On the Darkness that Overspread the Land at the Time of Our Lord’s Crucifixion

The Crucifixion, 1758
Pierre-Paul Prud’hon
The Louvre, Paris

A Lenten Reflection for Tuesday in Holy Week from Holy Cross Publications

PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.

My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

On the Darkness that Overspread the Land at the Time of Our Lord’s Crucifixion.

Picture to yourself the amazement of the multitude when the sun, which had been shining brightly, suddenly withdrew its light, the heavens were darkened, and the stars appeared with a reddish glimmer. Who can describe the confusion that ensued, the angry rage of the executioners at finding themselves impeded in their brutal work, the annoyance of the Pharisees, who could no longer feast their eyes and rejoice their malicious souls with the sight of our Lord’s sufferings, the increasing alarm of the people who, as the exterior darkness closed more thickly around, by an interior illumination saw more clearly to their horror the crime whereof they had been guilty? Mingle in imagination in the multitude on Calvary and meditate upon that strange darkness.

1st. The darkness aggravated our Lord’s sufferings. Have you ever observed how much, in sickness or deep affliction, darkness affects the unhappy sufferer, how oppressive it is, what depression it causes? How earnestly during the long, dark hours of night the sick man longs for the first rays of the rising sun; what a wonderful relief and alleviation he seems to experience when the returning day once more banishes the grim shades of night! Now it was at midday that our Lord was crucified, and yet the sun, brightly shining in its meridian glory, must needs veil its light in order that our Lord, drinking to the dregs the chalice of suffering, might endure the further torment caused by the darkness which in the ordinary course of nature He would have been spared. Marvel, my soul, at this and admire the mystery of divine charity! God works miracles to mitigate the sufferings you, a sinner, endure, and He also works miracles for your sake to enhance the agony of Jesus, His own Son. Think of this when in the dark, weary night you lie tortured with pain and unrest, and you will find it easier to bear your trial.

2d. Consider the mystic signification of this darkness. Jesus hangs upon the cross to achieve a victory over the kingdom of darkness. For that reason this darkness descends once more upon Him, the Light of the World, with the intention of quenching that light. But marvel! The powers of darkness may indeed have rejoiced with a malicious joy at that natural darkness because it added to the physical torture of the world’s Redeemer; but our Lord, by bearing it patiently, conquered the spiritual darkness, the evil that prevails in this corrupt world. For the works of evil are in their nature essentially works of darkness; sin darkens the understanding and leads to everlasting night in hell. Look up, my soul, in compunction of heart to your crucified and suffering Lord, suffering in darkness; beseech Him to grant you the light of His grace, the grace which He purchased for you in that hour of gloom. Realize what a terrible reproach it would be for you, enough in itself to make hell intolerable if, in spite of Christ’s patient endurance of the darkness that overspread the earth when He hung upon the cross, you were doomed to pine in misery, and that through your own fault, in the exterior darkness, the everlasting blackness of hell.

3d. Consider the gloom that weighed upon the soul of our Lord during His crucifixion. Alas! that external darkness was not the worst which Jesus had to bear. When the darkness increased all around, and a vague terror took possession of every mind and a strange silence brooded over the multitude, the depression caused by this gloom invaded our Lord’s soul also. Alone and comfortless He hung upon the cross, suffering all and everything that a poor individual could suffer in the uttermost abandonment, without help or consolation human or divine; such pain as His no words can describe. By this spiritual anguish, this hour of interior darkness which wrung from our Lord the bitter cry: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” He both bore the painful penalty of our real abandonment by God which we have brought upon ourselves by our own fault, and He also won for us the power to keep from making shipwreck completely in the extremity of our misery when we appear to be forsaken by God. But when wandering in the desert during this interior night, which frequently is permitted to close in upon the souls of those who love God for their trial, and which overtakes every one of us at the hour of death, we are now no longer alone, for Jesus, the Light, the Way, the Truth has also passed along this road and imparted a blessing to it. He has subjugated its terrors, and for our consolation and support He has erected His cross in the wilderness of the world. Meditate on this further signification of the darkness under the oppression of which our Lord lay prostrate for three hours, and let it be to you a rich fund of consolation.

PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.

My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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Fire – roof and spire of Notre Dame in Paris collapse – Will this shock awaken the Faith?

A huge fire has engulfed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (Image: GETTY)

What a dreadful story.

Fire – roof of Notre Dame of Paris.

BBC

CNBC

I wonder if this dreadful shock will awaken the Faith is the Church’s eldest daughter.

Read on over at Fr Z’s blog… including a twitter update with the good news that all the works of art have been saved, that all the treasures including the crown of thorns and the holy sacraments are intact.

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Why Christians Hail Jesus’ Cross as the One and Only Hope of Mankind

by Peter Kwasniewski

God calls individuals, not collectivities. As the saying goes, “God so loved the world that He did not send a committee.” He tells us in tender words: “I have called you by name; you are mine” (Is 43:1).

We hail the Cross as the spes unica, the one and only hope of mankind. The Cross is this hope because it proclaims the love of God for each one, expressed in an offer of total forgiveness. The Cross is the primordial Gospel. That is why Saint Paul, the great preacher of the word, can say: “I judged not myself to know anything among you but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).

This Cross embodies all that modern man is most afraid of, and yet most hungry for: genuine love expressed in the gift of self until death and beyond death. And the good news is that God loves us not according to our works or merits, but in Jesus Christ he “pre-loves” us before we love Him. Our faith in Him is the act of freedom on our part that makes His predilection actual and active in our lives. 

To modern man, then, the message could be proclaimed: “Either there is a God who loves you as His creation, and you should have faith in Him and trust Him; or there is not, and you are nothing special, you are in fact worthless. The former is the path of meaning, life, victory in the face of death; the latter, the path of despair, listless depression, restless acquisitiveness. Jesus Christ is the flesh-and-blood sign not only that God exists, but that His love goes beyond anything we can imagine or conceive. God calls you by name. Do not harden your heart, but surrender to His incomprehensible love.”

People today are preoccupied with “originality,” but never has there been so much mass-marketing, uniformity, conventionalism, and political correctness. A man or woman of strong personal identity and reasoned conviction is actually rather hard to find.

Indeed, there is a certain irony in speaking of becoming “unique.” There is only one true original: Jesus Christ, the perfect Image of the Father (cf. Col 1:15). The rest of us are derived from the pattern precontained in the divine mind, and our lifelong job is to conform ourselves, as much as possible, to that pattern, which is to say, to Jesus Himself (cf. Rom 8:28). Our goal, in that sense, is to become Him, to be likened more and more to Him, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13), who is the savior of our humanity and of our personality.

Becoming who we are demands a going out of ourselves to the One who made us in His image. The more we are like Him, the more we become ourselves, until in the end we are both truly individual, as God made us to be, and truly Christ’s, as He ever calls us to be. At root, Lent is not so much a time of beating ourselves down as a time of raising ourselves up, with the help of His grace, to where God wants us to be. This necessarily involves discipline, self-control, and self-denial, but it is all for the purpose of growth, strength, and glory.

The mystic Richard Rolle (1290–1349), in his work The Fire of Love, writes words that may inspire us this Lent [and Holy Week] to enter more deeply into the Passion of Our Lord, that we may receive the full flood of His risen Life.

Good Jesus,
scourge me, wound me, slay me, burn me;
do with me here and now
whatever in your goodness you decide;
that in the days to come I may know and feel
not evil, but your love—
and that, for ever!

To be despised, rejected, insulted by all,
for your sake,
is sweeter to me
than to be called the brother of any earthly monarch,
honored among men, and praised by all.

 

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On the Seven Words of Our Lord Upon the Cross

Detail from “Christ and the Good Thief” (c. 1566) by Titian

A Lenten Reflection for Monday in Holy Week from Holy Cross Publications

PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.

My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

On the Seven Words of Our Lord Upon the Cross.

To-day take your stand beneath the cross of your Redeemer, and in a spirit of holy recollection fix your eyes on Him, your dying God. The terrible crown of thorns is still upon His head; His countenance is sunk upon His breast; His hair and beard are clotted, His eyes are blinded, His parched, parted lips are crimsoned with blood; His chest, drawn and forcibly extended upon the instrument of torture, heaves painfully as He struggles for breath. The skin, torn in many places, is stretched and strained so tightly through the weight of the body that all His bones can be numbered; His blood falls in streams and bedews the ground. What a pitiable object! Now see, once more this tortured Victim opens His pallid lips; seven times His voice is heard speaking from the cross. Listen in spirit to the words our Lord utters and consider the following points:

1st. When a celebrated preacher comes to some town it is customary for all good Christians to make a point of attending his discourses. Now never was so eloquent a preacher, so great a teacher seen and heard upon earth as the Son of God. From the cross as from an elevated pulpit He speaks amid intolerable torture, and His words are heard far and wide. Precisely from that pulpit, the last which He ascended, He delivered a most impressive sermon in the last seven words He uttered, whereby salutary doctrine was disseminated throughout the whole world. He delivered that sermon with His dying lips, amid excruciating sufferings, in order that up to His latest breath He might labor for the salvation of souls. Look with admiration at this Teacher speaking from the cross, and rekindle the expiring flame of your zeal at the ardent furnace of His charity.

2d. It is the habit of parents, when their end draws near, to summon their children to their bedside, in order once more to impart to them wise counsels and serious admonitions for the regulation of their whole life. And what is said to the sons and daughters on such solemn occasions is regarded as sacred and for the most part it is taken deeply to heart. Now never was there a father known upon earth who was so loving towards his children as our Lord was towards men. Whilst hanging upon the cross, as from a death-bed—and what a death-bed that cross was!—He once more takes leave of those whom He loves; He gives them His last instructions with His expiring breath. These instructions are contained in the seven last words of Christ upon the cross; ought not you, my soul, to regard them as sacred? ought they not to impress you deeply?

3d. As a dying man in addressing those around him for the last time says all he wishes to say in a few words, epitomizing what in his past life he has urged in detail and at length, and, so to speak, enjoining on his loved ones the main point, so Jesus did in the seven words spoken from the cross. They are a summary of Christian perfection. Does not the first word: “Father, forgive them,” express the highest type of charity? Is not the second word, which He addressed to the penitent thief, an example of consummate compassion? And how could true, loyal affection towards His Mother and His disciples be more perfectly displayed than it was when, despite the languor and faintness of death, He was not forgetful of them, but in the third word which He spoke, with loving solicitude He provided for their future. And when, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, He uttered that cry upon the cross: “I thirst,” did He not give us an example of perfect obedience in accomplishing the minutest particulars of what is commanded? Again, observe and admire the perfect humility wherewith He lets it be known that He is forsaken even by His God, although He knows that by this confession He will bring fresh mockery upon Himself. Hear too how in His sixth word: “It is consummated,” He testifies to the perfect fulfilment of His mission; and in His seventh and last word: “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit,” note the perfect submission which He manifests to God, His heavenly Father.

Hasten, my soul, to the feet of this great Preacher, who preaches to all mankind. Learn of Him what Christian perfection really is, and in this week during which we commemorate the death of our Lord, show your grateful remembrance of the sermon upon the cross by practising each day one of the seven virtues which by word and in deed our dying Redeemer inculcated upon us in His last moments.

PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.

My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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Christ’s Degradation is His Exaltation

From Fr George W. Rutler’s ‘Weekly Column’

The more science shows of the universe, the more its beauty almost takes one’s breath away. There is nothing about it that could be called vulgar or in bad taste, for those are categories applicable only to what humans on our little planet do with things. It is possible to mock the harmony of the spheres with degrading human music, just as the stateliness of the galaxies can be burlesqued by undignified human behavior.

Logically then, when the Master of the Universe became flesh, He did nothing vulgar or tactless according to human lights. Even when He fled the mob in Nazareth, or hid from the crowd that had been dazzled by one of His miracles, His pace was elegant and His demeanor beyond reproach.

Strange then that when He entered Jerusalem to die, He arranged a sort of shabby parade, and encouraged the children to cheer Him as a king even after He had spurned a crown from a crowd. He must have seemed vulgar and tactless. Those who thought He was arrogant accused Him of blasphemy, and those who thought Him silly crowned Him with clownish thorns.

When the parish priest John Vianney heard that people were calling him a saint, he pretended to be the village idiot. Perhaps on Palm Sunday, Christ was mocking those who thought He was the king they wanted. But His coronation would be on a cross in a mystical ritual that sophisticates would consider foolish (1 Corinthians 1:23). As for pomposity, His entrance procession was clean of pretentiousness because a true king must ride on an ass to show his humility as a servant of his subjects (Zechariah 9:9).

Jesus orchestrated this spectacle just as He, as Divine Wisdom, orchestrated the elegant harmony of the celestial spheres. Only the vulgar and the pompous, then and now, have had an itch to accuse Him of vulgarity and pomposity. Not only on that first Palm Sunday, but in every year of human history, He makes a spectacle of Himself to make us speculate: Who is this man that He has authority to forgive sins? (Luke 5:21) And: Who is this man that He speaks with authority and not as one of the scribes? (Matthew 7:29)

Our Lord seems to cheapen Himself by arranging a tawdry procession through the narrow streets of the Holy City, but he does it to show how precious He is. Riding on an ass through fetid alleys, He declares that the power of creating all the universe is in those hands soon to be nailed to the wood of a cross. That degradation is His exaltation. It is a glory farther beyond measure than the size of the universe He has created. And the children cheering him in dissonant and shrill voices, are proof that His Kingdom “is not of this world” (John 18:36).

—————

Dominica palmarum – Gloria laus et honor

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Reflection for Passion (Palm) Sunday

Image result for palm sunday

 

FIRST READING  Isaiah 50:4-7

The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.  Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.  I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.  The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

SECOND READING  Philippians 2:6-11

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Gospel Luke 22:14-23:56

When the hour came, Jesus took his place at table with the apostles.  He said to them, I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.  Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you that from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.  Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.  And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray me is with me on the table; for the Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed.  And they began to debate among themselves who among them would do such a deed.  Then an argument broke out among them about which of them should be regarded as the greatest.  He said to them, The kings of the Gentiles Lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as Benefactors; but among you it shall not be so.  Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.  For who is greater:  the one seated at table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one seated at table?  I am among you as the one who serves.  It is you who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.  He said to him, Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.  But he replied, I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know me.  He said to them, When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything?  No, nothing, they replied.  He said to them, But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one.  For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely, He was counted among the wicked; and indeed what is written about me is coming to fulfillment.  Then they said, Lord, look, there are two swords here.  But he replied, It is enough!  Then going out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.  When he arrived at the place he said to them, Pray that you may not undergo the test.  After withdrawing about a stones throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.  And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him.  He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.  When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief.  He said to them, Why are you sleeping?  Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.  While he was still speaking, a crowd approached and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas.  He went up to Jesus to kiss him.  Jesus said to him, Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?  His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked, Lord, shall we strike with a sword?  And one of them struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus said in reply, Stop, no more of this!  Then he touched the servants ear and healed him.

And Jesus said to the chief priests and temple guards and elders who had come for him, Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?  Day after day I was with you in the temple area, and you did not seize me; but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.  After arresting him they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest; Peter was following at a distance.  They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them.  When a maid saw him seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said, This man too was with him.  But he denied it saying, Woman, I do not know him.  A short while later someone else saw him and said, You too are one of them; but Peter answered, My friend, I am not.  About an hour later, still another insisted, Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he also is a Galilean.  But Peter said, My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.  Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.  He went out and began to weep bitterly.  The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating him.  They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying, Prophesy!  Who is it that struck you?  And they reviled him in saying many other things against him.  When day came the council of elders of the people met, both chief priests and scribes, and they brought him before their Sanhedrin.  They said, If you are the Christ, tell us, but he replied to them, If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question, you will not respond.  But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.  They all asked, Are you then the Son of God?  He replied to them, You say that I am.  Then they said, What further need have we for testimony?  We have heard it from his own mouth.  Then the whole assembly of them arose and brought him before Pilate.  They brought charges against him, saying, We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Christ, a king.  Pilate asked him, Are you the king of the Jews?  He said to him in reply, You say so.  Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, I find this man not guilty.  But they were adamant and said, He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here.  On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean; and upon learning that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time.  Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at length, but he gave him no answer.  The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile, stood by accusing him harshly.  Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him, and after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent him back to Pilate.  Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly.  Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt.  I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us.  So no capital crime has been committed by him.  Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.  But all together they shouted out,  Away with this man!  Release Barabbas to us.–Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder. –Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, Crucify him!  Crucify him!  Pilate addressed them a third time, What evil has this man done?  I found him guilty of no capital crime.  Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.  With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed.  The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted.  So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.  As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus.  A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him.  Jesus turned to them and said, Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.  At that time people will say to the mountains, Fall upon us!  and to the hills, Cover us!  for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?  Now two others, both criminals, were led away with him to be executed.  When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left.  Then Jesus said, Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.  They divided his garments by casting lots.  The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.  Even the soldiers jeered at him.  As they approached to offer him wine they called out, If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.  Above him there was an inscription that read, This is the King of the Jews.  Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us.  The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?  And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.  Then he said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.  He replied to him, Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.  It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun.  Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.  Jesus cried out in a loud voice, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit; and when he had said this he breathed his last.  The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, This man was innocent beyond doubt.  When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events.  Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council, had not consented to their plan of action.  He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the kingdom of God.  He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  After he had taken the body down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried.  It was the day of preparation, and the sabbath was about to begin.  The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils.  Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.

My sisters and brothers in the Lord Jesus,

Palm Sunday is a bipolar combination of events in the life of Jesus Christ.  We commemorate his triumphant entry into Jerusalem (with palms!) and we re-present his bodily demise in The Passion.  A mountain peak and a rock-bottom.  Yet, the subtext of the events is the meekness of Jesus.  Meekness, within the context of The Passion, is submission to the Will of God.

The Prophet Isaiah shows us that even before Christ, holy people could begin to understand that someone could give His life for others and accept suffering for others.  The Lord God supported those who suffered for other, implicitly stating that His Will is being done.

The Letter to the Philippians teaches us the same lesson, adding that God is even willing to take on our humanity, to suffer with us and for us–and ultimately willing to die so that we might live.  He was God, but chose an equality not “to be grasped:” from the Greek term harpagmos meaning “to be exploited for selfish gain.”  As Jesus is humbled and debased, He knows that He can rise above the ill-treatment at any time.  But, He submits to the Will of the Father and enters into His Passion.

The Gospel of Saint Luke details how Jesus Christ died in agony.  The crucified would die of blood loss or asphyxiation.  Christ accepted this suffering knowingly and willingly because it was the will of His Father and out of love for us.  It was through His obedience that our redemption was achieved.  How terrible, though, it is to watch a person die in agony!  Think of His mother who was there until the end.  Some parents would rather suffer than watch their children suffer.  Christ, who was God, exhibited “strength under control,” or, said differently, meekness.

We enter into The Passion with Christ every year.  We see its representation within our churches (The Stations of the Cross).  We mourn now, but we know that His is the victory.  We know that this is not the end, but the seed of a beautiful and glorious beginning for our reigning God and those who believe in Him.  May we grow closer to our Lord through the suffering to which he submitted Himself to be closer to us.

 

Abbot Christian Leisy OSB

 

 

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The Title on the Cross

A Lenten Reflection for Palm Sunday from Holy Cross Publications

PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.

My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

The Title on the Cross.

Amid enthusiastic acclamations of joy on the part of the populace, who salute Him as King of the Jews, Jesus to-day makes His entry into Jerusalem. A few days later this King of the Jews hangs in the sight of all, pilloried upon the cross, His regal title being the only crime for which He is tortured and put to death. “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews,” is inscribed in three languages upon the cross. It is related of a well-known Religious, that when upon his death-bed he took the superscription that was on the cross in his hands, fixed his gaze upon it, and thus looking upon it expired. Do you also, my soul, turn your eyes to-day upon that title, and consider:

1st. The word “Jesus.” It is Jesus who hangs upon the cross. Thus involuntarily His enemies bear testimony to Him. The superscription is to be read by every one, and every one may learn from it that this Individual, about whom there is nothing striking, crucified between two malefactors, is Jesus, the Saviour of mankind. Yes, it is as a Saviour, not as a criminal, that He hangs upon the cross, for no crime could be imputed to Him. The first time that this name was given to Him was when His blood was first shed at the circumcision, when He gave a pledge and earnest that later on He would fully merit that title by His death upon the cross; for on the cross He shed His blood to the very last drop, shed it because “He became obedient, even to the death of the cross”; and for this cause, St. Paul adds, “God also hath exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above all names; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow.”(Phil. ii. 8.) Consequently the name of Jesus is a glorious title for Him who is crucified, and for us a word full of sweetness—as sweet as it was for the penitent thief, who not only read the superscription, but made experience of its truth, since the Sufferer crucified at his side proved in truth for him a “Saviour.”

2d. Consider the second word of the superscription: “Nazarenus,” the Nazarene. By this Pilate meant to indicate the place whence He came, but unintentionally the Roman governor bore a fresh and glorious witness to the Lord by assigning this title to Him, for the word Nazarene signifies one who is fair and beauteous. But how can Jesus be said to be beauteous, He who is pale and withered like a dried-up flower, who is devoid of all bright color and beauty of form? And yet, my soul, this One who is despised and crucified is a tree rich in fairest blossoms, for He is the tree of life, whose fruit is immortality. Look upon this new tree of life, planted in the paradise of the bitter Passion of your Lord. Its root is the deepest humility, the most holy poverty; the rough bark is the toil and torment that He underwent for our salvation; the branches of the tree are His holy doctrines which He has disseminated throughout the whole world; its beauteous blossoms are His sacred innocence and purity; the height of the tree is His wondrous love, its fruits are the glorious graces which He bestows on us. That tree is watered and rendered fruitful and bright with blossoms this day, when Jesus of Nazareth hangs upon the cross, a lovely flower, white and crimson; white in the ghastly pallor of death, tinged with the crimson of His precious blood.

3d. Consider the final clause of the title: “King of the Jews.”This title was given to Him in mockery, but unwittingly His enemies spoke the truth. For this Crucified One is indeed a king. To all appearances He has no throne but a cross of shame, no palace but the place of execution; His courtiers are two malefactors and His regal table gall and vinegar. Yet He is in very truth a king, only His kingdom is not of this world. See how gloriously this King reigns from the cross! At the moment on which He expired the rocks were rent, the veil of the temple was torn from the top to the bottom, the dead were called forth from their graves. A far more powerful Ruler than any prince of this world, from the cross He overthrows Satan’s kingdom, and establishes the kingdom of God, the limits of which are the boundaries of the earth, and of which the duration is to all eternity. And He is the King of the Jews, not of the carnal descendants of the faithful Abraham, but of the spiritual children of those who are true Judeans, that is confessors; who with the penitent thief confess their sins and by their good works show whose disciples they are. Look to it, my soul, that you are in word and deed a true Judean, a confessor of Jesus Christ, for He is your King; and then you will one day make your solemn entry into the heavenly Jerusalem with Him, Jesus of Nazareth, eternally fair and beauteous above all the sons of men.

PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.

My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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The Witch-hunt Against Catholic Journalist, Caroline Farrow

Caroline Farrow, 44, a Catholic journalist and speaker from the UK, has become another victim of the witch-hunt against any who dare challenge the new twisted ideology of ‘gender theory’.

Farrow is the subject of an investigation – and a possible jail sentence – by Surrey Police by referring to the adult child of Susie Green, head of ‘Mermaids’ (a charity concerned with transgender children) as a boy. Farrow says the investigation arises because she was told she ‘misgendered’ the child, who was born male but now identifies as female, on British TV last year. Since arguing that it is impossible for people to change their biological gender, and for supposedly ‘misgendering’ the child in comments and tweets, she was denounced by Green and questioned by the police for presumed ‘hate crimes’. This has given rise to a continuous media harassment towards Farrow, including some serious threats against her person and her family.

Susie Green (L) with Caroline Farrow

CHURCH MILITANT reported last month:

After appearing on a public debate over transgender leaders in the Girl Guides, a Catholic mother of five could be facing jail time for misgendering a transgender activist’s child.

On Monday, Caroline Farrow, a Catholic journalist and mother of five, was contacted by Surrey Police over a complaint she violated the U.K. Malicious Communications Act of 2003 with a potential “malicious communication.”

The issue stemmed from a September 2018 appearance on a Good Morning Britain segment about transgender issues. She appeared with Susie Green, the mother of a transgender child, Jackie Green. Farrow allegedly misgendered Jackie in a tweet in October.

Farrow told Spectator USA, “I am being interviewed under caution for misgendering Susie Green’s daughter. It’s all rather Orwellian and rather scary.”

Very Orwellian indeed: —>

Caroline Farrow’s only ‘fault’ was to defend the truth – not only the truth of Catholic moral teaching, but also that of natural law as evidenced by science. Yet this defence of Truth in our P.C. but hypocritical age of an imposed all-powerful deceitful ideology is now considered “a revolutionary act” that must be punished!

At the time Caroline Farrow had valiantly written she’d “happily” go to jail for the right to say that “people cannot change sex”. She added later on that she had become the victim of a “witch-hunt”, despite the fact that Susie Green decided to withdraw her complaint because she fears giving Farrow “a platform to spread misinformation”.

Unfortunately though, this withdrawal by Green has not put a stop to the ongoing vicious, spiteful and threatening campaign by the LGBT lobbyists against Farrow. Although she also enjoys on-line a large following of loyal Catholic supporters, this cruel witch-hunt by members of the militant LGBT lobby has caused Farrow great anxiety and suffering. Fearing for her family’s welfare and livelihood she has insistently complained to the police about the attacks and threats, but these complaints have fallen on deaf ears. It appears that ‘hate crimes’ are only considered as such for those who toe the politically-correct line!

However, in the last few days Farrow has reported that there has been at last a slightly more favourable change in the attitude of the police towards her complaints.

Caroline Farrow has not allowed this witch-hunt to silence her courageous defence of Christian values together with the often overlooked rights of children today.

—————-

More cases of fines or jail sentences for ‘misgendering’ continue to come to light, like THIS ONE in Canada: ‘Canadian tribunal fines Bill Whatcott $55,000 for expressing Christian views on “transgenderism”’.

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On the Crucifixion of Our Lord

Philippe de Champaigne
Crucifixion
c. 1650
Musée du Louvre, Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lenten Reflection for Saturday after Passion Sunday from Holy Cross Publications

 

PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.

My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

On the Crucifixion of Our Lord.

To-day again picture to yourself, my soul, the great, the all-important moment, the moment of most supreme importance that the world ever knew, when Jesus was about to lay Himself down upon the cross, to be immolated upon that altar as the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world. What a stupendous instant! There stands Jesus before the dreadful cross: Hell looks on in anxious fear, Heaven regards the solemn scene with grave expectancy; both await the action of Jesus, on which consequences of such infinite magnitude depend. Consider:

1st. What were the emotions that thrilled through the Saviour’s heart as He gazed upon the instrument of torture, His bed of death that was prepared for Him, the nails, those cruel nails that were to pierce His hands and feet, the hammer, the heavy hammer that was to fasten Him to the cross? Well indeed may His human nature have shrunk shudderingly from so terrible a death; well may burning anguish and pale terror have seized upon His soul at the prospect of such an end. But He knew it to be the will of His heavenly Father, and the Son is obedient, obedient even unto the death of the cross. In this spirit of obedience He lays Himself down upon the cross as a victim, a patient lamb upon the sacrificial altar. Do you remember how when you took your vows, or were consecrated to the Priesthood, prostrate upon the ground you made an oblation of your own will to be crucified, and promised obedience to your Superior? Have you never drawn back from the sacrifice you then made? Will you not be obedient even unto death, like Jesus your Lord?

2d. Consider the unspeakable destitution of the Lamb of God when extended upon the cross. Every one, even the poorest of mankind, can find some couch whereon to lay his head when the hour comes for his last long sleep; at any rate the merciful earth provides him with a pillow. Jesus had not even that. A beam of wood, a tree of shame is His dying bed, and not even upon that comfortless pillow can He rest His gentle head, without driving in more deeply the thorns that compose His crown. Every one, even the most poverty-stricken, is furnished with a shroud, a covering to be drawn over his limbs as they stiffen in death; judge then how complete is the poverty of Jesus, since He lies on His death-bed naked, stript of His garments; He cannot so much as wipe the death-dews from His brow, for His hands are held fast by nails. Do you ever recall to mind, my soul, how you too once, when you made the sacrifice of yourself to God, pledged yourself to lead a life of poverty, of holy poverty? Have you persevered in holding fast to the cross whereto you nailed the concupiscence of the eyes? have you been as faithful to your vow as was your destitute Lord?

3d. Consider finally, with what brutality the Redeemer is nailed to the sacred cross. Jesus, the very personification of misery, is stretched upon the cross by the executioners; they pull His right arm until His hand reaches the hole made for the nail; one of them holds open the ringers which the pain causes to close involuntarily, another fixes the long, thick nail in its place; the ponderous hammer descends, and a cry of suffering, low and distinct, escapes the lips of the Lord. The arms of the executioners are besprinkled with His blood, the muscles of the hand are horribly torn. And when this hand is nailed fast, and the veins and nerves contract, how mercilessly His tormentors drag the other arm, which will not reach as far as the other hole; how heartbreaking is the wailing sound Jesus utters when the second and the third nail is driven in, till the horrible torture is at length ended. Helpless, bleeding, consumed with pain, the spotless, sinless Victim lies outstretched upon the cross, to make atonement for our sins. O my soul, do you sometimes think how you once, when you received Holy Orders or made your Religious profession, also outstretched upon the ground, offered yourself to God as a pure, a holy victim; how you vowed to observe holy chastity, to live a pure, a mortified life, renouncing the carnal delights and pleasures of the sinful world, which Jesus, nailed to the cross, expiated with such grievous sufferings? God grant that the strokes of the hammer at the crucifixion of your Lord may not sound in your ear as reproaches, but as an incitement to keep this vow with all fidelity, and daily to crucify anew the concupiscences of the flesh.

PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.

My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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Showtime: Francis Kneels To Kiss Feet Of South Sudan Politicians

From Gloria TV (with video) and ABYSSUM

Pope Francis received on April 11 the participants of a two-day retreat at the Vatican which involved civil and ecclesiastical authorities of South Sudan. During the audience Francis knelt down and kissed the feet of ecclesiastical and Muslim men officials and one woman.

There was a look of shock on the faces of the more than 20 dignitaries in the room as an overweight Francis dropped to his knees in front of the (deeply embarrassed) South Sudan leaders four times and kissed their feet. The prelates who were along side of him struggled to lift him to his feet each time. He looked as though he had overexerted himself in doing this when he stood up panting and wheezing.

His actions were all the more shocking to all who witnessed his behaviour because he is notorious for never genuflecting or kneeling during the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass, nor in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed for adoration.

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On the Sorrows of Mary When Mount Calvary Was Reached

 

William Adolphe Bouguereau – Oil
1888

A Lenten Reflection for Friday after Passion Sunday from Holy Cross Publications

PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.

My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

On the Sorrows of Mary When Mount Calvary Was Reached.

Whilst making your meditation on this day, whereon the Church commemorates the seven dolors of the sorrowful Mother of God, fix your eyes upon Mary. See how the sword foretold by Simeon pierced her heart with grief at the circumcision and the flight into Egypt; how it was plunged more deeply into the soul at the loss of Jesus when He was twelve years old; and at the mournful meeting on the way to Calvary. And now that she has come to Calvary, that sword transfixes afresh her sinless soul. Pale as death she stands there, a faint cry of pain now and again escaping her lips. Who can describe the horror that thrilled through her when she perceived Jesus undergoing the painful process of being stript of His garments, when she saw the terrible nails, the heavy hammer, and caught sight of the cross lying on the ground. Realize to yourself, my soul, what the Blessed Virgin felt at that moment, when Jesus stretched Himself upon the cross for the cruel nails to be driven in, and consider:

1st. The grief wherewith the Mother stood beside the dying-bed of her Son, a grief all the greater in proportion to the magnitude of her love for her dying Son on the one hand, and to the more painful nature of His death on the other. If any earthly mother is dissolved in tears, if her heart is wrung with unspeakable anguish when she sees her son expire, even though perchance in his lifetime that son caused her no slight anxiety and distress, what must the immaculate Mother have experienced when she beheld her Son, her joy and delight, extend Himself on the bed of death, and such a bed! Can we conceive a dying-couch more ignominious, more awful, than that on which Mary now looked?

O Mother of Dolors! the sun cannot bear to gaze upon the death of thy Son; it veils its face in token of mourning, whilst thou, His Mother, art compelled to witness this awful spectacle. And were she to close her eyes, consider:

2d. How the strokes of the merciless hammer would sound in her ears. Each blow that she heard of that hammer opened a fresh wound in her heart. Imagine, my soul, the feelings of a mother whose son has to undergo the amputation of an arm or a foot, though it be as the means of saving his life. She cannot look on at the operation, and every cry of pain that reaches her ear from a distance is like a thorn thrust into her heart. Or picture to yourself the overwhelming affliction of a father when he hears the coffin nailed down which contains the lifeless body of his only son, and then reflect what the Mother of Jesus must have felt when she heard the groans of her tortured Son, and the strokes of the terrible hammer which fixed Him to the cross whereon He was to suffer an agonizing death. Yes, Mary, thou art indeed a Mother of Dolors; and alas! do you, my soul, remember that you too helped to make her such, for every sin you commit is a blow of that hammer that sounds so sadly in her ears.

3d. Consider how the Son of God, when nailed to the cross, was aware of the profound grief of His afflicted Mother, and although He kept silence outwardly, yet in His heart He spoke to her in this wise: “O My dearest Mother, all the joys thou didst experience on My account are now changed into tribulation, mourning, and woe. I was, it is true, born of thee in poverty and nakedness, in a stable, yet it was granted thee to wrap My tender limbs in swaddling-clothes and thy soul was rejoiced by the angels’ song. But now thou beholdest Me naked upon the cross, and mayst not clothe My nakedness, and instead of the angels’ song thou nearest nothing but the mockery and blasphemies of My enemies. My seamless robe, fashioned by thy chaste hands, is appropriated by the rude soldiery; My hands, that once clasped thee in the fond embrace of a child, are now transfixed by nails; My countenance, which formerly thou didst cover with kisses, is now defiled with blood, with sweat and spittle. How happily thou didst once live at Nazareth! now on Calvary thou art become indeed a Mother of Sorrows.” Ponder upon these words, my soul, and during this day, whenever the hour strikes, call to mind with contrition of spirit the blows of the hammer that struck Jesus limbs and Mary’s heart, inflicting such bitter pain, and make a special resolution to-day to nail to the cross one of the corrupt inclinations of your heart, and thus alleviate the anguish Mary endured for your sake on the Friday of her compassion.

PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.

My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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Defending the Flock Against Wolves

From Nick Donnelly on Facebook 

The sheep consoles the wounded shepherd dog after he has fought with the wolves to defend his flock.

If only faithful bishops realised we would console them if they defended the Faith against the wolves in the Church.

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Full text of Benedict XVI: ‘The Church and the scandal of sexual abuse’

Pope Benedict XVI on Aug. 28, 2010. Credit: L’Osservatore Romano

The following is a previously unpublished essay from Pope emeritus Benedict XVI:

 

On February 21 to 24, at the invitation of Pope Francis, the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences gathered at the Vatican to discuss the current crisis of the faith and of the Church; a crisis experienced throughout the world after shocking revelations of clerical abuse perpetrated against minors.

The extent and gravity of the reported incidents has deeply distressed priests as well as laity, and has caused more than a few to call into question the very Faith of the Church. It was necessary to send out a strong message, and seek out a new beginning, so to make the Church again truly credible as a light among peoples and as a force in service against the powers of destruction.

Since I myself had served in a position of responsibility as shepherd of the Church at the time of the public outbreak of the crisis, and during the run-up to it, I had to ask myself – even though, as emeritus, I am no longer directly responsible – what I could contribute to a new beginning.

Thus, after the meeting of the presidents of the bishops’ conferences was announced, I compiled some notes by which I might contribute one or two remarks to assist in this difficult hour.

Having contacted the Secretary of State, Cardinal [Pietro] Parolin and the Holy Father [Pope Francis] himself, it seemed appropriate to publish this text in the Klerusblatt [ a monthly periodical for clergy in mostly Bavarian dioceses].

My work is divided into three parts.

In the first part, I aim to present briefly the wider social context of the question, without which the problem cannot be understood. I try to show that in the 1960s an egregious event occurred, on a scale unprecedented in history. It could be said that in the 20 years from 1960 to 1980, the previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely, and a new normalcy arose that has by now been the subject of laborious attempts at disruption.

In the second part, I aim to point out the effects of this situation on the formation of priests and on the lives of priests.

Finally, in the third part, I would like to develop some perspectives for a proper response on the part of the Church.

I.

(1) The matter begins with the state-prescribed and supported introduction of children and youths into the nature of sexuality. In Germany, the then-Minister of Health, Ms. (Käte) Strobel, had a film made in which everything that had previously not been allowed to be shown publicly, including sexual intercourse, was now shown for the purpose of education. What at first was only intended for the sexual education of young people consequently was widely accepted as a feasible option.

Similar effects were achieved by the “Sexkoffer” published by the Austrian government [A controversial ‘suitcase’ of sex education materials used in Austrian schools in the late 1980s]. Sexual and pornographic movies then became a common occurrence, to the point that they were screened at newsreel theaters [Bahnhofskinos]. I still remember seeing, as I was walking through the city of Regensburg one day, crowds of people lining up in front of a large cinema, something we had previously only seen in times of war, when some special allocation was to be hoped for. I also remember arriving in the city on Good Friday in the year 1970 and seeing all the billboards plastered up with a large poster of two completely naked people in a close embrace.

Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms.

The mental collapse was also linked to a propensity for violence. That is why sex films were no longer allowed on airplanes because violence would break out among the small community of passengers. And since the clothing of that time equally provoked aggression, school principals also made attempts at introducing school uniforms with a view to facilitating a climate of learning.

Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of ‘68 was that pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.

For the young people in the Church, but not only for them, this was in many ways a very difficult time. I have always wondered how young people in this situation could approach the priesthood and accept it, with all its ramifications. The extensive collapse of the next generation of priests in those years and the very high number of laicizations were a consequence of all these developments.

(2) At the same time, independently of this development, Catholic moral theology suffered a collapse that rendered the Church defenseless against these changes in society. I will try to outline briefly the trajectory of this development.

Until the Second Vatican Council, Catholic moral theology was largely founded on natural law, while Sacred Scripture was only cited for background or substantiation. In the Council’s struggle for a new understanding of Revelation, the natural law option was largely abandoned, and a moral theology based entirely on the Bible was demanded.

I still remember how the Jesuit faculty in Frankfurt trained a highly gifted young Father (Bruno Schüller) with the purpose of developing a morality based entirely on Scripture. Father Schüller’s beautiful dissertation shows a first step towards building a morality based on Scripture. Father Schüller was then sent to America for further studies and came back with the realization that from the Bible alone morality could not be expressed systematically. He then attempted a more pragmatic moral theology, without being able to provide an answer to the crisis of morality.

In the end, it was chiefly the hypothesis that morality was to be exclusively determined by the purposes of human action that prevailed. While the old phrase “the end justifies the means” was not confirmed in this crude form, its way of thinking had become definitive. Consequently, there could no longer be anything that constituted an absolute good, any more than anything fundamentally evil; (there could be) only relative value judgments. There no longer was the (absolute) good, but only the relatively better, contingent on the moment and on circumstances.

The crisis of the justification and presentation of Catholic morality reached dramatic proportions in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. On January 5, 1989, the “Cologne Declaration”, signed by 15 Catholic professors of theology, was published. It focused on various crisis points in the relationship between the episcopal magisterium and the task of theology. (Reactions to) this text, which at first did not extend beyond the usual level of protests, very rapidly grew into an outcry against the Magisterium of the Church and mustered, audibly and visibly, the global protest potential against the expected doctrinal texts of John Paul II (cf. D. Mieth, Kölner Erklärung, LThK, VI3, p. 196) [LTHK is the Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, a German-language “Lexicon of Theology and the Church”, whose editors included Karl Rahner and Cardinal Walter Kasper.]

Pope John Paul II, who knew very well the situation of moral theology and followed it closely, commissioned work on an encyclical that would set these things right again. It was published under the title Veritatis splendor on August 6, 1993, and it triggered vehement backlashes on the part of moral theologians. Before it, the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” already had persuasively presented, in a systematic fashion, morality as proclaimed by the Church.

I shall never forget how then-leading German moral theologian Franz Böckle, who, having returned to his native Switzerland after his retirement, announced in view of the possible decisions of the encyclical Veritatis splendor that if the encyclical should determine that there were actions which were always and under all circumstances to be classified as evil, he would challenge it with all the resources at his disposal.

It was God, the Merciful, that spared him from having to put his resolution into practice; Böckle died on July 8, 1991. The encyclical was published on August 6, 1993 and did indeed include the determination that there were actions that can never become good.

The pope was fully aware of the importance of this decision at that moment and for this part of his text, he had once again consulted leading specialists who did not take part in the editing of the encyclical. He knew that he must leave no doubt about the fact that the moral calculus involved in balancing goods must respect a final limit. There are goods that are never subject to trade-offs.

There are values which must never be abandoned for a greater value and even surpass the preservation of physical life. There is martyrdom. God is (about) more than mere physical survival. A life that would be bought by the denial of God, a life that is based on a final lie, is a non-life.

Martyrdom is a basic category of Christian existence. The fact that martyrdom is no longer morally necessary in the theory advocated by Böckle and many others shows that the very essence of Christianity is at stake here.

In moral theology, however, another question had meanwhile become pressing: The hypothesis that the Magisterium of the Church should have final competence [infallibility] only in matters concerning the faith itself gained widespread acceptance; (in this view) questions concerning morality should not fall within the scope of infallible decisions of the Magisterium of the Church. There is probably something right about this hypothesis that warrants further discussion. But there is a minimum set of morals which is indissolubly linked to the foundational principle of faith and which must be defended if faith is not to be reduced to a theory but rather to be recognized in its claim to concrete life.

All this makes apparent just how fundamentally the authority of the Church in matters of morality is called into question. Those who deny the Church a final teaching competence in this area force her to remain silent precisely where the boundary between truth and lies is at stake.

Independently of this question, in many circles of moral theology the hypothesis was expounded that the Church does not and cannot have her own morality. The argument being that all moral hypotheses would also know parallels in other religions and therefore a Christian property of morality could not exist. But the question of the unique nature of a biblical morality is not answered by the fact that for every single sentence somewhere, a parallel can also be found in other religions. Rather, it is about the whole of biblical morality, which as such is new and different from its individual parts.

The moral doctrine of Holy Scripture has its uniqueness ultimately predicated in its cleaving to the image of God, in faith in the one God who showed himself in Jesus Christ and who lived as a human being. The Decalogue is an application of the biblical faith in God to human life. The image of God and morality belong together and thus result in the particular change of the Christian attitude towards the world and human life. Moreover, Christianity has been described from the beginning with the word hodós [Greek for a road, in the New Testament often used in the sense of a path of progress].

Faith is a journey and a way of life. In the old Church, the catechumenate was created as a habitat against an increasingly demoralized culture, in which the distinctive and fresh aspects of the Christian way of life were practiced and at the same time protected from the common way of life. I think that even today something like catechumenal communities are necessary so that Christian life can assert itself in its own way.

II.
Initial Ecclesial Reactions

(1) The long-prepared and ongoing process of dissolution of the Christian concept of morality was, as I have tried to show, marked by an unprecedented radicalism in the 1960s. This dissolution of the moral teaching authority of the Church necessarily had to have an effect on the diverse areas of the Church. In the context of the meeting of the presidents of the episcopal conferences from all over the world with Pope Francis, the question of priestly life, as well as that of seminaries, is of particular interest. As regards the problem of preparation for priestly ministry in seminaries, there is in fact a far-reaching breakdown of the previous form of this preparation.

In various seminaries homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the seminaries. In one seminary in southern Germany, candidates for the priesthood and candidates for the lay ministry of the pastoral specialist [Pastoralreferent] lived together. At the common meals, seminarians and pastoral specialists ate together, the married among the laymen sometimes accompanied by their wives and children, and on occasion by their girlfriends. The climate in this seminary could not provide support for preparation to the priestly vocation. The Holy See knew of such problems, without being informed precisely. As a first step, an Apostolic Visitation was arranged of seminaries in the United States.

As the criteria for the selection and appointment of bishops had also been changed after the Second Vatican Council, the relationship of bishops to their seminaries was very different, too. Above all, a criterion for the appointment of new bishops was now their “conciliarity,” which of course could be understood to mean rather different things.

Indeed, in many parts of the Church, conciliar attitudes were understood to mean having a critical or negative attitude towards the hitherto existing tradition, which was now to be replaced by a new, radically open relationship with the world. One bishop, who had previously been seminary rector, had arranged for the seminarians to be shown pornographic films, allegedly with the intention of thus making them resistant to behavior contrary to the faith.

There were — not only in the United States of America — individual bishops who rejected the Catholic tradition as a whole and sought to bring about a kind of new, modern “Catholicity” in their dioceses. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that in not a few seminaries, students caught reading my books were considered unsuitable for the priesthood. My books were hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the desk.

The Visitation that now took place brought no new insights, apparently because various powers had joined forces to conceal the true situation. A second Visitation was ordered and brought considerably more insights, but on the whole failed to achieve any outcomes. Nonetheless, since the 1970s the situation in seminaries has generally improved. And yet, only isolated cases of a new strengthening of priestly vocations came about as the overall situation had taken a different turn.

(2) The question of pedophilia, as I recall, did not become acute until the second half of the 1980s. In the meantime, it had already become a public issue in the U.S., such that the bishops in Rome sought help, since canon law, as it is written in the new (1983) Code, did not seem sufficient for taking the necessary measures.

Rome and the Roman canonists at first had difficulty with these concerns; in their opinion the temporary suspension from priestly office had to be sufficient to bring about purification and clarification. This could not be accepted by the American bishops, because the priests thus remained in the service of the bishop, and thereby could be taken to be [still] directly associated with him. Only slowly, a renewal and deepening of the deliberately loosely constructed criminal law of the new Code began to take shape.

In addition, however, there was a fundamental problem in the perception of criminal law. Only so-called guarantorism,  [a kind of procedural protectionism], was still regarded as “conciliar.” This means that above all the rights of the accused had to be guaranteed, to an extent that factually excluded any conviction at all. As a counterweight against the often-inadequate defense options available to accused theologians, their right to defense by way of guarantorism was extended to such an extent that convictions were hardly possible.

Allow me a brief excursus at this point. In light of the scale of pedophilic misconduct, a word of Jesus has again come to attention which says: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42).

The phrase “the little ones” in the language of Jesus means the common believers who can be confounded in their faith by the intellectual arrogance of those who think they are clever. So here Jesus protects the deposit of the faith with an emphatic threat of punishment to those who do it harm.

The modern use of the sentence is not in itself wrong, but it must not obscure the original meaning. In that meaning, it becomes clear, contrary to any guarantorism, that it is not only the right of the accused that is important and requires a guarantee. Great goods such as the Faith are equally important.

A balanced canon law that corresponds to the whole of Jesus’ message must therefore not only provide a guarantee for the accused, the respect for whom is a legal good. It must also protect the Faith, which is also an important legal asset. A properly formed canon law must therefore contain a double guarantee — legal protection of the accused, legal protection of the good at stake. If today one puts forward this inherently clear conception, one generally falls on deaf ears when it comes to the question of the protection of the Faith as a legal good. In the general awareness of the law, the Faith no longer appears to have the rank of a good requiring protection. This is an alarming situation which must be considered and taken seriously by the pastors of the Church.

I would now like to add, to the brief notes on the situation of priestly formation at the time of the public outbreak of the crisis, a few remarks regarding the development of canon law in this matter.

In principle, the Congregation of the Clergy is responsible for dealing with crimes committed by priests. But since guarantorism dominated the situation to a large extent at the time, I agreed with Pope John Paul II that it was appropriate to assign the competence for these offences to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the title Delicta maiora contra fidem.

This arrangement also made it possible to impose the maximum penalty, i.e., expulsion from the clergy, which could not have been imposed under other legal provisions. This was not a trick to be able to impose the maximum penalty, but is a consequence of the importance of the Faith for the Church. In fact, it is important to see that such misconduct by clerics ultimately damages the Faith.

Only where faith no longer determines the actions of man are such offenses possible.

The severity of the punishment, however, also presupposes a clear proof of the offense — this aspect of guarantorism remains in force.

In other words, in order to impose the maximum penalty lawfully, a genuine criminal process is required. But both the dioceses and the Holy See were overwhelmed by such a requirement. We therefore formulated a minimum level of criminal proceedings and left open the possibility that the Holy See itself would take over the trial where the diocese or the metropolitan administration is unable to do so. In each case, the trial would have to be reviewed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in order to guarantee the rights of the accused. Finally, in the Feria IV (i.e., the assembly of the members of the Congregation), we established an appeal instance in order to provide for the possibility of an appeal.

Because all of this actually went beyond the capacities of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and because delays arose which had to be prevented owing to the nature of the matter, Pope Francis has undertaken further reforms.

III.
(1) What must be done? Perhaps we should create another Church for things to work out? Well, that experiment has already been undertaken and has already failed. Only obedience and love for our Lord Jesus Christ can point the way. So let us first try to understand anew and from within [ourselves] what the Lord wants, and has wanted with us.

First, I would suggest the following: If we really wanted to summarize very briefly the content of the Faith as laid down in the Bible, we might do so by saying that the Lord has initiated a narrative of love with us and wants to subsume all creation in it. The counterforce against evil, which threatens us and the whole world, can ultimately only consist in our entering into this love. It is the real counterforce against evil. The power of evil arises from our refusal to love God. He who entrusts himself to the love of God is redeemed. Our being not redeemed is a consequence of our inability to love God. Learning to love God is therefore the path of human redemption.

Let us now try to unpack this essential content of God’s revelation a little more. We might then say that the first fundamental gift that Faith offers us is the certainty that God exists.

A world without God can only be a world without meaning. For where, then, does everything that is come from? In any case, it has no spiritual purpose. It is somehow simply there and has neither any goal nor any sense. Then there are no standards of good or evil. Then only what is stronger than the other can assert itself. Power is then the only principle. Truth does not count, it actually does not exist. Only if things have a spiritual reason, are intended and conceived — only if there is a Creator God who is good and wants the good — can the life of man also have meaning.

That there is God as creator and as the measure of all things is first and foremost a primordial need. But a God who would not express Himself at all, who would not make Himself known, would remain a presumption and could thus not determine the form [Gestalt] of our life.

But a God who would not express himself at all, who would not make himself known, would remain an assumption and could thus not determine the form of our life. For God to be really God in this deliberate creation, we must look to Him to express Himself in some way. He has done so in many ways, but decisively in the call that went to Abraham and gave people in search of God the orientation that leads beyond all expectation: God Himself becomes creature, speaks as man with us human beings.

In this way the sentence “God is” ultimately turns into a truly joyous message, precisely because He is more than understanding, because He creates – and is – love. To once more make people aware of this is the first and fundamental task entrusted to us by the Lord.

A society without God — a society that does not know Him and treats Him as non-existent — is a society that loses its measure. In our day, the catchphrase of God’s death was coined. When God does die in a society, it becomes free, we were assured. In reality, the death of God in a society also means the end of freedom, because what dies is the purpose that provides orientation. And because the compass disappears that points us in the right direction by teaching us to distinguish good from evil. Western society is a society in which God is absent in the public sphere and has nothing left to offer it. And that is why it is a society in which the measure of humanity is increasingly lost. At individual points it becomes suddenly apparent that what is evil and destroys man has become a matter of course.

That is the case with pedophilia. It was theorized only a short time ago as quite legitimate, but it has spread further and further. And now we realize with shock that things are happening to our children and young people that threaten to destroy them. The fact that this could also spread in the Church and among priests ought to disturb us in particular.

Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God. We Christians and priests also prefer not to talk about God, because this speech does not seem to be practical. After the upheaval of the Second World War, we in Germany had still expressly placed our Constitution under the responsibility to God as a guiding principle. Half a century later, it was no longer possible to include responsibility to God as a guiding principle in the European constitution. God is regarded as the party concern of a small group and can no longer stand as the guiding principle for the community as a whole. This decision reflects the situation in the West, where God has become the private affair of a minority.

A paramount task, which must result from the moral upheavals of our time, is that we ourselves once again begin to live by God and unto Him. Above all, we ourselves must learn again to recognize God as the foundation of our life instead of leaving Him aside as a somehow ineffective phrase. I will never forget the warning that the great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar once wrote to me on one of his letter cards. “Do not presuppose the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but present them!”

Indeed, in theology God is often taken for granted as a matter of course, but concretely one does not deal with Him. The theme of God seems so unreal, so far removed from the things that concern us. And yet everything becomes different if one does not presuppose but present God. Not somehow leaving Him in the background, but recognizing Him as the center of our thoughts, words and actions.

(2) God became man for us. Man as His creature is so close to His heart that He has united himself with him and has thus entered human history in a very practical way. He speaks with us, He lives with us, He suffers with us and He took death upon Himself for us. We talk about this in detail in theology, with learned words and thoughts. But it is precisely in this way that we run the risk of becoming masters of faith instead of being renewed and mastered by the Faith.

Let us consider this with regard to a central issue, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Our handling of the Eucharist can only arouse concern. The Second Vatican Council was rightly focused on returning this sacrament of the Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ, of the Presence of His Person, of His Passion, Death and Resurrection, to the center of Christian life and the very existence of the Church. In part, this really has come about, and we should be most grateful to the Lord for it.

And yet a rather different attitude is prevalent. What predominates is not a new reverence for the presence of Christ’s death and resurrection, but a way of dealing with Him that destroys the greatness of the Mystery. The declining participation in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration shows how little we Christians of today still know about appreciating the greatness of the gift that consists in His Real Presence. The Eucharist is devalued into a mere ceremonial gesture when it is taken for granted that courtesy requires Him to be offered at family celebrations or on occasions such as weddings and funerals to all those invited for family reasons.

The way people often simply receive the Holy Sacrament in communion as a matter of course shows that many see communion as a purely ceremonial gesture. Therefore, when thinking about what action is required first and foremost, it is rather obvious that we do not need another Church of our own design. Rather, what is required first and foremost is the renewal of the Faith in the Reality of Jesus Christ given to us in the Blessed Sacrament.

In conversations with victims of pedophilia, I have been made acutely aware of this first and foremost requirement. A young woman who was a [former] altar server told me that the chaplain, her superior as an altar server, always introduced the sexual abuse he was committing against her with the words: “This is my body which will be given up for you.”

It is obvious that this woman can no longer hear the very words of consecration without experiencing again all the horrific distress of her abuse. Yes, we must urgently implore the Lord for forgiveness, and first and foremost we must swear by Him and ask Him to teach us all anew to understand the greatness of His suffering, His sacrifice. And we must do all we can to protect the gift of the Holy Eucharist from abuse.

(3) And finally, there is the Mystery of the Church. The sentence with which Romano Guardini, almost 100 years ago, expressed the joyful hope that was instilled in him and many others, remains unforgotten: “An event of incalculable importance has begun; the Church is awakening in souls.”

He meant to say that no longer was the Church experienced and perceived as merely an external system entering our lives, as a kind of authority, but rather it began to be perceived as being present within people’s hearts — as something not merely external, but internally moving us. About half a century later, in reconsidering this process and looking at what had been happening, I felt tempted to reverse the sentence: “The Church is dying in souls.”

Indeed, the Church today is widely regarded as just some kind of political apparatus. One speaks of it almost exclusively in political categories, and this applies even to bishops, who formulate their conception of the church of tomorrow almost exclusively in political terms. The crisis, caused by the many cases of clerical abuse, urges us to regard the Church as something almost unacceptable, which we must now take into our own hands and redesign. But a self-made Church cannot constitute hope.

Jesus Himself compared the Church to a fishing net in which good and bad fish are ultimately separated by God Himself. There is also the parable of the Church as a field on which the good grain that God Himself has sown grows, but also the weeds that “an enemy” secretly sown onto it. Indeed, the weeds in God’s field, the Church, are excessively visible, and the evil fish in the net also show their strength. Nevertheless, the field is still God’s field and the net is God’s fishing net. And at all times, there are not only the weeds and the evil fish, but also the crops of God and the good fish. To proclaim both with emphasis is not a false form of apologetics, but a necessary service to the Truth.

In this context it is necessary to refer to an important text in the Revelation of St. John. The devil is identified as the accuser who accuses our brothers before God day and night (Revelation 12:10). St. John’s Apocalypse thus takes up a thought from the center of the framing narrative in the Book of Job (Job 1 and 2, 10; 42:7-16). In that book, the devil sought to talk down the righteousness of Job before God as being merely external. And exactly this is what the Apocalypse has to say: The devil wants to prove that there are no righteous people; that all righteousness of people is only displayed on the outside. If one could hew closer to a person, then the appearance of his justice would quickly fall away.

The narrative in Job begins with a dispute between God and the devil, in which God had referred to Job as a truly righteous man. He is now to be used as an example to test who is right. Take away his possessions and you will see that nothing remains of his piety, the devil argues. God allows him this attempt, from which Job emerges positively. Now the devil pushes on and he says: “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.” (Job 2:4f)

God grants the devil a second turn. He may also touch the skin of Job. Only killing Job is denied to him. For Christians it is clear that this Job, who stands before God as an example for all mankind, is Jesus Christ. In St. John’s Apocalypse the drama of humanity is presented to us in all its breadth.

The Creator God is confronted with the devil who speaks ill of all mankind and all creation. He says, not only to God but above all to people: Look at what this God has done. Supposedly a good creation, but in reality full of misery and disgust. That disparagement of creation is really a disparagement of God. It wants to prove that God Himself is not good, and thus to turn us away from Him.

The timeliness of what the Apocalypse is telling us here is obvious. Today, the accusation against God is, above all, about characterizing His Church as entirely bad, and thus dissuading us from it. The idea of a better Church, created by ourselves, is in fact a proposal of the devil, with which he wants to lead us away from the living God, through a deceitful logic by which we are too easily duped. No, even today the Church is not just made up of bad fish and weeds. The Church of God also exists today, and today it is the very instrument through which God saves us.

It is very important to oppose the lies and half-truths of the devil with the whole truth: Yes, there is sin in the Church and evil. But even today there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible. Today there are many people who humbly believe, suffer and love, in whom the real God, the loving God, shows Himself to us. Today God also has His witnesses (martyres) in the world. We just have to be vigilant in order to see and hear them.

The word martyr is taken from procedural law. In the trial against the devil, Jesus Christ is the first and actual witness for God, the first martyr, who has since been followed by countless others.

Today’s Church is more than ever a “Church of the Martyrs” and thus a witness to the living God. If we look around and listen with an attentive heart, we can find witnesses everywhere today, especially among ordinary people, but also in the high ranks of the Church, who stand up for God with their life and suffering. It is an inertia of the heart that leads us to not wish to recognize them. One of the great and essential tasks of our evangelization is, as far as we can, to establish habitats of Faith and, above all, to find and recognize them.

I live in a house, in a small community of people who discover such witnesses of the living God again and again in everyday life and who joyfully point this out to me as well. To see and find the living Church is a wonderful task which strengthens us and makes us joyful in our Faith time and again.

At the end of my reflections I would like to thank Pope Francis for everything he does to show us, again and again, the light of God, which has not disappeared, even today. Thank you, Holy Father!

–Benedict XVI

Translated by Anian Christoph Wimmer.
Quotes from Scripture use Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE).

 

See also Fr Z’s initial reaction to what he refers to as Benedict’s ‘cri de coeur’

 

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On the Tenth Station of the Cross

El Greco, Disrobing of Christ (El Espolio), ca 1580-95

A Lenten Reflection for Thursday after Passion Sunday from Holy Cross Publications

PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.

My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

On the Tenth Station of the Cross.

Contemplate to-day the heartrending picture presented in the tenth station of the cross, when Jesus is stripped of His garments. At last our Lord has reached the summit of Calvary, wearied to death. How glad He would have been to have seated Himself on the hard rock in order to rest a little, to regain His breath and recover Himself somewhat after the arduous exertion of climbing the terrible way of the cross in His exhausted state. But no, there is no more rest for Him here below. The soldiers come up to Him, they tear the cloak off His shoulders, they seize His seamless tunic, they drag it over His bleeding, thorn-pierced head with jeers and curses. There He stands exposed to view, the Son of man, trembling and helpless.

1st. Consider the physical pain caused by the stripping off of His garments. Contemplate the Saviour of mankind as He stands there shivering, shuddering, the very image of misery, covered with blood and bruises, with wounds some open, others half-dried, with stripes and marks of violence. How cruelly the fierce executioners dragged off His garments, the woolen fabric of which, dried into the sores in some places, is fast bound by the congealed blood to the fresh, deep wound made by the pressure of the heavy cross on His shoulder, a wound which is inexpressibly painful. How excruciating was the torture when, finding they could not easily get His clothes over His head on account of the crown of thorns, they roughly tore it off, tearing open all the wounds anew. Yes, my soul, contemplate Him, contemplate your Lord as He stands before you stripped of His garments, His poor body mangled, lacerated, swollen, with fragments of His clothing still adhering to the places where the blood has dried. Contemplate Him and weep, weep tears of sorrow and of compunction; grieve that Jesus should have to make so awful an atonement for the license wherewith thousands have stained the sacred robe of original innocence.

2d. Consider the mental pain caused by stripping off our Lord’s garments. What words can describe the horrible distress and anguish experienced by the chaste, modest Son of God when the executioners tore His clothes off His person in the sight of the multitude? If one meets with mortal men who would rather die than disclose their sufferings to a physician because the nature of the malady leads them to shrink in shame from the exposure, what must it have been to the Son of the immaculate Virgin Mary to be stripped from head to foot, exposed to the gaze of the lowest of the people? Doubtless this was far more bitter to Him than death itself; the very sun, in horror of the ignominy inflicted on its God, withdrew its light, and cast a veil around the afflicted Saviour to hide His nakedness. Consider, my soul, on your part, why our Lord had to endure this shame; ask yourself whether you by your sins had not a share in stripping Christ of His garments.

3d. Consider how in this tenth station of the cross our Lord expiated Adam’s prevarication. He, the second Adam, who had come down from Heaven, stands naked upon Calvary because the first Adam, who sprang from earth, felt on account of his fall from innocence ashamed of his nakedness and hid himself from the face of God. . . He, the Son of God, whose are all things, who clothes all His creatures, who can call the Heavens and the earth His own, departs out of this world destitute and naked, as destitute and naked He came into it, in order to win for us the robe of sanctifying grace which we had lost. Whilst you have before you the spectacle of our Lord’s poverty, the example of poverty carried to the uttermost limit, renew, my soul, your vow of poverty; resolve to keep it faithfully and nevermore to be ashamed to expose yourself to the world’s derision in the poor and lowly habit of your Order, remembering how our Lord endured ignominy incomparably greater in presence of the rude and mocking multitude.

PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.

My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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A Catholic IQ Test

Now here’s something a bit different: a series of questions to test your knowledge of the Bible and your Catholic faith.

https://www.catholiciqtest.com/question/

Set aside roughly an hour to complete the test. There are a lot of questions, most which will be easy and quick to answer, but on some you’ll need time to think a bit longer, so be patient. Whilst many question our knowledge of the basic fundamentals of Catholic teaching, others touch on the bible, Catholic history, heresies and councils. Let us know how you get on, and don’t worry if you do not achieve full marks. (Neither did those of us here who took the test!) It only goes to show that our Catholic heritage is wonderfully rich, and we will never stop learning more about it.

Just joking!

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