Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
First Sunday of Advent - 2 December AD 2007

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin and English
First Sunday of Advent
Dominica Prima Adventus

Advent Pastoral Letter AD 2007

    During this past week I received a pastoral letter from Archbishop Humphreys, which I thought was particularly “on the mark.” I thought about reading it to you instead of a sermon, but I have always been uncomfortable trying to preach with someone else’s words, particularly if they were intended to be read rather than heard. So I have posted the letter on the bulletin board, left a few copies on the table, and linked it directly to the main page of our Internet site (just click on the Archbishop’s coat of arms) [Click here].

    The letter contains a number of observations made to a nun who had written to request prayers for vocations to her convent, which had very few young ladies seeking admission. His remarks are valid not only for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, but for all walks of life, as we will see shortly.

    The Archbishop cites the failure of modern Christian society to teach its “younger generations either penitence or sacrifice.” To this, I would like to add self discipline. He mentions the Ecumenical Council held nearly fifty years ago as “too many pagans posing as prelates.” He mentions also the public and Catholic schools and universities, which “have been bashing everything decent in our culture for at last two generations now.” Again, were it my letter, I would add the politicians and the media, who, in roughly the same fifty years, have worked tirelessly to erode the culture and the moral fiber of the Western Civilization we used to call “Christendom.”

    We have been conditioned to think of the word “conspiracy” as though it is used only by paranoid and fearful people who are out of touch with reality. But, in fact, nothing much happens in human affairs-good or bad-unless people “conspire” to make it happen. We may call it “cooperation” rather than “conspiracy” if the outcome is good, but the idea is exactly the same. No one in his right mind thinks that something like the Golden Gate Bridge just “happened” through random human activity. No skyscraper, and not even a single floor house, just builds itself. A symphony orchestra is clearly not a group of people with musical instruments who just happened to show up somewhere playing the various parts of a complex musical score. All of these things-and every other complex human behavior-take planning, and training, practice, and effort if they are to be successful. If the outcome is something evil we may call it “conspiracy,” but otherwise the process is identical with “cooperation.”

    What are the evils we have seen? The pastoral letter cites but a few, saying that there are many: “radically reduced church attendance, indifference to the political affairs of our governments ... and the wholesale slaughter of innocence and beauty among our youth....” I will presume to add two more: a wide spread inability of people to think and reason for themselves; and the numerical decline of Western Civilization as Christians (including Catholics) no longer reproduce themselves.

    And who cooperated (or “conspired”) to bring about these evils. Philosophically, we might call them Rationalists-people who believe only in things tangible and material, and who view belief in God as a barrier to material progress. Socially or politically, we might call them Marxists-“cultural Marxists,” really-having learned that the brutality of Joseph Stalin or Mao Tse Tung doesn’t work, but still enamored of Marx’ principles of dialectical materialism and global socialism. In religion, we call them Modernists-people who believe that truth is nothing more than current attitudes, and that true religion is nothing more than the current sentiments of religious people.[1]  All three are very much alike.

    Now these three may have been the major planners, and movers, and shakers. But they never would have been successful without one additional ingredient. They appeal to us sinners-to our pride and to our appetites, very much as the devil appealed to Adam and Eve-suggesting that if we follow them in their plans, we “will be like gods” and decide for ourselves what we feel is good for us, unencumbered by the laws of God, and without shame in the new order of things.

    “If it feels good, do it!” was the moral philosophy that the conspirators produced and used their great wealth and influence to spread among the peoples of Christendom. We had been given a false “permission to sin,” and no one in authority seemed to disagree. The Professor of Psychology at Harvard (arguably America’s most prestigious university) was telling people to “turn on, tune in, and drop out” of society by taking mind altering drugs. The previously wholesome television and movie industries turned to cranking out obscenity and violence; popularizing the idea that broken people, broken families, and a broken world were normal, and perhaps desirable. The power of our Federal Government was brought to bear in order to dismantle the generally moral laws of the fifty States, forcing us to accept easy divorce, abortion, sodomy, and contraception.

    And the Church? For centuries the Church had been the anchor, the Rock firmly planted, from which Western Civilization would not stray too far. The various sects might allow this sin or that (mostly limited divorce and contraception), and many of them strayed pretty far from the Sacraments and Eucharistic Sacrifice instituted by Christ-but they could always look back over their shoulders at the Catholic Church, and not allow themselves to drift impossibly far from its divine example. But, suffice it to recall that in the 1960s and for the past fifty years, the Modernists in the Church have changed everything! Some of the changes were official, while others came to be in practice.

    The “penitence or sacrifice” of which the Archbishop writes disappeared nearly immediately. Lenten fasting, vigils, and ember days are virtually gone, as is Friday abstinence (although it is still the law of the Church!). The characteristic dress and cloister of religious all but vanished, making them quickly a part of the secular world-for many, religious life was reduced to no more than a job. One might attend Mass on Saturday in order to make a Sunday golf date, or just to “sleep in.” Priests, and especially, nuns left in large numbers to take jobs they considered more socially relevant, or perhaps just to enjoy themselves. The number of marriages annulled-perhaps a 15,000 percent increase over the previous decade-demonstrated the Modernist lack of commitment to the Sacrament of Matrimony, as did the re-definition of the primary end of marriage, and the increased support for population control measures.[2]  The damage to the Mass and the Sacraments requires volumes to document, but suffice it to say that the absolute trivialization of divine worship only helped to confirm the idea that man no longer depended on God.

    All of this-Rationalism, cultural Marxism, and Modernism, coupled with the complicity of sinners wanting to enjoy their sins-left us with the world that the Archbishop describes as “devoid of culture, spirituality, and just plain common sense.” But he does suggest a remedy for this universal malaise. He reminds us of “the late Father Patrick Fenton, whose motto was «You can change the world» [who] always stressed the word «You». It begins with YOU, each of us who is able to change the world simply by showing intolerance for the evil in it.”

    How can this be? How can one change the world through mere attitude? The answer is that Rationalism, cultural Marxism, and Modernism depend on our complicity for their success. They offer us this false “permission to sin”-they will get nowhere if no one accepts. And the good example of even a few people will go a long way toward demonstrating that refusal to sin is not only possible, but desirable in itself.

    There is a vocations shortage in the world today-a shortage of priests and nuns in love with God, a shortage of lay people who find satisfaction in their work, a shortage of strong Catholic families to rebuild Christendom and keep it strong in generations to come. You can fill those vocations by helping to restore “penitence and sacrifice” and self-discipline. Through God’s grace, you can fill those vocations by being intolerant of every evil in this world.


        [1]  See our sermon on the 100th Anniversary of Pope Saint Pius X’ Pascendi.

        [2]  Cf. Gaudium et spes #48; Humanæ vitæ #12; Pope John Paul II Reflections on Humanæ vitæ #6; 1983 Canon 1055§1; Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, page. 28.



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