Amidst so many negative and depressing reports emanating from the ‘Synod of the Family’, a report appeared yesterday which shed a dazzling beacon of light on the darkness and confusion. I am indebted to ‘Catholicism Pure and Simple’ for this, and to Father Ed Tomlinson of the Tunbridge Wells Ordinariate for the original article, which is reproduced below.
Acknowledgement to ‘Catholicism Pure and Simple'. More wisdom from Fr. Ed Tomlinson of the Tunbridge Wells Ordinariate.
'The Synod on the family is bringing clarity to the Church. Three things seem obvious. First, there exists deep division between those who uphold the faith of the ages and those who have conformed to the spirit of the world. Second, the gravest danger posed by the modernists does not centre on any one particular issue, but in a scheme to devolve power away from Rome to national churches. Third, that things are not going smoothly for them, hence the need to rig things, and some brave souls are standing up to the assault on the faith, and calling the church to sanity.
One such person is Dr. Anca-Maria Cernea, a Roumanian. She made the following presentation to Pope Francis and the Synod bishops on Friday. It is the best analysis I have seen of what is really going on within Christianity in the 21st Century. And her words only gain gravitas when one considers the author’s own experience of living out the faith against the backdrop of a communist tyranny. "Your Holiness, Synod Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, I represent the Association of Catholic Doctors from Bucharest.
I am from the Roumanian Greek Catholic Church. My father was a Christian political leader, who was imprisoned by the communists for 17 years. My parents were engaged to marry, but their wedding took place 17 years later. My mother waited all those years for my father, although she didn’t even know if he was still alive. They have been heroically faithful to God and to their engagement. Their example shows that God’s grace can overcome terrible social circumstances and material poverty.
We, as Catholic doctors, defending life and family, can see this is, first of all, a spiritual battle. Material poverty and consumerism are not the primary cause of the family crisis. The primary cause of the sexual and cultural revolution is ideological.
Our Lady of Fatima has said that Russia’s errors would spread all over the world. It was first done under a violent form, classical Marxism, by killing tens of millions. Now it’s being done mostly by cultural Marxism. There is continuity from Lenin’s sex revolution, through Gramsci and the Frankfurt school, to the current-day gay-rights and gender ideology.
Classical Marxism pretended to re-design society, through violent take-over of property. Now the revolution goes deeper; it pretends to re-define family, sex identity and human nature. This ideology calls itself progressive. But it is nothing else than the ancient serpent’s offer, for man to take control, to replace God, to arrange salvation here, in this world. It’s an error of religious nature, it’s Gnosticism.
It’s the task of the shepherds to recognize it, and warn the flock against this danger. “Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” The Church’s mission is to save souls.
Evil, in this world, comes from sin. Not from income disparity or “climate change”. The solution is: Evangelization. Conversion. Not an ever increasing government control. Not a world government. These are nowadays the main agents imposing cultural Marxism to our nations, under the form of population control, reproductive health, gay rights, gender education, and so on.
What the world needs nowadays is not limitation of freedom, but real freedom, liberation from sin. Salvation.
Our Church was suppressed by the soviet occupation. But none of our 12 bishops betrayed their communion with the Holy Father. Our Church survived thanks to our bishops’ determination and example in resisting prisons and terror. Our bishops asked the community not to follow the world. Not to cooperate with the communists.
Now we need Rome to tell the world: “Repent of your sins and turn to God for the Kingdom of Heaven is near”. Not only us, the Catholic laity, but also many Christian Orthodox are anxiously praying for this Synod. Because, as they say, if the Catholic Church gives in to the spirit of this world, it is going to be very difficult for all the other Christians to resist it."
Thank you, thank you Dr Cernia for your clear, outspoken and courageous declaration of faith. We pray that your words will be heard and acted upon.
'The Holy Family' by James Collinson (1878)
******************* If we turn the clock back 75 years or so, western Christian civilization was under severe threat and persecution from Nazism and Bolshevism. In her address to the Synod, Dr Cernia made the comparison between the brutal ‘modus operandi’ of Marxist Communism of that time, and the more subtle but equally insidious and effective system operating today. They are connected, both having the same diabolical aim but using different methods.
In his auto-biography ‘Journal of a Soul’, Pope St John XXIII reveals a world torn apart by the Second World War, a war of man’s making not God’s, a ‘vindication of divine justice because the sacred laws governing human society have been transgressed and violated’. In our present age this is perhaps equally, if not more so the case, with the Catholic Church itself wracked with internal dissension, with many in high places seeming to contradict Christ’s teaching and authority.
It is salutary to consider a few extracts from ‘Journal of a Soul’ Retreat from 25 November – 1 December 1940, at Terapio on the Bosporus, at the Villa of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion
‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy’ The mourning of the nations.
'This cry reaches my ears from every part of Europe and beyond. The murderous war which is being waged on the ground, on the seas and in the air, is truly a vindication of divine justice because the sacred laws governing human society have been transgressed and violated. It has been asserted, and is still being asserted, that God is bound to preserve this or that country, or grant it invulnerability and final victory, because of the righteous people who live there or because of the good that they do. We forget that although in a certain sense God has made the nations, He has left the constitution of states to the free decisions of men. To all He has made clear the rules which govern human society: they are all to be found in the Gospel. But He has not given any guarantee of special and privileged assistance, except to the race of believers, that is, to Holy Church as such. And even His assistance to His Church, although it preserves her from final defeat, does not guarantee her immunity from trials and persecutions.
The law of life, alike for the souls of men and for nations, lays down principles of justice and universal harmony and the limits to be set to the use of wealth, enjoyments and worldly power. When this law is violated, terrible and merciless sanctions come automatically into action. No state can escape - to each its hour. War is one of the most tremendous sanctions. It is willed not by God but by men, nations and states, through their representatives.
Earthquakes, floods, famines and pestilences are applications of the blind law of nature, blind because nature herself has neither intelligence nor freedom. War instead, is desired by men, deliberately, in defiance of the most sacred laws. That is what makes it so evil. He who instigates war and foments it, is always the ‘Prince of this world, who has nothing to do with Christ, the ‘Prince of peace.’
And while the war rages, the peoples can only turn to the ‘Miserere’ and beg for the Lord’s mercy, that it may outweigh His justice and with a great outpouring of grace bring the powerful men of this world to their senses and persuade them to make peace.'
The mourning of my own soul. 'What is happening in the world on a grand scale is reproduced on a small scale in every man’s soul, is reproduced in mine. Only the grace of God has prevented me being eaten up with malice. …Far from seeking consolation by comparing myself with others, I should make the ‘Miserere’ for my own sins my most familiar prayer.'
The great mercy. 'It is not just ordinary mercy that is needed here. The burden of social and personal wickedness is so grave that an ordinary gesture of love does not suffice for forgiveness. So we invoke the great mercy. This is proportionate to the greatness of God. ‘For according to His greatness, so also is His mercy’(Ecc. 2:23) It is well said that our sins are the seat of divine mercy. It is even better said that God’s most beautiful name and title is this: Mercy. This must inspire us with a great hope amidst our tears. ‘Yet mercy triumphs over judgement’(psalms). This seems too much to hope for. But it cannot be too much if the whole mystery of the Redemption hinges on this: the exercise of mercy is to be a portent of predestination and of salvation.' ‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great Mercy.’
'The Crucifixion of Christ' by Tintoretto (1568) (Wikiart) ***************************
Retreat with his clergy from 25 – 31 October 1942, at the Apostolic Delegation, Istanbul.
'The two great evils which are poisoning the world today, are secularism and nationalism. The former is characteristic of the men in power and of lay folk in general, the latter is found even among ecclesiastics… I must be very watchful, both as Bishop and representative of the Holy See. … The holy Church which I represent, is the mother of nations, all nations. Everyone with whom I come into contact must admire in the Pope’s representative that respect for the nationality of others, expressed with graciousness and mild judgements, which inspires universal trust. Great caution then, respectful silence, and courtesy on all occasions …. We are living through great events, and chaos lies ahead. This makes it all the more necessary to return to those principles which are the foundation of the Christian social order, and to judge what is happening today in the light of what the Gospel teaches us, recognising in the terror and horror which engulf us the terrible sanctions that guard the divine law, even on earth.'
During this Retreat, good Fr Rene Folet, has proposed an image of the perfect Bishop, using the words of St Isidore of Seville about St Fulgentius. I copy these words out as a warning to myself and in remembrance of this happy Retreat. If only my own life could mirror this doctrine!
‘He who is set in authority for the education and instruction of the people for their good must be holy in all things and reprehensible in nothing …. His speech must be pure, simple, open, full of dignity and integrity, full of gentleness and grace when he is dealing with the mystery of the law, the teaching of the faith, the virtue of continence and the law of justice; admonishing everyone, with exhortations varying according to that person’s profession and the quality of his morals; that is he must know in advance of what, to whom, when and how he should speak. It is his special and primary duty to read the Scriptures, to know the Canons, to imitate the example of the Saints, and devote himself to vigils, fasts, and prayers, to live at peace with his brethren and never alienate any member, to condemn no one without proof, to excommunicate no-one without due consideration. Every Bishop should be distinguished as much by his humility as by his authority, so that he may neither cause the vices of his subordinates to flourish, through his own excessive humility, nor exercise his authority with immoderate severity. The more strictly he fears he will be judged by Christ, the more warily should he act towards those committed to his care.
‘He will also preserve that charity which excels all other gifts, and without which all virtue is nothing. For charity is the safeguard of chastity too. Among other things, it will be his duty to show care for the poor, with anxious stewardship, to clothe the naked, to succour pilgrims, to ransom captives, to watch over widows and orphans and to show vigilant care for all, making provision for all with due discretion. In hospitality also he will be noteworthy in supplying the needs of all, with kindliness and charity. For if all the faithful long to hear that saying of the Gospel: “I was a stranger and you took me in”, all the more must the Bishop, whose house must give shelter to all.”
******************** Notes made at the annual retreat in November 1948, at the Benedictine monastery of the Sacred Heart at En Calcat (Dourgne), France. Pope John was entering his 68th year.
‘The more mature I grow in years and experience, the more I recognise that the surest way to make myself holy and to succeed in the service of the Holy See lies in the constant effort to reduce everything, principles, aims, position, business, to the utmost simplicity and tranquillity; I must always take care to strip my vines of all useless foliage and spreading tendrils, and concentrate on what is truth, justice and charity, above all charity. Any other way of behaving is nothing but affectation and self-assertion; it soon shows itself in its true colours and becomes a hindrance and a mockery.
Oh, the simplicity of the Gospel, of the Imitation of Christ, of the Little Flowers of St Francis and of the most exquisite passages in St Gregory, in his ‘Moralia’: ‘the simplicity of the just man is derided’, and the words that follow! I enjoy these pages more and more and return to them with joy. All the wiseacres of this world, and all the cunning minds, including those in Vatican diplomacy, cut such a poor figure in the light of the simplicity and grace shed by this fundamental doctrine of Jesus and His Saints! This is the surest wisdom that confounds the learning of this world ....."
Pope St John XXIII
'Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, On Earth as it is in Heaven'
Prayer for the beatification of Bishop Richard Challoner, Bishop of Debra, Vicar Apostolic of the London District 1758-1781. O God, who didst make thy servant Richard a true and faithful pastor of thy little flock in England, deign to place him among the Blessed in Thy Church, so that we who profit by his word and example, may beg his help in heaven for the return of this land to the ancient faith, and to the fold of the one true Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Slightly frayed around the edges and still trying to pretend that I'm not really as old as that! I thank God for all my blessings, particularly my Catholic faith; my wife a 'pearl of great price'; my children and grandchildren; my friends; our dog Dartmoor; and our good neighbours and spiritual mentors, the F.SS.R community from Papa Stronsay.