfection in a certain prudence or hollow self-love, which prevents them from denying anything to their will and from practicing any virtues at the cost of their flesh. They would easily escape this deception if they would consider that My Son was not only the Redeemer, but their Teacher; and that He left in this world the treasures of His Redemption not only as a remedy against Eternal ruin, but as a necessary medicine for the sickness of sin in human nature. No one knew so much as My Son and Lord; no one could better understand the quality of love than the Divine Lord, who was and is wisdom and charity itself; and no one was more able to fulfill all His wishes (John 1: 4, 16). Nevertheless, although He well could do it, He chose not a life of softness and ease for the flesh, but one full of labors and pains; for He judged His instructions to be incomplete and insufficient to redeem man, if He failed to teach them how to overcome the demon, the flesh and their own self. He wished to inculcate, that this magnificent victory is gained by the Cross, by labors, penances, mortification and the acceptance of contempt: all of which are the trade-marks and evidences of true love and the special watchwords of the predestined.”

St. Paul puts it most succinctly: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us.” (2 Tim. 2:12). Even in the Resurrection, and especially in the Resurrection, our cross remains.

 

Lift Up Your Heads

We therefore lower our heads in despair and fear only to the extent that we either compromise the Truth of Christ, or place our hopes in the gifts of Christ rather than in Christ Himself. Christ’s victory is certain, and all that we experience now is only testimony to its immanence. It matters little whether or not this immanence comes to fruition during our own lives, just as it was of little consequence to St. Peter or Paul. In all things we need to lift our hearts and minds in rejoicing that God is All in All, and will achieve the final and total victory. This, after all, is the bottom line of the “nakedness” of the Christian life, a nakedness which, as we have seen, can reach even to the cessation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. We rejoice in the coming final victory of Our Lord, and it is this joy which is the ultimate testimony of our faith, and to the life of charity which is its supernatural expression. This is the ultimate test as to whether we possess the Heart of Jesus – as to whether we lift up our heads, or cover them and seek refuge in the caves of self-despair and loss of faith. It is this test which Judas failed, and which hopefully we shall not.

In order to pass this test, however, the hearts of each of us must be purified. God, in these latter times, has opened to us a portal in which all the “secrets” of our own infidelities and ingratitude may be revealed, and the hearts and minds of each one of us purified. This portal, this refuge, is the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Her Rosary. Let us all therefore engage in the work of The Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church. It is a work for the whole Church, which we hope will gather in all the parish churches in this country and the world on February 2, 2019, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple.

Please spread the word about the Rosary!

Handout

A new phase in our effort!

 

If you see the value of this effort and wish to participate in its success, please download and print our one-page printable handout.  Distribute it to all possible Catholic venues: Churches, Rosary Marches, Adoration Chapels, Catholic Conferences, etc.

Also, please pray every Rosary to include the intention: For the Purification of the Church.

Finally, please consider having a Mass offered for this explicit intention.

Printable Handout (PDF)

Please spread the word about the Rosary!

Ask your pastor to Implement this Event!

For those who would like to join in this missionary effort, please refer to  our sample letter which you can send to any priests whom you feel might be interested in promoting this initiative.  Since this is a group effort, you may simply assume and sign the letter as your own.

Alternatively, simply find an open Catholic Church in which to pray the Rosary for this intention, either with a group or alone.

We invite the whole world to join us!

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