My original plan was to write nothing today and simply make sure that some “pre-set” posts went live around the appropriate time. Then The Remnant decided to publish online a 1973 letter by the great French Catholic social thinker Jean Ousset. As the newspaper’s editor Michael Matt makes clear in his introduction, the blasphemies and scandals we are witnessing today were probably never conceived of in 1973. On the day when we especially remember the wounds inflicted upon Christ’s body during the Passion, we should not forget the wounds that are daily inflicted upon Christ’s Mystical Body, the Holy Catholic Church, and the mystery of her suffering at this present time. Ousset’s letter is firm in its admonition that no Catholic has any right to despair, regardless of how dark the sky grows. It is a crucial message which, in more recent times, has been delivered forcefully by Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X. Regardless of what you may think about the Society as a whole, Bishop Fellay is neither playing ecclesial politics nor advancing an ideology when he cautions the faithful against the temptation to forego charity for bitterness or lose their souls in a state of panic because these days, these often confusing and tumultuous days, do not seem to align with an abstract, perhaps romantic, image of how the Church ought to look, feel, act, and so forth.
That here has never been a “perfect” or “ideal” period in the life of the Church is true, though we must also be on guard against allowing that hard truth to push us toward complacency. Some periods, arguably, were better than others, and some of the great challenges the Church faces today are novel. The legions of the devil are large; new demons are now riding on the backs of the faithful, including bishops and priests. Where once the Church was persecuted from the outside, now she finds herself being torn apart internally. Heresy and orthodoxy are blended without question while pernicious proposals that would cleave the doctrinal from the pastoral are given a serious hearing in the highest circles of leadership. When the secular world begins to push hard against the rights of the Church and her flock, the shepherds fall silent or, worse, call for “dialogue,” as if discoursing with error has ever proven in these times to be a pathway to truth. A great fight has been brought to the Church’s doorstep and those who were made soldiers of Jesus Christ on the day of their Confirmation—clerical and lay alike—are now laying down their arms.
Do we still have enough faith to hold that while the God’s representatives have left us, the angels in Heaven have not? Temporal powers will no longer extend the Church protection, but the Blessed Virgin Mary always does. Our King, who is Crucified this day in reparation for our innumerable sins, sits eternally on His throne, calling us to repent and seek our eternal reward. Knowing this, how can we feel righteous or justified when succumbing to fear, hatred, and hopelessness? Those Catholics and non-Catholics we see everyday living against the Truth are no less made in the image and likeness of God than us. Our place in Heaven is not secure because they seem destined for hell. On the contrary, what will we have to say for ourselves before the Dread Judgment Seat of Christ when it is revealed that instead of showing others, in charity, the way to Salvation we instead left them in error? “But Lord, I was a traditional Catholic!” That is no defense, not if it means you lived a life of spite and contempt for others in the vain belief that checking off a few routine boxes daily is enough to save your soul.
I note these things, dear readers, not because I am any better at living an authentic Catholic life than others, but because I am undoubtedly far, far worse at it. A priest once told me that he preaches from his own sins. I suppose I write from mine. The trial of the Church is a trial for us all. We know by Christ’s promise to St. Peter that the gates of hell will never prevail over the Corpus Mysticum; they can still prevail over each and every one of us if we let them. As I stated at the start of Holy Week, please pray for me during the close of this sorrowful season in the Church’s liturgical year and I shall do the same for you. And then let us prepare to rejoice at the Resurrection of our God and King and go forth, spreading that joy to others so that they too may find a home in Christ’s Kingdom.