Low Sunday—19 April AD 2009
“This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith.”
[Ordinary of the Mass]
We have a Baptism coming up in a few
weeks, and one of the things that the Church has us do just a few minutes before
the conferral of the Sacrament with water in the name of the three Persons of
the Trinity, is to recite the Apostles Creed. If the person being baptized
is old enough he recites it for himself—in the case of an infant, this
profession of the Catholic Faith is made by the God-parents on behalf of the
child, with the promise that they will see to the education of the child in the
Catholic Faith over the coming years. The reception of Baptism is thus one
of those times in our lives when we are required to make a public profession of
our Faith. It is inconceivable that a priest would baptize someone who
refused to profess the Faith—for Faith, the belief in what God has revealed to
be true, is of the essence of the Sacrament.
We are required to profess our Faith on
the Sundays and important feast days of the year. We do so just before the
Offertory as we recite the Nicene Creed, a slightly more detailed statement of
our beliefs than the one we recited at Baptism. We don’t have monitors
listening to make sure that everyone recites the Creed, but I think we would all
question the Catholicity of anyone who consistently refused to recite it!
We are also required to profess our
Faith on the (hopefully rare) occasion when we are being told to renounce it as
part of some religious persecution. This might take different forms, as it
did during the Roman persecutions of Christians before the Emperor Constantine
declared Christianity to be a legal religion within the Empire. In some
cases, Christians were made to recite a renunciation their belief in Jesus
Christ, and, perhaps, to affirm belief in the pagan “gods.” In some
cases it was more symbolic, with Christians being required to dishonor some
symbol of the Catholic Faith—the Scriptures, or an image of Christ, or His
Holy Name. Often they were required to sacrifice to the “gods.”
The early Church struggled with the
problem of Christians that were simply weak—those who gave in to the
persecution simply to escape punishment, and not because they actually believed
in the false “gods.” Today, the penances of the early Church seem
harsh indeed, even to fervent Catholics. After the Roman persecutions
there were heated discussions about those who had lapsed being absolved at
all—or, if they could be absolved, it might only be on their deathbeds.
To be sure, the Church does not require
us to do foolhardy things. It does not require us to flaunt our Faith in
times of persecution. One did not have to wear a crucifix for all
to see in Roman times, nor are we so required in places of modern persecution.
Prudence dictates that we not bring ruin upon ourselves for no necessary
I mention these things because of what
transpired at Georgetown University on Tuesday.
The name would not give it away, but Georgetown is nominally a Catholic
university, run by the Society of Jesus, which Society has a monogram of the
Holy Name of Jesus (IHS) prominently featured in its coat of arms. Indeed,
the stage at Gaston Hall, where Mr. Obama spoke, is normally topped off by
a pediment bearing that monogram.
I am not going to comment on the contents of the speech—except that his
reference to “five pillars that will grow our economy” has something
of a Moslem ring to it, and that I believe that they were mostly off the mark in
addressing our current economic situation—the speech placed none of the blame
on government, where it surely belongs.
I am not sure why he spoke at Georgetown, or why the University would
solicit, or even allow, his presence.
As you may have already heard, the
curious thing that happened on that day was that the University covered up the
monogram of Our Lord’s Holy Name in order to make it invisible during the
A Jesuit, Catholic, institution of higher learning willing to hide the Name of
Jesus at the request of a politician! What were these people thinking?
If you come into my home, you don’t tell me how to redecorate—and you
certainly don’t tell me to remove a symbol that is central to the core of my
being! If it bothers you that much, you simply do not come!
An historian, Arthur Schlesinger, Sr.
is quoted as saying that “the deepest bias in the history of the American
people” and “the only remaining acceptable prejudice” is anti-Catholicism.
Just imagine the firestorm that would have broken out if the White House had
called ahead to a synagogue, or a mosque, or a Buddhist temple—“Hey, how
‘bout removing that Star of David ... or Mohammed’s Crescent ... or the
Buddha’s Wheel.” The advisor who did that would have been lucky,
indeed, just to be fired! Or, if the situation were reversed, would anyone
seriously expect the U.S. Senate to remove their magnificent American Flag
if a visiting churchman “did not want to be to closely associated with that
What will the officials at Georgetown do
... or the officials at Notre Dame ... or the officials of a thousand other
pseudo-Catholic institutions do when there is real persecution?
What can we expect when “political correctness” becomes the law of the land?
When certain topics become punishable by imprisonment? When preaching the
Gospel becomes a “hate crime”? When physicians are required by law to
put the living to death? What can we expect when God’s natural moral law
is repudiated, and not just ignored as is so often the case today? The God
given rights that Americans are supposed to enjoy today have their philosophical
basis in the teachings of the Catholic Church—those “unalienable rights with
which” our Declaration of Independence says “we are endowed by our
Creator.” But the political tide today is to take away those individual
rights in favor of some nebulous concept of “the common good,” or “the
will of the people,”—as if such a thing can be known or articulated by
anyone other than a tyrant who falsely claims to speak for all the people.
In the past month or so, official
government agencies have been hard at work identifying the “possible
terrorists” in our midst. Those “possible terrorists” include those
who urge the observance of the Constitution, and particularly those parts that
are grounded in God’s natural moral law. The “possible terrorists”
include those who claim a right to defend themselves against aggression;
who want to see our borders secure, our money based on something of enduring
value instead of on a whim of Congress or the Federal Reserve; and who
don’t want to see their children saddled with a crushing national debt.
Earlier this month, the list of
“possible terrorists” was expanded to include those “rejecting federal
authority in favor of state or local authority,” as the Tenth Amendment
requires; “it may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a
single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration ... abortion,
inter-racial crimes, and same-sex marriage.” “The return of many
veterans with "combat skills" could create an environment similar to
the early 90s, which led to the Oklahoma City bombing.”
Imagine that! they send men and women into combat, risking their lives for
months on end, and then consider them suspects when they finally return home!
I don’t think we have any adult
sitting in this chapel who is not a “possible terrorist” under one or more
of these assessments! They may not yet have declared Christianity a
suspect, but they certainly have declared a number of Its aspects to be under
suspicion. Who knows what next month will bring?
Let me be perfectly clear. I am
not suggesting that anyone go out and do anything not permitted by our
Constitution. I am not suggesting that anyone should feel obligated to do
anything other than to take an active part in the peaceful political process to
restore our society.
I am advocating what Saint John said in
this morning’s epistle: “The victory that overcomes the world is our
Faith.” We must pray and do penance, of course. But the Georgetown
episode points to something else: We must not be ashamed of our Lord
Jesus Christ. Christian morality (and, indeed the morality of all
decent and God fearing people) is under fire because of our apathy and our
We have allowed the civil discourse to
be taken over by pagans, instead of running them out of office, and out of their
positions in the media that form public opinion. We have allowed ourselves
to be terrorized by the pagans—we do not speak up because we have been
convinced that our ideas and our symbols are unpopular. And we have
convinced ourselves by our own lack of zeal for the Faith. Just imagine
the good effect the President of Georgetown could have had on the confidence of
religious people all over if he had just said “No.” “Np, I will not ... the Holy Name of Jesus is sacred in our institution, and to Christians
everywhere ... do not come here if you cannot respect our Catholic Faith”!
Our Lord warned against behavior like
that at Georgetown: “What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole
world, and suffer the loss of his soul? ... He that shall be ashamed of Me ...
the Son of Man will be ashamed of him, when He shall come in the glory of His
We are required, now and again, to
profess our Catholic Faith. We are not asked to do anything
imprudent—but often acquiescence, doing nothing, and even hiding our Faith are
the worst forms of imprudence. Pray that if we have to make those kinds of
choices, our response will be better than those at Georgetown.
Pray that the Son of Man be not ashamed of us when He comes
into His Kingdom.
Long live Christ the King!