Saturday, February 25, 2012

Our Ancient Enemy

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ash Wednesday

Saturday, February 18, 2012

For the Defense of the Church

Here is the text of my homily at the Votive Mass for the Defense of the Church:

Votive Mass for the Defense of the Church
February 17, 2012
(Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite)

This evening, we celebrate the Votive Mass for the Defense of the Church. The title of this Votive Mass suggests that the Church is not in a safe place. Saint Peter, the first Pope, describes the experience of the Church on earth as that of being “in exile.”

The Church on earth is in a strange place, with dangerous enemies who seek to oppress and destroy the Church. Many events throughout the world in recent years seem to have conspired together to unleash a multi-faceted attack against the Catholic Church, making it abundantly clear that the Church - founded by the Lord Jesus Christ and governed today by the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI - this Church is indeed threatened and attacked in many ways. It is not a mark of paranoia to believe that the Church has enemies. Indeed, dramatic events throughout history remind us of reality: The Church does have enemies.

Yes, the Church does have enemies, and there are two different kinds of such enemies which set themselves against the Church and its divine mission. Both kinds of enemies are dangerous and cause much suffering to the Church on earth; but one kind if far worse than the other.

The first kind of the Church’s enemies are those who attack the Church from outside the Church. In the history of the Church, these such enemies would be called “pagans.” They persecuted the Apostles and their successors and their friends throughout the ages. Regardless of their political or religious affiliations, these pagans had the same diabolical goal: to prevent the grace and the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ from having any influence upon the affairs of man; to keep God far away from humanity. These pagans have resorted to different ways of attacking the Church, chiefly to lying and murder, obeying their spiritual master, the devil who, as the Lord Jesus has said, is a liar and a murderer from the beginning.

Such enemies of the Church openly seek to oppress the Church, to intimidate Her, to keep her silent, to prevent the Church from ordaining priests and bishops, to stop the Church from teaching people to obey the Holy Law of God. Or, they seek to destroy the Church altogether, through violence and destruction. These enemies of the Church are dangerous and they cause much suffering to the beloved People of God. But the second kind of the Church’s enemies is far worse, far more dangerous, and far more effective.

The second kind of the Church’s enemies attack the mission of the Church from within the Church, from inside the community of Christ’s disciples. These are Catholics! They are members of the Church who have become traitors. Some are ordinary Catholics; some are Catholic theologians; some are Catholic politicians; some are priests. Our Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI has spoken recently about these enemies of the Church. Listen carefully to what the pope says. These are his own words:

“There is also the fact that attacks on the Pope and the Church come not only from without, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from the sin existing within the Church. This too is something that we have always known, but today we are seeing it in a really terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church...”

These such enemies do great harm, for they lead people within the Church to reject the teaching of the Church, and ultimately to reject the Lord Jesus, His grace and His truth. The Catholic theologian who does not accept the teaching of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church teaches Catholic students to do the same, even though those students, or their parents, have paid such teachers to give them a truly Catholic education. The Catholic politician who promotes the legalization of abortion is declaring that one can be Catholic and at the same time reject the Law of God, leading others to do the same. The Catholic priest who dissents from the teaching of the Church - either openly or silently within his heart - preaches falsehoods from the pulpit or the confessional, or simply refuses to preach the fullness of truth, leading Catholic parishioners astray, into grave doctrinal and moral error. And worst of all, the sinfulness of any member of the Church - layperson, priest, politician, or teacher - does tremendous damage to the Church, tarnishing her spiritual beauty, sanctity, and purity, wounding the Church from within, making the Church weak. It is precisely in this regard that we can see what is necessary on our part in order to truly strengthen the Church against her enemies: holiness of life. Holiness of life is essential in this great battle! Without holiness of life, the Church becomes weak and easily overrun by the many different enemies of the Church, easily intimidated into silence, easily coerced into corruption. Whenever we perceive that the Church is being beaten by the forces of evil - from without or from within - we must make even greater, indeed heroic efforts at living a holy life - a life free from sin, a life ordered around prayer and the sacraments, a life immersed in the teaching of the Church and aided by the many sacramentals of the Church. Holiness of life, brothers and sisters! This is how we live as good soldiers of Christ Jesus in this battle.

As frightening as the state of affairs now seems; as terrifying as the manifestation of the Church’s enemies and their tactics are; even as anxious as the title of this Votive Mass makes us feel, the liturgical texts of this Votive Mass give us a great consolation. In this Mass, the priest asks God to fight this battle for the Church, for His Church, for His people. Here is the consolation: we rely on God to help us! The enemies of the Church - of any century, of any corrupt ideology, of any false religion, on the outside or on the inside - these enemies of the Church cannot rely on God to help them to advance their sinful cause. No. They cannot. But the friends of Christ can rely on Him in their effort to be holy, to be saints, to transform the culture, to be good soldiers and faithful servants of the Most Holy Trinity. Yes, we can rely on the Lord God. This reason alone give us the courage to go on without any fear!

The Scripture readings appointed for this Votive Mass also help us. They exhort us to pray. Mardochai prays to the Lord God, begging Him to intervene, to provide for His people who were sorely tried by their vicious and insensitive enemies. In the Holy Gospel, the Lord Jesus - who has shown us that the real battle is against the Evil One - teaches us to pray to our Heavenly Father. Here is another lesson for us: whenever the Church is persecuted, whenever the Church is attacked and threatened, there is a need for us to pray even more. We should pray more. In this regard, we see the inestimable value of this liturgical form we are celebrating this evening, the Traditional Latin Mass, now called the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, which is being promoted by the pope himself. A few years ago, an individual who did not like this traditional ancient liturgical form complained to a priest. “Father, this Traditional Latin Mass just has too many extra prayers in it!” The good priest replied: “In these difficult times for the Church, do you think we need to pray more? or pray less?” The critic was silenced.

This liturgical form, which the Pope desires to be celebrated frequently and become a regular part of the life of a Catholic parish, fits very nicely into our present circumstances. Catholics, lay people, religious, and priests, need to pray more, especially now! If you want to contribute to the defense of the Church against all her enemies, pray more!

Dear brothers and sisters, a great drama is unfolding before our very eyes. In the fog of what is ultimately a spiritual war, let us cling to the light who is Christ, truly present in the Eucharist and truly with His Church. In this epic battle, let us turn to the Woman in whose Immaculate Heart is the living victory of good over evil, light over darkness, life over death. We fly to the protection of the Holy Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary. She will help us, as she always has, to share this victory, to embrace this victory, to live this victory in our own lives, and spread it to all the world. This victory which is not a something, but is a Someone: Her divine Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns, now and forever. Amen!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Prayer is Essential