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Sacrificing Ourselves For The Church - Fr. Fahey
Sacrificing Ourselves For The Church
by Fr. Denis Fahey, CSSp.
The great need of our generation, is the living of the life of the Mystical Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ in its fullness. Through Christ our Head, the abundance of every generation, but, alas! "Jesus has now many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few are willing to bear His cross...many follow Jesus to the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the chalice of His Passion." (Imitation of Christ, Book 2, chap.11) We should unceasingly ask Our Lord to give us saints who, by their example, may rouse us from the torpor and mediocrity of our lives. For the need of our day is great.
Descending from the cross
We seem to be fast approaching the culmination point of the open revolt from God's plan, which began with Luther in the sixteenth century.
Luther's onslaught on order was an onslaught on the Mystical Body. The central point of his was directed against the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacrifice of the Mystical Body, visible expression of our fallen race's solidarity with Christ and our dependence on Calvary for the possibility of presenting fully ordered homage to the Blessed Trinity. "May God," wrote the German heresiarch, "fill the hearts of all pious Christians with such a horror of the Mass, that, when they hear it mentioned, they will make the sign of the Cross, as they would in presence of a diabolical manifestation."
Luther, however, retained belief in God and in the Divinity of Jesus, while refusing to observe the order established by Jesus for our journey to union with the Three Divine Persons.
Lenin, at the age of sixteen, had a sudden intuition that God did not exist, and he immediately tore off the crucifix he wore around his neck, spat on it, threw it on the ground and trampled on it. This is the spiritual drama which lies at the beginning of the present phase of that rejection of order that was ushered in by Luther's revolt.
The present phase itself represents the installation of the natural man, on the purely material animal level, as supreme. Lenin's disciples or, to speak more accurately, those who manoeuvred Lenin himself and who control his disciples, propose to bring about the unity of the human race on that level after having destroyed the Catholic Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, which alone can unite men in a supranational, because supernatural, union.
The driving force of Satan is visible behind this perversion of order. As the attack and denial are much more radical--man is now proclaimed God--so the reaction on our side must be proportionately deeper. Our generation is called upon to live the life of the Mystical Body completely and fully. The questions of our time are not merely political or economic. The struggle is on a far higher plane, between the City of God, seeking to bring about a rebirth of order from above downwards, and the City of Satan ever seeking the ruin of souls.
The arch-fiend has varied somewhat the old temptation. It is no longer: "You shall be as gods," but "there is no God," there is only man, and he is certain, that man can get back the Garden of Eden here below in the Leisure-State of the future. He takes, care, however, to have men forget that he it was who brought about man's fall and that he heard God say to our race: In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return to the earth out of which thou was taken. (Genesis 3:19)
We Catholics must, accordingly, put ourselves by intellect and will on the real level of the struggle. If we in imagination take our stand behind the gibbet of Calvary and see God the Father holding out His Son Crucified to men, with the real life of the world coming from His Sacred Wounds to every succeeding generation, we have a faint image of the reality.
We are a fallen race. Through membership in Our Lord's Mystical Body, the Church, men in every generation since Calvary have received back supernatural life. In proportion to their acceptance of that life, the natural life of persons, families and nations was restored, in the relatively imperfect fashion in which order can be realised, in this vale of inevitable tears and unavoidable suffering. We must, therefore, work for the uplifting of mankind along the lines laid down by the Church, supranational and supernatural, sacrificing ourselves in and with the Church.
Too often, however, Catholics have an imperfect grasp of the reality of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. When we see the sacrifices made by young Communists, with their false and enslaving mysticism of humanity, indefinitely progressing, we ought to be spurred on to realise more fully the solidarity of our union with our Crucified Head. Only through such union can the political and economic life of the world be again animated with the spirit of supernatural charity, and social justice be reborn.
Why the church condemns
Very many Catholics have only what may be termed a negative idea of the Church. They believe, of course, that the Catholic Church is a Divine Institution, but for them its chief, and almost exclusive, function is to forbid certain lines of thought and action. Little wonder that those who have this imperfect idea of the Church are assailed to rebellious thoughts, for it is easy to realise how appealing some prohibited courses of conduct may be.
Some may even come to imagine that the Catholic ideal is to think the least possible or not at all. At best, such persons feel that their position is somehow inferior to their less hampered non-Catholic neighbours. It is worthwhile examining this attitude of mind and show how utterly untrue and unfounded it is.
The Catholic Church on earth is a divinely instituted society formed of human beings redeemed by their Divine Head, the Second Adam, and, as a society, is animated by the Divine Life coming from that Head. Nevertheless, each and every one of the members of that society is obliged to struggle against the tendencies of the fallen nature received from the first Adam. The Church has for positive mission the diffusion of that life, thanks to which men can live, on their level, the Inner Supernatural Life of God. It is only through that life that even our human natural life can be lived as it should be. The life which the Catholic Church diffuses is spiritual. Accordingly, she demands the acceptance by the human intelligence of the truths God has revealed, and the accomplishment by the human will of the sacrifices required, in order that the life of grace may dominate in our fallen nature.
The Catholic Church has for mission, therefore, not only to declare the content of revelation, but to safeguard revealed truth from all contamination of error, speculative and practical. The Church must condemn whatever is opposed to or in any way endangers the real life of the world. On account of man's proneness to error since the fall, continual vigilance has to be exercised by the representatives of Christ the King. This accounts for the frequent condemnations of errors that are opposed to the true intellectual life and progress of the world.
What the church condemns
If we now turn to the consideration of some of the errors which have been condemned, we shall find, under the apparent rigidity and seemingly unyielding spirit of the Church, that wonderful breadth of view and synthetic grasp of all the aspects of truth, which are the joys of the Church's children.
Heresy, as its Greek original proclaims, means selection and choosing. It involves in its very essence a rupture of the harmonious equilibrium of two truths, both of which are taught in their purity by the Catholic Church. Heresy takes one aspect of the full harmonious synthesis of the Divine Plan and exaggerates it till the resultant affirmation involves negation of the complementary aspect. It is the partial truth contained in a heresy which obtains acceptance for the error therein involved, because the human mind is meant for truth and cannot embrace error as such. What the Catholic Church condemns is, needless to say, the error or negation, not the affirmation. Let us take some examples from the long list of errors and heresies.
Americanism is not condemned on account of its assertion of the necessity of the active and social virtues, but on account of its negation of the interior virtues of self-denial, humility, obedience. It is not judged worthy of reproof on account of its affirmation of the beauty of the natural virtues, but on account of its negation of the splendour of the supernatural ones.
Again, the Church condemns in Protestantism not its affirmations, namely, that every Christian has a personal relation with Our Lord, that religion is life, faith and love, that true religion is interior in spirit and in truth, but rather its negations, namely, that Christ treating man as a pure or angelic spirit, left out of consideration man's social nature and did not institute a visible, supernatural society, to draw His members into personal union with Him and guide them in living His Life, in which, by sanctifying grace, they really share. True religion is both interior and exterior, social and personal, respectful of freedom and devoted to the authority of the Mystical Body, dogmatic and moral. These affirmations are complementary and all are required.
What does the Church condemn in Pantheism? Is it the affirmation of the Divine Immensity or of the universality of the Divine Presence in all creatures? No, for that is the Church's own teaching. What she condemns is the limitation, restriction, and imprisonment of the Divine Immensity and of the Divine Universality in the narrow limits of the finite and the created. What she condemns is the Humanity-God, the Nature-God, that is to say, the diminutions and negations of the true reality of nature and of humanity.
To mix up and confuse things is to destroy them. God is immanent to all creatures by His essence, His presence and His Power, but He is at the same time infinitely transcendent. The Divine Immanence and the Divine Transcendence are two great truths which must be clearly grasped and firmly retained; they are purified and corrupted together. To the objection that God being above all things cannot be in all things, Saint Thomas replies that God is above all things by excellence of His nature, but in all things as the Cause of their being, which is that which is most intimate and innermost in them. To Condemn Error is to Liberate truth
Those who pretend to be shocked by the long list of condemnations formulated in the Syllabus of Pius IX or by the decrees of the Holy Office have not sufficiently remarked that, when the Church rejects all the different forms of exaggeration, she proclaims by that very fact the broad universal affirmation which lies behind all the errors. Error and heresy are diminutions of the integral truth, mutilations of the life of the intelligence. It is this mutilation, this restriction, which the Church condemns, thus maintaining the integrity of human thought, the breadth and fullness of the correct idea. Error as such is a negative force, a diminution of truth and being and life; what the Church condemns in an erroneous statement is not the element of truth and life and being accompanying it, but the degradation of these things.
The Catholic doctrine of virtue has often been represented as a hindrance to the development of life. See in their true light, Catholic truth and Christian life are not to be likened to hampering bonds but to upward-soaring wings. Virginity is spiritual fruitfulness in the Church, as religious vows are the masterpiece of spiritual liberty, for the contemplative orders are active on a higher, transcendent plane.
The anathemas of the Church are in the full sense acts of homage to the integral truth. The poet sees only poetry, the experimental scientist only his test-tube, the astronomer the starry sky. Irreligion nearly always has its source in this narrowness, for irreligion is short-sightedness, a defect of vision. This is one of the causes of the present tide of unbelief, since "science" has buried itself in matter. For "science" thus becomes a narrow view of things, and, because it is narrow, and precisely because of this narrowness, it is anti-catholic.
To enter the Catholic Church does not mean abdicating "manly free-thought" for an obscure childish dogmatism; it means enabling one's soul to attain true liberty and a complete grasp of the order of the Divine Plan.
The Catholic religion dominates over all errors. Opposed to her are all the partial systems, all the individual philosophies, all the particular religions, all the brilliant paradoxes, accompanied by the specious relief which its very isolation and its exaggeration give to every exclusive idea. When we examine them, we see that every element of truth that is found in the religions elaborated by men is to be found in the Church's teaching, but incorporated into a transcendently higher synthesis. This is a point which it would be well to stress in the teaching of history. Orthodoxy alone has true breadth of view, for it alone is in full conformity with reality. When one understands that, one can sympathetically point out to non-Catholics that the elements of truth to which they cling are all to be found in God's Church and far more.
Take up your cross
It is not enough, however, for the human intelligence to grasp once more the integral order of the world. Our hold on order remains precarious, if it be not linked with love of the Cross. Love goes astray without intelligence, but faith without charity cannot get into contact with God, and the soul separated from God is out of vital touch with the world. The disordered humanism which denies that man is fallen and proclaims that humanity is self-sufficing and will, with time, eliminate defects and limitations from the world, cannot be effectively combated without the full acceptance of Christian life as life in union with Christ Crucified.
Man cannot realise himself fully except through and by the Cross. Human life is meant to tend to the perfection of love of the Three Divine Persons and this perfection can be attained only along the road traced out by the Sermon on the Mount. Only men animated by such love can promote that spirit which will undo the individual self-seeking of post-Reformation capitalism and the blighting, savage hardness of Judaeo-Russian Communism.
It is only through such love that a new social order will be born, in which the Gospel will be respected and the moral and material means of living a Christian life will be afforded the multitude on which Our Lord had pity. But each Catholic must begin by accomplishing this work of living in union with Our Lord Crucified within himself. That is the theatre in which the evils afflicting the world must first be overcome.
We must begin by reforming our own inner life and by accepting fully Our Lord's rule in our own hearts. For we are called to live God's Inner Life of knowledge and love on our level of creatures; just as God's action springs from His Inner Life, so our efforts for the Divine order in the world must have their source in interior union with the Blessed Trinity. Love must re-descend from God to the world.
"O Eternal God," Saint Catherine of Sienna used to say, "hasten to have mercy on the world. In its present state, it is clearly on the brink of destruction. For it is deprived of the union of charity with Thee and with its neighbour. Men no longer love one another with a love based on Thee, O Eternal Truth."
Prayer and penance are the great means recommended by Pope Pius XI in the Encyclical Letter, Caritate Christi Compulsi, for the return of politics and economics to their true position of intrinsic subordination of the spiritual interests of human life.
"Penance then is," says the Sovereign Pontiff, "as it were, a salutary weapon placed in the hands of the soldiers of Christ, who wish to fight for the defence and restoration of the moral order of the universe. It is a weapon that strikes right at the root of all evil, that is, at the lust of material wealth and the wanton pleasures of life. By means of various works of penance, the noble-hearted Christian subdues the base passions that tend to make him violate the moral order. But if zeal for the Divine Law and brotherly love are as great in him as they should be, then not only does he practice penance for himself and his own sins, but he takes upon himself the expiation of the sins of others, imitating the saints who often heroically make themselves victims of reparation of the sins of whole generations, imitating even the Divine Redeemer, Who became the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world (1 John 1:29)... The Divine Heart of Jesus cannot but be moved at the prayers and sacrifices of His Church, and He will finally say to His Spouse, weeping at His feet, under the weight of so many griefs and woes: Great is thy faith, be it done unto thee as thou wilt." (Matthew 15:28)
In Christ our King.