This sermon was given on Sexagesima Sunday, 4 February 2018, in Jacksonville, Florida. It is about the hierarchy of creation containing the hierarchy of knowledge as transmitted through the angels. This will launch us to consider how the Catholic Faith was originally transmitted from the Apostles to bishops to priests to the families of early Christianity.
A young priest with whom I was once a seminarian is now on Facebook like me. About a year ago, he posted the account of how he asked an old priest if young priests would save the Church. The old priest said “No, Jesus will save His Church,” or something like that. Of course, this post had a ton of “likes.” For one, it seemed so humble for a young priest to admit that we young priests would not “save” the Church. Secondly, it tapped our modern Catholic desire to prove to Protestants that we only look to for Jesus for salvation.
Both are true, and I have no problem with either motivating factor for a lot of “likes” for that. But it diverts readers from the fact that God always sends real saints in the flesh like St. Catherine of Siena to fix real crises in the Church. When we all sit back and say “Don’t worry, Jesus is going to take care of it” (as everyone always tells me), well, that sounds very trusting and even saintly, but it is not Catholic. It misses the teaching of the Mystical Body of Christ, namely, that from the very beginnings of Christianity, Christ came first in the head (the Incarnation as Jesus Christ) and then in the body (His saints and martyrs.) See here what the Holy Spirit teaches about His own Catholic Church as the Mystical Body of Christ:
“And [Christ] is the head of the body, the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross…Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.”—Col 1:18-20, 23.
Notice two things from that quote:
1) The Apostle Paul was so confident that he was a living and real extension of Christ in the world that Paul could go so far as to say under inspiration of the Holy Ghost: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church.”—Col 1:23. So what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings? Nothing except my participation. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was 100% propitiatory, of course. Evangelical Protestants and Catholics agree on this. But what most people miss in this quote is my participation in Christ’s redemptive act lived in the world in 2018 can actually be missing. And when we don’t participate in the sufferings of Christ, the Church enters a crisis. Now we have the greatest crisis of faith ever seen in the Catholic Church, but if we take the Bible literally, it is because we in the Mystical Body want Christ without the Cross. It’s right there in Col 1:23.
2) Jesus is the head of the Mystical Body of Christ, but “Christ” includes the whole body of every baptized member, down to the smallest. Every time the littlest one suffers, it is still Christ suffering, as when we saw Jesus say to Saul while the latter was persecuting the Church: “And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus.’”—Acts 9:4-5a. In fact, St. Augustine went so far as to say: “If by Christ you mean both head and body, the sufferings of Christ are only in Christ.” Re-read that quote from St. Augustine a few times and let it sink in to get the Catholic idea of how we are all cells in the Mystical Body of Christ and that Jesus is the head and Mary is the neck (the mediatrix of all graces.) 1
Think how a modern Protestant or a modern Catholic would think it extremely arrogant if a modern pastor were to now claim that only Christ lived in that pastor: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”—Gal 2:20. But this is how the saving act of Christ continues on in the Church, by acting as loving and as bold as Christ in all our vocations. It is not to keep kowtowing backwards in doctrine for the sake of being “pastoral” that the Church will continue in the West.
We need a lesson from the East, from the Coptic Catholics and Chaldean Catholics and other Christians who balk at the threats of Muslims to abandon Christ, taking the knife the throat before capitulating to false-ecumenism.
St. Augustine taught something very profound on the mysteries of Christ’s Ascension and Pentecost. He wrote this: “And He [Christ] departed from our sight that we might return to our heart and find Him there. For He departed, and behold, He is here.”–St. Augustine. What St. Augustine means is that Christ went up at the Ascension, but He is now found on earth in His people after baptism and Pentecost. Thus, Christ saving the Church will happen through saints on earth, not a Protestant idea of a non-incarnate mystical body of Jesus just magically making things better at an emotional level. That idea is not Catholic. It’s not even Scriptural.
This is why St. Teresa of Avila wrote: “Christ has no hands but yours.” This includes the hands of bloggers. So, in a doctrinal crisis in the Church, it matters that no one ever capitulate on doctrine, no matter how high the price. The first Great Commandment (love God) comes before and flows into the second Great Commandment (love others.) That means that we must love God before neighbor. We must say the right thing, of course in charity, but always regardless of what we guess to be the unintended negative consequences at the pastoral level.
Without this rather-reckless philosophy, Jesus never would have made the Pharisees angry enough to crucify him. When Peter put Jesus’ own awesome ministry of teaching and miracles above of the cross, Peter was called a “Satan.” So also, we who work for the Catholic Church (cleric and lay alike) must do the right thing, regardless of consequences even at the ecclesial level. We can all be masters of our own deceit on what it means to be people-pleasing under the pretext of “pastoral.” We can all trick ourselves to say that cracking on doctrine for the sake of being pastoral will save souls.
It never will!2
The end doesn’t justify the means, and this includes sins of omission. If I fail to speak up for the truth in charity in a crisis in the Church for the sake of keeping the peace or keeping people in my pews or pleasing other clerics…I am sinning. I am literally sinning and harming the two primary missions of the Church: 1) The glory of God. 2) The salvation of souls.
Christ’s attitude to the Pharisees is all we need to assure us of this. Was it worth Christ angering the Pharisees that led to their jealousy that ended His ministry? Yes. We would never have the salvation of the cross if Christ had calculated in His sacred humanity the perfect way of pleasing everyone. Of course, the Son of God would never do this, but just realize you are called to be as bold if we take Catholic Ecclesiology to the extent of how St. Paul and St. Augustine saw the Mystical Body of Christ on earth.
Or really any saint: Christ has no hands but yours. This means writing the truth when it is not popular. You are making a difference. Priests, this means preaching the truth, even if it means losing your jobs. You can never commit a sin of omission for the sake of a future good, for the end doesn’t justify the means. Why can I write this so confidently?
Because I very much believe deep in my heart: God is always faithful.
An understanding of the redemptive suffering of the Mystical Body of Christ was inadvertently captured in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Professor X says: “It’s not their pain you’re afraid of. It’s yours, Charles. And as frightening as it can be, that pain will make you stronger. If you allow yourself to feel it, embrace it, it will make you more powerful than you ever imagined. It’s the greatest gift we have: to bear their pain without breaking. And it comes from the most human part of us: hope. Charles, we need you to hope again.” ↩
Even an elementary look at Church History would suggest that God is inspiring would-be saints to end this current crisis in the Church, but they/we are not responding to grace. Of course, I can not prove this, which is why it is only a footnote. The other option is that we are under such a heavy punishment from God for abortion and contraception and sacriligious communions that we are left “with no prophet” to guide us. This would be a sign of the Great Apostasy already upon us, so the first option is obviously a bit more cheerful, namely, that priests and bishops are not responding to the graces of boldness to end this crisis of modernism. ↩
This class was originally “Traditional Latin Mass 4” but it [happily] got derailed into a Question and Answer regarding unity within the Church. Mass podclasses will continue next week.
Prior to the current and lively discussion on the actual validity of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation from the Papacy, there was (and is) a group of Catholics called sedevacantists who believe that the Chair of Peter has been empty for nearly 50 years, due to putatively-changed doctrine. “Sedes” (pronounced sed-ayz) as they are nicknamed in the traditional world, believe that the last valid Pope was Pope Pius XII. Some even deny the validity of his papacy and some even deny the validity his predecessors, going back centuries. Sedevacantism is Latin for “empty chair,” in reference to the Roman Chair of Peter. They have very good arguments for their positions, many of which I can not counter. (For those unfamiliar with this debate, yes—there are actually Catholics who make me look like an ultra-liberal!)
In any case, I have a good friend looking at the sedevacantists. Here is an email I wrote to him to discourage him from joining them. It was only after I hit “send” that I decided it was worth a blog-post, published with his permission, but no names of course:
You write “I simply don’t know what to do at this point.” My answer: Nothing. There’s an old phrase in Canon Law that is: impossibile non tenetur which means one is not held to the impossible in the Catholic life. In other words, God has not made life to be an intellectual riddle that is impossible to solve except for being solved by a few sedevacantists with their big book of old Pope quotes. I fully understand the difference between God’s positive will and His permissive will for this current Church crisis. But both types of providence still fall under God’s sovereignty. If that were not the case, then the only people to be saved would be sedevacantists because they have figured out God’s post V2 code.
It’s all intellectual for them, and really, it’s all intellectual for your quotes to me this past week. Yeah, they are pretty air-tight. So maybe they are totally correct. But sedes are so miserable and mean, that even if they were correct, I’m pretty sure I would not want to go to heaven with them. If only the miserable and mean who have finally cracked the intellectual code of Pope Paul IV and the 1917 code of canon law are going to heaven, then we are all held to the impossible by God and we are essentially nothing more than 5–point Calvinists (who the sedes all remind me of.) Also, remember the sedes don’t really have charity (just try to counter me on this!) and if faith without charity means nothing for salvation (1 Cor 13) then no one is going to heaven…in which case every single person is in an impossible situation…and Satan has beat us all into despair via a mind game.
You will never beat Satan at mind games in quoting canon law. I believe sedes are following Satan because Satan can quote Councils and Popes as well as Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus in the desert. But Satan quoted Scripture without obedience and charity. As Calvinists live Sola Scriptura without obedience or charity, so also sedes are Sola Conciliar without obedience or charity.
Every family that goes sede is because the man gets wrapped up into endless syllogisms. I have never met a sede family where the woman, in total love, has a deep understanding of the Church. It is always the mind games of very, very intellectual men who is led by some spirit to lead their whole family into sedevacantism. And their arguments are usually air-tight. But again, Satan can quote Scripture and Popes perfectly.
Be very, very careful to not look at only all your endless arguments but to do St. Ignatius of Loyola’s discernment of spirits. More or less, St. Ignatius teaches that the one gift of the Holy Ghost that Satan can not simulate is peace. Peace is deeper than a feeling. If you are called to lead your family to sedevacantism, you will have an overwhelming peace of the Holy Ghost. (And remember that numerous Popes have set St. Ignatius’ discernment of spirits as the gold standard of retreats and decision making.)
But you will never have peace in sedevacantism, as evidenced by the fact you have never met a peaceful sedevacantist. They are all so jumpy. I used to think they acted neurotic, but now I see that from a secular point of view (not theological) they all act mildly psychotic. There is no peace there. Have you ever met a joyful, peaceful, inspiring sedevacantist?
If you say “No, but that doesn’t matter in the face of all their arguments” then you are left with this:
We are all then called to this Catholic-Calvinism or Sola Conciliar Catholicism of anger, where God has (in His permissive will) wired the universe as a horrible riddle where only loveless sedes are saved and where the average Catholic (who can not read hundreds of pages of 14th century Popes every week to figure out the truth) has a goal of SALVATION HELD TO THE IMPOSSIBLE.
Sounds like a pretty good pathway to despair made perfectly by Satan, if you ask me.
Ten years ago this week, Pope Benedict XVi issued an apostolic letter called Summorum Pontificum that decreed that all Roman Catholic priests could offer “the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite,” also known as “the Traditional Latin Mass” that preceded Vatican II. In fact, Pope John Paul II had encouraged bishops to allow their priests to do this, but Pope Benedict went a step further in saying that priests did not need permission from their bishop to do the old Mass in private. Restrictions were to be loosened for this Mass offered in public, too. The Roman Catholic priest was also given permission to give the old absolution in Latin for penitents, extreme unction for the dying and early-Church blessings for anyone who asked. The priest can now live on the old calendar for both the Mass and the Roman Breviary (a system of 150 Psalms a week slightly changed from the 6th century onwards.)
It is very interesting that Summorum Pontificum was issued on 7/7/7, or in European dating, 7/7/7. Three is the superlative in Biblical terms for anything in heaven or on earth, so three sevens means “covenant to the utmost.” Interestingly enough, we have seven sacraments. But this number goes even deeper into tradition: In Hebrew, to “seven” someone is to covenant them, to enter into a life-for-a-life relationship. This is done by “cutting a covenant” as the Hebrew for “covenant” takes the verb “to cut.” For example, God first “cut a covenant” with Abraham by cutting apart two animals and two birds (Gen 15) and passing through them. He would turn this violence on Himself 2000 years later on the Cross and in the Holy Mass, for “the priest sunders with unbloody cut the body and blood of the Lord, using his voice as a sword.”—St. Gregory Nazienzen. This is not Calvinism or even the Father turning against the Son. It is the Divine Word as God offering his sacred humanity in body and in blood through the pain and love of the cross to each one of us. Some priests before Vatican II used to go off to Mass saying that they were going to do “holy violence to God.” Why? Because Jesus gives His body and blood to us from the most unkind cuts of Calvary, perpetuated in the Mass. Was it any accident that the most ancient form of the Roman Mass was re-opened (albeit never fully abrogated) on the 7th day of the 7th month of 2007? God establishes a worldwide covenant with His people.
Strangely, Pope Benedict never offered the extraordinary form in public. On the other hand, Pope Benedict XVI called the ordinary form “a banal, on-the-spot-fabrication.” How then, did he expect the old rites and new rites to be streamlined together in a single parish? Pope Benedict proposed “the hermeneutic of continuity.” The hermeneutic of continuity holds that there is to be no rupture in liturgy (or doctrine) before the Council or after the Council. I believe that this was the number one goal of his papacy and Summorum Pontificum. Has it worked?
At least one bishop this year has repealed Summorum Pontficum by stating that “Masses are not to be celebrated using the Extraordinary Form without my permission” as seen in this article. The new Mass is rarely permitted by bishops to be celebrated according to even post-Vatican-II rules. If you think this is an exaggeration, consider the 2004 document signed by Pope John Paul II and written by Cardinal Arinze, titled Redemptionis Sacramentum. In this document, it is clear that the new Mass can be done ad orientem (facing the altar.) Latin is permitted (yes, in the Mass of Vatican II) and pastors were encouraged to effect an enormous reduction of Extraordinary “Ministers” of Holy Communion. Pastors were permitted to eradicate reception of Holy Communion in the hand. Free-floating chalices were to be retracted anytime the Most Precious Blood of Jesus could be spilled. All of this is in Redemptionis Sacramentum, an official post-Vatican II document giving guidelines for the Mass of Paul VI.
But ad orientem worship was prohibited this past year as a clamp-down against Cardinal Sarah’s call for ad orientem Novus Ordo Masses (an echo of his African predecessor, Cardinal Arinze who wrote RS.) The few priests who try to do the new Mass according to its own rules are sent to the boondocks of their diocese. Priests who preach the truth of the Gospel are more and more frequently going into exile like this courageous priest from San Diego.
On this one point I agree with the theology of Bergoglio more than the theology of Ratzinger: There is no hermeneutic of continuity after Vatican II. The former has not said so specifically, but that is clearly his message in every conference, every week. Ratizinger’s envisioned “hermeneutic of continuity” was that the traditional doctrine, life and liturgy of Catholics would eventually make peace with, say, the progressive Cardinals of Northern Europe. Benedict tried to win them to his mild form of orthodoxy. How did they respond? They did something so mysterious that Dutch radio reported “that Ratzinger resigned because of” Cardinal Danneels and his friends. Benedict apparently denies this: 1 However, he looks strangely tired in every picture I see of him. Is he just old? Perhaps, but he actually looks disoriented, which I think is suspicious. Before he gave up the battle, his eyes seemed to say: “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.”—Psalm 119/120.
I believe that the primary driver for the spiritual attack against Pope Benedict was indeed his decree of Summorum Pontificum. Why? Neither Pope Benedict nor his earthly enemies know this, but demons know that Summorum Pontificum is the priest’s main link back to a Mass that the Council of Trent calls “Apostolic.” This would mean that Benedict somewhat-naively re-released the single greatest weapon of spiritual warfare for the good guys. 2
Even if I am wrong about my above speculations, most people agree that the days of feigned peace between traditional liturgy and wacky doctrines are long gone. Many men in power are now promoting a Hegelian dialectic where the “spirit” changes with human authority. The new Mass is no longer controlled through the lens of Church History, but through a nominalism condemned in Pope Benedict’s 2006 Regensburg address against Islam. Nominalism means authority can function in a manner willy-nilly: For example, the Vatican may or may not be currently in the works of fabricating an “Ecumenical Rite of Mass” for joint worship with Protestants. Or, consider how random it is that priests in Rome are being admonished to abandon daily Mass in favor of group concelebration.
Nominalism is the name of the game in the implementation of the new Mass. But is it only the implementation? Archbishop Bugnini said that he wrote the new Mass so that every parish be different in its celebration from the neighboring parish. See how wave-after-wave of semi-conservative young priests coming through the rank and file of America’s seminaries (with the promethean task of “doing the new Mass the right way”) always end up subsumed into the squishy pastoral-goo of parish life that has bled between 15 million and 20 million Catholics in the West following Vatican II. Sheep without shepherds. Soft-will-to power attracts few manly men to worship. (But go see a Traditional Latin Mass parish and you will find at least one military family, if not many.)
The few young priests who shield their conscience in choosing the 1962 sacraments (as allowed by Summorum Pontificum) face a harsher punishment: Just two weeks ago, a bishop asked his own priest (who I know very well!) to leave the priesthood and be “laicized.” Look: Bishops don’t even ask priests caught in homosexual relationships to be “laicized.” This is additional proof that there is something more than natural attack (read: preternatural attack) coming against Summorum Pontificium and the 1962 sacraments.
CS Lewis once wrote, “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” The combination of Summorum Pontificum and the sad state of Rome-today ironically work towards the same goal: Priests will have to choose either a Mass that was designed with ambiguity (and is thus susceptible to a Hegelian dialectic of theology and Nietzsche’s will-to-power under the prelate-flavor of the day…) or choose a Mass that goes back to the fourth century, nearly unchanged, nearly unchange-able. Yes, it is becoming clear that the new Mass will never follow the rules of Redemptionis Sacramentum in even putatively-conservative dioceses of the world (except maybe Lincoln and Arlington?) In any case, it seems that Summorum Pontificum is currently the West’s only spelunking rope in a dark cave back to the light of what the Council of Trent calls “an Apostolic Mass.”
Summorum Pontificum colliding with the current circus maximus of Rome actually creates a fork in the road where there is no more grey zone, no more sitting on the fence. Finally, America’s smiley seminarians will have to man-up and choose either the living tradition of Divine Revelation or an ecumenical concelebration ad absurdum. The latter is possible, considering that progressive prelates are tolerant of everything except the hermeneutic of continuity. If I am right on this, then this means that Summorum Pontificum is currently the only road back to tradition. It is a road fraught with thorns and priestly betrayal. Such is the glory of the cross.
“There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry,”—Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, expressed in a letter to the Italian website Vatican Insider. ↩
The so-called “extraordinary form” of the Mass was ordinary in the early Church, for the Notre Dame publication The Liturgy Revived: A Doctrinal Commentary on the Conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy, shows that although this Mass was first in Greek, the translation of the Roman Canon was done carefully over 120 years, culminating sometime between 350 and 382 with the current Roman Canon. (Notice how long a liturgical translation should take: Over 100 years!) The Roman Canon was used, not the prayer of St. Hippolytus which was injected into the new Eucharistic Prayer II in the 1960s. In fact, the prayer of St. Hippolytus was simply a personal prayer, not a liturgical one. Why we were taught that this was an ancient liturgy in seminary is beyond me. The truth is that Hippolytus’ prayer was probably injected into the puny Eucharistic Prayer II in an Italian coffeeshop in one night following Vatican II. This is no substitute for the Roman Canon, because what is known by the past two Popes as “the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite” was known as “ordinary” for about 250+ Popes. How is this an unruptured hermeneutic of continuity? Unless, of course, Pope Benedict meant it as a theological sleight of hand in favor of the Traditional Latin Mass, since the Mass is by its very nature “extraordinary”! But I highly doubt it. ↩
Covered in this podcast is a wide range of Catholic issues, from the first Pentecost to the charismatic movement today, to St. Maximilian Kolbe. We’ll especially consider Mary’s role against demons and the syllabus of errors in modern times.
Special thanks again to the Benedictine Nuns of Mary Queen of Apostles for allowing me to use their music as the bumpers to my iTunes sermons and podcasts.
This sermon considers the Ascension in light of the Old Testament.
aka Good Shepherd Sunday
This sermon recognizes the wolves that have caused the current crisis in the Catholic Church. In this sermon, I also describe the shepherds that God may be currently raising in order to shepherd the Church, as Christ and the early Apostles led and guarded the Church. This Sunday is appropriately called “Good Shepherd Sunday,” due to the Gospel from St. John chapter 10.
Today is the eclipsed feast day of St. Catherine of Siena in the old calendar. In line with today’s sermon, it is worth noting the seven things that God the Father told St. Catherine of Siena would restore the Catholic Church in times of crisis:
- Fiery Desire
- Endure much
- Cast the light of your patience into the darkness of perverse men.
- Don’t fear the world’s persecutions.
How can the Catholic Church be so dirty and yet “the Bride of Christ without blemish” at the same time? This is a sermon on Ecclesiology, which is defined as the study of the Church. The most difficult topic to explain in Ecclesiology is how the Church can be both human and divine at the same time.
The Mother of God appeared to a young Spanish prioress in the 16th century in Quito, Ecuador, asking her to suffer for the Catholic Church’s tribulations of the the 20th century. This is a Vatican-approved apparition of the Blessed Mother where Mother Mary actually told Ven. Mariana exactly what would happen to every sacrament. But Epiphany is all about the light that shines when the darkness is actually darkest. Where Christ has gone, so also will His Church follow. Bumper song credit: O Lux et Decus Hispaniae. (Oh light and glory of the Spanish peoples.)