Peace of Mind Part 1
It probably is not very difficult to put ourselves in the place of the eleven Apostles in the two days immediately following our Lord’s crucifixion and burial.
At no other time in the Gospel do we see a more flawed, pathetic, broken, imperfect, and (dare we say) human group of men. These were the chosen ones of our Savior, the men He lovingly called His intimate friends (not His servants). To them much was given and, rightfully, much should have been expected. So their incredible failure to rise to expectations during the Passion left them with much to think about.
Enough time had now passed to allow them at least some reflection to those last events of Christ’s life, on their behavior at His arrest which likely had surprised them. Perhaps it was the topic of discussion separated by long intervals of embarrassed silence. Maybe some of them had a hard time looking at St. John who, of them all, managed to follow Christ and stand at the foot of the Cross; maybe some were upset at Peter, whose personal boast of fidelity to Christ at the Last Supper led them all to make similar boasts; perhaps some thought of our Lady, the tremendous sorrow she experienced, and how they abandoned her along with our Lord.
They must have mulled over all the things Christ said and did the past three years, recalling all the incidents and miracles, those quiet evenings when He taught them the meanings of the parables, how He always displayed command over every situation, yet now utterly baffled by a such a dramatic change of events when all power seemed to abandon Him. How then to reconcile all that with the strange news that Christ had been seen risen and alive, cautiously recalling His words that He would rise again on the third day.
And through the myriad of emotions and confusion lay this most profound disappointment in themselves for not being better than they were, for not rising to the occasion when our Lord needed them most, perhaps then wondering that, if it indeed is true that Christ was risen, what kind of reception – if any – should they expect from Him. The locked doors of that Upper Room where they now sat in fear, that same room where forty-eight hours earlier Jesus Christ established the priesthood, ordained them bishops, and gave them the Holy Eucharist for the first time, were indicative of hearts locked in turmoil, yet so desiring resolve.
But those locked doors were no match for Christ, and so it certainly took the Apostles by surprise when He appears before them and, amidst many things He could have said, He announces Peace. Not a shred of disappointment, anger, or sadness in our Savior’s tone, something they all knew they deserved. Rather, it was a salutation that read right into the turmoil of their hearts, that acknowledged their weakness, that forgave their failure, and would dispose them to the new life He came to bring and to undertake the mission He was about to bestow. With one word, the air was cleared: that same word our Lord used two years earlier to calm the storm at sea, He now uses to calm the storm in their souls. It would be the first word of the Resurrected Christ to His Church: Peace. And in this one word did our Lord sum up all of His teachings and commandments about how to attain eternal life, about how to possess true happiness, teachings put to the extreme test of the Crucifixion, found to be all that is good and true, and validated by the Resurrection. By greeting the Apostles with this word, our Lord – now Resurrected while bearing the scars of the Crucifixion – insists that He alone is the basis of true and lasting peace. But why?
This all depends upon what is meant by peace. Christ emphasized through His life that the peace He brings is not what the world desires or expects (cf. Jn. 14:27). The spirit of the world has no use for the peace Christ offers, and that is precisely why our Lord says in this regard that He did not come to bring peace but the sword, (Mt. 10:34) that He will be cause of division in houses to the extent of putting father against son, mother against daughter, and so forth. (cf. Lk. 12:53)
Therefore, peace is not to be equated with absence of strife, nor is it to be confused with tranquility plain and simple. A thief can be quite tranquil in his stolen merchandise.
Rather, peace is the tranquility of order.
And since peace deals with order, it is necessarily related to justice, since justice entails proper respect of order. It was only after the infinite injustice of sin against God was requited by Christ’s crucifixion could there be an affirmation of true peace; it was impossible otherwise. Jesus Christ came to restore the order that had been upset by sin, which caused man to be at enmity with God, and to extend to us through His Church a real participation in the continued restoration of that order until the end of time.
So in extending peace, Christ was extending and establishing Himself as the only source of true peace between man and God, our fellow neighbor, and within ourselves.
April 16, 2021
An FSSP Parishioner Responds to Fr. Reese
by Claudio Salvucci
The Rev. Thomas Reese, SJ discusses the future of the Traditional Latin Mass in his recent article “The future of Catholic liturgical reform“, where he calls for…well…maybe it’s best to let him say it himself:
It is time to return to bishops the authority over the Tridentine liturgy in their dioceses. The church needs to be clear that it wants the unreformed liturgy [i.e., the Latin Mass] to disappear and will only allow it out of pastoral kindness to older people who do not understand the need for change. Children and young people should not be allowed to attend such Masses.
Upon reading this, I had the rather colorful emotional response that one might expect of an FSSP parishioner and father of five whose ancestors inhabited the Kingdom of Two Sicilies. But along with all the less-than-edifying emotions, some sage advice from C.S. Lewis’s The Last Battle popped into my head:
“And peace, Eustace. Do not scold, like a kitchen-girl. No warrior scolds. Courteous words or else hard knocks are his only language.”
I will try my best to confine myself to the former.
When Fr. Reese states that “the church needs to be clear that it wants the unreformed liturgy to disappear“, the first thing that strikes me is that “the church” wants no such thing.
It is actually Fr. Reese who wants that. Perhaps he is not aware that he is positing some strangely personal application of subsistit in whereby his personal desires are coterminous with the sensus fidelium of the entire Western world, but I would strongly caution him to not make that error. It is exceptionally bad form.
And while I understand that Fr. Reese has no affection for the traditional Roman Rite, he could at least do its partisans the courtesy of investigating–if only on a purely scholarly level–why we attend it. The Latin Mass is not some sort of palliative liturgical hospice, a comfortable pastel room where deteriorating minds can enjoy their lingering memories in geriatric senescence.
We attend the Latin Mass because it is, to us, where Holy Mother Church feels most alive and most like Herself: a wise Mater et Magistra unaffected by passing fads and cheap, trendy gimmicks but beautiful and wonderful and complicated as life itself.
I am not a child or young person, so I’m not sure how I would fare under Fr. Reese’s proposal. But I suspect he wouldn’t appreciate that my registering at an FSSP parish is not out of nostalgia. I was born in the early 1970s after the liturgical change. I have no memory whatsoever of the traditional Mass. In fact, I was initially quite resistant to it and once argued the superiority of the new liturgy to my future wife–quite unsuccessfully, I might add.
My love for the Mass of the Ages came by lived experience, by attending it and then sorting out in my own mind whether the Missal of 1962 or the Missal of 1970 was best suited to my Catholic life. Nor am I the only one that had this transformative experience; at every traditional community one will find people and families who could tell very similar stories.
We laity of the traditional movement have gotten used to being the black sheep of the larger Catholic world. On a personal level that may be a frustrating space to inhabit, yes, but it seems a small price to pay for the spiritual treasures we have discovered in our parishes. Think us weird all you like–just let us sing the Asperges and sit in quiet reverence during the Roman Canon.
Apparently, though, the “live and let live” philosophy we hear bandied about ad nauseam nowadays can’t quite suffer us to continue existing.
To some, we are more than an oddity: we are a constant irritation. It is not enough that many traditionalists are walled off into dedicated liturgical ghettos, separated from our fellow Catholics by whispers, suspicions, and distrust of those crazy people who go that church. It is not enough that we have, effectively, a grand total of 3 FSSP parishes that can adequately serve us in the entirety of eastern Pennsylvania–and we’re even lucky to have that many.
Apparently, the ghettos need to be dismantled, and the 3 parishes need to be zero.
Perhaps Fr. Reese is not aware of the depth of the laity’s commitment to the traditional liturgy. So let me state it quite directly. As for my wife and I, we plan on attending the traditional Latin Mass until we lie in repose under the solemn tones of the Requiem and the Dies Irae. Moreover, as long as our own “children and young people” are under our parental care, they will be at every Latin Mass with us: serving at the altar, wearing veils, and learning the language that is their liturgical birthright and that my wife is diligently teaching them. I am not sure why anyone thinks they are capable of not “allowing” my children to do all this. But as an indication of our familial resolve, permit me to quote another character from the Narnia series:
“My own plans are made….While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world into some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.”
I would not have felt compelled to write any response to Fr. Reese if he had merely stated his dislike for our liturgy and not taken such an absolutist stance on the question. Traditionalists have held a minority position within the Church for decades, and we are quite used to the idea that many do not agree with us. But the minority is growing, and the majority is shrinking, every single year. Perhaps the unquestionable success of the Latin Mass, defying predictions to the contrary by many soi disant experts in such things, is indeed what prompted Fr. Reese to offer such a sweeping solution.
And, of course, if young people were not interested in attending the traditional Roman Mass, they would not have to be prevented from attending, would they?
They simply wouldn’t bother to show up. The traditional movement would die out on its own quite organically…the way many stubbornly keep insisting that it will.
Fr. Reese seems to be keen on Scriptural themes. So I will end by reminding him how the members of the Sanhedrin in Acts 5 wanted to suppress the Apostles’ preaching, only to be persuaded by the argument of Rabbi Gamaliel:
And now, therefore, I say to you, refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this council or this work be of men, it will come to naught; But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps you be found even to fight against God.
April 14, 2021
New FSSP Parish: Our Lady of Sorrows, Springdale AR
A new FSSP parish has been established in Springdale in northwest Arkansas. As of March 19th, Fr. Joshua Passo, FSSP has taken over as pastor of this new Latin Mass community of Our Lady of Sorrows, and we had an opportunity to ask some questions that would be of interest to Missive readers. –ed.
How did the community first organize?
The lineage of Our Lady of Sorrows parish goes back to 1998. A group of ten homeschooling families invited Fr. James Jackson, (FSSP, Author of Nothing Superfluous) to give a presentation. After Fr. Jackson’s talk these families drove two hours each way to Tulsa, Oklahoma – the closest Latin Mass in the area. In 2004 they formed Una Voce of Northwest Arkansas and began work with the Diocese of Little Rock to establish a Latin Mass in the area.
How did the community become established? When did the Fraternity become involved?
On Palm Sunday in 2010 Bishop Taylor granted permission for Fr. Greg Hart to offer Mass in the Extraordinary Form at St. Joseph parish in Tontitown, Arkansas. This continued until Fr. Hart’s illness and death in November 2017. Early the next year Bishop Taylor invited the Fraternity to serve the community. Fr. William Define and Fr. Earl Eggleston attended from Most Precious Blood parish in Tulsa until July of 2020. At that point Fr. Paul McCambridge of St. John the Baptist in Cabot, Arkansas was assigned as Administrator. Fr. Joshua Passo served the community as Assistant Administrator until his installation as the first pastor on the Feast of St. Joseph, 19 March 2021.
What steps led to your becoming a full-fledged parish?
The community began to organize in earnest after a visit from Fr. Gerard Saguto in 2018. Finance and parish councils were formed. A pledge drive was organized and executed in 2019 and again in 2020. The community utilized social media to circulate information and generate interest. After a visit from Fr. Daniel Geddes in February 2020 the community worked with the Diocese to purchase a former Lutheran property in Springdale. The church and the rectory were extensively remodeled. Bishop Taylor erected Our Lady of Sorrows as a personal parish on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 12 December 2020.
How much and how fast has your community grown?
We have witnessed a compounded annual growth rate of 11% since 2017. Average Sunday Mass attendance in 2017 was 108 souls – about 35 households. Today we have an average Sunday Mass attendance of 189 souls in 59 households. Several families have moved from out of state to this area specifically to join our parish.
Any advice for people on how to get FSSP parishes started in their areas?
First and most obviously, pray. But be specific. Offer the Holy Rosary as a community explicitly for an apostolate. Be faithful. Live in humility with each other as a Christian community. Give one another the benefit of the doubt. Be obedient to your pastors.
Second – all the Aves and Paters you offer are of little value if you don’t get organized and get to work. Men from the community should form finance and parish councils. Keep them small. Too many participants impede the effort instead of focus and accelerate it. Further – anyone who volunteers to serve in this capacity must demonstrate their commitment to the effort through their time and treasure.
Speaking of treasure: Give. Ensure your finances are accounted independently. Organize pledge drives with specific objectives in mind (property, vestments, etc.). And give to the Fraternity. Sponsor a seminarian. If you want the Fraternity to invest in you, then you should likewise invest in the Fraternity.
Any future spiritual plans or architectural ones? Special devotions you want to start, remodeling projects?
One of the things we need quite soon is a parish hall. We are blessed to have a barn on the property which we can use in the interim, but it lacks proper facilities. So we will work with our architect to develop a master plan for our property and take aim at a parish hall.
We have established First Friday and First Saturday devotions. We have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Thursdays. Each week we offer devotions in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows. Each month we offer devotions in honor of St. Joseph (for the year of St. Joseph). This spring we will establish religious education and sacramental preparation programs. This summer we expect to have men’s and women’s groups established.
For more information, visit the parish website at ourladyofsorrowsnwa.org.
April 9, 2021
Paschal Triduum Photopost: FSSP North America and the World
Alleluia! Alleluia! He is Risen!
As we joyously celebrate the Resurrection of the Savior, we are delighted to pass along photos of the Paschal Triduum as experienced by FSSP parishioners here in North America and around the world.
April 6, 2021
Spectators On and About the Cross
As we ascend Mount Calvary with our Blessed Lord, we join Archbishop Fulton Sheen in a Good Friday meditation from 1979.
April 2, 2021
Holy Week: Hey, Where You At? (Part 2)
Christ came to preach salvation by way of a kingdom: a kingdom that is not of this world, yet lays claim on this world to the degree His kingdom lays claim on our hearts.
Therefore, if it is a heavenly kingdom He preaches, it necessarily possesses a ruler, a King. And with it a citizenry, which means there are conditions for membership set by the King, and there are laws and a moral code of conduct that pay honor to that same King.
Everyone in heaven acknowledges Christ as King. They are in heaven ultimately because they were found to be in a state of grace upon death. They are in the presence of God, in a place free from all error, sin, and corruption.
And if Christ’s Kingdom extends from there to this world, it means that what is down here must be a reflection of what it is in heaven: there must be an acknowledgement of the same King as He truly is (Christ as both true God and true Man), there are conditions for membership – faith, and from that Baptism, and with that submission to the Christ’s Vicar on earth – and a moral code of conduct through which personal error and sin are identified and abandoned. Moreover, our Lord has every right to expect these conditions to be fulfilled right here on earth.
Once again, He meets us where we are at, and then expects that we get moving.
His argument with the Jews in the Gospel (cf. Jn. 8:36 ff.) reveals this expectation: Which of you will convince Me of sin? He asks, and when they accuse Him of having a devil, He retorts that they do not know God because they do not hear Him and will not believe His works. He comes flat out and tells them that He is God: Before Abraham was, I am, echoing the Name God told Moses from the burning bush, I am Who am (Ex. 3:14).
But despite all the evidence of the truth of Christ’s claim, because He shakes their world and demands conversion – they want to stay where they are – they grab stones and get ready to kill Him. We will not have this Man reign over us (Lk. 19:14). And in the background is Satan taunting Him again to get down from the Cross: if you want all the hungry to be fed, if you want all the sick to be cured, if you want the divorced and remarried to receive you in Communion, and everything else that goes with that, if you want to show mercy, get down from the Cross so they can “believe.”
How significant the charge that hung on the Cross: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, for Christ’s Kingship is the whole reason for the Crucifixion.
Where will He reign?
Ultimately, it is only by way of conversion, the acknowledgement of sin and error of which genuine mercy gives us the space to realize – and then repent – that we gain and secure admission into the kingdom of eternal life with our Savior. No one is beyond that if they be of good will.
Look at the good thief, Dismas, who at Calvary is the first person to call Christ King. Everything was lost and now, faced with the reality of eternal judgment, he definitively turns his back on his partner in crime on the cross to our Savior’s left: Have you no fear of God, he says to the other thief, this Man has done nothing wrong; we deserve what we are getting. Having defended Christ at the moment when everything seemed at its worst, he would receive his reward (Lk. 23:40-43).
The sight of his own guilt came to him and contrition along with it, a contrition which opened his eyes to what Christ already saw and was so thirsting to forgive: Blessed are the clean of heart, they shall see God (Mt. 5:8).
Christ met Dismas where he was at, and Dismas could not remain where he was. He looks at Christ – who has no semblance of any majesty or royalty – and cries out to be remembered when Christ comes into His Kingdom. Such a request was too much for our Lord to ignore.
We see this “weakness” of Christ throughout the Gospel whenever someone confessed Him as He desired, and how generously our Lord poured Himself out in return. As a spiritual writer comments: A paralytic came to Him to be healed; Jesus sent him away healed in both soul and body. A poor creature fell at His feet penitent; He made of her an intimate friend. An Apostle confessed Him to be the true Son of God, He made him to be the head of His universal Church.
It is no different here: true repentance met true mercy, and that repentance, in justice, now gets what it deserves: This day you will be with Me in paradise. Three crosses on Calvary, both thieves reached where they were at – and they readily stand for every one of us: one man saved, one man damned, no compromise from the Man in the middle who was too stubborn, academic, narrow, “unmerciful,” judgmental, and fanatical to get down.
With Holy Week underway, this most solemn time of the year, with the crucifixes and statues veiled, let us also enter into ourselves and take advantage of the graces given to admit where we may be too loose, too broad, and too accommodating so as to prevent Christ from meeting us where we are at.
Are we habitually in a state of sin?
Do we persist in dangerous or sinful relationships?
Do we refuse to forgive?
Do we not pray?
Is religion something on a checklist?
Have we given up on our marriages?
Are we too motivated by human respect?
Are we consumed with materialism?
The sooner we let Christ meet us where we’re at, the sooner we realize that the place we need to go is up on the cross alongside the King.
Because only there do we experience the mercy that will invite us to Paradise.
March 31, 2021
Third Summorum Pontificum Convention: Guadalajara, Mexico, June 10-13
Sponsored by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and the International Una Voce Federation. Featuring a traditional Priestly Ordination celebrated by his Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke, solemn Pontifical Masses and traditional Confirmations.
March 30, 2021
Holy Week: Hey, Where You At? (Part 1)
We hear a lot today about the necessity of “meeting people where they are at” when it comes to evangelization of Christianity.
In one way, this is common sense and is certainly nothing new for the Church; even a casual glance of the missionary work throughout the centuries reveals painstaking efforts to understand the culture of the people being evangelized in order to determine how to best present the truths of the holy Faith.
It would have been absurd, for instance, for St. Francis Xavier to land in Japan and start reading pages from Aquinas to the natives. In the same vein, could you imagine St. Isaac Jogues standing on a tree stump delivering a theological discourse to the Hurons on the processions of the Three Persons of the Trinity? Of course not.
The job of the missionary was to first learn the environment, determine what was good in the culture and what was harmful, assess what the predominant moral faults were, and then figure out what were the best tools at his disposal to teach the eternal truths of the Faith and dispose the people to conversion and receive Baptism.
This process would usually take some time and have its share of frustrations, but their zeal for souls would have eternal rewards.
However, although the sentiment of “meeting people where they are at” is important, and this is something the so-called “new evangelization” pushes heavily, the fact that this has also been picked up and pushed heavily by the secular press reveals a few ulterior motives. On account of a greater accessibility to the Pope, and perhaps because of statements, writings, or actions that cause concern or confusion for the faithful, the popular media’s excitement over the Church “finally meeting people where they are at” amounts more to their concerted effort to create God in man’s image, undermine Church authority, and redefine Christianity.
What is being praised here by “meeting people where they are at” is not the same thing the missionaries were doing.
As far as the secular press is concerned, “meeting people where they are at” is the attempt to validate things contrary to Church teaching, ranging from the so-called equality of all religions, calling into question Christ’s claim to be God, and normalizing behavior contrary to the sixth and ninth Commandments, among other things.
Between poor catechesis over many decades and the relentless criticism of the Faith from the media, we seem to live in a climate – both inside and outside the Church – that considers adhering to Church doctrine as something that makes the Faith too “academic,” “narrow,” or “judgmental,” that such robs religion of vitality and dynamism, and puts limits on God.
After all (so it is thought), God is larger than any one religion, and it would be quite arrogant to assert that only one religion, in fact, is true. To put it another way, to insist on an unchanging doctrine and morality would be “fanatical,” and so it is high time to finally break away from this, for all these things pose significant obstacles to “meeting people where they are at.”
The word “mercy” is then invoked as the buzz-word, for it would be considered “merciful” to remove such obstacles. In other words, Church teaching is unmerciful, exclusionary, it makes people feel bad and alienates them, it promotes a sense of guilt and shame, and the “merciful Jesus” who ate with publicans and sinners would never want that to happen.
Now at face value this can sound pretty convincing: who would want someone to feel beyond the reach of Christ? No one should, and they do not have to.
But the question is, what is Christ reaching for, and why? Tell a lie a thousand times and it becomes truth, and the hostility is being felt more and more by those who resist the lie. One of the more outstanding qualities of Christ is His approachability by all. Look at the Gospels: He received anyone, from the most unrefined and broken to the most learned, but He did so for a purpose and this is where the fatal flaw of that argument is exposed. In becoming Man, Christ is the Master of “getting people where they are at,” becoming like us in all things but sin (cf. Heb. 4:15).
“Meeting people where they are at” does not mean leaving them where they are.
Our Lord is always attentive to the audience before Him: in one place we see Him speaking parables to the unlearned to describe the kingdom of God; in another place, like with the blind beggar, He puts mud on the man’s eyes and simply tells him to go wash it off (from which he gains his sight); in still another instance, we see an entirely different approach with the Jews of the time, the Chosen People of the Covenant who awaited the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Messias, lots of high language that compels them to look at the evidence and make the right decision about Him.
Yet although the approach is different, Christ’s goal is always the same for everyone: acceptance of the truth about Him – that He is true God – recognizing His authority on earth, and the realization of what He came to give based upon that truth – salvation and eternal life, which demands conversion and change of heart.
In other words, in receiving any and all who came to Him, we see Christ to always be compassionate towards their misery – which is one part of mercy, a certain desire to suffer with someone – but never in such a way as to validate sin and compromise truth about Himself – which is the other part of mercy.
Recall how He tells the woman caught in adultery, after everyone drops their stones and walks away, to go, but to sin no more (Jn. 8:11); or the man He heals at the pool who suffered from some illness for thirty-eight years, to sin no more lest something worse would happen to him. (Jn. 5:14)
In this way do we understand that mercy is the completion of justice, not its abolition; justice respects what is due to someone, mercy is the tool that brings us around to that. Mercy involves patience and long-suffering, bending whenever it can, but not to the point of compromising what cannot be compromised.
If we think about it, God indeed stooped very low to become Man and would endure much on account of that (that is mercy), but never at the cost of losing His divinity (that is justice).
For our good, He would be insistent on this, lest we lose our way.
Because all the claims He makes, all the commands He gives, and the path He lays out for our salvation – which includes the establishment of Catholic Church, the authority He gives to her, and the means of grace He equips her with (and to none other) – are absolutely dependent upon this truth.
March 29, 2021
Spanish Immersion Program at FSSP Mexico
The San Junipero Serra Spanish Institute in Guadalajara, Mexico is restarting its Spanish Immersion program specifically tailored to priests and seminarians.
The Institute offers a unique curriculum that has been developed for the specific purpose of equipping those in pastoral leadership with both a secular and a Catholic vocabulary, so often needed today in the daily pastoral, sacramental, and evangelical aspects of the priestly vocation.
Participants in the program live, study, and pray in community but go out on day trips, visit and interact with local people, and have many other opportunities to practice the language.
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter purchased Casa Cristo Rey two years ago with the hope of eventually developing it into a house of formation for Spanish speaking aspirants to the priesthood. In the meantime Casa Cristo Rey serves as the Rectory and pastoral house for the FSSP’s parish, San Pedro en Cadenas in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
Classes for 2021 run from June 13th through August 17th.
See the SJS Institute website for more information.
March 26, 2021
It is interesting to see how readership fluctuates when current events are not regularly commented on.
With many good and reliable sites to choose from for this purpose, we think that regularly adding our general alarm over what is happening in politics, the world, and the Church seems to be wasted breath.
It is not that current events go ignored (hardly!), but although we don’t have much control over most things going on, we always have some control over ourselves, and there is never a time where a situation or circumstance cannot be used to sanctify ourselves.
Getting too wrapped up in current events tends to distract us from things more local that perhaps need real attention regardless of who’s right, who’s wrong, or what’s bad out there. If a person is not in a state of grace, in the big picture how much does it really matter who is president, what the latest scandal is, or what’s the next item on the woke agenda?
And if someone is in a state of grace, who is President, what the latest scandal is, or what the next item on the woke agenda is shouldn’t affect that either.
True, while there are responses that may be required to such things that will test us like gold in the fire, ignoring the fundamentals helps no one, so we should not be tempted to think having concern for them in these tumultuous times is tantamount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
It is noteworthy that our Lord restores only three people to life in the course of His public ministry. Each of these restorations carry with them specific circumstances that reveal a spiritual meaning. While these three restorations evidently show Christ’s power over life and death (which is most perfectly demonstrated in His own Resurrection), and also manifest the resurrection of the body which we will all enjoy some day, they also reveal the restoration of the soul from sin, a restoration of the life of grace, which is much more important than our physical life.
Lazarus, having been dead four days, seeing Christ weep before calling him forth, and emerging from the tomb bound hand and foot is representative of a soul steeped in habitual mortal sin, indicating the effort involved to be loosed entirely from it (cf. Jn. 11:1-45).
The widow’s son at Naim, having only recently died and being carried on a stretcher, is met by Christ while still within the city; he is restored and quickly given back to his mother (the Church), representing a soul in mortal sin that is not habitual (cf. Lk. 7:11-17).
Finally, the young daughter of Jairus is representative of a soul quick to commit deliberate venial sin, for in this case she still remains in the house (symbolizing the state of grace) and is said to only be sleeping rather than dead (cf. Lk. 8:41-56).
In regard to this latter case, because venial sin is a lesser offense, we tend at times to trivialize it. We forget that any sin is not trivial because it points to some sickness in the soul and had a painful effect upon our Lord on the Cross. After all, venial sin is the cause of a soul’s detention in Purgatory; while being a lesser offense and not destroying the life of grace in a soul (as does mortal sin), it still serves to weaken that life and dishonor God.
St. Francis de Sales comments that we all have dispositions and inclinations to venial sin, and we cannot be wholly free from them for any prolonged period of time because of our damaged nature; this applies even to the saints. For a just man shall fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall down into evil (Prov. 24:16).
But it is one thing to commit venial sins out of carelessness or weakness, and quite another to willingly choose and take delight in them. For instance, a lie may be spoken through thoughtlessness or fear, but a lie may also be told out of some sense of empowerment it gives a person: the difference is clear.
An example of a large blazing bonfire provides further insight. The fire is the life of God in the soul (state of grace) and the degree of love we have is the degree of heat it gives off. A venial sin committed through carelessness is like using a small glass of water; the water is quickly consumed by the fire and has a nominal effect. Deliberate venial sins would be like using a small pail that dampens the fire somewhat while being incapable of putting it out. Mortal sin would be like using a fire extinguisher.
So although any number of venial sins will never equal a mortal sin, persisted deliberate venial sin serves to weaken the life of grace in the soul and inhibits the ability to rekindle the fire to the intensity it was at; the more this happens, the more a disposition can form towards serious sins. A person, for example, who deliberately, needlessly, and regularly talks about others’ faults will become less and less concerned about what she says, and eventually could find herself guilty of gravely damaging another’s reputation.
Remember that temptations tend to follow an incremental path.
Deliberate venial sins cause God to withdraw His help. As a result, these lessen our own disposition to pursue what is good, make the pursuit of holiness more difficult or distasteful, and serve to open the door to new temptations. We risk becoming lukewarm in the service of God. As fire of less intensity requires less water to extinguish it, repeated and purposeful neglects that pile up can have enormous consequences.
So what are the remedies, as this is a struggle for us all?
If venial sin is a bad act that diminishes the life of God in the soul, then good works serve to increase this life. Therefore, venial sin can be readily remitted through works of charity performed in a right spirit of humility. And we have, by the grace and mercy of God, countless opportunities to make up for these offenses in the course of our daily lives. We always stand in need of God, and He always wills our holiness, so there is no reason why we cannot use what He places at our disposal for the remission of sin and temporal guilt.
These things need not be large or even exceptionally difficult, but rather endured with a spirit of love for God, His Cross, and resignation to His will. In fact, St. Augustine points out that a single Our Father said from the heart will obliterate the venial sins of a whole day.
It can be just that simple: even things like making the Sign of the Cross or genuflections with attention (and trying to make this a habit), the proper use of holy water or sacramentals, the blessing of a priest, thoughtful recitation of prayers or assistance at Mass (even if we have to spend half the time fighting off distractions or, if young children are involved, fighting with distractions), devout receptions of Holy Communion, holding the tongue instead of needlessly complaining about something we have no control over, truly praying for enemies, patiently bearing with the defects of others (like a spouse) and not letting it cause embitterment, humbly admitting when one is wrong, forgiving another from the heart, all these and more serve to remit our venial sins assuming we are making the necessary efforts to stop committing them deliberately.
Of course, monthly confession of venial sins we know to be more deliberate can greatly assist us in getting a handle on things; this cannot be more encouraged.
So if we sense that our spiritual life may be a bit lukewarm, perhaps consider where we are being careless and renew our efforts through prayer, the Sacraments, and good works towards the patching up of those cracks that we knowingly let develop. We are always a work in progress, so do not get discouraged. However, deliberate venial sin is hardly a trivial matter (remember, we are not talking about sins committed out of weakness), because if the goal in life is to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength.
What kind of love would it be if we deliberately choose to displease Him?
Taken from this perspective, our Lord’s description of the little girl as sleeping is really quite accurate, because deliberate and persisted venial sin serves to lull the soul to sleep, no longer sensitive to the influence of grace, before it eventually dies.
We are all given the grace from God to take the steps to know and overcome our deliberate venial sins and to make up for them while here on earth. Who is President, the latest scandal, or the next item on the woke agenda may give us opportunities to grow in virtue that we prefer not to have, but they are opportunities nonetheless.
None of us should want to go to Purgatory, and the trials and crosses we meet with here are simply God’s way of telling us that He does not want us to go there either.
March 22, 2021