Saturday, November 26, 2016

THE CHURCH SURVIVES: a Talk given to a Pro-Life Vigil, Honan Chapel, Cork November 25th, 2016

You can listen to the talk here.
The ancient Chinese author of the Art of War, Tsun Tsu, says that the real art of war is convincing your enemy not to fight at all.  Satan and his minions know this lesson all too well.  He, and the useful idiots who, knowingly or unknowingly, collaborate with him are keen to convince us that we are on the losing side, that there is no hope in our cause, and that we the losers.  So we are bombarded in the media with images and ideas that uphold the secularist, materialist, atheist ideology that dominates the Western world.  They have to bombard us for if they did not people would slowly realise that the masters of our world are wrong and that secularism, materialism and atheism have nothing to offer.  They are parasitical and lifeless.  They are the culture of death.
Still for us who are here, in this day, in this culture it can be hard going.  Among our families and friends, neighbours and colleagues, we can be treated as oddities, fanatics, fundamentalists, ‘haters’ and adherents of an out-dated religion.  We are to keep our ‘rosaries off their ovaries’ when we would not want to put our beads there anyway.  We are told that we are soon to be a minority when the Church continues to grow.  We should keep our beliefs to ourselves, especially our religion, which to quote Hitchens “should be like knitting something that is done in private.”  Indeed what was once deplored and done in private is now paraded on our streets and what was once admired and honoured is increasingly wished into backstreets and backrooms.
We have been here before.  As soldiers of Christ and His kingdom who wage war on evil without weapons that kill we can expect to be shot at and to be bombarded.  We have countless lessons from History:
In the first century after Christianity was legalised there arose the Arian heresy that denied the full divinity of Christ.  It grew to the point where most bishops embraced Arian or semi-Arian beliefs (even, it seems, the Pope) and, as one Church Father put it, “the whole world groaned to find itself Arian”.  Yet the Church survived and overcame that heresy. 
One thousand years ago the majority of Christians, those in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, broke away from Rome and remain separated from her to this day – the Orthodox Christians.  Yet the Catholic Church, though reduced to the Latin, Roman, half survived and indeed grew to be the largest of all Christian bodies.
This era is not the first in which we have been threatened by Islam.  Christians have been battling Islam in way or another since it arose in the 7th Century.  More than once it has threatened to overwhelm Christian Europe and it has long oppressed the Christians within its jurisdiction.  Yet the Church has survived. 
In the late Fourteenth and early Fifteenth centuries the Church in Europe was rent by a schism involving the papacy where there were two claimants to the papacy, and for a few years, even three claimants.  It caused great harm to the reputation of the Church and especially the papacy.  Yet the Church survived.
At the so-called Reformation when most of Northern Europe left the Church and the face of the Catholic West was deformed and her unity broken so that it seemed like the end was nigh.  It is hard for us to imagine how swiftly that heresy, and its offshoots, spread.  It threatened to bring down all of the Church.  Yet the Catholic Church survived, indeed her renewal had begun even before the Reformation occurred, and she went on to open missions in South America, Africa, India and Asia.
The Reformation brought untold horrors to Ireland with centuries of occupation and persecution, yet the Church survived.  Indeed the Church had a major part in building this nation and state. 
In 1917 when our Lady appeared at Fatima she gave a warning that Russia was about to become a threat to the whole world.  She warned that Russia would spread her errors around the world.  No one could’ve forecast that.  Yet our Lady was proved right and there was a great persecution of the Church in Eastern Europe and Asia for many years, indeed it is still going on in China and in other countries.  Yet the Church survived.
Napoleon once boasted to the Pope “I will destroy your Church”.  The Holy Father laughed and said to Napoleon “If the bishops haven’t managed it how will you?”  Of the many things that we can learn from the history of the Church there are two I think that are important.  First is that the State is the usual source or means of persecution whether that be soft or hard.  In every era where the Church has suffered she has usually suffered at the hands of the government.  They use the power to make and to change laws, to imprison and penalise, and even to kill, to try to interfere with and frustrate the Church.  Second is that the most important weapons we have are prayer and sacrifice.  They are intimately connected.  The Church herself believes that the Muslims were defeated and Europe saved by the power of prayer, especially the Rosary.  The Church survives because she turns to her Lord in prayer and offers Him the manifold sacrifices of her life united above all with the Sacrifice of the Mass.  The Church survives revolution, persecution, corruption, scandals etc., because she is a divine institution and draws her life from the Most Holy Trinity.  She belongs to Christ for she is His Body, His Bride, His Temple and His Kingdom.  He established her and so she cannot fail as long He will that she succeed.
This year we are celebrating the Centenary of Fatima.  That visit of our Lady has been raised above all others in dignity by both the power and significance of her message and by the veneration of the whole Church, both cleric and lay.  Is it not time to renew our commitment to the message that our Lady brought us at Fatima?
At Fatima our Lady called us to stop doing wrong.  To do wrong is to reject God’s love for us and to bind ourselves up in evil habits.  It is to abandon the freedom God has destined us for in order to be slaves.  The call to give up sin was the part of the message that made the strongest impression on the visionaries.  She asked us to do penance, to offer sacrifice and reparation, especially through doing the duties of our state of life.  Note that she did not ask for extraordinary fasting or penances but that we unite our daily tasks and obligations to the Sacrifice of Christ in reparation for our own sins and the sins of others.  On their own they have no value but united to the Sacrifice of Christ they take on the infinite value of His Sacrifice, His Offering to the Father on the Cross.  How do we do this?  We can do it because we are already baptised into Him and so intimately united to Him.  We do it by offering in faith what we have to do, the evil we avoid and the good we do, in union with Him to the Father.  Even the smallest irritation endured with charity and patience, the smallest sacrifice offered, takes on an infinite value when united to the Sacrifice of our Lord.  We have only to be willing and make the offering, He does the rest.  Consider how our Lady lived most of her life: It was an ordinary life doing the daily round of housework and later following her Son and looking after Him – always attentive to God’s Presence and His will in each moment.  She was never a missionary.  She never preached or taught that we know of.  She lived a quiet life ever-attentive to God and the needs of her neighbour and she offered it all to Him.  What was good enough for her is good enough for us too.
At Fatima our Lady called for prayer, especially the Rosary, indeed she identified herself as “our Lady of the Rosary”.  How many who say the rosary actually pray the rosary though?  Whether we say it fast or slow is beside the point what matters is where our heart and our mind is.  How often have we rattled through the prayers our mind on the past or the future but rarely on the mysteries of the Life of Christ.  We have in our Rosary beads a ‘pocket Gospel’, a way to walk hand in hand with the Mother of God through the life of her Son and to contemplate His work on our behalf, His love, His humility, His poverty, His obedience, His sacrifice and His victory.  If we let our Lady take us by the hand she will open to us the hidden depths of those mysteries and teach us how to follow her Son as she did.  The saints often referred to the Rosary as a weapon and as a chain.  As a weapon it defeats the enemies of God and as a chain it binds them to the foot of the Cross.
At Fatima our Lady asked for devotion to her Immaculate Heart.  It is through the Immaculate Heart of His Mother that Christ will conquer evil and fulfil His plan.  Herein lies a great mystery.  What is said of Mary is also said of the Church and therefore of us.  As Mary was conceived without sin so the Church was conceived on Calvary without sin.  This is why the Church is known as ‘Holy’.  We, though sinners, are part of that holy Church.  Baptism cleansed us and made us one with Christ, one with His Body and Bride.  When we sin Confession restores that union, restores us to our baptismal innocence.  Living in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary is living in union with the heart of the Church, with the heart of Christ’s Body and Bride.  It is living in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  These two Hearts are inseparable. 
At Fatima our Lady promised us: “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph”.   This alone should be our consolation and our hope no matter how dark the times may get.  She has warned us that there will be difficult times ahead – soldiers can expect no less!  Yet she has also promised us that we will see her victory.  It is through His Mother that our Lord will conquer the world, the flesh, and the devil.  Nothing can stop the victory of Christ. 

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails