Sunday, January 22, 2012
3rd Sunday after Epiphany
My dear faithful:
Wednesday of this last week we celebrated the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Rome. This feast represents the primacy of the Roman Church over all other churches. It represents the primacy of the Pope over all other bishops. St. Peter was given this primacy by none other than Our Lord himself when he said “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” St. Peter, therefore, and his successors, the true Popes, ruled the Church of God ever since the time of Our Lord. These popes have been the basis for the Church’s unity. Without a pope, it is impossible that there will ever be any true unity amongst Catholics, Christians, or indeed any men of good will.
And why not, you may ask? Why can’t we unite in these days after Vatican II, when the popes and bishops have fallen into apostasy, and we have only tradition and our individual conscience to guide us in our quest for truth? The answer is very clear – without the guiding voice of authority, the Church’s voice, there is no judge who can tell us in any given situation what is right and what is wrong. We are often left to flounder, groping in the dark to find the right path to heaven, like lost children looking for their father. And without that father, our Holy Father, the Pope, we are condemned to a life of turmoil and dispute, with no calming voice of authority to stop our quarrels.
This situation is not of our making. We are indeed the victims of Vatican II. But that is no excuse for us to flee from our duty to find the truth where we can. We must not abandon ship just because the captain has thrown himself overboard. So in these dark days where there is no Pope, no Magisterium of the Church, what are we to do?
The first thing to remember is that we should not actively seek conflict with our fellow Catholics. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” said Our Lord, “for they shall be called the children of God.” We should pray, like St. Francis of Assisi, to be made “instruments of God’s peace”. And if we are wronged, we should pardon. If we are persecuted, we should meekly accept the injuries done to us. We should “turn the other cheek”, we need to forgive “seventy times seven”. These are hard lessons for us all.
But as it says in the Book of Ecclesiastes, there is a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. And Our Lord himself reminds us: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” My dear faithful, while we must actively strive to make peace and forgive them that trespass against us, it is not ours to forgive or to ignore them that would wage war upon the freedom of Holy Mother Church. We are not given the choice whether or not to defend the truths of the Catholic Faith, to defend the honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to die, fighting if necessary, to protect God’s Mystical Body from all form of attack.
This then is one of the reasons we need the Holy Ghost and the virtue of Prudence. We need to be able to discern when to meekly turn the other cheek, and when to stand up and fight. To learn how to forgive our enemies, even as we are morally obliged to wage war upon them. This is no easy task, and God knows how much we often have to struggle in our discernment.
As a guideline, I would offer the following direction: Fight to protect your Faith, your Church, your country, your home and your family. But do not fight to protect yourself. And that is just a general guideline. It doesn’t always work. If you’re faced by a bully, for example, it is sometimes the most charitable thing to knock him down – it teaches him a lesson, and protects others from similar bullying at his hands. But apart from a few obvious cases like this, if it is only yourself who is being attacked, whether in writing, in word, or even physically, it usually seems to be more in keeping with God’s will to suffer the disgrace, however undeserved, rather than to allow one’s pride and so-called “honour” get in the way of humility, meekness and charity.
And so we celebrated the feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome. Interestingly enough, this day marks the opening of the so called “Chair of Unity Octave”. Don’t let the name fool you. The concept of Church Unity did not begin with the hippy priests of the 1960s, with all their false ecumenism and watering down of our own Faith. No, the concept of Church Unity goes back all the way to Our Lord himself, who at the Last Supper, prayed that we might all be one, even as he and his heavenly Father are one. This special Octave is set aside every year between the feasts of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome and the Conversion of St. Paul. It was started by a group of Anglican monks in New York, the Anglican Franciscan Friars of Graymoor Monastery. They wanted to realize the prayer of Our Lord that all be one. And so they prayed. In fact they prayed so hard that God granted part of their prayers, and the whole monastery converted to Catholicism. The Pope at the time, St. Pius X, saw the benefits of these prayers for Church Unity and formally decreed that prayers should be said on each day of the Octave for a specific group of non-Catholics. Thus on Thursday we prayed for the return of all Eastern Orthodox Christians to the Church, on Friday we prayed for the conversion of all Anglicans, and yesterday that all European protestants would see the error of their ill-begotten faith and return to Rome. Today, perhaps ironically, is the day on which the Church asks us to pray for the conversion of all American protestants to the Catholic Faith. At the end of Mass, we will say some prayers for these intentions instead of the usual Leonine prayers, as is the custom.
But remember in saying these prayers, that today is not so easy to bring back protestants, Jews, Moslems and so on to the true faith. Why? It goes back to what we were saying earlier. Without a true pope it is very difficult to rally people around a center of unity. It was this unity which attracted people of all false faiths in the past to the Catholic faith. This unity was one of the four marks which enabled those in error to see what was the true Faith. But now, instead of going up to these poor people who are wallowing in their error, and inviting them to go on the cruise of a lifetime on the Barque of Peter, today we are inviting them to cross the Atlantic in a rowing boat. And stormy seas they are indeed. Certainly not very attractive, if you don’t have the faith.
So for the sake of Unity, please join me today in one extra prayer that we will say at the end of Mass. This is the prayer for the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy and the election of a true Sovereign Pontiff. If God were to answer this prayer, we would once again be equipped with our greatest weapon against the divisions of Satan, and against the constant turmoil which so upsets us all. We would be able to present a united front against evil, and no longer be that house divided against itself which cannot stand.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen