St Rafael Arnáiz Barón Walks through a Slum

REPORTAJE. RAFAEL ARNAIZ BARON. HERMANO RAFAEL. BEATO OVETENSE EN PROCESO DE CANONIZACION

The following passage was written by St Rafael Arnaiz Barón in 1934 when he had been forced to leave his monastery for the first time. Original: Apología del trapense, in: Obras Completas 267-269. Translated with the help of the German. When I first read this passage I thought of the distributist blogger Daniel Nochols, and especially of his would-be revolutionary commentator Owen White. I thought of it again when Pope Francis was elected, with his great emphasis on the question of poverty– from which we have much to learn.

When I left the church it was night. I did not direct my steps to the city center, but headed for the outlying neighborhoods … There one sees the usual: material and moral poverty… The dirty, black houses, occasionally gave a view of their badly lit interiors. The smell of dust and moisture, disheveled women screaming at the children, playing in the brook… Dirty, poorly lit streets,. The shops are sell nothing but the bare necessities … bread and sandals. Occasionally, a tavern which emits a smell of tobacco, wine and cheap food. All this under an overcast sky without stars…
These are the people, the poor people. Hunger is a commonplace, and the inhabitants of the city center, do not come here, lest they be disturbed by this misery. In the center there are luxury shops, the houses have a doorman and elevator, no neon signs in the theaters, and bright, clean cars glide across asphalt without without splattering themselves with mud or crashing into children playing in the brook.
And yet both the poor and the rich are children of God, all have the same miseries and the same sins… But one day, when God judges, how surprised we’ll be! The desperation of the hungry can be justified, but the selfishness of those who have money, and consider the poor a nuisance, that is unforgivable.
When those above forget God, what wonder that those below rebel?… Do not go to the poor to preach patience and resignation, but go rather to the rich and tell them that if they are not just and do not give of their possessions the wrath of God will fall upon them.
As I walked through these neighborhoods, I was overcome with indignation and shame. The God is banished from society, the more misery spreads. And if in a town which is called Christian creatures hate each other because of class interest, and are separated into rich and poor neighborhoods, what will happen on the day that God’s name is cursed by both?… If the poor are deprived of the idea of ​​God, they have nothing left. Their despair is justifiable, their hatred of the rich is natural, their desire for revolution and anarchy is logical.  And if the rich find the idea of God bothersome, if they  ignore the precepts of the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus … then they have no reason to complain. And if their selfishness prevents them from approaching the poor, then they should not be surprised that the poor intend to seize their possessions by force.
Seeing society as it is today, what Christian does not feel pain in the soul to see it thus? … When I think that all social conflicts, all differences could disappear if we payed a little attention to the God who was so abandoned in the church I had just visited… When I think of the tragedy presented by human life, and that all this hatred and jealousy, selfishness and falsehood could disappear if we looked to God… When I see how easy it would be for men to find the key to happiness, but that in there blindness or madness they do not want to see… then I can only exclaim: Lord … Lord, look on your suffering people… The people are not bad, Lord… but if you abandon them, who will, Lord, survive? … What can we do ourselves? Nothing, absolutely nothing … If you averted your eyes from the world for even a moment, the whole  world would sink back into chaos… Forgive us, Lord.

Gaudium et Spes, with a little bit of Luctus et Angor

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In the first draft of the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World the famous first words, “gaudium et spes, luctus et angor,” (joy and hope, grief and anguish) were ordered differently: “luctus et angor, gaudium et spes.” But the Council father’s decided that entitling the document “Luctus et Angor” would not be as appropriate so that switched “gaudium et spes” to the beginning. “Gaudium et spes” are also what first of all mark my reaction to the election of a new pope: both simply because we have a new pope, and because of the particular characteristics of the man chosen.

Gaudium et Spes

General Reasons

The mere fact that we have again have a pope is a great joy and a sign of hope. A great, gaudium magnum, because the bishop of Rome is the vicar of Christ on earth, the Pastor of the Lord’s universal flock, the Prince of the Apostles, to whom are entrusted the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. And therefore he is a sign of hope to whom we pledge our obedience with great confidence. As Bl. John Henry Newman put it:

[In] obeying him, we are obeying his Lord. We must never suffer ourselves to doubt, that, in his government of the Church, he is guided by an intelligence more than human. His yoke is the yoke of Christ, he has the responsibility of his own acts, not we; and to his Lord must he render account, not to us. Even in secular matters it is ever safe to be on his side, dangerous to be on the side of his enemies. Our duty is,—not indeed to mix up Christ’s Vicar with this or that party of men, because he in his high station is above all parties,—but to look at his formal deeds, and to follow him whither he goeth, and never to desert him, however we may be tried, but to defend him at all hazards, and against all comers, as a son would a father, and as a wife a husband, knowing that his cause is the cause of God.

Particular Reasons

The particular men who have been chosen to succeed St Peter have obviously not all been equally suited to their great mission. I admit that there were other names which would have given me more joy at the announcement of the new pope than Card. Bergoglio’s, but there is still much to rejoice at in the election of this man.

First of all Pope Francis gives a strong sense of deep and unfeigned piety. Whatever else one might say about his first appearance on the Loggia of Blessing, it showed a deep appreciation for the vital importance of silence and prayer. It also showed his love of our Lady evidenced also in his visit to Santa Maria Maggiore (where he knelt in silent prayer for over half an hour). Then there his love of the poor, and clear sense of the injustices of global capitalism. His first sermon showed a deep seriousness, a focus on the centrality of the cross of Christ, and a realization of the fact that we are engaged in a struggle not against flesh and blood but against the principalities and powers of darkness. Continue reading

Blessed John Henry Newman on “our obligations to the Holy See.”

“What need I say more to measure our own duty to [the Holy See] and to him who sits in it, than to say that in his administration of Christ’s kingdom, in his religious acts, we must never oppose his will, or dispute his word, or criticise his policy, or shrink from his side? There are kings of the earth who have despotic authority, which their subjects obey indeed but disown in their hearts; but we must never murmur at that absolute rule which the Sovereign Pontiff has over us, because it is given to him by Christ, and, in obeying him, we are obeying his Lord. We must never suffer ourselves to doubt, that, in his government of the Church, he is guided by an intelligence more than human. His yoke is the yoke of Christ, he has the responsibility of his own acts, not we; and to his Lord must he render account, not to us. Even in secular matters it is ever safe to be on his side, dangerous to be on the side of his enemies. Our duty is,—not indeed to mix up Christ’s Vicar with this or that party of men, because he in his high station is above all parties,—but to look at his formal deeds, and to follow him whither he goeth, and never to desert him, however we may be tried, but to defend him at all hazards, and against all comers, as a son would a father, and as a wife a husband, knowing that his cause is the cause of God.” (From: John Henry Newman, “The Pope and the Revolution,” Preached Oct. 7, 1866, in the Church of the Oratory, Birmingham)

The Only Glory

Sermon of His Holiness, Pope Francis, in the Missa pro Ecclesiae, Sistine Chapel, March 14th

In these three readings I see that there is something in common: it is movement. In the first reading, movement is the journey [itself]; in the second reading, movement is in the up-building of the Church. In the third, in the Gospel, the movement is in [the act of] profession: walking, building, professing.

Walking: the House of Jacob. “O house of Jacob, Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” This is the first thing God said to Abraham: “Walk in my presence and be blameless.” Walking: our life is a journey and when we stop, there is something wrong. Walking always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that blamelessness, which God asks of Abraham, in his promise.

Building: to build the Church. There is talk of stones: stones have consistency, but [the stones spoken of are] living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Build up the Church, the Bride of Christ, the cornerstone of which is the same Lord. With [every] movement in our lives, let us build!

Third, professing: we can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not built on solid rocks, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses, it is without consistency. When one does not profess Jesus Christ – I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.

Walking, building-constructing, professing: the thing, however, is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in professing, there are sometimes shake-ups – there are movements that are not part of the path: there are movements that pull us back.

This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it.” He says, “I’ll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross.” When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the only glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.

My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it.

(Source: Radio Vatican (trans. slightly modified))

Cruorem Roseum

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Cuius corpus sanctissimum
in ara crucis torridum,
sed et cruorem roseum
gustando, Dei vivimus.
Upon the Altar of the Cross
His Body hath redeemed our loss:
and tasting of his roseate Blood,
our life is hid with Him in God.

The “cruor roseum” mentioned here in the Hymn for Vespers of Easter Sunday is the rose-coloured mixture of the streams of blood and water from the pierced side of the crucified. The inebriating rose coloured mixture that flows from his side is the rosy-fingered Dawn of the whole sacramental dispensation of the Church: herald and foretaste of the bright sun of the heavenly feast, his kingdom where he will again drink with us “the fruit of the vine:” Laetare Ierusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae.

Not a Shadow of Misgiving

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In Heiligenkreuz we have been praying a translation of the following prayer of Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman’s everyday after Verspers:

We believe and confess, O Lord, without any hesitation at all, that Thou hast promised a continuous duration to Thy Church while the world lasts—and we confess before Thee, that we are in no doubt or trouble whatever, we have not a shadow of misgiving as to the permanence and the spiritual well-being either of Thy Church itself or of its rulers. Nor do we know what is best for Thy Church, and for the interests of the Catholic faith, and for the Pope, or the bishops throughout the world at this time. We leave the event entirely to Thee; we do so without any anxiety, knowing that everything must turn to the prosperity of Thy ransomed possession, even though things may look threatening for a season. Only we earnestly entreat that Thou wouldest give Thy own servant and representative, the Pope [Benedict], true wisdom and courage, and fortitude, and the consolations of Thy grace in this life, and a glorious immortal crown in the life to come.

Today I looked it up and found it to be the final part of the seventh of the “Twelve Meditations and Intercessions for Good Friday.” Here it is in context: Continue reading

St Gregory Nazianzen on His Resignation

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Let no one, I beg, spread false reports about me and my lords the bishops, as though they had proclaimed another bishop in my place against my will. But being in great need, owing to my feeble health, and fearing the responsibility of a Church neglected, I asked this favour of them, which was not opposed to the Canon Law, and was a relief to me, that they would give a Pastor to the Church. He has been given to your prayers, a man worthy of your piety, and I now place him in your hands, the most reverend Eulalius, a bishop very dear to God, in whose arms I should like to die. If any be of opinion that it is not right to ordain another in the lifetime of a Bishop, let him know that he will not in this matter gain any hold upon us. For it is well known that I was appointed, not to Nazianzus, but to Sasima, although for a short time out of reverence for my father, I as a stranger undertook the government. (Ep. CLXXXII)

The Papacy Against the False Gospel of Progress

Benedikt XVI Regensburger Rede

In the 1930s Evelyn Waugh could suggest that the idea of Progress was out, but alas the idea  proved much more resilient than one might expect. Confidence in progress might have become a bit more cautious after Auschwitz and the Gulag, but it persists.

A remarkable example of this cautious confidence is President Obama’s  Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech. Consider the following passages:

But we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached — their fundamental faith in human progress — that must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey. For if we lose that faith — if we dismiss it as silly or naïve; if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace — then we lose what’s best about humanity. We lose our sense of possibility. We lose our moral compass. […] We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of depravation, and still strive for dignity. Clear-eyed, we can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that — for that is the story of human progress; that’s the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.

Obama does not see progress as the automatic, inevitable process parodied by Waugh– there can be setbacks–but he sees it something for which we can and must hope. Note how religious his language is here. Progress is presented as the hope of the world. In effect what he is presenting here is a rival Gospel to that of redemption through Christ: redemption through human progress. This is precisely what Pope Benedict sees as the root of the crisis of Christian hope and therefore of Christian faith in the modern world. In Spe Salviafter describing how Francis Bacon developed a knew program for human knowledge ordering it to power over nature, he writes: Continue reading