We are not just material beings, but spiritual persons with a need for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment that transcends the visible confines of this world. This longing for transcendence is a longing for truth, goodness, and beauty. Truth, goodness, and beauty are called the transcendentals of being, because they are aspects of being. Everything in existence has these transcendentals to some extent. God, of course, as the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, has these transcendentals to an infinite degree. Oftentimes, he draws us to himself primarily through one of these transcendentals. St. Augustine, who was drawn to beauty in all its creaturely forms, found the ultimate beauty he was seeking in God, his creator, the beauty “ever ancient, ever new.”―Sister Gabriella Yi, O.P.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Fifth Letter to a 24th Century Catholic

Dear Friend,

I apologize for the long overdue letter. Though considerable time has passed since our last exchange, I have not forgotten you.

The Church has passed through many highs and lows. Abyssal lows seem to follow sublime highs. Majestic peaks appear to rise up from death valleys. Gentle plains develop in the wake of a flood. Like a fertile delta at the mouth of a great river, ecclesial movements spread out in all directions. A few robust channels (Catholic rites, e.g., Latin, Chaldean, Maronite, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, etc.) of the one river remain strong and true and reach the ocean. Many streams (sects) that diverge from the one river meander into fetid sloughs (heresy) or shrivel into dry basins (schism). The one river, the Catholic Church, never fails to reach the Ocean, for the Church is the Bride of Christ, the People of God, the Body of Christ and Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Over the centuries we have had 'Great' popes, three in number: St. Leo I, St. Gregory I and St. Nicholas I. Surely Pope Saint John Paul II will some day be named among such an august company. May it be the case in your day that John Paul II is venerated under that title! We have certainly had some very badly behaved popes. This you undoubtedly know, being the avid student of history that I know you to be. You are also aware that no pope has ever taught heresy from the Chair of Saint Peter!

What are people saying about popes from my time? About Paul VI? John Paul I? Pope St. John Paul II? Francis? Benedict XVI? After the promising renewal initiated by Benedict XVI, a new-worlder arrived in Rome. Those who took great delight in the theological and liturgical restoration moved forward and given energy by Benedict were shocked and/or puzzled by his sudden resignation. He left us at the mercy of liturgical and theological tinkerers who have seen in the arrival of Francis another opportunity to foist wayward practices upon the faithful. Tradition-minded folk have, on occasion, given in to the temptation to shift blame from the tinkerers on to Francis even though the Holy Father himself plays it by-the-book in the sanctuary, save a few missing genuflections (... due to bad knees?). Excepting the curious act of introducing the washing of women's feet into the ritual for Holy Thursday, a practice that contradicts the purpose of the ritual, i.e., the demonstration of the model of sacerdotal service, Francis maintains decorum at the altar during the Mass, unlike many of his self-declared minions or supporters.

Let us not rehash too too much the events of the recent past, save to draw on a few additional instructive moments that might prove useful to you.

We have watched as the Spadaro/Forte/Fabene/Baldisseri/Kasper axis, aided by Rosica among others, attempted to condition the content of and the perceptions about the Synod on the Family. We watched as instruments of the Holy Spirit—Brandmüller, Burke, Caffarra, De Paolis, Dodaro, Mankowski, Müller, Rist, Vasil', Pell, Chaput and others aided by Pentin and Dr. Cernea—identified the attempted manipulations and pushed heterodoxy back where it belonged into the cesspool of dissent from whence it came.

In the wake of the Synod, we have observed how, in a last ditch attempt to breathe life back into a failed agenda, a papal ghostwriter attempted to slip ambiguous language into a papal document, Amoris Laetitia, insertions which Pope Francis was not fully aware of nor could identify.

A celebrity priest who has by his very public allegiances confirmed himself a fan of the cadre of clerics whose shoddy ideas were for the most part suppressed at the Synod, and having confirmed his editorial bias at various Synod pressers, used a recent gathering to attack his critics, i.e., those who oppose his occasionally dodgy brand of religion. Said celebrity sacerdote hurled accusations at Church-loving faithful Catholics for essentially being zealous in defence of the Faith. It would appear that Fr. Fabulous would prefer that Catholicism be confined to an elite who, at least in this era, are more interested in fostering rebellion than faithfully handing on (traditionem) revelation. Perhaps Fr. Famous can be forgiven the projection of his own inadequacies on to others, given that he was blinded by the seminary culture in which he was formed, a culture which produced a generation of priests—notable exceptions to the contrary—who care little for handing on the wisdom of their ancestors. Said generation is more interested in preserving what has been from the 1960s onward a consumerist approach to life and a disdain for legitimate authority. They have forgotten that their mission is to save souls. We can expect more members of that limp generation to lash out in the few years remaining to them as they sense the final fading of their caustic influence on Holy Mother Church.

Perhaps the Holy Father Pope Francis is marshalling the troops. Perhaps he knows that the faithful lay and ordained will do the heavy lifting of affirming and, if necessary, zealously defending the true Faith while he, by focussing the attentions of those most in need of God's mercy on the mercy of God, takes an opportunity to correct misperceptions about the Church and at the same time creates the circumstances whereby the charlatans are exposed and robbed of their illicit use of power.

Many have expressed frustration with the Holy Father's seemingly ambiguous off-the-cuff statements. Yours truly, included. However, there may be something more to the "Francis Effect" than meets the eye of the miscreant liberal or the reactionary "traddy". One excellent effect of Pope Francis' approach—call it bungling or call it a masterstroke—is the exposure of those within the Church who hate what the Church stands for. It's as if the Holy Father placed an irresistible morsel on a picnic table and stepped back until the vultures arrived. Seeing the vultures for what they are, the faithful can drive them away with the stick of orthodoxy.

All of this chit-chat, dear Friend, is intended to provide a context for your thoughts and concerns in the midst of any tribulations or jubilations that may come your way. Knowing others have faced what you are going through can help to temper one's rush to react, righteously or otherwise, and can help to provide a needed perspective that helps one identify and respond to the will of God in every circumstance.

Your Friend in Christ,
W.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.