"Do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the cunning statements
of those who persistently claim to wish to be with the Church, to
love the Church, to fight so that people do not leave Her...But
judge them by their works. If they despise the shepherds of the
Church and even the Pope, if they attempt all means of evading their
authority in order to elude their directives and judgments..., then
about which Church do these men mean to speak? Certainly not about
that established on the foundations of the apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20)." [Pope St. Pius X: Allocution of May 10, 1909]
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general Judeo-Christian morality and which are aimed at positively integrating these elements into society. (Such
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As society has grown more estranged from its founding principles, I wish to
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I have previously posted guest editorials by Fr. Thomas at my other weblog Rerum Novarum. In early 2004, I plan to post another of his pieces on sex education to that weblog as well. This subject he sent to me is more devotional though and as it reflects directly on a problem a lot of self-styled "traditionalists" have, it seemed fitting to post to this weblog for reflection by its reading audience. But before doing that, I need to clarify the kind of assent that these kinds of apparitions involve so that there is no confusion. For doing this, I quote from a very helpful work by Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R. on reported revelations with the teaching of Pope Benedict XIV on this matter:
What is to be said of those private revelations which the Apostolic See has approved of...? We have already said that those revelations, though approved of, ought not to, and cannot, receive from us any assent of Catholic, but only of human faith, according to the rules of prudence, according to which the aforesaid revelations are probable and piously to be believed.
The long and short of it is this: the particular apparition which is approved of is merely noted as probable and the individual can accept or reject it to the extent that they believe it is probable to be true or false. Even accepted apparitions can have problems with them in spots because of the human element involved -i.e. the visionary never gives the visions directly but always through the faculties of the recipient. It is possible that such faculties can err which is precisely why any visions must be approached with prudence and not imprudently accepted as either on par with public revelation or in any way binding on someone else.
Having noted that, I will disclose here that I think Lourdes is the most probable of the apparitions and Fatima I also view as probable. That is a roundabout way of saying that I think Fatima is a genuine apparition. But even if I did not view it that way, the posting of a guest editorial is not contingent upon me agreeing with any of the position taken by the editorialist. And as Fatima is a big subject with many Catholics, it seems appropriate to post this here for reflection -particularly by those who either (i) accept Fatima as on par with the Gospel -tacitly or otherwise or who (ii) act as those in Jacinta's vision do.
But without further ado, I give you Fr. Thomas' guest editorial on Jacinta's Vision. The words of the vision will be italicized and Fr. Thomas' words in regular font. His sources will be in purple font. I will underline points I think are particularly worth reflecting upon.
In the "Third Memoir" of Sister Lucy, the oldest of the three seers of Fatima, she recounts with her usual child-like charm a poignant episode involving a vision of Jacinta:
"One day", Lucy writes, "we were passing the hours of siesta near my parents' well. Francisco came with me to search for wild honey in the brambles of a bush on a slope that was in the area. After a little while, Jacinta called me:
- 'Didn't you see the Holy Father?'
- 'I don't know how it happened! I saw the Holy Father in a very large house, on his knees, before a table, with his hands over his face, while he was crying. Outside the house there was a lot of people and some were throwing stones at him, others were swearing at him and saying many ugly words. Poor Holy Father! We must pray a lot for him!'
I already said that one day two priests encouraged us to pray for the Holy Father and explained to us that he was the Pope. Jacinta afterwards asked me:
- 'Is it the same one whom I saw crying and of whom the Lady told us in the secret?'
- 'Yes I responded'.
- 'Surely the Lady made those reverend priests see him also! Look, I am not mistaken. We must pray much for him.' "
Reading this account a few decades ago, I assumed that these mean people outside the "big house" giving the Holy Father such torment must have been, no doubt, atheists, libertines and miscreants of various stripes. Recently, however, going over the passage again, the frightful thought occurred to me that Jacinta in her vision saw us: Catholics, people actually dedicated to the message of Fatima.
Jacinta, after all, didn't see the Holy Father in some prison. She saw him in a "big house", presumably his own.
She didn't see the people in the square of a communist capital. She saw them outside the big house, presumably in the piazza of Saint Peter's where in fact, crowds waiting to see the Pope gather.
She didn't see them shooting guns up at his window. She saw them throwing stones and swearing at him.
She didn't see the Holy Father shouting back at them. She saw him "on his knees" presumably praying.
She didn't see him in an easy chair. She saw him "before a table", presumably trying to do his job the best he can.
Usually before an hostile opposition, one must remain strong and not break down and cry. It would be rather when those who are supposed to love you, are turning against you, that you would more naturally be brought to tears.
In so many words the elements of Jacinta's simple tableau vision seem to point to the faithful as the source of the Pope's anguish. In the larger context and tenor of the apparitions, we must conclude one thing to be certain: Fatima was never meant to be the means or the excuse of scourging the Holy Father; it was never meant to foster disrespect or contempt for the Pope; it was never meant to make an already onerous office, still more difficult.
The actual visions and writings of the seers themselves portray and inspire a loving, familiar and even child-like attitude toward our Holy Father. On the other hand, some books today on Fatima are so full of base political motives and even heretical sympathies attributed to the Popes, that they inspire toward them a mistrust, suspicion and scorn totally unlike the true light and spirit of Fatima.
Much has been written in these years about all the novelties in the post-conciliar Church, some of it with good reason; but we should remember that one of the most novel things in the Church today is the disrespectful and at times contemptuous way that the Holy Father is criticized and even ridiculed by Catholics themselves.
A number of books and articles, for example, on Fatima, relying one on another (without even quoting from the actual writings of the Holy Father), unexplainably falsify the pilgrimage of Pope Paul VI to the Shrine in Fatima Portugal on May 13, 1967 for the 50th anniversary commemoration. They contend that the Holy Father came to speak not of God but of man and, although at the very shrine itself, he did not mention the apparitions.
Let us quote from the Holy Father's homily at Fatima so that each one may judge for himself whether the Pope ignored the apparitions and came "to speak not of God but of man":
". . . So great is our desire to honor the most holy Virgin, Mother of Christ, and therefore Mother of God and our Mother, so great is our trust in her benevolence toward holy Church and toward our apostolic office, so great is our need of her intercession with Christ, her divine Son, that we have come a humble and trusting pilgrim to this blessed Shrine, where we celebrate today the 50th anniversary of the apparitions of Fatima and where we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And we are happy to meet with you, most dear Brothers and Sons, and of associating all of you in the profession of our devotion to Mary most holy and in our prayer so that our common veneration may be more manifest and more filial and our invocation may be more alive and more acceptable. . .
We want to pray in order that the worship of God may still and always be pre-eminent in the world, and His law may inform the conscience and the habits of modern man. Faith in God is the supreme light of humanity; and this light not only must not be extinguished in the heart of men, but must rather revive through the stimulus which comes to it from science and progress. . .
We have come to the feet of the Queen of Peace to beg from Her as a gift, which only God can give, peace. . . Look, Sons and Brothers, who are here listening to us, how the picture of the world and of its destines, here present themselves immense and dramatic. It is the picture which Our Lady opens before us, the picture that we contemplate with terrified but always trusting eyes; the picture to which we shall always draw near - and let us promise it - following the warning which Our Lady herself gave to us; that of prayer and penance. . ."
There at the Shrine of Our Lady on that day, not even two years after the closing of the Council, the Holy Father also delivered a foreboding and indeed prescient warning concerning what was beginning to unfold in the post-conciliar Church:
". . .What harm there would be if an interpretation - arbitrary and non-authorized by the magisterium of the Church - might make of this awakening a disintegrating agitation of its traditional and constitutional structure; might substitute for the theology of the true and great masters, new and particular ideologies, intended to take away from the norm of faith whatever modern thought, often deprived of the light of reason, it does not understand or does not like; might turn the apostolic anxiety of redemptive charity into acquiescence to the negative forms of a profane mentality and of worldly habits. . ."
Moreover the authors of these works on the apparitions sadly fail to mention the lengthy Apostolic Letter, SIGNUM MAGNUM, which Pope Paul VI had issued on that day in Rome at the same time that he was in Fatima.
The papal Letter opens by quoting from the famous vision of Saint John's Apocalypse: "A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars " (Ap. 12, 1). In this scriptural reference, the Holy Father added, by his papal teaching, further weight to a marian interpretation of this verse. More interestingly for those devoted to Fatima, it might even be argued that, in the actual context of the document, by his gentle but powerful allusion to the great public miracle of the sun at Fatima witnessed by thousands of people, the Pope lends a certain biblical stature or tone to the apparitions themselves.
A number of important marian teachings were clearly reaffirmed or strengthened in this Letter including Mary's co-operation "in the birth and development of divine life in the individual souls of redeemed men" which the document declared "must be held as faith by all Christians":
"Indeed, just as no human mother can limit her task to the generation of a new man but must extend it to the function of nourishing and educating her offspring, thus the blessed Virgin Mary, after participating in the redeeming sacrifice of the Son, and in such an intimate way as to deserve to be proclaimed by Him the Mother not only of His disciple John but - may we be allowed to affirm it - of mankind which he in some way represents, now continues to fulfill from heaven her maternal function as the cooperator in the birth and development of divine life in the individual souls of redeemed men. This is a most consoling truth which, by the free consent of God the All-Wise, is an integrating part of the mystery of human salvation; therefore it must be held as faith by all Christians."
Re-affirming, moreover, a teaching of many doctors of the Church and recent Popes, the Holy Father, in describing Mary's role, employs the term "Mediatrix", strengthening, in fact, the Council formulation of that doctrine:
"But in what way does Mary cooperate in the growth of the members of the Mystical Body in the life of grace? First of all, by her unceasing prayers inspired by a most ardent charity. The Holy Virgin, in fact, though rejoicing in the vision of the august Trinity, does not forget her Son's advancing, as she herself did in the "pilgrimage of the faith".Indeed, contemplating them in God and clearly seeing their necessities, in communion with Jesus Christ, "who continues forever and is therefore able at all times to intercede for them," she makes herself their Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix and Mediatrix."
The marian practice of going to Christ through Mary (Per Mariam ad Iesum), dear to many of the faithful, received in this Letter it's strongest papal elaboration and approval:
"Imitation of Jesus Christ is undoubtedly the regal way to be followed to attain sanctity and reproduce in ourselves, according to our forces, the absolute perfection of the heavenly Father. But while the Catholic Church has always proclaimed a truth so sacrosanct, it has also affirmed that imitation of the Virgin Mary, far from distracting the souls from the faithful following of Christ, makes it more pleasant and easier for them. For, since she had always done the will of God, she was the first to deserve the praise which Christ addressed to His disciples: 'Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother' (Mt. 12, 50) .
The general norm "Through Mary to Jesus" is therefore valid also for the imitation of Christ. Nevertheless, let our faith not be perturbed, as if the intervention of a creature in every way similar to us, except as regards sin, offended our personal dignity and prevented the intimacy and immediacy of our relationships of adoration and friendship with the Son of God."
The main themes of the Fatima message, namely prayer, penance and the grave consequences that will result by not heeding the heavenly warning are shown by the Pope to be a perfect reflection of the Gospel itself:
"And then a message of supreme utility seems today to reach the faithful from her who is the Immaculate, the holy, the cooperator of the Son in the work of restoration of supernatural life in souls. In fact, in devoutly contemplating Mary they draw from her a stimulus for trusting prayer, a spur to the practice of penance and to the holy fear of God. Likewise, it is in this Marian elevation that they more often hear echoing the words with which Jesus Christ announced the advent of the Kingdom of heaven: 'Repent and believe in the Gospel' (Mk.1, 15; Mt. 3,2; 4, 17) ; and His severe admonition: 'Unless you repent you will all perish in the same manner' (Lk. 13, 5) ".
Again by the Holy Father's reaffirmation of Church teaching regarding hell and reparation, the children's "vision of hell" and their continual practice, by self-imposed penances, of reparation woven so touchingly into their daily lives, received confirmation and encouragement:
"Therefore, impelled by love and by the wish to placate God for the offenses against His sanctity and His justice and, at the same time, moved by trust in His infinite mercy, we must bear the sufferings of the spirit and of the body that we may expiate our sins and those of our fellow beings and so avoid the twofold penalty of 'harm' and of 'sense,' that is to say, the loss of God - the supreme good - and eternal fire. (Mt.25, 41) ".
When the Popes' Letters and Encyclicals come out, the Roman newspapers of various political tendencies: socialist, communist, conservative etc. all, more or less skipping over the actual text, put forward a background scenario, plausible to their own readers, of what motivated the document. The words of the Vicar of Christ deserve better than that from the Catholic faithful. There should be at least more attention, if not reverence, given to the words themselves of the Popes and less tenuous speculation on what various, often anonymous, voices are claiming to be their purpose.
The 1967 pilgrimage of the Holy Father to Fatima was particularly arduous for him since, in that year, Pentecost fell on the following day and he had to be back in Rome that night ready for one of the Church's principal feasts and one of the most strenuous ceremonies on the papal calendar.
There is a part of the message of Fatima that was never kept a secret, indeed its central appeal repeated by the Blessed Mother at each of the apparitions: Say the Rosary every day. It is that urgent request which all those truly devoted to Our Lady of Fatima must attempt to spread.
May Fr. Thomas Carleton's editorial provide food for your musing and may those who currently act as Fr. Thomas noted viz. scorn or contempt of the Holy Father in their words or actions -or who have recently acted in like manner- cease doing so in 2004. Maybe then those of us who look upon the vast majority of the promoters of this apparition with a jaundiced eye will see things differently; after all, a tree is known by its fruits or lack thereof (cf. Matt. vii,15-20).
:: Shawn 12:02 PM [+] | ::
:: Monday, December 22, 2003 ::
Points to Ponder:
(Cardinal Ratzinger on the Revised Roman Missal)
[T]hose who cling to the "Tridentine Missal" have a faulty view of the historical facts. Yet at the same time, the way in which the renewed Missal was presented is open to much criticism. We must say to the "Tridentines" that the Church’s liturgy is alive, like the Church herself, and is thus always involved in a process of maturing which exhibits greater and lesser changes. Four hundred years is far too young an age for the Catholic liturgy - because in fact it reaches right back to Christ and the apostles and has come down to us from that time in a single, constant process. The Missal can no more be mummified than the Church herself.
Yet, with all its advantages, the new Missal was published as if it were a book put together by professors, not a phase in a continual grown process. Such a thing has never happened before. It is absolutely contrary to the laws of liturgical growth, and it has resulted in the nonsensical notion that Trent and Pius V had "produced" a Missal four hundred years ago. The Catholic liturgy was thus reduced to the level of a mere product of modern times. This loss of perspective is really disturbing.
Although very few of those who express their uneasiness have a clear picture of these interrelated factors, there is an instinctive grasp of the fact that liturgy cannot be the result of Church regulations, let alone professional erudition, but, to be true to itself, must be the fruit of the Church’s life and vitality.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, let me add that as far as its contents in concerned (apart from a few criticisms), I am very grateful for the new Missal, for the way it has enriched the treasury of prayers and prefaces, for the new eucharistic prayers and the increased number of texts for use on weekdays, etc., quite apart from the availability of the vernacular. But I do regard it as unfortunate that we have been presented with the idea of a new book rather with that of continuity within a single liturgical history.
In my view, a new edition will need to make it quite clear that the so-called Missal of Paul VI is nothing other than a renewed form of the same Missal to which Pius X, Urban VIII, Pius V and their predecessors have contributed, right from the Church’s earliest history. It is of the very essence of the Church that she should be aware of her unbroken continuity throughout the history of faith, expressed in an ever-present unity of prayer. [Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Ca, pgs. 86-87 (c. 1986)]
I will include his name, email address, and website links hopefully later today if I can update this weblog before leaving on vacation. But in the event that I cannot, the person is Dr. Art Sippo and his email address is accessible here. But merely mentioning names is not adequate here so I will take the liberty of adding some details that may help with this matter.
Those who have followed my web writings over the years are aware that I have written stuff for the web with Dr. Sippo. However, it is not generally known that he has often served behind the scenes as a consultant on my more ambitious writing projects. (Particularly those of a more technical nature.) He has a very well rounded knowledge of dogmatic theology, theology in general, church history, and other areas that pertain directly to what we do here at the Inquisition.
And finally, he is old enough to have a conscious memory of what the Church was like before the Second Vatican Council. (Having served as an altar boy from the late 1950's through the 1960's.) In this capacity, he will I believe provide a very key vantage point into these issues which is not often found on either side of these debates. Plus, as a cradle Catholic he does not approach these matters in the way that some who are converts to the Church at times tend to do.
More could be noted but I believe what is already stated is sufficient to provide a brief sketch. Therefore, I will wrap it up at this point and simply say that on behalf of the Inquisition I thank Dr. Sippo for accepting my invitation and hope that all of you can benefit as much from his insights as I and most of the rest of the participants on this humble weblog have over the years.
A spiritual disciple of this sort truly receiving the Spirit of God, who was from the beginning, in all the dispensations of God, present with mankind, and announced things future, revealed things present, and narrated things past -- [such a man] does indeed "judge all men, but is himself judged by no man."...
He shall also judge those who give rise to schisms, who are destitute of the love of God, and who look to their own special advantage rather than to the unity of the Church; and who for trifling reasons, or any kind of reason which occurs to them, cut in pieces and divide the great and glorious body of Christ, and so far as in them lies, [positively] destroy it -- men who prate of peace while they give rise to war, and do in truth strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel.
For no reformation of so great importance can be effected by them, as will compensate for the mischief arising from their schism. He shall also judge all those who are beyond the pale of the truth, that is, who are outside the Church; but he himself shall be judged by no one. For to him all things are consistent: he has a full faith in one God Almighty, of whom are all things; and in the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom are all things, and in the dispensations connected with Him, by means of which the Son of God became man; and a firm belief in the Spirit of God, who furnishes us with a knowledge of the truth, and has set forth the dispensations of the Father and the Son, in virtue of which He dwells with every generation of men, according to the will of the Father.
True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love, which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God]. [Adversus Haereses Book IV, Chapter XXXIII §1; §7-8 (c. 180 AD)]