Charlemagne (d. 814) was crowned in the basilica of Aachen (Germany), which he had dedicated to the Mother of God. He received the relic of the belt of the Blessed Virgin given to him by the Empress of Constantinople (today Istanbul,Turkey) with great devotion and wore a medal of Our Lady around his neck all his life. As he was nearing his death, he asked to be buried with a statue of the Madonna and Child placed on his heart.
After his death, the Council of Mainz (Germany) instituted the feast of the Assumption in the whole Frankish Empire. Charlemagne’s empire marked the end of feudalism and the beginning of the unification of Europe, which was born at the same time as Christianity, under the protection of the Mother of God.
In 778, weary of the stubborn resistance of the Saracen Lord Mirat in the citadel of Mirambel (now the citadel of Lourdes), Charlemagne was about to give up and lift the siege, when his friend Turpin, bishop of Puy-en-Velay (southern France), had an inspiration. He obtained permission to go and parley with the besieged, asking Mirat whether he would accept to sign the treaty of surrender not to Charlemagne, but to the Queen of Heaven.
The terms of the surrender were agreeable to the Moorish chief, who laid down his arms at the feet of the Black Madonna of Le Puy, and was baptized. On the day of his baptism, Mirat changed his name to Lorus, which became the name of his city, and later “Lourdes.” A thousand years before her apparition to Saint Bernadette, the Virgin had thus officially been given dominion over the place where she appeared in the 19th century!
This is the third and final part of our series from ‘Venite Prandete’ on the heroic life of the Christ-like priest, Père Jacques, with the spiritual challenges and battles he was forced to face at a time of great evil.
So often we like to tell ourselves that, confronted by something so immoral and patently evil as the mass murder by the Nazi war machine, we would withstand the pressure to conform and would emerge with a morality unbowed. Perhaps we would join the Resistance. Perhaps we might not be so brave, but, in any event, we would never succumb to the brutal descent into the abyss of evil that the world witnessed in the Holocaust.
The reality is never so sharp – of course ordinary people, confronted by an order to commit murder would not comply in normal circumstances. The situation that prevailed in the Nazi holocaust, however, as stated by Hannah Arendt, was not ‘normal circumstances.’
Hannah Arendt, in her study of Adolf Eichmann, observed that the prevailing assumption is that a ‘normal person’ would not commit such atrocities as committed by Eichmann or those in the Nazi command – those who perform such cruel and heartless acts cannot be normal, but must be ‘monsters’. Arendt however, asserted that, under the conditions created by the Third Reich, only ‘exceptions’ could be expected to react ‘normally.’ To apply the moral framework which we take for granted was, in fact, to step outside what had become ‘normal’ and it was these exceptional people who stood against the regime who were, in fact, not normal. The reality was, that Germany’s leaders had created conditions whereby a conscience grounded in the prevailing sentiments was quite able to acquiesce in events that would have horrified in other circumstances. Arendt portrayed Eichmann as a ‘joiner’ and a ‘conformist’, a man whom she described as a leaf in the ‘whirlwind of time’. It was this aspect of his character, rather than a rabid hatred of Jews or deeply held ideology that sustained his actions.
As Catholics, it is worth considering – Eichmann was acting by reference to the prevailing morality, one which had been inculcated in the militantly atheistic Nazi ideas of race and eugenics, justified by their adherence to a pseudo-science based on Darwin’s theories, coupled with eugenic interpretation of ‘race improvement.’ Such ideological ideas could only operate in an environment that denied the universal family of man to whom the father of all was Adam and for whom the prospect of salvation was given through adherence to the Divine laws. Such an ideology could only operate in an environment in which the objective Truth had been annihilated, where the Divine Judge was negatived and where man had elevated himself to become God – the ‘Idolatry of race and blood” as Pope Pius XII described the Nazi philosophy.
In a modern environment of relative morality, where virtues are expounded because they are ‘good ideas’, it is mindful to bear in mind the fragility of man’s nature – the original sin with which we are all stained. Such a morality, based upon fleeting fashions, is exactly as described by Arendt ‘a leaf in the whirlwind of time’, capable of variation and change as the fashions demand. It is the political leaders who possess the ideological foundations for the persecution of designated opponents or obstacles to their political objectives. But the ordinary person? What does it take?
In the context of World War II, in the world of the concentration camps, there were people who were not ‘normal people’ – Pere Jacques was not a ‘normal person.’ Here was a man who was first and foremost a priest – a father to his people; a man who had trained himself through an ascetic life of mortification and prayer to withstand privation. He was a man who had contemplated the face of Christ and meditated on His salvific act, the reality that Christ not only died for us, but endured torture for our sakes, all voluntarily undertaken with love for us. An act of Salvation preceded by His physical endurance of carrying the instrument of His death – Picking up His Cross; most importantly, His was a persecution and death undertaken with love and forgiveness, not only for His friends and supporters, but for His enemies. This was the God to whom Pere Jacques gave himself – the God who created and who humbled Himself.
The sheer enormity of the human suffering of World War II was mirrored in the concentration camps of Mauthausen and Gusen. A fellow prisoner of Pere Jacques, Louis Deble, identified the evil: ‘Life at Gusen was a continual straining of one-self not to go under, as the guards would have wished. Each minute was one of flagrant injustice, the triumph of brigandry, of degenerates who crushed you with their arrogance. This injustice perhaps also exists in civilised life, but it is clothed in many forms. In the camp it appeared in all its hideous nakedness.”
In this context, in the words of a fellow prisoner – the very presence of Pere Jacques, described as “the Christ-like French priest” at Gusen was “proof of the living God.”
“First Pere Jacques had mastered the art of contemplative prayer in an environment where he was shut off from both the sacramental life of the Church and the beauty of nature. Nonetheless he could experience God’s transcendence in contemplating the vastness of the heavens in the still of the night and he could find the presence of Christ in caring for the sick in their misery. Second, the priest educator, deprived of every possibility of teaching except by example, found that he could fruitfully undertake the Lord’s work wherever there was a need for compassion and relief of suffering. His fellow prisoner, Captain Petrou portrayed Pere Jacques at Neue Bremm in these words: ‘It was there that we came to know the strength of Pere Jacques’ character. In his simple habit, despite gibes, beatings and deprivations, he never once bowed to the will of the Nazis. Both physically and morally he cared for the very neediest in every way he could.’”
The self-discipline and asceticism that had marked his life enabled him to organise himself in such a way as to maximise his service to others. He saved his meagre morsel of bread with which he was rationed to give to those who needed it in order to sustain them with a bit of added nourishment – an act that, in circumstances of such deprivation, amounted to a question of life or death. His day began at 5am when he would visit the sick – a risky act in itself. “On one such visit, he met Roger Heim, a distinguished scientist, who lay gravely ill. Professor Heim later recalled him in these words: ‘I first saw Pere Jacques in May 1944 through the bars of block 27, in the infirmary of Gusen where, devoured by fever and stretched out on a pallet, with an arm slashed by a scalpel, I longed for a comforting smile from heaven. He brought it to me…In these furtive pre-dawn visits, I drew deeply from this miraculous source the stamina sorely needed for my own victory over an apparently definitive decline’.”
Most importantly, his compassion extended to his persecutors: “In general, German soldiers who routinely stood guard over the prisoners at Fontainbleau were far more humane than their Gestapo counterparts. Willi, an Austrian Catholic recruit, actually befriended Pere Jacques and his cellmates, who had already bonded into a close-knit community…. The most touching moment of those weeks at Fontainbleau came when Willi received news of the death of his only son on the Russian front. On an improvised altar, in a spirit of unconditional charity, Pere Jacques celebrated Mass for Willi’s son in a prison cell where Catholics and Communists, French and Germans joined together in a prayerful union that transcended all their divisions.”
The sanctity of Pere Jacques is the sanctity of a person who was not normal. It is tempting to erect pedestals to those whom we see as holier or stronger than ourselves – to tell ourselves that their characters are remote from us. True it was, that Père Jacques had experienced serious illness as a small child – a fact which may have awakened a sensibility to God’s presence and the veil of eternity. But his goodness was attained by focussed and discipline effort. His selflessness was attained through overcoming tendencies that weakened him in his love for Christ. He was never ordinary, but he, like the other prisoners, had to come to terms with the environment of evil in which he was placed, and the temptation to despair and to let the brutality overwhelm the goodness in every human being. In addressing these challenges, in not succumbing, first “Pere Jacques realised that he must maintain and intensify his own union with God. The sacraments and rites of the Church, the normal sources of spiritual vitality for Christians, were categorically forbidden. However, he could still practice his habit of contemplative prayer. Even when the beauty of nature was sealed off by stone walls, the splendour of the heavens could still be savoured. As he reminded his close friends in the camp, Christ was as surely present there as He was on Calvary.”
Cardinal Raymond Burke condemned President Joe Biden’s plan to codify Roe V. Wade in federal law during a homily from the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
When we think of martyrdom, we usually think of bloody or “red” martyrdom. However, great Doctors of the Church write of other kinds of martyrdom. Also, today, the Church has a path to beatification and canonization for those who endure some short of bloody, red martyrdom, oblatio vitae.
For example, St. Maximilian Kolbe, beatified by Paul VI as a confessor was canonized by John Paul II as a martyr. He is one of those cases that falls between being a “Confessor” who lived a heroic life of virtue, and being a martyr. He wasn’t really killed because he was a priest. He was killed because he took another man’s place. Therefore, as a result of his choice, he died down the line. Another case could be St. Gianna Beretta Molla, who died because of her decision not to abort her child. Some people who don’t necessarily live a life of heroic virtue, but who are virtuous and devout habitually, might by their offering of life have a path to beatification. Fr. Vincent Capodanno, the heroic Navy Chaplain killed in Vietnam while trying to give last rites to a wounded Marine. Yut! He wasn’t killed for hatred of the Faith, so he wasn’t a martyr. It would not be necessary to demonstrate all the virtues lived in a heroic way. “Heroic” here has nothing to do with his heroism in the fire fight during which he was killed. He made a choice, and was killed because of it.
So, we have the ancient teaching about “red” or bloody martyrdom for the sake of charity whereby the martyr dies giving witness in the face of hatred for the Faith.
There is also a long tradition of identifying “white” martyrdom, coined by St. Jerome, whereby a person gives witness through an ascetic life, withdrawal from the world, pilgrimages involving great sacrifice, or who suffers greatly for the Faith but who does not die in bearing witness. There is also a “blue” (or “green”) martyrdom, involving great penance and mortifications without necessarily the sort of withdrawal from life that a hermit or a cenobite might live. Gregory the Great in his Dialogues, writes of different kinds of martyrdom, bloody, public martyrdom in time of persecution and secret martyrdom, not in time of persecution. He wrote that secret martyrs are no less worthy of honor, because they also endured sufferings and the attacks of hidden enemies, but they persevered in charity.
The Church recognizes the lives of figure who are worthy of being proposed as examples to others. Different times in the life of the Church bring different and new examples of how to live the Christian life. People don’t change but the world around us does. How a Christian reacts to the world has some stable principles but life has to be lived here and now, not as it was in the past or how we would prefer it to be. Work for a better world, yes, but we cannot compromise on the Faith.
Hence, the world will find new ways to make us into witnesses… martyrs. And the most painful martyrdom will come from fellow Catholics.
When you examine your conscience in the evening – I hope you do – do you ever play out in your head what it would be like were society to go sideways fast? What if all Catholics – not willing to offer a pinch of incense to the one-party rule of the Woke Democrat Party were determined to be “domestic terrorists” and were to be rounded up and put into camps. Have you thought about what you would do? What if they confiscate everything you have and let you twist in the wind because you won’t abide by the “Face Diapers For Democracy” executive order? Have you thought about this?
When things go sideways, they tend to go sideways really fast. And if you think it can’t happen where you are… ha!
The world will always need witnesses. But you can’t give witness to what you do not know. You can’t give what you don’t have, or in fun Latin, nemo dat quod non ‘got’.
Take the admonishment of Peter to heart and “always be ready to give reasons…” (1 Peter 3:15)
Be situationally aware about your neighborhood, workplace, city, country.
Finally, some news of the increasing martyrdom of Christians in Africa due to Islamic extremism.
Saint Paul’s conversion and zeal should give hope to all of us whose loved ones have rejected or fallen away from the Faith. Through the ages we see God’s infinite power, love and mercy in the awesome conversions of people from all walks of life whose weary, sinful and hardened hearts were set on fire with love for their Lord and Saviour.
The account of Saint Paul’s Conversion from the Douay Rheims Bible, Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 9:
And Saul, as yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked of him letters to Damascus, to the synagogues: that if he found any men and women of this way, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. And as he went on his journey, it came to pass that he drew nigh to Damascus; and suddenly a light from heaven shined round about him. And falling on the ground, he heard a voice saying to him: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Who said: Who art thou, Lord? And he: I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the goad.
And he trembling and astonished, said: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said to him: Arise, and go into the city, and there it shall be told thee what thou must do. Now the men who went in company with him, stood amazed, hearing indeed a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. But they leading him by the hands, brought him to Damascus. And he was there three days, without sight, and he did neither eat nor drink. Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias. And the Lord said to him in a vision: Ananias. And he said: Behold I am here, Lord.
And the Lord said to him: Arise, and go into the street that is called Strait, and seek in the house of Judas, one named Saul of Tarsus. For behold he prayeth. (And he saw a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hands upon him, that he might receive his sight.) But Ananias answered: Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints in Jerusalem. And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that invoke thy name. And the Lord said to him: Go thy way; for this man is to me a vessel of election, to carry my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.
For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house. And laying his hands upon him, he said: Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus hath sent me, he that appeared to thee in the way as thou camest; that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he received his sight; and rising up, he was baptized. And when he had taken meat, he was strengthened. And he was with the disciples that were at Damascus, for some days. And immediately he preached Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
And all that heard him, were astonished, and said: Is not this he who persecuted in Jerusalem those that called upon this name: and came hither for that intent, that he might carry them bound to the chief priests? But Saul increased much more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt at Damascus, affirming that this is the Christ. And when many days were passed, the Jews consulted together to kill him. But their laying in wait was made known to Saul. And they watched the gates also day and night, that they might kill him. But the disciples taking him in the night, conveyed him away by the wall, letting him down in a basket.
And when he was come into Jerusalem, he essayed to join himself to the disciples; and they all were afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and told them how he had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken to him; and how in Damascus he had dealt confidently in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out in Jerusalem, and dealing confidently in the name of the Lord.
Blessed Apostle Paul, who labored so zealously for the conversion of the Gentiles in many lands, obtain for us a perpetual zeal for the salvation of souls and especially enkindle our interest in the conversion of our separated brethern. Ever mindful of the interest that our Divine Lord, the Good Shepherd, has for the other sheep not of His fold, I now beg your intercession and obtain for me the gift of the true faith for …………. (Pause here and name relatives and friends) May God grant this request so close to my heart and thus enable me to extend to another what I so richly enjoy, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
This is the PART II of the story from ‘Venite Prandete’ about the life of Père Jacques, the Christ-like French priest of World War II.
At this time, he met with his friend, Lucien Weil, an eminent botanist. Upon seeing a yellow star on his friend’s coat, he bristled with indignation. Passive acceptance of discrimination made one complicit in the Vichy government’s adoption of the Nazi race-based policy of anti-Semitism, a policy that had already excluded Jews from most Government positions, including teaching at State schools. Professor Weil had been removed from his professorship at the Lycee Carnot at Fontainbleau. Pere Jacques immediately invited Professor Weil to teach science at the Petit-College. His friend accepted the invitation and joined the faculty when the school resumed in 1942.
Following occupation by the Germans of the previously autonomous Free Zone held by the Vichy government in November 1942, German hold on the country became more oppressive. He endeavoured to assist all victims of Nazi oppression: He made the school a refuge for young men seeking to avoid conscription for forced labour in Germany and for those fleeing the Nazi regime in the north in order to join the Resistance. He facilitated the hiding and re-homing of Jews fleeing persecution, enabling many to travel through the Catholic networks to Spain, a country which, despite its fascist government and its alliance with Hitler, nevertheless did not refuse entry to any Jews who claimed shelter.
His assistance to the Jewish victims of the Nazi race policy brought him into frequent contact with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Sion in neighbouring Melun. Mother Maria, the superior of the convent, often sought his help in finding Catholic families with whom escaping Jews might be sheltered secretly.
Just prior to the re-opening of the school in January 1943 Pere Jacques received an urgent request from Mother Maria to allow three desperate Jewish boys to be enrolled clandestinely at the Petit-College. As securing their enrolment brought implications for the other students of the school, Pere Jacques consulted Father Philippe who unreservedly encouraged him in the decision to take the boys. The three students; Hans Helmut Michel, Maurice Schlosser and Jacques-France Halpern arrived at the Petit-College at the beginning of the second term. They received new Christian names – Jean Bonnet, Maurice Sabatier and Jacques Dupre respectively. He also hid a fourth boy, Maurice Bas, as a worker at the school and sheltered Maurice Schlosser’s father with a local Catholic village family.
He concerned himself with the students’ emotional development, yet conscientiously rejected any compromise of their Jewish faith while discretely deflecting attention away from their non-participation in Catholic rites. In this regard, in order to forestall any untoward inquiries or suspicion, he confided the true identity of the newly arrived students to the three upper classes. His confidence in the maturity and trustworthiness of the older students proved to be well-placed. Not one student violated the confidence and all strove to make their classmates as welcome as possible.
The day began normally on 15th January 1944. Classes were in progress. Pere Jacques was teaching his French literature class when a squad of Gestapo raided the school. The headmaster and the Jewish students were singled out for arrest. The Gestapo found enough evidence in Pere Jacques’ desk to link him with a wide involvement in the Resistance. While he was being interrogated the three Jewish students were rounded up. Shortly thereafter the Gestapo led Pere Jacques and the students across the school yard where their schoolmates stood in the cold, watching in helpless shock. As the procession passed the students, first faintly then rousingly, called out, ‘Au revoir Pere,’ (“Goodbye Father”). Pere Jacques turned waved and responded, “Au revoir les enfants,” (Goodbye children).
Over 40 years later that final farewell became the title of a film by the celebrated film maker Louis Malle. As the film poignantly portrays, that was the last time Pere Jacques and the three Jewish students would be seen at the school. In 1988 Louis Malle told a New York Times reporter: ”This was, for me, by far the strongest impression of my childhood, the memory that remains above all the others in vividness”. He said that he remembered how Father Jacques, as he was being led away with his three Jewish students, turned to the watching students and said: ”Au revoir et a bientot”, (Goodbye and see you soon.) Then, he said, “something took place that was very bizarre: Somebody started to applaud and then everybody was applauding, despite the shouts of the Gestapo to keep quiet”.
Lucien Weil, his mother, and his sister were arrested at their house in Fontainebleau the same day. They were deported to Auschwitz, where they, too, perished.
Père Jacques was imprisoned in several Nazi concentration camps, but was first interned in the prison of Fontainbleau. The Kommandant of the prison at Fontainbleau was SS Sargeant Wilhelm Korff, a particularly sadistic figure who was later found guilty of war crimes. Korff had headed the Gestapo group who had raided the Petit-College. He tried at length but without success to break Pere Jacques’ spirit. In one protracted interrogation, Korff asked Pere Jacques: ‘What do you think of the laws of the Reich?’ To which the priest replied: ‘ I do not know them; I now only one law, that of the Gospel and of charity’ Even the hard-hearted Korff came to acknowledge the solid character of his Carmelite prisoner, of whom he later said: ‘ He has only one defect; he is not a Nazi.’
He was then initially sent to Neue-Bremm, following which he was transferred to Mauthausan concentration camp, a place of dehumanizing depravity, where the anonymous remains of 200,000 victims lie beneath the soil of the camp. On arrival the prisoners were stripped naked and shaved bald. The following two weeks saw a sadistic form of initiation, with beatings and drowning of prisoners by holding their heads in buckets of water. The sadism of the guards was surpassed by the Kapos recruited from the prisoners themselves.
The one person in this environment who had given hope to the prisoners, a jovial priest called Pere Gruber, had been strangled at precisely three o’clock on Good Friday afternoon, a deliberately significant act by the prison guards. At one stage, Pere Jacques was forced to carry a cross, naked, in a circle for hours, in humiliation of his priestly role.
In prison the foundation of his spiritual life was contemplative prayer. Neither prison bars nor brutal treatment could quell his deep inner communion with the Lord. From that inner communion there radiated an air of inner peace and calm that left an indelible impression on all his fellow prisoners. His extraordinary self-discipline proved indispensible to his survival for the 18 months of his imprisonment.
He found ways of raising the morale of his despairing compatriots. When all the priests at Gusen were moved to the Dachau concentration camp – reputedly less severe than Mauthausen – Pere Jacques veiled his priestly identity to remain as the only priest for the 20,000 prisoners at Gusen. He learned enough Polish to minister to the Polish prisoners, who called him Père Zak. Though he grew progressively weaker, he remained one of the Resistance leaders still active in the camp, gaining the respect of all its inmates, including the communists.
His trust in God’s will was illustrated by his response to his friend, fellow prisoner Michel de Bouard, who confided to him his intention to vow either to make a pilgrimage to Lourdes or to assist at Mass and communion twice a week for the rest of his life if he survived the camp. Pere Jacques reflected and replied: “No. We should not tempt God. The greatest proof of trust we can give Him is to accept from the depth of our heart whatever he wills.”
Father Murphy observed that, “[a]mong his many acts of spiritual leadership certainly the most memorable in the minds of the survivors of Gusen were the Masses that he celebrated clandestinely in the camp on Christmas, new year’s day and Easter during that final winter. The improvised altars, the smuggled wine and host, the intensity of devotion and the courage of the priest in prison garb left an indelible imprint on the memories of those present, while raising their spirits to new levels of lived faith.“
He and the other inmates of the camps were liberated by American troops at Mauthausen in early May 1945. Suffering from tuberculosis, he weighed only 34 kg. At liberation, despite their physical fragility, he and a pathetic parade of survivors were forced by wartime deprivation to embark on a 3 mile trek to Mauthausen. As they passed through the gates of Mauthausen-Gusen, Pere Jacques and another prisoner prayed the Magnificat. His close friend, Roger Heim, described the moment: ‘My last vision of Gusen and of its drill yard where so many had perished is for me inseparable from the memory of the man, the priest, who in this multitude once more overcame every adversity and who in the end brought us the victory-the triumph of the human spirit over a system born of materialism and depravity. In our eyes Pere Jacques was resplendent in victory.’
He died on 2 June 1945, days after being liberated. After his death, the sister of Hans Helmut Michel testified that Father Jacques had not only hidden her brother but had also arranged for meetings between the two siblings during school times. At one meeting she had stated to Pere Jacques her gratitude and said that she did not know how she could repay him for the school tuition. Father Jacques had told her that he expected nothing in return, either then or ever. On the contrary, he would like to see her brother continue his studies until the Baccalaureate. Since the boy had no parents, Pere Jacques said that he would gladly take their place.
On 26 June his coffin was solemnly carried into the discalced Carmelite Chapel at Avon. Following obsequies his body was carried in procession through the school courtyard to the small cemetery behind the school. There he was buried in an unadorned grave marked only by a white cross.
Many dignitaries, both religious and civil, participated in the funeral ceremonies – honoured by all segments of society whose lives he had touched :– students and parents, veterans and deportees, teachers and friends, townspeople and comrades in the Resistance, Catholics and communists, brother Carmelites and family members. Many tributes were paid but one tribute that spoke with understated eloquence was the inscription on one of the floral arrangements. It stated simply: ‘A grateful Jewish family from Avon.’”
(This concludes the short biography of Père Jacques. There will be a third part coming entitled, ‘PÈRE JACQUES – His Spiritual Battle in the Face of Evil’.)
“My son, when you come to serve God, prepare your soul for temptation.” – Ecclus. (Sirach) 2:1
St. Francis de Sales, whose feast we celebrate on 24th January (29th January in the Extraordinary Form) in his book Introduction to the Devout Life, explains what you should do when you are initially tempted.
So soon as you feel yourself anywise tempted, do as our little children when they see a wolf or a bear in the mountains. Forthwith they run to the protection of their father or mother, or at least cry out for help. Do you fly in like manner to God, claiming His compassion and succour,—it is the remedy taught us by our Lord Himself: “Pray that ye enter not into temptation.”
If, nevertheless, the temptation persists or increases, hasten in spirit to embrace the holy Cross, as though you beheld Jesus Christ Crucified actually Present. Make firm protests against consenting, and ask His Help thereto; and, so long as the temptation lasts, do you persist in making acts of non-consent. But while making these acts and these protests, do not fix your eyes on the temptation—look solely on Our Lord, for if you dwell on the temptation, especially when it is strong, your courage may be shaken.
Divert your mind with any right and healthy occupation, for if that takes possession and fills your thoughts, it will drive away temptation and evil imaginations.
St Francis de Sales also advises us to keep the mind fixed steadily on The Cross of Christ, praying constantly, even if we are able to utter no more than brief aspirations under strong temptation. His description of how lovers constantly think of their beloved is especially apt in keeping temptation at bay and in love of God.
Do you then, my daughter, aspire continually to God, by brief, ardent upliftings of heart; praise His Excellence, invoke His Aid, cast yourself in spirit at the Foot of His Cross, adore His Goodness, offer your whole soul a thousand times a day to Him, fix your inward gaze upon Him, stretch out your hands to be led by Him, as a little child to its father, clasp Him to your breast as a fragrant nosegay, upraise Him in your soul as a standard. In short, kindle by every possible act your love for God, your tender, passionate desire for the Heavenly Bridegroom of souls. Such is ejaculatory prayer, as it was so earnestly inculcated by St. Augustine upon the devout Proba; and be sure, my daughter, that if you seek such nearness and intimacy with God your whole soul will imbibe the perfume of His Perfections. Neither is this a difficult practice, – it may be interwoven with all our duties and occupations, without hindering any; for neither the spiritual retreat of which I have spoken, nor these inward upliftings of the heart, cause more than a very brief distraction, which, so far from being any hindrance, will rather promote whatever you have in hand. When a pilgrim pauses an instant to take a draught of wine, which refreshes his lips and revives his heart, his onward journey is nowise hindered by the brief delay, but rather it is shortened and lightened, and he brings it all the sooner to a happy end, pausing but to advance the better.
And a few more words from the Saint on prayers of aspiration to help divert our mind from temptation and grow in love.
Sundrycollections of ejaculatory prayer have been put forth, which are doubtless very useful, but I should advise you not to tie yourself to any formal words, but rather to speak with heart or mouth whatever springs forth from the love within you, which is sure to supply you with all abundance. There are certain utterances which have special force, such as the ejaculatory prayers of which the Psalms are so full, and the numerous loving invocations of Jesus which we find in the Song of Songs. Many hymns too may be used with the like intention, provided they are sung attentively. In short, just as those who are full of some earthly, natural love are ever turning in thought to the beloved one, their hearts overflowing with tenderness, and their lips ever ready to praise that beloved object; comforting themselves in absence by letters, carving the treasured name on every tree;–so those who love God cannot cease thinking of Him, living for Him, longing after Him, speaking of Him, and fain would they grave the Holy Name of Jesus in the hearts of every living creature they behold. And to such an outpour of love all creation bids us – nothing that He has made but is filled with the praise of God, and, as says St. Augustine, everything in the world speaks silently but clearly to the lovers of God of their love, exciting them to holy desires, whence gush forth aspirations and loving cries to God.
At present, demonic forces have increased to such an extent that we find ourselves in a spiritual battle whose magnitude surpasses anything we have ever seen before, says Bishop Athanasius Schneider in a video about the angels.
The battle lines in this struggle are between truth and error, and naturalism and supernaturalism, Schneider explains. He notices that there is an enormous confusion in doctrine, morals and liturgy, so that even good people start doubting about basic truths like moral tenets regarding contraception, divorce or adultery.
The truth is obscured with suggestive formulations, Schneider analyses and mentions expressions such as “primacy of mercy,” “surprises of the Holy Spirit,” “paradigm shift,” “individual conscience,” “pastoral accompaniment” or “process of discernment”. Interestingly, these formulations are all used by Francis.
Schneider recommends venerating the Holy Angels to fight against evil spirits, but also to entrust the little things of life to them.
One example: “Sometimes my guardian angel wakes me up at the exact moment I need to wake up, when the alarm clock hasn’t worked.” His conclusion: “The more we ask the angels, the more they help us.”
The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.” So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD’S bidding. Now Nineveh was an enormously large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD, and your love are from of old. In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O LORD.
Good and upright is the LORD; thus he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, he teaches the humble his way.
First Letter to the Corinthians7,29-31.
I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark1,14-20.
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein] (1891-1942) Carmelite, martyr, co-patron of Europe For the First Profession of Sister Miriam of Little Saint Thérèse
“So they left their father Zebedee in the boat (…) and followed him”
Whoever allows herself to be led like a child in the harness of holy obedience will reach the kingdom of God that is promised to “little ones” (Mt 19:4). Obedience led Mary, the royal daughter of the house of David, to the simple little house of the poor carpenter of Nazareth. Obedience led both of these most holy people away from the secure enclosure of this modest home onto the highway and into the stable at Bethlehem. It laid the Son of God in the manger.
In freely chosen poverty the Savior and his mother wandered the streets of Judea and Galilee and lived on the alms of the faithful. Naked and exposed, the Lord hung on the cross and left the care of his mother to the love of his disciple.
Therefore, he demands poverty of those who would follow him. The heart must be free of ties to earthly goods, of concern about them, dependence on them, desire for them, if it is to belong to the divine Bridegroom exclusively.
Traditional Latin Mass readings for the third Sunday after Epiphany MASS (Adoráte Deum) (green)
EPISTLE Romans 12: 16-21
Fratres: Nolíte esse prudéntes apud vosmetípsos nulli malum pro malo reddéntes: providéntes bona non tantum coram Deo, sed étiam coram ómnibus homínibus. Si fíeri potest, quod ex vobis est, cum ómnibus homínibus pacem habéntes: Non vosmetípsos defendéntes, caríssimi, sed date locum iræ. Scriptum est enim: Mihi vindícta: ego retríbuam, dicit Dóminus. Sed si esuríerit inimícus tuus, ciba illum: si sitit, potum da illi: hoc enim fáciens, carbónes ignis cóngeres super caput ejus. Noli vinci a malo, sed vince in bono malum.
Brethren: Be not wise in your own conceits. To no man rendering evil for evil: providing good things not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as is in you, have peace with all men. Revenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved, but give place unto wrath. For it is written: Revenge is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord. But if thy enemy be hungry, give him to eat; if he thirst, give him to drink: for doing this, thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.
GRADUAL Psalms 101: 16-17
Timébunt gentes nomen tuum, Dómine, et omnes reges terræ glóriam tuam. Quóniam ædificávit Dóminus Sion: et vidébitur in majestáte sua.
The Gentiles shall fear Thy name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth Thy glory. For the Lord hath built up Sion: and He shall be seen in His glory.
Alleluia, alleluia. The Lord hath reigned, let the earth rejoice: let many islands be glad. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Matthew 8: 1-13
In illo témpore: Cum descendísset Jesus de monte, secútæ sunt eum turbæ multæ: et ecce leprósus véniens, adorábat eum, dicens: Dómine, si vis, potes me mundáre. Et exténdens Jesus manum, tétigit eum, dicens: Volo. Mundáre. Et conféstim mundáta est lepra ejus. Et ait illi Jesus: Vide, némini díxeris: sed vade, osténde te sacerdóti, et offer munus, quod præcépit Móyses, in testimónium illis. Cum autem introísset Caphárnaum, accéssit ad eum centúrio, rogans eum, et dicens: Dómine, puer meus jacet in domo paralýticus, et male torquétur. Et ait illi Jesus: Ego véniam, et curábo eum. Et respóndens centúrio, ait: Dómine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanábitur puer meus. Nam et ego homo sum sub potestáte constitútus, habens sub me mílites, et dico huic: Vade, et vadit; et álii: Veni, et venit; et servo meo: Fac hoc, et facit. Áudiens autem Jesus, mirátus est, et sequéntibus se dixit: Amen dico vobis, non invéni tantam fídem in Israël. Dico autem vobis, quod multi ab Oriénte, et Occidénte vénient, et recúmbent cum Abrham, et Isaac, et Jacob in regno cælórum: fílii autem regni ejiciéntur in ténebras exterióres: ibi erit fletus, et stridor déntium. Et dixit Jesus centurióni: Vade, et sicut credidísti, fiat tibi. Et sanátus est puer in illa hora.
At that time, when Jesus was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him: and behold a leper came and adored Him saying: Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, stretching forth His hand touched him, saying: I will. Be thou made clean. And forthwith his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith to him: See, thou tell no man: but go, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. And when He had entered into Capharnaum, there came to Him a centurion, beseeching Him, and saying: Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, and is grievously tormented. And Jesus saith to him: I will come and heal him. And the centurion making answer said: Lord, I am not worthy that Thou should enter under my roof: but only say the word and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this: Go, and he goes; and to another: Come, and he comes; and to my servant: Do this, and he does it. And Jesus hearing this marveled, and said to them that followed Him: Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israël. And I say to you, that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven: but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said to the centurion: Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee. And the servant was healed at the same hour.
Continuing with our posts on the lives of exceptionally courageous and holy priests [see HERE, HERE and HERE] who have yet to be raised to the official calendar of Saints of the Catholic Church, today we have the poignant story from ‘Venite Prandete’ of Father Jacques who was martyred by the Nazis. The last part of his life was portrayed in the award-winning 1987 film, “AUX REVOIR LES ENFANTS”.
We have characters presented to us as ‘heroes’ by our unfortunate popular culture – one-dimensional personalities, possessed of superficial bravery or worldly qualities that are socially esteemed, who grab our attention momentarily but whose stories fail to provide a standard of any depth or lasting value. And yet, right in front of us, we have real people in our Catholic history who provide to us an example by which we have profound and lasting guidance on how to live a rich and fulfilled life – how to strive to attain the best of ourselves. Pere Jacques is one such person, a man whose inspirational character and Christ-like love for his fellow man grew in adversity, in the horrors and evil of World War II, with all its attendant cruelty and human failures, a man possessed of incredible bravery – a courage that was founded, not on worldly qualities, but on an abandonment of self and a focus on the eternal, the presence of God in all circumstances, not ‘even’, but especially, in the most cruel and inhuman landscape of the Nazi concentration camps.
Born Lucien Bunel, in Normandy in 1900, Pere Jacques was inspired by the deep Catholic faith of his working-class, and financially struggling, parents in a family of seven children, a context in which the outlines of his personality were formed and the contours of his faith established.
Father Francis J Murphy, his biographer, states;
To his elders within the family and the town, [his] spiritual qualities came as no surprise. They remembered vividly how as a year-old boy, given up to death by the doctor, Lucien had been remarkably cured and instantly restored to health. When his mother had no hope for his recovery except for her trust in God, she made a novena to Saint Germain, at the suggestion of a devout old lady in the parish. Completion of the novena was to be marked by a pilgrimage to the outdoor shrine of Saint Germain in a field seven miles into the Norman countryside from Barentain. The ninth day of the novena came on a Sunday. [His mother], Pauline, now five months pregnant, and [his father], pushing the carriage with little Lucien inside, set out on their pilgrimage despite a wind-driven rainstorm.
As they knelt before the statue of Saint Germain, Pauline pleaded with the Lord: ‘My God, leave him with me until he is twenty; after that, take him, for he is yours, but grant me the joy of offering him to you when he has grown up,’ Suddenly, little Lucien stirred in the carriage and then smiled at his parents, who fell on their knees in thanksgiving at the sight of their son, now revitalized before their very eyes. Lucien related this experience to his religious community years later and did not hesitate to call it a miracle. His mother never forgot her vow on that rainy day. When over forty years later, she received news of Lucien’s death, she knelt down again and said: ‘My Lord, I promised him to you. You have left him with me longer than I could have hoped. Your will be done!’
He was ordained a diocesan priest in 1925 to serve the Diocese of Rouen. He had considered becoming a Trappist monk before his ordination and, even though he had abandoned this desire in order to serve in an apostolic role, he nevertheless still sought to integrate an intense life of contemplation with the active requirements of a life of service to others, always maintaining a deep interior life of prayer. There was a conflict between his desire for contemplation and his undeniable gift of preaching, the effectiveness of which was said to be founded, not on any human brilliance, “but rather a sense of the divine so powerfully present in his sermons”.
His contemplative understanding of the spiritual journey was accompanied by a strong Catholic sense of social justice. His hard-working father provided an example to him of a faith lived in daily life. He challenged complacent, comfortable Catholics in the pews with his strong insistence on social justice as a fundamental component of Christian holiness. He once began a sermon in a prosperous parish in Le Havre with these words: ‘I come to you as a worker and the son of a worker to speak to you about Jesus, the worker.” He taught in a local Catholic boys’ school and was so effective and inspiring that his educational methods, based upon a true recognition of the dignity of the student, based in Christian principles, were renowned.
In July 1927, Abbe Bunel first heard the personal call of Carmel. The atmosphere of silence and prayer that permeated Carmel captivated him. He explained his experience at Avon to the Carmelite nuns at Le Havre: ‘There, for me, is the ideal of religious life-to live in solitude, in intimate union with God; then, to leave the cloister to bring him to souls, to make him known and loved….and then to return to total recollection in order to be immersed in prayer.’ His request to the Archbishop to join the Carmelites was rejected twice, which he interpreted in a letter to the Mother Superior of the Carmelite sisters, Mother Marie-Joseph: ‘I consider these developments to be directed by Divine Providence and to be destined ultimately for my spiritual growth.’ Then he added self-effacingly: ‘My fiercely proud character needs such humiliations.’
He ultimately was permitted to join the Carmelite order, taking the religious name of Frere Jacques de Jesus. His novice master, Father Louis of the Trinity, directly supervised the seven candidates, giving special attention to all aspects of their being, physical as well as spiritual. In 1932 Father Louis of the Trinity was appointed provincial of the re-established province of Paris and eventually served as Admiral Thierry d’Argenlieu, one of General Charles de Gaulle’s closest companions in the Resistance.
The distinctive, unique characteristic of the Carmelite vocation has been well captured in these words: ‘One enters Carmel, above all else, to find God and to have the personal and living contact that is achieved by the most intense prayer.’ For Frere Jacques such periods of uninterrupted prayer were blissful. Whether in the solitude of his cell or in the communal chanting of the Office in Chapel, prayer was the first priority and greatest source of joy. He also welcomed the strict rule of Carmel. The silence and the fasts facilitated his spiritual growth, although initially he often found himself quite hungry, as he later admitted. Spiritual reading in one’s cell was a staple of Carmelite spirituality and a source of both insight and inspiration.
His humility (and his awareness of the reality of the difficult journey to sanctity) was apparent in a letter he wrote in February 1928 in which he expressed his spiritual self-evaluation; He was convinced of the need for the austere obedient life of a monk in order to ‘crush the immense pride’ to which he was prone. His experience as a diocesan priest, however, had obliged him humbly to acknowledge that God had given him ‘a special talent for preaching.’
When he was approved for profession, the prior, Father Etienne, spoke simply and summarily: ‘His holiness overflows the cloister.’
While he was preparing to take his final vows in 1934, his superiors suggested that he found and run a school for boys. This was accomplished by him, with the founding of the Petit College Sainte Therese de l’Enfant-Jesus in Avon, Seine-et-Marne.
As educator and guardian of the spiritual, moral and physical development of the young students, together with a need for prayer and spiritual replenishment, his punishing schedule demanded extraordinary self-discipline. On a human level, his self-discipline was built by training the will. He considered mastery of the will to be an acquired moral trait which he stressed in his personal spiritual life as well as in his educational philosophy. On a spiritual plane, self-discipline was for him a basic requirement of the ascetical life and ultimately the prerequisite for fully embracing God’s will.
In practice the two levels of self-discipline merged; at the end of a long day teaching, when he might have legitimately prepared for bed he would use this time to perform voluntary tasks – visiting students in the infirmary every night. When one student was hospitalised for a month, he travelled to Fontainbleau each night to visit him and then went back to write a daily letter to his parents, informing them of his progress.
His educational philosophy took as the starting point the dignity and freedom of each student. The teacher’s role, in his mind, consisted essentially in stimulating students to an ever and always better use of human freedom. In order to be convincing, however, the teacher’s actions had to resonate with trustful respect for each student. Only in such an environment could a student’s potential be fully realised.
For him this educational ideal had deep spiritual implications. Its implementation presupposed a believing, mutually supportive community. The goal of the students’ development was not so much pious practices as ‘putting on Christ’ in the phrase of St Paul, on whose writings he frequently meditated. The formative years of the students presented an unrepeatable opportunity to develop character and conscience in such a way as to prepare a young man for a virtuous life and ultimately for saintliness. Truth, justice courage and compassion were not merely abstract concepts but living principles that could be realised in each person’s life and cultivated in the life of the community.
He served as headmaster and teacher until the outbreak of World War II, when he was conscripted into military service. He was billeted by the French army in a home in which he set up a room where he said Mass, heard confession, read, and prayed – an experience which he termed his “Duruelo’ after his inspiration, St John of the Cross. This experience brought home to him the ability to take the contemplative space with him, to create a haven of communication with God in any environment.
When the French surrendered to the Germans in June 1940 he was initially imprisoned as a prisoner of war but was ultimately released from military service and returned to the school, where both he and his provincial, Father Philippe, together with the mayor of Avon became active members of the French Resistance, a role for which his experience as a soldier and as a prisoner of war had equipped him. His reputation reached the high command of the Resistance movement, the National Front, who invited him to join the board. Upon consultation with Father Philippe, both agreed that the potential risk of reprisals against the students of the Petit-College, if the headmaster should ever be captured, made it too hazardous for him to accept the position. As provincial, Father Philippe could fill that role with more facility and less danger to the students. So the provincial, not the headmaster, joined the board of the French Resistance.
This is the last poem written by ‘The Little Flower’, St Thérèse of Lisieux, before her death at the age of 24 in 1897. Naturally, Thérèse wrote her poems in French, so this is one of the English translations of the poem. It is no easy task to translate a poem from one language to another, but I believe the best effort was made by the translator in this case to retain the flow and sentiments of the much-loved saint’s work.
How appropriate that Thérèse’s final poem should be dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary whose statue had miraculously turned and smiled on Thérèse in her childhood. For months she had been lying prostrate in bed from a mysterious illness, but from that day of Mary’s smile, the young Thérèse made an astonishing and complete recovery.
“Do not be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much, you will never love her enough, and Jesus will be very happy, because the Blessed Virgin is His Mother” – (Thérèse, letter of May 1889 to her cousin, Marie Guérin).
WHY I LOVE THEE MARY
Fain would I sing, 0 Mother blest! the reasons why I love thee;
Why e’en to name thy name, with joy, O Mary! fills my heart;
And why the glorious thoughts of thee, in greatness far above me,
Inspire no fear within my soul, so dear and sweet thou art.
Yet, if I were to see thee now, in majesty stupendous,
Surpassing all the crowned saints in highest heaven above,
Scarce could I dream I am thy child, (O truth sublime, tremendous!
For I should think myself to be unworthy of thy love.
The mother, who desires to be her child’s best earthly treasure,
Must ever share its grief with it, must understand its pain.
Queen of my heart! how many years, thy sorrows had no measure;
What bitter tears thine eyes have shed, my worthless heart to gain!
So, musing on thy earthly life, in Scripture’s sacred story,
I dare to look upon thy face, and unto thee draw nigh;
For when I see thee suffering, concealed thy marvellous glory
It is not hard, then, to believe thy little child am I.
When Gabriel came from heaven’s courts, to ask thee to be mother
Of God Who reigns omnipotent to all eternity,
I see thee, Mary! then prefer to that great grace, another,
Through all thy consecrated life a virgin pure to be.
And so I now can comprehend, immaculate white maiden!
Why thou wast dearer unto God than heaven itself could be;
And how thy humble, human frame, with mortal weakness laden,
Could yet contain the Eternal Word, Love’s vast unbounded Sea.
I love thee when I hear thee call thyself the handmaid only
Of God, Whom thou didst win to earth by thy humility;
All powerful it made thee then, above all women, lonely,
And drew, into thy bosom chaste, the Blessed Trinity,
The Holy Spirit, Love Divine, o’ershadowed thee, 0 Mother!
And God the Father’s only Son incarnate was in thee.
How many sinful, sorrowing souls shall dare to call Him Brother!
For He shall be called: Jesus, thy first born, eternally.
And oh! despite my frailties, dear Mary! well thou knowest
That I at times, like thee, possess the Almighty in my breast.
Shall I not tremble at the gift, O God! that Thou bestowest ?
A mother’s treasure is her child’s: I still my fears to rest.
For I, O Mary, am thy child! O Mother dear and tender.
Shall not thy virtues and thy love plead now with God for me?
Then, when the pure white sacred Host, in all its veiled splendour,
Visits my heart, thy spotless Lamb will think He comes to thee.
Oh, thou dost help me to believe that e’en for us, frail mortals,
‘Tis not impossible to walk where we thy footsteps see;
The narrow road before us now, thou lightest to heaven’s portals.
Who lowliest virtues here below didst practise perfectly.
Near thee, O Mother! I would stay, little, unknown and lowly;
Of earthly glory, oh! how plain I see the vanity!
In the house of St. Elizabeth, thy cousin dear and holy,
I learn of thee to practise well most ardent charity.
There, too, I listen on my knees, great Queen of all the Angels!
To that sweet canticle that flows in rapture from thy soul;
So dost thou teach me how to sing like heavenly, glad evangels
And glorify my Jesus, Who alone can make me whole.
Thy burning words of love divine are mystic flowers victorious,
Whose fragrance shall embalm the long, long, ages yet to be.
In thee, indeed, the Almighty King hath done great things and glorious!
I meditate upon them now, and bless my God in thee.
When good St. Joseph did not know the great archangel’s story,
Which thou wouldst fain conceal from men in thy humility,
O tabernacle of the Lord! thou didst not tell thy glory,
But veiled the Saviour’s presence in profoundest secrecy,
Thy silence, how I love it now, so eloquent, so moving!
For me it is a concert sweet, of melody sublime;
I learn thereby the grandeur of a soul that God is proving,
That only looks for help from Him and in His chosen time.
Then later still, O Joseph! and O Mary! I behold you
Repulsed in little Bethlehem by all the dwellers there;
From door to door you vainly went, for all the people told you
They had no place to shelter you, no time to give you care.
Their rooms were for the great alone; and in a stable dreary
The Queen of Heaven gave birth to Him Who made both heaven and earth.
O Mother of my Saviour! then, thou wast not sad nor weary;
In that poor shed how grand thou wert! how painless was that Birth!
And there when, wrapped in swaddling bands, I see the King Eternal,
When of the Word divine, supreme, the feeble cry I hear
O Mary, can I envy e’en the angels’ joy supernal?
The Master Whom they worship is My little Brother dear.
What praises must I give to thee, who, in earth’s gloomy prison,
Brought forth this lovely heaven sent Flower, before our eyes to bloom!
Though unto shepherds and wise men a star had grandly risen,
These things were kept within thy heart as in some secret room.
I love thee when I see thee next, like other Hebrew women,
To Israel’s temple turn thy steps when dawned the fortieth day;
I love thee yielding humbly up, to aged, favoured Simeon,
The Lord Who should redeem us all when years had fled away.
And first my happy smiles awake, to hear his glorious singing,
That “Nunc Dimittis” that shall ring till Time itself shall die;
But soon those joyous notes are changed, and my hot tears are springing;
“A sword of grief must be thy lot,” thus runs his prophecy.
O Queen of all the martyrs host! till thy life here is ended,
That sharp, sharp sword shall pierce thy heart! At once, it pierces sore.
That thy dear Child from Herod’s wrath may surely be defended,
I see thee as an exile fled to Egypt’s pagan shore.
Beneath thy veil thy Jesus slept, thy peace no fears were daunting,
When Joseph came to bid thee wake, and straightway flee from home;
And then at once I see thee rise, as called by angels chanting,
Content, without a questioning word, in foreign lands to roam.
In Egypt and in poverty, I think I see thee, Mary,
All glad at heart, all radiant, with joy beyond compare.
What matters exile unto thee? Thy true home cannot vary.
Hast thou not Jesus, with thee still? and with Him Heaven is there.
But, oh! in fair Jerusalem, a sorrow, vast, unbounded,
Indeed o’erwhelmed thy mothers heart with grief beyond compare;
For three days Jesus hid Himself; no word to thee was spoken.
Thou truly wast an exile then, and knew what exiles bear.
And when, at last, thine eyes again were thy Son’s face beholding,
And love entranced thee, watching Him among the doctors wise,
“My Child!” thou saidst, “now tell me why didst leave my arms enfolding?
Didst Thou not know we sought for Thee with tear endimmed eyes?
The Child God answered to thee then, to thy sweet, patient wooing,
O Mother whom He loved so well, whose heart was well nigh broken!
“How is it that you sought for Me? Wast not I must be doing
My Father’s work?” Oh, who shall sound the depths those words betoken?
But next the Gospel tells me that, in His hidden mission,
Subject to Joseph and to thee was Christ, the Holy Boy;
And then my heart reveals to me how true was His submission,
And how beyond all words to tell, thy daily, perfect joy.
And now the temple’s mystery I understand, dear Mother!
The answer, and the tone of voice, of Christ, my King adored.
‘Twas meant the pattern thou shouldst be, thereafter to all other
Tried souls who seek, in Faith’s dark night the coming of the Lord.
Since Heaven’s high King has willed it so His Mother and His dearest
Should know the anguish of that night the torn heart’s deepest woe,
Then are not those, who suffer thus, to Mary’s heart the nearest?
And is not love in suffering God’s highest gift below?
All, all that He has granted me, oh! tell Him He may take it!
Tell Him, dear Mother! He may do whate’er He please with me;
That He may bruise my heart today, and make it sore, and break it,
So only through Eternity my eyes His Face may see!
I know, indeed, at Nazareth, O Virgin rich in graces!
As the lowly live, so thou didst live, and sought no better things;
Of ecstasies and wonders there, our eyes can find no traces,
O thou who daily dwelt beside the incarnate King of Kings!
On earth, we know, is very great the number of the lowly;
With neither fear nor trembling now we dare to look on thee.
By common lot and humble path, our Mother dear and holy,
Thou wast content to walk to heaven, and thus our guide to be.
Through all my weary exile here, I fain would walk beside thee.
O my pure and precious Mother! be near to me each day!
Thy beauty thrills my heart with joy. Deign now to guard and guide me!
What depths of love are in thy heart for me thy child, alway!
Before thy kind maternal glance, my many fears are banished;
Thou teachest me to gently weep, and then to sing for joy;
Thou dost not scorn our happy days, nor hast thou wholly vanished;
Thou smilest on us tenderly, as once upon thy Boy!
When bride and groom at Cana’s feast knew well the wine was failing,
And knew not whence to bring supply, their need thine eyes perceived,
To Christ, the Master, thou didst speak, who knew His power availing,
The Maker of created things, in Whom thy soul believed.
But first He seemed thy mothers heart’s kind prayer to be denying.
“What matters this, O woman! unto Me and thee?” said He.
But “Mother,” in His soul’s deep depths, His filial heart was crying;
And that first miracle He wrought, Mother, lie wrought for thee.
One day, while sinners crowded round to hear what He was saying,
In His desire to save their souls and them to heaven beguile,
Lo! thou wast there amid the throng, and thou wast meekly praying
That they would let thee nearer come, and speak with Him awhile.
And then thy Son spoke out this word mysterious like that other.
To show us thus His marvellous love for all the souls of men;
He said: “Who is My brother, and My sister, and My Mother?
‘Tis he who does My Father’s will!” The Father’s will, again!
O Virgin, pure, immaculate! O Mother, tenderest, dearest!
Hearing these words that Jesus spake, this time thou wast not grieved.
No! thy great heart it leaped for joy, O thou His friend the nearest!
Because our longing souls likewise to kinship He received.
Oh, how thy heart is glad to know His love to us is given,
The treasure, that cannot be weighed, of His Divinity!
Who shall not love thee well today, and bless thee in high heaven,
Seeing thy tender care for us, thy generosity!
For truly thou dost love us all as thy Child Jesus loves us;
And for our sake thou didst consent to stay when He had risen.
Since, if we love, then all to give, e’en self, both tries and proves us,
So thou, to prove thy love, didst stay in earth’s dark, dreary prison.
Thy love for souls our Saviour knew, that love His heart had sounded;
He left thee to us when He went to God’s right hand on high.
Refuge of sinners! on thy prayers how many hopes are grounded!
Christ gave thee to us from His cross; for us He hears thy cry.
For thou His Mother there didst stand, that awful day, on Calvary;
As a priest before God’s altar, at the cross so thou didst stand.
And to appease the Father’s wrath, didst offer up, O Mary!
Thy Jesus, our Emmanuel, at God’s supreme command.
A prophet had foretold this thing, O Mother brokenhearted!
“Is any sorrow like to thine?” Thy grief no words can say!
Blest Queen of martyrs! left on earth when Jesus had departed!
‘Twas thy heart’s blood for us was given on that unequalled day.
Henceforth thy shelter in thy woe was St. John’s humble dwelling;
The son of Zebedee replaced the Son Whom heaven adored.
Naught else the Gospels tell us of thy life, in grace excelling;
It is the last they say of thee, sweet Mother of my Lord!
But that deep silence, oh! I think it means that, up in glory,
When time is past, and into heaven thy children safe are come,
The Eternal Word, my Mother dear, Himself will tell thy story,
To charm our souls, thy children’s souls, in our eternal home.
Soon I shall hear that harmony, that blissful, wondrous singing;
Soon, soon, to heaven that waits for us, my soul shall swiftly fly.
O Thou who cam’st to smile on me at dawn of life’s beginning!
Come once again to smile on me…. Mother! the night is nigh.
I fear no more thy majesty, so far, so far above me,
For, I have suffered sore with thee; now hear my heart’s deep cry!
Oh! let me tell thee face to face, dear Virgin! how I love thee;
And say to thee forevermore: thy little child am I.
[Images: Mosaics from the Basilica dedicated to St Thérèse in Lisieux]
It is a fact: the trend toward an outright persecution of traditional Catholics – those who live faithfully by all the teachings and precepts of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church – is not only continuing, but accelerating. Liberal-minded cafeteria ‘c’atholics, together with the hypocrites who profess to be Catholic, i.e., go to Mass regularly, brandish their rosaries, public state the importance of their Catholic Faith to the world, but then pick and choose only the parts of the Church’s doctrines that suit them, willfully disobeying those that don’t suit, and dismissing any ‘uncomfortable’ truth… these false followers of Christ may be overlooked by the agents of Satan when the time comes for the Great Persecution. After all, they are already Satan’s useful minions for having spread scandal, leading numerous souls on the path to Hell, and showing total indifference to having thrown true Catholics into the hands of their enemies.
Faithful Catholics will be increasingly targeted, and in the meantime the devils uses this current Pope’s papacy as a means to further destabilise the Church. Their aim for years has been to destroy her from within.
An important part of Satan’s war against the Church is directly specifically at priests; the Virgin Mary in all Her apparitions warns that priests are under very fierce attack by the enemy today. She calls us to pray and make many sacrifices for priests, for just one such faithful priest son has the divine power from God to lead many sinners’ hearts to conversion. Because Satan knows his time is short he sends his minions to work extra hard to deceiving that priest’s soul.
The great St Ambrose tells us:
The persecutors who are visible are not the only ones. There are also invisible persecutors, much greater in number. This is more serious. Like a king bent on persecution, sending orders to persecute to his many agents, and establishing different persecutors in each city or province, the devil directs his many servants in their work of persecution, whether in public or in the souls of individuals.
Of this kind of persecution Scripture says: All who wish to live a holy life in Christ Jesus suffer persecution. “All” sufffer persecution; there is no exception. Who can claim exemption if the Lord himself endured the testing of persecution? How many there are today who are secret martyrs for Christ, giving testimony to Jesus as Lord! The Apostle knew this kind of martyrdom, this faithful witnessing to Christ; he said: This is our boast, the testimony of our conscience.
For example, the well known traditional Catholic blogger, Father Z, has been mercilessly persecuted by extremists of the Left of many stripes. After the many recent debacles in the US, including the swearing in of a pro-abort, so-called ‘c’atholic President, he warns us, and fellow priests:
“In our nation, persecution of individuals by the Left is on the rise. They are doing Satan’s work. It is right to pray against them using all our spiritual tools. Fathers! Take note! Recite Ch. 3 Title XI of the Rituale Romanum privately if you must. But say it. Do not give in to the darkness by either running from it, or by descending into hatred.
The pandemic may very well be something that God has given us to wake us all up. So too with the way many currents in the country are rapidly shifting to the Left. When people forget about God, God will provide wake up calls. Is the pandemic one of the them? Are our elected and appointed leaders, secular and sacred, wake up calls?”
The Passion of the Church has already begun; the Church on Earth is already being persecuted. In some countries, such as China, North Korea, most Islamic states, and in many parts of Asia, Africa etcetera, the persecution is outright, while the persecution in western countries (for now) comes in more subtle forms. In our globalist world of modern technology comes the rise of the surveillance state. This will become a powerful method of limiting our religious freedom by the NWO in the near future. We are already seeing how they control many virtual forms of communication like Facebook and Twitter, blocking traditional Catholic messages and videos, whilst permitting such evils as pornography and sadistic violence from the secular world.
Assuming we do have a solid spiritual foundation, and are seriously living our Catholic Faith, there are some practical things we should be doing as we prepare for the coming persecution.
First of all, we must use our religious freedom while we still can, and avoid taking it for granted or assuming everything will remain more or less the way it is now. Even apart from private revelations on the subject, there are numerous signs in government and society that a persecution is probably coming. Now is our final opportunity to resist this trend as fervent Catholics and concerned citizens. It’s time we started pushing back, in a peaceful and loving but unyielding way. Do not be afraid to speak out or to act lawfully in defence of God’s divine law.
Secondly, we must find others who believe as we do. We must avoid petty disagreements. “Unite the clans!” as Michael Matt of ‘The Remnant’ tells us, and begin meeting together, becoming well-informed, talking and sharing and brainstorming. Whilst we have Internet – and who says we shall always have this form of communication? – we should put it to good use.
Thirdly, we must strengthen our relationship with Christ, learning to trust in Him ever more deeply, for a solid spiritual foundation is necessary in order to withstand the troubles of life in general, and the unique challenges in our era of history in particular. Our Lord’s parable of the house built on a rock foundation (Mt. 7:24-27) is timely and important in this regard.
Pray, fast, make sacrifices and frequent the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist. Make holy hours, or at least visit the Blessed Sacrament whenever possible. This is our armour that will protect us in the coming battles. Prayers offered in reparation for the sins of the world, and our fasting and other acts of penance, can unleash great spiritual power, not only benefiting ourselves and our loved ones, but also resulting in the conversion of many sinners and the delaying, lessening, or even averting of many predicted chastisements. Prayer is extremely powerful, especially the two greatest prayers of all: the Mass and the Rosary.
Yesterday morning at the grand Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington D.C., Joe Biden ate and drank his own spiritual death. That he received the Holy Eucharist from the hands of a Cardinal of the Church adds scandal upon scandal. One radio wag called it a mass for Planned Parenthood. And so, it was.
Joe Biden is an enemy of the Catholic faith. This fact must be repeated as often as humanly possible. Joe Biden holds himself out as a faithful Catholic, yet he does not believe in the faith’s fundamental teachings about the human person or human sexuality. What’s more, he advances this unbelief in public policy and will now have the full force of the federal government behind this unbelief.
We know what he will do soon after taking the oath. He will reinstitute a policy that will use American money to target and kill unborn children in the developing world. Biden is an abortion extremist. He favors abortion through all nine months of pregnancy and beyond.
On the LGBT issue, Biden has gone full crank. Consider that the only time Joe Biden has officiated at a wedding, it was between two men. That is relatively mild compared to the fact that he will sign the Equality Act, which will end women’s sports in America. Shockingly, feminists are not up in arms that “girls” with male genitalia will be allowed to compete and even shower with real girls. Biden is going to allow transgender “women” into the military. And this is what will happen. Men who think they are women will be allowed into women’s showers, and if a real woman turns away in modesty, he will bring charges against her for harassment. This kind of persecution is similar to what has happened to Christian ministers in the military who preach gospel truth about men and women.
He will also sign the Global Equality Act that will have the purpose of exporting the LGBT sexual revolution through American foreign policy. The act will also be used to block foreign religious leaders from coming into our country as if they are Russian oligarchs or ISIS leaders.
All of this points to a subject I examine in my next book, Under Siege: No Finer Time to be a Faithful Catholic (Sophia Institute, 2021). We no longer live in a pluralistic society where Catholic, Protestant, Jew and all others are equal before each other and equal before the law. We now live under an established church, what John O’Sullivan describes as an “odd syncretic blend of paganism, sexual polyversity, and scientism.” The establishment of this official church began with the school prayer decisions in the early sixties when the Supreme Court joined as a combatant in the Culture Wars. The new church proceeded through the advent of the pill and its protection by the Supreme Court in the Griswold and Eisenstadt decisions. The new church gathered steam in the Roe v. Wade decision and Lawrence v Texas that constitutionally protected homosexual sodomy. And then the capper, of course, was Obergefell on homosexual marriage.
Consider these new dogmas are now routinely taught to our children in school. They are taught that sex is chosen at birth and that boys can be girls. These are nothing short of religious heresies being imposed on Christian, Jewish, and Muslim children by the New State Church.
Cardinal Wilton Gregory needs to understand that this, and not Catholicism, is Joe Biden’s faith.
I honestly thought that American Catholics would reject this man. I honestly thought they would be uncomfortable having not just a dissenter in the White House but a heretic. I thought they would reject him for the same reasons they rejected that previous heretic, John Kerry. Even “generic” Catholics rejected Kerry. Practicing Catholics rejected Kerry overwhelmingly. It is reported that Biden split the Catholic vote with Trump, but this is very likely not the whole story. Biden probably won the generics but overwhelmingly lost the faithful Catholic vote.
Biden is often compared to John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic elected to the presidency. But I am not aware that Kennedy was a dissenter in matters of the faith, let alone a heretic. He was a sinner, to be sure, just like all of us. But it is my firm belief that when that bullet let fly from the Texas School Book Depository and in the split second before it entered Kennedy’s brain that all those millions of Aves recited for him by Catholic grandmothers reached out from the beatific vision, and he was given a moment of contrition for his sins. In precisely the same way, faithful Catholics must pray for Joe Biden so that at his appointed hour his particular judgment will be, if not a sweet one, at least bittersweet.
In the meantime, every faithful Catholic must oppose this man and his new faith.
NEWS ANALYSIS: The new US administration is aligned with Pope Francis’ Vatican priorities in areas like immigration and environmental policy, but at odds with foundational Church teachings on abortion and gender ideology.
When President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated today to become only the second Catholic to hold the highest office in the land, a new set of challenges will face the Holy See in its relations with the United States, ones likely to be greater and more complex than those of the past four years.
On the surface, relations seem to be expected to run more smoothly: Pope Francis and senior Vatican officials had implicitly favored a Biden victory in November over President Donald Trump with whom there were clear differences.
Francis was one of the first leaders to congratulate the new president by phone, before Trump had conceded, and in December the Holy Father adopted a popular slogan also used by the Biden campaign to “build back better” — read as a further endorsement of the result.
Some commentators accuse the political left of being chiefly responsible for fomenting current divisions, yet Vatican officials close to the Pope principally see Biden as a unifier, someone who will “build bridges” in contrast to how they saw his predecessor.
In an interview published soon after the election, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, a close aide to Pope Francis and strong critic of the U.S. conservative-religious right, said he believed Biden has the desire to “hold together” a “strongly polarized” U.S. society and that the diversity of his party will help to achieve “unity and reconciliation.”
Biden has invited outgoing Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, among others, to a church service on Wednesday just before the inauguration, although how much these gestures are precursors to concrete efforts to reach across the political aisle remains to be seen.
Beyond the Vatican’s generally favorable perception of Biden, he is a proponent of a number of social policies that this pontificate also supports, the most significant being combating climate change, multilateralism, immigration reform, opposition to capital punishment, welfare for the poor, and a softer approach to China.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Development, told the Register Jan. 20 that he has found Biden “outstanding” on these issues, and believes he was possibly “inspired by the Church’s social thought.”
Areas of Alignment
A number of these aligning positions, including a clear disdain for Trump’s populist politics, were plainly expressed in Pope Francis’ social encyclical Fratelli Tutti (“Brothers All”), published just a month before the Nov. 3 election and to which Biden favorably referred during his campaign.
One of the clearest positions concerns migrant policy. The administration reportedly plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on the first day of office that would propose an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants — a policy closely aligning with the position of Pope Francis, who has often argued for looser immigration policies, including the regularizing of undocumented migrants as well as his frequent castigation of President Trump’s border wall. The Pope also called in Fratelli Tutti for “full citizenship” of migrants.
Another policy the Pope and senior Vatican officials applaud is Biden’s environmental agenda (he has appointed a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to be director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy), and in particular that he pledged on Day One of his administration to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accords (Father Spadaro called the pledge “important” as it would be “in line” with the Pope’s 2015 environmental encyclical, Laudato Si).In a further nod to multilateralism that the Vatican supports, he will have the U.S. rejoin the World Health Organization, which Trump said the U.S. would leave last July.
The decisions to leave both were part of Trump’s aggressive approach to China, one which Biden opposed, preferring that the communist country be cajoled to “play by the rules” rather than having sanctions placed upon it. Again, such a line is congruent with the Vatican’s accommodating approach to the People’s Republic, an approach that, despite China’s persecution of Christians and its much-criticized human rights record, prefers controversially to engage the nation rather than isolate it. In Biden, the Holy See sees a more willing partner than Trump to support its agreements with Beijing, although new Secretary of State Antony Blinken has recently expressed a willingness to maintain Trump’s approach to trade and human rights in China.
Biden opposes the death penalty but only since June 2019, months after Pope Francis amended the catechism to declare capital punishment “inadmissible.” In 1994, then-Sen. Biden had sponsored a bill to expand the death penalty to cover 60 crimes. Now his position configures closely with that of Pope Francis, who said in Fratelli Tutti “there can be no stepping back” from opposition to the death penalty and the wish to abolish it.
Vatican officials are expected to also welcome the appointments of some perceived “moderates” in the administration, such as Jake Sullivan, a Catholic who will become national security adviser, and Secretary of State Blinken, who is Jewish and married to Evan Ryan, an Irish American Catholic, whom Biden has chosen to serve as White House cabinet secretary.
Areas of Disagreement
But a number of areas are expected to pose significant challenges to Holy See-U.S. relations, particularly regarding life issues.
From defunding Planned Parenthood and expanding the Mexico City Policy to appointing pro-life justices on the Supreme Court and becoming the first sitting president to take part in the March for Life, Trump was regarded by many as the most pro-life president in U.S.
By contrast, President-elect Biden, whose campaign was heavily backed by abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood, is viewed as the polar opposite and is expected to rollback several of the Trump administration’s policies in this area.
In 2019, Biden suddenly reversed his support for the Hyde Amendment that bans federal funding for most abortion. He is also an unapologetic proponent of LGBT rights (in 2016 as vice president he officiated a “wedding” for a same-sex couple who had worked as longtime White House staffers) and a supporter of gender ideology. On Tuesday it was announced he had tapped Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine, a biological man who identifies as a transgender woman to be his assistant secretary of health.
“Despite the common ground between the Holy See and the Biden administration on issues like immigration, climate change, and relations with China, I am not hopeful about relations,” said Father John Wauck , a Rome-based priest who once wrote speeches for Democratic and Republican politicians.
Recalling how USCCB president Archbishop Jose Gomez noted last November that Biden’s election placed the bishops’ in a very complicated position, Father Wauck told the Register that he believed “the same could be said for the Holy See.”
He highlighted in particular the Pope’s public opposition to abortion, citing a recent interview in which he compared abortionists to hired assassins.
“Now the president of the United States will be a baptized Catholic who not only works to ensure that the work of those assassins — the brutal killing of the most defenseless members of the human family — is legal, but also wants to force all Americans to help pay for those killings, both at home and abroad, with their taxes,” Father Wauck said.
Father Wauck also noted that Francis, who has described “gay marriage” as a ploy of the devil to destroy God’s plan for the family, will now have to deal with the new U.S. Catholic president “who not only works in favor of that diabolical ploy, but, as vice president, actually performed a ‘marriage’ of two men.”
He added that Biden potentially also threatens religious freedom, pledging, for example, to fight hard to roll back conscience protections for the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious employers who object to providing contraceptives.
Church leaders in Africa have also expressed concern about the appointment of Samantha Power, an ardent supporter of “LGBT” rights, as the new head of USAID, and believe it will lead to a cultural, ideological and Christian onslaught on the continent.
“On issues such as these, the Biden administration will aggressively promote the world-wide ‘ideological colonization’ that Pope Francis has frequently criticized, and — in the international forum — that will inevitably put a strain on relations,” Father Wauck said.
But inside sources believe Biden’s Catholicism may temper these policies. The senator’s faith has been formed through suffering: the deaths of his wife and two of his children, his stuttering disability, and a wayward son.
His political views on key non-negotiable issues clearly depart from the magisterium, and he separates his faith, which is evidently very personal to him, from his politics. The Church teaches that a politician who publicly supports legal protection for abortion and receives Holy Communion places his and other souls in danger, but his supporters insist Biden is unmistakably devout, reputedly attending daily Mass since he lost his first wife and daughter in a car accident in 1972, and wearing a wrist rosary that he prays regularly.
He is particularly close to the Society of Jesus: Jesuit Father Leo O’Donovan, a former president of Georgetown University, will deliver the invocation at the inauguration (Biden wrote the foreword to Father O’Donovan’s 2018 book, Blessed Are the Refugees: Beatitudes of Immigrant Children) and prominent Jesuits were also publicly supportive of his campaign.
This close alliance, together with his eventual choice to be his ambassador to the Holy See, is likely to influence his dealings with the Church’s first Jesuit pontiff and a Holy See where Jesuits take leading roles behind the scenes.
Cardinal Turkson acknowledged the concern over Biden’s pro-abortion views, but said he could see Biden, on account of his Catholicism, “not wanting to engage” in pro-abortion politics and believes the Church “can work with him to probably find a middle way.” That means the Church “evangelizing the Democratic position,” he said, while at the same “recognizing what a lot of people are calling for.”
He added that Biden’s positions on abortion and other policies contrary to Church teaching are rooted in “not having done our work as a Church.” This has allowed “certain tendencies to become main features of our societies” and enabled a leader to emerge who represents
He said, “This is the challenge we see happening.”
LONDON — A British political party report into human rights violations in China released last Thursday aims to show the true extent of state-sponsored abuses of millions of Chinese citizens and argues for international sanctions and other measures to be taken against the communist regime.
The 87-page report called The Darkness Deepens — The Crackdown on Human Rights in China 2016-2020 and published by The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, produces evidence of widespread human rights abuses and atrocities including ethnic cleansing, organ harvesting, forced labor (helped to a large degree by global brands), torture, arbitrary arrest, clampdowns on religious freedom and forced confessions.
The document was published a few days before a vote today in the House of Commons on a post-Brexit trade bill which some UK parliamentarians wanted amended to forbid any trade with states accused of committing genocide. The amendment attempt was defeated in a 319-308 vote.
Hong Kong’s last governor of the former British colony, Lord Christopher Patten, called the report a “deeply researched and exceptionally well-informed report” that “gives a terrifying view of the cruelty of Xi Jinping’s brutal regime.”
“To preserve its grip on power, the Chinese Communist Party has assaulted any sign of dissent and has set about building a totalitarian surveillance state beyond George Orwell’s imaginings,” said Patten, a Catholic who helped reform Vatican communications in the 2010s. He added that the report “demonstrates exactly why we must be on our guard in democracies to protect our freedoms and values.”
The report contains testimonies of Chinese citizens, pro-democracy and human rights activists who have had first-hand experience of the brutalities of the regime. At the launch event broadcast online on Thursday, four Chinese citizens living in exile recounted their experiences and views of the situation.
Rahima Mahmut, representative of the World Uyghur Congress now living in exile in London and separated from her family, said the last time she spoke to her brother living in Xinjiang, the Muslim Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China, was on Jan. 3. “He told me in a trembling voice, ‘Please leave us in the hands of God and we will also leave you in God’s hands,’” she said, before recalling the following concerning first-hand accounts she has received from fellow Uyghurs:
“These accounts are from 21st century concentration camps, heart-rending accounts of people who’ve lost loved ones, young and old. Every Uyghur has a similar story, each more horrifying than the other — the effects of the brutal ethnic cleansing and genocide that has been taking place there since 2017 while the world has closed its eyes to the suffering. The most painful part is not being able to offer words of comfort and hope in the midst of the torment. Since August 2018, when the UN acknowledged that one million had been interned in what China called ‘re-education camps,’ growing numbers of courageous individuals have been working to expose truth. They don’t have human rights. It is not about violations. They just don’t have human rights. Our basic human rights are taken away from us by this brutal, cruel regime. Just before I started, I received a message from someone whose mother, a doctor, disappeared two years ago and they recently learned she was sentenced to 20 years in prison. So there are millions of my people suffering at the moment unbearable pain and I am, too.”
A compelling first-hand testimony came from Simon Cheng, a former local employee of the British Consulate-General in Hong Kong, who recalled on Thursday how he was arrested on Hong Kong soil by Chinese state security in August 2019 as he returned from a business trip, and then detained and tortured for 15 days:
“I was held for two weeks accused of being a spy for the UK. I was tortured and forced to make a false confession of solicited prostitution and later, treason. I’m currently a refugee … one of those on the wanted list by national security police… The Chinese police give no reason for the arrest, show no badges, and breach personal privacy of citizens. They extract biometric information from people, detain and interrogate people in small cages, and have them placed in a tiger chair [a seat specially designed to restrain detainees]. They carry out brazen interrogations about political opinions, try to frighten citizens with mainland Chinese laws for criticizing the government of Hong Kong, systematically detain Hong Kong protesters and breach the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. This happened to me in August 2019, long before the National Security Law was imposed by in Hong Kong by Beijing… They try to frighten citizens using draconian rules as excuses to further extend detention and to execute persecution. They can detain you for two years without trial and the support of lawyers. They place you in 14 days solitary confinement, part of psychological torture, where there are no hours for exercise, they exclude rights to purchase daily necessities and toiletries. They force confessions, force you to stand and squat for long hours.”
In a detailed submission for the report, Cheng described how he was “handcuffed and shackled on a steep X-Cross doing a spread-eagled pose for hours after hours” and “forced to keep my hands up, so blood cannot be pumped up my arms.” Further torture included sleep deprivation followed by “politically correctional education.”
The commission report noted that “if the Chinese Communist Party regime tortures an employee of the British Consulate-General in Hong Kong in this way, one can only imagine how much worse the use of torture is against unknown mainland Chinese activists who have little hope of any voice in the international community.”
Chinese law professor Teng Biao, himself a victim of “severe torture” at the hands of Chinese authorities, spoke of crackdowns against human rights lawyers in China and how “hundreds” of them have “disappeared” over the past five years, while many NGOs and churches have been “shut down” or “destroyed.”
“All religions are being persecuted, especially Muslims, the Falun Gong, Tibetan Buddhists and underground Christians,” he said. “Torture is rampant — almost all criminal suspects and detainees including political prisoners are tortured” and what is happening to the Uyghurs is “literally genocide.”
Biao added: “The Chinese government has utilized methods to tighten control on society, and it is a huge threat to privacy. High tech social media, big data and modern telecommunications make it easier for the Chinese Communist Party to keep people under total surveillance. Internet is used as an effective tool for censorship, propaganda and brainwashing.”
He said he could give “countless examples” of human rights violations not only in China “but beyond its borders,” and gave as an example Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen and book publisher who was living in Thailand. Minhai was kidnapped in 2015 by Chinese police, sent back to China, and forced to reapply for a Chinese passport because he “published books on China’s top leaders,” including an alleged sex scandal involving President Xi Jinping.
The launch seminar also heard from Nathan Law Kwun-chung who at 23 became the youngest legislator for Hong Kong in 2016 but was soon disqualified when he quotedMahatma Gandhi when taking his oath of office and said he would rather “stand by my principles and use my conscience to defend Hong Kong.” Law, who stressed the West must cease propping up such authoritarian regimes, said he was jailed, became a political prisoner, and “had to leave Hong Kong to protect myself and to continue speaking for the Hong Kong people.”
China is a “criminal state,” former Conservative Party Leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said in closing the seminar, adding that the Western world in particular has slowly come to realize this reality.
“These are all testimonies of a state we’ve seen and experienced many times before in the past,” said Duncan Smith, a Catholic. “In many of those cases, we’ve done absolutely nothing, and we’ve seen what happens as a result: they are emboldened by the inaction of members of the free world and they think they can get away with anything.”